How to live the RV Lifestyle in turbulent and unsettled times – Part 5
By Bob Difley
In this series post Part 3 I wrote about some of the ways to save money on the road, covering what falls into most RVers five main expense categories: campground fees, fuel, food, repair and maintenance, and entertainment.
I’ve already covered how to save on campground fees, fuel, and food. So let’s take a look at repair and maintenance costs. First an admission. I am well below the mid-point of RVers that at the top can pull and overhall their engine and transmission while boondocking without electricity or the internet to provide tutelege, and the bottom of the scale, those that have a hard time distinguishing between left-handed and right-handed screwdrivers.
However, after gulping and swallowing after being presented with repair bills I decided to do as much as I could to avoid, or at least reduce, the amount I pay out to expensive repair shops. This calls for an anecdote. We were boondocking at Tecopa Hot Springs in the California desert when out forced air heater went belly up. The elevation was about 1,300 feet and in January got quite cold at night, colder than we wanted to put up with without a heater.
So we drove into a large repair shop in Las Vegas, a drive of about an hour and a half. I explained the problem to the service writer who analyzed the situation as common in heaters and it would be a five minute job to replace whatever it was he said needed replacing and they would get on it right away. I had no longer become comfortable in their waiting room when they informed me that the repair was finished.
I was elated at the fast service, and the short length of time it took to fix, until I got the bill. They had charged me two hours for troubleshooting and analysis, explaining that they were a flat rate shop and though they were reasonably sure–and confirmed–what the problem was in a minute, they still charged the two hours in case they had been wrong in their initial analysis. So the five minute job cost me over two hundred.
From that point on I decided that, with the help of the internet and RVing friends that were more technically gifted than I was, I would attempt to analyze and repair what I felt was close to my abilities to do so.
Reducing repair and maintenance costs
- Learn to do the simpler repairs yourself. Diagnosis is the key. Pick up a good repair and maintenance manual (Bob Livingston writes the industry standard manual).
- If you feel you can do the job, think of the nearly $100 an hour charged by repair facilities and it could be the inspiration you need?
- Go online to search for instructions and video tutorials on how to do most any repair that you might need to do, then determine if the job is within your range of intelligence, even if it is not in your range of expertise.
- For engine and drivetrain repairs, auto parts stores can be good sources of both instructional information and rental tools to perform the job. And if you guessed wrong, they will take back the part you bought with the mis-diagnosis and possibly offer good alternatives.
- For coach and system problems check out the RV Doctor (Gary Bunzer’s website) or RV Education 101 (Mark Polk’s website), both of which have lists of repair instructions, video tutorials, CDs and DVDs to help you.
- There are several online forums where you can ask questions and get feed back on both analysis and the physical act of repairing for someone with all thumbs.
- Don’t give up on the first error you make or function youy cannot understand or perform. Sit back, take a break, think about the problem, and look for another solution.
- Even if you can’t finish the job, or get stuck, work out in advance a Plan B for just such situations.
- And don’t forget, it is all part of the RV Lifestyle–becoming more self-sufficient and self-reliant. And that’s a good place to be.
For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks:BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.