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Old 07-12-2011, 12:03 AM   #1
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RV service technicians and their expertise

Is it just me or is it an anomaly that the service technicians in the RV space are mediocre at best. This has been my experience with my RVs. Now to be fair, I happen to be a perfectionist and I usually research the things that need service to ensure I am not scammed or put in danger due to poor service. I have found that the 10 or so tech's that have worked on my unit(s) did not meet my standards which are high. Some of the infractions are petty perhaps, but others are more substantial. For example, is it normal that technicians use the toilet in my RV and is it petty for me to be offended when I find they urinated on the toilet seat?

Every time I have had my RV in for service I have to revisit the work. It is simple things like they didn't put all the rubber pads back on the bunk DVD player the had a bulb out? More substance?...they replaced the seal on my slide out because it was loose on the top. However when they finished, I noticed the top was fine but the bottom was loose! Every time I have to educate them. Today it was how to program the KVH Satellite system accurately. I find it exhausting to try and manage the repair people and they find it abrasive when I am always insisting or guiding them to improve their work results.

Do most of you just live with the mediocracy or do you hold these people to high standards. If you insist on high standards, how do you do it without appearing like you are "inspecting and complaining" about the work they do?
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Old 07-12-2011, 12:28 AM   #2
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It is very hard to find good technicians in the Auto/Truck/Marine/RV/Motorcycle business. I could wite a book on it. I was in the auto repair business for most of my 45 years of working career, and owned/operated a shop for 20 years.

The technology is much more complex than it was prior to the emission control and electronics revolution of the 1970's and 1980's. The work is now not just physically hard, but mentally also. The working conditions are still crude - Very few shops are air conditioned (mine was a rare exception in the Northeast). In hot weather, it's worse than working in a kitchen. The environment is often filled with loud noise and noxious chemicals.

During the time that I owned my shop, I put the time and effort into training at least six young men and one young woman. None stayed in the business for over three years. Too much to learn and too hard compared to other jobs available. In addition, the trade is looked down upon - even though a good technician has to have skills and knowledge equal to a Medical Doctor.

Those of us who want to do good work are usually thwarted by a dealership system that values maximum output over quality.

Even with potential pay packages in the 100K per year range for the best, not many are interested.
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Old 07-12-2011, 12:51 AM   #3
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Todays RV tech needs to be a plumber, electrician, carpenter, auto/diesel mechanic, and electronics tech. RV shops are not willing to pay for those skills.

The last time I checked, the shop rate was about the same as the auto dealers, but they paid their techs about half of what they could make at the auto dealer.
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Old 07-12-2011, 01:31 AM   #4
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It's not all high tech things that are problems either. Just got mine out of the shop before we left on our trip, over $1500 in work in several areas.
They repaired a small leak at the drain plug of my water heater, now it only works on gas and I was 300 miles away when discovered it.
They changed oil and a lube job, they forgot to do the lube job and didn't lock the grill piece back onto place with the key locks, had to go back again for the lube job.
And they were one of the more highly recommended repair shops (not dealership) in town.
But it did teach me that now I have to check all repairs that I have done., will take nothing for granted.
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Old 07-12-2011, 06:05 AM   #5
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Except for one dealer I have never had a repair done correctly the first time in warranty, out of warranty, on the road, right here at my own dealer. I am not a perfectionist and I place a lot of effort in describing the problems in advance in writing etc; all to no avail.

I am pleasant but persistent.

No dealer has ever balked at redoing repairs done incorrectly. Some have even paid for the repair to be redone at another dealer---but it is a huge hassel for me to make the arrangements. Some jobs I have just cleaned up myself to make it right.

I now need to have my slide out adjusted and I am frankly afraid to take it in for repair. So I presented that scenario to this forum and received a manual from another participant on how to do it yourself. I think I can do it as well.

The one dealer who did it right the first time every time----well they went bankrupt?

There has to be a moral in there some where but I'll be darn if I can figure out what it is.
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Old 07-12-2011, 06:20 AM   #6
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The "mediocre" problem is what has driven many of us to doing it ourselves. If "hired out" work is to be done I seek a mobile repair person that can be watched or better yet, helped.
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Old 07-12-2011, 06:23 AM   #7
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That's the reason many of us returned to the factory for service.
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Old 07-12-2011, 07:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TNT-FLY View Post
Is it just me or is it an anomaly that the service technicians in the RV space are mediocre at best. This has been my experience with my RVs. Now to be fair, I happen to be a perfectionist and I usually research the things that need service to ensure I am not scammed or put in danger due to poor service. I have found that the 10 or so tech's that have worked on my unit(s) did not meet my standards which are high. Some of the infractions are petty perhaps, but others are more substantial. For example, is it normal that technicians use the toilet in my RV and is it petty for me to be offended when I find they urinated on the toilet seat?

Every time I have had my RV in for service I have to revisit the work. It is simple things like they didn't put all the rubber pads back on the bunk DVD player the had a bulb out? More substance?...they replaced the seal on my slide out because it was loose on the top. However when they finished, I noticed the top was fine but the bottom was loose! Every time I have to educate them. Today it was how to program the KVH Satellite system accurately. I find it exhausting to try and manage the repair people and they find it abrasive when I am always insisting or guiding them to improve their work results.

Do most of you just live with the mediocracy or do you hold these people to high standards. If you insist on high standards, how do you do it without appearing like you are "inspecting and complaining" about the work they do?
It's not just you, and it's not just RV techs. I'm frustrated by incompetence and/or lack of work ethic as well. There's a darn good reason to do your own repair work whenever you're able. Hiring it out is a last resort for me.

Might be a little off topic, but my favorite gripe is when expecting any degree of experience on the part of 95+% of the people in a retail setting (your choice, but especially big box stores). When you ask a question about a product, they immediately refer to the literature located next to the product in question, or to the print on the box holding it. Is it just me, or are they assuming I can't read?

I will say that when I do find somebody that generally knows what they are talking about it's nearly always a pleasant surprise. That place of business will have my business from then on - even if it costs a little more.
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Old 07-12-2011, 07:37 AM   #9
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Many of the RV technicians were flipping burgers at McDonalds last month. When you go to a shop ask for their Master Certified RV Technician. If they don't have one find another repair facility.

I do most of the repairs myself and if it is too complicated for me to handle I go back to the Newmar factory. I also do 100% of the routine services myself and I love to slide under the motorhome and get dirty.
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Old 07-12-2011, 08:16 AM   #10
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Try getting reliable, competent and HONEST work done on your vehicle when you're single female. Very rarely does that ever happen. I have learned since way back when my 2 cars were a '66 convertible Mustang and a '65 Convertible Corvette to research the problem and if I couldn't do it myself, to tell the shop exactly what I wanted done. 99 times out of 100, the shop sees a single gal come in for repairs and they see $$ signs, like I don't know a thing about mechanics. There have been several times a shop will diagnose the problem, charge me an arm and a leg to fix it only for me to discover that the original problem still persisted. I do most of my own work now. I have plenty of tools and of course, there is all the expertise for me to learn from right here on iRV2. Thanks again all!
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Old 07-12-2011, 11:03 AM   #11
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I remember a cartoon at the auto dealer I used to go to before they replaced their service consultants with new folks.. Man to his boss: Gee, I'd like that transfer and permotion but I've found an auto dealer who is honest and......."

Finding a good technician is not an easy task, so many claim to know what they are doing and .. Well.. let's say I know better and I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL TECHNICIAN. I do have some small motor and automotive experience, but never pro, I'm a certified electronics technician but again, never actually worked in that field, I do have a bunch of experience working on my own stuff, both electronics and automotive.

In the Flint Michigan area I found one, Rachael Nordstrom (Nordstorm's RV, she winters in Flordia by the way) who seems compentent, She has been able to assist me when the job was beyond my skill, and she has demonstrated qualities (Iike willingness to read the instructions) I admire, She and I think alike on many repairs. However being as she's good, she is very busy so getting her to call back.. Not an easy task. .She's a one -woman company.

Likewise when it comes to body work.. I have a man (Ramo) who is first rate. he's been at it since he was a teen, and .. Well... He's older than I (I'm 60) Worked in the field all his life and has forgotten more than many body men today know. He too works out of he house/garage.. He used to have a shop, but there were only 3 full time employees (other than him) and he supervised everything.

The trick is to find them.. You won't find people like this at a dealership though.. You find them by asking around.. Rachael.. Does not even have a shop (She works out of her van does her work "on site") Look for a small service company where the owner is at least 50 and has been doing it since he was too young to vote.
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Old 07-12-2011, 11:10 AM   #12
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re: "The technology is much more complex than it was prior to the emission control and electronics revolution of the 1970's and 1980's. The work is now not just physically hard, but mentally also."

I think holding myths like this to be a significant part of the problem.

Yes, the technology can be much more complex but it is also encapsulated knowledge coupled with smarts that move high level skills for repair and diagnosis away from the service technician. Nowadays, the 'mechanic' plugs in a custom computer, pushes a button, then follows the instructions complete with step-by-step shown with pictures and diagrams on the screen. The complexity is moved upstream to the design engineers and manufacturing (and don't give me that 'modern stuff is crap' bit until you can explain how much we get for how little and how reliable it actually is compared to twenty or forty years ago)

But for RV's, most repairs have very little to do with technology or even with any skilled tradework. As you can see from the experiences described here, the problems are often 'work ethic' as in incomplete or shoddy work. The implications there involve money. This is why the do-it-yourself ethic is so popular with RV's and RV restoration. The skill and knowledge and experience requirements aren't that great and most of the cost is labor.

The market speaks. The decision points between quality and cost are what we see. The quality we get is because that is what we are willing to purchase (notice this is aggregate, not some individual's preference or example). If there was sufficient demand backed by the money to keep a business alive, then the quality envisioned here could be achieved. In fact, there are a few such businesses around but not very visible or widespread because it is a niche market.

Hey, if you think you can do better and the demand is there, go for it! (ever notice the turmoil in the RV service businesses?)
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Old 07-12-2011, 12:06 PM   #13
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That's the reason many of us returned to the factory for service.

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Old 07-12-2011, 12:36 PM   #14
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Having been a Volvo mechanic then, aircraft mechanic in the service, then a carpenter in grad school, and now a senior scientist I know from where I speak that skilled quality people in any field are very hard to find. I think it started way back in the 70s when shop proprietors didn't want the counter people to make change. They insisted that the cash register do that. That encourages the new people to rely on the register rather then their own brain to solve simple math problems. They also started using software to calculate different discounts rather then forcing the sales people to do it on paper. Go to a store now that actually counts out change or even has mediocre manners in their sales force.

I was skilled in understanding computer controls in the Bosch fuel injection systems used in the early 70s Volvos, BMWs, and Porsches. I had 200 hours of training by Bosch and countless hours problem solving on the job. Then, in aircraft work in the service and finally as a carpenter building custom houses. I was expected to frame, hang rock, do layout, assist in routing plumbing and electrical wiring, and right down to paint and finish carpentry, building stairs and handrails, stain grade crown molding, etc. Eventually becomming a construction superintendant of a large crew. Now, I run a University lab full of grad students. In every job from then to now I was always called the get done guy. Why? Because I go the extra step to solve the little things that always turn to big problems later and because I had smart people expecting the same from me.

I expect and demand forward and thoughtful discorse between myself and my students. I also expect some problems to arise because there are always more then one way to solve a problem and I have come to look carefully at somene elses suggestions because two heads are always better then one and perhaps that's what's missing in our workforce today. In my time, my bosses expected me to think for myself and solve problems as they came up. It's a skill that needs time and motivation to develope. Today the workers are just expected to follow the rules no matter what and little responsibility is given the lowly STARTING mechanic or carpenter.

At U.C. we are expected to crank out research and able students. Not an easy task in todays world but I have always expected the students under my tutilage to succeed rather then fail and I give them those same basic skills of thinking for themselves and fundimental problem solving that can be transferred to any job. I also give to them the freedom to fail miserably and learn from it. Now, that said, I have to admit that I work with the finest students and coleagues and the best and brightest.

Ultimately, we ourselves have to motivate our own children and those under our direction to think for themselves and not take away the freedom to make a mistake and learn from it but sadly even those skills also have been lost and we wonder at the skill level of our service people. Perhaps if we too had grown up where little responsibility is given or expected we also would be as we view these workers who provide mediocre work.
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