The Problem With Servicing RVs Ten Years Or Older
I recently read the following editorial on another website:
“Do you have an old RV, say, ten years or older? Have you ever had problems getting it serviced? The reason I ask is that I received a letter this week from reader Jere Engelman who bought a fifth-wheel trailer from Camping World in 2005. Now, in 2019, it needs some work. The service representative at Camping World told him the company’s corporate policy was to not work on RVs older than 10 years.
I wrote to CEO Marcus Lemonis and asked if the 10-year rule was true. “Absolutely not,” he replied within a minute. He then forwarded my email (along with Jere Engelman’s) to Brock Whinnery, who oversees fixed operations.
Mr. Whinnery explained to Mr. Engelman that many RV makers have gone out of business and Camping World may have trouble finding parts to repair them. He said it would be unfair to owners of old rigs to spend two hours diagnosing a problem and then learn there was no part available for the repair. Still, he said, there was no official policy about working on older RVs.
That makes sense, but where does it leave RVers with older units that need repairs, whether at Camping World or any other repair shop? I welcome your comments below or at editor(@)XXXXX.com. I think we should discuss this.”
I agree this is a great discussion topic and worth putting in my two cents.
Is it difficult to service old RVs?
The main thing RVers need to remember is RV manufacturers should be thought of as “RV assemblers” or “RV builders” as they seldom, if ever, manufacture many of the components that go into their RVs. You might liken them to home builders that buy framing components from one source, doors and windows from another source, plumbing parts from a plumbing distributor, furnaces and water heaters from other sources, and on and on.
The homebuilder then takes all of these items and assembles them into a home using labor-trained workers to install each component (framers, electricians, painters, plumbers, etc). If something in the home breaks after ten years, you typically don’t go back to the home builder to have it repaired, you call a repair person who specializes in plumbing, furnace repair, roof repair, etc. and they obtain the required repair parts from a home improvement store. If by chance the needed part is no longer available, say a control valve for a water heater, they replace the whole water heater.
Mankind has been living and fixing homes that are hundreds of years old, and I have never heard of a home repair that couldn’t be resolved. In some cases, it might not be worth repairing, but never a case of it can’t be repaired.
With a few exceptions, it works the same way for RVs. When something breaks in your RV, you take it to an RV repair shop with technicians trained to handle appliance repair, plumbing problems, frame issues, electrical problems, leaking windows, etc. just like typical home repairs.
The few exceptions are manufacturers like Airstream that use doors, windows, and other components that are unique to the Airstream design. Even then, there are RV shops that can reconstruct an entry door to a 50-year-old Airstream and businesses that specialize in parts for older and obsolete RVs (some salvage parts from older classic RVs like Airstream, GMC, Revcon, etc).
It’s worth noting that the parts that are likely to become obsolete in your RV in a short period (way under ten years) are what I call “soft materials” such as curtains, interior wall panels, carpet, cabinetry finishes, etc. If these types of items become damaged and need repair, it is likely they can’t be replaced with identical items with the same finish or color, but they can with new materials that will allow you to continue enjoying your RV.
The bottom line is that if an RV repair shop doesn’t want to service your older RV, they most likely don’t have a technical staff that is comfortable (or trained) to do so or don’t have the knowledge on where to source the needed parts and materials. In a case like this, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them servicing my RV anyway and would find someone else!
Don’t let the fear of being able to have your older RV serviced keep you from enjoying any adventures in RVing! If you have experienced difficulty having an older RV serviced, please share your comments below.