Has this ever happened to you? Maybe not this specific problem, but this scenario in general. You’re on the third day of that much anticipated and much needed vacation trip when, out of the blue, while stopped for breakfast, you realize your generator will not start. No problem, you say, there’s an RV repair shop just two miles back.
So you decide to return to that service center. As you pull into the service drive, another coach pulls in behind you. You explain your problem to the service writer, sign the repair order, proceed to the customer waiting area, grab a cup of coffee and wait. And wait, and wait and wait. Then after that, you wait still longer.
Air Conditioner 1
Air Conditioner 2
2. Organize a Repair History of the RV
Try to develop a plan for the safekeeping of these documents. At the very least keep your repair order and installation receipts in a three-ring binder arranged in chronological order. Again, they may provide a clue that will ring a bell or jog the memory of the service writer. If he quickly scans your repair history and finds a specific failure pattern for a particular device that relates to your current problem, it may help speed up the repair time in the shop. Besides, a detailed and chronological record of repairs and services just may add value to the resale of the RV when you decide to trade up. It shows you have taken care of your coach at the very least.
3. List All Add-on Components
Electrical shorts, as you are probably aware, are difficult to trace and repair anyway, but the diagnostic task is further complicated when the symptoms are intermittent. (Is this akin to having that toothache miraculously disappear the moment you step into the dentist’s office?)
While perusing the customer’s list of installed accessories, the service writer notices that the customer just had a roof rack with a rear ladder installed two weeks earlier; a fact the owner would have never even mentioned since it did not relate at all to the 12-volt short. He casually made a note on the repair order. The RV technician then read the note, made a deduction, attached a meter to that 12-volt circuit and started removing the screws that secure the roof rack to the roof. Sure enough, the third screw he started to remove confirmed the existence of a short. After removing that screw completely, the short disappears. He then seals the hole, (the roof rack will suffer no ill-effect with one less mounting screw), runs a few more tests, signs off on the repair order, and sends the finished coach to the outbound lane of the service department driveway. In and out in less than thirty minutes – minimum charge. Almost unheard of for any 12-volt short, especially one that is intermittent. Without the knowledge of the customer’s recent accessory installation, it may have taken hours (days?) to find that single screw partially grounding out that 12-volt wire.
4. Look for the Obvious
- Stains or discolorations
- Water pooling or dripping
- Burned wires
- Broken hardware
- Fuel dripping
- Missing components
- Disconnected or loose wires
- Cracked fittings
5. Document the Exact Specifics of the Symptom
Also note any and all geographical attributes at the time of the occurrence; high elevation, near the beach, steep incline, hot and dusty, at the lake, desert, mountains, etc. Some symptoms may be peculiar to one of these areas that will help the tech pin-point the problem source, or at least narrow the scope of his search. Remember, these efforts are in your best interest.
Also note exact weather conditions at the time; windy, rainy, snowy, sunny, cloudy, dry, humid, air temperature, etc. These can all be applied to the mix when performing diagnostic procedures, especially on propane appliances and internal combustion engines.
Can you duplicate the symptom now? Can you override or by-pass the problem? Is it intermittent or constant? By asking yourself these types of questions, the derived answers can be noted and given to the service writer. When compiled and translated by the service writer, then absorbed and applied by an astute technician, your input can greatly enhance the feasibility of spending the minimum amount of time in the service bay.
Additionally, use your product knowledge to further pinpoint a possible cause. For instance; if you are experiencing a refrigerator problem, does the problem exist during both gas and electric operation? While driving or only while sitting still? Or both? Only during the heat of the day, or at night also? Document the specifics. The more information documented, the better the chances of getting back to that vacation sooner.
By applying all five of these items, at the very least, your visit to the repair shop will be less stressful knowing you’ve contributed to the successful repair of your RV. You’ve done your part. During the course of your RVing season the additional time savings may also be substantial.
Oh, that theoretical scenario mentioned at the top of this article…. here’s what really happened. After realizing the generator would not start, the owner began an initial, cursory inspection, taking notes along the way while his wife phoned the service center. Here are the notes he handed to the service writer along with the brand, model and spec number of the generator.
- Generator – no start, does not even turn over
- Fuel tank, almost full, no fuel dripping anywhere
- Weather – mild, temp about 65 degrees, partially cloudy, no wind
- Level parking lot, standing still, leveling jacks engaged
- Tried to start at generator instead of dash switch – started right up and ran fine
- No burned or disconnected wires visible in generator compartment
- Tried dash switch again, no click, no nothing
- Total running hours: 27.3 – no previous repairs
Because of the detailed set of notes, (which took the owner less than 20 minutes to compile), it was clear the problem was not even in the generator itself. Rather, the condition existed somewhere in the harness between the generator and the remote start switch located on the dash panel. If it had not been that loose wire, it may have been a cut, an open or shorted section in that harness under the motorhome somewhere, in which case, the service writer would have completed the repair order and sent the coach to a service bay. Even then, because of the customer’s input, the tech would probably have found the cause in a minimum amount of time anyway.
This is not to proclaim that all service-related and technical problems will be eliminated completely, but one would be hard-pressed to deny that if these five steps are employed, there is indeed a greater chance of a faster turn-around in the shop, allowing you to spend more of your hard earned vacation.
- Be prepared to provide more information than is really needed. The technician and service writer will sift through your input for the viable tidbits. Better to have too much info than to overlook something important.
- Always photocopy your notes and give them to the service writer at the time of the repair order write-up. As an attachment to the repair order, they will aid the technician during the troubleshooting process, however, don’t count on getting them back.
- Always print your notes out. Do not force them to decipher your handwriting. Remember, the goal is to save time. Scrawled writing is difficult to read and may lead to confusion or misinterpretation.
- Make yourself available to answer any questions the service writer or technician may have.
- Let the service writer know where you will be at all times while your coach is in the shop.