Saturday, January 17, 2009
FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR TRIP TO AN RV SERVICE CENTER LESS STRESSFUL AND LESS COSTLY
Things you can do to make your visit to the service shop less stressful
and enable your down-time to be as brief as possible.
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.In Part I of this three part series, let’s extrapolate and explore the above scenario a little deeper:
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, (aptly named), grab a cup of coffee and wait. And wait, and wait and wait. Then after that, you wait still longer.
As you audibly, (it seems), hear your vacation clock ticking away, you finally come to realize the coach that had pulled in behind you is long gone as are all the rigs that pulled in behind him. You catch a quick reflection of yourself as you pass by the glass-walled service office and wonder when you grew that beard. And just who is that older woman with you anyway? You glance out and see your generator in, what appears to be, hundreds of pieces scattered around the service bay. You swallow hard and shudder. Finally, at about closing time, the service manager informs you your coach is ready. “Funny,” he says, “It was just a loose wire behind the dash switch.”
After six hours of pacing and daydreaming about that large bass calling your name while you grow old in a customer waiting lounge, all the technician found wrong was a loose wire? Is that it? Why did it take so long? C’mon, a loose wire? He had the generator completely disassembled! Your frustration level grows even more when you find out that the coach that had pulled in behind you had a much more difficult and more technical problem, and he’s been back on the road for over four hours. What gave him the edge? Why was it that his “harder-to-find” problem was diagnosed and repaired in a third less time than your relatively simple problem? And why is this guy charging you $440 to tighten a loose wire?
Just maybe that previous customer provided a little insight and direction for the service writer and technician. Quite possibly he supplied enough clues to enable the repair shop to pare minutes, if not hours, off the troubleshooting time and unless this is your first exposure to RVing, you know that within the realm of RV repair facilities, time equates to dollars, especially for those non-warranty, or customer-pay invoices. It stands to reason then, if there is anything you can do to help speed up the diagnostic and repair time, you, the coach owner, will save in the long run.
But what can you do? Certainly you cannot be called upon to perform highly technical, diagnostic procedures on every component on your RV. No, most professional service technicians even have a hard time with that. What follows, however, is the first of five items that you can do that will not only benefit you and your recreational investment, but it just might provide enough of a road map or direction for the service shop to follow when performing troubleshooting procedures. At a minimum, it will help eliminate areas that need not be looked into during the diagnostic tasks.
1. Record All Identifying Numbers
Here’s a tip that is highly recommended whether you choose to follow the advice in this article or not. This step alone will help you to at least create a biographical sketch of your coach. It will be beneficial to you and any subsequent owner of your unit. By keeping, somewhere in the literature for your RV, a list of all brand names, models numbers, serial numbers and any spec numbers for all components that have such numbers, your dealer or service center will be able to rapidly transfer the necessary numbers to the repair order rather than go to the individual component to retrieve them; some may be located in hard to reach places. Additionally, the service writer will be able to identify those appliances or devices that may be under a subject recall, regardless of the reason for your current visit. Or should you be required to contact the customer service representative of any product component, this reference list will come in handy.
2. Organize a Repair History of the RV
Unless this is your very first trip after purchasing your recreation vehicle, you probably have gathered an assortment of papers, warranty forms, repair invoices, etc., for things done on and to your coach. If you are like most people, you’ve lost some, stuffed some in a storage compartment or glove box, even allowed some to be washed and dried while in your shirt pocket, and maybe put some in a box somewhere subconsciously thinking you might need them someday.
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, it is felt by some that a detailed and chronological record of repairs and services adds to the resale value of the RV when you decide to trade up. It shows you have taken care of your coach.
3. List All Add-on Components
Similar to the previous item, this one suggests you maintain a list of all aftermarket accessories that have been installed on your RV. Not only does it provide a detailed accounting of how you have increased the value of your rig, it could also save troubleshooting time while in the shop. Here’s a real-life example.
A late model Class A motorhome began experiencing intermittent electrical shorts in the 12-volt DC system. 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 cutting through that 12-volt wire.
4. Look for the Obvious
Once it is apparent to you that something is indeed not quite right with your coach and that it will be necessary to take it to the repair shop, do yourself a favor and perform a little inspection before taking it in. Look for obvious signs that something may be amiss. Later, during your conversation with the service writer, be sure to then mention any of these obvious signs you may have found. In fact, it is advisable to even jot the items down so they are not forgotten or overlooked. Some obvious items to look for during this inspection would include:
Stains or discolorations
Water pooling or dripping
Disconnected or loose wires
Labor charges were reduced by 50% on a recent repair when a customer pointed out a clump of burned wires located in a hard-to-get-to, difficult-to-see storage compartment, behind a partition, under a full-size bed. His assertiveness to “look for the obvious” allowed him to not only retain some girth to his wallet, but also put him back on the road that much quicker. The technician quickly made the repair, tested the system and sent the owner on his way.
5. Document the Exact Specifics of the Symptom
Of these five tips, this is probably the most valuable, however, this one takes a little more effort on your part. Ready? Whenever a symptom develops, begin to write down specific aspects that pertain to it. For instance, does the problem occur every time? Only at night? When the tank is full? Only after start-up? Only after shut-down? Only when it’s hot outside? Get the idea?
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 LP 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 pin-point 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, over 3/4 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
The service writer read the list then decided to check two items before writing the repair order. First, he opened the generator compartment and checked the remote cable connector. It was clean and tight. Next, he reached behind the dash switch and there discovered a wire that had vibrated loose. He connected the wire, started, then stopped the generator with no further problem. He thanked the customer for stopping by, gave him a company business card and sent him back to his vacation - no charge.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 or burned 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 the technician. 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 time enjoying the RVing life-style.
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 or type your notes. 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 mis-interpretation.
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.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
RECALL: 2009 ENTEGRA/ANTHEM MOTOR HOME: SPARTAN CHASSIS" PUTNAM HITCHES
ENTEGRA / ANTHEM 2009
Manufacturer: ENTEGRA COACH INC Mfr's Report Date: JAN 06, 2009
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 09V004000 NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Component: TRAILER HITCHES
Potential Number of Units Affected: 4
ENTEGRA COACH IS RECALLING 4 MY 2009 ANTHEM CLASS A MOTOR HOMES BUILT ON SPARTAN CHASSIS AND EQUIPPED WITH PUTNAM HITCHES. AFTER SOME PERIOD OF USE, CERTAIN TRAILER HITCHES MAY DEVELOP STRESS FRACTURES DUE TO SHARP RADII AND/OR TOOL MARKING.
SUSPECT HITCHES MAY DEVELOP FRACTURES AND SUBSEQUENT SEPARATION MAY OCCUR, RESULTING IN A VEHICLE CRASH, PROPERTY DAMAGE OR PEDESTRIAN HARM.
ENTEGRA COACH IS WORKING WITH SPARTAN WHO WILL REPLACE THE TRAILER HITCH FREE OF CHARGE (PLEASE SEE 08V567). THE HITCH HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM ONE VEHICLE AND THE REMAINING 3 VEHICLES ARE STILL IN ENTEGRA¿S INVENTORY AND WILL NOT BE SOLD UNTIL THE HITCHES ARE REPLACED.
CUSTOMERS MAY ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), OR GO TO HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV .
Monday, January 12, 2009
MORE PROBLEMS FOR COUNTRY COACH
Friday, January 9, 2009
The 500 employees at the idled Country Coach plant in Junction City, Ore., shouldn’t wait around for the plant to restart, founder and investor Bob Lee told the Register-Guard, Thursday (Jan. 9).
“They should be out looking for a job,” he said in an interview.
Country Coach’s attorney, however, said that the company has every reason to believe it will continue operations.
Lee has been at odds with the company since December when he sued to evict Country Coach from its 60-acre property in Junction City that Lee and his family continue to own.
This is after Lee sold the company he founded to Perris, Calif.-based National RV Inc., watched it lose millions of dollars over 11 years, then helped a clutch of investors re-buy the company, returning to the Junction City campus in 2007 as a hero.
CEO Jay Howard referred to Lee as the “essence of Country Coach” at the time.
The eviction lawsuit is just one more sign of the luxury recreational vehicle maker’s financial woes.
Just over a week ago, Howard sent a letter to employees saying the plant might close permanently if the company could not get new financing, and that massive layoffs are in the works in any case.
Howard did not return calls to the Register-Guard seeking comment for this story.
But, on Thursday, Country Coach attorney Todd R. Johnston provided a written statement saying that the company will remain in its current location and that “Country Coach has every reason to believe that the financing it needs to continue operations will be forthcoming and that the valuable niche it has developed in this market will be preserved.”
Attorney David Wade, who represents Lee, his wife Terry, and his brother Ronald, said the family is prepared to dismiss the eviction lawsuit under a set of terms that Wade declined to disclose.
“Let’s just say that, if it’s performed the landlord will be satisfied, and we’ll dismiss the eviction proceeding — and I expect it to be performed.”
The Lee family brought the lawsuit, court records show, after Country Coach defaulted on the December lease payment on the plant property — located on eight city blocks in Junction City.
Lee said the family was not trying to shut the plant down or require it to move.
“Sometimes you have to use a little force to get the decision you’re looking for,” Lee said. “It was a way to keep the pieces in place. That’s all we we’re doing. It was a way to keep things from being auctioned off. It succeeded, I think.”
Lee said he has no direct say in business decisions, even though he was named “emeritus CEO” when he returned in 2007, after a Los Angeles-based private investment group that he was allied with bought the company.
Lee said he’d worked at other RV enterprises alongside Howard, who the investment group installed as CEO in Junction City.
“Jay and I have worked on three turnarounds and they were all successful except this one. So far, we’re not successful in turning this one around, but the economy has gotten so much worse,” Lee said.
The economic downturn has been brutal on the nation’s RV makers.
The Register-Guard reported that the industry has shipped 50% fewer Class A units — the large, bus-like motorhomes — this year compared to the previous year.
In the past 12 months, 45 of about 2,850 RV dealerships around the country have closed, according to the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
Country Coach began a series of layoffs in December 2007, with the work force falling from as many as 1,800 workers to about 500.
Last month, Country Coach doubled its usual holiday idle period to four weeks. The plant had been set to restart on Jan. 5, but, as of Thursday, there was no sign of resumption.
“The finance companies are not working with us much,” Lee said. “There’s no money to buy a new coach; You have a hard time getting a loan, if you’re a buyer. The banks won’t (provide) loans for coaches to the dealers because the dealers can’t afford to do it — so you can’t build any new product and you can’t pay your suppliers.”
Country Coach fell behind on its payments to suppliers, who tried to remain patient so the company could regain its footing, company officials previously said.
“We’re working to get the pieces together so (Country Coach) can get enough money together to pay some of the suppliers who can’t afford to carry it anymore,” Lee said Thursday.
“All the little mom and pop shops in the Junction City, Harrisburg and Monroe area, all those people are in trouble because the RV company is in trouble. The economy today is just upside down.”
Lee said he’s still striving to preserve Country Coach — and that the company’s current nosedive is painful for him to witness.
“The lender is in on some of the things we’re doing; it’s not as much as we’d like. (And) we’re trying to get the investors to come more in, too,” he said. “We’ll work with them until everything is gone — or it’s up and running again.”
FIRST FLEETWOOD, NOW MONACO
Monday, January 12, 2009
Monaco Coach Corp. today (Jan. 12) announced it received notice of noncompliance from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Jan. 6.
The Coburg, Ore.-based builder did meet not the exchange’s common stock standard requiring that a listed common stock maintain an average closing stock price of over $1 per share of common stock for 30 consecutive trading days. In afternoon trading today, Monaco had lost 11 cents per share to 66 cents.
Monaco has 10 business days, or until Jan. 21, to notify the NYSE of its intent to “cure the deficiency.” The company then has six months to meet the standards. If it fails, Monaco’s common stock would be subject to delisting by the NYSE.
The NYSE also said that Monaco’s average market capitalization over a recent 30 consecutive trading day period was below the minimum quantitative continued listing criteria of $25 million.
While this would normally be grounds for immediate suspension and delisting, the NYSE has advised Monaco that it is continuing to assess the company's listing status.