Last year was weird, as far as RV repairs go. I say weird, but really it was RV-normal: things didn’t go as expected. We never plan more than one visit to the shop for annual maintenance, typically in November or early December when we’re back in Texas for the holidays. But by the end of 2017, we had a total of five repair/maintenance sessions on the books.
May: Last Stop Before Our 2017 Trip
With a six-month trip around the corner, we swung into our “home shop,” Iron Horse RV, to get a few things done. The biggest expense/accomplishment: new tires, something we’d planned on since we bought our rig at the beginning of 2014.
I detailed everything in an article earlier this year, so I won’t rehash rather than to list our costs below. I highly recommend you visit the following link for details, especially if you’re curious about saving money on tires through FMCA’s Michelin Advantage Program. It cost us $60 and saved us $600.
Repairs at Iron Horse RV (San Antonio, TX):
- Wet bay leak repair/replaced fittings
- Rear jack replacement
New tires at TCi (San Antonio, TX):
➡️ Keep reading: “Diesel RV Maintenance Checklist”
We Thought We Were Good to Go
Repairs and maintenance complete, we went back to Austin for a few days. Imagine how prepared we felt as we packed up for our first big RV trip since Caspian’s birth. The day of departure came. Birds were singing and squirrels were frolicking.
Though packing up took longer because we were rusty (and had a five-month-old), we got everything stowed; slides in; walkie-talkies on; Caspian in his car seat in the Jeep.
We were literally about to back out of our space when I hurriedly radioed Eric, “The jacks are still down.”
No sooner had we dropped $5,200 in San Antonio than everything started breaking.
June: Hard to Find a Friend
By the time we got to Cave City, Kentucky, this is what we were dealing with (copied from our Cave City travel log):
- Our jacks wouldn’t go up. This happened as we were leaving Austin on our six-month trip. Literally. Caspian was strapped into his car seat and Eric was about to back out of our site when we discovered the problem. We finally got the issue diagnosed in Hot Springs–the circuitboard was bad–but the new one had to be created by hand and we were still waiting for the part to arrive. Meanwhile, we were anxious about finding sites at each RV park that were relatively level.
- Our front AC unit was broken. We were fairly certain it was the capacitor, or starter. Every morning, we had to unscrew the cover inside and spin the fan by hand to get the unit going. Yeah.
- The support for our wardrobe rod came off the ceiling during our drive, crushing all our clothes and making them almost inaccessible.
- The charger for my beloved Dyson vacuum had expired. No vacuum with a white cat that sheds like crazy? What nightmares are made of.
July: Have You Ever Stuck a Bandage on an Air Conditioner?
Cave City is small, but the office at Cave Country RV Park highly recommended Rick’s Care Mobile RV Repair. We didn’t have a lot of money to drop, so I decided to focus on the most time-sensitive issue: our busted air conditioner.
I described our issue to Rick over the phone and he was fairly certain it was our capacitor. I texted him our AC model and serial numbers, and two days later he had the part and was at our site to install it.
Once he got up on the roof and uncovered the unit, he was surprised by what he found. First, the old capacitor was way too small for our air conditioner. And second, it had been jerry-rigged with duct tape by someone who was either lazy or didn’t know what they were doing. We’d never had anything done to the unit, other than cleaning it, so this must’ve happened to one of the previous owners.
Anyway, Rick got the new capacitor installed and the problem seemed to be solved. And he charged us hardly anything for his time, which I sincerely appreciated.
The air conditioner worked for two days before we started having issues again. At that point, we knew the fan motor was bad. But Rick wasn’t able to find a new motor before we left Cave City.
So we lived with a broken air conditioner for more than a month. In the middle of summer. 👎
August: The Best Day Ever
Fast forward to August in Asheville, North Carolina. Mike and Denise of RV Trailer and Motorhome Repair galloped up on a white horse with their banner flapping in the wind, and they rescued us from our misery of no jacks and no air conditioning. Crowds cheered and babies laughed. It was a good day.
Mike was an RV wizard, and both he and his wife were a pleasure to spend time with. We traded stories about old Austin and old school music as Mike installed an AC fan motor for us, as well as the circuitboard for our hydraulic jacks.
Never thought we'd be so happy to see our jacks down! As we were pulling out of Austin on May 31, we found out our jack system circuitboard was blown. No jacks at all. 😑 We had the part custommade by HWH, but haven't been able to find a mobile tech to install it in the tiny towns we've been in. FINALLY, RV Trailer and Motorhome Repair in Asheville has saved the day. Serious celebration going on here after 2+ months with no jacks. 🎉 #rvwanderlust #rvlife #rving #fulltimerv #rvrepair
November: Oh Yeah, Annual Maintenance
We were able to close out the rest of our 2017 RV travel in peace. Before we knew it, our rig was back at Iron Horse for that one annual visit we’re supposed to make.
We did something different this time, which was quite refreshing. We’ve always stayed in our rig at Iron Horse, but this time we packed up the cats and went to stay at my parents’ in Corpus Christi.
This worked for all of us. We were happy and comfortable, and Caspian loved time with his grandparents. While back at the shop, Iron Horse had plenty of time to get our list checked off. They finally replaced our two front windows (on each side of the captains chairs), which we had never been able to get done while we were staying in the rig. The windows were foggy–the one by the driver had been jacked up for years and was a safety hazard.
Here’s the full rundown of what we had done:
- Front side window replacement x 2
- New slide toppers x 2 (the main one was totally tattered at the front, especially after Hurricane Irma)
- Oil change, which we do annually
- Fuel filter change, which we do annually
- State inspection
December: Battery Upgrade
By this time, I was fairly finished with pouring money into our RV. Especially with Christmas and January expenses on the slate (annual RV insurance and timeshare maintenance fee are due Jan. 1, and they’re both whoppers).
But our coach batteries stopped holding a charge during the second half of 2017, and we wanted to take care of the replacement while we were near the marvelous Greg Young of RV Solar Solutions.
Greg installed our LED lights two years ago, and he’s always given us unfailingly good advice when it comes to everything related to solar/electricity/power for RVs. He counseled us to switch out our old solid state batteries for AGM Lifeline 6CT batteries. We went from 214 total/107 usable amps to 600 total/300 usable amps. We’re now in good shape for adding solar at some future date.
Greg is the best, and he and his lovely wife Cori are full-time RVers themselves. We highly recommend them for solar/power upgrades.
Total 2017 Repairs and Maintenance: $10,331.88
Monthly Average: $860.99
I ran these numbers and immediately said to Eric, “Why don’t we have a new RV again?” But then we went on to talk about how we may not have the nicest/newest RV, but it’s home and takes us where we want to go. Even considering we only traveled for half of 2017, we still managed to see a space launch, the largest cave system in the world, and everything in between. After four years of full-time travel, the spectacular can become embarrassingly routine. Sometimes we need to stop and reflect on how incredibly blessed we are.
➡️ Keep reading: “2017 in Review: Stats, Photos, Adventures”
For those who are interested, in 2016, we spent $4,369.30 and our monthly average was $364.11 (that felt good). In 2015, we spent $9,454.06 and our monthly average was $787.84. In 2014, we spent $5,751.52 total and our monthly average was $479.29.
So considering we spent almost $4,000 on tires in 2017, a preventative expense we only have every five years, our total wasn’t too far off the mark.
➡️ Keep reading: “Annual Report: 2016 RV Repairs and Maintenance”
➡️ Keep reading: “Annual Report: 2015 RV Repairs and Maintenance”
➡️ Keep reading: “Update on RV Repairs and Maintenance: Second Half of 2014”