Normally we get all our repairs and maintenance done at the end of each year when we come back to Texas for the holidays. Of course, we make exceptions for repairs that can’t wait. But 2016 was different. We knew we were going to be in one area for months, and we didn’t want to invest in too much RV stuff when we had a baby about to arrive. (Secret: the baby was cheap. The new Jeep wasn’t.)
We decided to save the things we needed done before our next adventure, and make one last visit to Iron Horse RV in San Antonio before leaving Texas for our 2017 trip. As planned, we headed south from Austin last Wednesday. We didn’t get to Iron Horse until 3:30 p.m., so we plugged in for the night at “Camp Iron Horse.” Behind the shop, there are four gravel sites with 50 amp and water hookups. There’s also an adjacent dump station.
Repair: Wet Bay Leak
We drove Meriwether into a repair bay the next morning. Caspian supervised. We were able to stay in our RV while our technician repaired a leak in our wet bay. We had had an annoying slow leak for a while. They replaced our fittings, including replacing some plastic pieces with brass.
Maintenance: New Tires
Repairs done, we moved back to Camp Iron Horse. We called over to TCi Tire Centers, conveniently located all of five minutes away.
Quick back story…right after we got to San Antonio, Eric went over there to TCi to straighten out some confusion with our tire order. I had placed our order two weeks before, but they hadn’t given me any order/confirmation number (I should’ve asked). Upon arrival, the tires were nowhere to be found. To TCi’s credit, they scrambled to pull together six tires from different locations, so we’d be taken care of.
Okay, back to last Thursday. Wet bay repair done, we called over and our tires had arrived (TCi got them together in less than 24 hours–impressive). They said they could get us in mid-afternoon and have us out by close of business. We left Meriwether there and headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant in San Antonio: La Fogata.
After a delicious meal and errands to kill time, we went back to Meriwether and his new shoes. What a smooth experience, and we absolutely loved how close the location was to Iron Horse (especially because it was rush hour).
Interlude: Why the New Tires?
I guess I should talk a little about replacing our tires. Before we started RV shopping for a used rig back in 2013, we researched warning signs. We knew we had to check the roof, generator, and batteries on any rig we were considering. And we knew we had to check the tire dates. Diesel tires are frickin’ expensive, so we wanted to figure replacement cost into our purchase offer, if necessary.
In Meriwether’s case, the tires were pretty new, with a date of July 2012. Mentally, we noted that we’d need to replace them by July 2017. Yes, five years. Some people debate the five-year-replacement thing. Some say seven years. Some inspect their tires regularly and chance going even longer than seven years.
We firmly reject these philosophies because the risks aren’t worth it. Inspecting an RV tire takes a real expert with sophisticated equipment. We’ve heard of “tire people” giving the green light to RV tires when they don’t know what they’re talking about. For a few thousand dollars, we’d rather protect all of our earthly possessions and our most loved people on earth. Have you seen what can happen when an RV tire blows?
As far as how we went about replacing the tires, we joined FMCA (Family Motorcoach Association) for their Michelin Advantage Program. Through the program, you basically get $100 off each tire. Multiply by six, and you’re looking at big savings. FMCA was $60 to join.
Using the program is easy peasy. FMCA gives extremely detailed instructions. But it boils down to:
- Figure out what tire you need
- Find your dealer
- Schedule your appointment
- Register your credit card with Michelin
- Go to your appointment
You don’t pay the dealer. They put the bill through, and Michelin charges the card you already put on file. I’m fairly thrilled with how easy the whole process was.
Repair: Rear Jack Replacement
This repair was an unwelcome surprise. Earlier this year, Eric put the jacks up before a trip, and hydraulic fluid leaked out everywhere. We went weeks without rear jacks, which sucked (and isn’t good for the rig). But we weren’t able to fit in an extra trip to the mechanic. When we did finally go, we hoped the problem was a broken line that could be fabricated and replaced. As it turns out, it was the jack itself that was bad.
Meriwether is now an august 13 years old. Which means parts are harder to find, and they’re more expensive. (Fortunately, Tiffin is one of the few RV companies that has never gone out of business, which makes finding parts easier than it is with other brands.) But Iron Horse did track down the jack, and we paid to overnight it to us.
The part was there Friday morning, so we drove Meriwether over before lunch and the repair was done by the end of the day.
Total cost of RV repairs and maintenance this time around: $5,246.48
Time to Go
There are always other things we want done, especially considering we have zero handyman skills and need help with virtually everything. I’m already starting a list for our end-of-year trip to Iron Horse when we get back to Texas in November/December.
But for now, it’s time to go.