We have had our rig worked on only a few times in the last 2 years, but we have never taken it into a service bay. We have always used mobile techs because it’s just been easier, and luckily we have never had anything serious enough that needed service inside a bay. But when we knew we were possibly dealing with an axle related issue we decided to take it in somewhere. I was pretty intimidated by the whole thing to be honest. We have heard tons of horror stories from people who take their rigs to service centers and are there for weeks, and even months, so we started the process with caution. We also started with Camping World for a couple of reasons. We are lifetime Good Sam/Camping World members, we have Good Sam accident insurance, and our experiences with both, although not perfect, have been good overall . We were nervous about going to a local shop without a strong recommendation from someone, because we simply didn’t know what quality of service we would get.
Being full timers of course complicates this, but when Lee called and talked to Jayme, the service coordinator, he felt very reassured. She was familiar with full timers and their needs and scheduled us a technician that would be dedicated to solving our problem so we could be assured we wouldn’t be left with an undriveable rig in pieces at the end of the day. Pulling in went fine. This particular service station was huge, with tons of bays, and we followed the red lines (as instructed) and then dropped the fifth wheel in the parking lot. Then they bring a cool machine out which takes the fifth wheel back into the proper bay. We got to see that in action and it was impressive how those machines maneuvered the fifth wheels. We could use one of those to get into some state park sites!
Alas, pulling in turned out to be the easiest part of the day. We started working with a service specialist and immediately felt like we were being churned through a big machine. His attitude definitely seemed to change for the worst when he discovered we had an extended warranty, and we really felt like he just wanted to get us processed and done as quickly as possible. I know they make less on warranty jobs, but we came to Camping World for a reason, so Lee and I were having none of that. After three hours when they told us they couldn’t see that we had any issue at all, Lee asked to speak to the service tech. When we were told customers weren’t allowed to speak to the techs we asked to speak to the service manager. After initially being refused, Lee finally just stopped talking to the service advisor altogether and walked up to someone else, who went and got the manager for him. We all walked out to the rig and Lee showed them the visual evidence that the shackle was rubbing against another component and being worn down, and of course we had a tire on that side that was completely bald on one side while the others all looked brand new. At that point the Service Manager, Bill, pulled his senior tech and he immediately said he thought we had a bent axle, but there was no way to tell without a $99 alignment check. I wasn’t crazy about that, but OK, so $99 later they discovered the alignment was practically perfect (well within specs), so then they thought it must be a bent spindle. Solution? Replace the axle. Short term fix? Put the spare on, which we did. At this point Will called the warranty company and was told we would need an adjuster to come out and take a look.
We knew that was a possibility, so we hitched back up and went to a campground about 9 miles down the road. It was $40, but it was close, and there aren’t tons of options in that area anyway. The campground wasn’t awful, but definitely overpriced. It wasn’t great, but it would do for an overnight, and we stayed hitched up and drove back in the morning. This time we left the truck hitched up and waited in the parking lot for about three hours until Lee decided to call the warranty company himself and try to get an ETA. The time wasn’t totally wasted as we worked on applying for summer camp hosting jobs, but it was pretty cold, and not that comfortable either in the waiting room or in our truck. When we called the warranty company we were surprised to hear they had no record of a claim or an insurance adjuster coming out. Lee walked inside and talked to the service manager, who confirmed he wasn’t given a claim number, but was pretty specific about the phone call. We went back and called and spoke to another person, again, no mention of a claim. At this point we were both getting pretty frustrated, so we went back in and found Jayme, who was great and once again took over. She has excellent customer service skills and really was genuinely concerned on our behalf, which really is all you are looking for in a situation like this.
Bill called again and it turns out the phone call from yesterday was never registered. (We found out later that another Perkins had the exact same issue back in May and somehow the help desk person at the warranty company got confused and reopened that same call. When the claims adjuster came he had two open calls for the same problem for two different rigs, owned by two different Perkins’. Bizarre) So we were back to square one, and an adjuster would be coming out Monday or Tuesday. This time we were smarter and found a Passport America campground for only $21 a night. Leisure resort was 30 miles away from Camping World, but honored Passport America on the weekends, which none of the others did. Plus, it’s a really pretty campground with a river running through it, and since it was supposed to get super cold, had 50 amp service. As a bonus the work kampers were very nice and Lee was in a much better mood after he checked us in.
After hooking up, I menu planned for the next several days, Lee went to the grocery store, and I finished sending emails to all the jobs we are looking at for the summer, and we just tried to unwind a little. The next day I was planning on just relaxing, but unfortunately we woke up to frozen water pipes. We had used our electric water hose which worked fine, but their pipes (even though insulated) were frozen solid. We had some water in our fresh tank, so we were able to get by until it warmed up enough for the spigot to thaw, and once it did Lee filled out fresh tank, since it was supposed to get down to 25 again that night. Lee also took our propane tanks to get filled, so we could use our newly repaired furnace without worrying about running out of propane. I walked down to the water and took those pictures. It actually might have all been for the best, because originally we were headed down to boondock at Padre Island, and it was 23 degrees down there as well. So we took care of household tasks, watched a little TV, and tried to relax.
That was tough for me because I am pretty uptight about the money, but after a long talk with my mom I felt much better. I know I have money in the bank, and I know we can’t do anything until we find out about this repair, but the self imposed pressure of finding work right away was really pushing on me. You can be fully aware that feeling a certain way is crazy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can just flip the switch and shut it off, at least I can’t. But this is how things will be sometimes, and I really need to be able to handle that. Since 2017 is going to be the year of good decisions, I might as well start now. I have dubbed it that, because this is the first full year of us living off what we make without any “corporate money”. Obviously that is going to be tight, and since we can’t just throw money at our problems anymore, we really need to be careful and make good decisions throughout the year. I am not really a resolution person, so it isn’t a resolution, but more of a commitment to give this the fairest shot I can in 2017. I want to find out if we can spend within our means this year, and part of that is minimizing poor decisions that cost money. Some things you can’t avoid, but many bad decisions are made in the heat of the moment, and just taking some time and thinking them through would stop it from happening. I will say this though, our $3500 “comfortable” monthly budget is a much lighter monkey than the $6K+ per month we spent in our old life. And I have these signs in my rig to remind me of a couple of important things.
Sunday the saga continued when we woke up to the furnace not working. Now you may be thinking “What is wrong with these people?”, but truly we have been very lucky with having minimal repairs. Just like a sticks and bricks though it appeared everything was going to go wrong at once. This problem was more complicated because we had a remote service tech come out to fix the problem about two weeks ago, so we needed to call him first. Late in the evening we got a call from his son who told us his dad had been in a terrible motorcycle accident and would be in the hospital for months. He hated to “leave us hanging”, but obviously his dad was his first priority. We understood of course but were not exactly sure what to do. So Monday morning I called the warranty company who stated this was the problem with mobile techs, and they would not pay a claim for the same problem twice. We would need to “go back to the original provider.” Since that was impossible, we decided to bit the bullet and have Camping World look at it and this is where they totally stood up.
Not only did they fit us in that same day, but they charged us an extremely reasonable labor rate. They had to pull the furnace completely out to diagnose the problem and it was a “slightly bent” sail switch. For those who are wondering why Lee didn’t fix it himself, it bears mentioning that we had to wait until the thinnest tech on the property (not kidding here) was available. Our furnace is in an incredibly tight space and super difficult to access. The tech pulled it out and fixed the problem and we were billed a reasonable amount, only $77, which is amazing considering the entire process took several hours. Also the claims agent came and immediately validated there was a legitimate problem with the axle. Despite minimal driving the new tire already shows signs of wear that the others do not, so hopefully the claim will be approved. Both the furnace fix and the claims agent took several hours, so we spent the downtime looking for both summer and immediate positions.
I had sent several emails out on Sunday so we fielded those responses and we had an hour long phone interview for a summer position in Oregon. The day wasn’t wasted, but I will say as a piece of advice if you find yourselves in this situation, sit in the waiting room. From what I observed special priority was given to “waiting” customers and although it was a pain sitting there all day it will decrease the chance of your problem getting pushed to another day. That may not always be the case, but I heard several techs talking about “waiting customers” which seemed like a good indicator.
Anyway it was almost 5pm when we were done, so we headed back to Leisure Resort and tomorrow are headed down to Padre Island. We don’t like to drive in the dark, especially to someplace we don’t know, and doesn’t take reservations, so it made sense to start off fresh in the morning. Not sure what the cell coverage will be like down there, and we will be boondocking, so we’ll have limited computer time, but I will definitely keep you updated on both the warranty work and the job searches. Much more to come on that later!
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