As our second full year of owning Meriwether and traveling full-time, 2015 offered complete relief from the breakdowns and emergency maintenance we dealt with throughout 2014. We started and ended the year in the shop, but it was by choice!
We’ve actually developed a rhythm we hope to stick with. At the end of every year when we come back to Texas for the holidays, we get our regular maintenance done (oil change, fuel filter change, etc.), as well as minor repairs that have added up over the year. Our RV repair shop of choice is Iron Horse RV in San Antonio, who we first visited in December 2014. We really love the work they do for us and plan to be long-time customers.
Here’s the rundown of the repairs and maintenance we had done in 2015.
January: Batten Down the Hatches
After dealing with unexpected repairs at the end of 2014, we returned after the holidays to see to some unrelated, irksome issues and complete other minor maintenance items:
- Align main patio awning (which wasn’t closing properly)
- Replace entrance door handle mechanism (because being locked out sucks)
- Drawer railing repair
- Reapply silicone around bathroom counter
- Seal front cap of RV around marker lights, antennas and airhorn (we were having a persistent issues with water leaks)
- Replace air filter
- Air tires to proper PSI
- Inspect around the engine for leaks and loose parts
- Purchase another gallon of diesel performance additive
February: Counting on Maintenance to Save Us Down the Road
To my chagrin, we had to cut our Texas Hill Country adventures short. When we were at Iron Horse in January, we found out we had to order some parts that wouldn’t be in for a few weeks. The time came in February, and we returned to San Antonio to do the “adult thing” (a.k.a. get maintenance done, so our home wouldn’t fall apart on the road in the middle of nowhere).
The repair cost this time was a bit of a doozy. But we knew we were leaving on a nine-month trip, and we wanted Meriwether to be in good shape for the trip.
- Replace engine fan blade: The fan blade was the main part we were waiting on. Owner Daryl told us that our original fan blade had chinks in it. At some point, it was likely to break loose at full speed. If that happened, it would go right through our radiator and we would be looking at a disastrous repair cost. We decided that didn’t sound fun.
- Clean charge air cooler and radiator: Then things got messy. Literally. In order to reach the fan blade, they had to remove our charge air cooler and radiator. Both were filthy. They were so filthy that Daryl thought they might need to be replaced, to the tune of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, a thorough cleaning did the trick, without ruining them.
- Replace rear hub cap: Oh, bumpy interstate…you destroyer of hub caps. We lost a hub cap in our travels…turns out they’re way easier to lose than replace.
- Install missing weep hole covers: Our drives had always been accompanied by a high-pitched whistling from the wind. Little did we know there were weep hole covers missing from the window frames. Problem solved.
- Replace defrost vents on dashboard: Eric surprised me by ordering replacement vent covers for our dashboards. The originals were brittle and broken in a few places.
The fan blade was over half our cost, and the charge air/radiator surprise was most of the rest.
March: Making Our Boy Handsome
One more visit to Iron Horse! With the repairs and maintenance behind us, it was time to get some pretty upgrades done. Our talented friends covered the front of Meriwether with Vortex, a spray-on protectant from rocks and other projectiles. It makes bug-removal much easier, too! (Read all about our experience and what Vortex does.)
The Vortex was complimentary, in return for promotion around the country. We chipped in for a custom air-brush job (our beautiful bison logo), and wash/wax with deoxidation.
November: End of the Year Regroup
Back from a wonderful nine-month trip to Kentucky, west to Colorado, and back to Austin, we returned to Iron Horse for end of the year maintenance. We didn’t have any surprise repairs all year! That felt good.
Nonetheless, we had a huge list of items for Iron Horse to look at–small things we had been sitting on for a while.
- Replace coolant tank: On our last drive to Texas, our low-coolant alarm started going off. Turns out our tank was pretty much falling apart.
- Replace outdoor shower hose and faucet in wet bay: the shower hose had broken off, so the whole unit had to be replaced.
- Replace light over kitchen sink: It was so hard to wash dishes without it! We opted for LED bulbs, our first in Meriwether.
- Replace shower door locking lever
- Repair air bags: Our air bags were emptying immediately whenever we shut Meriwether off. They hadn’t always done this, so we wanted to find out what happened. Turns out the passenger rear air bag was punctured (by a rock from the road?) and leaking. It’s kind of a wonder that we even had enough air to drive safely!
- Fix living room slide, which hadn’t been extending or retracting fully. We were introduced to the slide lock switch on the motor, which we must have accidentally flicked when moving things in and out of the basement! Once the switch was returned to the proper position, the slide went back to normal.
- Repair generator leak: As we were leaving the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October, a friend warned us about a leak under our rig. Turns out it was coming from our generator. Iron Horse ended up cutting the end of a hose to reconnect it properly.
- Shim up gasket on freezer door: We started to have unusual ice build up in our freezer. Iron Horse said it was the gasket around the door–that it wasn’t sealing properly. They reinforced it, which seems to have helped. Unfortunately, the only permanent fix is a new fridge.
- Awning adjustment: Once again, our main patio owning wasn’t closing properly. Iron Horse adjusted the awning fabric, straightened the arms and lubed the joints.
- Repair windows: A couple of our windows weren’t locking properly (or at all). We also had a broken window frame in the bedroom. All fixed now.
- Repair fold-up table: a former crack in the fold-out table behind our passenger seat, repaired before we bought Meriwether, broke in two again. Iron Horse did a pretty hardcore glue job, even reinforcing the table with metal straps underneath.
- Inspect exterior silicone: We asked Iron Horse to inspect the silicone around our windows and roof, and replace worn down areas as needed.
- Replace drawer railings: Two of the drawers at the foot of our bed had completely broken railing systems. It’s so fun to use my drawers, now that they’re fixed!
- Replace smoke alarm: Ours had started beeping incessantly, even when we put in a new battery. So we took the battery out for a few months…which didn’t seem ideal.
- Clean battery box: Our battery tray was pretty filthy, so we got it power-washed. The metal was also treated with a protectant.
- Oil change
- Fuel filter change
- Generator oil and filter change: This is a routine maintenance item we had never done since we bought Meriwether. Since we don’t dry camp/use the generator much at all, we figured we could postpone this item. But since being initiated into the world of boondocking, we want to keep our options open!
- State inspection
- Propane refill
- Air tires
- Check hydraulic fluid level for jacks and fluid for power steering
Looking over this massive list, I can’t believe how much we got done in one visit. Same thing said another way: I can’t believe how many things can go wrong with an RV! But seriously, this is our home on wheels. We don’t have a mortgage; we don’t pay property tax. We’re investing in our adventure, and we’re okay with that.
Incidentally, the most expensive line item ended up being the one we didn’t plan on: the air bag replacement (more than 20% of the total between labor and parts). But there was no way around that and I’m so glad we got the problem detected.
Flying Projectiles Along the Way
In April, we stayed at Pulaski County Park in the little town of Nancy, KY. While there, a high-speed mower kicked up a stone or rock at a million miles an hour, and hurled it into one of Meriwether’s bay doors. The result was two indentations, as the projectile skipped along Meriwether’s surface like a pebble over a still lake. If only the dents went away as easily as ripples.
The county paid us an agreed-upon amount for the damage. We didn’t get the repair done at that point because we were in the middle of nowhere, and we still haven’t had it done. But it makes me feel better to weigh the payout against the year’s expenses.
2015 RV Repair and Maintenance Costs
Total 2015 Repairs and Maintenance: $9,454.06
Monthly Average: $787.84
You can compare this to 2014’s expenses of $5,751.52 total and $479.29 monthly average. Read the full 2014 report here.
Fortunately, we don’t have any outstanding credit card bills to prove these expenses ever existed, but it still gives my stomach a little turn to see how much we spent! Here’s hoping our 11-month trip planned for this year is repair-expense-free, and we come out of the trip with only our scheduled maintenance at the end of the year. A girl can hope!
Disclosure: Iron Horse RV is one of our online marketing clients. Having said that, we didn’t receive any discount on the maintenance and repair items in this article, and the opinions given in this article are our own.
Would it have been better to have bought a newer RV with a warrenty o0r extened warrenty ? Instead of buying an older RV without a warrenty ?
@dennis_looney:disqus, we wanted to pay cash for a well-built rig and have no monthly payment. There was no way we could’ve afforded a new diesel Tiffin (the Phaeton runs in the $350-400,000 range). Our hope is that after taking care of these repairs and maintenance (that the previous two owners didn’t), our costs will decrease. We love our diesel pusher and got a really good deal on it, and Tiffin is one of the most-loved brands in the industry.
As I was telling another commenter, Chuck, we did research extended warranties, but decided they weren’t worth the cost. Now, two years in, we’re due for a regroup. But with a 2003 rig, I think we’re still going to be better off without an extended warranty.
Have you ever thought about purchasing an extended warranty? Almost all of the work you list as having done would have been covered. We just bought a 4year/$200 deductible warranty for our 2002 5th wheel. Cost about $3900.00. It covers everything except tires and I could have added tires for another fee. Go to https://www.wholesalewarranties.com/ and lok into it. They are honest, work for the warranteed owner(not the repair shop). It will pay for itself over time. Just a thought. Chuck
Thanks, Chuck / @notfor_youtoknow:disqus. We did seriously consider an extended warranty when we were buying Meriwether. But we decided we would rather use our cash as we chose, rather than investing in a policy we might not use. Now, two years in with hard data to consider, it would probably be wise for us to research again. What year is your rig? Ours is over 10 years old.
Hello; Dennis again. I won’t be RVing for another 3 years 2019. In the meantime, been doing plenty of home work reading. From what I have read in RV buyers survival guide by Bob Randall. It says as RV’s get older it might get harder to get extended warranties. My guess is that extended warranties might also cost more for an older RV. Due to like your older RV needing more work done to it. Hopefully after all that you got done and taking care of Meriwether on into the future there will be a lot less $$ sending on repairs and replacement of parts. For my own future RV travels I enjoy reading your traveling emails and write down from state to state places you’ve been to. That I find worth going to come 2019 and beyond. Happy Travels to Meriwether and the both of you !! From Dennis Looney
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It is very interesting to see other RVers have exactly the same problems we had 😉
I am just glade I have the time to fix most of these things by myself. I am not a technician, just a computer guy – I only read a little bit trough the manuals and use google and some nice RV forums for extra hints where to start. Saves you a few thousands of $$$.
But I can understand if you do not want to do those things, and it is absolute fine if you can afford it – It just gives myself now an explanation to understand the pricing of some of work done.
For example, all the things you did in January I just did by myself, in the first year of RVing
Changing oil and air-filter on your generator is an easy 10 minute job. Replacing lights or smoke alarms is nothing very technical. If your awning does not close proper, it might just be that the fabric moved 1-2 inches to the left or right and the whole thing gets messed up when you roll it up (you might need 4-5 people to move the fabric along that pole back to its right center position)
One big example I am proud of:
Our refrigerator cooling unit broke (it will typically develope a leak after 8-10 years).
First I called one of those super RV Center (the one with 2 or more secretarys and beautiful office). They said they need to replace the fridge for 2300 $ Crazy eh? I saw that the fridge is also sold by Campingworld for 1390$
I called around in Fredericksburg and found a local RV repair shop which would install a new one for the total of 1350$ (thats ~1000$ less!). He said he does not want to replace the cooling unit because thats too many hours of work for him. I understood that – today it is easier to make money on replacing something and having not much work, taking out the old one and putting in another one is easy money.
So what we did was ordering the repair parts by ourself. The fridge itself looks very good, has no scratches, bends or leaks, so why replacing the whole thing? You get a manual with the parts and at least 10 youtube videos explaining everything step by step. It was of course a lot of work and took a full day. But again I learned that those refrigeratores aren’t a real miracle thing. I would say the complexity is in between setting up a propane barbecue you bougth in parts and adding a electric power button to it. Total cost of the repair was 450$
So for ~2 days of work (including research) we saved 1850$
I am not making 1850$ in 2 days in my own job, so it saved me money. 🙂
We are planning to travel extensively, but mainly as snowbirds. Gone about three to four months during the winter. We figure we can buy a new vehicle and large enough fifth wheel or trailer new for under sixty thousand dollars. It would usually just be two of us. Since we are elderly we may avoid a lot of expense. Especially since we will not be full timers. We will take shorter trips during the other seasons, unless we get hooked on Alaska and Canada.
Found it! Thanks for the full disclosure, and next time we’re at Home Base San Antonio, and run into an issue that Handy Hubby can’t resolve, we’ll give Iron Horse a call. Hadn’t heard of them before your posts.