Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Broken Down...Now What!?

Know Where the Closest RV Service Center Is When Things Go Wrong

By James Heckman

No matter how well it’s built, no matter how well designed, eventually everything with moving parts wears out or suffers a breakdown. RVs are no exception. When the engine starts knocking on an empty Kansas road on the way to see the world’s largest frying pan, what do you do?

“If you’re in an unfamiliar area, the best thing to look for is if the facility has certified technicians,” said Jerry Balda, Director of Education for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “If a mechanic doesn’t have RVIA certification, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad mechanic, it just means you don’t know.”

RVIA maintains an education program to certify technicians in RV maintenance by industry standards. The program is in conjunction with the Recreational Vehicle Products Association (RVPA), an association of dealers. When a repair facility has a certified technician, they can advertise that fact in the yellow pages or on signage.

“RVs are a service dependent industry,” said Balda. “The RVIA and RVPA don’t always agree on everything, but we have a mutual interest in maintaining high standards of service. Other certification schools exist, but RVIA keeps the standards to the level of the manufacturers who built the RV.”

The RVIA testing consists of written and practical sections testing knowledge in 11 general areas like LP gas, generators and DC electric power, and measures competence at 63 tasks. Total scoring, in addition to experience in the industry, determines whether a technician is Certified or Master Certified.

Certification lasts five years. To qualify for re-certification, technicians must have remained in the industry and completed continuing education hours. If a technician left the industry for more than one year or did not complete continuing education requirements, they must re-take the test.

“Looking toward the future, the Board of Directors started looking into ways to certify repair facilities,” said Balda. “Based on service record history, customers would then know if a garage is reputable. We don’t have it all put together yet, but we’re pretty excited by the concept.”

The yellow pages are not always handy on the road. For that reason, Woodall’s campground directories keep a list of RV service centers that offer repair facilities per region. The listing includes a simplified map of each state covered with the location of each facility indicated by a number. This will help RVers find a repair facility on their own if the RV is still driveable. Obviously, call to make sure the listed RV dealer or service facility is qualified to service your specific make and model RV. Also check if they have facilities to complete the type of repair needed.

In case of a total breakdown, the RV will need towing to a qualified repair facility. Several companies offer roadside assistance benefits to members stranded on an unfamiliar roadway. The costs of a tow can be reduced by working with a roadside assistance company, and they should have extensive records of reputable tow facilities and repair shops. The alternative is grabbing the yellow pages and hoping for the best.

“I think the benefits at a lot of roadside assistance companies are similar,” said Jay Helland, Marketing Manager at Good Sam Emergency Road Services (ERS), “the main difference is how the companies do it.”

ers keeps a database of tow services and repair facilities capable of servicing RVs. When a call comes in, the closest facility is dispatched to help. This keeps a customer’s time spent stranded on the side of a road as short as possible. Unfortunately, today a stranded motorist is a vulnerable motorist. The assistance of a professional agency obtaining towing and repair services reduces vulnerablility.

The main emphasis of most roadside assistance companies is getting the RVer back on the road. Towing companies can perform simple repairs or services to get an RV moving. Lockout service, jump starting or battery and fuel delivery make a stressful problem much easier to deal with.

If a tow to a repair facility is required, the better roadside assistance companies offer unlimited mileage and tow customers to the nearest qualified RV service facility or RV dealer, not the nearest gas station.

RVers with towables offer a potential problem. When the tow vehicle breaks down, both vehicles need to be towed. While some areas allow towing of both the RV and the tow vehicle, some require a tow truck for each. If you have a towable RV, make sure your emergency assistance company will cover the cost of two tow trucks.

Helland said ERS keeps track of customer satisfaction with repair facilities on their database. That way they can ensure customers get quality service at a fair price.

“We don’t track RVIA certification because a number of certification programs exist and I don’t know the popularity of that one,” said Helland. “But we keep a list of about 13,000 facilities and, based on our customer history, we eliminate those with bad reputations.”

RV breakdowns on the road are never fun. But, with a little pre-planning and some foresight, an emergency can be downgraded to a simple inconvenience.

Search for RV dealers who offer RV service and repair.