Groundhog Day in Elkhart Indiana – The Joy of RV Repair

We did sign up for this.  It’s no secret that RV life is full of occurrences which can reroute a trip or alter well-laid plans at any given time.  It’s part of the excitement and adventure.   When the motorhome has issues, it puts a major kink in things.  We love our rolling home and she started getting a bit sick a few months ago.  Mike tried to keep her together by repairing some of the smaller issues himself, but Margie (our nickname for the rig–dubbed Margaritaville by our Florida camping friends before full-timing) started to need some major attention.

While in Missouri, the kitchen slide made a horrible crunching, grinding, screeching sound and stopped working.  We called a mobile RV guy to come take a look, and he thought it was the motor.  The motor was replaced, but the slide still didn’t work correctly.  There were issues with the tracking.  After discussion, Mike and I decided to take Margie for repair where she was born–at Thor Motor Coach in Elkhart, Indiana.

We had several things we wanted fixed by the factory, so we made the initial call to Thor and were informed the waiting list was actually months–not weeks or days.   It was April and our tentative schedule date was  September 1 and they would call if there were any cancellations.  We adjusted our summer schedule to include the Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois area (Mike affectionately dubbed it Milli-Ana-Ho) so we would be close if Thor called us in early.  As our scheduled appointment loomed closer, Mike called Thor for details of where to arrive, etc., only to be told we were not on their list.  After escalating the issue with management, who supposedly tried to sort it all out, Mike was told their scheduler said Mike was noncommittal about the appointment date (an out-and-out lie) so they took us off the schedule.   After Mike explained we had been in the area for months precisely for this repair, Thor stated they still could not get us into the repair facility for another few months.  As an alternate solution, they recommended a small family-owned company in Elkhart (Charger Enterprises) that could work us in and do the repairs with needed parts provided by Thor.

After reading glowing reviews on Charger, we gave them a call and were encouraged by their confidence in making the repairs.  They put us on the schedule for the next week and allowed us to stay on their lot with partial hookups while they performed diagnostics.  Three days later, they had a comprehensive list of needed repairs, parts required to make said repairs, and let us know we were on a wait-until-the-parts-come-in-from-Thor basis.  We returned to a local campground and waited a week.

And waited another week.

Low and behold, while staying at the campground, the rig slowly became more and more unlevel.  The hydraulics system for the jacks had failed, which made the slide on the other side of the rig (also hydraulic) quit working.  We were stranded with two nonworking slides and jacks which couldn’t be retracted.  Mike, who is like a dog with a bone when presented with a problem needing a working solution, figured out how to retract both the jacks and the slide manually.

Mike was calm about the new problem.  He stated he’d call the repair facility Monday morning and check the status of the existing awaited-for parts and have them order the new hydraulic parts needed for the additional problem.  I’m not so nice.  I’ve been over the waiting for quite some time.  “Hell no.  Let’s go sit in the freakin’ parking lot.  If they see us out their front door while we go in and out of their office area fifty times a day, it might hurry things along.”

That’s how we ended up partially boondocking using Charger’s electric and water hookups in Elkhart, Indiana–literally outside their front door.   They were amazing and got us in the bay first thing the next morning.  Their guys immediately fixed the hydraulic issue causing the slide and jacks to fail.   In the subsequent days, they’ve had us in the bay off and on as parts dwindled in from Thor.  Of course, that meant Mike was working from the truck on those days.

IMG_0291 2
This is Mike’s typical work day while the rig was in the bay.  He’s working his high-tech job parked across an Amish buggy parking lot and didn’t miss a beat.

We are again in a waiting pattern for the final and most serious repair, but still parked in their lot like squatters refusing to leave.  We’ve got all the extraneous issues fixed and in excellent working order.  However, the kitchen slide is rather major.  Thor originally designed the mechanism with two supports without taking into consideration there is a residential refrigerator included in the space, so the slide supports notoriously fail.  Their solution to the problem is to build a new support system, which requires the technicians to take the slide out and put in the new buffed-up support system.  It’s not a simple task and the repair guys are ready to work on it.

IF ONLY THEY HAD THE FREAKIN’ PART!  Yes, I blog shouted with my ALL CAPS (but refrained from cursing, which I definitely do in my head).  To be honest, I’M LOSING MY SH*T.   I can gripe about the RV industry and how they don’t take pride in their work by building things right the first time.  I can rant about awful customer service at Thor and apparently not caring about their company’s reputation.  I can go on and on about how we should get the quality we pay for–the rig definitely wasn’t cheap but we’re finding out the build was.  I could go on, but it’s useless.  Instead, we sit in the repair facility lot and wait.

And wait.

The problem is not Charger Enterprises.  This company has been WONDERFUL to work with every step of the way.  The part has been on order for five weeks–through Thor (who, as I stated in the beginning, dropped the ball and whose slide support design is a major fail).  Thor ordered the part to be built by Lippert, and they keep giving us bogus shipping dates. To demonstrate how ludicrous the shipping situation is–Lippert is one mile away from Thor and Thor is a quarter a mile from where we currently wait.

AND WAIT.

AND WAIT  (sadly, I can’t capitalize this enough).

We are supposed to be at NomadFest in Texas mid-October to attend the premier of RV Nomads movie.  We paid as VIPs to support the movie and have been looking forward to it for months.   As the time keeps ticking, our chances for making it there dwindle.

As for today, it’s the same as yesterday and the day before and the day before that.  Tomorrow and the day after will probably be the same as today and yesterday.  All I know is I need to get out this Groundhog movie-like hell and get on the road.

The purpose of this rant?  It’s definitely not to detour anyone wanting to live this lifestyle.  We did know from the get-go that repairs are a way of life when your home is on wheels and travels frequently.  The reality of it, though, is frustrating and exhausting.  It’s real and it sucks.

The silver lining?  When the slide finally does get fixed, we are good to go for a while.  Unless we have a flat tire.  Or something falls off.  Or….  You get the picture.  I’m just so thankful the adventures outweigh the repair frustration.

Wish us luck.  In the meantime, safe travels to you.

 

 

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25 comments

  1. Oh Dawn, I imagined you’d be well away from Indiana by now. I can’t believe a known problem doesn’t have some sort of recall, with parts waiting on a shelf. I’m glad Charger has been so easy to deal with. I think by now, I might have been camped in the president of Thor’s living room. If I started drinking his wine, he’d been in a hurry to get my home repaired and me out of his house! Fingers crossed for “Monday.” Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would think a recall would be in order, too. I think it takes just long enough for it to quit working AFTER the warranty runs out. I’ve come to the conclusion my expectations are too high for good service and quality. If that part is not in this week, I think we will take your suggestion to heart and find a camping spot at Mr. Thor’s (or whoever’s) house. I hope he has moscato! Hugs back atcha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel your pain! I have felt like we would never get back on the road and no matter how much I begged, cried, fought…we were invisible to them and had no idea when or if we would ever be up and running again. The good news is eventually you will be. Eventually everything somehow works itself out one way or another. The silver lining? Your tolerance will go up! You will no longer sweat the small things or the big things as much. Experiencing despair and misery changes you and makes you stronger. That strength makes life easier believe it or not. It is a gift in a sense. You WILL get back on the road and you WILL be able to look back and chuckle. You will appreciate it even more when there are the periods where theres a pause in breaking and life is good! You’ll gain incredible perspective from this and have less stress in the future when problems arise as you’ll already have been there done that and know from experience that itll be ok!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your wise words. Patience is a struggle for me, but I’m slowly learning. We are still in the shop dealing with a part snafu (“it’s lost in the warehouse” is the current excuse). Hoping to finally get it fixed and to travel to our destination in Texas this weekend. If it doesn’t happen, we are just chalking it up to “it’s not meant to be.” I appreciate your wisdom. Thank you so much. Dawn

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  3. Hang in there Dawn! Soon this will just be another story 🙂

    Makes me think back where an old timer said service after the sale is the most important part of an RV. He left the road out of frustration on his third rig. I like one comment above regarding we build up tolerances for it all. We will have to see about that. I’d like to be more tolerant 🙂

    I’m searching for an RV repair facility here in Missouri where we will often return. One that only repairs RVs and does not sell them. But then again, getting parts will be the issue for the manufacturer specific stuff like slides.

    A local dealer told me to start asking other dealerships how long it takes to get parts for any particular unit. For example he said the Keystone parts for fifth wheels take three weeks compared to several days on a Grand Design. Keystone does not have a big warehouse full of spare parts for repairs like Grand Design does. Keystone is busy putting new parts on new units and is not going to short building a new rig to send a part to a customer. So says the local dealership.

    It sucks what companies do for more profit. And it sucks to see that some employees do a half ass job for the same reasons. Put all that together and the consumer pays for it. It’s like a Keystone Montana factory rep once told me, you can engineer the best RV using the best materials. “It still is only as good as the meth head that put it together.” I thought that was harsh but indicative of the labor shortage they have. There was a movement started a couple years ago that I hoped would spread and that was movement to hourly pay from piece work. Not sure where that stands in the industry so far. Although it seems like your slide issue is a design flaw, I’d think the factory could get to you quicker if their new rig assembly was working more smoothly if you get my meaning.

    Glad you found that local repair shop. Seems you now have a go-to place you can trust with the best chance of getting the parts quicker than being out of town. Do they work on fifth wheels?

    See you in Springfield Missouri someday I’m sure, or perhaps elsewhere.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Mark. The latest news is the part “was lost in the warehouse.” They supposedly found it yesterday afternoon and Mike is already parked outside the facility waiting to pick it up as I write this.

      I like the comment about the rig is only as good as the people putting it together. I have been amazed at all the help wanted signs in Elkhart–they are EVERYWHERE. I overheard a conversation in a gas station the other evening with a newcomer to the area asking someone else about jobs. The gentleman told the newcomer if he couldn’t get a job in Elkhart, he couldn’t get a job anywhere. He then went on to say he personally quit three jobs because he didn’t like his boss, and he never missed a day to work because so many are hiring and he started somewhere new immediately.

      I’m learning patience. I thought I was pretty flexible and go-with-the-flow, and I am–generally. I just have a very tough time with the lackluster customer service, pride in work, and sticking to their word. It’s just so hard to find someone to work through the problem to find a solution. I was raised in another generation, I guess–the attitude would have never flown where I’ve worked in my lifetime.

      I can highly recommend Charger Enterprises in Elkhart. The family has been stellar to work with and the technicians know what they are doing and have done a thorough job so far. We just have this major hurdle with the slide to work through. We definitely won’t bother with Thor in the future unless we are desperate and absolutely have to. This is our new go-to place.

      Take care!
      Dawn

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      1. Well lets home the problems are fixed the first time and this all will quickly be in the rear view mirror for ever.

        Karen wants to go with the Vanleigh Vilano version of the floor plan we like. Not built in Indiana!

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  4. I love that shot of Mike with the Amish buggies in the background. That’s a shame that you’ve been given the run-around for so long. You were really caught, but good! I hope this is all over soon and that you won’t have problems again for a LONG time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The first RV we looked at was a Thor. I was all excited about it until I started reading internet forums and seeing people complaining about the company’s lack of quality and poor customer service. Those comments caused us to choose a different brand. My suggestion: while you’re sitting around being annoyed, put those writing skills to work and let everyone, on every RV forum, know just how bad Thor is. IRV2, RV.net, Facebook groups, Escapees, Yelp, Google, etc… The internet is a powerful thing and can change a lot of minds. Maybe when Thor sees their numbers drop, they’ll get their act together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m on it. I am totally dumbfounded at their lack of support and customer service. I wish I didn’t love my “home” so much–we’d be going with another manufacturer also. However, Charger Enterprises is our go-to in the future for repairs. They’ve been stellar!

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  6. Awwwww…I feel your pain. Sending poor baby’s your way. I didn’t know (remember?) you guys were going to be at Nomadfest. (us too!) I’ll cross fingers and toes that you make it .
    PS – good for you for squatting – nothing beats being a squeaky wheel in cases like this!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Lordy, Dawn! I think you just cured my wanderlust! I can’t even imagine. I’d be so frustrated!!! But you guys seem to have taken it all in stride. I guess that;s why this way of life suits you so well. I do hope you make it to your thing in Texas.Fingers crossed and sending up prayers!

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