TLC For “The Beast” in Eugene, OR (And Tips On Finding Good Repair Spots)
If there’s one part of fulltime RVing that no-one considers “glamorous” it’s RV repair and maintenance. When you live fulltime in your RV, everytime you take it into the shop you’re basically homeless. It’s one of the most frustrating parts of RV travel, yet it’s also one of the most important. Keeping “the beast” humming is essential to our fulltime escapades which, in turn, is essential to our happiness. If “the beast” ain’t happy, no-one is happy! We do basic maintenance (oil change, chassis lube, check of the systems) every year with more advanced service (transmission, tires etc.) as needed. The $$ are fixed into our budget and they’re always painful, but our hope is that with regular maintenance we can avoid larger nasties down the way.
With that said, the big question is not whether to do maintenance, but WHERE to do it. How do you find a reputable repair service? What if you break down in a town you’ve never been to? What do you do with your pets??
These are all great questions. We do a fair amount of the small stuff ourselves (for example the classic time I tackled the tank valves), but most of the bigger work we prefer to take to the professionals and over the years we’ve developed a set of tips and ways to weed out good service. In fact in our 5 years RVing we’ve only screwed up once in service, and our biggest repair (our big slide which took over a month to fix) led us to some of the best repair folks we’ve ever worked with, as well as one of our favorite States (sometimes disasters DO lead to good things).
Here’s some of the tips & who we work with on a regular basis….
Use Friends & Online Resources
In the RV world word of mouth, RV forums & rvservicereviews are your best bets for good service. Whenever we’re checking out a new spot I’ll usually post on the forums, as well check online reviews. Plus, I always ask other RVers about their fav repair spots. It’s not a guarantee of good service, but it’s a substantial start.
Hit RV Manufacturing Locations
A tried and true method to get decent repairs is to go back to where your rig was originally manufactured. Those places typically have more in-depth knowledge of your model than almost anywhere else, and if the spots match your travel plans, it’s an easy decision. Elkhart County, IN is a very popular location since many manufacturers have resources there. I know a lot of east-coast RVers who make Elkhart a regular stop on their yearly travels.
For Monaco/Holiday Rambler folks the area around Eugene, Oregon (specifically Coberg, just north of Eugene) is one of their original manufacturing spots and a gem of repair goodness. Country Coach also has a big operation here, plus Oregon has the added lure of NO sales tax (oh yeah, baby). In fact, it was Eugene that drew us two years ago when we couldn’t find anyone else to fix our big drivers-side slide. After laboring for over a month with a leaky slide we met the three fabulous guys (Marty, Eric & Mark) at Elite Repair & Remodel. Within less than an hour, these wizards had completely fixed what a shop in Colorado couldn’t do in over 2 days (!!) of work. Think we’re fans??? Oh you bet!!
Seek Out Experts For Specifics
Probably one of the biggest pieces of advice I could give to someone who’s getting repairs is to try and go to the experts for your particular problem. The one and only repair screw-up we ever had was when we used a guy who was a suspension expert to work on our transmission. He advertised the service, and his suspension work was impeccable, so we thought that same quality & attention to detail would extend to the transmission work. Oh me, oh my what a mistake!!
If you’re getting engine work done, go to your engine expert. If you’re getting transmission work done, find the transmission guys. If you’re getting new tires, find a quality tire guy. If you’re getting solar….yeah, you get it. Yes, it may take more than one stop and mean you spend more time sitting on your butt in the waiting room, but believe me for peace of mind it’s worth it. For our rig Cummins offers expert work on the engine, while Smith Power Products is an expert on Allison transmissions. For our solar we used AM Solar. That’s how we roll, period…
Get An RV-Specific Towing Service
If your RV breaks-down fatally, you need reputable towing service. Regular car services do not have the faintest clue how to tow a big rig. I recommend spending the $$ on either Coach Net or Good Sam’s. We’ve always had one (we prefer Coach Net, but it’s a close call), have never had to use it (touch wood), but have many friends who have, and believe me when they needed them it was worth it.
And Don’t Worry About The Pets…
One of the biggest worries of RVers is what to do with their pets if their rig breaks down. Honestly we have NEVER had a problem. Every single repair facility we’ve worked with (every single one) has welcomed our pets in their waiting rooms, even the cats. If the place we’re going is only doing external work we’ll sometimes leave the cats in the back bedroom (and close the door), but otherwise we just bring everyone into the waiting room. If our work takes multiple days we usually stay on-site and move everyone back into the rig overnight. All of the spots we’ve used have offered somewhere to stay, and many have even provided limited hookups. If we ever find ourselves in the situation where we can’t stay in the rig, we’ll rent a room at a pet-friendly motel.
We’re currently on day 2 of a 3-day maintenance run in the RV mecca of Eugene, OR. Our first day we went over to visit our fav guys Elite Repair & Remodel. Word of mouth has spread of their 5-star reputation and I was overjoyed to see a substantial row of RVs at their facility in Harrisburg. We gave each other big bear hugs & had them work some minor slide repairs, fix a few mystifying electrical problems as well as measure us up for a new window shade which we’re coming back for in November. Honestly if you ever need any remodel work, these are your guys. Plus, they know Monaco’s/Holiday Ramblers like the back of their hand.
Today we spent ~5 hours at Cummins getting oil change + filters, new air filter, chassis lube, coolant check, general inspection and a new serpentine belt (our old one was showing some wear). Our man Troy worked on the rig, and he rocked.
Tomorrow…new back tires. But tires are a big enough topic that I’ll do a separate post on them 🙂
What about you folks? Do you have a favorite RV repair spot? Any additional advice? Comment & share below…
- Good RV Repairs & The 80/100/100 Rule – Elite Repair & Remodel, Eugene, OR
- Transmission Service Woes (And Lessons Learned)
- Saving $$ & Monitoring Your RV Transmission With $27 Oil Analysis
- RV Solar Power -> Read my entire series HERE
- Nina Vs The RV Tank Valves – A Gripping Tale Of Plumbing Mastery….
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Bear Tracks Blog says
Did you see Lucy sitting in the window when you were visiting Elite? We were there that day. Mike and I must have been out running errands when you guys stopped in. We agree, they are the best! -Linda
OMG!!! I “thought” I recognized the rig and the dog, but I wasn’t sure. You guys were gone while we were there. Cannot believe we were in the SAME spot on the SAME day!!! Sorry we missed you!
Thanks to your reference, we too had a great experience with the Elite guys fixing our vexing slide problem in 2012.
As we are in the east for the last two years, we can recommend Freightliner in Gaffney, SC. They do a terrific job.
Good recommendation! Thanks.
Cheryl oftwomanyadventures says
Good to know there is another great place in Oregon for repairs. We always go to Oregon Motorcoach in Eugene. These folks will be on our list for sure.
Two years ago we spent some time in the Monaco facility in Coburg getting fiberglass work and a new windshield. Left to go up to Clallam Bay for 2 weeks… It cracked the day we left from there! More fiberglass and another big screen and I believe this one (the 5th for us!) is seated properly!
Checked out Chiefs yet?
We’ve never actually used the Monaco facility in Coberg. We tried to get in years ago, but never did get an appointment and that’s when we found Elite (who we’ve used ever since). Did the Monaco guys repair the crack? Or did you have to go somewhere else to get the final fix? It seems crazy that it would crack same day you left!
We didn’t make it to Chief’s. Our days at the repair shops have been so long that we’ve just gotten into the rig & cooked at home. No energy to go out. Tomorrow we’ll leave the area after repair #3. So, next time!
Yes they did the whole windshield. We originally had to wait 6 weeks to get in with the top drivers side outside the rubber seal. We looked quite wonderful with duck tape and quick seal upon each other reapplied several times. This one was caused by pressure; previous pop out caused by rear corner ditch drop in an accident. Monaco said the torque of that ‘unsquared’ the opening. First time there they were working to get the fiberglass squared up and the new windshield put in. We went directly to Clallam Bay for two weeks and when preparing to leave (slides in, levels up) it cracked. I called immediately and they had us come back. More fiberglass work. The next windshield was on them fortunately for our insurance! Yes, they are busy there but very professional and do good work. Sound much like your location. We would like some interior modification so might check your guys out. That’s one thing Monaco refers out.
Now when we do anything with slides or levels we open a window. It relieves air pressure off of the windshield. It is the weakest link in the box.
Janet E. Wehlitz says
Thanks for this info on repairs and shops.
I am Very interested in the cat being in a harness and on a leash. What kind of harness is that? We are planning on being full-time in about 1 1/2 years (sooner if we can do it!) and plan on taking our Siberian cat, Vanya, with us.
Janet AKA as Cat Staff/mom
It’s an HDW walking harness. We’ve had them for 7 years (we trained the cats when they were 7) and absolutely love them. The stomach and neck belt keep the cat secure without being uncomfortable. It takes a while to train the cats to accept the harness, but we can now take them outside and in public places without any issues. Plus the cats love being out.
I use a cat jacket for our cat as well from an ebay store in England, it’s cotton so maybe a little cooler and has a wider neck strap, a little lower. They’re custom made to fit your cat, just search cat jacket on ebay. They are fabulous!
Thanks for the tip Ann! Sounds like a great solution. With cats I feel a jacket that wraps around both the neck and body are the best fits. They keep the cat secure without discomfort. Plus the cat can’t wiggle out of these (e.g. compared to a small dog harness which they can easily get out of). I like that yours is a custom fit. Even better!
Here’s the eBay link for the cat “walking jacket”:
Bette Smith says
We have a Tiffin and usually go to Red Bay, Alabama, where there factory is at. The last time we were there we had our 14 year old Golden who was having mobility problems. The guys fixing the rig said to just leave him inside and not worry and so we did. Not that you could expect that type of service but it’s a reminder that the people who work on rigs are often just more good folks that you meet along the way. And of course Tiffin’s waiting room was filled with canine friends.
Yes, of course the Tiffin shop in Red Bay, AL is another famous stop! Forgot to put that on the list. Cheers for adding your experiences there. I’ve always heard very good things about Tiffin service.
I know you generally don’t give your personal budget information. But, we were wondering how much to include for annual maintenance. And what is the average cost. We are still in the planning and dreaming mode:)
The maintenance portion of our budget has actually ended up being above what we expected when we started. Then again, we’ve added some serious upgrades to our RV (solar power, suspension upgrades) etc. On average ~$150/mo would cover you well.
john H says
We also have a Tiffin and usually go to Red Bay, Alabama as well but when we are out west (like we are now) we simply email or call the Red Bay technicians and seek out their expert advice on what to do, and where to go to get repairs. They always direct us accordingly…
Another piece of advice is to avoid Camping Worlds, in general, for anything but very simple fixes…
Oh indeed!! How could I forget the “don’t go to Camping World” advice?! I’ve heard so many horror stories from service at Camping World that we would never personally go there. I’m sure there are exceptions, but there are far too many bad reports for my liking. Thanks for adding that invaluable tip!
Thanks for this great recommendation. I sure wish we’d known about Elite last time we were in the Eugene area. We really bombed out with the repair guy who was recommended to us. Boy oh boy oh boy.
Soooo sorry you had a bad experience. Boy do we know what that’s like. Do post your experience on rvservicereviews if you get a chance. Hopefully you never have to through that again!
Maynard Correll says
Nina: We have a Tiffin, as well, and when we are back in Red Bay, AL we use Brannon Hutcheson [Custom RV (256)-668-0973] for most of our add on upgrades like satellite, sound systems, tile flooring, residential refrig, etc. excellent service; for woodwork of all kinds we use Chris Berry (256) 810-4707; for paint & body work, Bruce Deaton [Custom Paint & Auto Body], again, excellent work, and finally Bay Diesel (256) 356-8830 for diesel & Onan general oil changes and general service. All or most of these guys are former Tiffin employees who are now doing speciality work in and around Red Bay.
Great recommendations! Thanks for sharing them.
Coach-net, we had to use them twice this year (the RV once & my wife in the van when she was driving back to WA).
Nothing but good things to say about them.
Good stuff! I’ve always heard good things about Coach-net which is why we stick with them. If we ever need it, I want an experienced tow service.
Chris B says
We just left Eugene and hope to return next summer. Will be bookmarking this blog post so if we need anything taken care of we will know where to go, especially since we are craving darkening shades.
We installed the MCD shades a few years back and really loved them. They’re not inexpensive, but they’ve made a huge difference. I have a post on it here:
Those boys at Elite are real gems. They took such good care of us when we limped in with inverter troubles. I can’t say enough about them.
We just had Beluga in for her yearly “spa” appointment, not an inexpensive visit, but absolutely worth it the price.
So glad they took good care of you too! We’re missing you guys out West. For some reason you both came to mind as I was having my rum and coke last night. You would love the spot we’re at now.
If you’re in Canada the guys at Arbutus RV in Cassidy near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island are great
Cheers for the tip!
Lee and Emily Winstrom says
Hi Nina and Paul,
We love following you on Wheeling It! It was wonderful you got to experience the San Juans via your Volunteer Stint atop Mt. Constitution. Lee and I are heading down the Oregon Coast next Tuesday, 9/2, for Lighthouse Research!!! As you no doubt remember, North Head Lighthouse was our first — and the pull of the world of lighthouses now runs strong in our spirit. We want to volunteer in more of them!!! So, next week we’ll head down the highway from our home here in Seattle area. Our first goal is visiting Cape Blanco, and having your wonderful posts about your experiences there come to life!! I hope we’ll be able to check in with you while we’re there, which will be Wednesday, 9/3. We hope we’ll be able to talk with staff at Cape Blanco as well about the volunteer opportunities for 2015.
We hope The Beast soon feels fully rejuvenated and ready for another year of adventuring.
Best wishes to you both, from your fellow North Head Lighthouse Volunteers
PS – would be great if you would respond to me via email!
Who hoooo! You’re hooked on lighthouses! Welcome to the “nutters” club 🙂 Would love to see you. I will send a mail.
Thanks for the tip, as we are up and down the I-5 a few times each year.
If in the Vancouver area, Fraserway RV in Abbotsford are excellent and we recently got brilliant service with emergency repairs at Hitch n Go RV in Delhi, Ontario. They are a Redwood and Crossroads dealer.
More great tips. Thanks!