By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
The week before launching my annual adventure is often the most expensive week of the year.
First, there is the cost to register the motorhome. In Arizona, license fees are based on the value of the vehicle, not its size and weight. That means registration for a brand new RV is thousands of dollars a year. Fortunately, because my motorhome is 13 years old, registration was only $60 this year, compared to $350 in 2014 — and more than $2,500 its first year.
Before I could pick up my little sticker for the license plate, I had to complete the silly annual emissions test, which is required only for vehicles owned by someone living in Phoenix or Tucson. I figured I actually have the engine on and emitting emissions in all of Arizona only 10 hours a year, but the fee is required nonetheless.
Then, insurance came due. Because I sit at a desk to use my computer to prepare these newsletters, National Interstate charges me $3,031 per year for “business insurance.”
Each year, I invite 10 to 12 people into my motorhome to record a podcast in my mobile studio. Apparently the risk from having people come in to do a recording is significantly higher than if I were to simply invite them in to watch Packer football games every Sunday.
However, I gladly pay the fee because if I was ever in an accident or someone fell coming out of the RV after recording an interview, the insurance company can’t say I misled them about running a business from my motorhome, which would lead to denial of coverage.
I wish I had full-body paint on my motorhome. But, because it was built in 2003 before full-body paint was generally available, my sidewalls get chalky white and discolored. So I like to give Nelson (my motorhome named after his original owners) a good wash and wax.
I’m too lazy to do it myself and I really don’t like the idea of standing on a ladder for hours trying to buff out a shine. Paying a firm $330 to come in and do it with a complete crew over three hours is well worth the investment.
The most significant costs come from taking care of the needed RV repairs that have accumulated over the previous year. It’s also the most tempting time to buy the latest cool gadgets designed to make my experience more enjoyable.
I took my RV into Little Dealer Little Prices in north Phoenix. Debbie Brunoforte is one of my all-time favorite RV dealers, and she’s the former chair of the RV Dealers Association. The dealership staff even made special arrangements to accommodate me overnight since I had already checked out of the RV park.
I came in with a list of things to do, and their technicians found a few more problems that needed to be addressed as well.
The best part is that I have a real shower again! The original shower faucet was 13 years old. It was one of those silly one-knob faucets that you turn left for hot and right for cold. The problem was the movement between scalding and lukewarm was about 0.0015 of an inch. Now I have a real residential faucet and a truly enjoyable shower.
Last year, I generally moved every three to five days. But, when I was stationary for longer periods of time, getting the RV to start was a challenge because the engine battery wasn’t being charged. So, the technician installed a Trick-L-Start that keeps the engine battery charged when the RV is plugged into shore power.
It’s working. I just checked and the house batteries are showing 13.7 volts and the engine battery is at 13.5. Last year, the engine battery was registering between 11.9 and 12.4 most weeks.
Almost half of the exterior compartment struts on the motorhome had worn out, meaning they would not stay up long enough to put things in or take things out of the compartments. Unfortunately, nobody makes the struts the same size as the originals on my motorhome. So, the technician had to install the largest struts he could find, and pop a second one on some of the heavier doors.
But, no more head banging pulling out the electrical cord, dumping the tanks or getting gear out.
It appeared to me that there was some rot on the bathroom floor. Fortunately, it was just a piece of molding that needed replacing. The material Winnebago used as molding in the bathroom was made of a cardboard-like substance that simply absorbed the water. The tech found a piece of real wood molding that looks even better, and he assured me that there was no water leakage into the floor.
Does anyone else have to change holding tank valves every year? I get about 50 uses before they start sticking again and have to be replaced. I have long suspected that there were some blockages in the tank because when draining the tanks, it would flush heavy for a while, then trickle out for several minutes.
The technician found the blockage the hard way — poor guy — and worked to completely clean the tanks as well.
Both the motorhome engine and the transmission engine got complete tuneups. Even with new wires, new plugs and new filters, the RV is still slow to start, but the generator starts like a charm. I guess it’s time to start the list for the next round of repairs.
It is absolutely time to start losing weight, after finding that the bed support had split in two. Why I didn’t fall into the storage area is surprising. Fortunately, the technician was able to completely rebuild the bed frame and replace a broken strut. I don’t know about anyone else, but I replace bed struts as often as holding tank valves.
The factory had assembled the bed frame with staples, and the technician used long screws to secure the center supports to the rest of the bed frame. We’ll see if that can accommodate my ever-amassing girth and the residential size mattress I use.
Thank goodness I left Phoenix and won’t have as frequent access to In-N-Out Double Double cheeseburgers or Raising Cane’s chicken fingers. I bet I put on 15 pounds in the last two months.
I had a pesky water leak in my front windshield that only showed up in a driving, monsoon type rain. The technician discovered that about half of the sealant had disappeared, so he gooped it up and added some special tape along the top edge to ensure no moisture would find it’s way into the RV.
He also discovered that there wasn’t a drop of sealant along the front cap of the motorhome. He could put his finger right up under the front cap. I wasn’t as worried about water moving its way up, but it seemed the ideal place for lady bugs and nasty spiders to make a home, procreate and lay eggs.
The most expensive repair was to get the Roadmaster auxiliary brake system I used in the now-dead Jeep to work with the Roadmaster system that was installed in the Honda CRV that I bought in December. The absolute best part of this deal is that the technician hooked up the motorhome lights to work with the Honda lights. That means no more having to use magnetic lights!
The technician that wired up the magnetic lights two years ago did it in such a way that they were permanently attached to the top of the Jeep, with a long thick cord running from the back compartment, over the passenger’s seats in the back and front, out the front window and permanently hardwired into the engine compartment somewhere.
Anyone who road with me in the Jeep knew what a pain in the bottom it was having to deal with that cord draped over the seats. Now, it’s gone and towing from Phoenix to Tucson was a breeze!
The kitchen water filter was replaced, and so was a drawer latch. But, it was $41 to replace the latch itself. One of these days, I am going to invest in a good tool kit and actually figure some of this stuff out myself.
Terry Cooper, the Texas RV Professor, has been telling me for years that I need to take his five-day introductory class to learn how to fix 80 percent of the problems with my RV. It would probably be money well spent.
The final expenses of the final week in Arizona involve all the dinners out with friends and family as I said goodbye for another year. Yes it’s expensive, but well worth the cost for a good meal in a great environment. Aunt Chilada’s remains my all-time favorite Mexican restaurant and the ability to sit outside and enjoy some excellent food is a bittersweet way to leave my home base.
So, $6,178 later, the adventure begins anew with a motorhome in tip-top shape, but it’s owner desperately in need of a diet.