Friday, November 5, 2021

The RV Downside - Service

When we are on the road it's a fun time and having a camper van is great. The downside is the maintenance issues between those fun trips. The industry can't keep up with demand and the dealers are overloaded. After our summer trip, I had a list of 7 warranty items I wanted to have repaired. Most were fairly minor, but the Pioneer radio was defective from day one. I called the dealer and the first appointment was over a month away. I was offered October 7th, and I took it. They told me 10AM on the phone, then a 9AM time in the email. I battled traffic and arrived at the earlier time and waited in the waiting room. 

Of the 7 items on the list, they addressed 3 that day (back door adjusted, MaxAir fan sticky opening fixed, and small floor hatch gasket re-attached). They attempted a fix on another, but that was a total fail. The slider that connects the beds together doesn't seem to have a latching mechanism, and it would slide out while driving - often with our dog on it. They attached a latch under the frame - they screwed it into the bed base and into the metal frame (I had to clean up all the metal shavings left on the floor). At first glance, it appeared to be a good solution. After I was back home, I lifted the bed frame to access the storage underneath. They failed to account for the fact that the frame is hinged. The latch ripped apart and out shot the spring. Now I have holes in the van where the faulty solution used to sit. I am using a Velcro strap to hold the frame in place while driving. 

The latch ripped open after I lifted the bed to access the storage underneath.

They confirmed the radio was faulty and said they would order a replacement. While I was there I asked to set up a date for my return trip for the ordered parts as you can never reach them by phone or their web form. We agreed on Nov 3rd at 10AM. A week later I hadn't seen any confirmation and called. They didn't log it and told me it would now be December. I reminded the tech that he told me Nov 3rd. He knew he didn't log it, so he said to come on Nov 3rd at 11AM, and they would fit me in. The day before the appointment, the confirmation email came and said 10AM.

I made the 40-mile drive up and arrive before 10AM. Two of the 3 parts had arrived, but he told me one of them was the wrong part. The main issue that needed to be repaired was the demon possessed radio, and the replacement had arrived. From the day we picked up the van, the in-dash radio (Pioneer DMH-1500NEX) would randomly change functions and lock in on a screen and not allow you to change anything. Pressing any physical button or screen button resulted in random changes. If I removed the 12V power supply for several minutes and rebooted everything, I could get it to work perfectly for about 5 minutes before it reverted to possessed mode. The new radio had arrived, and they were to replace that. Despite my appointment being for 10AM, they didn't start on it until mid-afternoon - while I sat in the waiting room.

Side story: While I was in the waiting room another couple came in and in a few minutes someone came to get them for their new trailer walk through. They returned in about 15 minutes - turns out the dealership had prepped the wrong trailer. They had taken off work and driven 50 miles to pick up their new trailer, but now it wouldn't be ready until the next week. They had a bad experience at this same dealership in another town and came to this location instead - and had a bad experience again. My experience with bad service is not isolated, but almost appears to be the norm now.

Late afternoon, the service tech asked me if the backup camera worked on the other one. I confirmed that it was one of the few things that did work. He said they didn't think it would work with the radio (the same exact Pioneer 1500 model that it did work on before) but would check. They finally figured it out and pulled it around for me just after 5PM. I got in, and the radio was working with a functioning touchscreen. The backup camera was working, but . . . the interface to the vehicle was not. The steering wheel controls didn't work and none of the vehicle screens (tire pressure, clock, etc.) were accessible. The service manager said it was late and could I come back at 8AM the next day, and they would pull me right into the bay.

I pulled in before 8AM the next morning (Thu, Nov 4) and went back to my new home - the waiting room. I walked out to check at 10AM, and they hadn't even started on the radio. Ironically, the other part he thought was a wrong part, was actually an improved part, so they had fixed the broken plastic handle on the Lagun table with the new metal one. One small win. 

I went back at 11AM and still nothing was happening on the radio. The service advisor told me they didn't have anyone available. I reminded them that it was supposed to be done yesterday, and they needed to get someone on it now. He went to talk to his manager. The manager and tech came to visit me about 30 minutes later and said they had someone on it now. Hours went by and at about 2PM (remember this was a radio swap out - Best Buy could have done the job in about 30 minutes) the service manager came out and said now the radio wasn't working at all. He asked if I could leave the vehicle as they would need to make some calls with Winnebago. Fortunately, they arranged for someone to drive me the 40 miles home - though I had to wait another hour for someone to be available to do that.

The next day (Fri, Nov 5) I heard nothing all day, so I emailed late afternoon. The service tech did respond, but said they were waiting for a call back from Winnebago. On Monday (Nov 8) I called Winnebago Customer Care to see if they could assist. I asked them to authorize a car stereo installation store to get my car stereo operating properly. They said to give the dealer a chance to make it right. Shortly after I hung up, the dealer sent an email that said they ordered a new unit, but they were back-ordered, and it would probably take 6-8 weeks to arrive. The hits just keep coming.

I emailed the dealer general manager and asked if they would be willing to sub out the work to a car audio place that does that full time, so we can get this resolved. He said he would get an update from his service manager. I heard nothing the rest of the day. 

On Monday (Nov 8) I got an email from the dealer that a radio had been ordered, but I needed to come pick up my van, since it would take a while to get the unit. Winnebago had mentioned that the radio supplier was RiverPark. I called them and a very nice and helpful tech support guy looked it up and said they had the radio in stock and could ship immediately. I emailed my dealer and asked if they could overnight a radio and fix it right away. They agreed on Tuesday and ordered it.

It arrived on Wednesday (Nov 10) and was installed and ready on Thursday (Nov 11). I asked them to please double check all the functions and I would pick up on Friday (Nov 12). When I picked it up, I clicked through all the functions I could think of, and it seemed to be working. They installed a new head unit and a new Maestro interface box. 

When I got home that evening I was finally digging into all the functions of the unit - I could set the clock, change the EQ, see the tire pressure, connect my phone, . . . things were looking up. Then I tried to connect to the mic for voice input. It acted like it wasn't hearing me. I held the small mic closer and still nothing. Then I noticed the plug end of the mic laying on the floor. It had not been reconnected to the radio. I decided I'll just take it to a local car audio shop and have them open it up for me so I can plug it in.  

I went to a local car audio shop on Nov 24, and he pulled it to get things working again. He had to fish the cable back up behind the radio, and asked if he could run the cable around and mount the mic up by the rearview mirror while I was there - no extra charge. Service at last! He did that, plugged it in the back, and reassembled everything. I tested the functions and all was working until . . . I plugged in my phone through the USB dash connection. Nothing. He pulled the radio and we began checking connections. When I plugged a USB directly into the unit, it worked with my phone. There is apparently a short in the USB A to mini USB cable that goes to a connector that drops down to the dash port. Something in there was shorted, as we got a brief connection at one point for a few seconds while wiggling wires. I bought a long USB A to C cable, plugged it into the back of the unit, fished it down to the passenger side floor, and wrapped it up in the cup holders. My USB phone connection now works. The dash connector is dead, but for the first time in over 4 months, all radio functions are finally working. The audio shop charged me $45 to pull the radio and connect it all back up. The dealer kindly reimbursed me for the charge.

Paul

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