RV Diagnostics and DIY Repair with Jeff Malatesta – RVE #326

If you have ever worked on your own RV, you need to know about the service this episode’s guest provides at RV Diagnostics.

During his 25+ years in the military, and a previous career as a certified mechanic, Jeff Malatesta has maintained vehicles from automobiles to M1 tanks. He has now used his experience supporting techs in the field, to help RVers diagnose and fix their own rigs. By offering one on one support via video call, Jeff can help anyone fix just about anything RV related. And boy, does he have some stories to tell!

Tune in to discover the basic troubleshooting skills every RVer should understand when going the DIY route. Learn how RV Diagnostics differs from all the other DIY RV content creators on Youtube. And, hear some interesting stories about major repairs, and knowing when you should leave it to the experts.

RV Diagnostics

RV Diagnostics and DIY Repair

with Jeff Malatesta

Your Host: Jim Nelson


RV Diagnostics Website: https://www.rvdiagnostics.com⁠

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@Rvdiagnostics⁠

Private Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1974314296166277/⁠

Listen to The RV Entrepreneur Episode #326

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The RV Entrepreneur #326 Full Episode Transcript:

RVE 326 – Jim and Jeff

JEFF: Well, my motto is test not guess.

RV LIFE: Welcome to the RV Entrepreneur Podcast, the weekly show for nomads, work campers, RV ers and entrepreneurs looking to earn a living or build a business while enjoying the RV lifestyle. This week’s host is Jim Nelson. Let’s settle in and enjoy the RV entrepreneur podcast brought to you by RV life.

JIM: All right, folks, thanks for tuning in to another episode of the RV entrepreneur. It’s Jim here with RV life, and I wish I knew about today’s guest a few years ago, when I was troubleshooting the furnace in our fifth wheel, I pulled that thing out three times, replacing inexpensive parts when I knew all along the problem was probably a bad control board. And it was. I did learn everything I ever cared to know about RV furnaces, and I created some helpful DIY content for our live work dream blog. But I could have saved money, done the job a lot quicker, and with a lot less cussing if I had called Jeff. Jeff Malatesta is a Ace certified mechanic with 40 plus years experience servicing everything from automobiles to M1 tanks. During his 25 years or so in the Army, he not only honed his technical skills, but also fine tuned communication and processes to help others repair their own vehicles out in the field. Now at RV diagnostics. Com Jeff provides one on one support via video chat to help our viewers and RV technicians diagnose and solve any problem. From electrical and appliance problems to diesel engine repair. We discuss basic troubleshooting and diagnostics for anyone going the DIY route, and we dive down that rabbit hole of those simple repairs that end up opening up a nasty can of worms, and we talk about how to know when it’s time to leave a job to the experts. When it comes to RV repair. Jeff knows his stuff, but he’s also got a great business model. I wonder why RV companies don’t offer a similar live support line, like many hardware and software manufacturers do. Jeff’s also full of fun stories, so let’s hear what he has to say. But speaking of support, let’s take a quick break to hear from those who help make this show possible.

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JIM: Jeff, thanks for joining me. It’s a pleasure to have you here.

JEFF: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

JIM: You know, technically, this is the RV Life Entrepreneur podcast, so I like to ask all my guests two quick questions first, before we dive into stuff. And one is, you know, how were you first introduced to the RV life and what does that look like now?

JEFF: Um, I was a little kid, went down south, Deep South coal mine, Virginia, and camped out with the cousins of mine, which meant you were tenting. That was my first experience. And then we went from there, you know.

JIM: So what is being an entrepreneur mean to you?

JEFF: Going out on your own, trying to make your ideas work. It’s kind of like the field of dreams. Build it and they will come. I’ve never worried about the money, even though you have to worry about it to a degree. I just kept going, being myself, treating people with respect, decency and understanding that they wanted to really learn their RV. But each one had a different learning curve.

JIM: That makes it a lot of sense, and it seems like you’re doing that now. You seem to have a pretty unique service there with RV diagnostics. There are plenty of DIY YouTube channels out there and RV technician courses or quote unquote experts, but I don’t see others offering a one on one service like you do. And I want to get into all the specifics there. But let’s back up just a bit. What did you do in your previous life.

JEFF: Before I joined the Army? Uh, you know, back in the 70s, uh, you know, the economy was, you know, up and down, up and down. Right. And I went from garage to garage working on cars and, you know, there you go. So I’ve been a mechanic all my life. My dad had a tendency to lend me out to people as a young man, to keep me out of trouble. And my favorite one was the TV repair man. Huh. That’s where I learned my electrical electronics background.

JIM: Fantastic. And then you mentioned the army. What did you do in the army? How long did you spend there? And when did you retire?

JEFF: I retired a little bit after Desert Storm, 1993. I fell in love with the M-1 tank. I went in when it was brand new. Of course, we built up, you know, the east west German wall with it. Right. And and I loved it over there. I didn’t go in to stay in. I went in to get the education fund money and then in, uh, fell in love with the camaraderie, you know, the Turm. You got my six, you got my back. And so it wasn’t about the money, of course. Wasn’t a lot of money in it. But you subsidize that with if you could fix their tank when they got out of the field, they brought you your car, their car to fix. So I was always making some kind of money. Right. Or and and learning more.

JIM: Before we got started here, you mentioned communications and processes. So were you just wrenching on tanks or what were you doing out there?

JEFF: Well, you know, in the military you start out on the bottom. And of course, the all my senior NCOs were Vietnam vets. So as twisted as they were as a young civilian in the military, you were trying to understand what they were putting you through, but they were smart enough to realize that, hey, this character here, me is pretty good at what he does. So they kept on me and kept, you know, and and they just never slacked off. They had to teach me how to be a soldier. But they knew I was a damn good mechanic to start with. And then I just kind of I never once ever. It didn’t matter if you use an E5, E7 or E1 if you were sitting next to him. I said, did you understand what I just did? Let’s go over it, because that’s what training is about. You know, you’re you’re out there training, playing army and, you know, because when the real time comes, you ain’t got time to have school time. That’s what I called it. It’s not time for school right now. Yeah, but, uh. Yeah, I loved it. I would never trade it for nothing.

JIM: That training comes into play with what you’re doing now. When did you first get this idea to start RV diagnostics, and how did that evolve?

JEFF: Believe it or not, we was out on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, South Carolina areas, and one of my Army buddies said, hey, I got a friend down by where you’re at. Can you help him? Yeah, of course. Tell him, call me. Well, he wanted to Facebook me, so the only thing I had on Facebook was I didn’t know Facebook, but I was on it. And the only reason why I used it was to try to find some of my soldiers to regroup memories. And so we used a communication and I’m like, well, I’m right down the road. I’m like eight mile markers down. Why don’t you let me go? Oh, no, I don’t know who you are. I’m thinking my friend told me that was my army buddy. That’s where you go. Okay? This is the way you want it. So there we go. We did it through the Facebook video link, and we got them up and running. It was his heater. There you go.

JIM: So this when you say you got it going, you actually communicated with him via video on the phone walking him through a repair on his RV?

JEFF: Yes. Step by step. And like I say, I always contribute that to my military background because. I would get calls on the communication system. Hey, we got this tank down. Well, it’s going to take me an hour to get there, like, because my my track vehicle did about 20 mile an hour max. So I would talk some of the tankers through what to do, and they would come back and say, okay, this did this. I go, oh, so now I know what the next step is instead of just getting there blindly and one possibly them not protecting their area. There you go. We’ll say it peacefully.

JIM: So you’re offering customer support, customer service, almost as though someone buys some hardware or software. They can call telephone support and have them walk them through certain issues. Is that the main difference that you see that you offer, besides all those other experts out there on YouTube?

JEFF: Oh, I’ve you know, I’ve seen a few of them, not to mention them, but. Oh yeah, we got the same thing as you. So I pretend to be the customer, sign up for it, and they won’t do one on one. Well, we’re not going to be responsible. I said, well, that cat’s out of the bag in the beginning. I, you know, I can tell you what to do. I can watch you. But sometimes people react differently to what you tell them. So, yeah, it’s all about communication. It’s gotten better. You have the Google translator now right? Mhm. Yeah. Don’t laugh. In Japan these people are buying these 1980s RVs. They heard about me. Of course their English is about as good as my Japanese. So so we’re using this translator I just laugh at it because back in the days 20 years ago would have never achieved this. Right? Because I can’t take time to learn Japanese.

JIM: So you’re obviously, you know, serving people anywhere, doing one on one service, taking calls. You can actually connect with you to have them walk through repairs. Is there a typical customer or client? Is there anyone like define your client for us?

JEFF: Yeah. Because, uh, when they joined the Facebook page, which is like 33,000 members now, I asked them, do you know when a multimeter is? I go, no. And I go, well, I know where I’m starting at. Let me start there. Um, so I made a bunch of little videos and I said, okay, we’ll watch these videos on these multimeters because, you know, they all I get bashed by some text every now and then. Well, they should have a fluke. Well, they’re not going to go spend $700 on I have them. So I went to Lowe’s. And what’s that other one? Uh, Home Depot, whatever your hardware stores at and bought those meters. Made videos on those because that’s what they’re going to buy. Smart. I don’t need them to have an eight channel lab scope, like right, right. There you go. So but my favorite one was, uh, she was I think she was 82 years old. And she goes, well, I think you can help me. I said, okay. So she started showing me the inside of her travel trailer. She ripped it all the way out. Wow. All these wires are hanging. Well, I’m trying to figure out how they work. I go, oh, God. But it was persistent, you know? Okay, first you got to learn the meter. Go test the battery. Oh, the battery’s bad. And believe it or not, uh, that was one of my longest ones. I think I had 40 some hours in that and somebody would go, well, that ain’t worth it. I said it was to me, because if you could hear her, she was so happy. And now she’s self-reliant. And that’s what I’m trying to teach, to be self-reliant. Now we are all prisoners of the park system. You’re going to have the same amount of troubles me getting parts as anybody. I mean, you know, just because I. I might know you have the toe tickler module don’t mean you have one in stock. So all I do is help people learn how to troubleshoot. There you go.

JIM: And that, you know, you might put a lot of hours in that, but it really is fulfilling. And you got a customer for life. And it’s a great testimonial. But when you look at something like that, are there any basic troubleshooting skills or steps that might apply to like any mechanical issue, like at a conceptual level, where does one begin, whether it’s plumbing or electrical, etc.?

JEFF: There’s a series of videos I put together which took me five years in the Army to put this program together. You know, writing it down. All that didn’t work on 40% of the folks in the Army. Right? So you learn everybody has a learning curve. So it’s called mEq P. So always ask them, you know how to spell mechanic. They go, yeah, I said tell me the first four letters and they get it m e c h I said stop right there. There’s a P for pneumatics. But let’s just worry about M.e.c.h and I say M’s, mechanical E’s, electrical C’s, chemical H is hydraulic. And I guarantee you you won’t leave those four fingers every time we talk about something on your RV. So they have something to go back to as a reference. And what’s the other one? Um, some of the people bash certain RV manufacturers and say, well, they make the body, they make the frame, right? But they don’t make the refrigerator, they don’t make the heater. So you have to learn that manufacture. I’ll leave that one. Go right there.

JIM: I’m actually spoken with quite a few, um, service centers over the past few years, and they’re all backed up and they’re all having hard time getting good talent. But the main complaint was the appliance manufacturers not following through on the warranty stuff. So all the issues that are coming into the shops are usually the appliances, not necessarily the RV itself. But back to like service in general. Being up here in Alaska, we recently swapped over to studded tires on our truck after a certain incident on some ice. So we had a roadside mechanic came by. He had a ship, a shop in his panel van, all the tire equipment. He showed up. Turns out he was also a roadside assistance guy for RVs and he does some work with coach net. But he said, I no longer do RV roadside jobs because you can’t estimate them. You show up and it’s usually a big old can of worms. So is there any way to look at a project and be able to know what you’re getting into?

JEFF: You know, after 50 plus years in the I’ll call it automotive industry? Sure. Automotive not related to a car, but just I’d say 80% of mine are pretty close. But you’re talking you have to know the commonality of heater manufacturers, hot water manufacturers. Until you do that, I still go with the old saying time and parts. And I tell them when I was, I retired now and I, I had my own little school here and people show up and I have over 200 Canadians that are on, what do you call it, retainer. So April here in, uh, Delaware is a lot better than April in Canada. Yes, they come this way and they learn. But for estimating all that you you can and I tell them it is an estimate. So you have to watch each state’s different. You’re allowed to be plus or -10% of the estimate.

JIM: Hmm.

JEFF: So you know, how can I know every RV manufacturer, how they stick that heater in there? I can I tell people that I can’t till I see it. So that’s where my little thing I can see, you know. Hey, let me show me what you’re looking at through the phone. And thank God for modern technology. It has its good and bad. So I use it for the best, good for estimates. That’s the only way I can give you a good estimate is look at something first, just to call me up and say, oh yeah, my water heater. Well it’s gas. Is it electric? Is it, is it the new fancy? Continue. Right. Sure. Like but to them it’s a water heater. So I understand where that guy was coming from. It’s a it’s tougher and tougher to be a tech today than it was in the 70s.

JIM: Well, I wish I knew about you on our first trip to Alaska, when we had a water heater and the check valve went out and it busted off in the heater. And I was, you know, trying to find a heater up here. I did find one, and it was outrageously expensive. So then I had to find a tool shop just to get an easy out, large enough to get that thing out of there. I had to take the heater out just to stand on it to get that part out. But when I got it out, oh my God. But it took troubleshooting. It took me diving in there and finding out what the heck is going on, all because of a noise I could have lived with.

JEFF: Well, you did it. And that’s that’s not to brag, but I don’t own them personally. But there’s over 90 RV garages that techs, um, when they join the website. Of course, they pay more than what a private owner does, but actually they’re in the field all the time. So I when I once they start learning and that little learning curve just keeps going up. You hear from them less and less. So I have about 90 garages RV garages that text. We just sit down like you and I right now talk about it like, okay, what are you seeing? What even though well, we’re not there right now. I’m at home. I wanted to call you and talk to you about this multiplexing stuff. I’m like, all right, bingo. I’ve been doing since 1980 multiplexing. So it’s it’s a walk in the park for me. But yeah, outside of that, I you congratulations on figuring out your heater.

JIM: It took a while. And that’s just brilliant that you’re actually offering the service to the techs out there so that they have someone to turn to. So they’re out there doing a job, but they get into a corner and they have someone to turn to. So that brings me to the next question here. Like, what are some signs of a particular job that might indicate? It’s time for someone to call an expert, rather than just go the DIY or YouTube it and just dive in like I did.

JEFF: When I see the individual. Kind of like when you go to a bank, the bank is going to qualify you for a certain amount of loan, if any. His first two questions are are you capable of paying anything? That’s what the first two questions really are about. Then the next couple questions are about how much can you afford to pay each month. And then the next. Couple questions for how long? So I learned that from a banker. So now I applied that to a human being. It’s learning I always start out with this real basic couple questions. What’s the opposite of positive. And the answer is negative. So I take it to the next question. I said okay, do you have any idea how electricity works? No. I said, okay, now I want you to go back to the first question. What’s the opposite of positive? They’ll go negative. Okay. How ever electricity works on the positive side, how does it work on the negative? The answer should be the opposite. If they come up with 72 different versions of that, I have to pull them back and say, hey, no teacher in the world can stand up in front of your class, ask you the first question, and the second one did not feed off the first.

JEFF: What’s your first name? Jeffrey. You know what the second question will be? What’s your last name? So that’s what I try to teach. I try to get them in the mode. And if I don’t see that happening in the first 1520 steps, I have to ask myself, should they be playing with AC, electricity, even DC? It ain’t. It ain’t AC or DC that you have to worry about. It’s the amps. It’s the amps will kill you. But I don’t know if that answers your question, but I would say right now RV diagnostics is at about a 97% success rate of individuals learning their RV. And once they learn that RV, they ain’t got to learn yours. They just got to learn theirs. And that’s the key. They know their water heater by heart. They know their model of propane heater, their model of refrigerator, their engine. I teach them their RV, but they don’t have to know what I know. There you go. They just got to know theirs.

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JIM: They have you and you’re the one who knows all the systems. So of all the systems that are out there, or do you have a favorite type of RV repair that you prefer to do?

JEFF: I love anything electrical. That’s my baby. That’s my forte because the M1 tank was a rolling computer. All right. That thing that kicked ass. Excuse me? That thing did very good in Desert Storm. It could do 40 mile an hour moving. Shoot a moving target from two miles, plus 97% first round hit. So that included computers, gyros, thermal imaging system. The whole complexity of the AP rule mechanical, electrical, chemical, hydraulic, pneumatics came together on that. And I was in my heyday, not to brag, but the military had a program called Cash Award Program. If you had an idea, you scribbled it down, sent it in, and everybody and their brother had to approve it. Well, somewhere along the line, I made a pretty good amount of money off all that stuff. I loved what I did, I this is a passion. That’s what people, people go, why do you keep doing it? You’re retired. I go, why not? I have fun, so I’m blessed to say that my job, my work is fun. Does my body think that at 64? Sometimes, no.

JIM: Well, that’s why you’re doing it on the other end of the phone now.

JEFF: Yeah, yeah. But still that I think one, one week I had 412 calls. Wow. And there’s a time zone. I have them in Australia. Um, okay. How did it go? Okay. So it’s over five years old now. This concept that it started out on the Outer Banks just helping one individual. And I said my wife and I were just laying there in bed. I said, man, I’m going to start RV diagnostics. That’s all I said. And she goes, well, how are you going to do it? I don’t know, we’re going to do it. Here’s we’re going to try this out. It’s nothing but a bunch of tries. That’s what entrepreneurship is about. You try something and if you ain’t that successful at it, find out why you weren’t revamp it. Move on. It’s kind of like the military, right? You didn’t do too good on that mock battle. You go back and you train again. Uh, but, uh. Okay, your next question. I’m sorry I got off content. No, not at all.

JIM: I was just going back to the electrical thing that you mentioned. That’s like one area I would presume is where most people would want to turn to an expert. Like, I know enough electrics to be dangerous, but I do know enough that I could get something and figure it out. I’ve, you know, fixed my water heater because of the testing, the thermostat and such. So do you have like a preferred type of customer? I presume you also sometimes get the know it all, or people like me who know just enough to be dangerous. Who do you prefer to work with?

JEFF: All of them because it’s a challenge and I like a challenge. If you have the know it all, you just have to, uh. It’s okay. I’ll let the cat out of the bag. Stroke is ego. You know, in the military, I hate to say. Or any business. When you’re in business, you use people to achieve the goal of whatever the business is. And people don’t want to hear that word use. Right. But if I’m going to get used, I want to get paid for it. So there’s the polite method. So I used your strength, find out your weaknesses, and then I get in on the weakness and bring it up. I don’t need to really enforce your strengths unless I see it get weak again. So yeah, there’s a couple out there. My favorite ones is the couple, right. The old couple. Harry, I told you. And they get into an argument right there. My wife’s in the other chair going, oh my God. I just sit back here and I said, you know, this is your dime, right? And y’all can y’all can get into it all you want. So and one of them told me that the proverbial f off, like, you know, I said, okay, I need to shut this phone down when y’all get it organized in there, you give me a call.

JIM: So they called you for help. They better accept the help.

JEFF: Yeah, well, and don’t get into a argument over, you know. Did you hear what he said? It was funny. It’s like a husband and wife. Uh, been together 30 plus years. You know, you just kind of let it go and. Okay. No, we ain’t got time for that. Stay focused on the problem right here. We got to get this done.

JIM: I bet you’ve had quite a bit of exciting calls. What was the longest support call you might have mentioned already? But the longest call or the most interesting call?

JEFF: I had 40, probably 50 hours into that older lady and she made a testimonial video that you could tell it was old fashioned. You know, it was just the way she said it, and it was comical. And, you know, she used the analogy of the little train that could, you know, remember that story. Yeah. And she was the little train. And I didn’t give up on her and she didn’t give up on me. And I’ll always tell people when you get a hold of me, stop me. If if I say 18 words and you got lost at the fifth one, shut me down. Because I’ve been doing this for so long. It’s just right. It’s second nature, right? I can go down the road and go, man, I smell antifreeze or I smell battery acid, right? And no, you know, to some people they ain’t going to pay attention to nothing. Right. So you know what? You do what I do for a living. We try to make it come together there. I ask them what they did for a living. Oh, I was a doctor. I was a lawyer. I was a sales person. So that helps me understand how your mind has been for the lesser of the word programmed. So it helps me help you.

JIM: And that’s where the communication plays. Just as important, if not more important role than the actual mechanical skills, because they’re the ones actually turning the wrench if they need to. Yes. What kind of tips do you have for people to communicate effectively to people in difficult situations like that? I’m sure out in the field, you’ve got guys in tanks that are getting fired at and they need to get something going. So yeah, under stress, they’re stressed. How do you keep them calm and get them to reach their goal?

JEFF: Well, when they do get a little upset you say, okay, um, when you first get the call or they call you, you ask them, is this like an emergency? Is somebody going to freeze to death or somebody’s going to die of heat exhaustion? I need to know that right away. Right. Because then that decision will be made, you know, so and like you say, the personal part of that individual, we try to keep calm and I tell them we’re going to do it. We’re going to make it. One girl, she did it for her dad out in Arizona. And she taught me the word mansplaining. Your mansplaining, man. What the heck is that word? I didn’t know I’d look it up right. She was like an English major. Right. That’s why I appreciate that she goes. Never once did you ridicule me. Why would I do that? She pulled her own heater out, bench tested the damage, and I’m watching him. You can do that. That one bolt stuck? No, it is, but it will come out. Trust me now and always. Kind of make a joke, I said. Now you know what the RV techs are putting up with? I said, it ain’t fun sometimes, but we’re going to get you past this stuck screw, and we’re going to get it out and we’re going to get back. But that’s going to take me an hour and I’ll call you when I’m done. Then I’ll be here. But you gotta get that screw out because we got to move on. So. Or a couple hours. There you go. Yeah, a couple hours sometime. Oh, yeah. I’m in my garage cussing out a ten millimeter bolt every now and then.

JIM: So I’ve been there. I had a I’m having a flashback because I pulled out my heater. Most common cause is usually the control board on there when it stops working. And I knew that. But that was a couple hundred bucks. The little fan sail switch that was a few bucks, and the little thermostat switch in front, or the overload switch. That was just a couple bucks. So I took it out about four times to replace all those five, six, $8 parts and ended up place replacing the board anyway. But there was that one little nut at the bottom of the heater. The first time I pulled it out, the thing wouldn’t come out. You learn these things, and if I had you on the phone, you could have said, hey, you’re missing that one nut down below.

JEFF: Yes, you’re missing that one. Well, my motto is test not guess. And they’ll ask you, what do you think it is? I don’t know. And couple of them got upset because I said I don’t know. Well, well how can you do what you do? I said, because I start at a certain point, and the certain point is the battery. Everything on an RV basically works off of 12V, even though it’s married to a hydraulic system, even though it’s married to a one 20 volt system, it’s 12 volt control. So I go there first, and we all know that all RV owners maintain their batteries 100%.

JIM: Of course.

JEFF: Of course. What else you got?

JIM: Are there any RV jobs that you just won’t take on? If someone calls with a certain thing, do you not go there?

JEFF: On the diagnostic part? No, um, on the real physical part. Since I’ve retired, I do Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, RV’s. I got half $1 million, $2 million coaches come in here and and I have fun with them. I even got this one guy brought a pop up. Right. And and it was all gutted. I said, dude, what we want me to do. Oh, now, now my daughter wants it this way. I want you to just get the lights working so I get my tags. Okay? Don’t ask why he gutted it, but I. I just leave it alone. But, um, I for the tendency of my physical limitations, I try to stay away from diesel heads and stuff. Cylinder heads, major overhauls. Major. Yeah. There was a day when I would say, yeah, bring that diesel pusher in here. We’re going to put you a new motor in.

JIM: No, you’ll still do the diagnostics though and find out that that’s the problem.

JEFF: Oh, God yeah. God. Yeah. Yeah. We get these people that do those, uh, the older diesel pushers now are, are bringing premium money because they are built the old gassers. I don’t know if you remember, like the class A bounder. Sure. All the way up to, like, 2006 and all that was. They weren’t indestructible, but they were built damn good compared to today. Uh, and we’ll talk about the quality of everything has changed, that’s for sure. And we’re living it. But, um, so the older ones now, they’ll, they’ll try to buy, like, two at an auction and I’ll get a call. Right. Oh, somebody referred me to you, and. Oh, this engine ain’t running right. And I’m like, okay, what? What engine? And then we just go, we keep going and you know, and I and some of them, you laugh at them because they’ll go, well, I only camp from April to October, so why should I pay you $150 a year? Can I pay you by a month? No, I says, because you call a tech, he’s going to charge you 150 just to show up for he touches your RV, so they go, well, if you’re going to do it for fun, why are you doing it for money? I said, because my computer, my website designer cost money. I said, I pay those folks. I said, so yeah, it’s okay to make a little bit of money, but no cylinder heads. Big, big work. I’ll be even thought about. Maybe not doing air conditioners. No more rooftop units. But I got a pretty good garage. I got it set up. I’m modifying it to help with my physical limitations. There you go.

JIM: You kind of touched on expertise there, and I like to talk about how you don’t pay the expert for turning the screw. You pay them for knowing which screw to turn all those years of experience.

JEFF: Yes.

JIM: So let’s talk about something fun for just a second here. I know many times out on the road we don’t have access to all the parts we need or something to fix. And I know from working on a ranch up in the field, you might need to repair a rake with baling twine or a screwdriver. And on that first trip through the Yukon I was telling you about, we busted a leaf spring, and there was a seasoned old gruff man with a cigar said, we’ll get you on the road. I got a chain and some wire. Well, I had roadside service, so I called them. But what was the greatest hack you ever did? Just to get something working again, even if only temporarily?

JEFF: Well, Tom had diesels back in the old days. They weren’t computer controlled. And that line that goes from the pump up has got some pressure in it, and it somehow it ruptured. I don’t know how. Maybe when it was worked on I guess two years prior by somebody it was twisted a little bit. Them lines ain’t perfect. You tweak them a little bit, they get weak on that tweak. I don’t know how I did it, but I came up with some kind of patch and we wrapped that. I had, uh uh, it was like a heat tape for exhaust. And I said, okay, we’re going to scrub all the paint off. We put that on there, hit it with a torch and, uh, like a butane. And I said, then we’re going to wrap it with some, you know, hose clamps because he had to have back in them. Diesel pushers didn’t have a lot of power. And so if you lost one cylinder out of six, you knew it. Yeah. We didn’t have to worry about emissions. You didn’t have to worry about things getting clogged. But, you know, he was out there. The Eastern Continental Divide is like, I don’t know, 4200ft. But out west you got 7008. And he had to go back. I said, well, here we go. I forgot where it was, Iowa or something, I. Anyway, I’m going to pat you up. I’m going to get by. But please find, you know, back then we didn’t have all this GPS and, you know, you could tell in 30 miles. And coming up on Joe’s Diesel garage, I said, I don’t know where nothing is. When you bought a Rand McNally map, you didn’t tell you where all the little diesel places were? That was probably it. Now, some of the military stuff. Oh, you don’t want to know, right?

JIM: But it gets you there. Yeah.

JEFF: Being a farmer, those guys, uh, they would. Well, with batteries. Oh, yeah. Yeah, people laugh at us, but, hey, it works.

JIM: I’ve been there. It’s five miles back down to the shop, and you just got to get the tractor back down the hill. You you do what you got to do. So what kind of hobbies do you enjoy, if anything, when you’re not focused on RV diagnostics?

JEFF: Well, I got tired of prices going up, and I got a big old 59 by 52 by 39 foot and 15 foot high garage. So I was heating it at, you know, three plus thousand dollars a winter in propane. I said, well, let me put a wood fired forced air furnace in. And of course, you know what you got to do there. You got to constantly feed it. So now I’ve learned about Andrino Android programming, and I’m getting ready to implement a temperature regulator. So it keeps it at about seven 800 degrees and keeps it burning. Right. You know, because what else do I got to do. But every now and I finally hooked up my wireless temperature. So it’ll go if it goes too high in the garage or gets too low. Right. I had the damn sounds the same. I’m like, I don’t know which one it is. So I had to go look. So I learned how to change the sound. So now I’m into programming andrino you can buy them. They’re cheap. Yeah. You know, I just have fun.

JIM: So it sounds like your hobbies still involve figuring stuff out.

JEFF: Yeah. Yeah, it’s it’s a disease.

JIM: So what’s in store for the future of RV diagnostics? Do you ever see yourself expanding to have more techs taking calls? What’s going on?

JEFF: Well, that’s kind of a neat story. One of my members is a, uh, like, he’s got a pretty neat band. I put him on my Facebook page to, you know, promote them. Right? Not everybody likes the same music. So there you go. Well, so he, uh, he been with me 4 or 5 years. He got diesel pusher, and he knows that thing back and forth. Every now and then I get a call from him. He still pays his little dues and and he’ll say hello, and I’m trying to get out where you’re at. And I said, I got no money. You know, I’m starting to meet people. So he called me up and he said, would you mind if, uh, I’ve gotten so good at this because of you? He said, would you mind if I start repairing? You know, RVs because I meet them at these campgrounds that we play. You know, he’s got a 45 foot diesel pusher with a trailer full of, you know, and all his musician and his wife’s in there. And I said, I don’t really care why would. But it was I was honored to be asked. Sure. I said no, go ahead. He says, well, he says, I’m you know, if I get stuck on one, I’ll pay you extra. I said, no, that’s not what it’s about. I said, but I appreciate it. You know, I do because I’m on Social Security now on military retirement. So we all know until you hit 66 and ten months at my age group, 1959, you lose if you make too much Social Security. So now I’m just I’m having fun, you know?

JIM: That’s what it’s all about. Gotta have the fun at what you’re doing.

JEFF: Well, in the beginning, when I had to pay super bills and I was stupid and bought new cars and stuff like that, yeah, I had stress of paying all that, but now I just got grandkids to spoil.

JIM: But speaking of all that, aside from the YouTube channel and your membership site, do you have other solutions you’re offering people? Do you have a school for like private RV owners to go to and learn?

JEFF: Yep, yep. I tell and it’s I hate to say it’s highly successful because I have to watch, you know, what I take. And of course, you know, their their drive and then they’ll go call me up. Oh my God. Aunt Sylvia got sick and we had to turn around. I’m sorry. It happens, you know, and I used the, the, uh, the analogy of John Lennon was going out to get an ice cream. Somebody shot him dead. He did not plan to get shot. So life happens when we plan. But the school is pretty unique because all I asked them to do is when you come to the school, take a lot of notes, make private videos, just don’t post them because we’re going to kind of be BSing a little bit. And, you know, and I want you to ask if right. What if that’s a great question. Well, what if that don’t work? What do I do? Like you say, some want to call it jerry rig. And like, I wouldn’t tell you professionally, but when somebody calls from Alaska, which they did and their heater, it was their over temp switch on the heat exchanger went bad. You need to bypass that bad boy and keep yourself heated, I said. But don’t go to sleep, I said, because the thermostat will still kick you off.

JEFF: But I don’t want you to go to sleep. I want you to get out of where you’re at in the cold. Yeah. Where are we going with all of it? What came out of it? You know, the movie Field of Dreams. Build it and they will come. I want to go to Alaska. There’s 112,000 miles on my beaver right now. We own a 99 Beaver diesel pusher. One slide, but it’s comfortable for us. Hydronic heating system. But I didn’t realize, you know, I’m thinking, okay, I’m gonna calculate this. You know, I got so many campgrounds, I gotta stop by this. Is that kind of money? Well, 80% of the trip people have said no, stop by here. I got 50 amp service, some own campgrounds. You ain’t got to pay. We would love to have you just to meet you personally. I’m like, wow, this is like, that was a savings right there. If I decide to go there that would that’s like ten grand a saving right there. Mhm. So that’s what I call bartering. Bartering myself I guess I don’t know. They offered it, I didn’t ask, they offered it. I’m like damn this is pretty cool.

JIM: We call it alternative forms of currency. You know everything you make doesn’t always have to be the money. Just has to make it make you happy. Like you said.

JEFF: Unfortunately somebody wants a piece of that, but yeah. So, Jeff, tell.

JIM: Me, where can people find out about all this you’re doing? What’s the best way to reach you?

JEFF: Well, the Facebook page, some people don’t do it, but it’s RV diagnostics. It’s just what the YouTube channel is 680 some videos step by step. And please comment on it because I answer every one. It might not be the day you log it in, but I will get it. It will be that week. That’s RV diagnostic YouTube. There’s the website, which is at $150 a year. I forgot what that is, $12 a month or something, right? No, you can’t do monthly. You got to pay 150 and you text me and we set up a time. And if it’s an emergency, you know, I have to designate the emergency, right? You can’t say, you know, your light bulb went out, right? Emergency. But we get around that. The other one is the school and the garage at two, 2480. Bloxham. This is funny. I live on Bloxham School Road and Seaford, Delaware 19973. And I guess after I made I don’t know, you can only make so many testimonial videos. They’re all not to put anybody down, but they’re all the same right after you see 10 or 12 of them. I don’t need to put a thousand.

JEFF: So my wife said, why aren’t you like doing testimonial? And I said, well honey, it’s. The same stuff over and over, you know? People had fun here. They made their personal videos. They do a day or two or whatever, right? I got water, 50 amp water and sewage in the back. Just. I got a mini campground back here. Come on now. So she said, why don’t you make a book and they can sign it and put their name and all. So we had to come up with a catchy name. So I’m all for mile marker 37 on route 13, Seaford, Delaware. So I’m going to get a custom sign, you know, the mile marker sign and I guess take like a 22 inch Alico or a 19 inch steel rim weld some broken RV parts on it, you know what I mean? Kind of make it weird looking like that. Yeah, that’s my next thing I’m going to do and just let’s just have fun and always try to make people understand what RV really means. I wish it did meant recreational means. It sounds like.

JIM: You’re doing something right. And I personally think it would be well worth the investment for the membership, because when that time comes and you need to talk to someone, I’ve seen it. You pick up the phone and you talk to people. So thank you for everything you’re doing. Thanks for being here and sharing your story, and we’ll be sure to get the word out.

JEFF: All right. Thank you.

JIM: And there you have it. Another example of an entrepreneur addressing pain points that all our RVers experience. Many of us like to go the DIY route, and a small investment in RV diagnostics might be something to consider. If that’s you. Having a hotline to call is reassuring when you’re elbow deep in a rat’s nest of wiring or black tank plumbing. And speaking of a hotline, did you know you can call the RV entrepreneur? We’d love to hear from you. We have another Ask Us Anything episode coming up, and we’d love to hear what pains you’re having while growing a business on the road. Drop us a line at the RV Entrepreneur.com voicemail or post in the RV community Group on Facebook. Together, we can help each other diagnose and solve any problems with our business and make the most of our RV life.

The RV Entrepreneur is presented by RV Life – Tools that Make Camping Simple

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Jim Nelson