Why We Chose Maintenance Over Payments

Before soaking up the old Florida vibe over in Cedar Key, we spent six days camped at a mechanic shop in Tallahassee.

We sat in the waiting room day in and day out, evaluating the worth of our 1988 house on wheels and what would become of our beloved Cheddar Yeti.

How much have we already spent to keep the Cheddar Yeti running? Can we afford to maintain a twenty four year old RV?  Can we afford to buy a newer RV?

We chose to bring the Cheddar Yeti in to resolve escalating issues with the engine. The repairs needed to fix the issues were not clear and due to the age of the Cheddar Yeti, available testing equipment would be limited.

So we reached out, asking for input from our support system of knowledgeable friends and family. It became clear that the potential costs of fixes might outweigh the value of the Yeti. Then again, how do you calculate value?

Beyond sentimental value, what about replacement cost vs the cost of ongoing maintenance? If this all didn’t work out, are we prepared for a monthly payment on a newer box of bolts?

Here are the details on this particular visit to the Ford service center. It includes what was replaced, fixed, and what we spent in total.

The Issue We Needed Repaired

Since we’ve owned the Cheddar Yeti we’ve experienced inconsistent stalling and occasional rough idling. Over the years we’ve replaced the fuel filter, distributor cap, rotor, spark plugs and wires, and the MAP sensor. Still, the engine continued to idle rough, and began completely cutting out when we put it in drive or reverse and even in park. Overall the engine was running ‘weak’ and we feared that getting all the way North this year would become increasingly difficult.

Repair: New Fuel Injector & New Valve Spring. $854.80

After running ‘all the tests in the book’, the mechanics thought that we might have a clogged fuel injector. They put a new fuel injector on cylinder #1 to see if that helped, it did not. So they put it on cylinder #3 and it seemed to help a bit. Since the issue was still present, it must be something else.

Upon talking to the other mechanics, they decided that the problem was in our valves. They told us the worst-case scenario first. A ‘valve job’, in which our valves would have to be removed and get re-machined. This would cost around $2,000. They hoped it would not come to that as finding somebody to re-machine 24 year old valves may be difficult. So they popped off the valve cover to see what they could find. Right away they saw a broken valve spring on cylinder #1. They replaced it and the engine was running much better. We basically have been running on 7 cylinders for the last thousand miles!

After these replacements, we were still idling really rough.

The Bird found in our Intake Manifold.

Repair: New Idle Air Control. $130.67

It turns out that the Idle Air control was not working at all. So they put a new one in. This controls the amount of air going into the engine while idling. This helped, but it was still running a little too rough for their liking. They also adjusted our idle speed to be a bit higher than normal. This seemed to make it much better, not 100%, but enough to get back on the road.

Repair: New Thermostat. $137.61

We were all set to take off, waved good bye to our new friends, and hit the road. But within about 10 minutes down the highway, our temperature gauge shot up into the red.

We pulled over on the freeway and the Yeti was steaming. A loud hissing sound was coming from the engine that persisted even after we turned the key off. We went outside and saw that coolant was just pouring out. We were towed back to Camp Ford. As we rolled back into the lot, the mechanics all deflated at the sight of our return.

It turned out that our thermostat was stuck in the closed position. When the engine heated up, the thermostat didn’t open to let coolant in and the engine overheated. The hissing sound was all of our coolant being squeezed out that tiny overflow tube.

6 Day Camp with Partial Hook Ups, WiFi, Coffee, Donuts, Parts, and Labor TOTAL:  $1,123.08

Camp Ford

The folks at Tallahassee Ford are down right awesome. On top of friendly service, they welcomed us to work in their waiting room for days, using their free WiFi and eating all their coffee and donuts. But the most amazing part is, they allowed us to plug-in the Cheddar Yeti and sleep in their parking lot for five nights! We jokingly called it, “Camp Ford.” If you’re ever in town with your Ford, we highly recommended the Tallahassee Ford Service Center. Tell Bill Cloud, the Cheddar Yeti sent you!

More Time Than Money

The people at Ford couldn’t believe we were not in more of a hurry. Actually, we may have been their longest waiting and as they dubbed us, the most patient service guests ever.  How we live and work allows us a bit more flexibility these days, though not as much cash!

Budgeting for the unknown is still necessary but, we don’t have to worry about an unforgiving, monthly payment. We own this beauty, out right!

Our math figures out about like this:

$13,000 PAID initial cost of the Yeti  +  ($2k per year maintenance x 2 years) = 17k

17k   ÷  (Happiness + Experience) = ♥ Home Sweet Cheddar Yeti ♥

If we can stay rolling aboard the Yeti for five total years, and keep to our 2k per year maintenance budget, we figure we’ll spend 23k on this house.

Would you choose maintenance over payments?





8 responses to “Why We Chose Maintenance Over Payments”

  1. Chris Dunphy Avatar

    RV’s are depreciating assets??? Our last one we bought new, and sold for 50% more than we paid for it – after three years of full-time use!

    But then again – the Oliver was something rare and special. Fate smiled on us. 🙂

    1. JJ Avatar

      Your situation might be rare however the Cheddar Yeti (a Lazy Daze) is quite a looker. We get so many compliments on it, people find Lazy Daze to be extraordinary! 😉 If we’re diligent in keeping the original look, it MIGHT increase in value as it slides into a vintage “gem” status. Who knows?

  2. Gerard Duquette Avatar
    Gerard Duquette

    The Yeti’s been pretty good to you guys!

    1. JJ Avatar

      Yes it has! I think when we MUST decommission it, if we can afford to keep it we will. Maybe use it as a guest house/office somewhere in the country. 🙂

  3. Rene & Jim Avatar

    We also vote for Maintenance over payments and totally admire you guys for your choice of rig. We weren’t that smart when we started.

    Now, after learning how to be debt free, I think getting into debt on a depreciating asset like a RV should be avoided at all costs. While I have to admit that I drool whenever I see a sweet rig that’s newer shinier and bigger than ours, I know the reality of paying for that rig is something I want no part of unless I can pay for it AND maintain it outright. One wheel on a Class A motorhome costs as much as all four on our fifth wheel!

    Being in debt just sucks, and there is no greater freedom than knowing that nobody owns your ass. I’ll take maintenance any day for as long as it’s financially smart to do so.

    1. JJ Avatar

      We often wonder if another used, class c, that is several years younger (something in the late 90’s-early 00’s) would be a good investment or just another set of “issues.” Fixing the one we have always seems like the less expensive way to go and we hope it also adds value overall. As for now, we’re just hoping that our maintenance costs don’t surpass the price of the rig itself.

      Thanks for reading and providing your very insightful perspective.

      PS – We get envy too… ours is over the class B sprinter vans in all their shiny, tiny, diesel glory!

      1. Beth Avatar

        As I was reading your post all I could think was “No! No! Don’t even think new!” followed by “I wonder how much a used RV might go for?” The tough thing with RVs is that so many of them SIT unused and even a lower mileage one just might have a bird in the intake (so weird, by the way).

        BUT then again, it’s worth remembering that an RV is a vehicle that can only eventually depreciate (it’s not special like a classic car to appreciate) so upgrading to a newer old one while yours is still worth something isn’t a bad idea.

        1. JJ Avatar

          Hi Beth, As we sat in the waiting room we looked up new to us/ used replacements… for a 10 year old, class C we would end up paying about 25k to about 60k depending on the mileage/brand etc. The sitting factor and low mileage is misleading…you never know what you’re getting, really. We worry that a another unit would just be another set of issues?

          Upgrading to a newer unit while our is still worth something is probably a good idea! We do that with computer equipment regularly. VERY SMART! However we need to be able to buy it outright, to stay “Upright!” so, I guess we need to save for maintenance AND possible future replacement. Our issues is the sentimental value we have in it. It keeps us from thinking clearly sometimes.

          I imagine the CY is worth about 8k as is… so we do have to be careful not to over spend to keep it running. Just glad this is the ONLY house we’re maintaining! We owned/then sold our stationary home and this is still MUCH less expensive.

          Cheers and thanks for stopping by to say hello and give great thought provoking feedback.

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