Monday, January 6, 2020 Through Friday, January 10, 2020
The Basic RV Maintenance training course offered by the National RV Training Academy prepares students to troubleshoot and repair most common RV problems. Additionally, students learn about common RV systems and how they work.
Each of my classmates had their reasons for attending.
- Troubleshoot and repair own and/or other’s RV.
- Inspect own and/or other’s RV.
- Career advancement.
- Start small business.
- Make money while full-timing.
- Join a profession.
Classmates also came from a variety of backgrounds and ages.
- Ages ranged from teens to eighties.
- Females represented around 30% of the class.
- Some came as individuals others came as couples.
- Many had an RV.
- Some came with experience in general troubleshooting and repair.
- Some had jobs in the RV industry.
- Some already owned (past and present) their own small business.
- Some had been full-timing for a long time.
- Some had never full-timed.
- Some had previous experience with automotive, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration, air conditioning, and/or etc.
All of the attendees were serious about learning the course material. This wasn’t like some company training sessions I had been to where students squandered their training opportunity by goofing off.
The students and the instructors were all respectful of each other. This made it possible for students who struggled with certain subject areas (e.g. electricity) to stay motivated and engaged.
My motivation for taking this class stems from experiences with a broken water heater. At the beginning of a two month trip, the water heater failed. It took six stressful days to fix it (Casper KOA Journey). The helpless feeling coming from not being able to find a mobile RV repair tech and the possibility of a ruined trip was not something to experience again.
Things break. RV’s need to be repaired on the road, in remote areas and at the height of the RV travel season. Troubleshooting and repair skills are needed to feel safe and secure on the road.
The two story training center building is large with multiple classrooms and a large shop (warehouse) area that can accommodate RV’s. The building was purpose built for training. It has more than adequate space, wiring, heating and cooling to support RV troubleshooting and repair training.
Visitors were greeted by a friendly receptionist who is capable of answering all manner of student questions. The receptionist was also a great resource for solving logistical problems.
A breakroom provides coffee all day. A microwave and other appliances are available for student use. Note the decor – repair shop boutique.
The restrooms were unusually creative and kept up with the repair shop decor theme.
I did a double take on the urinals. They were made from stainless steel beer kegs. They were functional but it took several days for me not to feel weird using them. I recall thinking that one only rents the beer they drink.
The classroom is pretty standard in terms of layout and design with a few important enhancements. Enhancements like the electrical wiring which put outlets every four feet with each outlet on its own 20 Amp fuse. The chairs are better than most corporate training environments but not so comfortable to fall asleep in after lunch.
For some lessons, equipment like the above modified refrigerator is rolled into the classroom. The above RV standard (propane) absorption refrigerator had been modified to be a compressor based refrigerator (like standard home refrigerator) and now only runs on electricity. The conversion kit is made by JC Refrigeration and is called a “New Cooling Unit.”
Sometimes units or pieces of units would be carried in by hand. Examples include Suburban and Atwood water heaters. It just depended on size and weight.
Outside the classroom, in a large warehouse area, were two good sized travel trailers. Another large roll-up door was still available for more RV’s.
Depending on the classroom lessons, students were encourage to study and/or disassemble/assemble different parts of the inside travel trailers to gain familiarity and experience.
In addition to being able to park RV’s inside the warehouse space, tables, chairs and a big screen were available to host banquets.
You can’t have a large gathering of RV people in an RV park without at least one potluck.
Wednesday night we did a potluck in the warehouse space. I brought homemade macaroni and cheese that I made in a crock pot. It turned out good. It my first solo attempt at making a potluck dish. There weren’t any leftovers.
I had a great time hanging out and talking with my classmates.
In addition to learning how to service and inspect RV’s, there was a 7:00 AM daily session on the business aspects of running an RV inspection business led by Howard and Pam Jaros. These sessions were optional and started before class.
An RV inspection is similar in spirit to a home inspection that might be needed by a mortgage company and most buyers when buying a house. Having bought a number of homes over the years, a second level NRVIA inspector will typically do a more comprehensive and systematic RV inspection than real estate inspectors will do on a typical residential home.
While I didn’t plan on starting an inspection business, I attended Howard and Pam’s daily sessions anyway. They were more than worthwhile. Among other things, they managed to convince me that if I wanted to, I could start a successful RV inspection business. Being an inspector could be my profession. That is no small accomplishment on their part. I’ve worked in two startups and understand how hard starting a new business from scratch can be.
Howard and Pam are RV inspectors. Think of that as their day job. They are a couple who walks the walk and talks the talk. One of their marketing examples was how they represented their “brand.” Everywhere they go they have their company logo and name visible on jackets and polo shirts. Their truck and RV also have their business name and contact information on them. Howard had many examples of people approaching him asking him about his business, some of which turned into paying customers.
The NRVIA does an excellent job of providing support to the small RV inspection business owner. Support in terms of group rates on business insurance, inspection report automation software and marketing. In addition, NRVIA also supports their members through social media and other means.
Passing this course earns students the first level of NRVIA certification.
One of the best aspects of being in a tech class like this and being taught by experts was the little discoveries made everyday. Todd Henson, our primary RV service instructor, had a tool for everything. He had the best tools for any job. Often he would pass the tool around and tell us where to purchase it at the best price.
Todd also showed other useful resources like the above reference book. In the book, among other things, the correct wire type and size can be found for a given electrical load. The book also contained a number of useful formulas and circuits which can be useful when finding substitutions for hard to find parts.
Midway through the course, students need to have passed the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics Exams in order to be considered for NRVIA certification. This is an online open book exam.
On the last day of class, around 3:00 PM, they handed out the final exam. I was really nervous taking the exam. I did well on the test because Howard conducted daily exam review sessions starting Wednesday.
The graduation ceremony was really sweet. There was clapping and cheering for every single graduate. Todd Henson, the primary instructor, presented each passing student with two certificates.
- NRVTA RV Basic Maintenance and RV Systems Training
- NRVIA Certified RV Inspector
We also received NRVIA membership cards and baseball caps.
Some of the class members stayed over for another few days to attend an instructor led RVIA certification test review class and to take the RVIA certification exam. I wish I had done that as well.
I found this class worthwhile on many different levels. I really liked the other students. I also liked all the people I met who were part of the Texan RV Park, NRVIA and NRVTA. This is a good community to be part of.
I plan to go on to the next certification level. I’m most interested in RV repair and maintenance serving my own needs.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!