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Technical Resources

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

RVers have their fair share of technical queries and problems. Sometimes, folks need information on diagnosis and troubleshooting, specifications or advice on how to find parts or get their rig fixed properly. The information below provides a wealth of resources to solve those pesky glitches. Recalls The federal government oversees safety- and emissions-related vehicle defects. When it is determined that a significant number of vehicles share a particular defect, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires manufacturers to perform recalls at no charge. NHTSA maintains a toll-free hotline, (800) 424-9393, for owners to check if their vehicles are included in specific recalls, or to report problems. Have the VIN on hand before calling. Recall information is also available online at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. Search the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s database of recall notices. Emission-control system repairs can be very expensive, but they may have a longer warranty than the basic bumper-to-bumper coverage. Most “smog” control components are covered by a 5-year/50,000-mile warranty and some are warranted for up to 8 years. This includes parts and labor on catalytic converters and exhaust manifolds, to name a few. Check the owner’s manual for the list of covered items and warranty periods before paying for replacements. Technical Service Bulletins Your franchised dealer should be able to help with most situations under warranty. Manufacturers often produce Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) that are intended to show dealer service personnel how to troubleshoot and/or repair certain common problems. Usually, TSBs are available by annual subscription, but the cost is prohibitive for individuals. In some cases, the manufacturer will offer extended warranty coverage for widespread problems listed in TSBs to those affected owners who report the difficulty and ask for help. This is commonly called a “secret” warranty. Taylor Automotive, (800) 636-6414, offers TSB lookups for $9.95 per vehicle, up to 10 pages and $1.50 per page thereafter. NHTSA offers a TSB-lookup service for a fee of $20 to $50 by calling (800) 445-0197. Often, if you speak to them nicely, service department personnel will look up TSBs for you if your vehicle has unusual symptoms. Some TSBs are available in print and electronically. Keep in mind, though, that just because your make and model range is listed in a TSB, it doesn’t mean that your vehicle automatically has the described problem. Many TSBs require that specific diagnosis procedures be performed. Back to the topTechlines Many automotive and RV manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers maintain customer service hotlines. The following toll-free numbers are for consumer questions and problems for popular brands commonly used for towing RVs. Other numbers can be found in owners manuals and/or from toll-free directory service at (800) 555-1212. Have the VIN available when calling these numbers. In some cases, you will be referred to a nearby dealer.

Buick (800) 521-7300 Cadillac (800) 458-8006
Chevrolet (800) 222-1020 Chrysler (800) 992-1997
Ford (800) 392-3673 GMC (800) 462-8782
Land Rover (800) 444-3700 Mitsubishi (800) 222-0037
Nissan (800) 647-7261 Oldsmobile (800) 442-6537
Pontiac (800) 762-2737 Toyota (800) 331-4331

If a problem is not diagnosed correctly, it’s possible to waste hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on unneeded parts. A few bucks spent up front on diagnosis can reap large savings on repairs. There are several major suppliers of technical information in the automotive repair industry that have developed on-site computerized, CD-ROM retrieval systems. These include Alldata, Chilton On Disc and Mitchell On-Demand. Many repair shops now subscribe to these services and several companies listed below offer access to this service information to consumers for a fee. Before calling, make sure you know the exact make and model and record the VIN and date of manufacture. Jot down the exact symptoms and when they occur. Be sure that you are clear on what you’ll tell the technical advisor; it may help to mentally rehearse it. Some skeptics say free advice is only worth what you pay for it. If you’re willing to pay for help, you’ll find a few companies listed below that charge for technical information on cars and light trucks. Back to the topOther Resources Alldata products are sold nationally through Kmart and AutoZone stores, and carry the Popular Mechanics brand name. Information primarily deals with passenger cars and light trucks. Diagnostic/repair information on one individual vehicle make and model from 1982 to 1995 is in each module. The first module costs $19.95 plus $5.95 shipping and handling; the second module is $9.95. It may be ordered by calling (800) 829-8727, ext. 3146, or online at www.alldata.com. Champion Spark Plug Company’s TechKnowledge hotline, (900) 884-APRO; cost is $2 per minute. Covers all major vehicle systems (not limited to spark plug questions). Uses Alldata and Mitchell On-Demand plus factory manuals. A performance hotline is also offered at (900) 786-7223. Hours for both lines are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. eastern time (ET), Monday through Friday. Engine Controls Learning Center, Elk Grove Village, Illinois 60007; (847) 228-1477. Two-minute minimum charge at $2.70 per minute. Fax-back service is $5 per page (with a five-page limit). When someone calls for the first time that person must open an account before talking with anyone. Then, the caller must wait for up to 30 minutes for a call-back. Accounts are billed once a month. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday. Taylor Automotive Techline; (800) 636-6414. Pay-per-use option is $2 per minute. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday. Back to the topInternet There are many Websites that offer service information. Certainly, many others exist, and subscription online services have their own sites, but this should get you started:

Back to the topBooks & Manuals Service manuals provide a wealth of product information and troubleshooting procedures. Manuals for late-model vehicles can usually be ordered through your dealer or from the supplier listed in the owners manual. Older models can be more difficult; after a few years, many manuals go out of print. You may be able to find some information at public libraries and some large auto parts chains maintain a technical reference library. Some dealers specialize in new and used service literature. In addition to the list below, be sure to check the online list of RV parts and manuals on www.rv.net.

  • Automotive Bookstore, 1830 Twelfth Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98122; (206) 323-6719.
  • Automotive Information, P.O. Box 1746, La Mesa, California 91944; (619) 447-7200.
  • Factory Automanuals, 2719 Raskob, Flint, Michigan 48504.
  • Faxon’s Auto Literature, 3901 Carter Avenue, Riverside, California 92501; (800) 458-2734.
  • Irv Bishko Auto Literature, 14550 Watt Road, Novelty, Ohio 44072; (800) 544-3312. Specializes in literature on Dodge motorhome chassis.
  • Pacific Motor Books, 1858 Thompson Avenue, Ventura, California 93001; (805) 641-9545. Specializes in out-of-print repair manuals, but will order current publications.
  • Ron Magnuson, Box 448, North Plains, Oregon 97133 (send SASE).
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