RV Maintenance – Part One – First Truck Centre

TheRVgeeks Annual Maintenance, Maintenance 36 Comments

As a full-timer, how do you establish a relationship with a trusted local RV shop? After all, when you’re nomadic, “local” kind of loses its meaning. But even those of us who don’t have a fixed home base often find ourselves gravitating toward our favorite parts of the world year after year. This provides ample opportunity to patronize the same businesses repeatedly, allowing us to establish trusted relationships with “local” companies.

Even though we can go anywhere we want, any time we want, it makes sense that after 15 years on the road, 55 US states and Canadian Provinces (with new ones to be added this year!), we’ve figured out the places we like the most. Since we grew up in the East, it’s understandable that reaching escape velocity allowed us to search out the most dramatic natural beauty we could find. So you’ll most often find us roaming from the Rockies to the Pacific.

Our typical snowbird path takes us from beautiful British Columbia to the Desert Southwest. During that time, we’ve had service work performed at lots of places. A few of them have become favorites that we return to when we’re in the area, mostly in the Desert SW, such as Massey’s Diesel in Phoenix, where we’ve had great work done many times.

But until last year, we hadn’t identified a favorite shop in the northern part of our most common travel area. So what to do when we want to get service work done in the summer? Head to Phoenix?! Not bloody likely!

We had a great experience last August with First Truck Centre in Surrey, BC, right outside Vancouver. So when we heard that they were opening a new facility in Abbotsford (which is close to a place where we often spend time in the Fraser Valley), we thought:

  1. We already had a very positive experience with First Truck, so the new shop would likely be a winner, too
  2. Abbotsford is convenient to anywhere we stay in the Fraser Valley and the US border
  3. New facility = super clean

We were correct on all counts! On the “close to the US border” front, First Truck Centre is exactly a 1/2-mile drive from the Sumas, WA border crossing. Hard to get much closer to the States and still be in Canada!

We made an appointment for routine chassis maintenance, and we share all that was done in the video above, which is Part One. In our next video, Part Two, we’ll cover one of the most common questions we hear: What maintenance items do we handle ourselves, which do we leave to the pros, which can go either way, and how do we decide which are which… and why?

If you’re planning, or thinking about, RVing in BC’s Lower Mainland, we LOVE and highly recommend the area. Vancouver is our absolute favorite city in North America, and the Fraser Valley all the way out to Hope is gorgeous and well worth a visit. First Truck Centre is a great shop, so if you’re due for maintenance, consider checking them out.

We’ve only been to the two locations, but they’re run by the same company as their other locations in Alberta, so we assume that they all provide service we’d be happy with. If you look at their pricing, remember that as of this writing, the current exchange rate means you’ll get about a 25% discount on your US dollars. So don’t get sticker shock if the prices look 25% higher. That means they’re actually the same!


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Comments 36

  1. You 2 spend quite some time in BC Canada. I am planning to travel to BC next year and was wondering if you can recommend some RV parks near Vancover. My rig is simular ro yours.

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      Hi Gerald,

      There aren’t a whole lot of options around here… so here’s what we can tell you:

      1. Capilano River RV Park: on the north side of the Lion’s Gate bridge, it’s the closest place to downtown. Sites are narrow and the place books up fast in the summer. If your RV is over 40′, there are limited spaces you can fit in. And since you have to cross the Lion’s Gate bridge to get to downtown Vancouver, traffic can be an issue. But it’s CLOSE!
      2. Burnaby-Caribou RV Park: outside of Vancouver in Burnaby, this is a bigger place (although, again, the sites tend to be tight and there are limited number available for 40+’ RVs). It’s about a 12-mile/35-minute drive into downtown from there. Or, you can walk about a tenth of a mile (uphill) to get to the Skytrain station… and 45 minutes later be in downtown.
      3. Dogwood Campground: even further out (about 21 miles / 40 minute drive), we stayed here for a month back in 2005. More basic, open place (not luxurious by any means… definitely more of a “campground” vibe)… but if it’s not full, you’ll have more “breathing” room (we had no immediate neighbors when we were there). If you don’t want to drive to downtown from here, you can drive about 5 miles to Surrey Central Station and catch SkyTrain to downtown (about a 45 minute ride).
      4. Eagle Wind RV Park: The newest RV Park in the area, it’s also the furthest out… about 35 miles and a 50 minute drive. If you didn’t want to drive all the way to downtown, you’d still need to drive to Surrey to catch SkyTrain.

      Hope this helps! There’s lots to do in the immediate Vancouver area… as well as the whole Fraser Valley. It’s beautiful here!

  2. Just a quick question. We have 2009 Holiday Rambler Neptune. It sits on the Roadmaster chassis which according to Monaco only has 4 service centers. Going to Canada for the month of June. Do you know if First Service Truck center will service this chassis? Would love to make an appointment and drop by on the way home. Love your videos.

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      Hi Gary! We can’t imagine that the components on your chassis are so specific that they can only be serviced at one of those four locations. After all, a Cummins engine or Allison transmission, etc are the same no matter what chassis they’re in. Same thing with the cooling system, fuel filters, air dryer, etc… should all be pretty standard issue equipment (the engine air filter, too, which we do ourselves, so it wasn’t done at First Truck). The thing that will likely require special information from the chassis manufacturer is the ride height. Even the location of the zerks for lubing the chassis should be findable by a professional, but maybe ask Monaco if they have a list of those as well.

      We’d suggest two things: 1) Call First Truck Centre (the one we went to in Abbotsford, in the Fraser Valley, is here: http://www.firsttruck.ca/abbotsford/contact/ and their phone number is 778-752-0100). They also have a location in Surrey (which they have listed as “Vancouver” since it’s pretty close by). 2) If they say they can service your rig, contact Monaco beforehand and request the ride height specs. That’s how we got ours from Spartan, and we keep them handy to be sure the tech has the correct specs wherever we go. And of course be sure you know what services are due that you want First Truck to handle, so you can list them all when you make your appointment. If you need things like coolant flush, transmission service, etc, those take longer and they’ll definitely want to know what you’re having done ahead of time. Hope this helps a bit. Please let us know how you make out. And be sure to tell them you heard about them through the RVgeeks videos (never hurts). ;-)

      One last thing… the “Holiday Rambler” that built your rig went out of business a while back. The resurrected company (owned by the REV Group) might have difficulty providing your ride height specs. If so, their guidance on helping you track them down could be very important. Neither the shop nor the tech will know what it should be without the spec sheet.

  3. Always interesting to watch your videos as they are a wealth of information. I have always done my own maintenance on our 2001 Dutch Star as it keeps me involved with the motor home. The closest Freight Liner shop is over 3 1/2 hours away and I would love to have a thorough maintenance check. Maybe someday I’ll take the trip to the shop.

    One thing I noticed on your video was the zerk fittings after they were greased. It seemed they still had some grease left on the outside. I’ve always heard to wipe the zerk fittings off after greasing as the grease will accumulate dirt and grit while traveling. If they are not wiped off before greasing there is a chance of the dirt/grit being pushed into the part being greased. Have your heard of this concern?

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      Hi Rodney! Thanks for the comments and question. Always great to hear from a fellow Newmar owner. Since it was hard to see what the tech was doing in a lot of places, we’re not 100% sure, but we think he was wiping off the zerks before greasing, for the reason you mentioned… to avoid pushing accumulated road grime into the fittings. We’ll see if we can find out more and let you know.

    2. Hi Rodney. Good eyes on the video. A recommended practice for any industry is to wipe off grease zerks before greasing. That eliminates any dirt buildup from being pushed into the zerk and contaminating the component being greased. Bearings, u-joints, king-pins, etc. will last longer as a result.

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        Well thank you so much for the reply, and for confirming what we’d suspected, Gerald! It’s great tp see you guys at First Truck being as responsive here as you are at the shop!

  4. Superb video. I just replaced my tires – 10 years old- that ‘looked’ good. I found that pushing my thumb from the inside caused separation of the fine cracking on the outside of the tire. Glad to change them out. (2007 coach).
    Due to health reasons I just downsized my motorhome and found the tires on the ‘new 2009’ rig were ‘rotten and are being replaced today. I believe the unit was stored in the sun – due to sun burned logos and some exposed paint on one side.

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      Hi John! Congrats on your new-to-you RV. Hope you have many years of great travel in it! But sorry to hear the tires needed to be replaced (we know that’s not cheap!), although it’s not a surprise based on what you said about likely being stored in the sun. Without proper care and protection from UV, RV tires are doomed to an early demise. We got 10 years out of the tires on our RV… but that was due to having owned the RV since new so we knew every aspect of the tires’ care. We knew they’d never been driven over- or under-inflated… had always been protected from excessive exposure to the sun… and had been regularly used so they weren’t just sitting, rotting. Plus, we’d had them inspected by professionals after the 7 year mark, to make sure there wasn’t something we were missing. On the bright side… now you’ll know the condition and treatment of your new tires, so we hope you get lots of good years of life out of them!

  5. Great video guys. Very informative as usual. Do you know why the tech didn’t load the oil filter with oil before mounting? I’ve alway been afraid of running the engine “dry” after the first post oil change start up until the filter loaded.

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      Thanks Dennis! We’ve never seen a tech add oil to the filter before installing (and we’ve been in many shops with open floors policies, so we’ve watched them work before). We think that there’s no problem with installing it dry because the oil that’s added goes right into the engine, where it’s needed for protection, and then gets moved into and through the filter when the engine gets started the first time. Since the filter isn’t the part that’s in danger by being dry when the engine starts, we’re guessing that’s why it’s no problem. FUEL filters on the other hand, are good to pre-fill first. Not because they cause damage by being left empty, but because the engine won’t start without a lot of priming. Every shop we’ve seen pre-fills both fuel filters before installing, as did our tech at First Truck. That way, the engine fires right up, first time!

      1. I sure do enjoy your videos, thanks.

        Regarding filling the oil filter, oil put into the engine for an oil change goes into the oil pan or sump. It’s sucked up by the oil pump, where it usually runs through the oil filter before getting to your internal engine parts. You don’t want even wee tiny pieces of ??? being pumped through your engine’s internals. On an engine that starts easily, even with the oil filter dry, there’s enough oil film on the leftover rotating bits to last until oil’s pumped there on start up.

        That being said, I would still prefer as best practice to fill the oil filter first. BUT- it takes longer than you’d think, because you should take the time to make sure the oil soaks into the filter then top it off, plus since you’re trying to get it full, it can be messy. So when time matters to you and the customer, you’re really not excited about having a mess in your bay with oil in your armpit, and the difference between filling it and not is negligible, the tech’s probably not going to fill the oil filter first.

        You could change the oil yourself, but you’d need another tank to hold the 30 quarts of waste oil!

        Been a while since I “talked” to you all. I’m sorry to say I’ve been spending to much on my MotorHome to join you on Patreon. There’s always something, and lately it’s been been Franklins not Jacksons.

        Be careful out there!

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  6. As always, nice job. I won’t tell you why I do my own maintenance, its rather boring. But I enjoyed your video showing your maintenance experience. Sure wish I had a side radiator vs my rear radiator Phaeton.

    Thanks. Look forward to the next one.

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      Thanks Mike! We do a fair amount of our own maintenance, including (sometimes), a couple of the items that we had done professionally this time around. Part Two will be all about which tasks we perform ourselves, which we leave to the pros, which can go either way, and how and why we make those decisions.

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  7. Thank You for posting all your very informative video’s. All the information is very appreciated and useful.

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  8. Thanks for the review. We just bought a 2018 Newmar Ventana LE and are looking for Freightliner chassis service centers when we go out West.

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  9. Great video; like your areas for: annual maintenance and maintenance with how to videos;

    where do you go for work on the road for inside the coach that you can’t do? Any suggestions?
    Already signed up for your emails
    Thanks, Pat

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      Thanks, Pat… glad you liked it. As for work INSIDE the RV… it’s been a LONG time since anything came up that we couldn’t handle ourselves. Unlike chassis work, most work on the “house” portion of the motorhome is more like general handyman work, so it doesn’t require (as much) special knowledge, training, or tools that work on the chassis does.

      The last major project we had done that we couldn’t handle ourselves was when our RV fridge failed and we upgraded to a residential unit. We had that work done at Oregon Motorcoach Center in Eugene, OR. We found them the same we found other service locations: Google! We looked at their website, read reviews online, called and spoke to them (to get a feel for their customer service), etc. They were awesome to work with.

      Unfortunately, other than that, we don’t have any other recommendations… since we tackle everything else on our own.

  10. Excellent video gentlemen! We sincerely thank you for your patronage as a First Truck Centre customer! Safe travels!

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    2. Hi Gerald. Are you ‘Spartan (Chassis) Authorized’ like the Surrey location?

      If so John & Peter’s recommendation goes a LONG way in the RV world and you will be hearing from me for my next service.

      I should also note that after watching this video I called looking for a complete tire change and, rather than just being told that you don’t do tire changes, I was directed to companies who do. Thanks to the service guy for the suggestions.

      1. Good afternoon Mr.Schretlen. Thank you so much for your kind words about our service staff. It is appreciated and I will ensure it is passed on to staff and management. As you noted, our Surrey location is a listed Spartan service center. Our Abbotsford location has been performing Spartan warranty and recall repairs even though we are not yet listed on their site. I have submitted a request for Spartan to get the location listed, so thank you for bringing that to our attention!
        We appreciate your consideration of First Truck Centre for servicing of your RV. Thank you and safe travels!

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          Hi Gerald! Thanks so much for jumping in here. For the record… we also have a Spartan chassis, and your techs seemed to know their way around it like the back of their hands.

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      Thanks, Lou! And, yes, First Truck was great! Nice people, trustworthy & quality service, all at a reasonable price! But you’re right… finding a good shop can be a challenge. In our 15 years on the road, we’ve only found a couple that we know we can count on, which is a sad indictment of the state of the service industry. So we’re thrilled to know that we can count on First Truck!

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