Whether you’ve been following our story or not here’s the skinny. We bought a new 2016 Forest River Cedar Creek 36CKTS in March 2016. After several months of research we determined that Cedar Creeks were higher quality than most fifth wheels on the market. So when we found one that was marked down $33,000 for being a year old model the dealer wanted off their lot we jumped on it.
We moved in a few months later and started making plans to quit our jobs and travel full time. During the few months before we left we began to notice a few problems with our RV, but nothing major. The first thing was a storage bay door wouldn’t latch. It worried us because if something fell against it while driving it could fall out on the road. I got two sheets of plywood, installed some lock hasps on them and called it good, our stuff wouldn’t fall out.
After our first night, OUR FIRST NIGHT, on the road our rose colored glasses were violently ripped from our eyes. We had boondocked at a rest area outside of St. Louis for our first night. When we woke up our refrigerator wasn’t on. OK, maybe that’s not such a big deal right? Well except for the little thing where we had bought about 30 lbs of good cheap Kansas City meat, vacuum sealed it, and froze it. I woke up to a race against time. I knew we only had a few hours before it all thawed and we’d loose a few hundred dollars of meat. We eventually found a store that sold dry ice and bought ourselves enough time to find an RV mechanic.
I’m going to be writing a book detailing our entire epic saga. Writing it all here would take you a few hours to read. So fast forward a few months to when we’re staying in Texas waiting for the weather to turn so we can start our epic national parks trip up to Washington state. We’d been having some problems with one of our grey tank valves sticking open. We contacted Forest River, which we’d had several dealings with at this point, and were less than satisfied with their customer service. But they authorized us to use a mobile mechanic. So at least that was nice of them.
This mechanic will be a whole chapter in the book, he was a real character. Laura and I still joke about how terrible his service was. Anyway, IF he would show up he knew what he was doing. Anyway, we showed him this weird wave in our exterior wall. He properly diagnosed it as adhesion separation, NOT delamination. The bad news he gave us was just how difficult repairing would be. He said that very few shops would be able to, and even fewer would want to attempt it. He told us that one of the only places, and the best one qualified to do it, would be the manufacturer.
At this point in our travels our list of warranty repair items was getting quite long (about 20), or so we thought back then. We contacted Forest River, told them what was happening, and that we wanted to bring it back to them for repairs. They responded by telling us that it had to first be inspected be an authorized Forest River repair facility. The closest one was over two hours away. We called them, pleaded our case, and they agreed to squeeze us in for an inspection a week later. They were were so nice. They found several things that we hadn’t noticed, fixed something the mobile mechanic had messed up, and even found that we had the wrong VIN number on our insurance (thanks Camping World). However, the service manager told us that he’d never touch the wall problem, and that we’d HAVE to go to the factory, this was the second repair facility to put this in writing.
After five and a half hours of driving, $55 in fuel (that Forest River refused to reimburse), and a day of our lives that we’d never get back, we finally had the proof we needed from an authorized, certified, blah blah blah repair facility. With our new evidence in hand we emailed Forest River asking for a factory appointment for repair again, confident that that couldn’t deny us. Come to find out that we were being dumb, because they denied us. We were told that any Forest River authorized service center could complete the repairs. Then they sent us a list with about 300 of them. Not only did they not help us find someone who was capable of repairing their mistakes, the rep we worked with was extremely difficult to get a hold of.
Fast forward again to where we finally found one that could repair the wall, and agreed to try. It was located near the final destination of our trip in Washington, it was also near my family. Which was good because we needed someplace to stay for the months it was being repaired. We made plans to put our RV in the shop for the summer when our trip ended. When we got to Washington we packed all of our stuff, moved it into storage, and showed up at Camping World to turn in our RV on the day set for our appointment. Que the crazy.
When we pulled in we saw that the parking lot around the shop was PACKED! I found someplace I could park somewhat out of the way and went inside to find out the next step. I spoke with the man we’d been in contact with earlier and we started to get the turn in process going. He showed me an older list of problems they had received from Forest River so I gave him the updated list. Right then I remembered that I needed to move the RV and dump the tanks before we turned it in. He told me where to park it and I went to work.
One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen happened about 10 minutes later while I was flushing our black tank. I was standing outside of our RV talking to the guy waiting behind me for the dump station, just listing to crap flow through a tube at my feet. When all of a sudden a man in a camping world shirt comes storming around the corner holding a a crumpled stack of papers waving them around like a sword. He targets the poor man standing in front of me first. “Are you John Hebard?!” he shouted? My unwitting partner in crime was obviously confused, shook his head, and squeezed out a weak sounding no. The camping world employee then turned his sights on me, and the stack of papers. Pointing them at me as if he could strike me down with them he loudly asked “Are you John Hebard?!” Against my better judgement I said yes.
The Camping World employee quickly approached, opened up the papers and glanced at them, as if he had to reassure himself that what they still said the same insane thing. Waving the papers around he exclaimed “I’m not touching this, I don’t want anything to do with this lemon! No one told me that the list was 80 items long!” I told him that I didn’t blame him. He finally announced himself as the service manager, and told me that it would take months for him to even try to fix everything on the list. You should have seen the look of shock on his face when I just said OK. I think he was expecting me to blow up and yell or something, but we’d planned for that. After my obviously unexpected answer he visibly calmed down, a lot.
By this time Laura had gotten out of the truck and was standing with me. The manager explained how difficult it would be for his shop to complete the mile long list of repairs. Summer is their busy season, and were about 100 other RV’s awaiting repairs. He told us that he was going to suggest that Forest River take our unit to the factory for repairs, or buy us out of it. Obviously we were VERY excited to hear this news. We knew that the factory was the best place for the repairs to be completed. They would be faster, probably by several months. The manager let us leave it there, but told us that we might be coming back the next day to get it. He said that he would talk to Forest River and decide what to do. He said that he wouldn’t even attempt it unless he was guaranteed to be paid the full labor rate, not the usual .60 on the dollar warranty rate. Just from the list he estimated that it would take over 100 labor hours and around $15,000 to fix it.
The next day the Camping World manager called us to say that he’d been in contact with the warranty department manager at Forest River and that it was going back to the factory. After a little phone tag I spoke with the warranty manager also and he confirmed that it was going to the factory. However, the good news didn’t stop there. He told us that it was getting picked up within the week, that wear items not usually covered under warranty would be covered under good will, that Forest River would pay our fuel and hotels to drive to Indiana and inspect it ourselves before it left the shop just to ensure that it meets our expectations before they give it back to us. He also said that they would cover the work completed in some fashion, which they normally don’t cover anything after the warranty expires.
So they’re taking it back. A buy out could still be an option if they determine that fixing it will cost too much. But we won’t know anything until they get it back to Indiana and inspect it. Either way, we received amazing news and couldn’t be happier. Unless of course they replace it with a new unit.
At this time it’s been almost a month since they picked up our Cedar Creek. The transportation company grabbed it July 6th and it arrived at the factory on July 10th. When it arrived it was immediately inspected and they started working on it shortly thereafter. We were very happy with how quickly repairs began. Other Forest River customers have told us that it took months before FR began to work on their units, even though they were sitting at the factory.
Over the next week we were emailed several times seeking clarification for the techs trying to diagnose problems on our list. Everything was going fine until we received a full update email. As we were scrolling down the list we saw that our soft storage bay floor was determined be solid with no defect found. We wrote back telling Denise that this was a serious problem for us. We’d seen water in there and smelled mildew for months. However, there was a gap around our storage bay door which prevented it from latching. We thought that water was getting in through the gap when it rained. One day dumb luck struck me when I was poking around down there and I noticed a drip of water on one of the pipe end caps. I found that the cap was barely screwed on, and there was no thread tape or PVC glue of any kind. It was the shower drain pipe, and it had been leaking into our storage bay for months. Obviously I tightened it, but the damage was already done.
Denise wrote back about a week later to say that the problem was being pushed up to her boss. We’re still waiting to hear what their final decision will be. So far they’ve fixed the outer wall adhesion separation, they’ve also replaced the front and back caps for fading and oxidation. So most of the big ticket items, and many of the smaller ones are already done. We’re hoping that they choose to fix the rest. Oh, another thing we need to mention. If you’re dealing with Forest River customer service, don’t expect them to always respond quickly. The few people working that department work hard, but sadly the company doesn’t have enough staff to handle the workload. Denise was sick last week and there was no one to pick up her work while she was out. I understand it can be frustrating when your home breaks and no one returns your calls. Make sure if you call you also email. We’ve had much better luck with email, and it protects you. It’s a lot easier for someone to forget you said something while on the phone. Email will give you a record of everything that was said.
Sorry we don’t have more information for you yet. But it’s been a month since the last update, and that was waiting too long already. We also post videos on our YouTube channel, check it out: Hebard’s Travels Youtube Channel