Qualified RV Technicians Versus Certified RV Technicians

When I was young, after school I would ride my bike to my dad’s car lot. I would hang out with the mechanics and wash cars for a dollar per car. I remember my dad telling me at a young age that a real mechanic can fix or troubleshoot anything mechanical. As I grew up I came to realize just how true his statement was. 

People often ask why I use the word qualified rather than certified when referencing RV technicians. It goes back to my time in the military. When I joined the Army, my Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS was 63B. At that time 63B was a wheeled vehicle and power generation mechanic. After basic training you go to your Advanced Individual Training, or AIT to learn the technical skills required for your MOS. It was long ago, but I think our training was nine weeks long. I already possessed mechanical skills when I went into the Army, and I remember thinking some of the people with me in AIT were not mechanically inclined. On the other hand, some people were mechanically inclined, but were not good test takers. This would be my first experience with instructors “teaching the test.” In other words, let’s say you were learning how to install brakes on a vehicle; the instructor might say something like “remember this particular step, you might see it again.” So, bad test takers and those not mechanically inclined all advance to the next technical training module.

After AIT you report to your first duty station where you start working in your MOS, which for me was a wheeled vehicle and power generation mechanic. This is where it became evident to me that some “certified” mechanics were not “qualified” mechanics. Eventually these individuals would be moved to another MOS or leave the service after their first enlistment was over. I would continue to see this “teaching the test” throughout much of my military career. 

Another good example was my Warrant Officer Candidate Course training, where instructors did not teach the test. It was six months of intensive training and those who made it through would be certified automotive maintenance technicians when we graduated.

For the remainder of my career I was in charge of large fleet maintenance operations. I could spot someone who was unqualified to perform their job in a flat second. I would go as far as trying to find a job they could do in the motor pool that better matched the skill sets they had, but not working as a mechanic. Other mechanics called these individuals “posers.” The qualified mechanics did not like it when the trade they are proficient in was diminished due to posers.

Something I liked about the military promotion system is it operates similar to the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle states that a person who is competent at their job will earn a promotion to a position that requires different skills. If the promoted person lacks the skills required for the new role, they will be incompetent at the new level, and will not be promoted again.

Unfortunately “teaching the test” is not only in the military, I experienced it in the RV industry too. I witnessed it in RV technical schools. Think about this for a moment; if someone pays you a large sum of money to attend your school, do you fail them and keep the money? You should if the person is not qualified, but do they? Some organizations “teach the test” so the individual can go through the training, pass the test and get a certificate saying they are a certified RV technician, or some other title.

Trust me when I say a qualified technician can tell you who is not qualified to be certified!

I think anyone who goes to an RV technical training school should first have to pass a mechanical aptitude test for assessment of their mechanical understanding and knowledge, with no coaching. Some people just aren’t cutout to be mechanics or RV technicians and that is the reality of it.

Today I am witnessing individuals touting their certifications who my mechanics in days past would label as posers. Most instructors are qualified and accomplished, whereas others fall into the category of posers. I see it with my own eyes. The certified, but unqualified individuals would never attempt to get a job at a dealership working as a certified RV technician. They know the qualified techs at the dealership would call them out for what they are. Instead they become instructors to individuals who know absolutely nothing about RVs and who think they are good instructors.

I am also a huge safety advocate and always strive to teach RV owners how to do things safely. When I see an instructor wearing jewelry while teaching or working around RV batteries, I see an unqualified individual. If you did not learn this most basic safety standard at the RV technical school you attended, we have a real problem with the quality of RV technician training at the top tier in this industry. I witnessed people get seriously burned wearing jewelry while working around batteries, and I witnessed people almost lose an entire finger when a ring gets caught on something and cuts to the bone. There is no excuse for this, no excuse! 

In my opinion, it all boils down to a persons aptitude and skill set. Take me for example, I have the ability and skill set to be a mechanic and technician, but I do not have the natural ability or skill to sing. I might want to sing or like to sing, but I could never be a professional singer.

To wrap up, my advice to RV owners and RV buyers is to carefully select qualified RV technicians and inspectors to work on or inspect your RV. You need to vet them. For example, if you need your air conditioner replaced ask them how many RV air conditioners they replaced and then ask for a few referrals from customers. A qualified technician would most likely say “I don’t know how many, but it’s a lot.” If you are having an RV inspected, ask how many paid RV inspections they have done, and ask for several referrals.

There are thousands upon thousands of RV technicians currently working in the RV industry. In my opinion, the vast majority are qualified and extremely proficient at their trade. Unfortunately it only takes a handful of unqualified techs to diminish the trade in the eyes of RV owners. An old saying comes to mind, “One bad apple spoils the barrel.”

Happy Camping,
Mark Polk
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