Well, This Hasn't Gone Well

Month: January 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

Part Nine – End of the Line?

Here we are now, a few days shy of 3 months from purchasing this brand new 2015 CS Adventurous and I continue waiting for repairs. The dealership is in contact with Roadtrek and Alde, who are both working to figure out what’s going on.

I have driven back and forth 5 times total, at 2+ hours each way, for a total of over 20 hours of driving just to drop off or pickup the RV from service. That’s an additional 1,000 miles, split between the RV and other vehicles I had to drive to pick up and drop off the RV, not to mention time taken from work to do so. That’s 3 loan payments and insurance premiums on a vehicle which again, I have been unable to use. We are now into 2016 and the RV is another year older, adding to the depreciation of the vehicle which is occurring without the benefit of at least being able to travel and enjoy it.

The batteries were non-functional from purchase, the heating system isn’t heating, the water tank sensor was not working, and there were other more minor issues as well, such as cabinet latches that wouldn’t open and the metal shelf which holds the propane tank outside the vehicle being completely rusted on a new vehicle.

Rusty Propane Shelf

Rusty Propane Shelf

Roadtrek did eventually agree to honor the incentive from November, but the check sits here uncashed.

They have given me few options at this point. They have made it clear they will not replace the vehicle and will continue to repair it until it’s working (if that ever happens). I have made it clear to Roadtrek that as patient as I have been, it’s becoming difficult to have faith in a vehicle that has been nothing but problems from the start. I mentioned that I would need to seek legal advice but of course preferred to work with them directly, ideally to simply replace the vehicle with an identical, hopefully working model. I’m not looking to gain anything other than the fully working new RV I paid for in October. The response was as follows:

I do hope you are willing to let us work through the remaining issues, however, as from some past experience, I don’t believe this is an issue that warrants a buy back or exchange.  I would encourage you to research a bit prior to spending money on lawyers.

Again, you do have my full commitment to keep this a top priority and get the remaining issues resolved as quickly as possible.

I’m stuck with an RV that doesn’t perform as advertised and the manufacturer has been unable to repair it and will not offer a replacement vehicle. The dealer can only offer to take the RV as a trade-in, giving me the best price he can on a replacement vehicle, but would not be willing to take the huge loss that would come with that option. RV living quarters are not covered under my state’s Lemon Laws so I would most likely have to pursue a breach of warranty claim against the company.

The wait for answers continues.

Part Eight – The Mystery Valve

Since January 4th, the service department has been testing my vehicle nearly every day to figure out why the heat never reaches the target temperature. We finally had some consistently cold weather and after a full day of testing the dealership conceded that there is indeed something not working properly when the temperature in the cabin reached only 40º after running an entire evening and overnight.

Then, I received a hopeful call from the dealership owner who had stepped in to help resolve these issues telling me that they had some success in getting the heat up in the cabin. It involves the valve in the heat exchanger.

Under the front passenger seat is the heat exchanger that is installed as part of the Alde system. The heat exchanger is supposed to allow heat to transfer from an engine loop to the cabin’s loop when driving to utilize that otherwise wasted engine heat to warm you up while you travel, and it can also use an included separate pump to transfer heat from the cabin system to the engine to warm up the motor before heading out on a cold day.

Typically, to heat the cabin using the Alde, you simply turn on the system with propane and/or electricity and it circulates heated glycol through radiators in the perimeter walls and in-floor radiant panels. While driving, you have the option to heat the cabin without using propane or electricity. You instead use the heat generated by the engine by turning on just the pump portion of the Alde – the heat from the engine is transferred to the circulating cabin system through the heat exchanger. This is an enticing selling feature – heat without wasting propane or electricity using heat you’re generating anyway just by driving around (hopefully to more exotic places than your dealership).

To warm the engine when you’re camping out in the cold, you can turn on the Alde as usual with propane or electricity, and turn on an additional pump located at the heat exchanger under the passenger seat which circulates fluid through the engine block. Heat from the cabin loop transfers through the heat exchanger to the circulating fluid in the engine loop which warms the engine and helps you avoid cold starts when it’s frosty outside and time to move camp.

Now, this heat exchanger includes a valve. According to an employee of Roadtrek, as well as other more knowledgable Roadtrek Owners courtesy of the Facebook group, the valve is left open except in cases where you don’t want heat from outside to transfer in, like in very hot summer days where the heat from the engine might give your passenger a hot seat. There would be little heat loss from the cabin loop through the heat exchanger as long as you don’t engage that second pump for the engine loop.

That brings me back to the call from the dealership – they closed that valve and the heat started performing almost 20º better. Even at its peak performance however, the largest rise in temperature has been 50º after running an entire evening and overnight, so when it’s 0º outside, you can only expect to get to 50º in the cabin using the heating system. I say this is what you can expect because no one, not Roadtrek or Alde, will tell you what performance to expect from the system. They won’t even give ballpark numbers other than to say you will be warm in the cold weather.

It doesn’t make sense that simply turning a valve that the manufacturer and those who better understand the system say should not affect performance would produce that much difference in temperature.

Part Seven – Fool Me Once…

Back home I went with the promise of a brighter future and a warm and toasty RV. We tested the heat when I returned – the outdoor temperature was in the high 30s, the Alde reported an indoor temperature of 51º, and after an hour of ‘heating’, the temperature rose 2º and the floors never got above lukewarm. The next morning I called my salesman at the dealership about the continuing issues with the heat, and also contacted Roadtrek. Roadtrek said they would talk to their engineering/service team and get back to me, and my salesman confirmed that 2º sounded wrong. Another 3 hours of testing the heat that night yielded a balmy 65º in the cabin. The next morning, the CO alarm is going off when I come out to check the van. It’s almost funny at this point. But not quite.

I exchanged emails with Roadtrek and the dealership service department, continued testing the heating, and finally after getting nowhere, I drove the RV BACK to the dealership on December 5th. I will remind you at this point that I do work during the week, and the dealership is 2 hours each way. And at this point in the story, I had just made my second car payment for a vehicle that had spent most of it’s life sitting in a service bay, not taking to the open roads in picturesque surroundings like Roadtrek would suggest you could do with one of these.

I didn’t see the RV again until New Year’s Eve. During this period, I spoke to the dealership who told me that they were replacing all 8 of the batteries in the vehicle. This is after I had been exhaustively testing the power system since the first time I had picked up the RV from service. There is a sticker in the vehicle that clearly states that the batteries in the vehicle are to be kept charged until delivery to the customer or they can be damaged. There is also a notice posted in the service department of the dealership which I was very familiar with at this point warning customers never to allow their batteries to completely discharge as they can be damaged. I would charge the RV by plugging in to shore power for days at a time and the inverter display would read 100% battery level. Once the plug was removed, the percentage would drop immediately, and the most I could ever charge the batteries was to a level of 87%. I had been told by the service department during my previous visit that the batteries were fine. During my correspondences with Roadtrek, I echoed these concerns about the batteries. I received a response:

 I understand you have concerns regarding the AGM batteries not charging to a full 100%.  In asking our supervisor of warranty and service, Chris, he has let me know that the batteries never have a full 100% reading, so the reading you are getting is within the normal range.

During all my troubles I happened upon a Facebook group of Roadtrek Owners and they assisted me with troubleshooting and verifying the battery performance. We had concluded that they were definitely not charging to capacity. It turns out, they were right. The service department told me that more batteries had tested bad than good, and in the work order it states that they in fact all tested bad. Another part (or 8) to order meant more time waiting.

As for the heating system, the service department had been in contact with Alde, who was kind enough to ground ship parts to them to try to troubleshoot the lazy heating performance – a pump and a bleeder kit. When I spoke to service, the technician said they had to bleed the system using Alde’s kit 3 separate times to extract all the air in the lines. So much for a ‘self-bleeding’ system, as they advertise the Alde to be.

On New Year’s Eve I drove up to hopefully finally possibly pick up the repaired RV. There was no way I was going to return home before testing, so I drove the RV across the street from the service to the sales lot at the dealership, parked, and turned on the heat. You can guess where this went. Five hours of heating using only propane as recommended by the manufacturer for maximum performance brought the temperature in the cabin from 67º to 70º (depending on who you asked as the Alde and the Dometic thermostat which is also installed in the cabin didn’t agree on the number) with an outdoor temperature in the 50s, so not in below-freezing weather by any means. Back across the street the RV went where I left it behind the service building. It’s spent more time there than at my house, so I’m sure it feels comfortable there.

Parked at the dealership, again

Parked at the dealership, again

Part Six – Second Trip For Service

On November 24th, the RV went back to the dealership for a detailing appointment…no, not really, just more repair.

This time I waited for it to be repaired instead of driving the 2 hours each way to just drop it off and come back for it. Five hours later, the service department had installed a remote temperature sensor for the Alde system. Apparently, it’s not a good idea to put a thermostat directly above and attached to the cabinet that houses the heating system’s antifreeze tank…that heats up. Now there was a temperature sensor installed in the wall of the coach a few feet away from the control panel. This solved one problem by creating another – by putting it on the outside wall, the sensor was reading temperatures about 10º colder than the rest of the cabin instead of the approximately 10º warmer readings it was getting from the cabinet. Despite this, I was told that the heating system was working and in fact the service technician had taken temperature readings of 90º from the apparently now-radiating floors. He said there had been lots of air in the system which was preventing it from heating properly, and that it most likely hadn’t been bled from the factory.

The fresh water tank sensor was also fixed – the service technician said the sensor had been wired incorrectly and the ground wire needed was not installed at all.

Because it was getting cold, I requested that the dealership winterize the RV, which they did, and they happily charged me to do so. I don’t expect anything for free, but it would have been a nice gesture considering this was the 25th day the RV had spent in their custody since only purchasing it 40 days prior, again without my having been able to actually use it at all.

You can tell from the fact that the posts continue that it wasn’t really fixed.

Part Five – Power, No Heat

I drove home on November 13th with my new RV, still excited and wanting to move on from the 30+ days I had to wait to get it fixed.

It was chilly that night, and finally time to move in to the RV. We were stocked up on snacks, pillows, bedding…all the necessary accoutrements. It seemed like a good time to test that fancy radiant heating system I had heard so much about. We turned on the system.

The Alde radiant heating system and accompanying 3010 digital control panel are not difficult to operate. Turn on the system, set your desired temperature and fuel choice (all propane, propane and electric, or all electric), and wait for warm and toasty conditions.

Alde Control Panel

Alde Control Panel

The first part, turning it on, was a breeze. Having the RV plugged in to shore power, and figuring ‘why waste propane when we have electricity’, we set the target temperature to 74º (it was 50º outside) and waited. It didn’t get warm at all, so consulting the manual (always a good first step) we discovered our Alde system was suffering from a distinct lack of 120V power. Finally, again after scouring the manual and the internet for suggestions, we decided to look at the boiler itself and found in the compartment where it was stored that the electrical plug for the boiler was…unplugged. This closed compartment also housed the new battery system parts that had been installed with the equalizer so someone in service must have unplugged the boiler and neglected to reconnect it (and forgotten to clean out all the metal shavings left in that compartment from I assume the equalizer install). We turned on propane along with the electricity, hoping that would improve the heating performance, but after letting the system run all day we only reached an interior temperature of 68º according to the thermostat on the Alde system. A handheld thermometer showed an actual temperature inside of only 58º. Something was clearly wrong.

While waiting for the heat that never arrived, we figured we should test as much as we can in the coach because the batteries and now the heat had been such problems. Our panel that displays water, propane, and electricity levels, told us the fresh water tank was empty, so to be sure we were starting with a really fresh tank of water, we opened the drain valve expecting a little trickle of water before we filled the tank. That trickle lasted throughout a lunch break – the tank had apparently been full or close to it from the dealership, but we didn’t know that because the tank sensor was always reading empty. We closed the valve, filled the tank (to overflowing), and still the tank sensor read empty.

Batteries? A problem.

Heat? A problem.

Tank sensor? A problem.

Back to the dealership! Yay!

Part Four – The Long Wait (At Least The First One)

I patiently waited for word from the dealer on the repair. Patient I had to be because I didn’t hear anything. I called the dealer and spoke to the service department the week of November 9th, 2015 to inquire about my RV. I was told that Roadtrek had authorized the request for the equalizer on October 28th and it would take some time to manufacture it because they’re custom made for the vehicle. That would be 8 days to authorize a part to repair a brand new vehicle that was clearly not working properly, in case you’re keeping score. At that point there was no ETA – I simply had to wait.

I would point out here that we had record high temperatures this fall here in the Northeast, none of which I could enjoy in my brand new RV. I’m sure the leaves changed colors magnificently, but I didn’t see them.

Another irritating factor was that my mother had a scheduled heart surgery November 2nd in Philadelphia. I had intended to boondock in my new RV during the surgery because I live an hour from the hospital, wanted to of course be there for her, and stay in the van because, well, I could. Or at least that was the plan. But they say ‘Man plans and God laughs’ or something along those lines, and he was clearly chuckling at me at this point. Thankfully the heart surgery went well, which is really the most important thing. But I continued waiting for news on the van, getting irritated that I had paid for a new RV and been unable to use it for a month at this point.

During this wait, Roadtrek introduced a $5,000 incentive for purchases made in November (which was later extended to purchases made in December). I contacted Roadtrek directly, and because it had been a month since purchase and the vehicle was still unusable, I requested that they honor the $5,000 incentive. What did it matter that I had purchased it in October if it had been sitting on the lot at the dealership since October anyway? The Regional Sales Manager at Roadtrek said no, they can’t honor it, and they would continue with the repairs. Maybe that letter to Roadtrek at least got the repairs moving a bit faster, because on November 12th I received a call from the dealer to say the RV was ready for pickup, and on November 13th, I drove up to get it.

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