Class B Warned

Well, This Hasn't Gone Well

Part Twelve – VoltStart…and start…and start…and start

We never got a definitive answer about the heating system, and because it was summertime, it moved to the back burner. The best we could do with the complete lack of contact from the US Alde office was to try contacting the UK branch by email to see if they could answer the question about system design. They got back to us within a day saying that it is not uncommon to mix pipe diameters in a loop, and that they would forward our question to the US office for further follow up. Not a definitive answer, but understandable since they didn’t look at the design of our system in particular, but maybe the US Alde office is just backed up and will get in touch. Four months later.

Because it was summertime, we made it out on the road for a few trips with our canine travel companion, and it was time to test the VoltStart system included in our Roadtrek. This, like so many other things, didn’t go well.

The VoltStart system that Roadtrek created is supposed to function as follows. It is a battery monitoring system with the capability to start your engine without the key when it senses the batteries have dropped below a certain charge threshold. It is designed to run the engine for 35 minutes, thus charging the batteries, and then stop the engine and continue to monitor the batteries until they fall below that threshold again, when it will start the engine again for another 35 minute charge cycle. This will repeat for 5 total cycles, at which time you need to start the engine with the key to reset the counter. The hypothetical use case would be air conditioning use in the summer on batteries. Based on the capabilities of the van, you can expect to run the air conditioning for a few hours on battery power before they deplete. Using the VoltStart system, you could run the air conditioning and leave the van – in our case and most likely in many people’s cases – with a pet inside to enjoy the cool air while you explore outside. The VoltStart system would be watching and recharging the batteries when needed so you wouldn’t need to worry about the batteries depleting for the day, give or take a few hours here and there because understandably, there are many variables involved.

That would be the way it should operate. What it instead would do, which we discovered on a day with temperatures in the 90s, is start the engine immediately upon activation, and run for 35 minutes as intended, and then it would restart the engine immediately for another 35 minutes, and it would repeat the cycle 5 times, all consecutively with no regard for power draw or battery status. And when it did start the engine, it was providing no charge to the batteries anyway. A swing and a miss.

In addition to the VoltStart not working, there was also the matter of the solar panels. The van has 470 watts of solar charging capability, which we were told would be sufficient to keep the batteries topped up when it’s home and waiting for your next adventure. Having the van in the sunny driveway, with nothing running but the small refrigerator inside, (not even running the inverter so no 120V appliances) the batteries still showed a slow depletion in charge. How could a roof full of solar not keep a mini-fridge cool?

We waited to make an appointment with the dealer until the power step decided to stop working one day, and it was back in to the service department.

We wrote up our concerns in an email to the service department:

  1. VoltStart is not working – it starts immediately, with and without power being used, and runs 5 consecutive cycles, with no regard for battery status. And it’s not charging the batteries even when it does start the engine.
  2. The power step is broken.
  3. The solar system doesn’t seem to be charging – running nothing but the refrigerator still yields a slow drop in charge, despite all those many watts of charge from the solar panels. Can you check the solar to see if it’s charging properly?

Two hours there, 2-1/2 weeks for parts and install, and we went to pick it up right before Labor Day weekend.

This would be a post with pictures of hiking trails and state parks, but alas, just more problems. The power step is fixed, at least. That was just a faulty motor. Because really, how could you expect a motor to last more than maybe 100 activations?

As for the VoltStart, the dealer had contacted Roadtrek whose solution was to install parts that were listed as missing from the factory and a wiring fix of some kind because the system was in fact, not charging the batteries when it was starting the engine. Incidentally, a few days before we picked up the van we received in the mail two manual addenda from Roadtrek (who is now Erwin Hymer) about the VoltStart system and battery management. The letter said it hoped it found us out enjoying our Roadtrek which was funny because…no. We parked it, followed the directions in the new manual provided, and it failed. While the system did not activate immediately like it did before, it was still turning on only about 10 minutes into using the air conditioning, starting from otherwise fully charged batteries. This is pointless – if it’s going to start the engine immediately, with no regard for battery charge, why not just leave it running with the key in it? At least you would have it running until you turned it off, instead of having it run anyway and turn off after five 35 minute cycles. Posting in the helpful Roadtrek owner Facebook group provided consensus that it must be programmed incorrectly. It’s turning on at an approximately 12.5 volt reading on the battery system which for the AGM batteries installed is too early to provide any meaningful use. I don’t know whether the fault lies with the dealer and their service department, Roadtrek, or a combination of both. When you tell a service department what the problem is, shouldn’t you expect that they will test and make sure the problem is fixed before completing the work and giving it back to you?

The other part of the service was to verify operation of the solar system. The dealer asked Roadtrek who helpfully responded that the solar system will not keep up with running the refrigerator on 120V (having the inverter on), so don’t do that, only run it on 12V. Problem solved. Case closed. Warranty payment submitted. This would be despite the fact that that was exactly what we were doing – running it only on 12V – and the charge was still dropping. I’ll try to call Roadtrek’s service department in the morning, but never once in the year since I’ve owned Roadtreks have they answered the phone or returned a call. Never once.

Coming up next week is the RV show in Hershey – maybe someone from Roadtrek (now Erwin Hymer) will be there to speak with.

So, ANOTHER service appointment completed without fixing the problems. The dealer’s work order shows a total for labor and parts of $1200 which was covered under warranty.

Maybe I should open a dealership.

VoltStart not keeping your air conditioning running? Just eat lots of ice cream!

VoltStart not keeping your air conditioning running? This nice lady suggested eating lots of ice cream to keep cool.

P.S. That manual that was sent with information on the use of the VoltStart system? The steps included aren’t even accurate. They say you should toggle on the system and start the engine immediately using the key fob, which will begin the cycle with an initial 35 minute run (leaving you with 4 cycles after that). This is not the case – toggling on the system and leaving it to start on its own works just as well and one would think better, in fact. Why waste a charge cycle and 35 minutes of diesel when the system is intended to activate only when the charge is low? When using the system starting with a fully charged battery bank, why waste that initial cycle?

17 Comments

  1. Just stumbled on your blog doing a google search. You might want to join the Roadtrek Owners Group on Facebook, there are lots of owners there with vans similar to yours who might be able to give you some useful info…

    • CBW

      December 18, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      Hi Greg. Sorry we haven’t been monitoring the site so I didn’t see your post. We honestly didn’t think anyone was reading it! It’s really been an outlet to vent our frustrations, and maybe in the process help others get through the technology and Alde issues with the Roadtrek. I’m already a proud member of the Roadtrek and Hymer owners group. In fact when I first began having problems it was you and other group members that talked me off the cliff and helped me get through some major issues. Unfortunately our problems continue, and I’m getting closer and closer to selling and moving on. Thanks again for all of your help and support in the past!

  2. Great info, was wondering if you have solved the issue . We’ve been inspecting class B Vans with modified solar / alternator / generator systems and haven’t run into the issue you’re having yet. Has the dealer separated the charging systems to see what the output is? Bad battery bank? These new systems seem to be the way to go on smaller demand electrical systems , but if the engine is constantly on, would seem bothersome .

    • CBW

      August 22, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks for the taking the time to read our story. We did solve the Voltstart issue. The wrong module had been installed and once that was swapped out it works, at least that part of it. I’ve read a lot of discussion about using the engine running in place of a generator. I’ve also read about people getting ticketed because the engine automatically turns on when you hit the battery threshold and they were parked in a no idle zone.

      We still question if all the solar panels installed are actually changing the batteries. The reason being I run a 12v refrigerator (4 amps/hr) and a propane/co detector. If the van sits for a couple of weeks I see a considerable drop in battery capacity. With 470 watts of solar I should be making between 115-165 amps hours of charge per day. Roadtrek gives you no ability to monitor what’s coming in and what’s going to batteries so I added my own control panel. To be honest it’s a little over my head about what I should be getting, but in full sunlight I’ve maxed out at about 60v coming in from the panels. Both Roadtrek and the service department say everything is operating normally. This only says to me that if this is true then solar is just a useless addition to a class b since you can’t even keep the batteries topped off with the fridge running.

  3. I read about your issues ,and I purchased 3 month ago a Simplicity SRT
    And I have over 12 issues with him. No solar panels no volt start on mine unit.I have a electric fridge and every morning around 4 am running only the fridge the battery gets depleted and the CO detector start beeping.
    The major issue I have is the heating not working.it starts once and after not any more no matter how cold gets in the van with the thermostat set to 25 Celsius. It may be the thermostat that is not running properly.
    I have an appointment to a Roadtrek service in November as is only one dealer in my area and I purchased the unit from another province.
    I lost my confidence in Hymer products.

    • CBW

      September 12, 2017 at 8:55 pm

      I hope your repairs only require one trip to the service center. My recommendation would be to troubleshoot all of the problems the best you can. Put all issues in writing and hand it over to the service tech. Not only will it be documented, but it will hopefully make sure they are focusing on the proper course of action for the repair. Too often the service centers don’t have the time or knowledge to properly diagnose a problem, so they’ll take a shot at the repair and hope for the best. In my case this lead to MANY return trips back to the dealership. Good luck with your repairs, and I hope once you get through the problems you’ll enjoy having an RV.

  4. I have to say that I do feel partial pain along with you. I own a 2014 CS adventurous with the Etrack package. My wife and I have made three trips to a dealership that is two hours away and three trips to the factory in Canada it is eight hours away. And no not all the problems that fixed .

    We have had enough work completed that we are able to enjoy our vehicle. In talking with some of my friends who also on RVs we believe the problem to be an industrywide issue. Just taking Roadtrek as an example, they probably produce around 1000 vehicles here. Take all of the models that they produce and try and figure out how many of the CS adventurous with the E track package with the different options you had installed and you will find that the number is very small. So it is not like trying to buy a Chevy impala where they produce 1 million of them a year and can engineer everything, and still make mistakes. I just do not believe that there’s enough volume there for them to figure out what the heck they are really doing. I really don’t think this is a Roadtrek only problem but in an RV industry problem. We have friends who have purchased class a motorhomes that have issues that are unbelievable. I know none of this is comforting but I mention it because I have taken the attitude that to be part of the RV “family” I will have to be a hands-on do it yourself kind of guy with the equipment. I have spent quite a few hours fixing cabinet latches, investigating all the systems, investigating plumbing etc. and have been able to repair most of it. That said I am a registered professional mechanical engineer and spent four years in the construction industry. One should not have to have those credentials to be an RV here but alas, my fear is that it almost takes that.
    I guess you can say that I am a formal he grumbled first time owner of a CS adventurous 2014 but have been able to resolve myself into being a happy RV you’re using my 2014 CS adventurous as repaired by myself.
    As a side story, we did take a trip out west 18 months ago and stopped at the Eisenhower Library in Kansas with the temperatures are about 105°. We left a little Sean in the RV ballroom in the air conditioner off the battery packs. When I purchased the vehicle they had said that it could run eight hours on air-conditioning but we have found that four hours was probably the max. Running in that heat it lasted the three hours that it took us to in the library and was still running. We were worried about it long enough that we did go out and check about every half hour. However it was convenient to do so. I guess we would probably be comfortable leaving the dog for a couple of hours with The air-conditioner running but certainly not he ate we had hoped for. I do wonder if the lithium ion battery pack truly lasts a lot longer than our AGM’s. I probably cannot convert without very extensive electrical control redos. I have also had a complaint that I did not get a manual on a lot of the subcomponents an electrical system. I have never been able to get these from them to go and figure out the rest of the system myself. That would be my other suggestion to focus don’t give them the check until you have all of the user manual for every piece of equipment in the entire system that they’ve installed. Their documentation is rather poor. Again with all that said we actually have a good time using our RV but it took us reconciling the fact that we were out there on our own. Not the way it should be but probably a fact of life.

  5. Diane Christian

    April 9, 2018 at 1:48 am

    People are reading this. Thanks for all your sharing/venting. What a nightmare. So sorry you had to endure the insanity.

  6. Kim Owen-Parker

    May 8, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    And yes people are still reading this 🙂
    We got our Hymer Aktiv on 4/30/2017 and have had nothing but issues. I am keeping a list of all issues that are open, fixed or where were were told that is just how it is.

    And here we are with yet one more issue where they are now still waiting for EHG to authorize replacement of a part, so once again we are not able to use ours. This time there is absolutly no charge making it to the batteries. They found the issue, but there are several outstanding items. I want to say we have a list of over 30 items.

  7. Jim Blessinger

    May 12, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    Wow, I have been looking at the Hymer class B. The lithium batteries, volt start, and under hood generator was a must. Now I’m thinking twice. I see the Russo’s are having work done at the factory. I wonder if they are having the same problem.

  8. What sad news. I was looking at purchasing the new 2019 Hymer Aktiv 2.0 with loft edition. It’s very new technology I know, but I was hoping that they wouldn’t roll it out until they had all the bugs fixed. Obviously not. I am now looking at other high end class B’s cause as a woman traveling with two Labs, I need assurity that the components are going to work, especially the Volt Start and Solar panels.
    Thank you for sharing/venting. We have to speak out so these dealers and manufacturers will insist on better from everyone!! These RV’s are as much as my brick and sticks home. We need to insist on more quality!!

  9. I was looking at the Roadtrek because of the volt start because I too travel with my dogs. I had talked myself into the Roadtrek until I read all the comments here. The dealership assured me how wonderful the system is. I was also looking at the pleasure Way class b vans which doesn’t offer that system but seems to be a better made van. I’m still up in the air now after reading all the problems with your Roadtrek

    • CBW

      September 30, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      There have been many problems with the Voltstart, and unfortunately, some of the early ones were a result of having an incorrect part installed from the factory. Once that was sorted out, we were/are able to use the system. I wouldn’t say we’re fully confident leaving the air conditioning running for our dog on a hot summer day long enough to warrant the Voltstart system engaging without possibly pursuing a remote temperature monitoring system of some kind. That’s a little bit because of the issues we’ve had with Roadtrek in particular over the years and a little bit because any system can fail, no matter how well it’s put together.

      Pleasure-Way has an equivalent option with their automatic generator start setup. Their system can be set to automatically start the on-board generator triggered by either low battery power or the temperature in the coach. It differs from Voltstart in that it doesn’t have a cool, futuristic sounding name like ‘Voltstart’ and in that it is automatically starting a generator for power, and not the vehicle’s engine. There is debate about whether it’s healthy for the vehicle’s engine to use it idling for power. Each system has it’s pros and cons, so I wouldn’t discount Pleasure-Way because they are offering a very compelling option for power recovery with this setup. Just make sure that if you are considering a Pleasure-Way that it does have this option, as the feature was introduced in all of their models in 2018.

  10. Just purchased a 2017 Mercedes Roadtrek CS Adventurous. The dealership gave us completely inaccurate information on using voltstart. So we are experimenting on our own, using YouTube videos as a guide.

    Can someone tell me how to or if we can remote start using the key fob?

    • CBW

      September 30, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      You can remotely start the engine using the key fob, at least in ours. New model years bring changes, but in our 2016, we can remotely start the engine by pressing the lock button on the key fob three times in quick succession. This works with or without the Voltstart activation switch being turned on next to the steering column. All the doors have to be closed, just as with activating Voltstart itself, and if you remotely start with the key fob and then open a door, the engine will turn off. This will only remotely start the engine, and not remotely engage the Voltstart system – that still requires flipping that blue activation switch next to the steering column. Again, this may differ in yours, but that’s how ours operates.

  11. Thank you for your honest and enlightening review! So happy I read this before going to a dealership to buy one! I’ll look elsewhere! I’m so sorry for all you’ve been put through… it never should have been problem!

    To the manufacturer, thanks but no thanks…. i was down to 2 Roadtrax’s, now you couldn’t give me one! I’m not spending my hard earned money on an over-priced lemon RV with these many items in need of repair before it can even be used! Why was it ever allowed to leave your shop? Where was your quality control? Do you even bother to test each system as it’s put in? Sad to see after almost 20 years since I bought my first RV, nothing has changed with some manufacturers!

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