Well, This Hasn't Gone Well

Part Nineteen – Smell Me Once, Shame On You. Smell Me Twice…

I still smell something…the smell of defeat.

I’ve come to accept the fact that nothing happens quickly when it comes to RV repairs. It’s not entirely the fault of the repair center because once a problem is diagnosed they often have to wait for parts from the factory in Canada. Two weeks at the dealership has been pretty much the norm for us, that is if you consider our numerous trips for service normal.

We marched into the service department at the crack of dawn to hand over the keys and latest list of problems to tackle. At the top of the list was our waste smell, followed by the heating system fluid change. We headed off on our 2 hour journey home, a drive that has become all too familiar.

Two weeks later we get the call to come pick her up. Everything on our list had been addressed, but they inspected and were unable to find any leaks with the waste system. That did not sit well with me since the odor was INCREDIBLY obvious to us, but maybe they had pulled the toilet to check the seal and reseating it had somehow solved the problem. Hope does allegedly spring eternal. That Friday after work we drove up to retrieve her and headed home.

There is one very simple way to test the black tank…by Saturday afternoon our “testing” had revealed that the tank problem was not solved. You can imagine how frustrated we were to have made another 4 HOUR round trip and have the same problem remain. I should mention one more thing I’ve learned when it comes to RV repairs – they sometimes don’t get things right the first time!

Not willing to drag this on for weeks or months, we camped in the dealer lot on Sunday night and we were there at 7AM to hand them back our keys once again. This time I was very specific about the problem. If you have all of the windows closed there’s usually not an odor problem, but once you crack any of the front windows while moving, waste odor from the bath area fills the entire coach. The service tech takes the van out for a test drive, pulling away with the windows sealed. He returns about 10 minutes later, with the windows SEALED. The tech then says that he believes that what we’re smelling is actually glycol heating up in the heat exchanger under the passenger seat.

Picture, if you will, standing downwind and very close to a sewage treatment plant and you will understand what driving with the windows down smells like.

I then took the keys and did a quick spin around the block with the windows cracked, and sure enough within a minute we were stewing in waste odor. I then proudly pulled into the service lot to share with them my waste smell. Finally they agreed that something was wrong. The keys once again get handed over to the service department and we were on our way home once again without a working RV.

Service For Stink

Just be glad your computer or phone doesn’t do Smell-o-vision

During the next round of testing, the service tech flooded the waste system by running water down the vent stack until the entire system was filled with water. They determined that “the seam of the toilet from the bowl to the base would leak under pressure. When the windows are cracked open this creates the proper pressure to allow the smell to escape from this seam”. Solution: Replace the toilet. Of course they had none in stock so we had to wait until one arrived from the manufacturer.

You guessed it, almost 2 weeks to the day and it’s ready to be picked up. There was no time for us to stick around to test the new toilet, so we headed home with what for the first time we could consider a fully working RV! (More Hope springing here.) We were only a couple of weeks away from the Hershey Pennsylvania RV show, so I began planning a road trip that would include a 2 day stop in Hershey, then off on a 10 day road trip though the mountains of Pennsylvania, and maybe even a little of New York. We have a fully working RV, what could possibly stand in our way now?

While waiting for over a month for our latest round of repairs, I began assembling a spreadsheet of all Class B and B+ brands. I wanted to put together a comparison chart that listed all of the weights and measures for each brand. Once I get the latest brochures and verify some numbers I’ll be sure to share with everyone.

Because when comparing RVs, it’s helpful to know just how much waste you could potentially be smelling while cruising down the road with your windows down, in gallons, for each model, because that’s a normal RV phenomenon, right?


  1. Interstate Blog

    For perspective, it might be helpful to you to look at the latest (Sept. 2017) blog entries by Roadtrek Life (not to be confused with Roadtreking) and The Interstate Blog. Those are unrelated blogger owners of unrelated Class Bs, but they both describe toilet replacement jobs for the same reason, and both showcase some of the limitations especially of the Thetford Aqua Magic V, but also of the Dometic 300 series toilets.

    The limiting factor with all of the smaller Bs is that the wet baths generally are not large enough to accommodate any of the better-constructed gravity toilet models. As a result, unless something new hits the market in the future, we are all stuck with the lowest-ended cheap construction. So even if Roadtrek fixed your toilet issue for the time being, there are almost certainly more headaches in store for you. Both of those blog entries explain why.

  2. William -Paul- Shivers

    Checking to see if you have resolved your Solar Underperformance… If not I believe I know what is wrong as we have very similar vehicles, mine has been fixed.

    We both own the 2016 CS Adventurous with a 470w solar package. Difference being I have the EcoTrek 800 battery package. You should do even better than I with your AGM battery system since they do not have the power overhead of a Battery Management System in each module (I have 4 BMS, one for each EcoTrek).

    The 470w solar panel system should be made up of the following solar panels:
    The large panel – 250W (one panel only) 36V (front)
    Medium panels – 75W each 18V (Two panels in the middle)
    Small panels – 35W each 18V (One panel behind the A/C unit and one on the left side of the A/C Unit)
    Total of 470W

    Look at the picture you took of your solar array. There is only one 35w small panel, there is no 2nd 35w panel on the left side of your A/C. You only have a 435w array, but this is not the whole problem.

    You will also find all your differently sized panels are wired together in series which will severely limit their performance due to the different wattage/voltages of all the panels.

    First the missing small 35w panel needs to be added to give you the full 470w.

    Then the two medium panels need to be wired in series to produce 36v and 150w , the two small solar panels are also need to be wired in series to produce 36v and 70w. The third large panel produces 36v and 250w as is…

    Then all three panel sets that are now wired in-series pairs need to be wired in parallel to each other to produce a 36V and 470w system.

    Now that each panel is correctly wired in series to a matching panel size, you are no longer taking the performance hit of mismatching different panel sizes in series.

    The three solar pairs are then wired in parallel as this an appropriate wiring scheme for non-matching solar panel sizes.

    This power is then fed down to the solar controller at 36v instead of your existing all in-series setup that would have been in the neighborhood of 90v with a lot less wattage…

    With this change my ’16 CS Solar Panel System went from producing about 0.55kWh per day to producing up to 1.78kWh per day.

    Hope this helps..

    • CBW

      Hi William. My underperforming solar issue has not been resolved and I had pretty much given up on the issue. In fact the service tech in his report stated that it’s not possible to keep the refrigerator running and keep the batteries topped off. In fact while I was at the dealership getting my plumbing fixed they once again looked at the charging. Their final report stated that all “470 watts” of solar were performing within specs.

      Thanks for the great explanation on the solar panel wiring, it makes perfect sense. Did Roadtrek forget to install one of your 35 watt panels as well? How could they forget to install all of the panels? If you do look at the wires running across the roof you can see how much care they took with installation.

      I can’t believe the boost in performance with just changing the wiring! There are a lot of vans built with the 470 array. I wonder how many are underperforming and will never be properly wired because people don’t even know it’s a problem. I really wish I was on the West coast because Dan Neeley is the only person I would trust to touch the solar panels. Good service as you know is tough to find!

      • I Schonfeld

        Two things on the solar issue: While wiring your “like” panels in parallel will help in theory, in practice doing so can cause lower performance if either of the pair is shaded. A shaded panel of the pair will bring down it’s mate to the lower level. By wiring all in series (higher voltage, lower amperage), you eliminate the effect of shading individual panels. That, however, puts the burden on the charge controller. A good charge controller will be happy with higher voltage/lower amperage and get to the maximum power point. Not sure if what RT installs is a “good charge controller”.

        Second, the charge controller as supplied by RT (Renogy) is not configured for Lithium batteries in my coach. This according to Renogy themselves, who I spoke with when my Renogy unit failed. The replacement controller was a different brand and has the same 3 battery options as the Renogy, plus a “user” option which hopefully was configured for Lithium battery voltage points.

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