Class B Warned

Well, This Hasn't Gone Well

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Part Twenty Three – Let’s Go Shopping!

In honor of RV shopping season, I thought it would be a great time to bore you with some thoughts about the Class B and B+ offerings currently available and a hopefully helpful spreadsheet of their specifications, like tank capacities and electrical capabilities.

Class B ownership will always be a compromise. Everyone has their own needs when it comes to traveling. I will share my opinions, but that is really just based on our needs and how we travel in our RV. We almost always dry camp (and usually at a Walmart, because if you haven’t woken up to the sound of the street sweeper cleaning a Walmart parking lot as the sun rises, you really haven’t lived), and our average trip is 2 to 3 days, with the longest so far being just under 2 weeks. I hope to spend more days out on the road as I get older, so something slightly larger isn’t out of the question.

We did spend 2 days at the Hershey RV show in September, and I took a close look at what is available. Below I offer my thoughts on each of the Class B and B+ players that we saw at the show.


I’ve always been impressed with the fit and finish of the Airstream. The newest Tommy Bahama-inspired finishes are very sleek, and the whole package feels high end. That being said, the price is high end as well. They use the extended chassis for all of their Class B’s, so if length is a concern this is over 24 feet long. Our current CS Adventurous sits at 22 feet long.

The Airstream offers heated water tanks, which to me is a huge bonus since we travel a lot in the colder months. What I didn’t like is that the coach is powered by 2 AGM batteries, so you won’t be able to heat your tanks for very long without plugging in. I did speak to an Airstream representative, who says that they are experimenting with the Lithium technology, and hope to be offering this in the next year or two.

The interior also feels very cramped, especially in the aisle area. I wasn’t carrying my measuring tape, but I think this was the tightest aisle width of all of the Class B’s that we walked through.

Airstream was also showing off their newest creation, the Atlas. It’s a cutaway chassis with a slide, and looks to be competing for the Leisure Travel customer. They were taking orders for the new units, even though they only had the prototype to show. It’s beautiful inside and out, but at over $200,000 it will remain way out of our budget.


I didn’t spend much time considering this brand. The floor plans are very similar to the other players. The interior finishes feel high end, but in my opinion look more limo-like than I prefer. They also use the extended Sprinter chassis for all of their models.


What sets the Coach House Arriva apart from it’s Class B competitors is the floor plan. By placing the bed in the middle of the coach, they are able to squeeze a very nice bath with separate shower into the rear area. The front of the van takes full advantage of the front seats. The area behind the driver’s seat can be utilized as a small office, and a table folds out to provide an eating area for both front seats.

I’m just not sure about the aforementioned center sleeping area. You can fold the beds down to make a king bed, but then you’re forced to tidy up the bed  every morning to get to the bathroom. I also think that while the cabinets look well-made, the fabric options make the interior look a little dated.

We also walked through the Platinum II which is built on the Mercedes cutaway chassis. The entire motorhome is molded as a one piece shell, which is impressive. There are also quite a few floor plans to chose from in this model.

With all of the Coach House offerings, you deal directly with the factory, which is located in Florida. Without flying to Florida the only place to see them may be at one of the big RV shows. They are definitely worth a look in my opinion.


We first noticed the Coachmen Galleria at the Hershey RV show a few years ago. They borrow from the designs of their competitors, even using the same components as other manufacturers. The Galleria has a few floor plans, and uses the same exact refrigerator model as in my Roadtrek CS. The interior finishes are nice and the cabinets are much higher end than the Roadtrek, very close to the quality in a Pleasure-Way.

The only thing that’s lacking in the Coachmen is the technology, but that is rapidly changing. I haven’t seen it in person, but I’ve read of recent improvements that include lithium batteries and their version of Voltstart.

What has always been appealing about the Coachmen is the price. It seems like at least with the Sprinter model, you get the most for your dollar compared to all of the other Class B manufacturers. I’m curious to see how the newer technology impacts the price point.

Coachmen also has the Crossfit, which is built on the Ford Transit chassis. If you want to go slightly larger be sure to look closely at the Orion and Prism models.


Considering my past history with Roadtrek, I didn’t consider the Hymer brand for that reason alone. They also currently only offer a model built on the Ram ProMaster chassis. I’ve always liked the European approach to the interior layout of the smaller RV’s, and the Hymer does seem to offer some very unique interior features. The cabinets have an IKEA look to them which I’m not a fan of. I’m sure there are many people that will like the Hymer, but I don’t think I’ll ever purchase another Roadtrek/Hymer product unless I can trust that steps have been made to improve quality control.


Before I purchased my Roadtrek CS, I strongly considered the Leisure Travel brand. At the time they offered the Free Spirit model, which was the same chassis and length as the Roadtrek. I was very torn between the technology offered by Roadtrek and the modern styling offered by Leisure Travel. To this day that hasn’t changed.

Sometime in 2015 Leisure Travel suspended production of the Free Spirit because they couldn’t keep up with the demand of the popular Unity model. That high demand continues to this day. I’m hearing estimated leads times between 6 and 10 months on average if you want to custom order one to your specifications.

I’ve looked carefully at all 3 models offered by Leisure Travel, and would have a hard time deciding on the model or floor plan. If I did purchase soon I would try to find a used model since the new ones take so long to order, and only minor changes have been made in the last few model years.

With all the good things I have to say about the Leisure Travel brand, I have a major complaint. Why not offer lithium batteries, or take steps towards improving things on the electrical side? I want to be able to use the microwave for a couple minutes here and there, and to do so you’ll need to turn on the generator when not plugged in. Reheating leftovers can be done quietly in our Roadtrek, and I don’t want to have to run a generator if I can avoid it, especially in the Walmart parking lots we typically call our home for the evening.

I’ve read about a few owners that have resorted to self-help, and have retrofitted lithium batteries themselves. It can be done, but is very expensive. I’m hoping that very soon they will make the move to lithium, even though I can appreciate the reluctance to change anything when they can’t make enough of them in their current configuration!


Like the Chinook brand, I didn’t spend much time considering them since the interiors, while high end, crossed the line to looking more limo-like. It’s a very nice looking product, just not my taste.


This is another brand I seriously considered before I purchased my Roadtrek, but at the time they didn’t offer the technology promised by Roadtrek. That has since changed with the introduction of lithium batteries as a standard feature. You CAN run your microwave with the batteries and inverter, and with the wide body chassis you can order as an option almost 500 watts of solar.

The newest offering for 2018 is a touch screen control panel that allows you to monitor tank levels, control lighting, fans, and sofa all from one panel. Each coach has a panel in the front and rear for easy control of all of the systems, and this feature is standard in all models.

The icing on the cake is the new auto generator start feature. It’s the closest thing out there to the Roadtrek Voltstart system, but may be even better since you’ll be turning on the generator, as opposed to a Roadtrek which fires up the engine and second alternator. I’ve read many comments in other forums about the controversy of idling a diesel engine for long periods of time. With the Pleasure-Way system, you can have the generator automatically start if the batteries are depleted below a set level, or if the temperature in the coach hits a preset temperature.

I’ve also been impressed with the quality of the cabinetry in the Pleasure-Way. I think they get the top score in my book when comparing all of the Class B and B+ offerings. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of the new laminate cabinet faces and prefer the look of the solid maple.

They offer 3 different models. The Plateau TS and FL are on a Mercedes Sprinter standard length chassis (just over 22 feet). The Plateau XL is the same length, but the cutaway chassis allows much more usable interior volume. A few inches in width makes a huge difference. The bath in all XL models is amazing compared to a regular Class B. The Lexor is on a Ram ProMaster chassis and is their most affordable model.

I only have a few minor complaints. On the Plateau XL I’m not a fan of the tufting on the murphy bed sofa with the Ultraleather upholstery. The laminate floor finish looks a little dated to me. I’m also not sure about the plush carpeting used in some areas and wonder how that wears in an RV. I love the large windows in the Plateau TS and FL, but the plastic trim around those windows feels cheap in my opinion. That being said I think Pleasure-Way has changed quite a bit since I purchased my first Roadtrek, and is on the top of my list once/if I sell my Roadtrek.


I think it’s obvious how I feel about the Roadtrek brand. I won’t be spending time to write about all of their offerings. I did, however, include them in my specification spreadsheet below.


This is another brand that I haven’t considered much, only because the finishes aren’t really to my preference.  They offer 4 options in the Class B category. Since I prefer the Sprinter chassis, I focused mainly on the Era and the newly released Revel 4×4.

The Era is built on the extended length Sprinter chassis, and is priced well below some of the other Class B offerings. There are a few floor plans available, including one with a slide-out. I’m just not a fan of the laminate finishes in the Era. Otherwise, it feels well made and you get a lot for your money.

I did like the interior finishes of the Paseo, which is built on the Ford Transit chassis. The Travato, built on the ProMaster chassis, now offers 2 floor plan options. It’s not my preference, but they do manage to cram a lot of features into a very small package. If you are considering something a little larger, they have quite a few options in the B+ or C categories.

There may be a few more brands that I’ve missed, but these are the ones that I’ve considered. Taste is subjective, and these of course are my opinions. I hope this helps narrow your search if you’re considering purchasing. Don’t let my story discourage you from pursuing the lifestyle. I’m sure there are unhappy customers with any brand on my list, and somewhere, even happy Roadtrek owners.

I now present my comparison spreadsheet of many of the manufacturers and models. Specifications can change at any time, so I recommend you confirm with the manufacturer or dealership for exact model information. Let my obsessive researching and collating of information help you in your search for your new RV – hopefully I’ll see you at a Walmart someday! And hopefully you won’t know it’s me because of the smell or an errant puddle under my van.

Class B Comparison Chart


Part Twenty Two – ← It’s Their Fault →

It’s been quite some time since we’ve posted an update to our toilet troubles, and I’m sorry to report that not much has happened since our last chapter. Freezing temperatures finally arrived and we were forced to winterize without getting the toilet repaired.

We actually held out from winterizing a bit longer than we should have. It seems like winter in the Northeast hit quickly this year. One unexpected cold snap took us from comfortable temperatures to frigid within hours. The RV can handle a few hours below freezing, but with 20 degree temperatures predicted over a long period of time, we had to take drastic measures.

I had a couple rolls of batt insulation left over from a home improvement project. I also happened to have an old 8 foot long electric baseboard heater that was no longer being used. I slid the baseboard heater under the van in line with the holding tanks, then carefully wrapped the perimeter of the van with the batt insulation. It wasn’t pretty, but I managed to encapsulate most of the undercarriage. I didn’t sleep well that night, but come morning I was pleasantly surprised by the performance. It was 20 degrees outside, and the ground under the van was reading in the 40’s with a non-contact thermometer. I don’t recommend this method to anyone, but in an emergency it works!

Our Roadtrek weathering the cold snap!

We finally were able to winterize once the temperatures rose slightly. Several emails to the dealership went unanswered, so after nearly 2 months of back and forth I finally contacted Roadtrek directly. My email was answered by the person I had been dealing with previously, and they remembered me from 2 months earlier. I was informed that Roadtrek never rejected the warranty claim for the toilet replacement. They claim that the dealership never submitted a warranty request before, during, or after the toilet replacement. So I’ve been waiting for MONTHS for the dealership to have it out with Roadtrek over the warranty claim, and no claim was ever submitted? This is beyond frustrating, and confusing. Maybe the service center is to blame for this after all! Fingers were being pointed in all directions, with me and my stinky van stuck sadly in the middle. (Though at this point it just smells like antifreeze which could be considered an improvement, really.)

After some back and forth with Roadtrek, I was told to make an appointment with another service center, something I could and should have done months ago. Maybe another set of eyes could have, and now maybe soon will, be able to diagnose and repair whatever is going wrong. I now have an open appointment to get this repaired once the freezing temperatures break.

So what happened to my original service center? Did they have enough of me and/or Roadtrek and just decide to ignore me? Finally out of the blue, I received the answer I was waiting for. The service manager apologized and said that my emails were being sent to the wrong inbox and he wasn’t receiving them. He was very nice on the phone, and said that they still want to service the van and get everything working correctly. That’s great news for me since that’s all I’ve wanted for the last 2 years!

I now have to decide where to take the van for it’s next attempt at repair. I think I may keep the appointment at that new service center. I think a fresh pair of eyes may be a good thing for everyone involved.

One funny quote from my phone call with the service manager – he had been  doing some googling to troubleshoot my toilet problem, and while speaking with him he asked, “Hey, you don’t happen to be the author of”? Yes, and hi!

We’ve still decided to explore the other options out there while we pursue getting the van repaired. Work will prevent us from heading south for the big Tampa RV show, but we’ll try to hit a couple of the local ones in the coming months.

Luckily it’s winter, so the windows will be closed.

Part Twenty One – You Touch It, You Buy It

It’s been over a month since our last Chapter, and not much has changed with our toilet problem. My frustration continues to build once again because we’re now stuck in the middle of a warranty claim dispute between our service center and Roadtrek.

I had contacted Roadtrek directly after the replacement toilet didn’t solve the odor problem. The Roadtrek representative looked up my warranty history and found no record of any work being done on the toilet. I was surprised by this since not only was it at the factory for repairs, but it had also just been in the service center two times back to back, and was there for over a month. At first we thought that maybe it takes time for everything to get entered into the computer system. I would soon learn otherwise.

I called Roadtrek to ask them to authorize replacing the toilet with a different brand. I also asked if I could take the van to another service center for the next round of repairs. Since no repairs were “technically” on record with Roadtrek, they said I could take it to any other service center, but it would have to be a Roadtrek authorized facility, and it would have to be the same brand of toilet. So I figured why not. Maybe with my bad luck we got another defective toilet. I called another dealer to make the appointment, only to find out that the earliest available appointment would be in mid-December…that would have been two months more to wait! That’s not going to work since the van would have to be winterized soon.

I called my original service center to get some more details as to what was done in the original repair, and what they thought needed to be done as a next step. As it turns out, my service center didn’t properly pre-authorize the toilet warranty claims so Roadtrek rejected the entire work order for both visits. It’s not really my problem since Roadtrek isn’t making me pay for the repairs, but my dealership has to eat the cost of the new toilet, including any time they spent diagnosing and repairing the problem.

I think it’s obvious that I haven’t always been on the side of my service department, but this time I have to stand behind them and say how wrong it is of Roadtrek to deny the warranty claim. I don’t know how the process is supposed to work, but all I know is that the dealership jumped on my repair when I showed up at their door at 7AM on a Monday morning when I realized that their first attempt to fix it failed. This may sound bad enough, but it gets better. Since my service center touched the toilet, anything else done to resolve the waste odor issue is considered to be “rework” and is the responsibility of my service department. So not only did they not get paid for the original repairs, they now have to fix it again until it’s repaired, for free! Now how can I expect my service center to take any time to properly diagnose and fix this once and for all. If we’re going to play warranty games I think it’s important to bring up the fact that the toilet problems have been present since the van was new and we first used the black tank, and it was first ‘repaired’ at the Roadtrek factory when we visited a year ago with a list of other issues to be addressed.

As we sit and wait for the next step, we’re doing what we can to better isolate the odor breach. Now I know that I can’t start pulling things apart to diagnose the problem, or I’ll be in the same position as my dealership.

We fished an inspection camera all the way down the roof vent pipe and it’s all clear. There does however appear to be a screw sticking into the side of the vent pipe. I don’t think this is causing any odor problems since the hole is sealed with the screw, but I can’t say for sure.

I think our next test proved to us beyond a reasonable doubt that the odor is coming from the toilet, and not the gray tank. We encapsulated the toilet behind a tarp and sealed it to the wet bath walls using packaging tape. We then went for a drive with the windows cracked. There was no noticeable odor inside the cabin so we pulled over after about 15 minutes. I peeled back the tarp and sure enough, the odor was present but trapped under the tarp.


Maybe we just have another bad toilet? Maybe it’s a bad seal between the toilet and flange? I then took a look under the toilet below the foot pedal and you can clearly see the rubber seal and how it’s compressed tightly against the toilet flange. I then noticed a gap of about 1/16″ between the flange and wet bath floor. This did not seem normal, so I asked in the Facebook group for other owners to take a look, and sure enough I’m the only one that has the gap. Maybe it’s not the toilet after all. Maybe there is a crack or bad connection between the waste tank and toilet and this gap is allowing the odors to be sucked into the cabin when the window is cracked.


So as the temperatures begin to drop, the hope is fading that we’ll get this fixed before we have to winterize. We now wait for a callback from the dealership, and it’s been over a month. I appreciate the 6 year warranty, but I really didn’t think it’s going to take 6 years to get everything working.

Part Twenty – (Un)Happy Van-iversary!

Even though we posted our first blog entry here in January 2016, as you read the story you’ll see that this journey started when we purchased our CS Adventurous on October 13th, 2015. That means that we have arrived at our two year anniversary together, and while I would love to write that we’re living happily ever after, in reality, I’m glad there were no kids and it’s become obvious we may need to separate. Time goes by so quick when you’re not paying attention, and to think that it’s been two years since we purchased our van and we’re STILL trying to fix problems with it is…disheartening to say the absolute least, and positively enraging to say the most.

Our last entry found us trying to solve a black tank odor in the van that occurred mostly when the windows were down and the van was in motion. Our van spent weeks at the dealer, was not fixed (because, and I quote from the work order, “the unit smelled fine when I was working in it”), was redelivered to the dealer for a few more weeks, and ultimately received a brand new toilet to finally solve the smelly issue that had plagued us since day one of owning this van.

We packed our cabinets and headed to Hershey PA to attend the yearly RV Show. We visited our friends at the Pleasure Way area and were impressed, as we always have been, at the models they offered and especially some of their new options like an auto-starting generator that is activated by temperature or voltage – sort of like our Voltstart system, except that a generator would run and not the van’s engine to give you some juice, which we hear now is not recommended by Mercedes. We stopped in to see Leisure Travel Vans, and as always, their offerings were impressive as well, though the almost 10 month wait time to receive one is a bit jarring. There was a demo available immediately, though, and we enjoyed hearing about life in that Leisure Travel Van from their ambassador who was there to answer any questions we had. It’s especially tempting to see these competitors when we know our Roadtrek ownership has not been smooth. But we finally had our van fixed and had decided that while it’s nice to look, if we could finally tie up these loose ends with ours, we would stick with it. In fact, we had a week long trip planned to follow the RV show with a drive west and north, and a ride back east along Pennsylvania’s Route 6 – a relaxing ride through the mountains with a whole list of parks and interesting stops along the way.


This isn’t even a fraction of the offerings on display at the Hershey RV show

We planned to see the show over two days, because it’s such a massive show and there’s so much to see. We canvassed the show on Day One, and when the sun went down and the show closed, we made our way to the local Walmart to spend the night and hit the show the next day to see anything we may have missed and to dream a little more about what owning one of those giant Class As would be like.

By our return to the show the next day, it was clear that the toilet issue was still not fixed.

Now, I’ll pause here while you collect yourself because I’m sure you’re shocked to read that.


This would be a more effective toilet setup. At least we could put a lid on it.

Day Two we returned to the RV show with a new anger, frustration, and general hopelessness. No, those weeks and weeks at the dealer had not fixed the problem, which was as terrible as it had been from the beginning. We were ready to get rid of this problem van that had been repeatedly troubling us since that day two years ago when we bought it’s predecessor whose batteries didn’t charge and whose heating system didn’t heat, to this current van whose heating system also has been trouble and has smelled like human waste while driving among other items that we can’t seem to have addressed.

You might wonder, as any rational person would – if it’s been such a headache for so long, why put up with it? That’s a great question. We’ve always held out hope that if we could just get the few items fixed, this would be the van for us. And to be fair, these haven’t been minor issues. Batteries that don’t charge, heat that doesn’t heat, etc. are not minor issues like cabinets that constantly need to be adjusted because they slam closed on their own while you’re trying to put things into them as a completely random example. Another very compelling reason became clear on that second day at the RV Show when we returned to the competitors’ areas and decided to get some numbers from the sales people about what they could offer to help us get out of this van and into one that would hopefully give us a lot less stress. That number was a sizable gap between what I could expect for a trade-in value for my Adventurous and the price of a comparably equipped alternative. Without going into specifics, that number is large enough that I could purchase a well-equipped luxury vehicle instead of having to pay that amount to get rid of something because the manufacturer and their dealer network are unable to supply a fully working vehicle as promised in the paperwork on that fateful day two years ago when my loan company dutifully paid them in full. We visited the Roadtrek area of the show and asked if they might have someone there from the factory who we could talk to about possible causes, but we were told there was no one there who could help. And adding insult to injury, that demo Leisure Travel Van which would be available immediately instead of the 10 months to order a new one? It was now sporting a sold sign.

(Insert sad trombone sound here.)

We left the show and started on our planned route around Pennsylvania, stopping at another Walmart for the night, and debating whether to cancel the trip and either head back to the dealer or just head back home to regroup. The smell is that bad when driving. Angry, frustrated, feeling hopeless, (all emotions I’m sure they must have put in their promotional brochures, right?) we decided to make the best of it, as best we could, and we continued on our trip, just deciding to keep the windows closed (because, really, who likes fresh air when driving through the picturesque mountains of Pennsylvania when the weather is bright, sunny, and perfect) and try to grin and bear it.

I’m glad we stuck with it because the trip itself was great. We saw some awesome national parks, a few hard cider breweries, museums for the logging industry in Pennsylvania and the railroad, and even an alpaca farm where the friendly owner greeted us and gave us an up close tour of the farm and her alpaca children. If you want a relaxing ride, Route 6 through northern Pennsylvania is highly recommended.


Alpaca farm in Slippery Rock, PA


We met some great folks along our journey, including a nice couple who operate Deep Roots Hard Cider in Sugar Run, PA


Presque Isle State Park – one of many parks we visited along the way.

But now we’re home and still have to figure out how to fix our smelly van. We received a comment here on our blog about our particular toilet model and the problems that others have found with it’s design. With this new knowledge, we contacted our dealer about possibly swapping out our Thetford toilet with a Dometic toilet which would hopefully fit and fix the problem, and the links provided by our commenter which clearly demonstrated the toilet’s shortcomings, were included in the email to them. Also included in that email, and as we have repeatedly explained to them, we listed all the things we have done to troubleshoot – keeping water in all the traps to seal off possible escaping fumes, having a reasonable amount of water in the tank, using holding tank chemicals, namely Happy Camper. The email was forwarded by the dealer to Roadtrek who responded with the suggestion to…try putting water in the traps to seal off possible escaping fumes. That might sound familiar to you because you just read that in the previous sentence, and I would think it would have sounded familiar to them as well, as I had specifically mentioned that I had already done that. Getting a different toilet model installed would require Roadtrek’s authorization, so the dealer suggested I contact them directly, which I did.

While visiting Pleasure Way at the RV Show, I saw promotional signage touting their new Personal Assistant program which promises a dedicated support person who is knowledgable about their product who can answer questions you have about your van. Whether this program is as great as it seems I don’t know, but I do know that I have never been able to reach someone at Roadtrek on the first call. Every time I have called them for support, I have reached an answering machine. They did return my call this time, and we went over the details of the problem I had been experiencing. The answer from the person on the phone? Try Pine-sol in the traps because those can let fumes…well, you know the rest. I understand that there’s a process when it comes to a company’s diagnosing and fixing a problem, and I have no problem following that process. But to repeatedly suggest solutions that we have already mentioned we have ruled out is..again, frustrating. However, I told the person that I would try it and let them know, just so we could all be sure that everything had been attempted. I won’t bore you here with writing about how we tried Pine-sol in the traps and it did nothing to solve the problem, because I respect you enough to know that you already knew that. So I emailed the person helping me at Roadtrek to let them know that it had not worked, and to find out what the next steps would be to try to get this fixed. Not hearing back, I emailed again. This time I got a response which included advice from one of their ‘seasoned technicians’ which I would bet at this point you could probably guess. If you’re saying to yourself, water in the traps, congratulations! You could probably do well in the RV support industry! I would almost swear that somehow, as my emails cross the border into Canada, someone is stripping out all the pertinent details I’m trying to share with them because I keep getting the same suggestions back.

So here we sit on our two year anniversary of RV ownership. We’re still together, but our relationship is strained to say the least. How do you tell your significant other they have an odor problem?

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?

Part Eighteen – Do You Smell Something?

With traveling comes more bumps in the road, and unfortunately these bumps are a little embarrassing to write about, but here goes. The reality is that we use our toilet, and ever since we began using the toilet we’ve noticed a very strong waste smell. The smell seems more prominent when we are moving at faster speeds, and especially when we’re moving and have a window cracked.

When we first noticed the problem, we quickly attacked the problem with black tank additives. We also added a 360 Siphon cap to the roof vent, which is supposed to draw air from the tank with any air movement across the vent pipe. We always flush all of the tanks between trips, and are very “by the book” when it comes to flushing and sanitizing all of our tanks.

This was on my repair list when we visited the Roadtrek factory for service, but they were unable to solve the problem. As we went into the colder months we of course stopped using our plumbing, so instead of heading back to the dealership we decided to just deal with it, and asked for some advice from our friends on the internet.

To be clear I am not a plumbing expert. In fact I HATE plumbing and would never attempt any major repairs on my RV (unless pinching a few heating pipes or giving them a good smack as the manufacturer recommended counts as major repairs). These are the steps we’ve taken to isolate our stinky problem:

1 – Make sure that all waste traps have water in them.

Since our RV is so compact it is difficult to pinpoint the exact source of the problem. Some fellow RVers suggested that the smell could actually be coming from the odors crossing over from the black tank to gray tank.

2 – Keep at least a couple gallons of water in the waste tank, and keep a little water in the bowl at all times.

With only a 10 gallon black tank capacity this seems like a rule worth breaking, but no matter how much water is in the black tank the smell is still there.

3 – Treat the gray tank as well as the black tank with chemicals.

We’ve experimented with many treatments to the black tank (Happy Camper, the blue tabs filled with powder), and now also treat the gray tank. Since we are only on the road for a few days at a time there’s really no need to add any chemicals to the tanks from what I’ve read. The tank treatment solutions are really intended for larger black tanks where you don’t flush them as often.

4 – Check the threaded waste line connections.

It was very easy to remove the panel under the bathroom sink and verify that the threaded connections were snug. The trap under our kitchen sink is a a Hepvo waterless valve. This means that no water is required to be in the trap to keep the waste line sealed. After a lot of sniffing around I’m fairly certain that the odor is not coming from the kitchen side.

A peek under the sink – the white section of pipe is the waterless trap.

Is this something that I have to learn to live with since I’m driving around with a tank full of waste, or is there something wrong here? Does anyone else have this problem? What do I tell my mother who’s riding in the back when the smell creeps in? And what about the people who stop you in the parking lot of a shopping center and want a tour – should their tour include nose plugs?

We should be hitting the road for another weekend adventure, but once again the van is back at the RV dealership being repaired. This will be the third consecutive weekend it’s been at the dealership, and I still have no estimate for the repairs to be compete.

In addition to the black tank odor, we decided to have a few other items taken care of. Because of our Alde leak back in November we were forced to use a different brand of glycol not recommended by Alde or Roadtrek. The dealership is flushing out the system and replenishing it with the clear propylene glycol – or whatever they were told to put in by either Roadtrek or Alde. We made a decision to keep the current Alde boiler, even though Roadtrek offered to completely swap it out. If I was able to return to the Roadtrek factory it’s something I definitely would have done, but I don’t know who I would trust to have the knowledge or experience to pull and replace an entire Alde unit. I think it’s a better option to take my chances and hope my earlier repairs solved the leaking issue.

Something is still not right with our solar system and maintaining a charge on the batteries. I have 470 watts of solar on the roof with 8 AGM batteries. With only my refrigerator running on 12v, I lose almost 1/2 of my charging capacity if the van sits idle for a couple of weeks. I do keep it parked with plenty of sun exposure during the day. On paper I should have enough solar to run the refrigerator and keep the batteries topped off with power to spare. And this is how the solar is sold to the customer – they don’t charge a low battery, but won’t have a problem keeping them topped off.

A look from above at our 470 watts of solar.

My propane/carbon monoxide detector has decided to sound in the middle of the night. It’s done it twice in the week leading up to my service appointment while parked in my driveway. Who knows what time it activates overnight, but I never hear it until I leave for work in the morning… I’m pretty sure my neighbor now hates me.

We have made a decision that this will be our last trip to the service center for major repairs. I just don’t have the energy or desire to continue the back and forth drive to the dealership for more and more repairs. I honestly don’t know the mindset of the average RV owner. Does John Q. Public and his wife Nancy purchase an RV knowing that sure, it will take them to Florida and back and the occasional trip to visit the grandkids in Ohio, but they better be prepared to become amateur repair technicians and love looking at an empty parking space in their driveway while it’s in the shop again for a significant portion of their ownership? I suppose that’s possible, though I doubt it. I’ve seen so many people walking around these RV shows and they don’t look browbeaten by their RVs like I sometimes feel. And honestly, for the incredibly high purchase price involved for especially these Class B vans, I would hope you could visit Michigan in November and expect that the fancy heating system the sales person was so excited to show you would actually heat instead of treating you to the joyful experience of waking up in a 40 degree van in the middle of a Cabela’s parking lot.

As we look forward to traveling in the fall, we especially look forward to once again attending the Hershey RV Show in September. That is where my journey started almost 2 years ago, and where the next chapter may begin. As long as the shop finishes my current van before then.

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