Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another Trip to Dealer Service

We have spent more time at the dealer service center in the past year than we would like to have spent. This started with the second day of ownership and has continued along with something new discovered that has to be adjusted, fixed, or replaced on almost every trip we have taken. I am not saying that the Roadtrek is not good - and I have been told that with every new RV one needs to expect to get the "kinks" out. I just never expected so many surprises.

Well, as I had written in my tales of our recent trip to Maryland, we discovered that when the rear (interior) fresh water tank emptied and the front (exterior) fresh water tank had to take over, the water pump started sucking air. This was discovered following a flush of the toilet which resulted in little water and the sound of the water pump starting with a low hum and not shutting off until we turned on the sink and then there would be a rush of air, a little water, a lot of spurts, and then the water pump would come on strong and the water would flow again as it should. Had this fixed the problem for the rest of the trip, that would have been fine, but the same thing would happen if the water was not used for any amount of time down to twenty minutes. Then the same thing would happen all over again.

I ask a lot of questions on the Roadtrek and RV forums when something is wrong, to learn what is happening and what to do about it. (I highly recommend the Roadtrek forum on Yahoo Groups.) I asked there about this problem and several came back saying that they had experienced the same thing - and the explanation was that there is an air leak somewhere on the suction side of the water pump - the side that pulls water out of the fresh water tanks - and that because the rear water tank is above the level of the water pump and the front water tank, the force of gravity is enough to keep the water flowing past the air, but once the front tank which is below the floor has to supply the pump, the pump sucks air from the leak. Several suggested that the problem may be coming from the anti-freeze winterizing kit that was installed by dealer service when we winterized last Fall - and since this was the first trip since that was installed, it made sense to me. It was said to me that these kits are notorious for having leaks, and that this is where we should start to find the problem.

When we had dealer service show us how to winterize it was suggested to us that we buy this kit - I spoke about it in the article on winterizing - and they would install it for us. I can do a lot of things, but I do not like to do plumbing. I was glad to have them install it - as simple as it is to install - and I knew that if anything was wrong with it, I would not be the one to blame when it had to be corrected. Wise.

When we got back from the Maryland trip, I called dealer service and told them about what was wrong. They suggested that I try several things to fix the problem myself - and I tried all of the suggestions but the problem remained. The earliest appointment that they could give me was June - and that was weeks away - with a trip for Memorial Day planned in-between. As you already know, we made due with just the one, rear tank for water on that trip. But, of course, when something is wrong I just cannot let it sit so in the time waiting to return to dealer service for them to fix this, I went out and tried a variety of things.

One idea that I had was to wrap the intake and outflow of the anti-freeze valve with rubber pipe wrap - which will stop leaks. The space to access the pipes in my Roadtrek is cramped and difficult to reach into. This wrap requires that it be pull tightly around the pipe so that it will grip onto itself. I tried several times to do this - and it would just fall off. I could not get to the spot I needed to with two working hands. I gave up on that. While I was under there I discovered that before the water pump there is a filter to screen filter the water coming into the pump. There is a plastic dome on the filter that screws off. It was a bit loose. I tightened it and said - I found the leak! No, I hadn't. Same problem. At one point, about four days before we were to go to service, I was poking around again and the suddenly the water pump would not come on at all. Oh boy! After a little panic I went tapping and poking, and suddenly it came on full. We still had the same problem but at least the water pump was working. Did I mention that I don't like to do plumbing? (Funny - I can do most any electrical wiring - I know what to do and how to do it and I know how to keep the connections safe and when the switch is clicked it either works or not - and if not, I know how to trace back what is wrong. With plumbing, I can get all of the pipes together and make sure all is secure - and when I turn on the water there will be drip, drip, drip somewhere.)

Dealer service is two states away. The drive is three hours one way (on a good traffic day - a rare occurrence these days), about $40 in tolls and then there is the gas at almost $4 a gallon. (Gas prices are dropping everywhere - but you would not know that in NYS). We set out so that we would avoid the bulk of rush hour traffic towards New York City from Long Island, but every road off Long Island is under construction - at the same time - and what should take about 45 minutes to at most an hour to get to the New Jersey border took two hours. We always tell dealer service that we will be there as close as we can to 1:00 pm. We do not stop on the trip there and it is rare if we get there earlier.

On the trip down, I was apprehensive. You know when something is wrong with your car and you take it to be fixed and when the mechanic looks at the car, the problem or the noise is not there. I had been testing the water in the RV all week - and all week the problem was still there. I just had a feeling that when I got there, it would be working. I was also concerned - and this is just me - that they would do whatever they would do and not wait the 20 minutes time for the problem to reoccur and we would be back there again to fix this. We pulled into the driveway of the service center and I braced myself. Meryl moved the bed cushions that cover the cabinet that has the plumbing and the water pump inside so that the service technician could work. We went inside to the extremely nice lady that makes the appointments and works with us over the phone whenever we call. She deserves an award for Employee of the Year - year after year. We got a big hello and she told us that the technicians were just finishing lunch and if we could waste about twenty minutes, the Roadtrek Specialist would come out to fix our Roadtrek. I had known that this appointment was made specifically for the Roadtrek Service Specialist to be able to give us full attention. We had no problem with wasting time and we headed across the very large road to the RV supply store at the dealer to look around at all of the toys and gadgets for RVs that we only get to see up close on these trips. Twenty minutes went quickly and as we were heading back over, we got a call that they were ready for us.

We met the Roadtrek Specialist (who I am certain we have met before) and told him the problem. He was skeptical at first as to my reasoning about what may be wrong, but he was patient and went inside the Roadtrek with us to turn valves and see that as I had explained, I had all of the water valves in the correct positions. He then turned on the faucet and a burst of air came out - and no water - and then there were the spurts and more air and then the water came out - just as I described. Thank goodness - he saw the problem for himself. He started looking and tracing the pipes and the joints. The anti-freeze valve that they had put in (he was not the tech who put it in) was there and I showed him the exposed pipe threads that had concerned me as the source of the leak. He removed the whole valve and looked closely at it. He connected it back to the pipes and tightened it down as far as it can be tightened - the same threads were still exposed. He looked some more and then found that the pipe that connected into that valve was bent at an odd shape and he found a kink in that pipe.

Let me take a moment to explain Roadtrek plumbing. Roadtrek uses what is called PEX plumbing. This is something recent and can be found at most of the home center stores. PEX plumbing uses plastic flexible, but reinforced pipe tubing instead of rigid pipes for much of its plumbing. This pipe is connected in one of two ways - removable compression fittings or metal pressure bands that seal around the pipe to the fitting at the connections. These metal bands must be cut off and can only be applied with an expensive tool (also sold at home stores).

He was sure that because this pipe was bent at an odd angle and it was kinked, that air was collecting at the kink - and causing our problem. To fix this he had to cut the pipe, remove a section of it, and install a new fitting. It seems that when the anti-freeze kit was installed that valve took up room in the closely designed fit of the pipes. The extra length then caused the pipe behind - the one to the front water tank - to bend and kink. He looked at the layout and decided that things would fit much better if it was laid out differently. He took the water filter that I mentioned earlier and moved it from a vertical position to a horizontal position against the floor. (I questioned its function in this position - and he said that they have found that it will actually work much better in this position.) He changed some screw in elbow fittings around and moved the position of the anti-freeze valve and he installed a new straight screw on fitting from the pipe that was bent instead of the elbow fitting that was there from Roadtrek. He got it all back together again and turned on the sink - and it worked! BUT - it always works at first. He said to me - before I could say to him - now we wait and see.

We went off to have lunch - a walk down the road and across another large road - this one four lanes. We were gone for half an hour. More than enough time to see if it worked. When we got back, I must confess, that we went into the Roadtrek without him and flushed the toilet - the water pump came on loud immediately - something it had not done since last December - and as soon as the flush valve was released... silence. Just as it should be. We went inside, and he came out and tested everything. He rechecked all of the joints and we were done. The actual repair took just about an hour! By 3 o'clock we were done. It was early enough to travel down to Lancaster - despite the extra gas and have a nice dinner.

Now, don't think that I did not test this several times that night to make sure it worked. We actually were prepared to stay the night and come back the next morning to have it attended to again - if there was still a problem. While this would have been a big problem for us as we had errands that needed to be done that next day, that could not really be done any other - we were not leaving Pennsylvania without this fixed. But no need - it worked. And it worked the next day when I checked it again at home!

What was great was that we were right there inside the Roadtrek with the service tech the whole time of the repair. We got to talk a lot to him about the Roadtrek and not only about this problem. This turned out to be a great opportunity and we watched as he worked. I am not sure why but when we left, I felt a great pressure come off my shoulders and I felt good. If we have to make the trip to dealer service this was one of the good trips.

We had another problem that we brought with us that we spoke with them about - and it turned out that it was nothing - and that I had already done myself what was required to take care of it. I will talk about that in a future article.


  1. I live about 1 1/2 hours from that dealer and it usually takes most of the day to go, have the work done, and return home. I have never had a problem with their service and have great confidence in their ability to fine the problem.

    Thanks for your blog, we read it all the time, it is well written and very clear.


    1. I agree - one of the best things about this dealer is how good and responsive their service department is!

  2. .

    In the future , I would only accept service appts with the RT expert tech .

    I am looking at an Airstream Interstate and the dealer / techs are an hour away .

    Thank you for the blog , as I am learning a lot about B's .