RV Shrink: New RV furnace failure fiasco – Factory refuses to fix

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Dear RV Shrink:
We just retired and thought we were going to spend our first winter season as official “Snowbirds.” Instead, we are “snowbound.”

We bought a brand-new motorhome with all the bells and whistles, made a winter’s worth of reservations at Florida State Parks, winterized our house in Michigan, and headed south to the Promised Land of sunshine and warm ocean breezes. We only made it to Indiana, where our motorhome was manufactured. We have several problems our dealer could never seem to fix, so we headed straight to the factory and screamed warranty.

One issue is, our furnace continually cycles on and off every couple of minutes. They kept trying to convince us this was normal and send us on our way, but my husband won’t budge. Lately, they suggested WE contact the furnace maker. I’m freezing and think we should just go, but my husband wants to stay until they fix it. It is causing friction between us. Am I being unreasonable? —Frozen in Time

Dear Frozen:
Is it just a coincidence that I am getting constant questions about RV malfunctions on brand-new units, or is this a pattern?

Here is what I think you should do immediately. Go to town and buy a snow shovel. I know that sounds weird, but when that RV tech notices that you just bought a new snow shovel, he is going to know you are planning on staying until he gets it fixed right. It might be as simple as adding another heat duct run; but whatever the cause, they should be able to diagnose and remedy it.

As the manufacturer, they should have plenty of pull with the furnace maker. Tell THEM to call. If they are unable to figure it out, I would go so far as suggesting they fly a furnace tech in to fix it. But if you are successful in convincing your husband to give up and make a run for the Florida border, get everything documented in writing. The manufacturer is hoping to reach the warranty finish line before you.

You have heard the old saying, “The buck stops here.” Your buck stopped at the salesman. It is now up to you to buck the system and get what you paid for.

I have never found starting at the bottom and working my way up to be anything but frustrating (except doing my taxes). I always find it more rewarding to start at the top and work my way down. If you cannot get satisfaction, find out who owns the company and call the CEO. You won’t get the CEO, but you will get someone way up the chain of command. At that point questions start rolling downhill until they reach your situation. Not to overwhelm you with sayings, but, “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.”

I feel your pain, but don’t let this dampen your RV spirit. “This too will pass.” There I go again! Once you get all the bugs out it won’t be so bad. Things will continue to go wrong on any RV investment, but they will, with any luck, happen one at a time and you will learn how to deal with them in a timely manner, and hopefully in a warmer location.

“Stick to your guns,” “Fight fire with fire,” and my favorite quote, that might be appropriate during your current disagreement with your husband about staying or leaving, “Never go to bed mad; stay up and fight.” —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.

##RVT927

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Ron
1 month ago

Just to add to the conversation, if the company is a public owned company like Thor or Winnebago buy stock in the company. Use that to your advantage, let the Tech know you are a stockholder and their lack of service will be be discussed at the next stock holders meeting. After nearly 7 years still have some problems but the manufacture always seems to be helpful.

Mark B
9 months ago

I bought a new 2008 motorhome with an Atwood furnace. From the factory the furnace short cycled. On/off/on/off constantly and would not heat the coach. When I brought it back to the dealer, I got the industry standard answer, “it’s operating per design.” AARRGGG!!!!! I get so frustrated when I hear that!! So I asked, “it’s not supposed to heat the motorhome?” “Our techs checked it and it’s performing as it’s supposed to.” I could see this was going nowhere so I went home and called Atwood. When I explained my situation, their response was, “ They said what??” Atwood sent a mobile repair guy (who used to work for Atwood) to my house who quickly diagnosed it as a bad limit switch and fixed it.

Maurice Valois
9 months ago

I had the same problem with a 1984 Prowler trailer, and the constant cycling fractured the heater core. I eventually figured out the problem myself. The factory ran a heat duct under the kitchen cabinetry, exiting at the end of the cabinets, where they had placed a barrel rocker chair, and the thermostat was on the wall just above the chair. Every time the heat came on, the warm air would hit the chair, rise straight up to the thermostat, which would turn the heat off. I used duct tape to shape a 3′ cardboard extension tube with an exit at a right angle into the living room, and the problem went away.

Ronl
9 months ago

$5 says these folks simply don’t know how to properly set, adjust and use their furnace. The most common cause of constant cycling on and off is not putting the fan in auto mode. It will also result on the furnace and heat pump running concurrently. Hopefully they get some better information and instructions.

Liz
9 months ago

Bwa-ha-ha-ha, ROFL! Richard, you hit all the buttons!

James Dumas
9 months ago

I’ve spent a couple of months up in Elkhart Indiana at factory service centers. Owned four RV’s. Writing a letter to the CEO will do you no good. Being nice to the technician works better. I’ve actually got to know a couple and they all want to help you, they just are overworked and underpaid and very frustrated too with the manufacture.
The question is. Is the furnace maintaining the set temperature? If not then something is wrong. If it maintaining the set temperature, then it’s good to go. An Rv does not have the insulation value that your home has, if it’s really cold, and, or if you have cold air leaking around a slide-out in will cause your furnace to work harder, turning on more frequently, cycling more often.

Tom
9 months ago

Take cover off thermostat. Should be a dial that can be adjusted to set run times. Read owners manual or search on hot to do.

TravelingMan
9 months ago

Furnace issue – Frequent cycling…

Note the position of the thermostat.

Is it located on an exterior wall? Cold penetrates the exterior wall pretty quickly and that thermostat will sense it. If this is the issue, the thermostat needs to be moved to an interior wall. Do not place it near drafts, heat sources or vents.

Is the thermostat working correctly? Our unit was just a few months old the first time I replaced it.

Are the floor ducts positioned to where it is blowing on or near the thermostat? Redirecting air flow or moving the thermostat can help.

An oddity for us was that the thermostat was located in the hallway of our 5th wheel. The hallway door is a pocket style door. The pocket was a direct return path to the basement (you have to have a return air resource). When the furnance was off, you could feel the cold air drafting back at the thermostat. Once I found out where the draft was coming from, I fixed that without affecting the return air to the furnace. You may have a leaky basement letting too much cold in.

A biggy for us was the cheap foam ducting system. It is fabricated in sheets and folded at the RV manufacturer. They use cheap aluminum tape and slap it on faster than a bullet. They don’t care if it sticks or not. So, later on you lose sufficient air flow and the furnace cycles more often. If you have metal ducting, you can likely eliminate this as a possible source. This took over a week to fix.

Then, there is the fan squirrel cage. Ours had a set screw that came loose and the fan was not turning properly. It took about 2 hours to tear the unit apart and reset that screw.

That’s just a few things it might be…

And I agree with Bill T that initially it will cycle frequently when it is first started. But after about 30 minutes to an hour, the unit hould be pretty constant. To help eliminate the initial stratification, you can use fans to circulate/mix the air faster. We have two small units.

Some other users may have experienced other remedies…Stay after the dealer. None of the above was quick or cheap.

Donald N Wright
9 months ago

RVTravel has a list of attorneys who would be happy to help the manufacturer fix the unit.

Brian S. Holmes
1 month ago

makes perfect sense to me to spend thousands of dollars for a lawyer instead of 600.00 for a new furnace and forget about it. Life`s short, good wives that keep a smile on your face are hard to find but you can butt your head against the wall if you feel like it.

Bill T.
9 months ago

It’s not uncommon for stock model RV furnaces to cycle 2 mins on one minute off, especially in colder climates. RV’s will cool down quickly once the furnace shuts off since they are not insulated very well.