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Propane Furnace Exhaust Fumes Inside New Coach


Paul James

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I’ve been looking to buy a 2015 Winniebago Vista 36Y. I live in Northern NJ and couldn’t find one locally. I located one at Ray Wakley’s RV Center in North East, PA, some 6 hours away, and liked the unit very much when I saw it. While walking through it, I asked the salesman to turn on the furnace, and when he did, the coach filled with smoke, not so you couldn’t see, but enough that we had to turn on the fan and open the windows.

 

The salesman immediately called their top service guy in, he didn’t think it was a big deal, and said new coaches often had coating that had to “burn” off, and as part of their setup, they run all appliances for 6 to 8 hours. It wouldn’t be a problem and they would fix it.

 

The salesman offered that the rig had been on the lot for over a year, and maybe an insect had nest in the exhaust. It’s a 2015 but the MH is new.

 

Do these explanations sound logical? When he first turned the furnace on, I went outside to feel the exhaust, to see if was getting hot and it was, and the exhaust felt forceful. So I’m not so sure about the insect nest theory. As to coatings needing to be burned off, has anyone ever heard of this. Is this something I should be concerned about? Should unburned coatings be filling the inside of the coach?

 

The generator was also running really rough, it’s an Onan 5500. I’m figuring stale gas, but could the carb be gummed up after a year of not running much and I’m sure no Stabil added

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I like everything else about the rig, the price is right, and I had a really hard time finding a 2015 close by. I put a deposit down, and the dealer is assuring me all will be made right. But I certainly don’t want to be in a coach with propane fumes and would like some advice as how to proceed.

 

Thanks.. Paul

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the coach filled with smoke, not so you couldn’t see, but enough that we had to turn on the fan and open the windows.

 

The salesman offered that the rig had been on the lot for over a year, and maybe an insect had nest in the exhaust.

 

Do these explanations sound logical?

 

I’m figuring stale gas, but could the carb be gummed up after a year of not running much and I’m sure no Stabil added

 

Those are both logical explainations, however, if you were getting a good exhaust draft then I might discount bug nests. SOME smoking off of new appliances is normal, but I might be a little suspect if the rig has been on the lot for a year and no one has yet bothered to do the initial 'burn off' yet. It 'should' be enough to let them burn for a couple of hours with the rig well ventilated. If the smoke has not abated then there may be other issues at play.

 

One being that there may be loose building materials (trimmings, insulation, etc) that may be igniting. I would certainly give the internals a look see before firing it up for any length of time.

 

Like Ronbo said... make sure the problem is resolved before signing anything. If it's anything but routine burn off then it should be addressed by the dealer and should be of no concern to you.

 

As far as a gasoline genny... it's entirely possible that there may be some varnishing (gumming) if the same gas has been sitting inside for a year with no additive. I would want the oil and fuel drained... refilled... and then run it from there. If it doesn't even out after reaching temp then a carb job might be required. Ideally, the dealer would have drained the carb after each use, but it's not a given.

 

Personally, I wouldn't have put anything down. I wouldn't sign or pay for anything until all issues have been resolved. It's the only leverage you have and it's not like they wouldn't order in another unit for you in the event that one sold. Any dealer that's not willing to rectify issues without cash in hand is one I would walk away from. Then again... I would be suspect of a dealer that is showing rigs to potential buyers that hasn't gone through a thorough pre purchase inspection. The... with a cash deposit... "we'll fix anything you can find wrong with it" approach doesn't work for me. JMO

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It is normal for a furnace to have an odor on initial start-up of a new unit and it is also normal for one to have an odor on the first 2 or 3 starts after sitting unused for the summer months. It goes away quickly.

 

You do intend to do a THOROUGH PDI don't you?!

 

Don't give them another penny until you do the PDI and are happy that the entire RV is perfect and all will be good.

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I put a deposit down, and the dealer is assuring me all will be made right.

 

I do hope that this was put in writing when you gave them the deposit with specific things listed (generator, furnace, etc.).

 

When you do the walk-through, make sure they run every single appliance...then plan to stay in the area for awhile while you live in it and try out everything yourself. You don't want to find a problem when you're six hours away from the dealer!

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The salesman immediately called their top service guy in, he didn’t think it was a big deal, and said new coaches often had coating that had to “burn” off, and as part of their setup, they run all appliances for 6 to 8 hours. It wouldn’t be a problem and they would fix it.

That is not only believable, but highly probable. All new furnaces will do that, even in a stick house if never used before. If you are concerned, have them leave it run for several hours and then once the RV has aired out, test it again. And just as Yarome has said, each season you will get a little bit of that odor again if the furnace sits unused for the entire summer. It does get to be less, but the smell is very normal and it will happen several times to lessor degrees each one. What you demonstrated was that the sales person really doesn't know much about RVs.

 

The generator was also running really rough, it’s an Onan 5500. I’m figuring stale gas, but could the carb be gummed up after a year of not running much and I’m sure no Stabil added

This is the one that I'd want taken care of before I took possession and I'd require be written into the contract if there were any doubts.

 

 

Hi- I'm not technical, and haven't bought my fifth wheel yet, but I smell a rat here with your story.................................

 

I'd say skip the "deal" and get another one...

Since your trailer probably won't have a generator, I'll only address the furnace issue. If you buy a new RV you will experience the same thing as Paul. I have had that same thing with all three of the new RVs that we have owned. It usually takes less than an hour to dissipate and then gets less each time that you start it from then on. If you ever buy a new house you will have that same experience with the forced air furnace, but it is less intense since an RV has such a small volume of air inside to dissipate the odors as compared to a stick house.

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I smell a rat here with your story. I sense a dealer who wants you to buy it, and will say anything to get you to do that.

 

I would trust my gut, and order a new one.

 

I wonder if you know someone mechanical who can give you a second opinion, and take a look at it.

 

I'd say skip the "deal" and get another one...

 

I don't know that I smell a rat.. stuff like that is really very common and easily remedied. Ordering a new rig will, undoubtedly, come with a list of problems all it's own. The red flag goes up when they do the "you have to pay to play" game. I have no issue with allowing a dealer a second chance to make things right.. new rigs generally 'do' have issues to one degree or another. It just the nature of the beast, and ultimately, the buyers responsibility to ensure the product they are purchasing is up to their standards. (Taking along a 'second opinion' is always a good idea.)

 

A dealer requiring some type of deposit or intent to buy letter or such prior to affecting repairs and scheduling another walk though is the one I would be tempted to walk away from. For many dealers that's just SOP, but reputable dealers will generally waive all of that if asked... especially if they feel it might jeopardize the sale. It's also, generally, not a worry that someone will come in later today and 'steal' it out from under you.. despite what any dealer might say to the contrary. Don't fall into that ol trap.

 

The ones that just won't budge... charge an additional fee for a PDI... try to charge transportation costs separately... treat standard options (LP tanks, batteries, spare tire, etc) as add-on items... those generally fall to the bottom of my list from the get go.

 

If repairs are required before purchasing, you might also want to get the all inclusive quote and a "good until" date signed by the manager. That way you can avoid the, "he didn't have the authority to offer that price" game when you go back all excited and with a check in your hand.

 

Basically... just don't check your common sense at the curb. ;)

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Stay on their property for maybe two nights to be sure everything checks out before leaving. Because once you leave, you will then be on THEIR service appointment calendar. Waiting and more waiting. If they don't agree, don't walk but run from that stealership. At times you must be forceful and aggressive.

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@ Kirk/Yarome et all.. It wasn't a "smell", there was smoke inside the RV, quite visible at around 3 feet off the floor. I have hot water baseboard heat in my house, and I know the smell of dust when it's first turned on, it was't that. Very visible smoke, in the center area of the inside. So I'm concerned it could find it's way inside, even if some residue is burning off the heater.

 

I gave the dealer a $1000. deposit, signed a contract and did the price negotiation with the owner. The problems with the furnace, generator and a few other small item are on the contract as "to be fixed". I don't want to be naive, but I have heard from many people that the dealer, Ray Wakley, is very honest and straightforward.

 

I would have walked away from the unit, but I'm pressed for time, I've been forced out of 2 houses due to mold/chemical sensitivity. When I turn the heat on in my current house, the stack effect brings allergens up from the basement and I have breathing issues. So I've been leaving the heat off and trying to find an RV to put in the driveway to sleep in, while i get the house ready to sell. I just moved in this place 3 months ago and I having to leave. It's going to be in the 20s tonight here in New Jersey, I'll have no choice but to turn the heat on.

 

The dealership owner has encouraged me to stay on the lot overnight after I do the walk through, she said I can run all the systems, and anything that's not to my satisfaction would be addressed the next day.

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It wasn't a "smell", there was smoke inside the RV, quite visible at around 3 feet off the floor.

 

Very visible smoke, in the center area of the inside. So I'm concerned it could find it's way inside, even if some residue is burning off the heater.

 

 

Really? If I see smoke in the fifth wheel I want to buy, it's no big deal?? Sorry, I disagree

 

Yes. Smoke... it really is common (all of them do during first use) and shouldn't be a source of alarm unless it persists. Ideally, the burners and such would be burned off at the mfg's or once it arrives at a dealership during the sales prep, but that doesn't always happen. They are usually pretty good about running the stove top, but furnaces, ovens, water heaters are often a different matter. All will produce odd smells and some... smoke when they are new or have been sitting for any length of time.

 

They are nothing compared to a new outdoor barbecue though.. the heat resistant paint is curing and smoking.. the oils are billowing smoke while the oil is burning off the burners and such. Now THAT is stinky!

 

Hopefully your dealer would have already dealt with that on a new rig, aired out all the formaldehyde smells, flushed and sanitized your water systems, topped off a fresh set of batteries (you really don't want old batteries that have been sitting around for a year), full LP tanks, and a bevy of other items that should be taken care of 'before' you take possession. Buying new would also be the time to negotiate a deal on upgraded tires. Also, don't be afraid to refuse an item for credit if it doesn't meet your needs. Ie., If all they have are cruddy hybrid or starter batteries then ask for a credit and supply your own during pick-up.

 

That's getting off topic (sorry), but don't let a little smoke from a new furnace or oven scare you off if all other aspects of the deal meet your approval.

 

Paul James, you didn't do anything wrong, and as long as you are happy with your purchase that's really all that matters. I know a lot more folks that have put down a deposit on a rig, and been happy with their purchase, than ones that weren't and had to fight to get their deposit back. Personally, I don't pay a nickel until both parties are ready to complete the deal lock stock n' barrel. It's certainly not the only way to do business though... ;)

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Paul James, you didn't do anything wrong, and as long as you are happy with your purchase that's really all that matters. I know a lot more folks that have put down a deposit on a rig, and been happy with their purchase, than ones that weren't and had to fight to get their deposit back. Personally, I don't pay a nickel until both parties are ready to complete the deal lock stock n' barrel. It's certainly not the only way to do business though... ;)

Sound advice. I highly doubt that there is a problem but no question that you do need to get things checked out just to be sure and even if there is no problem you still need the peace of mind from letting them go over this and any other question you may have.

 

I gave the dealer a $1000. deposit, signed a contract and did the price negotiation with the owner. The problems with the furnace, generator and a few other small item are on the contract as "to be fixed". I don't want to be naive, but I have heard from many people that the dealer, Ray Wakley, is very honest and straightforward.

There is no reason at all the think that they are trying to cheat you at this point. Most dealers are just businessmen, like any other. Customer satisfaction is as important to RV dealers as it is to car dealers or store owners. If your concerns were written into the contract then most likely they will be taken care of as requested. Because of your respiratory sensitivity, I do think that you should ask them to keep the furnace running for a day or two just to do what many call "burning in" which is actually just keeping things hot for long enough that any oils or coatings left from the manufacturing process are all burned away as that always happens with a furnace especially. It actually happens with other appliances that get hot as well, but the water heater and refrigerator have all of those parts that get hot vented to the outside and the heat source is smaller so you don't notice it nearly as much. Should you ever in the future need to have a furnace replaced, you will most likely have this happen again.

 

Since neither Yarome nor I were there to observe, it isn't possible for us to know for certain that your furnace has no problem, but the odds are that it doesn't but is doing a normal first time heating cycle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting them to double check and a good service department will not object to doing so. I would also encourage you to check both items again before you finalize the deal. If you happen to have a friend who is experienced with RVs, it sure would harm noting to get them to go with you just to double check things. It is just as important that you are comfortable with the way that things work as it is that they work as they should. It is very difficult to be "too safe" or too comfortable.

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Since the furnace burner exhaust to the OUTSIDE, there should be NO, REPEAT NO, way for any fumes from the combustion to be inside the rig. The inside air is heated by a heat exchanger and if there is smoke it means that there are cracks in heat exchanger and the rig should not be used. It isn't the smoke that is the problem it is the CO that is a by product from the combustion of the propane and air in the burner. Same holds true for the burners for water heat and refrigerator - all exhaust to the OUTSIDE and should never be in the coach.

 

Can't believe all of the people who think the exhaust from a furnace is ok if it enters the rig. Boggles the mind.

 

Barb

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Can't believe all of the people who think the exhaust from a furnace is ok if it enters the rig. Boggles the mind.

 

It isn't the exhaust or gases from combustion that we're talking about when seeing smoke inside the coach with a new furnace. It is the oils and other coatings/fluids 'burning off' of the furnace surfaces that were applied during the manufacturing process. Ie., the exterior and interior of the heat exchanger might have a light coating of oil or a little grease 'over run'. As the internal temperature of the exchanger rises, the oil on the exterior surface may smoke and enter the main cabin. I'm not saying the OP doesn't have a problem, but it's most 'likely' just normal burn off and there is no need for concern unless the 'smoking' persists.

 

Of course.. it's never a bad idea to crack it open and have a look to ensure there aren't any stray building materials present if the smoke seems persistent or has the scent of wood or burning plastic, etc.

 

Like Kirk said... there is no such thing as being too cautious. There is also no such thing as a stupid question. The OP should keep getting things checked/rechecked and ask as many questions as necessary to feel completely comfortable with the safe operation of all of his/her on board systems.

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Thanks Barb, you beat me to it.

 

Do this before you sleep in it. Make sure the CO alarm is working properly and see if it alarms after the furnace cycles with no vents or windows open. While the smoke may or may not be present, no matter what be sure that the furnace heat exchanger is not cracked or otherwise compromised from new. If it is excessive burnoff there should be no CO detected once no smoke is present.

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It isn't the exhaust or gases from combustion that we're talking about when seeing smoke inside the coach with a new furnace. It is the oils and other coatings/fluids 'burning off' of the furnace surfaces that were applied during the manufacturing process. Ie., the exterior and interior of the heat exchanger might have a light coating of oil or a little grease 'over run'. As the internal temperature of the exchanger rises, the oil on the exterior surface may smoke and enter the main cabin. I'm not

Neither of us said that there it was OK to have exhaust coming in nor did we advise him not to have a CO detector as informed RV folks know that he does since they are required to be in his RV that also has a generator set. I stand by what we both have advised.

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Right, exhaust gas and burn-off are two different things. If the smoke was from exhaust, I have a problem, burn-off probably not.

 

To give you an example, last winter I could not turn on the forced hot air system in my home, I couldn't breathe that air, and was forced to go through the whole winter using space heaters. I sectioned off more than half the house with plastic and heated it with two oil filled space heaters, the kind that look like little radiators. Those heaters when first turned on can reek, there is a coating on the metal fins that must be burned off. The manufacturer of the unit recommends putting the heater in an outside space for 12 hours on high before using it inside. Well reek they did, and I had to take them out of the attached garage on to the porch and run them for 24 hours before the smell dissipated,and they still smelled a little for a few days before the smell went away completely.

 

I went through the whole winter heating about 800 sq. feet and 10 foot ceilings with those radiators. They saved me, but no way I could have had them on in the house when they came out of the box.

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Hi Barbara.. I don't think anyone is suggesting I blindly put my trust in the dealer. I would say those suggesting that this may very well be normal break-in, are saying that I need to be shown to my own satisfaction what the cause of the smoke it. And that if it doesn't go away, it's surely a problem.

 

I know on the surface, it's almost as if one would say that common sense would tell you, if you turn the furnace on and the MH fills with smoke, it's not a MH you want to buy. My common sense does tell me that, and it also tells me if I already have breathing issues, does it make any sense to buy into a potential problem.

 

But that's why I'm asking the question here, of people who know more about this than I do. I'll have to take the advice I'm getting, weigh it, and decide whether I think it makes sense to go forward with this purchase.

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That's just what I'm thinking Pat. It took me quite a while to first decide what I wanted, and then find it. When I did, and in my price range, I was reluctant to walk away from it. My instinct told me that their explanation was the truth, but I wanted to get opinions from people who know about these things.

 

I've shopped around, and It has certainly not been my experience that all salesman and dealerships are trying to put one over on me. There have been some fast talkers for sure, but lots of people who were trying to make a living selling RVs. So painting all sales people and dealers with a broad brush I find unfair.

 

When I negotiated the price of the coach, the salesman turned the dealing over to a woman who is one of the owners of Ray Wakley's. With a minor amount of friendly back and forth, we agreed on a price. They added $120 documentation fee, I think that's what he said it was for, but nothing more. No delivery or freight charge, no setup or PDI fee, no trying to shove an extended warranty down my throat. Full tank of gas and propane and encouraged to spend the night and stay in the rig to see that things are working to my satisfaction; and a promise to address all my current concerns. So I have my concerns, but I think I feel better than if I had walked away.

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Did I understand correctly that this is not one that is on consignment? If it is on consignment that could throw in an additional wrinkle to consider as to who is responsible for what in the event there is a problem. Just a thought to help consider things from all angles.

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Not on consignment Jim, a new 2015 owned by the dealer. So the dealer is responsible, but 6 hours away. I have a Winniebago/Itasca dealership (Colonial Winniebago) an hour and a half south of me, but I haven't asked the question if they're likely to be willing to do warranty work. I have a friend who bought a new Navion this year there and has high regard for them.

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Since the furnace burner exhaust to the OUTSIDE, there should be NO, REPEAT NO, way for any fumes from the combustion to be inside the rig. The inside air is heated by a heat exchanger and if there is smoke it means that there are cracks in heat exchanger and the rig should not be used. It isn't the smoke that is the problem it is the CO that is a by product from the combustion of the propane and air in the burner. Same holds true for the burners for water heat and refrigerator - all exhaust to the OUTSIDE and should never be in the coach.

 

Can't believe all of the people who think the exhaust from a furnace is ok if it enters the rig. Boggles the mind.

 

Barb

I have to agree with Kirk and Yarome on this one. I have been installing new furnaces for 45 years and this is quite common. Its not exhaust gas it is oils and dust and manufacturing residues that are burning off of the heat exchanger. This IS common and will lessen fairly quickly.

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