Trailer Life Magazine Open Roads Forum: More detail on pre-purchase check - fridge,water heater,etc?
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 > More detail on pre-purchase check - fridge,water heater,etc?

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urbex

Glendale, AZ

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Posted: 02/08/18 03:35pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I've been browsing ads for a new-to-me truck camper. I've always bought projects in the past, for dirt cheap, knowing that they would need extensive work before being usable as I was always flush with time, and short on money, lol

This time, however, I want to buy something that's more or less ready to go. I'm still not in a financial position to be able to buy something brand new, though.

I've read through many buying guides, which all say something to effect of having the seller go through all the systems to verify functionality, but never in much detail on the checks themselves.
Obviously checking things like AC power, DC converters, water pump, AC, would be easy, but how does one handle things like the 3 way fridge, or water heater?

Would a water heater be able to produce at least warm water in a few minutes, at least enough to be able to tell it's working? Or should I request that the seller light it off several hours before I arrive to ensure it's good and hot when I look at the camper? If it's a dual mode, is there any good way of verifying both modes work without tearing it apart?

I've never owned a properly functioning RV fridge. I use a Norcold 12 volt compressor portable fridge in my camper now. I can usually feel the cooling coils getting cold inside of a few minutes on that one just to verify it's working (as opposed to an overnight pre-cool to chill the whole box)..would an absorption fridge be the same way? Would I just turn it on in AC mode for a few minutes, feel the coils inside getting cool, shut it off and let it get warm again, then repeat on 12V DC and LP modes? Or does it really need to go for hours to get cold? Same thing - should I/we be turning it on while looking at it, or the night before?

Or is this all just going to one of those cases where you pays your monies, and you takes your chances?


1990 Ford F350 CCLB 7.3 4x4
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DSteiner51

Wooster, Oh

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Posted: 02/08/18 04:13pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You should be taking some time during the,prebuy so you could turn on the,water heater and at least have warm water in 15-20 minutes. Turn that source on and turn on the other... if lp and electric... and by the time you are finishing up your prebuy the water should be hot proving that the second source is also working. Turn on the ac and if it isn’t putting out cooled air within minutes it needs working on. The frig... I’m not sure as mine runs 24/7/365 so I’ll not comment on it.

If your prebuy inspection doesn’t take long enough for testing the water heater it is too short.

This from a buyer who bought his last rig sight unseen. [emoticon]


D. Steiner
The sooner I fall behind, the more time I have to catch up.


DrewE

Vermont

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Posted: 02/08/18 04:18pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The majority of RV absorption fridges are two way, propane and 120V power (often with 12V controls for both power sources), and obviously won't run on just DC power. They do take a good length of time to cool down; I'd ask that the fridge have run for awhile before checking out the unit (overnight or at least several hours) and check that it's cold inside. Assuming the cooling unit is working and it's getting cold, verifying gas operation is pretty easy--is there a flame there--while electric might be a bit harder. The nice thing is that problems that affect only gas or electric operation are comparatively inexpensive to fix, at least when compared to a nonfunctional cooling unit.

A water heater on gas will heat the water up from ambient to full hot water temperature in maybe a half hour, fairly quickly. Then again, If there's fire heating the water--which is quite self-evident when its operating--it's basically impossible for it to not be heating the water. Electric operation could perhaps best be observed indirectly by seeing if power usage goes up when the element is turned on. I'm not sure how many truck campers would have electric elements in their water heaters, but doubtless at least a few do.

(Besides the air conditioner, don't forget about the furnace! I suppose that's a wee bit less of a concern in many parts of Arizona than it is here in Vermont.)

To a certain extent, buying a used (or new) RV does involve a little "you's pays yer monies, you's takes yer chances."





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Posted: 02/08/18 08:29pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The refer you should ask them to turn it on using electric the night before. You can tell it's running when you get there by putting your hand on the chimney...if it's hot, it's operating, if it's cold, something wrong.

Now put your hand in the freezer, should be very cool after running overnight. If it smells like ammonia in there, or if there is any yellow residue outside under the vent cover on the refer coils (really look waaaaayyyy up there as best you can - take a flashlight with you), it's a bad refer...no good, subtract $1,000 from your offer on the rig.

If it's a multi-function refer, and it has gotten cold, you can then switch the refer to gas, open the refer door, and let it warm up. The gas flame should start and run. Make sure it runs for more than 10 minutes because sometimes they shut off to soon due to mis-adjusted or bad thermocouple. (Simple inexpensive fix).

If it's a 3-way; 120 volt, gas, and 12 volt, nobody uses the 12 volt heater element because it's power hungry so don't bother with it. If the refer runs on 120 volt and gas, you're good. (Except for residential refers in rigs, they all use 12 volt for the controls too).

With the water tank, just ask them if it's 120 volt and gas. If both, when you get there, have them turn on the 120 volt element. 10 minutes later, just touch the tank or turn on a faucet. Should be warm. Then have them turn on the gas, let it run. Than test the water for hot.


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ol' yeller

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Posted: 02/09/18 11:07am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

When I sold a TT a few years ago in mid winter there were a couple of systems the buyer was unable to check. I told him that everything worked when I winterized it but I gave him a written guarantee everything worked that was for 72 hours so he could get the unit home and check everything himself. Turns out that a circuit board in the furnace failed during storage. I told him to get it fixed and send me the bill. He was so impressed he said he would pay half of the bill. Everybody was happy!


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I am NOT a mechanic although I do play one in my garage!

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