Listen to this story
LAS VEGAS – SUIET Hacks, a company dedicated to improving RV safety, announced a campaign to get the RV industry to correct what it believes to be significant safety issues with some Hymer-branded motorhomes.
Sam Carswell is leading the effort which is encouraging Roadtrek and Aktiv owners to reach out to their state attorney general with information he said the industry is ignoring.
“I believe in industry self-regulation and I want it to continue,” Carswell told RV Daily Report. “However, the RV Industry Association needs to have a backstop to enforce safety.”
SUIET Hacks has produced a trove of documents its president says proves electrical and plumbing safety problems that pertain to Roadtrek and Aktiv RVs. The units are out of compliance with National Fire Protection Association Standard 1192 pertaining to the construction of recreation vehicles.
However, prior to going into receivership, Erwin Hymer Group North America (EHGNA) refused to acknowledge the problems existed and even went so far as to threaten to take legal action against Carswell if he made the issue known publicly, he explained.
The electrical issue stems from the inverter/charger installation.
Carswell said that a grounding wire is five times too small to effectively ground the entire RV and prevent a hot skin condition.
Hot skin occurs when the sides of an RV become electrified so that when someone touches the unit, the person becomes the ground and is immediately electrocuted.
“The inverter is supposed to have a very heavy wire to direct the current into the ground,” he explained. “Because the wire is too small to handle the load, when a short circuit occurs, the wire will fuse and the whole vehicle becomes electrified.”
He said the problem is easily rectified by adding six inches of heavy gauge wire to the right place on the inverter.
That’s why Carswell is puzzled as to why the industry seems reluctant to require the simple repair.
Carswell is a retired chief engineer who worked for Zodiac Airspace. One of his responsibilities was investigation of equipment smoke and fire incidences onboard aircraft, many of which were caused by electrical problems.
Product testing organization Intertek certified the inverter was conformed to UL-458, but Carswell said he is dumbfounded over how it is in violation.
“How can an organization certify a product to be in compliance with a specific standard, when a problem is obvious to anyone inspecting the product — and violation evidence is presented citing specific chapter and line of code?”
The problem with the water heater on Hymer Aktivs is that Hymer installed a valve on a pipe that is designed to release steam or hot water if excess pressure builds in the tank.
He said consumers can better understand the purpose of the valve by looking at their home water heater. There is a pressure safety valve and pipe coming out of all water heaters that automatically opens to relieve an unsafe buildup of hot water and steam. The hot water and steam are safely released from the heater.
However, in Hymer’s case, the company installed an additional valve on the drain line. If that valve is ever closed, the hot water heater can’t relieve pressure and the device could rupture and release very hot steam, Carswell explained.
“I’m very worried right now that with Hymer in receivership, that nobody will ever take responsibility for these very dangerous situations,” said Carswell.
He estimates that more than 30% of North American Class B RVs are impacted by one or both of the situations. The Hymer Akitv is the most hazardous.
“We have prepared a parts list and labor estimate to fix the Aktiv’s hazards, and owners can have the work done by a local RV dealership,” said Carswell.
The parts to fix the electrical problem cost less than $1 and require less than 30 minutes of labor to install.
The plumbing problem can be rectified for less than $125 in parts and 1.5 hours of labor.
Carswell is coming forward with the information now so that whoever acquires the Roadtrek brand out of receivership is not surprised by the prospect of having to conduct a major recall.
“Based on what I discovered, the installations and subsequent coverup by Hymer represents alleged fraud,” he explained.
“So rather than initiate class action lawsuits against the companies responsible, we would rather have consumers submit fraud complaints to their state attorney general’s office with requests that the agencies investigate the problem.”
Carswell said he is working with elected officials in California and others states to enact legislation to make it easier for consumers to report similar problems with their RVs.
“If an RV manufacturer violated safety standards when building an RV, and the RV Industry Association (RVIA) is not enforcing those standards, but consumers can prove that a problem exists, then they should be able to report it to their state fire marshal to impose a remedy,” he explained.
Carswell said that he reported the safety violations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fire marshals, National Traffic Safety Board and RVIA, yet the existing RVs weren’t recalled and newly manufactured RVs were built with some or all the violations.
“The NHTSA accepted the manufacturer’s apparent misrepresentation regarding the danger of the plumbing issue, since no recall was ever required,” said Carswell. “And nothing was ever done to address this electrical issue.”
He said NHTSA generally prioritizes based on statistics. If a lot of people get killed by a product, the government steps in to investigate, he explained. But, until something serious happens, he said regulators don’t assign resources.
“The only way to address situations like these is to get U.S. senators and representatives to put pressure on regulatory agencies to take action before a serious accident takes place,” said Carswell.
For more information about the situation, visit sites.google.com/view/suiet-hacks-llc.
To receive evidence of the safety issues, email email@example.com.