Avan Ovation Motorhome Review

WARNING / ALERT:  Avan Ovation Motorhomes and – on the balance of probabilities – also Avan Caravans have LPG faults that existing owners and the buying public are unaware of. The matter has been immorally and unethically kept out of the public domain to protect the “Avan” brand name. I believe “Avan” has an irrefutable “duty of care” to advise all its existing RV customers of the LPG faults.

BACKGROUND: The VPIC (Victorian Plumbing Industry Commission) and EnergySafe Victoria(ESV)became aware of LPG faults when these two(2) Agencies jointly inspected an Avan Ovation Motorhome in September 2009. A VPIC Inspector then completed a follow-up inspection of the same Motorhome on 22 December 2009 prior to drawing up an official Rectification Notice.The VPIC Inspector telephoned “Avan” and advised about the inspection that day,22 December 2009.(Unfortunately,this “verbal advice” should have been in writing because “Avan” tried to use this oversight to support its appeal against “the validity of the defect notice”!!) The VPIC Inspector did not have the the official “defect notice” typed up  - No.R170036 – until 23 March 2010! He then served the said Notice on the plumber/ gasfitter director of the manufacturing company of Avan Motorhomes – Avenga Pty.Ltd. trading as Avan Campers Australia 9 Webster Way,Pakenham,Victoria 3810.

LPG Rectification Notice No.R170036: Several LPG faults/”non-compliances” were listed in this Notice,the most serious of which concerned the LPG cylinder compartment;the Truma brand hot water service(HWS) flue; the “hole through the floor” lower LPG airvent and the incorrectly installed Dometic refrigerator. (Reference to the page – “LPG Installations: Safety and Compliance” – will clarify LPG Standard compliance requirements and also clearly show what LPG faults have been “missed”!!)  Study this page and check if your Avan RV is LPG compliant.

The LPG cylinder compartment:  the compartment is NOT completely and effectively sealed because it is not constructed as per commonly recognised “best practices” in the RV Industry. The compartment door must seal against the vehicle body like the Thetford toilet cassette door and be hinged on the forward side.It should also have an airvent near the top of the door and a single specific pipe drain in its base with the end of the pipe cut at an angle with the opening facing away from the forward movement of the vehicle.(NB: the slide-out tray is NOT the bottom of the compartment.)This bottom drain pipe and the top airvent provide airflow as required across the cylinders.The VPIC also noticed that the compartment door can be left clipped up in the open position and stated that “warning notices” must be applied to both sides of the door warning that the door must be securely closed when appliances are in use to avoid the risk of leaking LPG being drawn into both the kitchen window via the exhaust fan and/or the air intake on the HWS flue etc. Existing drain holes in slide-out tray do not provide minimum 25mm as required. NB: the distance between the HWS flue – which is an ignition source – and the nearest LPG cylinder valve is non-compliant because it(the HWS flue) falls within a 500mm x 500mm square exclusion zone from that cylinder valve.

“Hole through the floor” lower airvent:  This airvent is “non-compliant” for four(4) reasons. The underfloor metal box is closer than one(1) metre to the drain openings in the LPG cylinder compartment. The wiremesh covering the metal box’s end opening is undersized and does NOT provide adequate ventilation. The airvent position is compromised by the proximity of the diesel engine exhaust located in front of it rather than behind it. And the “hole through the floor” is a serious roadworthy fault as stated by VicRoads! The floor of a vehicle must be completely and effectively sealed to prevent the risk of any exhaust fumes entering the interior of the vehicle.

Truma LPG hot water service(HWS) flue terminal.  The flue position is “non-compliant” because it it less than 500mm below an openable window and its location also contradicts Truma’s own installation instructions. This non-compliance has been present in Avan RVs from early February 2007 until late December 2010 when EnergySafe Victoria(ESV) granted “Avan” an exemption for this non-compliance.But ESV did NOT stress to “Avan” that such exemption was NOT retrospective so the Avan RVs from February 2007 until December 2010 were still affected by this serious fault!! The VPIC ordered “Avan” to provide safetyt warning stickers to be affixed to the windows above the HWS flue and worded: “This window must be closed whenever the hot water service is in operation”. These warning stickers have NOT been provided to those affected Avan RVs built between early 2007 and late 2010!! I believe “Avan” has a moral and ethical duty of care to recall these affected RVs and install a 12V alarm system to the windows above the HWS flue that sounds if the window is left open whenever the HWS LPG ignites.

Dometic Refrigerators.  These are NOT installed as per Dometic’s own installation instructions available from Dometic’s website. One obvious clue fault is the awning light positioned just above the top refrigerator airvent. This light prevents that top airvent being correctly positioned.The two refrigerator outside wall airvents are both about 50% undersized and incorrectly positioned. The bottom edge of the top airvent must be level with or higher than the top of the refrigerator.Larger airvents are required top and bottom for adequate ventilation which enables optimum refrigerator performance. The awning light must be repositioned 300+mm towards the rear.(Avan has learned by this mistake and now repositions the awning light on its larger Ovation M4 models!) There’s not enough room in the M3 models to install the slightly wider climate class T refrigerator – tropical rated to 43 degrees. Climate class ST refrigerators are completely unsuitable for Australia-wide conditions.The hot 40+ degrees often experienced across the northern areas of Australia coupled with incorrect installation and inadequate ventilation can drop performance by more than 35%.

Avan’s Appeal against validity of Defect Notice. The said plumber/gasfitter director appealed “the validity” of this Rectification Notice in VCAT,the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal(File ref:G232/2010). He based his “appeal” – NOT on the listed faults – as one would expect – which were all true and correct in every detail – BUT on two(2) simple clerical errors made in the compilation of the Notice by the VPIC Inspector. The said director was trying to have the form declared “invalid” on a technicality!He appealed “the incorrect date” and the “premises address” on the Notice!!The VPIC inspector examined the Avan Ovation M3 Motorhome on 22 December 2009. BUT he didn’t have the Notice completed and typed up until 23 March 2010. The Avan Motorhome was “the premises” where the LPG faults were noticed. But on the form the VPIC Inspector inserted the residential address of the owner where the Motorhome was garaged.Despite all “Avan’s” attempts to get the form’s legitimacy thrown out the presiding VCAT Member declared the Rectification Notice “valid” on 11 November 2010. His closing comments were very pertinent: “The LPG faults should be fixed up as soon as possible because there could well be over 400 Avan Motorhomes involved!” The VCAT Member was certainly implying that the LPG faults were definitely NOT restricted to one Avan Motorhome only.(One bad apple definitely does spoil the case!) In fact the said plumber/ gasfitter declared in April 2010 that his company builds over 200 similar Avan Motorhomes each year.SO,from early 2007 when Avan started building Motorhomes until 2014 there could be well over 1500 Avan Motorhomes with suspect LPG installations which need to be examined. Avan’s questionable behaviour in trying to unnecessarily invalidate a Defect Notice affecting about 1500 Avan RVs certainly in my view smacks of a betrayal of public trust and total unconcern for the health and safety of their existing RV customers. Conduct unbecoming comes to mind! 

CONCLUSION. Avenga Pty.Ltd.t/as Avan Campers Australia has not only “a duty of care” in my opinion but also a legal responsibility to advise all its existing Avan Motorhome and Avan Caravan owners that their RV’s LPG installation could possibly be “non-compliant’ with the relevant LPG Australian Standard current at the time of manufacture. Avan Motorhome and Avan Caravan owners should immediately contact their Avan Dealership about the LPG faults listed on the abovementioned March 2010 Defect Notice. These owners have the right to have their RVs examined for complete LPG safety if only as a precaution and for their peace of mind.

A copy of the LPG Rectification Notice R170036 dated 23 March 2010 compiled by the VPIC can be obtained from the VPIC by submitting a FOI request to:FOI Officer, Victorian Building Authority,PO Box 536 Melbourne, Vic.3001 (Tel: 1300 815 127; Fax:0396189062; website: www.vba.vic.gov.au). Cost is about $30,but free for concession/pension card holders.

In my opinion the LPG faults situation is a disgrace. For “Avan” to be aware of these LPG faults but deliberately and intentionally NOT disclose them in an attempt to prevent the facts getting out into the public domain and thus cause damage to the Avan brand is gross negligence and a betrayal of public trust.

OTHER MAJOR AVAN RV FAULTS:

(1): the diesel engine exhaust remains under the front cabin and is an ADR42/04 fail because it is NOT extended to the rear. It must be located behind any designated passenger seats and to the rear of all “unsealed openings”,ie. anything at all “not permanently sealed”. For Avan’s engine exhaust to comply it must be behind all “openable windows”. AND, because there is a large rear wall openable window the exhaust must go vertically up the rear wall to above roof level and be encased in a safety heat-shield. OR – as a $cost saving – Avan should only install fully sealed/non-openable rear wall windows or even do without them completely! (NB:The same ADR fail applies if a diesel heater is installed. Its exhaust too must be positioned at the rear, NOT up the front beside the engine exhaust!!)

(2):the unsafe position of the charger/transformer, “house battery” and a 240V power point all cramped together side by side in an underfloor void. The compartment is unsealed and not vented to the outside air! No other RV manufacturer has such a dangerous installation of these three(3) items together.Leads from a battery charger to a house battery should be a minimum 1metre long. There should be isolation switches on both the transformer/charger and the house battery leads for absolute safety. Avan’s house battery positive(+) lead is still “live” even when disconnected because the leads are connected direct to the engine battery. SO you have to remove the engine battery leads because the German charger’s instructions state the charger must be on “zero” current to change a fuse!! To change a fuse you have to remove the one-legged dinette table, get on your knees to remove the battery compartment access cover and then spread out on the floor to try to see what fuse has failed!  The fuses should be up high at eye level, say up in the overhead cupboard behind the switchboard.

(3): Avan Ovation M3 Motorhomes are assembled on Fiat’s thinnest and lightest chassis in the RV Industry. It is only 100mm (4”) thick and is too flexible, which compromises the internal structural integrity of the “caravan” built on it. A 100mm (4”) chassis frame is more suitable for your domestic 6 x 4 trailer! Fiat supplies other Motorhome manufacturers with the higher and stronger 200mm (8”) double-layered chassis which are much more suitable for Australia-wide use.

(4):NB: 240V compliance certificates for RVs are required in all States except Victoria where Avans are assembled!!?? Unbelievable! Why should an Avan Motorhome owner or potential buyer have to pay an electrician to confirm the compliance and safety of Avan RV 240V installations?NB: Avan’s two main 240V circuit breakers are installed under the wardrobe at the lowest point in the Motorhome. Circuit breakers must be placed at the HIGHEST point in the vehicle – as the majority of other manufacturers do – certainly NOT below any water supply or drainage pipes. Look at the 12V & 240V wiring on the same level with the Truma Hot Water Boiler! Doesn’t everybody know yet the danger of water near 240V electricity?

(5):Airvent in side of dinette seat exits directly to open air under vehicle and allows cold air to blow in and dust if you happen to traverse a dusty gravel road. All other Caravan and Motorhome builders install this lower airvent in the bottom of the entrance door.

(6):The TRUMA hotwater boiler is NOT installed according to TRUMA’s installation instructions, which state its exhaust flue must NOT be below an openable window and the unit itself must be easily accessible at all times! To get to the boiler for repair ,maintenance or removal you have to pull the kitchen apart!! Non-compliance with a manufacturer’s installation instructions is classified as a “fault” within the Australian LPG Standard regulations.

(7): Avan Motorhome floors sink because there are not enough supports. To fix the sinking floor of one owner’s Avan M3 Ovation the sheets of polypropylene (plastic)underfloor screwed on top of the metal chassis had to be cut through to gain access to the sub-floor area so some extra “supports” could be inserted and secured somehow! Owner was given no details as to how this work was done or what material was actually inserted! Then – to cover up the access holes in the underfloor – a patchwork quilt of polypropylene sheets were glued and screwed over the openings using over 200+ tech screws. It’s so obvious the owner’s Avan underfloor has undergone a repair attempt. The owner paid a contractor about $700 to scrape and grind the interior floor level and to seal it with paste and then cover it with a matching colour/design lino! Avan’s policy is NOT to admit to any fault, the consumer must prove it! The three(3)floor sinking areas were in the entrance /kitchen area, around/under/beside the dinette table and approaches to the toilet ensuite area. What sort of recommendation is that for Avan’s structural integrity?

8):Beware: there are still “live wires” when the main 12V control panel is switched OFF – for the refrigerator heat panel, the outside awning light, the outside retractable step if installed and the diesel heater!! Nothing at all should be able to be turned ON. Turn it OFF and everything 12V must be OFF!

ALL THE ABOVELISTED MAJOR FAULTS SHOW AN OBVIOUS LACK OF BASIC COMMON SENSE BY AVAN AND TOTAL IGNORANCE OF ALL COMPLIANCE REGULATIONS AND ALL COMMONLY RECOGNISED “BEST PRACTICES” IN THE RV INDUSTRY. EVEN APPLIANCE MANUFACTURER’S INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS ARE IGNORED BY AVAN. DESPITE ALL THIS EVIDENCE AVAN HAS THE AUDACITY TO AFFIX THE RVMA LOGO TO THEIR RVs!!

AVAN DESIGN FAULTS:

(9):Problems with the entrance door lock are never-ending. The two (2)locking mechanisms are placed at the top and bottom of the door and the handle is in the middle! To activate the locks thin rigid trip wires run from the central handle. The concertina plastic flywire door is useless and provides no security. The entrance doorway is too narrow and the plastic stairwell is slippery and dangerous. Even the floor should be covered with a non-slip material for safety like other Motorhomes are.

(10):One single 95Ah “house battery” is completely inadequate. Two(2) batteries are essential and should be provided as standard and NOT as an add-on $600 cost option. IF a diesel heater is installed a second battery is a must.

(11):Can you quickly and easily reach the fire extinguisher above the entrance steps doorway?

(12):Can you reach the microwave door above the refrigerator safely and easily to remove a hot container of liquid or food above your head so you don’t spill it ?

(13):Filling the fresh water tank is another annoying problem. The airvent hole is too narrow compared with the size of the fill hole, so airlocks occur if you fill too fast. You have to dribble the water in or remove the internal tank lid for a quicker fill. And the vehicle must be dead level! The fresh water tank cannot be removed for health and safety cleaning. The tank is very thin plastic and has not been pressure-tested and if an airlock occurs the tank swells up like a football bladder and blows the lid off!!

(14):The water pump is not easily accessible as it must be for removal, maintenance or repairs etc. And the pump is not earthed to the chassis so 12V interference occurs to the TV when the pump is used.

(15):NB: All accessories are installed BEFORE the side walls go on so access to the HWS boiler, the 2nd battery if installed, the water pump, drainage system etc. are extremely difficult if not virtually impossible.

(16):The spare wheel is underneath the vehicle and is lowered to the ground by winding down a winch located on the RHS. You then try to drag the tyre out to the RHS side of the vehicle to unscrew the nut holding the spare tyre to the winch wire. You need a 4ft long gaff rod to hook onto the spare to help you drag it out. Remounting the flat is the reverse procedure. The winch should be on the LHS/kerbside of the vehicle for total safety.

(17):The Fiat scissor jack is not really suitable for jacking up a 6 metre long Motorhomes,especially with such a long rear overhang. The jack is designed solely for Fiat’s combi-van use only where the rear end of the vehicle is close to or just behind the rear axle. Also the jack has no Australian Standard sticker on it and no safety warning as required. And Fiat’s recommended rear jack-up points are in front of the rear wheel. BUT with Avan’s add-on chassis extension the jack-up points are 2700mm (9 ft) from the rear of the vehicle! It is abnormally difficult to try to jack it up far enough off the ground to get the spare tyre out. I pity a small woman trying to jack it up. Even an old “grey nomad” male would find it very difficult.  A decent trolley jack and two(2) jack stands are essential to make the job easier and safer.The plastic rear wheel surrounds encroach across the edges of the tyres and make removal even harder!

(18):Those chrome-plated plastic mixer taps over the kitchen sink are expensive and not durable enough like metal taps which are much cheaper and can be bought at any plumbing supplies centre.

(19):The benchtops Avan installed are not solid timber.Some are filled with corrugated concertina cardboard! Solid benchtops started being installed in later models! There is no benchtop space at all, none. One RV Industry “commonly recognised rule of thumb” is 500mm benchtop space per passenger. Any suggestion to work on the sink and cooker glass tops is ridiculous and a dangerous suggestion. Not much cupboard space either because most of it in the kitchen is taken up by the HWS boiler, plumbing/waste water drainage lines, water pump etc.

(20):The mattress comprises two pieces buttoned together. It is too narrow and the inside piece has a cutout section which narrows to about 30cms, so that side is only suitable for a child!

(21): Ensuite. Absolutely no privacy if you want the window open to vent toilet smells or shower steam vapour. A 12v exhaust fan in the roof airvent is essential. The ensuite window should be a narrow rectangular type up high across the wall and the mirror under it. The mirror should be made of safety glass and also the mirror on the cupboard door.The shower drain outlet is twice as big as the drain pipe so the shower water drains too slowly.As in domestic ensuites Avan should cover this ensuite “wet area”with a water impermeable layer and even probably install a drain outlet in the floor in case of any accidental water overflows!

(22):”S traps”. There are none in the grey water drainage system so unpleasant odours waft back up from the grey water tank! And you can’t remove the in-line grease traps anyway – they’re glued in! The RV Industry might one day come up with small screw-in “S trap” fittings like in domestic under sink installations

(23):The rearlight assemblies are held in with Velcro! They must be securely screwed in. The amber sidelights are NOT correctly positioned at both rear corner extremities NOT 90mm(3 ft) in from the end.

(24): Window security. There is none. The windows can NOT be locked in the slightly “open position” to catch a summer breeze if needed! So access is quite easy for those with undesirable intentions!

(25):Poor quality workmanship by non-professional assemblers throughout compromises all the joinery/cabinetry work etc.The only benefit is $cost savings to Avan not having to pay more expensive professional tradesmen!All junction and butt joins between vertical panels are inadequately secured. Have a look behind those fawny coloured round plastic caps. These caps cover angled screws which do not go in far enough so fine gaps soon appear where the vertical panels abut the side walls. Another example is the ensuite door jamb secured with over 20 screws!!This is poor planning and design and certainly comprises structural integrity which no guarantee is provided for.

(26)Overall Summation: Avans are built to a price and it shows.Corners are cut to save $costs! They are NOT all built according to basic building code regulations or commonly recognised “best practices” in the RV Industry. Avans are a cheap example of how NOT to build a Motorhome. How Avan can justify a $130,000+ price tag beggars belief. Copying and importing ideas from Europe does NOT work in Australia. Friendly customer service is almost non-existent and spare parts delay can be over 6 months. Warranty period of only 12 months or 10,000klms is completely inadequate for the money paid out. Options are over-priced when compared to other suppliers in the market. Alert: The “defect notice” relating to LPG faults puts a cloud over the LPG compliance of all Avan Caravans and Avan Motorhomes

 

E. & O.E.

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