Sunday, July 29, 2007

Refrigerator Problems in Espanola & Albuquerque. July 5-14, 2007

Refrigerator problems at Espanola and Albuquerque. Thursday July 5th thru Saturday July 14, 2007.

We had been camping in Bandelier National Monument and boondocking in Santa Fe NF and this morning we moved to Espanola, NM. What a surprise we had when we arrived at Cottonwood RV Park in Espanola, NM!! We arrived about 11:30am and selected site #35 at the RV Park and as soon as we got the trailer parked, I opened the door and was immediately hit in the face (or should I say nose) with the strong order of ammonia!! Since we don’t carry a bottle of ammonia cleaner in the trailer, this could only mean one thing: the coolant from our Dometic refrigerator leaked out and the fridge is now toast! For those of you are not familiar with a gas powered refrigerator (the correct term is “Absorption Refrigeration”), the coolant is ammonia. It provides the same function as Freon does in an electric refrigerator or air conditioner. One big difference is that ammonia is very toxic or fatal if you are exposed to very much of it for very long. If you have pets, don’t leave them in the trailer while you are traveling!! I wouldn’t think there is a great risk leaving your pets in the RV while parked. The plumbing (Cooling Unit) containing the ammonia in the refrigerator is much more likely to break while traveling down the road, subject to all the vibration than it would be while parked.


Bottom of Cooling Unit (the culprit!!) The gray can & tubes contain the ammonia.

Campsite at Cottonwood RV Park

We do have an extended warranty from Good Sam Club, “Continued Service Policy” (CSP) to repair things like the refrigerator, a/c, hot water heater, etc. I called CSP and they said yes the fridge is covered, but the contract will only pay for a rebuilt cooling unit to be installed. They said we could pay the difference and install a new cooling unit, or even have a new fridge installed. Yes I read in the contract when we bought the extended warranty, but figured that wouldn’t be a problem. Hmmm, on second thought, while rebuilt parts are common for automobiles, I wonder just how easy it would be to find rebuilt parts for RV components. We are going to find out.

Of course today is the day after the Fourth of July; so many people are off for a long 5 day weekend. The owner of Cottonwood RV Park, Art Martinez, suggested we call Action RV Mobil service in Santa Fe. We called them about 12:30 and got voice mail and left a message. By 3pm we still had not heard back from them. We did find a second phone number for them online and tried that. We got voice mail there too. We are thinking they took the weekend off. How dare they take time off when our refrigerator is broken!!! Smiling!

We went on the internet to the online Yellow Pages and didn’t find a lot of options for RV repair in the Santa Fe, or Espanola area. We asked Art for other places he could recommend and he suggested Travel Town RV in Santa Fe. I called them and the service manager said they don’t deal with “any” extended warranty companies. It is just too much of a hassle to work with them! I guess Travel Town RV must have plenty of business so they don’t need extra work. He did say the cost to replace the cooling unit would be cost close to the same as installing a new refrigerator.

It’s 5pm and we are still waiting for Action RV to call back. About 5:30pm we finally got a call back. They are indeed taking the weekend off. We certainly understand wanting to take time off, people work hard and are entitled to time off! Action RV said they would call us Monday morning and we would get started with the process to fix our fridge. Being a holiday weekend, we figured that we wouldn’t find anyone else to fix the fridge before Monday anyways, so we agreed.

Monday about 8:15am I called Action RV and left voice mail detailing CSP’s stipulation that they only will pay for rebuilt cooling unit, not a new one. No return phone call. I called back about 11am. They were just getting around to calling Dometic about parts & cost. They called back about 2pm & said new cooling unit from Dometic was $939, (plus shipping and installation) but they were out of stock and it would be a 2-3 week wait. However Dometic had new refrigerators in stock for $2130. No mention of rebuilt part or CSP requirements in the call, so I had to tell them to price out a rebuilt unit. They called back about 3pm and asked me for the serial number of the cooling unit assembly in refrigerator. No call back from Action RV the rest of Monday or Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning about 10am and still no call back from Action RV! Grrrr! We gave up them!

By now we had decided on getting a new refrigerator and not trying to repair old one. A new refrigerator probably doesn’t cost much more than repairing old one. Also when you look at how the absorption refrigerator is made, you wind up tearing the refrigerator apart to replace the cooling unit. What are the chances of them getting it all back together w/o more problems in the future? Better to spend a few extra hundred dollars and get a new refrigerator.

I had been checking online and Camping World has our refrigerator in their catalog for $1599, $69 shipping & $200 install, but there will be a two to three week shipping delay.

I called Camping World in Albuquerque and they said they would work w/CSP on extended warranty and the refrigerator would be $1599 plus shipping, etc, but they would need for us to bring the trailer to them for diagnosis before they could call CSP. It has been 5 full days now since the refrigerator broke! It was time to “do” something! The refrigerator at Camping World was $500 to $600 cheaper than anyone else so we are off to Albuquerque.

Wednesday afternoon we arrive at Camping World. I went in to the service desk, and the inexperienced service writer man started talking about a $120 refrigerator diagnosis. After much talking I finally got them to understand all the ammonia leaked out (the guy kept saying Freon). They finally said “Well since you could smell the ammonia there is nothing we can do except replace the refrigerator or the cooling unit. Well, duh!!!!

Finally the work order was created to install a new cooling unit for $1600 or to replace refrigerator for $2000. After calls to CSP, Camping World came back with; CSP will pay about $1200 of the $1600 to replace cooling unit, or about $1500 of the $2000 to install new refrigerator. Both, of course, less our deductible of $100. Bottom line, we will pay $650 out of our pocket and Camping World will install a new refrigerator! Not cheap, but not too bad either. Now a wait of 2-3 week for refrigerator to arrive. Wheeeeee!!! Exactly what to do is finally over with. Well, sort of. We now have to wait; live out of two coolers we bought at Wal*Mart, come back to Camping World and hope everything works out. It should, but time will tell.

Thursday morning, about 10am. Action RV finally called back and wanted to give us a price for repair which included the rebuilt cooling unit. Wow! We haven’t heard a word from them since 3pm Monday, almost three full days ago! Did they expect us to just wait around? Go figure!!

Since the refrigerator situation is on hold we are going to do a little tourist stuff.

Friday, we went to Albuquerque Old Town to do some shopping and lunch. The following is a quote from their website:

Old Town is the heart of Albuquerque's heritage. The first Spanish families settled near the banks of the Rio Grande in 1706. That’s right April of 2006 marked Albuquerque's Tricentennial! Albuquerque was a colonial farming village and a military outpost along the Camino Real between Chihuahua, Mexico and Santa Fe. The village formed in the traditional Spanish pattern of a central plaza surrounded by a church, homes and government buildings. Some of the old homes are still standing and many have been renovated into businesses.

The shops sell a variety of turquoise & silver jewelry, pottery and knickknacks (tourist junk). A couple of things Sharon found that she wanted were way more expensive than she would pay. Other things they didn’t have. Of course I was elated; we didn’t have to buy any stuff!! J. We had a decent lunch at a reasonable price at: La Placita Dining Rooms, A quaint, old hacienda in the heart of Old Town, serving up New Mexican and American fare. We selected La Placita because we ate here when we spent a night or two in Albuquerque on a camping trip when Sarita was 1 year old and enjoyed the food.

Sharon at La Placita.

Saturday we are off to a little higher & hopefully cooler country, about 6500’ to 7500’ around Grants, NM for 2 or 3 weeks until the refrigerator comes in. Albuquerque is about 5700’.

While we have been here in Albuquerque we have been staying at Enchanted Trails RV Park. The park is clean, neat and quiet even though you are not far from IH40. The owner and office attendants are very nice. No grass, all hard packed sand for roads and parking sites. If you plan on staying at Enchanted Trails more than overnight, stop at the entrance and walk to rows “B” & “E” and see if any sites are open. Both these rows are close to the entrance. These rows have some sites with trees which give some shade. Also the sites have all the RV pointing in the same direction. This gives you a little more space between sites. All the other rows have side-by-side hookups. This means every other RV parks pointing in the opposite direction and the street side of your RV is right up close to the street side of the other RV. Also most of the other rows don’t have any trees. The first two days are cheap if you are a Camping World, Presidents Club member, $13 a day. After that, 20% off the regular $26 fee.

Campsite at Enchanted Trails RV Park.

That’s it for now. We are off to Grants, New Mexico tomorrow.

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