Propane Certification Not as Easy as You Think
With warmer weather on the horizon and a couple of RV park reservations already made, it’s time to get back to the Van Helen Vanventure blog and update our readers on what we have been up to during the off season.
If folks recall, despite our valiant efforts, we were unable to get Van Helen in for propane certification last summer. The pandemic has led to everything and anything camping, and RV being booked, sold out, or unavailable and this has been going on for almost year now. This meant we were not able to get Van Helen in for propane inspection until the end of October. Unfortunately, after my birthday celebration in Tofino; it would have been nice to have had the furnace working for that vanventure!
Everything about getting the propane certified was beyond frustrating. It is a requirement to have your propane system certified in British Columbia (BC), and technically filling stations should not fill your tank if you do not have a current inspection decal, although this had not presented a problem for us. We were more concerned about a potential propane leak and our own safety. Van Helen is circa 1989 – we had no idea when the system was last inspected. We also had not been able to get the furnace or the hot water tank to work and were having problems with the refrigerator starter. So there were plenty of reasons to get the old girl in and inspected.
The fact that we purchased the van in July but could not find anyone to certify the propane until almost November is insane! We had to have the van pass a BC Road Safety inspection in order for us to get BC insurance, but surprisingly the propane system was NOT part of the road safety inspection nor did the inspection facility offer the service. This led to us calling all over town to find someplace that could do the inspection and certify the propane. There are not that many that offer the service, and the few that do were booked months in advance. In September we were finally able to book an appointment with Meridian RV in Port Coquitlam, BC for an end of October service date.
When we brought the van in we explained that we wanted the propane system checked, serviced as needed, and certified, as well as all the propane appliances checked and serviced to ensure the were all working. They said they would be able to complete the work in "a couple of days." After we had not heard from them for a couple of days, my husband called to find out where they were at. They said that their guys were still checking it out and that they would get a quote to us later that day. The quote, however, arrived the next day, almost a week after we brought the van in.
I admit we suffered a bit of sticker shock when we saw the quote: $3,100 all in - $1,600 in labour and $1,000 in parts plus taxes. I really hate it when labour costs so much more than materials because we have a terrible track record with shoddy workmanship. My husband and I became DIYers out of frustration from paying top dollar for “professionals” only for us to have to call the worker back or fix the work after ourselves. But this was something we could not do ourselves, so we had no choice but pay the labour.
The propane work was broken down into multiple jobs starting with a general check of the propane and appliances for which we were charged $160! I admit it seems odd to me that this is a separate charge when paying for work to be done. If we were not having the work completed, I understand charging for the check, but when you bring a vehicle in for servicing, determining the scope of work and providing a quote should be built into the service charge. But I digress. The breakdown of the work was as follows (rounded to the nearest dollar):
Propane regulator replacement: $200.
Thermostat replacement: $122.
Furnace service, clean and RE&I: $280
Service Fridge including checking operation in all three modes (LP, 12V, 1110V): $164
Replace hot water tank and service system (the system had been disconnected due to a leaking tank): $1,435
Our 12V battery system had also stopped working. It turns out the switch was faulty, but it was also installed in the dash. Safety standards dictated this switch needed to be located closer to the battery, so they replaced the switch and moved its location. Total cost: $395 - $275 simply to diagnose the problem, something I am sure my husband could have done in a couple of hours at most!
We were not anticipating a $3,100 bill, so we decided to forgo the hot water tank repairs. This job represented almost half the charges. I can live without hot water as long as I have propane to boil water as needed. However, we were charged to “disconnect” the hot water tank, which again I found strange because the quote we were provided indicated they found the hot water tank disconnected. But still,: $1,500 was a little easier to swallow than $3,100.
Our experience with hiring people to do work for us remained consistent. The service was okay, but hardly A+. We had to chase them down to get the quote, and again to get the work completed. A couple of days turned into a couple of weeks. A big thing on my checklist when bringing the van in was making sure the fridge worked in LP mode. We had only been able to start it twice in this mode. The starter button seems to be the problem. But despite the final invoice stating they had checked that all appliances were operational, we still could not start the fridge in propane mode after the repairs. Unfortunately, we did not discover this immediately, and my husband is a bit of procrastinator, so still has not followed up with Meridian about this. I think too much time has passed now to claim this was missed work, but I still think he should call and follow up. We need the fridge to work on the propane setting if we want to camp off grid.
Something else the folks at Meridian shared with us is that they think our tires are shot. This was a surprise since as previously mentioned we had to have Van Helen pass a rigorous road safety inspection for us to insure her in BC. I would think that the condition of tires would be a huge part of a vehicle’s safety. Our tires look great. They are good quality Michelin with almost new tread.
Where tires are concerned, however, looks can be deceiving. When tires sit around a long time without movement, they dry out and become brittle. This leads to the rubber cracking, which of course can lead to the tire blowing out. This, apparently, is the condition of our tires. We have already driven close to 1,500 kilometers on the tires, but we plan to take her into our local guy at Westwood Tire to confirm if there is a problem. I have no interest in experiencing a tire blowout while travelling 100+ km down a highway! But if we need four new tires, this is another expense we were not planning for.
I am relieved that the propane work is complete. I can fall asleep in the Van now without worrying about a leak. We have tested out the furnace a few times and it works like a charm. There is also peace of mind in know our 12V system is working as it should. Although it’s never fun to spend money on the things we don’t see, safety is priority when RVing, so I don’t begrudge the investment.
A word of advice to readers, if you need any repair or maintenance work done on your vehicle for the upcoming season, get on the phone now to book your appointments. It can take weeks, if not months to get appointments with some of these places. The same goes if you need to purchase any supplies or accessories. We wanted a larger carpet for outside the van as well as a pop-up canopy for over the picnic table. It took us quite a while to find something we liked in our price range that was actually in-stock. Many items were listing delivery dates at the end of May. So best to start thinking now about what you will need for the season ahead.