Heater fault prompts warning to get your motorhome in order

Michael Weaver 7 December 2020
Caravan and canoe by scenic lake.

Owners of motorhomes and recreational vehicles are being urged to do a safety check before hitting the road. Photo: File.

A fault in a popular water heater used in caravans and motorhomes has prompted a warning to make sure your vehicle, caravan or motorhome is in order before hitting the road this Christmas.

The road trip has become the next best thing to booking an overseas holiday because of COVID-19 so owners of caravans and recreational vehicles are being warned that dangerous Suburban-branded water heaters may emit deadly carbon monoxide that can leak into the caravan or motorhome during use.

The Suburban recreational vehicle water heater can operate using electricity or gas, and may produce unsafe levels of carbon monoxide when gas is used to generate its heat.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death, and exposure for a short amount of time can lead to serious injuries. Carbon monoxide has no smell and is unlikely to be detected. It is also highly flammable and can explode on contact with a spark or flame.

More than 18,000 of the heaters have been sold across all states and territories in Australia, mostly installed in caravans and RVs.

After a replacement model was found, it also failed testing after it was discovered the flange securing the burner heat exchanger tube to the internal front fascia of the appliance may not be properly formed.

Suburban brand recreational vehicle water heater.

Some recreational vehicle water heaters made by Suburban, that are fitted to Australian-made caravans and motorhomes, are being recalled due to a manufacturing fault. Photo: Supplied.

The supplier advises stocks of replacement units are now available and they are keen to get remediation happening quickly. To date, only 210 units have been remediated or scheduled for inspection, and the supplier is encouraging greater consumer response to the recall.

The affected products are the Suburban recreational vehicle water heaters with model numbers SW6DEA, SW6DA, SW4DEA, SW4DA, SW4DECA, SW6DECA and SW6PA that have serial numbers between 181315552 and 193002648 (some serial numbers may end with a ‘D’) and between 8183311827 and 8190201139. They were manufactured between 4 April, 2018, and 1 August, 2019.

“Do not use the affected water heaters in gas mode under any circumstances,” said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard.

“It’s especially important to check your caravan’s water heater as soon as possible if you plan to go away during the summer holidays. It only takes a minute and it could save the lives of your loved ones.”

Consumers can check if their heater is affected by opening its exterior access door and checking the model and serial number located on the right-hand side. They should then enter the serial number at the Coast to Coast website.

More information is available at Product Safety Australia.


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The issue of faulty water heaters highlights the need for motorists to ensure their vehicles are safe before heading off on Christmas holidays.

Daisy Jing, from Rusden Europro Automotive in Canberra, said the main issues they see are people driving with the incorrect tyre pressure, having faulty brakes and dangerously low coolant levels.

“Driving on the highway can be very hot in summer, which makes your tyres more susceptible to puncture,” said Daisy. “We recommend tyre pressure of 34-36 psi for sedans and most small vehicles, and 40 for SUVs.”

Mechanic at Rusden Europro Automotive doing a vehicle safety check.

A mechanic at Rusden Europro Automotive doing a vehicle safety check. Photo: Supplied.

She said many of these issues can be found by doing a simple vehicle self-check, such as noticing noisy brakes, low coolant or oil levels and battery voltage.

“Doing these basic checks can prevent you from having a more expensive cost from your mechanic,” said Daisy.

While Rusden Europro Automotive is always happy to help if you are not confident checking your car, she said they are very busy in the lead up to Christmas and people will need to book ahead.


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