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Old 07-07-2010, 11:00 AM   #1
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There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Xantrex is routinely trashed by purchasers of their product for their abysmal and clueless support of their products.* Eventually, one would presume that this would impact their sales, as well it should.

I wanted to pass on an experience with Johnson Pumps as an example of how not to build/support products.* This may fall under the buyer beware category, but it also suggests a procedure I intend to follow before I buy anything costing more than $50.00 from now on.

Delfin was plumbed with 2 Whale Gusher diaphragm black water pumps for emptying the black water tank offshore.* After 3 years, the tri-fold inlet and outlet valves harden, and don't work as well.* The way the yard plumbed these in meant major work to get to these replaceable parts, so I decided to try a different pump that was advertised as being very simple to maintain - the Johnson Viking 16/32 diaphragm wastewater pump.* The brochure said that you just remove a couple of screws, then you can get to the tri-fold valve and a flat flapper valve to replace them when they wear out.* I installed the pump, and it runs much more silently than the Whale and looked great.* I figured I'd order a couple of spare valve kits for the Johnson so I'd have them when needed.*

As it turns out, you can buy a replacement flapper valve for the Johnson, as long as you buy the entire lower end of the pump, which would require sawing the unit out of an inline plumbing configuration, rather than just undoing a couple of screws to access replaceable parts as advertised.* I suppose you can buy the lower end of the pump, remove the $.25 flapper valve and throw away the other $99.75 worth of product if you like.* Maybe that is the plan....* And oh yes, they don't list the needed tri-fold valve as available at all, which means the pump goes over the side once that wears out in a few years.* In talking with their U.S. distributor, I was referred to an engineer for an explanation of the thinking behind this remarkable design, but he didn't call back.* I emailed a question to the Swedish parent wondering whether replacement parts that they advertised could be easily replaced were in fact available.* No answer.

Two lessons here.* First, DON'T BUY A PUMP FROM JOHNSON PUMPS.* Ignore their advertising, cause it isn't true.* Second, and this is the take home, before you spend money on any piece of equipment, call customer service with an imaginary problem and request for spare parts and see what happens.* If I had done this, I wouldn't have wasted money on a pump from a manufacturer that has no clue what they are doing, and could care less about designing rational products and providing reasonable service.* Perhaps all those Xantrex owners who have experienced the black hole that is their customer service wouldn't be Xantrex owners if they had done this.

Just a thought...
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:41 AM   #2
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

On the other hand, if we're talking about the same Johnson, their raw water pump that's used as a bolt-on replacement for the failure-prone Jabsco/Lehman-drive setup on FL120s and FL135s is an excellent product.
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:48 AM   #3
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Could be.* Have you needed spare parts?* Johnson Pumps (http://www.johnson-pump.com/jpmarine/) is a very big company with lots of products, some of which may be great.* However, usually when a big company mis-designs one product and delivers non-existent customer service in one area, you have to assume the bonehead gene is not isolated to just that one area.
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Old 07-07-2010, 12:17 PM   #4
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

The only spares we've needed so far have been impellers that we replace at specific intervals. These pumps have been used on FL120s and 135s for years if not decades and are highly recommended by diesel shops that service these engines as well as American Diesel, the Lehman experts. So I can only assume from this that they have proven to be very reliable. They seem to be dead simple, so I would guess there's not much to replace in the nature of spares other than the impeller, and the cover and wear plates when they need replacing.
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Old 07-07-2010, 07:25 PM   #5
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

No experience with Johnson pumps but if you want a multi-page rant about Xantrex, I can oblige you!
In my case the boat came with the Xantrex which eventually failed and I made the mistake of assuming it would be simpler to just replace it with the same product rather than going with a different manufacturer's inverter.* Five months and two inverters and dozens of emails and phone calls later, I am giving up and going with a different manufacturer's product rather than continue fighting with the absolute moronic customer service at Xantrex.**
My take-away is that when something fails on your boat treat it as an opportunity to research your needs as if you were starting from scratch with that particular system.* Xantrex may have been a fine manufacturer at one point but things can change over time.
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Old 07-07-2010, 07:57 PM   #6
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Yorksafloat, from experience it is clear that great customer service is a function of leadership at the top that will accept nothing less.* Bad customer service is likely a sin of omission - I doubt that Xantrex got together and decided to hose their customers, nor do I think that the CEO of Johnson Pump said to his engineers - let's design a product that's easy to service and not provide the service parts!* Rather the CEOs just don't give a rip, so neither do their employees, and the response of consumers should be to never buy their products.

Great service is a cultural norm for some companies, and I experienced an example of the former today.* I emptied out my anchor chain onto the dock to clean the well and found two links near the bitter end of 400' 3 year old 1/2" G4 that had rusted severely.* It looked like they had never been galvanized.* I called the supplier, Washington Chain, described the problem, and their very first response without hesitation and even though they said they had never seen this before was to ask where the boat was so they could send a mechanic on a 160 mile trek to replace the links.* The cost to them would have to be a few hundred dollars.* I asked about replacement links, but Steve at Wa Chain, said, "yeah, we could do that, but I don't like them."* This is an employee empowered to do what is right - to treat the customer like he would want to be treated.* He didn't have to think about it, he just offered up the solution that was best.*

I have received similar stellar customer service from American Bow Thruster, who will absolutely kill themselves making sure you're happy.* May they all live long and prosper.
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Old 07-08-2010, 03:55 AM   #7
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There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

"before you spend money on any piece of equipment, call customer service with an imaginary problem and request for spare parts and see what happens.|

This is excellent advice for every item that will be repaired, rather than deep sixed on failure.

For those contemplating a new build or replacement engine its a great place to decide which of 1/2 dozen* marinizations to select.

Volvo is usually the wor$t,* ZF trannys right behind* ,

for most pleasure boats the gas Crusaider comes out on top in initial cost , maint and repair / replacement cost.

Fuel? , sure it might burn 30%-40% more but for 100 -200 hours a year , the cost of diesel anti freez and lube oil alone will cover the fuel cost difference.

Range would demand a diesel , should 2000 nm* offshore legs be part of your normal cruising

-- Edited by FF on Thursday 8th of July 2010 03:57:45 AM
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Old 07-08-2010, 08:23 AM   #8
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

"Volvo is usually the wor$t, ZF trannys right behind "

? I have kept my ear to the forums where people tell their horror stories for years. I have been a Boatdiesel subscriber for years. I have yet to hear enough about either Volvos or ZF to conclude that anyone but FF has a problem with them.

My own boat had Volvos at new build, as an expensive upgrade from the Lehmans normally offered by the builder. In 16 years of ownership I spent far more $ maintaining my Espar D7L, that I finally traded for a good bottle of Scotch (thanks Jeff) than I have spent in total cost of engine maint or repairs on both of my propulsion Volvos and my Genset Kubota.

I have heard that BW trannys are unreliable and costly to keep too, but like the engines, I don't see it.
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Old 07-08-2010, 09:04 AM   #9
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There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

I think its the cost and*avaiability*of *parts and service that most complain about of the Volvo**

-- Edited by Phil Fill on Thuday 8th of July 2010 09:25:20 AM

-- Edited by Phil Fill on Thursday 8th of July 2010 09:26:10 AM
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Old 07-08-2010, 09:14 AM   #10
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Certainly that, but clearly Xantrex has designed products that won't operate reliably under normal circumstances and then coupled that with lousy service.* In Johnson Pump's case, it is good design coupled with not bothering to offer service parts coupled with deceptinve marketing.* In either case, it indicates a management team that may not be completely clueless, but certainly are incapable of managing or delegating the management of critical details.
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Old 07-08-2010, 10:03 AM   #11
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Yorksafloat:* Jim, it's good to see you back on the forum. We missed your input on wrestling that big blue boat around.
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Old 07-08-2010, 01:44 PM   #12
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

"I have yet to hear enough about either Volvos or ZF to conclude that anyone but FF has a problem with them."



Try the experiment , make a call tell Volvo you need a head gasket and a set of valve springs, and find out for yourself.

Do the same with ZF (who make good stuff , just have almost nothing in stock) and ask about a clutch pack for any model they make.

Then call Twin Disc and DD or Cat or Cummins .
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Old 07-09-2010, 05:01 AM   #13
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

SeaHorse - Thanks for your kind words. Unfortunately, we had a serious change in our cruising plans.* My wife and I departed in our GREEN (<grin>) trawler yacht from the Galapagos on May 29th enroute to the Marquesas.* On June 10th my wife started complaining of numbness and tingling in her left hand and arm.* We initially thought this was related to a pinched nerve in her neck.* Over the next several days the symptoms progressed to include general numbness on her left side and down her left leg.* As you might imagine we were getting fairly concerned.*
We contacted Tahiti Yacht Agents (who we had already retained as our agent for the paperwork and bond formalities).* They advised us on the best approach to getting my wife to the losest hospital (still almost 2000nm away) .* Per their instructions, we altered our destination from Hiva Oa to Nuku Hiva (since the clinic is better there) and they provided us with the contact information for Mamao General Hospital on Tahiti.* We arrived at first light on June 18th and dropped the hook in Taiohae Bay and immediately went to the clinic.* They put a cervical collar on her (still thinking it might be a spinal nerve problem).* The doctor arranged for a priority seat on the daily flight to Papeete and she was off to the Mamao General Hospital in Papeete, Tahiti.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a malignant brain tumor that was causing the problems and she had to be immediately evacuated to the US for emergency surgery.* I put the boat "to bed" with the help and support of several other cruisers at Nuku Hiva (don't you just love being part of the cruising community?).* I dealt with the Gendarmerie and flew back to be with my wife for her surgery and follow up care. At the same time I arranged for a delivery crew to return the boat to the US.
Tahiti Yacht Agents was incredibly helpful (at no additional charge) in changing all of our paperwork to include the delivery crew.* They also arranged for the 2500 gallons of diesel needed for the boat to make it back to the US.* This is not their normal service and they charged me nothing to arrange all of this by long distance so that it would all be waiting for me when I returned to Nuku Hiva with the delivery crew.* This will allow me to spend the minimum possible time away from my wife at this difficult time.* It is literally impossible to express my profound gratitude for the support they provided us during this difficult time.
My wife's illness is a fairly devastating end to our cruising dreams but not the end of all dreams.* As the rest of you consider whether or not to pursue your dreams remember that the thing about adventures is you never know how they are going to turn out so make sure you enjoy the privilege of sailing among the remote and beautiful wonders of this fragile planet of ours.
Jim
P.S.* Delfin - I echo your comments and also want to add Northern Lights (main engine and genset) and Kuuma (water heater) to your list of companies who are "doing it right."
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Old 07-09-2010, 08:06 AM   #14
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Jim, as difficult as it must have been to deal with that situation, you're blessed it turned out as it did.* Your wife is in our prayers, and I hope you are able to enjoy Antipodes in the future.
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Old 07-09-2010, 08:45 AM   #15
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Mr. Jim,
** My sincere and deepest heartfelt best wishes for your wife's complete and speedy recovery.
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Old 07-09-2010, 09:40 AM   #16
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Jim:
Sorry to hear about your wife's illness, I know it has to be scary as hell. You are so correct about dreams; take the chance, one never knows whats around the corner. My best thoughts and prayers are with y'all now.
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Old 07-09-2010, 09:52 AM   #17
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Life's courses can change very quickly indeed.I fell in my back yard last summer, didn't get either hand/arm up to brace my fall so I came down really hard (like a tree falling) face first on the rocks. Our yard is nothing but rocks I could'nt get up (my wrist was broken) and I was bleeding what seemed like a lot and was literally thinking I'd bleed to death. Blood all over my face my wife managed to get me up on my shakey legs and make it to the front where I leaned on my Suburban. I was a very happy man on my way to the clinic * *.. all smiles and jokes. I must like life as I was soooo happy I was'nt going to die.
My head is fine now but my wrist is only 75% recovered.
AND it is small potatoes compared to your situation.
Indeed with little or no warning lifes courses can change almost instantly.
Makes me more glad to be alive.
My hart sincerely goes out to you both.


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Old 07-09-2010, 10:47 AM   #18
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

For those of you intested in Jim & Lara's adventure, their website can be found here. I've followed the whole cruise to the present day and found it exciting and very humorous.
Yorks Afloat
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:42 AM   #19
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

Jim,
I'm so sorry to hear of your wife's illness. My prayers are with you both. I have friends that I'm in touch with that just arrived in Nuku Hiva aboard the sailboat "Grommit", if I can be of any help let me know.
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Old 07-09-2010, 06:56 PM   #20
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RE: There's bad service, then there's bonehead design...

We communicated with Gromet (relayed by Artemo) via the SSB net.* They were starting out as we were arriving in Nuku Hiva.* They sure sounded like a really fun couple of boats.* Wish we could have met them personally.*
Jim
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