Tip of the Day … Exterior Inspection Part 3 – Undercarriage

Tip of the Day … Exterior Inspection Part 3 – Undercarriage. This is the final part of the external inspection. Lets start with the rock guards. These are the plastic pieces around the tires. Are they there and in good condition?

Although not actually under the carriage, check all of the lights. These include the brakes, running lights, backup lights, exterior lights and entrance lights. Are all bulbs working? Some of the new lights are LED and made up of multiple sets of LED. If all are lit then good, if the majority are lit, then I would pass it with a note. If less than half are missing then I would require them to be replaced.

If the RV has a trailer hitch, you want to make sure that it is working and has all the parts are there. See if there is documentation or a sticker on the capacity of the hitch. You want to make sure that you do not exceed the hitch rating regardless of the capabilities of the unit.

Check the jacks/leveler for operation. Make sure they perform as required. Manual jacks are not met to raise or lower the unit only to stabilize or reduce the movement of the unit when extended. Hydraulic jacks found on motor homes will literally raise the unit off the tires, but this is not recommended for long term use. For safety reasons, do not used levelers to change tires. Prior to operating any hydraulic unit, make sure that the pump has enough oil/fluid.

Tip of the Day … Exterior Inspection Part 2 – Side Walls

Tip of the Day … Exterior Inspection Part 2 – Side Walls. This is an area where most people make a cursory inspection.  Things to look for here that are major areas of concern will be delamination.  Delamination is caused by water getting between the outside material and the wood backing, causing the materials to separate.  You will also want to look for damage due to accidents.  Besides the side walls you will want to check the storage doors.  Open all of the doors and check for rust, damage, operation etc.

Entry Step and Door are next.  You want to make sure that the steps operator properly.  If they are electric, there will be a lock out switch somewhere inside the unit.  Test to make sure that it operates properly, preventing the stairs from extending.  Check for excessive signs of rust. Check to make sure the stairs retract fully.

For the door, make sure that the keys work.  Check around the window for any signs of leaking.

Check under the slide outs.  Here you are looking for damage, both by water and accidents.  Check for excessive rust. If the slide has a topper (awning), check the material and connections.  Check for rusty or corroded screws and bolts.  With a ladder, check the top of all the windows.  See if they need caulking and for water damage.

Check all the appliance doors. These include the hot water heater, refrigerator and heaters.  Make sure they all operate as required.

Check all of the awnings.  Look for pin holes in the awning material.  Operate the awning(s) to make sure it(they) retract(s) completely.  Check that the metal components are in good shape and work normally.

Finally check the seals.  There are two seals for each slide.  One on the lip of the slide, which is the one to check while doing the exterior inspection.  This seal is used to seal the slide when it is retracted.  Its purpose is to keep water out of the unit when driving down the road.  We will check this again, prior to the road trip.

Tip of the Day … Exterior Inspection Part 1

Tip of the Day … Exterior Inspection Part 1 – Roof. This is probably the one area where many inspections are done half way. By this I mean that most people “look” at the exterior of the RV, but don’t really inspect the exterior of the RV. Yet this is the most important part of the inspection. I’ll tell you why in a bit.

The first place you should start your inspection is on the roof. Be careful here as the ladders on RV are not made that well. I would recommend getting an ladder that is appropriate for your weight and high enough to reach the top of the rig comfortably. Once you are on the roof, start at one corner and on your hands and knees begin to look at the roof. Inspect for damage to the material, holes, tears etc. Also look for repairs that have been made. Work your way around the top of the roof.

Pay attention to area where water has been sitting, soft spots on the roof, repairs that have been made or there is still evidence of damage to the RV. Make a note to check the inside of the rig in these areas.
As a rating scale use something along the lines of needs repair and satisfactory. Once you check the roof, check each of the attachments to the roof, such as vents, sky lights, AC covers, antennas etc.

Tip of the Day… DC Circuits Part 2

Part 2 DC Circuits, House side
The house side of the DC circuit is the one that gets everyone in trouble. This circuit has something to do with just about every major component in the RV. It controls the refrigerator, hot water heater, heater, lights, fans, satellite controllers, radio and more.

Batteries for the house circuit can be shared with the chassis. Towables often share batteries. The class vehicles usually have 2 separate batteries, one for the chassis and one for the house. In cases where you have two sets of batteries, the alternator will charge the chassis batteries and the converter will charge the house batteries.

House fuses are usually in the same place that the AC Circuit Breakers are. As with the chassis batteries, you want to make sure that they are all present and in good shape.

Now some explanation as too why the house side is so much of a problem. Just about every major circuit in the RV uses 12 vdc for one thing or another. In most cases the 12 volts is used to power circuit boards. The area that is most often over looked when there is a problem is the refrigerator. Even when placed in AC mode, the 12 vdc is used to power the LEDs and the controller in the back of the unit. Without 12 volts nothing happens.

Safety equipment is also an area where the 12 volts DC plays a behind the scene use. The propane/gas detector, CO detector and some smoke detectors are all wired into the 12 vdc so that batteries don’t need to be replaced. Often these detectors will start to sound when the house battery voltage is low. This is also a cause for the house batteries to die over time as they are constantly being drained.

A good cure for the battery drain is a 12 vdc solar panel connected properly to the house battery. This will act like a trickle charger and keep them charged while in storage.

Tip of the Day…. DC Circuits Part 1

Tip of the Day… DC Circuits. RV have two DC circuits. One is for the towing or chassis and the other is for the house side of the RV. Both of them are 12 v DC and serviced by batteries with some kind of charging unit.

Lets start with the chassis circuit. All recreational vehicles have a chassis circuit. Some are simple and some are as complicated as a tractor trailer or transit bus. At the minimum this circuit will run the lights and break away switch. The break away switch is used to apply 12 Volts to the breaks in case of a disconnect from the tow vehicle if the RV is a towable. With the chassis circuit everything will start at the battery or batteries. From here it will go to the fuses. This is where things really get complicated. You may have multiple places for fuses. I suggest that you look for documentation. A towable will usually have fuses in a central location. Class vehicles (those with an engine) may have multiple locations. Our Class A has 7 different locations for 12 volt fuses, that I have found. These fuses will control the running lights, brake lights, turn signals, fuel pumps, wipers, horn etc. If the unit has air bags and air horns it will have fuses for them as well.

For an inspection, you just want to find out where the fuses are and make sure they are all OK and in place. It is not uncommon to remove a fuse to prevent a broken item from identifying itself.

Tip of the day… AC Circuits

Tip of the day… AC.  Electrical Systems on RV consist of 3 different circuits.  120 volts AC, 12 Volts DC for the house/trailer, and 12 Volts DC for the coach.  The 120 Volts AC is typically supplied by either the generator or shore power (don’t ask me why they call it shore power, I don’t know).

This 120 v runs the lights, microwave, tvs, stereo, refrig and air conditioners to name a few items.  Depending on the unit it may also run into an inverter and charge the house batteries.  The first place that you as the buyer want to check is the fuse/circuit breaker box.

This is the first place that the AC will be available.  You want to make sure that the circuit breakers and fuses are all operational and that no loose connections can be seen.  Next you will need a circuit tester.  This is a three prong device used to check AC outlets.  Test every outlet in the RV.  Making sure that the tester indicates correct readings.  Make sure you check the storage areas as well.  Note any outlet not reading properly.

Next you want to find the GFI circuit. This is usually in the bathroom.  It will have GFI and a test/reset switch on the outlet.  Press the test button and recheck ALL of the outlets.  Make a note of those that no longer work.  These are all controlled by the GFI Circuit that you just tripped.  Again, make sure you test the ones outside as well.  You will be surprised at the number of outlets that are wired together.

If your unit has a converter/inverter unit, it more than likely also has at least one circuit breaker.  This is a good time to test it and see what outlets are controlled by the unit.  Some will have 3 or more circuit breakers.  Test then individually so you can identify which is which.  When the lights go out because one of the kids is running the hair dryer, while the microwave and coffee maker are on, you will be glad you did this.

Tip of the day… Story

Let me tell you a story, about a not so young man and his Class A motor home. This man and his family where traveling out west on a long vacation. They had stopped outside a town in Indiana and their RV decided that the trip was way too long and it needed a break, so it refused to change out of Park. Being a little mechanically inclined this man, checked the transmission fluid, check the fuses under the hood, checked the chassis fuses, started the class A up several times after letting it sit while he tried to think was could be wrong. There was no indication of any issues. No dash warning lights, no alarms going off, the rig simply would not change gears.

So, being prepared for situations like this he called the extended warranty company and was towed to a local garage. The mechanic there promptly put the RV on the computer. Turns out like some many RVs build today that the electronics were not completely compatible and the computer could not determine the cause. Old fashion troubleshooting technics would be required. Over the course of a few days, this and that were checked out and parts removed, tested and reinstalled. Nothing it seemed would fix the problem.

Finally, the mechanic called the manufacturer. The techs talked about the problem and tested this and that until someone said check the brakes! Low and behold the brakes also didn’t work. The tech at the manufacture said that this transmission controller had to have a good brake indication, a good hydraulic lifter indication, a good engine indication and a good transmission indication or it would not shift gears.

Now with something to work on the mechanic started checking all the fuses again. First under the hood, then the chassis, then the back of the chassis, then the house fuses. All were good! On a hunch, he checked under the dash. Eureka! a set of fuses in a little black box. A 20 AMP fuse was blown! Quickly the fuse was replace and EVERYTHING work!

Moral of the story, know where all of your fuses are. When you are buying a RV ask to see where the fuses are and make sure you understand what they are for. Otherwise you may have the experience of this family. Oh the cost of this little adventure was over $2800 and 9 days of vacation time.