All posts by Raymond Laubert

Load Balancing the RV

This weeks article is on balancing the load of an RV.  Although it is mainly for the trailers, motorized RVs also have some limits.  So why should we worry about balancing an RVs load?  Well to start with, safety.  An unbalanced load is harder to pull, harder to control in emergency situations and in poorer weather.  In addition, it can put your vehicle in jeopardy.

The proper weight distribution is about 10 percent of the total trailer weight on the tongue of the trailer.  The way you pack the trailer will greatly effect this.  Too much weigh in the front and the tongue will be too heavy causing the tow vehicle to lift the front end, reducing steering capability.  To much weight in the rear will cause the tongue to lift taking weight off the rear axle and reducing your braking capabilities as well as traction.  Also too much weight in the rear will cause the trailer to sway side to side.  Even a light weight trailer in this condition can cause the vehicle to lose control and accidents can happen.

Now an equalizer hitch will help as it distributes the weight between the tow vehicle and trailer.  It works by transferring the weight from the tongue of the trailer to the front wheels for the tow vehicle.  But only to a point and only for front heavy loads on the trailer.  Rear heavy loads will still cause the sway and lifting of the rear end of the tow vehicle.

So how should you load the RV?  Start by placing the heavy items low in the RV.  Things like can foods, water, soda, beer, pots and pans, scuba gear 🙂 in the lower cabinets.  Put the lighter things up high, like left over potato chips, candy etc.  Also look at side to side weight distribution.  Place your tools on the opposite side of the rig from the propane tank.  Inside, distribute the weight from left to right as well.

Also remember weight is a major issue (Yes I know I harp on this a lot).  Your tires can only hold so much weight before they will blow out. Make sure they are properly inflated.

 

Good Sam Club

Getting an RV Inspection

Recreational Vehicles are a complicated and expensive piece of equipment.  They are our homes on wheels and as such have all the equipment we find in our homes plus some.  If you are a mechanic, you probably feel pretty comfortable about checking the chassis, engines, transmissions etc. but how about the heater, air conditioner, water and septic systems?  If your a builder you could take a good look at the construction, but you may be lost in the electronics.  None of us are trained in all areas of an RV and that is where an inspection by a certified RV Inspector comes in.

The inspection process takes a few hours and will provide the piece of mind that a home inspection brings when buying the house.  You get a third parties trained and certified opinion on the current condition and safety of the recreational vehicle.

If you want to do the inspection yourself, I would recommend that you read all of the articles here on RV Inspection Service and then read the Buying the Perfect RV book.  Once those are done, download the free inspection check list in the book store or you can find a Certified RV Inspector by going to NRVIA, just click this link

NRVIA Logo

Time to ask for help!

Your help spreading the word would be greatly appreciated!

As you may know I have taken a lot of the information I have posted on RV Inspection Service (http://rv-inspection-service.com) along with my background as a Certified RV Inspector and have written a book called Finding, Buying and Using the Perfect RV.  This book is now in print and available on Amazon (http://goo.gl/ch7Oi8) and other sites.

However, I need to raise some money to purchase printed copies for marketing.  My goal is to raise $1250.  I have a campaign running on Indiegogo.com (http://igg.me/at/RVBook) to help raise this money as being retired military and on Social Security doesn’t leave much extra sometimes.

This is donation based.  Your help in spreading the word would be greatly appreciated.  If you could post something with the Indiegogo link (http://igg.me/at/RVBook) on your Social Media pages that would help spread the word and help me meet my goal.

Thank you for your help.

Water Heater Maintenance Part 2 – Tankless Water Heaters

Maintenance of tankless propane water heaters is a little bit easier than their cousin the tank water heater that I covered before.  Some of the steps will be the same.  Such has removing power and propane prior to doing the cleaning.  Making sure the water is off and that you have a vacuum cleaner available.  The time frame for doing your cleaning will be the same and that would be prior to putting it into service for the first time in the camping season.  The reason being is that you want to make sure no critters or bugs have made it their home while it was in storage.
Start by inspecting the flue and hood areas.  Soot is a sign of incomplete combustion and if you find it start by cleaning everything in sight.  At this point if you haven’t found signs of bugs, then I would probably contact the repairman and have them check out the unit.  While you are in there cleaning, look for any signs of water leakage and give the pressure relief valve a quick open and close.  Unlike the tank systems, you won’t need to worry about pressure build up nor will you need to burb the tank to make sure you have the correct air bubble.
Now would be a good time to get some electrical contact cleaner like CRC and clean all of the power and electrical connections, including the battery for the RV.  When you are all done, it is time to turn on the water, fire up the unit and make sure everything is working as it should.  Then put your tools aware and enjoy the camping season.

Water Heater Maintenance Part 1

RV water heaters fall into several groupings.  There are propane only units, propane/electric units and diesel/electric units.  The diesel/electric units today are mainly from a company called Aquahot.  The other water heaters are sub-divided into tank-less and tank water heaters.  Tank-less water heaters are fairly new to the RV world and are made primarily by Girard and Precision Temp.  The most common water heater in recreational vehicles are the tank water heaters and come in 6 or 10 gal capacity.  Lower end units will be propane heat only and then the most common today is the propane/electric water heaters.

When it come to maintenance these articles will deal with what I call the user maintenance. That is maintenance that does not require special tools or equipment to perform and is listed as user maintenance in the manuals that come from the manufacturers.  This set of articles will be broken down based on the types of water heaters (Tank, Tank-less and AquaHot).  As with any maintenance, please review the requirements in the owners manual or contact the manufacturer.

Since the most common water heater used on RVs is the tank type, that will be the first one we will tackle.  First thing first is safety.  Prior to performing any maintenance of the water heater, turn it off and let the water cool before starting.  A good time to perform this maintenance is prior to the first trip of the year or when you de-winterize the unit.  To perform the maintenance you will need a vacuum cleaner, hand tools, water hose with a sprayer attachment that will fit into the water tank.  If your water heater is a Suburban model you may also need an Anode Rod, Atwood water heaters do not need the Anode Rod.

For the maintenance, start by vacuuming out the bugs and dirt.  Using the vacuum nozzle, clean out the burn tube.  Look for any areas of soot and clean them up as well.  Soot is an indication of incomplete burning normally caused by bugs in the burn tube.  Once the cleaning is done, put away the vacuum cleaner.  Examine the bug screen on the water heater door.  If you don’t have one, get one from the RV center near you.  You will need to know the type and model which should be on a sticker in the water heater area.  Now for the fun stuff.  Near the top of the water heater is a relief valve.  Open the valve!  It will release the pressure built up in the water heater and make the next step easier.  This also test the relief valve to make sure it opens.  Water may come out of the valve if the tank is over full, which is why you want the water cool before performing this task.

Now to clean out the water tank.  For this you will be removing either the Anode Rod or a plug at the bottom of the water heater.  Guess I should tell you that there is water behind this rod or plug and when it comes out so will the water.  So make sure nothing electrical is in the way and stand to the side if you didn’t wait for the water to cool so you don’t get burned.  Once the water has drained out, you will need to flush the tank.  Using the water hose and a wand nozzle rinse the tank as best you can.

With the Anode Rod out, inspect it to determine if it should be replaced.  Anode Rods are sacrificial, the steel tanks in the Suburban units have a tendency to rust due to corrosive chemicals in the water.  The Anode rod attracts those chemicals and sacrifices itself instead of the water tank.  You should replace the rod when it is half gone (compare it to a new rod).  You do not want to wait for the rod to dissolve completely before replacing it.  You could be damaging the tank in the mean time.  Atwood heaters are made of aluminum and do not suffer the same fate.

Once the tank is flushed, replace the rod or plug, leave the relief valve open and turn on the cold water.  Close the relief valve when water comes out as the tank fills.  Test the heater.  Turn on the propane tank, set the heater to propane mode and make sure the heater works.  Once that is done you can set the heater to your normal operating mode.

Next week I will talk about the tank-less water heater maintenance.

RV Holding Tank Maintenance

This is a subject that seems to baffle a lot of people.  There are hundreds of products and methods on the market to help take you money because no one ever taught us how to use the holding tanks in our RVs.  So with a little time and effort I hope to shine some light on this problem and the solution.

The tanks in your RV is a holding tank not a septic system.  It is a plastic bucket with three holes in it.  One to allow stuff into the tank, one for a vent that goes to the roof of the RV and another that leads to a valve for draining.  Kind of simple.  There are various methods of providing a indication as to the level of fluids in the tank.  None of them are very reliable, mainly because we don’t do our part to maintain the cleanliness of the tank.

Operations of the these holding tanks is also pretty simple.  You dump stuff into the tanks and when full dump them.  Now for the had part.  There are methods all over the place and advice that will differ from just about everybody.   But the simple truth is these are HOLDING tanks.  That mean they are designed to hold the stuff we put in them until dumped.  What I mean is KEEP THE VALVES CLOSED!  Notice I have not talked about grey or black tanks.  This is for a reason.  The processes and procedures are the same.  Keep the valves closes.  You would be surprised at the amount of food, hair, and other stuff that collects in the bottom of the grey holding tank because people think it all flows out the drain.  IT DOESN’T, it sits in the tank and collects and over time starts to rot and smell.  Since there is no method of flushing it out with a wand for example, it stays there, forever!

When do you flush the tanks?  This is an excellent question.  The answer is so simple, when they are full.  You will quickly learn when the tanks are full.  They have a habit of filling up when you take a shower and the water backs up, when you are washing dishes and the shower starts to back up, when you use the toilet and the water burbs at you and the room starts to smell.  Then it is time to dump the tanks.  But what do you do if at the end of a camping trip your tanks need to be dumped and they are not full?  Fill them!  Flush water down the toilet until it is full, dump water down the sinks until it is full.  Just consider this as one of the tasks of breaking camp.

Before we get into the procedures I want to talk about another tip.  Get a clear plastic sewer hose attachment for connecting two hoses together.  Place it somewhere in the sewer line that is easy to watch.  This way you can see when the tank has emptied completely.  It will also aid in letting you know when you rinse the tank if it is clean or not.

DSC_0086

Now to dump the tanks.  Start with opening the black tank valve first.  Let it dump completely.  You will see when it is done in the clear section of the sewer hose.  If you have a black tank flush system, now is the time to use it.  Follow the manufactures recommendations.  Most of the ones I have seen say that the tank valve must be open when using.  This just prevents Mr Murphy from helping you create a Robin Williams RV moment (If you haven’t watched the movie RV, do so).  When the water runs clean, turn off the black tank flush.  If you do not have a black tank flush, use your toilet.  Fill the bowl and dump it until the water runs clean.  This could take a while when you first start as there could be all kinds of crap in the tank that has to be flushed out.

Once you have dumped and cleaned the black holding tank, close the valve and put a few gallons of water into the tank.  Fill and flush the toilet about 4 times.  This will put enough water in the tank to help keep things from getting hard as the RV sits until the next trip.

Now open the valve(s) to the grey holding tanks.  Wait for the tank(s) to drain.  Unlike the black tanks there isn’t an easy way to flush the tanks.  There are some attachments you can use, that connect to the dump station that allow you to close off the sewer line, connect water hose to the connector and back flush the tanks.  I have used one called King Flush that I like, but there are others out there.  The point is, you want the water coming out of the tank running clear.  Close the valve and again put a couple of gallons of water into the grey tank to keep things from getting hard while it sits.

One more tip, if you are one that wants or has to have the grey tank open when you are camping, make sure you put a dip in the sewer hose.  This will act as a p-trap and keep the sewer gases out of your RV.

p-trap

It works by keeping a little water in the lower part of the hose so gases and bugs can’t come up from the campground sewer system.

Hope you have had a great Memorial Day Weekend.  Say a prayer for our fallen Heros.

 

Making Life Easier

One of the great debates for folks that RV is Tow Bar vs Tow Dolly.  I am not going to go there.  But there is a point to be made that tow bars are easier to connect and don’t have the weight issues that a tow dolly does.  We have a tow dolly mainly because of the cost to convert and the age of our car.  With the wife and I working at it we are usually connected in under 10 minutes.  We each have our own tasks to perform and it works well for us.  One of the biggest issue we have come across over the last year of full timing is the weight and moving the dolly around.  It weighs around 450-550 lbs and I think a good bit of that is on the tongue.  So dragging it around and hooking up can be quite tiring for the older folks.

I have often thought that a wheeled jack on the tongue would make the job easier.  Well this week while we are at Gettysburg Farm in Pennsylvania, we saw someone that had done just that.  He added a swing down jack to his Master Tow car dolly.  I sat and talked to him and after a few minutes, decided that we should do the same thing.  I found the parts at a local RV Store but Camping World had them as well.  The swing down jack cost me about $40 and handles 1000 lbs.  The tongue on the dolly was about 3 inches maybe a little more and the jack would work on 3 to 5 inch tongues.  It took maybe 30 minutes to connect it and tighten down the bolts.  MAN what a difference it makes moving the dolly around.  Now what use to take both the wife and I to do, I can easily do it my self.  Instead of being bent over trying to hold up a couple hundred pounds and move it around, I just wheel it around with ease.  Here are a few pictures of the finished project.

Swing Down Jack 1

Swing Down Jack 2

Swing Down Jack 3

Run Flat Tire Inserts

I was sitting here trying to decide what the topic for this week would be and surfing the web, when I found  a video about an RV that had a blow out while traveling at highway speeds.  Everyone was fine, but the rig and toad were destroyed.

In the military our Hummers had these things called “Run Flat” inserts.  The idea was that a metal band inside the tire would prevent it from going flat due to sudden lost of air pressure.  Our 2007 Safari Simba has them installed as well.  I found this out when we had to have a valve stem replaced.  The tech did nothing but complain about them as it added time and work to his already busy day.

Run Flat Image for website article.

The way these work is as long as there is air pressure in the tires the thread is kept off the insert.  As the pressure decreases the tire collapses onto the insert but does not collapse all the way.  Preventing loss of control until you can pull over safely.  Now there is a problem here.  Because there is no loss of control, the driver may not realize the issue and continue driving.  This leads to excess friction and damage to the tire until it either comes apart or begins to burn.  Both of which can cause damage to the RV.

The solution is to add a tire pressure and temperature monitoring system to the RV as well.  But that is another article.  Finding these might be  a problem.  However, the cost I think is well worth the peace of mind.  My search of the web shows that the cost should be around $300 for two tire inserts.