Category Archives: RV Maintenance Tips

Tip for a Smooth Silicone Patch

All RVers from time to time need to patch up something with Silicone or RTV.  Today, I had to redo the caulking around the kitchen sink.  It was a simple job, but I learned a new trick which I thought I would pass on to the folks that read this blog.

I started with a razor knife and cleaned out all the old sealant, making sure that I got into the crack all the way around the sink.  I also scrapped off any residue that was left over.  I had an old tube of silicone left over from patching a window, which was still good.  So, I laid a thin bead around the sink.  So far, nothing earth shattering.  The trick I learned was to spray the bead with Windex (with Ammonia).  Then with a wad of paper towels handy, I ran my finger over the bead, pushing it into the joint and creating a smooth seal.  Every few inches I wiped my figure on the towel.  First surprise was that nothing stuck to my figure.  Second surprise was I got a great looking seal.

 

Next week I have to reseal both the drivers side and passenger side windows.  I may make this one into a video, not sure yet.  At the very least I will take pictures of the process.

TPMS Part 2

The installation of the TPMS involves, charging the unit (if required), coding the monitors to the location, mounting the monitors and then testing the configuration.  Total time, including reading the manuals was less than an hour.

My monitor came with a full charge.  Otherwise the manual says to plug it in for 15 minutes or so.  Speaking of which, read the manual.  You need to understand what you will be doing before you do it.  Some steps are time sensitive and the unit will reset if you don’t complete them in time.  Don’t worry, once you understand what has to be done, you have plenty of time to do it.

Kit 1

Kit 2

When you get your TPMS it has two sections of parts.  The top layer has the sensors and the monitoring unit.  The lower section has the instructions, mounting brackets, power cords, tools, screws, caps and mounting hardware for the monitor.

Setup is pretty simple.  You lay the sensor (one at a time) next to the monitor, press a button and it maps the sensor to the tire location.  Repeat for all of the tires.  All total this takes maybe 5 minutes.  This is an important step.  Placing a sensor on the wrong tire will give you a false reading.

After the sensors are configured, the system wants you to set up the alarm points.  High and low pressure are first based on each tire location.  This was the hardest section to do for me.  I had no idea what to set the high pressure at.  Low pressure was easy, I set it at 10 lbs below normal pressure.  I ended up looking at the tire side wall and finding the maximum pressure rating for the tire and added 10 lbs.  I left the temperature setting at 158 degrees F which was suggested in the manual.  You also select C or F.

Next you have to mount the sensors on each tire based on where they were recorded.  This takes some time as you also have to secure the sensor once mounted.  Security is an allen set screw.  In my case several of them were not able to be tightened and I had to remove them and put the set screw on the other side.  Each sensor has two locations for the set screw.  Of course Murphy dictated that over half of the set screws where on the wrong side.  You may also want to have a bottle of soap and water to make sure there are no air leaks.  My first tire had to use an extender (which I happen to have had laying around).  Of course the extender was bad and I had to use another one.  Another sensor wasn’t on tight and was leaking a little air.  Without the soap and water that tire would have gone flat.

Tire 1 Installation... problem tire

Tire 1 with the extender.

Tire 2 Installation

Tire 2 no extender needed.

With all of the sensors mounted, turn on the unit and wait, and wait and wait.  It takes about 15 minutes for the monitor to read all of the sensors.  As it finds a sensor it will display the pressure and temperature.  I knew from my pre-trip inspections that it was time to fill a couple of tires.  So I wasn’t surprised to see the tire pressure readings when the system had initialized.  The readings where close to what I got with a tire pressure gauge.   The sensors even showed a difference in temperature from the sun and shade effects.

Alarmed Low Pressure on Trailer

Shows an alarm for low pressure on trailer (different pressure settings)

Monitoring

Shows alarm condition for RV tire.  This was an inside rear tire reading in the shade.

Overall, I am happy with this setup.  It will save me some time on my inspections as well as peace of mind while traveling.  The alarms are hard to see and I will have my wife watch them along with the GPS and other co-pilot tasks.

The one complaint I have is that it takes 15 minutes or so after the unit powers up to find and register all of the tire sensors.  So this will become part of our pre-trip inspection which is done the day before we leave.  I normally check tire pressure prior to pulling out, but with this taking so long, it will be done the day before.

Nitrogen vs Air in RV Tires

Tires do not carry the load of the RV.  That is a pretty bold statement isn’t it.  But it is true, it is the pressure in the tires that carries the load, the tire just provides the container for the pressure.  Proper pressure in the tire ensures that the load will be carried as required along with increasing the durability of the tire and contributing to fuel economy.

Compress air has been used for decades in tires.  It is cheap or free to use and is widely available at gas stations, tire stores and repair shops.  So why would we want to change?  Compress air often comes at a price that is not related to the cost of the air we put into our tires but to the damage that the air does.

Damage you say?  What damage?  Compressed air that you get at your local service station contains varying degrees of moisture and oil depending on the compressor and relative humidity.  Air also contains Oxygen which along with the humidity causes corrosion and oxidation.  The compressor oil and other contamination that the compressor puts into the condense air causes the rubber in our tires to break down.

Nitrogen on the other hand has a lot of benefits. First it is a dry gas.  Which means it does not support moisture that contributes to corrosion.  Next it reduces the loss of tire pressure due to loss through the rubber. Third, since we have removed oxygen from the tire and the moisture we reduce the corrosion within the tire assembly.

Both Nitrogen and air filled tires will change their pressure as the temperature increases or decreases, but they are basically the same amount (1 PSI/10 degrees F.).  So both should be checked in the morning before driving any distance.

How can you tell if your tires have been filled with Nitrogen?  The caps on the valve stems will be green.  But what if you need to add pressure to nitrogen filled tires and there isn’t some place close by, what should you do?  The primary factor here is the pressure in the tires.  Remember it is the pressure that is carrying the load. So if the pressure drops below the amount required to carry the load, fill the tires to the proper pressure with air if that is the only thing available.  When you can, have the tire recharged with nitrogen to maintain the benefits.

Maintaining the roof of the RV

Last week, I talked about cleaning the roof of the RV.  This week it will be inspecting and doing minor repairs of the roof.  Again, caution should be the word of the day.  If your rig does not have an attached ladder, do not climb on the roof, use a ladder to work your way around the roof as you inspect.

First we are going to look for any obvious signs of damage to the roof. If you have used water to clean the roof, look for any puddles where the water pools.  These are signs of potential issues and should be watched.  Sitting water has time to work its way into the roof even with very minor pin holes. You also want to look for any damaged or pealing sealant around the vents, antennas, fans and air conditioners.  Any place where there is a whole through the roofing material.

What to do if you find or suspect an area that should be patched.  First using the information from last week, make sure you know what kind of roofing material you have.  For the most part EDPM and Fiberglass will use the same materials.  You have the choice of tape or sealer.

Eternabond is a tape like product that is used to seal tears and cracks.  The only negative is that it can not be used over silicone.  So if you have any places that you used silicone to seal, it will have to be removed prior to applying the EternaBond tape.  EternaBond is available in widths up to 36 inches so it can be used to cover a large area.

Another product that can be use is a liquid sealer.  The most common type is a self leveling sealer that spreads out as you pour it.  This naturally is not good for areas around the edge of the rig as it will slide off the roof.  But for the flat areas it is good.  Use this sealer when you have openings where cables or holes that go through the roof.  EternaBond would have problems sealing these areas.

For metal roof repair you can use Quick-Roof.  This is similar to the EternaBond in that you peal off the backing and lay down a smooth flat piece (in this case aluminum paper).

Maintenance Tip of the Week, Roof Maintenance

I have decided to get my butt in gear and start writing again.  So this series is going to be about maintaining the RV.  The articles will be a basis for the fourth book in the Perfect RV series.  I have no time table on when it will be published, but probably not until next year.

I will try to keep these articles geared toward non-specific types of RVs, but will need to cover the drive trains at some point.  In general I will start on the roof and work my way down the rig until we get to the frame.

If there is a subject that is near and dear to your heart, please let me know.  In addition, I will tell you right now that I am a Certified Dri Wash and Guard Director.  When it comes to cleaning, I will be mentioning these products and will be happy to sell them to you if you ask 🙂  Hey, I am retired and besides all this writing, I still spend money now and then, so making some while on the road is a requirement.

So, with all of that out of the way, lets start this weeks article on the roof of the RV.  If your RV does not have a ladder attached, my word of advice is DO NOT GET ON THE ROOF!  If you have a pop-up, hybrid, small travel trailer etc the roof is not made to walk on.  Use a ladder to do the inspection and cleaning.

Lots of things work against your RV.  Acid Rain, wind, sun, trees, bird, bugs and the list goes on.  There are two very good reasons to inspect and clean your roof.  First is to remove the dirt and debris, second is to inspect for damage so it can be repaired before it does more damage to the RV.

To clean the roof you want to use a soft bristle brush.  Do not use a pressure washer.  High pressure can tear holes in the material as it gets older.  Next do not use household cleaners on the RV.  These contain alkali or ammonia which will damage the roofing material.  I recommend using either Dri Wash n’ Guard (DWG) Ultra-Ion Waterless Car Wash or Ultra-Ion Green Cleaner.  Both of these products can be used on any roof.

What kind of roof do you have?  There are three main types of roofing material used today.  Rubber (EPDM), Fiberglass and metal (mainly aluminum).  The most popular being EPDM.  Keeping an EPDM roof clean means less nasty looking black streaks down the side of the rig and a cooler interior.   Some words of advice.  NEVER USE a product that contains citric or petroleum distillates as part of the cleaning solution.  These will damage the EPDM material.  Over time EPDM roofs may appear to become chalky.  To protect the roof, clean it thoroughly and then applies a protection designed for the EPDM such as 303.  As the roof gets older you may have to do this several times a year.

Fiberglass cleaning is simple.  Wash and wax at least once a year.  DWG Waterless Car Wash does both in one step.  You can use any good car wash and wax product as well.  Make sure you dry the rig well and apply the wax per the manufacturers instructions.

Metal roofs come in either painted or unpainted versions.  If your roof is unpainted (Airstream), you do not want to use harsh chemicals, abrasive or solvent cleaners or anything that can scratch the surface.  Airstream’s are coated with a protective coating and should not be waxed.  Over time this protective coating will begin to fade, peel and discolor.  At that point it should be removed and a new coating applied.

Painted metal surfaces can be treated just like your automobile.  Wash and wax as needed.  Again the use of DWG Waterless Car Wash will wash, protect and shine in one step without water.

Well I think that is it for this week.  Next time we will look at some of the areas around the roof that you should inspect for damage and how to repair them.

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.

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.

 

Slide Out Maintenance

Today most RV have one or more slide outs.  These can be manual, electric or hydraulic.  On pop ups and some old smaller trailers they will probably be manual.  You pull the slide out by hand from the outside of the rig until it click or locks in place.  The rest of the RV will be of a mechanical nature with either electric motors or hydraulics.

All slide outs need to have some maintenance performed at least once a year.  The maintenance includes cleaning of the drive arms and some lubrication.  Any good dry lube will work.  You want to use a dry lube rather than wet to prevent the slide out mechanics from holding onto road dirt.  Wet lubes over time will wear away the metal due to the abrasive nature of the road grime it picks up and holds.

Most slides will have the drive mechanism exposed under the slide or inside the RV, usually under the bed.  In some cases you may need to search for them.  Regardless of your situation, you want to find the access area to the slide drive mechanism and clean and lubricate as best you can.

Make sure to read the instructions for the lubrication that you are using.

Spring is a great time to perform this annual maintenance tasks.

Water Heater Maintenance – Continued

There are some more tasks that need to be completed on an annual basis.  Most of them can be done when you pull the unit out of storage and before you start it for the season.  If you are full time then perform them when you do the cleaning of the storage tank for calcium.

BUGS, there are several kinds of bugs that love the smell of propane.  If your water heater does not have a bug protector on the exhaust, spend the money an put one on it.  They look like a heavy duty screen over the exhaust vent.  Each year you want to make sure this is secure and in good condition.

Electric Heating element check.  It is probably a good idea to check the condition of the electric heating element.  You probably cleaned the tank which should clean the element as well.  Over time these heating elements break down and require replacement.  The easiest way to check an element is with a VOM (Voltage Ohm Meter or Multi-meter).  With power removed from the water heater, measure the Ohms of the heating element.  It should be slightly more than 10 Ohms.  If it is less than 10 ohms, you will want to replace it.

Safety Valve Check.  On the outside of the water heater is a pressure and maybe temperature safety valve.  This is used to prevent the pressure in the water heater from exceeding 150 PSI.  When water heats it expand and can cause the tank to rupture.

Over time the valves will corrode or become clogged with deposits.  That annual cleaning I talked about should help prevent this, but just in case.  Each year you want to open this valve.

Note:
A. Be careful, the water inside the tank may be hot.
B. Only do this when you are going to drain the tank for cleaning or for storage.

To relieve the pressure in the tank before removing the plug or anode rod, operate the safety valve by lifting up on the little lever on the valve.  WARNING: the water may be hot and some of it will come out of the valve.  Wear appropriate protection.

Air in tank check.  Some of you may have heard about burbing the water tank.  This practice is not required and in some cases may damage the water heater.  When you fill the water heater for the first camping trip of the season.  First make sure that everything is back in it place.  The plug or anode rod are installed, the water is turned on and fills the tank.  Then go inside and make sure the by-pass has been closed so that water now flows through the water heater.  Open a hot water faucet furthest away from the heater and and let it run until the air is out of the system.  This will provide the proper amount of air in the water heater to allow for expansion of the water when it heats up.  You can perform the same steps at each faucet to get the air out of the lines.

Next article will be about the Aqua Hot and On Demand System Maintenance.

 

Water Heater Maintenance

There are currently 4 different water heater types you might find in an RV.  The two most common are from Suburban and Atwood.  New to the RV world are the On Demand Water Heaters and in higher end motor homes you might find a system that provides both heat and hot water called Aqua Hot.

Maintenance on Atwood heaters is pretty simple.  About once a year usually when you winterize, you want to clean out the water heater holding tank really well.  The best way is to take out the drain plug.  Caution here:  Make sure the tank is cool and that the power and propane are off to the water heater.  You do not want the heater to begin trying to heat the water when the tank is empty.

Once you have removed the drain plug, flush the tank with plenty of water to remove the loose calcium.  Next you will need some white vinegar.  About a gallon for the 10 gallon water heater.  This is a good time to also clean the water holding tank on the RV.   Perform the same basic steps, drain the water in the holding tank, flush to remove the calcium and then using a ration of 1:10 (vinegar to water) fill the holding tank.  If you are doing the holding tank at the same time it will make it easier to do the how water system.  Fill the holding tank with vinegar and then pump it into the hot water tank (make sure you put the plug in the water heater before filling).

Once the vinegar and water are in the tank(s) let it sit for a couple of days.  The acid in the vinegar will loosen the calcium.

After a couple of days, drain and flush the system(s).  If you are working on a Suburban Hot Water system, now is a good time to replace the Anode Rod.

Then Anode rod is to protect the insides of the steel tanks used in Suburban water heaters from rusting due to chemical reactions in the water.  The Anode rod is made of a mixture of Zinc, Magnesium and Aluminum.  Which reacts quicker to the chemicals in water that can rust the steel tank.  Failure to replace the anode rod as needed results in the water tank rusting out and having to replace it sooner than needed otherwise.

That is it for the normal water heaters found in most RVs.  I am still researching the maintenance of on demand and Aqua Hot systems.  Those will be covered in the next article.