Category Archives: RV Maintenance Tips

Delamination – What is it?

If you read Facebook RV Groups at all or any RV Forums you will see many articles or questions about delamination.  Many of us know little about the issue but maybe would like to know more or you need to know how to fix it.

I recently chatted with Andrew Newton of Composet Products L.L.C.  Composet offers a product for fixing delamination.  I asked Andrew about delamination and what causes it.  Here are some of the questions and his responses.

What is delamination?

Many RV walls are a “composite”, meaning different materials are bonded together in layers. Typically, a thin fiberglass sheet forms the outer layer, followed by luan plywood*, Styrofoam, and an inside panel. Framing elements are also incorporated into the wall. The materials are glued together creating a composite structure. Delamination occurs when the bond between one or more layers fails. This happens in isolated segments, or throughout the entire panel.

Why does delamination occur?

In many cases a leak forms allowing water into the wall. Typically this happens at windows, vents, lights, roof lines, etc., where caulking is sometimes the only barrier to outside elements. Age, workmanship, vibration, maintenance, and environmental exposure are factors. In my opinion, most delamination occurs when the water breaks down the glue used in the manufacture of the luan plywood and results in the plies separating.

How can you spot delamination?

Look at the wall from an angle and check for bulges. Most sidewalls are not perfectly flat, so this can be tricky, however, the bulge will be worse when the wall is in direct sunlight due to the de-bonded materials expanding at different rates. Next, tap lightly on the wall with a plastic screwdriver handle, solid areas and delaminated areas sound different.

How is delamination fixed?

The most comprehensive way to fix delamination is by replacing the entire wall, requiring major reconstruction. Sometimes sections of walls are cut out, with a seam or joint created where the patch panel is installed. I have seen cases where the layers are re-bonded one at a time. Another process, developed by our company, Composet Products L.L.C., utilizes an injection process to saturate the affected area with a proprietary catalyzed composite bonding adhesive, followed by clamping. Every situation is different with your expectations and budget guiding the definition of a successful repair.

*Luan or Lauan plywood is made from the wood of the Lauan tree from the South Pacific Rim. Lauan wood is usually referred to a medium-grade Philippine mahogany. This produces a very lightweight wood that is softer than most softwood plywood. The surface finish of Luan plywood is very smooth, mostly without defects. The small defects that are found are filled and sanded smooth with the surface. However, because of these defects, Luan is generally only used for projects that will be painted.

Thickness

Luan is typically only manufactured in 1/4 inch thickness, although you can find it as thin as 1/8 inch at times.

Next week, I will go over the process of repairing delamination using the products that Andrew’s company offers.  It is an inexpensive kit that fixes a very expensive repair.

If you need more information or want to learn more about how to fix delamination, contact:

Composet Products L.L.C.
801-821-0964
http://www.delamrepair.com

 

Caulking

If you ever have owned a house, you know that every once in a while you need to caulk around the windows and doors, well the RV is even more important.  Imagine as your driving down the road the window and door frames rubbing and shaking as you hit the bumps and dips in the road.  Even while sitting still at the campground the stress that is put on them when leveling the rig.  This movement is normal, but over time it breaks the seal that was installed when the RV was build that prevents water leaking into the RV.  These water leaks may be very evident with wet wall or floors, but it may also be hidden behind the walls.

Caulking is a task that you want to schedule about every 4 years or so.  You will need a couple of days of clear, dry weather to allow the caulking to cure.  This is a simple process and will only take a few hours to do.  You will need a ladder, caulking and some clean rags.  Which caulk is the best?  I don’t know, but since it is exposed to the weather, I would get a good outdoor caulking.  I prefer one that dries clear.

Caulk around the whole frame of each window and door.  If you have a drivable RV you will not need to do the front window as they are sealed with a rubber grommet.  However, if you have an older rig that has some rust around the windows, it won’t hurt to seal that area as well.

I think caulking is an art.  The more you do the better your seals will look, so practice makes perfect.  Best of luck and hopefully we will met on the road.

Videos coming… sooner or later :)

I am currently learning how to make videos for posting to YouTube and this website.  I am going to create a whole series of videos covering the same subjects that are posted on RV Inspection Service’s website (http://rv-inspection-service.com).  Most videos will be short subjects covering all aspects of inspection an RV prior to purchasing.  I hope to have the videos starting this Spring and finished this Summer.

To cover the added cost of producing and hosting the videos I will need to charge, sorry.  I am looking at what I hope is a very reasonable price of $9.50.  That is a flat one time fee.

I am also working on an RV Inspection Book that you can use to inspect the RV with before you purchase.  Hopefully it will be done this Summer.

 

Stabilizer Maintenance

Stabilizer Maintenance
Maintenance of the stabilizers is basically the same for electric or hydraulic.   Keep the springs clean and properly attached.  If they appear to be loose or stretched out, it is time for replacing them.  Some stabilizers have internal springs.  If the stabilizer fails to retract fully then maintenance is required.

The pads should be clean and flat when extended.  You do not want the pads to be sloping or unstable this could cause damage to the stabilizer.  Clean the stabilizer rods with hydraulic oil.  Periodic retracting the stabilizers when in long term use will help keep the rods clean and lubricated.

When using your stabilizers, it is a good idea to use pads, wood or other blocking under the pads.  This will help keep the pad clean, prevent sinking into the ground and spread the weight of the rig over a larger area, providing a more stable set up.

Check the fluid levels of the hydraulic system at least once a month.  Fill with the proper fluid as required.

Read you manual for proper maintenance intervals and operation.  If you don’t have the manual, check online for the manufacturers recommendations.  Always follow the safety instructions when operating your stabilizers.

Slide Maintenance

Slides are probably one of the most important improvements made to recreational vehicles in a long time.  They come in manual, electric and hydraulic.  Each requires is own form of maintenance.

With all slides there are some common maintenance tasks.  First never store anything on top of the slides whether they are in or out.  Second, make sure the top of the slides are clear of any debris before opening or closing the slides.  Debris can tear up the rubber seals causing leaks and eventual replacement. Make sure that all drawers, cabinet doors and chairs are properly stored.

Manual Slides are probably the easiest to maintain.  A simple lubrication once a year with a good quality silicone spray will keep them working for years to come.  While you are at it, clean and treat the seals with a rubber seal spray.

Electric and hydraulic controlled slides should be lubricated annually using a quality silicone spray and the seals cleaned with a good rubber cleaning spray.  In addition, you want to make sure the batteries are in good working order.  Clean the connections at least once a year.  Check under the slide for signs of rubbing.  Keep the slide tracks, equalizer gears clean and properly lubed.  If the slide is going to be extended for a long period of time, a slight coating of hydraulic oil will help prevent the ram from rusting.  It is a good idea to exercise the slides at least once a month to keep the parts working properly.

Check the connections of the ram to the slides to ensure the bolts are tight and adjusted properly.  There are numerous methods for adjusting the slides.  Normally the top of the slide will contact the side of the rv first and then the drive will pull the bottom tight.  If the operation is out of whack you will need to perform the proper adjustment procedure or contact your rv repairman.

Roof Maintenance

Here is an area that many of you have probably never even seen let along done any maintenance, the roof. Now before we get started, if you rig does not have a ladder attached, DO NOT GET ON THE ROOF! No ladder means it is not designed to hold the weight of people. Even if your rig has a ladder, I would recommend using a standard ladder placed on the rig to gain access. Once on the roof please be very careful. They are slippery when wet, have all kinds of object designed to make you trip and the edges slant away from the center and you can easy fall off. It is best when you are on the roof to stay on your hands and knees. This way you have two advantages. One you are on four points of support. Two you are closure to the roof to do inspections and see issues.

Roof maintenance will include a cleaning, repairs of cracks and damage to the roof and installed fixtures from trees and other objects. Start with a good inspection of the seals and roofing material. Note the type of roof. How are you suppose to know the type of roof? Here is a video on how to determine the type of roof your RV might have. http://rv101.tv/2012/09/06/rv-101-how-to-determine-rv-rubber-roof-types/

Cleaning the roof only requires soap, water and a soft brush. No high pressure water hoses! I have seen them punch holes into the roof materials. As you are cleaning the roof, look for signs of peeling or loose caulking. These areas will need to be repaired. Also look for signs of water pooling. This could be an indication of soft or decaying material under the roof material. Note the area and inspect the inside of the rig for signs of water damage.

Once the roof is clean inspect all of the caulking, air conditioner(s) and vents. Use a flash light to check the vents for signs of nest or other blockage.

It is not a bad idea to do the inspection of the roof at least once a year. Please read my post on http://rv-inspection-service.com dealing with inspecting the roof.

Maintaining Batteries

Starting a new set of articles for RVers. The last series on Inspecting an RV before you purchase it is available on my website at http://rv-inspection-service.com.
This series will be on maintenance of the RV. Please if you have any suggestions or areas of interest, let me know.
These will not be in any order of importance. Basically, I will start with whatever area hits me as a topic to write about. Today’s topic is going to be on Batteries as this seems to be an area that a lot of people disregard until it is too late and they have to replace them.
As I mentioned in my inspection articles on batteries, there are two basic types; maintenance and maintenance free. Maintenance free does not mean you do not have any maintenance, it just means you have less maintenance to do. They should probably call the limited maintenance. So lets start with them.
Tools you will need to maintain batteries include a battery cleaning brush, adjustable wrench and a hydrometer.
Maintenance Free Battery Maintenance starts with cleaning. Periodically, you need to clean the terminals of the batteries. Corrosion of the terminals will reduce the available voltage and current available to the rig. Many problems with maintenance free batteries come from dirty/corroded battery terminals. The corrosion comes from the gases that escape from the battery during normal operation. Once you have cleaned the battery terminals and wire connections, use some Vaseline on the terminal and connection to seal out the elements. There is no real guidance that I know of as to how often to clean the battery. A lot depends on the environment. So as a guideline I would look at doing the maintenance every 6 months or so.
Maintenance of regular batteries is a little bit more complicated, although not that bad. Besides cleaning the battery terminals, you also need to check the fluid levels in these batteries. This should be done when the battery is fully charges and cool. Why? The battery fluid level will vary depending on the temperature and the charge. A fully charged battery at 70 degree will have a different fluid level than a battery that is discharge at 50 degrees. The level of fluid should be just covering the plates inside the battery. If the battery needs fluid, use distilled water. Tap water is loaded with chemicals that can be harmful to the battery. However, if you do not have distilled water and the water level is low, tap water is better than no water. You should check these batteries every month or so. At the most every time you change oil. You can determine the state of charge for maintenance batteries with a hydrometer. Simply insert the tip into the cell and withdraw some of the liquid until the bulb or level in the hydrometer floats. Read the state of charge from the gauge inside the hydrometer.