Category Archives: RV Articles

Articles written about RVs.

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.

 

Braking Distances

I am sitting here drinking my morning coffee and thinking about what the subject should be for this weeks article.  As you know I have posted a lot of things on here about inspecting and lately about the maintenance.  But today a post on the web got me thinking that most of us have no idea how to safely drive our rigs.  Face it, we spend most of our time in a car or light truck and then when we want to go camping, we just behind the wheel and off we go.  We have gone from a 4 wheel 2000 lbs vehicle to as many wheels as an 18 wheeler with weights approaching 40,000 and maybe more.  Some of these are air brake equipped just like the big rigs.  Then we hit the road and maintain speed with everyone else and the following distances just like a car.

So I started to do some research on braking distance in an RV.  First some perspective.  A car traveling at 60 MPH takes about 200 ft to stop.  That is according to a couple of posts  I found the average big rig takes about 40 percent longer to stop than a car.  So the Class A’s should take about 280 feet to stop.  This does not include the reaction time which is another 1 to 1.5 secs.  At 60 MPH that is up to another 135 feet or more than a football field.  All totaled the car will stop in about the football field from the time the driver see the problem until the vehicle is stopped where as the RV will take almost 1.4 football fields to stop.

So basically, you need to slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front.  If someone pulls in front of you, remember that you still need over a football field to stop and it will take 135 feet before your foot is even on the brake to think about stopping.

Camping is not about the race to get there, it is about relaxing and enjoying life.  Start the camping trip when you leave home and relax and enjoy the trip.

Is It the Perfect RV?

My first book in the series “Is It the Perfect RV?”, titled “Finding the Perfect RV” is now available on RV Inspection Service website.

For  a limited time I am giving away the book for reviews and to help spread the word.  Use the promo code “rvinspectionservice” at check out and you will be able to download the book for free.

What is covered in this book?

Chapter One – Full time, Seasonal, Weekender
Finances
Insurance

Chapter Two – What type of RV is best for you?
Types of RVs
Do you have a tow vehicle?
What kind of Hitch?
Towing Hitches
Sway Bars
Fifth Wheel and Goose-neck Hitches
Pro/Con of the different types
Selecting the best for you

Chapter Three – Floor Plan
Beds
Bathroom
Storage
Slides
Layout

Chapter Four – Amenities
Refrigerator
Microwave/Convection
Stove/Oven
Water Heaters
Outside Kitchen
Deck
Dishwasher
Washer/Dryer
Fireplace

Chapter Five – New or Used

Chapter Six – Price

Chapter Seven – Finding the Perfect RV
Finding the Perfect New RV
Finding the Perfect Used RV

Chapter Eight – Checklist for the Perfect RV
How to use this checklist
Checklist
Master Bedroom
Kitchen
Bathroom
Living Room
Appliances
Entertainment
Windows
Air Conditioning
Furnace
Water Heaters
Exit Stairs
Jacks and Levelers
Generator
Exterior
Power
Awnings
Bug Protection
Slide Outs
Drivers Area
Miscellaneous

Get your copy today at http://rv-inspection-service.com/book-store.  Remember the promo code is rvinspectionservice while the free downloads last.

 

Annual Safety Briefing

It is that time of year again when we will be pulling out the RV and hitting the road.  So it is time for your annual safety briefing as well.  I want to bring up a subject that I feel is so important.  Your RV Weight.  These homes on wheels have a limited amount of weight that the RV can safely handle.  It is called the  Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR.  This is the maximum you can safely put on the wheels and tongue of the RV.  It is also the maximum LEGAL weight you can have.  If you exceed this weight and you have an accident, you can be held accountable for the accident, even though you were not at fault, because your vehicle had exceeded its weight limit.  So how do you determine your weight?  Go to a truck stop that has a CAT scale, spend $11 or $12 dollars and have the RV weighed.  Compare the value you will be given to the RV sticker that shows the GVWR.  If you are overweight, you need to remove stuff from the rig until you are back under the GVWR.

Overweight is the leading cause for RV accidents.  When you are overweight you stress the tires and they blow out.  In addition, tires pressure needs to be increased as the weight increases.  Failure to have the proper pressure for the weight they are carrying will cause the sidewalls to bulge and also leads to premature failure of the tires (blow out) which causes loss of control, damage to the RV and possible loss of life.

When you have your rig weighed you will be given a sheet of paper that shows the weight on each wheel.  This is very important information as it determines the pressure for that tire.

Let me show you an example.  I have Good Year tires on our Class A.  According to the weigh ticket my front axle weighs 8960 lbs.  Divide that by two and each tire is carrying about 4,500 lbs.  I rounded up for safety.  At that weight the tire pressure according to Good Year should be 90 PSI.  My rear wheels are dual tires.  My rear axle weight is 16,180.  Divided by 4 is 4,050.  Again according to Good Year, my tire pressure for the rear wheels should be 85 PSI.  So you can see that the tire pressures are different for the front and back.  Since these tires can be pressurized to 120 PSI, I keep the all at 95-100 PSI most of the time.

How often should you weigh the RV?  If you are pretty constant with how you travel, once should be enough I would guess.  But if your load changes, or you start carrying water or propane when you didn’t use to then weigh your rig again.  If in doubt, weigh it again.  It is better safe than sorry.  Remember SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

 

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.

 

 

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

 

Solar Cells and RVs

I did a little research into Solar Cells and RVing.  This is a non bias review of the issue.  I am not involved with sales, installation, boondocking, dry camping, Green Peace or any other environmental cause.  I am looking at it from a purely financial and beneficial stand point.

Let start with the size in amps that would be needed for an off the grid RV.  If you are frugal with your electric use, leaving the lights off, using propane for heating water and air, limiting your tv and computer time you can probably get by with about 20-30 AMP/H.  You have to remember that you have a lot of equipment in the RV that uses electricity even if you aren’t.  You smoke, CO2 and Propane detectors, the converter/inverter, the refrigerator (even on gas uses 12 VDC) and water heater all use DC all the time.  Then you have fans, lights, electronics that also use AC all of the time.  So just to keep the system running I figure you will need from 500 to 600 Watts. Then on top of that you have your entertainment and living wattage. So figure you will need from 800-1000 watts of consistent solar power to meet your needs as a minimum. Now solar panels are only about 6% effiecent.  That means that to create that kind of power you will need 15 sq yards of space on the roof or about 6-8 panels, depending on the part of the country and the weather.

Equipment needed is the next area.  You need the panels, charge controller, batteries, converter/inverter, monitoring unit, wiring, mounting hardware and the available weight on the RV.  So lets talk about weight first.  The solar panels are going to weight around 40-50 lbs each with hardware and wiring.  The batteries will weigh about 50 lbs each.  You will probably have 4-8 6 volt batteries.  The controler will weigh in at about 15 lbs. The monitor is 5 lbs. Total added weight to the RV for 8 panels would be about 900 lbs.

Cost for all of this is the real kicker.  There are all kinds of prices out there from $200 set up to $6000 or more.  Basically you will get what you pay for.  A trickle charger setup will not work for boondocking. It is designed to kept the battery charged when not in use.  Basically the first panel will run from $800-$1000 plus installation. Each additional panel will be from $600-$750.  So you can see that an 8 panel full time off the grid system will probably cost you from $5000 to $6250.

All of this assumes you are living in the desert with no bad weather, that you always have a clear shot of the southern sky and that the panels are mounted to be able to track the sun during most of the day. Which means you will also need a supplemental energy source as well, IE a generator.

I don’t know how long you plan on boondocking, but for the heck of it lets do some math.  First off the resale value of a used solar system is non-exsistent. So you won’t recover any of your investment that way.  The good news is it should last 20-25 years.  The added holes in your roof will probably mean more maintenance and sealant over the years and will affect the resale value of your rig.  So unless the buyer is also looking to boondock and wants to take the solar system as well, you will lose money on the RV when you trade it in.
Solar vs Generator?  There is no doubt that solar over the long haul will reduce your energy expenses, but by how much?  A generator run about a gallon of fuel an hour.  If you are using gas that means it cost about $3 an hour to run and you will run it about 3-4 hours a day to keep the batteries charged, so $12 a day.  So for the first 416 days or so of boondocking you it will be cheaper to use a generator than installing a $5000 solar system in perfect sunlight.  Call it two years before you will see a benefit of using solar over generator as a full time boondocker.  If you hook up at a campground at all, then the time extends out even more.

Since we plan on only boondocking a week or so a year once we head West, it was pretty easy for me to see that this wasn’t worth it.  You need to decide if it is for you.