Category Archives: Tip of the Day

What to look for when buying an RV, whether it is new or used.

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.

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.

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.

 

RV Detailing Business

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

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.

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.

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.

Just wanted to let you know about the Facebook Page

I also have a Facebook Page that is used to support this site.  You can access it at Facebook Page.

I am starting to work on the video series.  It will cover the complete inspection process from roof to frame and everything in between.  Not sure how long this is going to take, probably a few months at least.  Also haven’t figured out what or if I will be charging for this.  I do plan on having a manual that will go with the videos.

Please let me know if you have any ideas or special interests.