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.

 

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.

Videos… a couple steps closer

The video project took a couple steps closer this week.  I have been able to find the software I need to create and edit them and the software for the website to present and manage them.

I have been working on a couple of books as well.  Seems I am working harder now in early retirement than I was when I was working full time.  But thankfully everything is coming together that will make this the go to place for new recreational vehicle owners.

Speaking of the books, the first two should be ready to download from this site beginning the first week of May.  That is just a couple of weeks away.

I will be posting a free download code on the Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/RVInspectionService/), so if you are not a member, please sign up soon.  If you have friends that are looking for an RV, have them sign up as well.

Watch for another article that explains the book series.

Oh almost forgot, you will be getting a newsletter now as well.  All free of charge of course.  (Someday I will have to figure out how to make money with all of this).

Thanks everyone for all the great comments.  More to come.

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.

 

 

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

 

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.

 

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.

Home inspections for the RV