Batteries: There are two uses for batteries, coach and house batteries. Coach batteries are those that are used to start the RV. These are normal 12 v car or truck type batteries and are designed to provide a lot of amperage for a short period of time. The house batteries are deep cycle batteries which are designed to provide a lower amperage for a much longer period of time.
Most of us will understand the coach batteries and can tell when it is time to replace them. They will last 3-5 years. You can tell when a coach battery starts to go bad in that it has trouble starting the engine, cranks slow or dies pretty quickly when the lights are left on. Maintenance and inspection will be covered below.
House batteries are a little more difficult to cover simply because of the wide range of use and types available. Let’s start with the purpose. House batteries are designed to run everything in the rig, from the lights to the fans and heaters. Almost everything in the RV uses electric from the batteries. As such these need to provide current (amperage) for a long period of time. Typically the house batteries can be called on to provide current for days at a low amperage. This type of battery is call a deep cycle battery. All RV run on 12 v DC systems. However, not all RV use 12 V batteries. Many motor homes will use 6 v batteries. 6 volt batteries are often call golf cart batteries as that is a primary use for them. 6 volt batteries are designed to provide current over long periods of time which makes them ideal for RVers who want to camp without electric for a few days.
Today’s tip deals with slide outs. Many of the RV today have slide outs. They help increase the living space. There are several things you need to look at when inspecting them prior to buying.
There are two sets of seals. One on the slide out and one on the main body of the rig. The one on the slide out is used when you retract the rig. It should go all the way around the slide out. You want to make sure that this seal is clean, soft, pliable and without any tears. With the slide out fully retracted you want to make sure there are no gaps anywhere around the slide out. You can test for possible leaking areas by putting strips of paper between the rig and the slide out before bringing fully retracting. If the papers pullout with no resistance, the slide out could leak in those areas.
The second set of seals is on the rig body and they are used with the slide out is extended. These will be inside the rig. As with the external seals they should be complete around the slide without tears etc. You will need to inspect these prior to fully extending the slide. Watch around the lower areas of the slide. If the slide out does not extend all the way, you will get water, dust, dirt, bugs etc in the rig from these areas.
If the slide does not seal all way around it is possible to adjust it. Contact your dealer or a certified RV repairman to have them look at what needs to be done.
When looking at a rig, be sure to check out the slides. You want to operate them and watch for how smoothly they come in and out. Once they are out, get outside and check underneath. Press against the bottom looking for soft spots. With the slides in, examine the framing around the slides. Water leaks will often leave the framing soft and spongy. Although not structural, it could lead to mold. Check the deals around the slides both with it in and out. The slide should seal completely both ways.
Most of us realize that it is important to change the oil periodically, but how many of you change the transmission fluid? Do you even know how to check the fluid? Do you check it? Part of my pre-trip inspection is to check the transmission fluid. This is done with the engine running and after having shifted the transmission into each gear. But when is it time to change the fluid? There are numbers all over the place for when to change your transmission fluid. The two easiest ways to tell are;
1. if the fluid is not bright red, then change it.
2. Have a Transmission fluid analysis done. This is just like the engine oil analysis. Pull a sample and send it to have the fluid checked out. You will get a report that tells you what metals are in the fluid, such as:
- Aluminum: Torque converter, the case, gear and vane pumps, thrust washers
- Chromium: Ball and roller bearings, alloy of steel parts like gears
- Iron: Gears, bearings, shafts, some cases, clutch plates
- Copper: Bronze bushings, oil cooler oxides, clutch plates, brass fittings
- Lead: Residual gear marking compound, alloy of bronze
- Tin: Some bearing cages, alloy of bronze
- Nickel: Clutch bands, gear/shaft steel alloy
- Silver: Some soft friction bearings, Allison needle bearings
- Manganese: Alloy of steel
- Titanium: Trace wear metal
In addition to the oil type ratings such as Viscosity and Flashpoint. All in all giving you a good idea as to what is going on within the transmission and when to change the fluid.
Oil Analysis and what does it tell you. Any RV with an engine should have an oil analysis done before being purchased. This is for several reasons. The foremost is to tell you IF there is a potential issue with the engine or transmission. A standard oil analysis consist of 4 tests. Spectral – Spectral analysis will tell you what metals are dissolved into the oil. This is the warning stage. If there is a high reading of a metal then that is an indication of wear for that metal type. Note: this is dissolved metals not metal flakes or fillings. Once the metal starts to break apart, spectral analysis will NOT tell you. Fillings etc will be seen in the drain oil. The second test is the Insolubles test. This test tells you how good the filter is doing. Oil breaks down when exposed to heat and air. It starts to oxidize. This oxidation is removed by the filter. The cure for oxidation is to replace the filter. The third test is Viscosity test. Viscosity is the weight of the oil, 5W30 etc. It can change over time due to overheating, contamination, moisture and coolant getting into the oil. This is the indicator that will tell us when we have to change the oil. The final test is the Flash Point test. The Flash Point Test tell us the point at which the oil basically burns. All oil has a flash point. If the oil burns at or above the assigned flash point then everything is normal. If however, the oil burns below the flash point, it is contaminated and needs to be replaced.
This article is related to engine oil analysis. I will follow up with a transmission and a coolant analysis over the coming days. These Fluid analysis are relatively inexpensive and should be done prior to buying a used RV. They will tell you a great deal about the condition of the engine, transmission, cooling system and generator, that you can not see with the naked eye. It will be money well spent.
Tires Part 2. Everyday maintenance and care of the tires on your RV will go a long way to keeping you safe. Each tire you have on the rig is rated for load carrying capacity. This load rating (usually a letter) determines how much weight the tire can handle at a given PSI of pressure. The lower the pressure the lower the weight handling capability. Each manufacture provides the weight/load capacity for their tires. For example Goodyear has a chart (PDF) that shows a 12R22.5 tire for an RV at a PSI of 90 can handle 6005 lbs. That same tire at 100 PSI can handle 6405 lbs. So a 10 percent drop in tire pressure would mean a loss of 400 lbs carrying capacity for your rig. What does that mean? Over weight rigs on under pressure tires could cause a failure of the tire and damage or death. What pressure are your tires?
Make it a habit to check your tire pressures before each trip. Know your the weight of your RV and keep the pressures for your tires appropriate for the weight. Be safe, your life or the lives of your love ones depends on it.
When checking an RV be sure to spend some time with the doors both inside and out. Here are some helpful hints. Open and close doors to check for solid latch. Look at doors for tight fit at all corners. Place a piece of paper at a corner, close door and pull paper to check for tight seal. Look at seals to check for deterioration or severe compression. Look at the latches on all the cabinet doors. Make sure they all work. Nothing like having dishes, pots and pans and groceries flying when you turn a corner and the door pops open.
Do you have fogged up headlights? You know the yellowing dull looking things in the front of the rigs? If so, get a can of Off Bug Spray and a rag. Spray the lens and wipe away the yellowing, dull stuff like magic. Try it, it works! Feel free to send the savings to my Paypal account
Tires on RV are not the same as on your car or light truck. They do not have the same UV protection. As a general rule, tires over 7 years old should be replaced. Watch when you buy tires and check the date of manufacture. It will be a four digit code on the sidewall near the DOT symbol. The first two digits are the week of the year and the last two digits are the year that the tire was made. So a 5109 would be the 51st week of 2009. Have you checked your tires?
When looking at a RV you will want to run the Air Conditioners for at least 10 minutes. Then with a food grade thermometer take the temperature of the incoming air (about 5 minutes) and then at the vent closest to the air conditioner take the out going air temperature. You are looking for a difference in temperature of about 20 degrees F or more.