Information for new RV'ers
Safety Issues concerning operation of refrigerator, heater & water heater while driving:
An open flame in a service station is asking for big trouble.
Most RV'ers especially motorhomes travel with their refrigerator on. Some are even operating their propane heaters and or propane water heater. Refrigerator, water heaters and forced air heaters have one thing in common------an open flame. The absolute last thing RV'ers want to do is pull into a service station with those open flames. Have someone riding in the motorhome with you assure that all propane appliances are turned off prior to entering a service station. Joyce and I write a note and put it on the floor of our motorhome reminding us to turn each of these appliances back on upon exiting the service station.
Maintenance on hydraulic leveling jacks and Kwiki Steps:
About 6 years ago I attended a "workshop" covering operation and maintenance of RV-appliances & equipment. A local RV dealer does this every year and they do a good job of it. One of their mechanics discussed the operation of Kwiki steps, all the switches and such, how they operate, how to maintain them etc., They stressed that a good ground connection was necessary for the proper functioning of the steps and that cleaning up that connection fixed many problems. Next they covered "maintenance" of the steps. They recommended monthly lubrication of the joints between the motor and the steps (the mechanical joints) with silicon. They were recommending silicon not so much for its lubricating ability but because it DID NOT ATTRACT DIRT AND GRIME.
Mechanics warned us NOT to use lubricant that would attract road dirt and grime. They specifically recommended silicon spray stating that was all they used.
Industry representatives stress that the places to lubricate were not the sliding hinges on both sides of the steps. It is the joints in the arm connecting the motor to the steps. The only way you can do this is to lay on your back under the steps while the steps are cycled up and down/in and out. Again, you are NOT trying to lubricate the scissions mechanism on both sides of the step you are lubricating the JOINTS in the linkage off the motor. That is why you have to get under the steps to see what needs lubricating. There is no other way to get the silicon on the correct joints.
Don't be one of those people that lubricate the sliding steel hinges on both sides of the steps while ignoring the joints that really need the lubrication. And don't use WD-40 or other petroleum based lubricants that will attract road dirt & grime. Use silicon spray or Kwiki lube.
Now, with that background, it would seem to me that you could use a petroleum based lubricant as long as you cleaned it up periodically and applied another coat. I know from experience that silicon does not seem to leave any lasting lubricating film on any part.
The shiny cylinders on our hydraulic leveling jacks need to be cleaned and sprayed with silicon also. Here again industry representatives stress silicon because it does not attract dirt & grime. From experience the best way to do this is to fully extend each of the jacks then spray the silicon on them. In most instances that should be all that is needed. On occasion I have applied the silicon then lightly rubbed them with fine steel wool to remove any rust or dirt that may be present. After applying steel wool it is always necessary to apply more silicon and thoroughly clean the shaft with a clean rag or paper towel to assure no dirt, rust or steel wool residue remain. After wiping all residue away with the rag or paper towel make sure to apply silicon again as the final step.
Most people will want to know how often to perform these maintenance procedures. I would say as often as necessary and that would tend to change with circumstances. When on the road I tend to do it monthly. I want to do it often enough that rust does not appear on the struts of my leveling jacks. Whenever I have the silicon spray out to apply a coat to the leveling jacks it is easy to apply a few squirts to the joints of the Kwiki Steps at the same time.
Maintenance on the Bat Wing TV antenna:
An annual application of silicon spray in the little lubrication hole on the bat wing TV antenna will keep it moving up and down smoothly. So if your bat wing TV antenna is hard to wind up or down--------------- it is time for you to get on your roof and take the cap off that lubrication hole---------------- then squirt an application of silicon in the hole and on the exposed gear. Have your significant other put the antenna through its paces (up down and around) to spread the lubricant around on the exposed gear.
RV electrical systems:
I have prepared a brief overview of electrical issues and systems here: RV electrical information
I am going to refer you to the following web sites that have done an excellent job explaining the subject:
Mark Nemouth's: http://www.ccis.com/home/mnemeth/ from the top
Phred "Phrannie's" Tensith's Poop Sheets:
Dave Damouth's site:
From these sites you should get a good handle on voltage (the difference between 120 & 12 volts). Amperage, what it means and how the amount of amperage required to power an appliance varies with voltage (12V or 120V).
You will learn how much "stored power" you can expect from batteries. Once you understand the "Power storing capacity of batteries" then you will be able to understand why an inverter is NOT going to run your air conditioner, blow dryer, toaster, microwave etc., Along the way you will gain an understanding of power requirements necessary for different appliances/lights/gadgets etc.,
In short an inverter connected to 2 good 6-volt golf cart batteries should enable you to watch some TV, run some 120-volt lights if you have them, charge the batteries on your cameras and electric toothbrush etc., An inverter is NOT going to run your big appliances. As for your refrigerator you should be operating it on propane not the inverter.
Water heater maintenance:
Most RV water heaters have an anode that needs to be inspected annually. The function of an anode is to protect your water heater from stray electrical currents that erode the tank. Motorhomes have stray electrical currents. An anode is a metal that "sacrifices" itself. In other words when these small electrical currents are at work they eat away at the anode and not your water heater tank. Most reasonable individuals realize that it is prudent to drain their water heater annually. If you have never done it and are comfortable not draining your water heater by all means continue to do so. I have no idea how you will know when it is time to replace your anode but that should not matter ---- you will just replace the water heater when electrolyses eats through the thin tank.
How do I drain my water heater and inspect this "anode"? Fear not, this is an easy task even for dummies. FIRST, turn OFF your water heater. You do not want the propane burner to come on while you are draining the tank. If it did it would scare the jumping beejeebees out of you and might damage the water heater so turn the water heater off. Also turn off the water so that you can drain the water heater. You can't drain the water heater with pressure on the system because fresh water will continuously flow into the tank while you are trying to drain it. Next look for the big hex head fitting near the bottom of your water heater tank. This hex head fitting will take something like a 1-inch socket. Unscrew this, remembering to turn counter clockwise. When you pull this plug out you will see a 10" rod attached to it that fits into the tank. That metal rod is the anode The rod should be pitted...... it is supposed to be. That means it is working. Those holes or pits are the parts of the anode that have been sacrificed. That is what would be happening to the thin walls of your water heater if the anode were not there doing its job. All you need to do is clean the anode off with a rag or steel wool. You will probably just reinstall this and once you determine that enough of the sacrificial element remains to keep your water heater protected for another season.
Note that when you start to unscrew the anode water comes gushing out of the tank. That is what it is supposed to do. This will be a bit messy as it drains down the side of your RV but that is the way it is done. Let all this water drain out. Most people just drain their tank but some people prefer to rig something to squirt fresh water under pressure into the tank to stir up any sediments and flush that out as well. You can do that some camping supply places even sell a hose attachment specially designed to perform this task.
Now it is time to put things back together. You will need to apply some Teflon tape or pipe dope to the pipe threads of the anode-plug. You must do this or the plug will leak. Once the plug has been reinstalled it is time to turn on the water supply and fill the water heater tank. Once the water supply has been turned on you will need to go inside the RV and turn on ALL of your hot water faucets. You will hear air escaping from these faucets until the water heater tank becomes full of water. Leave the hot water faucet on until all the air is expelled from the system. It should not take long, but do not turn off the faucet until all the sputtering and spitting has subsided. Once the water heater tank is full of water again and no air is in the lines it is time to turn the water heater back on. Remember------you do not want power on your water heater if water is not in the tank.
That is all there is to it, and remember to do this annually.
Filling prescriptions on the road:
Many RV'ers are concerned about how they are going to handle prescription medication refills on the road. It is not hard but you can do some things to make it easier.
First we have our doctor give us an ANNUAL prescription during our annual physical. Not only do we get this annual prescription we have him make it out to be filled in 90-day increments vice monthly. By doing this we only have to deal with each prescription 4 times each year instead of each month. That step alone greatly simplifies the prescription filling process. Next we take those prescriptions to our local pharmacist where they put them on file. This can be any pharmacy you chose, I don't think it much matters. It certainly does NOT have to be a national chain.
From this point on we just give ANY pharmacist in ANY town the empty prescription container and ask for a refill. They contact the last pharmacy to fill the prescription and get the information they need. Switching around has had NO effect that we can tell.
Remember to SIMPLIFY the process before leaving in your motorhome for an extend trip. Have your physician issue an annual prescription with each refill calling for a 90-day supply.
Hand signals and spouses helping to guide the RV into a site:
Over the years Joyce and I have enjoyed sitting at the local boat ramp on beautiful Sunday afternoons watching "weekend-warriors" put their boat in the water or take their boat out of the water. The funniest thing to watch is the Type "A" personality (always a man) struggle with backing the boat trailer then struggle getting the boat on the trailer. More often than not it ends in a screaming match. The man always blames his wife when he can't back and when he can't get the boat on the trailer. This is first class entertainment especially when they are on their 5th or 6th attempt to load the boat. They have attracted an audience by this time.
This same entertainment is routine in campgrounds. My question to you is "Are you and your spouse the featured entertainment or do you want to be the featured entertainment when you arrive at the campground"?
This is a good read if you are ready to laugh at some things people see in public places: http://www.redrockadventure.com/camping/camp_sights.htm
Joyce and I have made sure that we DO NOT put on a show that will amuse the RV-Park. You can bet that I am not going to say anything to Joyce that any other ears can hear. With that said..................we have our hand signals down pat. Although I can generally back into a site without any help there are times when it is needed. I can look in my mirrors and tell if I am going to run into anything on the sides. How far to back is generally what needs direction. When she is directing me back I will not move until she stands facing my mirror where I can see BOTH of her hands. She holds both hands up indicating how far I have to back up. As I roll back her hands get closer and closer together. There is none of that waving of hands stuff when we get within 5' of our final resting spot. I will not move the motorhome if she is not facing my mirror with her hands apart indicating how far I have to back. If she turns sideways (as is her inclination) I just stop until she gets hold of herself and turns to face my mirror. We do this without saying a word, although she has been known to give me one of those not so nice hand signals -------------------generally when she has done something embarrassing like standing sideways or where I can not see both of her hands in the mirror.
Waving hands has got to be the WORST form of giving signals. In order not to be campground entertainment you need to practice some SIMPLE signals. This is something most people DO NOT DO before becoming the "main attraction". Every couple does not have to communicate exactly the same, however, both must understand the signals they decide on. Some things are just common sense but are seldom observed.
First, whoever is giving the directions must be giving those direction from a place where the driver can see them. That can be out in front of the motorhome in the beginning of the process or on the drivers side in back of the motorhome in the final stages of backing in. Don't brush this off lightly. The individual giving directions must be positioned where they can be seen by the driver. You and your spouse need to practice this repeatedly until the signal giver UNDERSTANDS where they have to be.
Second, use accepted signals:
Clinched fist held up head high indicate STOP and HOLD. Everyone understands that.
When backing into a site the signal giver must be standing in back of the vehicle facing the driver (that is also facing the rear of the RV) so that the driver can see them in the mirror, preferably on the drivers side. Now the signal giver can point to the direction they want the back end of the RV to go in. If the intent is to have the rear of the RV go to the left then point your left arm and hand to the left while moving your right arm and hand in that direction (to the left). If the intent is to have the rear of the RV go to the right then point your RIGHT arm and hand to the right while moving your left hand and arm in that direction (to the right).
Keep in mind that the driver must be able to see not only the signal giver's eyes but both of their hands and arms! This is extremely important because if the driver does not see both hands and arms they can not see and interpret the signals.
If you want the RV to come straight back you can give the driver two thumbs up to continue backing.
Once the RV is nearing where it needs to stop the signal giver again needs to be in full view of the driver's mirror. Waving arms and hands don't cut it. Refrain from waving someone back. Instead while facing the driver and the rear end of the RV hold your arms apart indicating how much further to back. Start with outstretched arms and hands and bring them closer together as the vehicle gets closer and closer to where you want it to stop. The driver will feel "safe & sure" that they know exactly how far you want them to back.
These signals are EASY to practice in a driveway or parking lot. Just have the signal giver stand behind the RV and direct the driver. It will take some practice for the signal giver to remember where to stand in order for the driver to see their signals.
I hope that the time I spent writing this motivates some couples to discuss the signals they are using to back into a site and practice those signals. The backing process does not have to be a source of frustration for you while at the same time a source of entertainment for the RV-Park.
Hand signals that we use when making sure that the brake lights and turn signals are working on the tow car:
Common sense tells us to check our tow car brake lights and turn signals every time we connect the tow car to the motorhome.
Each time we connect the Saturn to the motorhome we do a quick light
check and you should also. Joyce
stands behind the Saturn (our tow car) where she can see the brake
lights on both the Saturn & Motorhome and where I can see her
in the mirror. When I activate the left turn signal she holds up 2-fingers
on her left hand-----
We have found bad connections and also find burned out bulbs several times a year.
We have a routine when connecting the tow car to the motorhome and checking the lights is just one step in the routine.
Water Vapor in an RV:
From time to time RV'ers will find themselves combating a severe problem of condensation inside the RV. Solutions are varied but an understanding of what is causing the problem will lead to the solution most suitable for you and your circumstance. The first thing to understand is that a propane flame will create moisture when burning. Moisture is a byproduct of combustion. Breathing also creates moisture in the air.
Most of the time that moisture in the air will not be a problem but when it gets cold enough outside it will become a problem that you will have to deal with.
Almost always exchanging the warm, moist air in the RV for cold, dry air will help. Some people are successful in controlling moisture/condensation in their RV by keeping their ceiling vents open. By doing this they are allowing warm, moist air to exit through the vent. The replacement air will be cold, dry air. Opening a kitchen window and the overhead vent nearest the kitchen, especially during cooking, will help.
Keeping your overhead vents open at night will go a long way toward controlling indoor condensation.
If those things do not control it you may have to resort to running your air conditioners or a humidifier.
When we headed out of West Yellowstone, Montana in mid-September 2004, it was snowing outside and we had a horrendous condensation problem in the motorhome. Snow was hitting our windshield and condensation was literally flowing off. I dried them off with towels but immediately more collected. We finally got the condensation under control after I turned both house air conditioners on high plus cranking the diesel and turning on the dash defroster which is a combination of heater and air conditioning. The windshield finally warmed up a bit with the defroster on plus two 12-volt dash fans circulating air across it. We drove for over an hour in the snow with both roof air conditioners running. That combination worked for us on that occasion.
Looking back I may have handled that situation differently. I may have handled it better by turning on all available heaters while opening a small window in the front of the motorhome and turning on the exhaust fan in the bathroom. By doing this I would have been able to more effectively control that moisture.
Do not leave awnings extended when you are away from your RV:
There are TWO reasons not to leave awnings extend when you are away. You never know when a windstorm may come through and destroy it. Additionally, a rain storm may hit the area and fill your awning with water. When it gets full of water, and it will, the long steel tube the awning wraps around will buckle. Understand that you may get away with leaving your awnings extended for awhile but your day will come and you will not be happy when it does.
Some people think that they can position their awning so that water will drain off------- and it will in a shower. In a downpour water comes down so fast that a bulge develops in the fabric. It is a small bulge to begin with but it rapidly grows larger and larger until the metal roller collapses. You will be shocked to find out what it is going to cost to repair--------replace that awning.
Wind storms routinely destroy awnings especially in the western states. Down pours do also. In the summer of 2004 we were in Nashville, Tennessee when a thunderstorm came through the RV-Park. When the rain subsided somewhat I ventured outside to see what things looked like. It wasn't pretty. Several of us men saw an awning that looked 9-months pregnant. The thing was bursting at the seams. It looked like a pond. I don't know why the roller didn't give way but it didn't and several of us were able to push up on the water and get it to drain out the sides.
It will not take a HEAVY rain to fill stretch the center of the awning canvas and start making a pond. The more rain the more water collects in the expanding/stretching center of the tarp. When it gets heavy enough it will buckle the roller. That is what happened to another RV two spots up from the motorhome we rescued. On the RV (travel trailer) with the destroyed awning the people were home with the blinds down during the storm. The man and woman didn't give any thought to their awning during the storm. Not until the awful noise that is. All they could say was that they had never seen this before and they had positioned one side of the awning lower than the other so that water would drain off.
These folks were in the trailer when it happened.
Two days later in that same RV-park in Nashville another thunderstorm rolled through----- this time the wind was more of a factor. Several awnings in the park were destroyed or at least severely damaged. Some people just can not learn from others.
You do not need to suffer the trauma these folks did. Just remember DO NOT leave your RV with your big awning extended.
This exchange is from one of the online RV-forums: We just got back the our new unit after an overnight away, to find the roller for the awning in a very nice "V" shape pointing towards the ground. It seems the area had some rain over the evening, but according to others here at the site there was not a lot of rain....The awning is a 22' A&E unit. So, what happened???? Did I do something wrong in putting it up??? Does Fleetwood put super cheap awnings on their units??? Is the unit defective??? Has anyone else had such an experience??? Can just the roller be replaced or do I have to have a whole new unit installed. Any help, suggestions or comments would be most appreciated. On our previous unit we have been through some very heavy rains without problem.
Some people have to learn the hard way-----------------don't be one of them.
Personal Safety on the Road:
Whenever we are "boondocking" in a WalMart parking lot or anywhere else for that matter we always park where we are able to crank and pull out. We do not have air bags so that is not a concern for us but we DO NOT put our levelers down for that reason. We do that with the idea that on the CHANCE undesirables were attempting to enter the motorhome we could crank and drive off. In other situations you may want to plan for a quick get away in case of forest fire or Dam break. To date our ---------- concern (albeit a minor concern) ----- has been to provide ourselves an easy, unobstructed path to EXIT an area in case "undesirable-individuals" were causing problems. However, if you find yourself camping in a national forest or some other situation where fire is an issue you may plan what you would do. Out west many camping areas are downstream of dams, or in canyons with the potential for flash floods. All kinds of potential dangers present themselves. It behooves each of us to be aware of our surroundings and pay attention.
We really do not think that much about "safety" as such when we are on the road. HOWEVER, we are not prone to putting ourselves in "unsafe" positions. We will NOT stay in those mobile home/campgrounds where most of the occupants are "residents". We do stay at WalMart on occasion and have always felt safe. If we do not like the "looks" of a campground when we arrive we move on rather than staying there. We don't make reservations so moving on is easy to accomplish without forfeiting any money. We DO NOT spend the night in interstate Rest Areas. In my opinion there are just too many "shifty" individuals moving up and down the nations interstate system that are up to NO GOOD.
The only protection we carry is our cell phone.
Overnighting in Casinos:
What is the procedure for overnighting at the casinos? Do you find a parking space and then go in? Who do you notify that you are overnighting in your RV? Or do you drive up to the front door in the motorhome and ask permission whereupon they direct you to an appropriate place to park?
These are just some of the questions new RV'ers ask about overnighting in Casinos. Here again all of us do something different.
Bear in mind that casinos are like armpits, all are different. They are not owned or operated by the same people/company. Casinos are accustomed to RV'ers overnighting in their parking lots. Many spend the weekend gambling with them returning to their RV only to eat & sleep. Most if not all casinos welcome RVs with open arms. Some along the Mississippi Gulf Coast have limited parking spaces thus are not as RV-friendly as others with unlimited parking. Frankly, I would not pull into some of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Casinos with my motorhome and tow car for fear that I would get into a "tight- spot" thus, no room to turn around and make an exit.
I think a reasonable course of action would be to:
Park away from the casino so that you are not in any way affecting their parking or traffic flow.
Walk in the casino and inquire at the door about (overnighting) at that time they may give you a pass for display in your motorhome window and probably indicate where they would prefer you to park. Or they may just tell you to find an out of the way place and enjoy yourself.
Driving up to the front door in the motorhome is not something I would recommend.