RV Roof Care & Maintenance

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One of the most neglected areas on your RV is the roof, out of site out of mind. The problem is if you don’t keep the roof clean and inspect the roof seams on a regular basis you could end up with, expensive to repair, water damage. Most RVs built today use a rubber roofing material. If you want to get a long life out of your RV roof here are some things you can do.

Safety first! Be extremely careful whenever you are working on your RV roof. You can be seriously injured from a fall. You have to get on the roof of your RV to properly clean and inspect it for any damage or potential water leaks. The first step is the ladder you use to get up on the roof. If your RV does not have a ladder on the back to access the roof it is probably not designed to be walked on. In this situation, it may be necessary to use a couple pieces of plywood or particleboard to help distribute your weight. Many RV manufacturers have an option called roof rack and ladder ready. If the RV dealer orders this option the roof is built with a heavier roof decking. Even so, you need to walk lightly when you’re on the roof and be careful.

Rubber roofing on an RV is a great product, but like everything else without routine preventive maintenance it will not last as long as it could. First of all there are different types of rubber roofs. Different manufacturers provide different instructions with their product. What we want to concentrate on today is what applies to all rubber roofs used on RVs.

Caution: There are other types of RV roofing material used like fiberglass, aluminum and vinyl. READ your roof manufacturers instructions for proper cleaning and sealing techniques to prevent damage to your roof and possibly void your warranty.

Rubber roofs should be cleaned three to four times a year and depending on where you park or store your RV it may need to be cleaned more often. Regardless of the type of rubber roof you have, NEVER use any cleaners or conditioners that contain petroleum solvents, harsh abrasives, or citrus ingredients. These types of cleaners can cause permanent damage to any rubber or vinyl surface. Most manufacturers of rubber roofs recommend you use a medium bristle brush and a non-abrasive cleaner. For light cleaning you can use warm water and a mild detergent like Dawn dish washing liquid. To clean, condition and protect the roof I use B.E.S.T Rubber Roof cleaner and protectant. Hard to clean areas like stubborn stains caused by leaves, sap, mold or mildew may require a second treatment. Use caution to prevent the cleaners from getting on the sides of the RV. ALWAYS rinse the sides, front and back of your RV before rinsing the roof to prevent streaking or damage to the finish on your RV.

Cleaning the roof is only part of maintaining it. Every time you clean the roof you need to inspect the sealants around all of the openings and the seams on the roof. Water will take the path of least resistance and if there is the smallest opening it will find it. You need to thoroughly inspect the roof sealants for potential leaks and reseal any areas of the roof seams and around openings where you suspect a leak. Caution: Check with your RV dealer for sealants that are compatible with your roofing material.

Cleaning, inspecting and sealing your RV roof can add years to the life of the roof and help prevent costly repairs caused by water damage.

Happy Camping!

Make Your Water Taste Like… Water

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Take care of your RV water system and in return, it will provide you with years of dependable service.

The potable water system in your house is pretty much maintenance free. The potable water system in your RV, on the other hand, requires some maintenance to keep it trouble free. Something I’ve run into quite often is the complaint that there is a stale odor coming from the RV water system.

When you return from a trip and you’re not going to use the RV for a while, you need to drain the entire water system to prevent it from getting stale and musty. You can start by draining the water heater.

Go to the outside compartment where the water heater is located. The drain plug, or petcock, is located in the bottom left hand corner. Remove the plug and open the pressure relief valve on top of the water heater to assist in draining. NEVER drain the water heater when it’s hot or under pressure. Next you need to locate the low point water line drains. It may take a while to find them, but I assure you they are there. There will be one for the hot and one for the cold water lines. This is the lowest point in the water system. Open these and let the water drain out. There’s one more thing left to do, find the drain for the fresh water holding tank and drain all of the water from it. At this point you can turn the water pump on for a moment to force any remaining water out. Do not let the pump continue to run once the water stops draining. Close all the drains. Now, do not make the mistake that this is how you winterize the RV water system. If you do, it can be a very costly mistake next spring. All we have accomplished so far was to evacuate the majority of water from the system.

If by accident you forget to drain the water system and you get that notorious stale odor all is not lost. You just need to sanitize the water system. Start by draining all of the old water out, and then close all of the drains. Take a quarter cup of house hold bleach for every fifteen gallons of water that your fresh water tank holds. Mix the bleach into a one-gallon container and pour it into the fresh water holding tank. Fill the fresh water tank completely full of water. Turn the water pump on, open all hot and cold faucets and run the water until you smell the bleach at each faucet. Close the faucets and let it sit for three to four hours. Drain the entire system and re-fill the fresh water tank with water. Open all of the faucets and run the water until you no longer smell any bleach. It may be necessary to repeat this process again to eliminate all signs of bleach from the water system. Once this is done it is safe to use your water system. It’s also a good idea to use a water filter at campgrounds and to keep bottled water on hand for drinking.

Happy Camping!

Get the Most From Your Camp Stove

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Do you love home cooked meals, hot and fresh, prepared with care. It gives you more energy and keeps me healthy. The same is true when you’re camping.  You should cook culinary delights on a well-maintained camp stove. Here’s how to make sure you can.

Don’t wait until you’re on the trail.

Test my stove before the camping trip. I make sure it works at home where you only a phone call away from the store or manufacturer.

If it’s a new camp stove,  boil water with it. This way you get used to its functions and find out what its quirks are.

  • Is it difficult to prime?
  • Is it stable?
  • Does it need a windscreen?

This will give you an idea of what to expect when I’m camping. It also burns off the protective oils and coatings.

If it’s an old camp stove, You’ll know if it needs repair. There is nothing worse than getting to the campsite and having to come back because your stove is broken.

Use the ideal fuel.

If your camp stove uses multiple fuels, and the manufacturer recommends one type over another, you always use the preferred fuel. Using alternative fuels can clog the burner or shorten the life of the camp stove. Only use alternative fuels if the recommended fuel isn’t available.

The wrong fuel can ruin your stove. If fuel has a funny odor, debris, or sludge at the bottom of it,  assume it has been contaminated, dispose of it properly, and get fresh fuel.

Water and debris can clog a fuel line. Use a fuel funnel outfitted with a small screen to pre-filter fuel, and check inside for water and debris before filling my fuel containers.

If you use disposable fuel canisters please try to recycle them, if not, dispose of them per the instructions on the can. Remember: Leave No Trace! Pack it in. Pack it out.

Tip: recheck your fuel containers before you leave. Murphy’s Law dictates that full fuel containers become mysteriously empty when you’re ready to use them.

Get spare parts and a maintenance kit. Learn to use them.

Again, home is the best place to try things out. Practice using the repair kit in this controlled environment. Get used to changing those tiny o-rings in proper lighting, not when you are shivering and hungry in the wilderness.

NEVER OPERATE A BROKEN STOVE. IT COULD CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY.

Clean your stove after each camping trip. A properly cared for stove can literally give decades of service.

Tip: Read the directions that come with your stove and maintenance kit. They have a lot more details about your particular stove than I can cover here.

Store your camp stove properly.

While camping, store my camp stove and fuel away from food (in a side pocket of my pack). Many camp stoves come with padded sacks or special stove cases for this purpose.

After camping, store my camp stove separately from the fuel, especially liquid fuels. When you’re done with my trip I remove all the fuel canisters from my gear. Leaking fuel canisters can ruin a pack or other nylon materials.

Having a camp stove is vital to your culinary camping enjoyment. Keep your stove working and keep yourself in good health. You’ll be glad you did.

Follow routine maintenance

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For the engine compartment, periodically check stud nuts around the carburetor and on the manifold for tightness. Make sure the carburetor is clean and the linkage pivot points are lubricated and free moving. Check all bolts and screws around the fuel pump and its lines for tightness. Drive belts on the fan and alternator, air conditioning and power steering must have the proper tension and not be damaged. Keep the air cleaner and fuel filter clean. Oil level and condition is critical on RV engines, so change it and the oil filter regularly. Watch for leaks around filter, oil pan and rocker arm covers.

The cooling system ranks with the oil in importance. To keep rust and scale from building up, thoroughly flush and drain the system at least every two years, refilling it with a good glycol-base coolant with a rust inhibitor. The radiator, radiator hoses and water pump must be checked for leaks and loose connections. Make sure hoses are firm; soft or cracked ones may blow under pressure.

A clean battery with tight connections, good electrolyte level and no corrosion will be dependable. Dust and caked-on dirt can harm the alternator, generator or even the distributor, so they must be thoroughly cleaned. All engine wiring must be in a position where jouncing from rough terrain or engine movement won’t cause chafing. Also, engine heat can melt insulation on electrical wiring, so make sure wiring is out of the way.

The fluid level in automatic transmissions is critical. Check it regularly. Automatic transmission fluid is usually red; when it looks brownish, it needs changing because it’s either dirty or has been burned through overheating. Inspect shift linkage for security, too.

Off-road driving is rough on chassis parts; shock absorbers, even heavy-duty ones, won’t last as long. Check their condition more frequently than you would on a car. Proper wheel alignment is necessary for good handling but is hard to maintain if you drive on rough roads. Check for bent tie rods and links. Front and rear wheel bearings should be inspected if the vehicle is used off road or the wheels are frequently submerged in water. Inspect for rust and corrosion on brake linings, too.

Tires and wheels are your only contact with the road when you’re under way, so they demand attention for safety as well as handling. Check rims for dents, lug nuts for tightness and tires for uneven tread wear, abrasions and proper inflation pressures. All wiring for external lights should get a complete checkup for tightness of connections, breaks and other potential malfunctions.

When you check over the engine compartment and chassis of your recreational vehicle, remember the two major troublemakers: dirt and vibration. Dust collected on back roads combines with moisture and packs the smallest crevice. Jolts from bumps and potholes are transmitted throughout the chassis and engine, gradually loosening everything that can turn. Routine maintenance should include cleaning and tightening.

Check life-support systems

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Recreational vehicles usually contain one or more life-supporting systems, such as water, gas and waste disposal. Check these regularly, too. Water systems need only to be drained periodically and flushed with fresh water. You can remove stale taste in the system by adding a mild baking soda solution to the flush. All you need do for the disposal system is to drain as required; for any complications, call a plumber. Propane gas systems for heat and cooking are usually maintenance free; just keep burner heads clean. All three of these systems do require occasional tightening of fittings. Check propane gas lines for leaks at connections by brushing on a mild soap solution and noting the location of bubbles. Never check with a lighted match!

Most motor homes have a 12-volt auxiliary lighting system that draws power from a second battery. Give it the attention you give your engine electrical system battery and you shouldn’t have any trouble. If your unit also has a 11 a-volt alternating current system for appliances, it will draw power from a separate generator that runs on gasoline from the main fuel system. Service this small engine regularly, too.

Creating STORAGE SPACE with Seating for Four in the Dinette

We replaced the two chairs in our dining area with two wonderful storage ottoman benches, and this has increased our storage space by quite a bit. The storage ottomans we chose have a nice faux leather padded top that is really comfy to sit on, and they have voluminous storage space inside.

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We have his-and-hers benches, and we keep our camera gear in them. The great thing is it got rid of all our clutter and gave us a place that is low down in the trailer and slightly ahead of the trailer’s axles (a smoother ride) where we could make custom padded storage for this delicate gear.

How to Put Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) in a Truck

In many dry camping campgrounds where there are water spigots available but no water hookups at the campsites, the water spigots don’t have threads. We’ve found a water bandit makes it possible to thread our water hose onto the spigot so we can fill up with water easily.

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In cases where we get water hookups and leave the water hose connected to the trailer, we screw a 90 degree elbow onto the trailer so the hose can hang straight down rather than come out of the our city water connection horizontally and then droop down towards the ground, putting pressure on the connection and potentially causing drips. We discovered this nifty little elbow when we lived on our boat in a marina before our cruise.

In addition, a water pressure regulator keeps the water pressure down to a level inside the rig that prevents any unexpected damage or leaks. A quick release makes it easy to connect and disconnect the fresh water hose. Mark also keeps a Y valve in his water hose arsenal. This is handy if the rig is connected to city water and we want to fill pails with water for washing the truck, or if an RV dump station has only one water spigot and we want to fill our fresh water tanks and run the black water flush at the same time.

Lots of folks like to attach a water filter as well. We used various filters at first, but no longer use any, although we periodically add a cap full of bleach to the fresh water tank. When we got a new fresh water tank, we were surprised that there was no sludge of any kind inside the old tank, even after 7 years of use.

Telescoping Ladder

The first trailer we lived in full-time didn’t have a walk-on roof, and the signature of an RV without a walk-on roof is that it doesn’t have a built-in ladder.

We got a telescoping ladder so we could get up on the roof, and we have kept that ladder and used it ever since, even though our fifth wheel has a built-in ladder.

You may not think you need a second ladder when you’ve got one on the rig already, but polishing the front cap is one job where you do.

Washing or working on any part of the rig that is high up and out of reach of the ladder on the back is much easier with a second ladder, including the high corner of the rear end opposite the built-in ladder!

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Cleaning the RV

No matter where we park, the slide roofs need attention before we bring them in. Either they are dusty, in the desert, or they are covered with twigs and leaves, in the woods, or they are wet from rain. Slide toppers might help with this, although I have heard that they tend to make noise in high winds, sag over time, and sometimes end up with leaves and twigs trapped underneath.

Mark has a long handled squeegee he uses to get the water off, a broom for the leaves and branches, and a California Duster and/or broom for the dust. Getting up on the roof is also useful for checking out all the rooftop items like hatches, TV antenna, solar panels and wiring. His favorite cleaning tool for all this is a telescoping scrub brush that we used for cleaning our boat.

He just loves this soft bristled brush. Murphy’s Oil Soap mixed with water is a good solution to wash the roof. To get rid of black scuff marks on the outside of the rig, he uses Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges.

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Leveling the Trailer

There are many methods for getting a trailer level, and hydraulic leveling is a blessing that takes all the excitement out of it. For those without hydraulic leveling, we found in our early years that with two 5′ lengths of 2″x8″ board and one 5′ length of 1″x8″ board we could always find a combination that worked to get the trailer level from side to side. A 5′ board is relatively easy to drive onto and provides a solid platform for the trailer’s wheels.

We store the boards in the bed of the pickup. When using two boards, we stagger them a few inches so the trailer is driven first onto one level and then up a step to the next. We have to remember to back up when coming off stacked boards or the upper one will tip up and hit the bottom of the trailer while driving off it (think of a sailor walking the plank).

If you don’t like the idea of hauling long boards around in your truck, there are nifty plastic leveling board kits (here’s another type) that are very popular.

We also use plastic wheel chocks whenever we park on a steep incline to prevent the trailer from rolling, especially while unhitching and hitching up.

Our friend Ken introduced us to using a sliced up horse stall mat rather than pine boards. We cut a 4’x6′ sheet of horse stall mat into five 1×5 strips and four 1×1 squares, and those have worked really well for us. They hold up to the elements really well and they roll along with the contour of whatever crazy surface we might park on. It is also possible to drive off of them either forwards or backwards because they don’t slap the underside of the trailer.

The only disadvantage is that they are much heavier than pine boards, but we can drag them around and they don’t disintegrate. We use the 1’x1′ squares under the landing legs and scissor jacks for cushioning.

We also have four large blocks made of three 1′ lengths of 2″x8″ boards screwed together. We put handles on the ends to make them easy to lug around. In a really unlevel site in the Smoky Mountains we had to stack them on top of each other AND extend the jack legs all the way!

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