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.

Truck Overloads

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Our 14,000 lb. fifth wheel was right at the weight limit of what our 2007 Dodge 3500 could tow, and the pin weight of the trailer along with all the things we carry in our truck loaded down the bed of that truck quite a bit.

When hitched up, although the rig looked quite level, the truck sagged a bit, leaving the front wheels a little light and giving the truck a tendency to wander.

To alleviate this, we installed a Timbren Suspension Enhancement System between the axles and leaf springs of the truck. These are solid rubber donuts (not airbags) that fit between the axle and the leaf springs. That made the truck sit better and wander less.

We had that setup for eight years. In 2016 we purchased a 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck which had a much higher weight capacity in the truck bed and could handle the pin weight of the trailer along with the additional weight of the water jugs and leveling boards we carry in the bed of the truck much better.

 

RV Patio Mats

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A beautiful patio mat extends your living space and defines your outdoor area in an elegant way, and we love ours.

But they can be pricey if you’re just getting started with weekend RVing. An alternative is to get some green indoor/outdoor carpeting. We had this with our popup tent trailer, and it fit the bill perfectly (and our friends who now own our popup still use it!).

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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Cordless Drill for Easy Jack Setup

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We don’t have electric stabilizer jacks on our fifth wheel trailer (nor did we on our travel trailer). However, we use an 18 volt cordless drill, and it’s very easy.

We use the following setup to crank the scissor jacks:

  • 18 volt cordless drill and battery pack
  • 1/4″ Hex to 3/8″ Socket Adapter
  • 8″ socket extension
  • 3/4″ socket with 3/8″ drive

We keep the 1/4″ Hex to 3/8″ Socket Adapter in the drill. Mark glued the extension and 3/4″ socket together with JB Weld, making it ultra easy to grab the extension, jam it in the drill and go.

This setup worked on both the four stab-jacks on our travel trailer and the two rear scissor jacks on our fifth wheel. We keep the drill right inside a basement hatch door so it’s easy to find during both setup and breakdown of the trailer.

Camco makes a special Leveling Scissors Jack Socket that replaces those three pieces, but there is no 8″ extension. Personally, I like the long extension because you don’t have to crawl in so far to make contact with the scissor jacks.

Last year we bought a Rigid drill kit which includes a regular 18 volt drill, an impact driver (awesome for the lug nuts when changing a tire) and a radio as well as two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and a charger.

After going through three different 18 volt drills during our years of RVing and sailing, we’ve been really impressed with this Rigid kit. The Lithium-Ion battery charges up in about 15-20 minutes and it’s good for a really long time.

The kit comes with two batteries, so we use one for the drill and one for the radio. And what a hoot it is to have a portable radio. In this day and age of slick electronics, we’ve gotten such a kick out of this thing…