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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Which Fuel Tank is Which?

On my older Pace Arrow motorhome (gas), which tank is the main fuel tank? The front or the back? When the dash switch is in the main position, the motorhome will run for about ten minutes, then die. I’ve changed the fuel pump, but I’ve got the same problem. What now? J.R. 

J.R., my first question is how old, exactly, is your Pace Arrow? In the 80's and 90's, Fleetwood typically designated the "main" fuel tank as the one that came with the chassis. It was usually the one centered between the frame rails. The auxiliary tank is most likely situated to one side or the other, depending on the floor plan. The main tank is usually the larger of the two containers as well. But your problem may not be in the fuel containers. The older Pace Arrows had an electric switchover valve that enabled you to choose which tank to operate from; hence your dash switch. If the solenoid portion of the valve becomes faulty, or the passage way blocked, you'll be unable to switch between tanks. Have a technician test this device. It will be located on one of the side frame rails and have either three or six fuel hoses attached to it. Many RVers have added an auxiliary12-volt fuel pump to help get fuel from the main tank up and to the carburetor. Also, some fuel tanks had an internal pump that can also fail. I've always favored the outboard type that can be easily serviced. But, you do need to have fuel getting through that changeover valve before it reaches the engine.

Hope this helps! If not, send me the actual year and model of your Pace Arrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Broken Anode - Revisited w/Comment


I don’t have a question, but rather a comment on an earlier response to a question regarding leaving a broken anode in a water heater. The anode in the water heater in an old coach of mine disintegrated and left a pile of a coarse "sand" in the tank that got sucked into the system. It got into the toilet flush line and plugged the filter very frequently and was a raging pain in the neck. And it was very difficult to clean out. A long and tedious job. I don't think I'd want that portion of anode in my tank after that awful experience. Larry B. (Silver City, NM)

I agree Larry; it would be far better to remove that remnant of the anode, but unfortunately, there's really no easy way (if any), to accomplish that task. If I had to answer that question again, I would further recommend that the owner flush out the water heater every month as a precaution. I did allude to that in my earlier response. That, and possibly add a KDF-type filtration system to remove the finer particles that may exit the heater. I am perplexed, however, at how something isolated solely to the hot side of the fresh water system migrated to the toilet. If anything, you'd expect that "sand" to be expelled out through a hot faucet. Or simply lie dormant on the bottom of the water heater tank until flushed out through the drain. But your advice is well-taken. Experience is often the best teacher!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lippert Slideout Adjustment

Can you explain the adjustment sequence on how far the slides go in and out with my Lippert slideout? The manual just says to adjust the jam nuts, but not which way. Paul. B. 

Paul, I checked with the Customer Service Manager at Lippert and evidently they’ve edited that user’s guide you sent me, to make it a little clearer about those adjusting nuts. As it states below, you move nuts C and B in relationship to the bracket in order to effectuate a good seal. 



 Adjusting room so it seals in the IN position
1. Locate cylinder coming through the frame.
2. Run room partially out.
3. Hold jam nut (Fig. 4A) in place with wrench.
4. Adjust Nylock nut (Fig. 4C) towards the bracket if the room does not seal. Adjust the Nylock nut (Fig. 4C) away from the bracket if the room is too tight and damages the fascia.
 

NOTE: Make small adjustments, running the room in after each adjustment until proper seal is achieved.

Adjusting room so it seals in the OUT position
1. Locate cylinder coming through the frame.
2. Extend room completely out.
3. Check the inside fascia and seal positioning.
4. Partially retract room.
5. Loosen and back off jam nut (Fig. 4A) from nut (Fig. 4B) to give nut (Fig. 4B) room for adjustment.
6. Adjust nut (Fig. 4B) away from the bracket if the room extends too far and damages the inside fascia. Adjust nut (Fig. 4B) towards the bracket if the room does not seal.
 

NOTE: Make small adjustments, running the room out after each adjustment until proper seal is achieved.
 

7. Tighten jam nut (Fig. 4A) to nut (Fig. 4B).

NOTE: 2" to 3" of free travel is normal. 

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

More RV Electrical Info

After attending several RV shows and joining you for a few RV Doctor seminars, my wife and I have purchased a Fifth Wheel (a 2010 Peterson Excel Winslow. We are very happy that we did our homework and now have a high quality RV that will hopefully last many years.

 My first maintenance related question is electrical. I have purchased a Progressive Industries 50-amp surge protector that plugs in at the pedestal and has a digital readout of voltage, amps being used, cycles and error codes. It will trip the power to the RV if power has the wrong polarity, and has several other features to protect the RV. 

At the Seattle RV show, you said it was a necessity to have a non-contact proximity tester, but with my surge protector, I think I am covered. Please confirm. I will probably pick up a Fluke volt meter for general usage.

Also, another question: When plugging in the surge protector to the adapter, the weight of everything tends to pull the plug out of the socket. I used a bungee cord to wrap around the pedestal to keep it tight. The other issue when it rains in the northwest is wet, not dry. Can I use a waterproof cover over the entire pedestal, adapter and surge protector to keep the connections dry?  Mark & Cindy A., (Bainbridge Island)


Mark & Cindi, the Progressive surge protector is a very good device and is certainly recommended for serious RVers. What we have found, however, is that neither the Progressive nor the Surge Guard models can protect against the dual fault situation called Reverse Polarity/Bootleg Ground (RPBG). It has been well documented by my buddy, Mike Sokol. Check out how and why the RPBG situation can even fool expensive ground loop impedance devices and those inexpensive three-light testers that everyone relies on; read this article carefully and be sure to click on the internal links!

The only sure-fire way to verify the polarity of incoming voltage from a campground pedestal, and the most logical and safest for RVers, is the use of a non-contact voltage proximity test device. I consider it cheap insurance....that might just save your life.


Also, I’m not a big fan of plugging a 50-amp RV into a 30-amp receptacle for the simple reason that it eliminates at least one of the safety devices built into the design of the pedestal. It’s certainly better if you have an EMS (energy management system) controlling your distribution inside the RV, but you may find that only using one leg of the incoming 120-volt AC electricity limits what circuits are actually activated inside the coach. Now that said, in some cases with the smaller or older campgrounds, you may have no choice if all they have are 30-amp pedestals. In those instances you simply deal with it until you can get connected to the proper source voltage once again. Always use a quality 50-30 reducing adapter (I recommend the ones that have a short piece of cable running between the male and female plugs rather than the big chunk of rubber with both connections molded into one plug). Also, ya gotta keep that connection clean, dry and tight no matter what, somehow! Bungee straps, plastic baggies, etc., can all help. Have you considered the unit that installs permanently inside the storage bay rather than the portable unit that attaches at the pedestal? Just a thought...

 

Monday, June 9, 2014

H2O2 or NaClO for RV Use - New Comment

I saw an RV seminar on YouTube that suggested using hydrogen peroxide to sanitize the fresh water system since bleach can damage the rubber seals. Any comments? Thanks! You offer a lot of great tips via video and printed materials. Ed C.

Ed, hydrogen peroxide certainly has the capability to disinfect and sanitize potable water supplies. I have a buddy in England and he states it’s done there and in other European countries regularly. I don’t think I’d recommend it for RV use however. The one thing we know about sanitizing the fresh water system in an RV using common household bleach is exactly how much to use and how long to leave it in the system (I guess that’s really two things). No one can tell me how much H2O2 to use in regards to tank capacity. Nor can anyone determine how long the mixture must remain in the system to be effective. And to what degree? The RVIA has adopted the standards as set forth by noted labs and I regularly promote the standards adopted or developed by RVIA during my teaching seminars. There are many “home brews” for many RV procedures found on the Internet, but the question remains, how effective are they?

Proponents of hydrogen peroxide often point to the advantage of it being tasteless when compared to bleach. That may simply equate to one more draining and flushing of the system when bleach is used and I’d rather side with the known stats of using bleach vice the unknowns of hydrogen peroxide. At least for now anyway.  



Update! One of my seminar attendees, Scott P. sent me his comments regarding a third option for sanitizing the fresh water system. Here's what he had to say:


A quick addition to your post this week, "Hydrogen peroxide better than bleach for RV fresh water system?" 
I work in the medial field as a respiratory therapist. We teach our patients to use distilled vinegar to clean 
their water system on their inhaled CPAP machines. This is considered a medium level disinfectant 
chemical and is not harmful to breath or drink. An added plus is that it does not harm the rubber components 
of the CPAP system. Another added bonus is that it is not harmful if ingested, unlike bleach and hydrogen 
peroxide.
 
Scott P. 

 
 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Faulty RV Oven

We really enjoyed your seminars at the FMCA Convention -- very informative! The gas oven in our motorhome just quit working. We have an Amana range/oven in a Winnebago. The burners on the range still work great, and I can light the pilot light in the oven. However, when I turn up the temperature control knob to set the oven temperature, nothing happens. The pilot light remains on but it seems that no larger volume of gas comes into the burner. Any ideas of what we might check? Thanks in advance! Linda N.

Linda, usually when the thermostat calls for heat, a signal is sent to a component called the oven safety valve. The safety valve allows the gas to flow to the oven burner. The signal however, is triggered by the thermostat. If the pilot flame does not get larger when the thermostat calls for heat, the faulty component is usually the thermostat. If the pilot flame indeed get larger and the main oven burner still fails to ignite, the faulty component is usually the safety valve. If you send me the complete Amana model number I can look up more specific information for you, but right now, I’d have that oven thermostat checked by a certified RV technician, as well as the delivery line gas pressure. The appliances must be fed the correct amount of propane at the correct pressure and that is determined by the pressure regulator down at the propane container. Of course, physical damage such as a kinked tube can also restrict fuel flow and negate burner ignition, but I’m assuming there is no kinked tubing anywhere in the oven system. Time to call the professional!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

RV Furnace Maintenance - Beyond the Scope

Beyond the Scope

In a previously published article I made mention of certain tasks that are typically outside the realm of the archetypal coach owner; tasks that should only be performed by a trained, Certified or Master Certified RV service technician. Be that as it may, I feel it’s important that RV owners have, at least an awareness of these additional components that require annual attention.

Because the majority of forced air furnaces are DSI (direct spark ignition) units, I omitted any mention of pilot models; those that employ a separate pilot flame. There are still many pilot models still in active use. I address a couple of the pilot components in this supplement to the procedures published in the other article.

Additionally, since the forced air furnace employs a sealed combustion chamber, many of the following components are installed using a gasket of some type. Gaskets cannot be reused. A professional service tech will always install new gaskets after servicing the following components, when so equipped.

Additional Furnace Components Needing Annual Attention


Electrode Assembly
Carbon deposits should be brushed off and the electrodes brightened with steel wool or emery cloth. The ceramic insulators should be closely inspected, if so equipped. Cracks or chips will necessitate electrode replacement. In instances of extreme neglect, the carbon deposits can render the electrode assembly unusable. This assembly is beyond a simple cleaning; it must be replaced.





Here’s a new electrode assembly. Notice the difference?







Pilot Assembly
If the furnace is a pilot model, the pilot orifice and pilot burner should be cleaned before winter use. The orifice is soaked in a solution of acetone and then air-dried. Never insert anything into or through the orifice opening.






Thermocouple
The thermocouple hot junction should be cleaned regularly by lightly brushing or brightening with fine steel wool.





Main Burner
Dust, lint or any other debris (in this case, critters), should be cleaned from the main burner and the main burner orifice at least once a camping season.







Blower Wheels
I already covered these in the previous article, but thought I should include this just as a reminder. Yes, another critter!





Propane Pressure
For optimum performance of all propane-fired appliances, the main pressure regulator must be set to 11 inches of water column (WC). In addition, the entire RV propane system should be checked for leaks prior to using any LP appliance.

Never attempt these adjustments unless you've received specific training from an authorized instructor! Call a Certified or Master Certified Technician!



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dog Bones & RV Batteries

Thanks for your information at the RV show last weekend. Your seminars were very informative and those tire pressure requirements were new to me. Also you mentioned the dog bone adapter is a not a good idea. I’ve used them for years with no problem. How can I plug my 50-amp trailer to the 30-amp post at the campground without one? What do you know that I don’t?

What do you think about solid state batteries? We live full time in our 5th wheel and currently have two lead acid 12-volt deep cycle batteries. Weight seems to be a good thing with the solid state and they are available in a higher amp-hour rating, (but for a price!). Or shall I upgrade to four, 6-volt batteries in a parallel/series configuration? Thomas S., (Seattle, WA)

Thanks for coming to the seminars Thomas! Glad to hear you liked them! About those dog bone adapters....only use them if you absolutely have to. The biggest concern is that one or more safety devices are bypassed when using them. Plus more connections in the chain gives moisture intrusion and electrical corrosion a leg up. But if all you have available is a 30-amp receptacle, unfortunately you’ve got to use one. But try to always plug in to the correct receptacle so you can have full operation of all your components and circuit protection. Here's an industry expert's similar remarks about those dog bone, reducing electrical adapters. Check out this short video. 

I’m not quite sure what you mean by a solid state battery. Do you mean a sealed battery like an AGM? Do you have a specific brand in mind? Upgrading your battery bank to four, 6-volt batteries would be a huge advantage! You would more than double the amp-hour capacity, in most applications. Just remember, you’ll then be required to have the capacity to charge that new configuration also! 
 

Monday, May 26, 2014

What Are These Tubes?


Hey Doc! The attached photo shows two tubes sticking down from the enclosed bottom of our travel trailer near the black and gray holding tanks. Do you know what they are for? This is an '06 travel trailer. Jack and Nadyne H.  

\
Those two tubes are the low point drains for both the hot and cold water lines in the fresh water distribution system. The code for RV construction mandates each side of the fresh tubing (hot and cold), must have valves, plugs or caps, at the purported lowest point in the system for ease of emptying the system for winterizing purposes. In your case, you have simple caps that can be removed to empty the hot and cold lines in the trailer. It’s also handy for flushing out and chlorinating the fresh water system. They are not relative to the holding tanks; their proximity notwithstanding.
 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

RV Levelers Raising Tires Off the Ground



Our motorhome has Power Gear brand levelers. The front two float side to side on the same hydraulic circuit while the rear two jacks are independent. The coach seems to ride high on certain grades with the front wheels off the ground oftentimes. When this happens the coach rocks enough to trigger motion sickness. Here are my questions:

   1. Should I lower the front two leveler jack a notch?
   2. Should I shorten the back two leveler jacks a notch? Thereby
       lowering the starting point center of gravity so as not to need it
       so high in front?
   3. Both? Or one at a time? In what order?
   4. Can you recommend a shop in my area?
   5. What about auxiliary jacks? Where and what kind? On the slides?
   6. Any other ideas?

Please help as currently it is making us sick! Dean G.


It is certainly not recommended having tires actually off the ground once the levelers have been deployed, Dean. That will definitely lead to instability issues as you've already discovered. I'm wondering if the "Auto" function has been properly set up to begin with? If so it sounds like your system needs to be re-calibrated to what's called the "zero point." I've attached the calibration procedures if you feel so inclined to attempt it yourself.

Properly set up, the best "Auto" position will permit all tires to stay in contact with Mother Earth and still effectively level the coach. If you notice any sinking into the ground at any jack though, it might be necessary to use a larger footprint accessory under each jack.

But I'm guessing a proper "set-up" will eliminate your motion sickness. I'd hold off on auxiliary slideout supports until after you have the main leveling system calibrated properly. You simply may not need them after that. Plus they can always be added at any time.

If you choose to seek professional help, be sure to only allow certified RV technicians to work on your leveling system. Look for a shop that has specific experience with the Power Gear brand. Unfortunately, I have no recommendations for shops in your location.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Noisy Water Heater Redux

My wife and I enjoyed your classes at the RVSEF Conference in Bowling Green a few years ago. Now I have a question regarding the Atwood water heater in my 2013 Jayco Eagle Premier. The heater is model GC10A-4E. When running on propane with the outside access door open the heater appears to operate normally and burns quietly with a light blue flame. When I close the access door, the heater seems to adopt a dual personality. Part of the time it is quiet just as with the door open. But part of the time it burns with a roar, kind of reminding me of a mini jet plane. It switches back and forth between quiet and loud several times a minute. I can interrupt the loud periods by opening the access door. I have disassembled the burner and checked for blockages, but everything is open and clean.

I have found two ways to make it noisy more frequently, but none to eliminate the noise entirely. I set the air to fuel ratio per Atwood's instructions, closing the air shutter until the flame begins to show areas of yellow, and then opening it slightly until the flame is all blue. I can make it noisy more frequently by increasing the air to fuel ratio via opening the slots in the air shutter. The second way to make it noisy is to cover the ventilation cutout on the access door with window screen to keep out insects. If I put standard aluminum window screen over the cutout it roars about 90% of the time. This suggests to me that it needs a larger cutout, but if that were the case then all owners of this model would have a noise problem. How do you suggest I troubleshoot this problem? Jack S.

Jack, you’ve already solved one part of the problem with a noisy water heater; that of the proper air/fuel mixture adjustment. The other tricky factor is the alignment of all the pieces from the main burner orifice, through the mixing tube and to the ignition probes at the flame spreader at the mouth of the burner. The mixing tube must be properly in line with the face of the orifice fitting; a straight line that is determined by the angle of the gas control valve and the brass orifice fitting attached to it. Likewise, the orifice opening must be “centered” in the open end of the mixing tube. Picture a clock face. The orifice itself must be positioned at the very center of the clock where the hour and minute hands attach. If it’s off-centered or if the mixing tube is not aligned with the angle of the orifice fitting, as gas enters and draws in fresh air, the combination of the mixture results in an uneven mixture of gas and air and a turbulence is created instead of an even, steady flow of mixed air and fuel. This fluctuating turbulence is the source of the soft/loud combustion taking place. Check out this video.

I believe once you check these additional items and reposition the primary air opening for optimum performance you’ll be able to eliminate the problem. Here’s a short video explanation regarding the adjustment of the air shutter. 



 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In Need of a Triple Entry Step Assembly

I banged up the 5th wheel triple steps and need to replace them. I want to get good quality and don't know what is good and what might be cheaply made and weak. Basically, I want the best bang for the buck. I currently have a 7-inch rise between the steps. Do you have a recommendation of which to buy? Mike W., (Clovis, CA)

Well Mike, you didn’t mention whether your damaged entry steps are motorized or if your 5th wheel is equipped with the manual, pull-out steps. Either way, I do have a couple of recommendations for you to ponder. If you are replacing a powered entry step, I can heartily recommend the motorized “Coachstep,” as produced by Lippert Components, Inc., as a ready replacement. You’ll want their Part Number 285312. I’ve actually witnessed Lippert step assemblies being manufactured, tested and retested, ad nauseam, and I’m convinced these powder-coated steps with their self-lubricating bushings, along with their 750-pound rating will serve you well for many years to come. The only caution I mention, is that the riser distance between steps is a traditional 8-inches; a little taller than what you have now. Be sure this will not cause a clearance problem or interfere with your physical ability to enter and exit the RV. Also, if your current damaged electric step assembly is a Kwikee unit, it will be necessary to replace the door magnets/switch since the Kwikee is simply not compatible with the new Lippert Coachstep electronics. 

Now, all that said, if your current step assembly is the old-school manual, fold down set of three steps, I’d recommend either upgrading to the electric Coachstep (always an option, by the way), or at the very least, checking out Lippert’s Tread Lite Steps. Due to their anodized aluminum tread construction, the Tread Lite is the lightest set of steps I’ve personally seen anywhere in the aftermarket. Even in the triple-step format, it will still weigh close to 20 pounds less than equivalent steel steps. One of the coolest things I like about the Tread Lite is the inclusion of cast linkages between the pivot points. It simply looks good. Powder coated to resist oxidation, the entire assembly is rated for 350-pounds. The three-step model you’ll require is Part Number 293661. Their look will compliment any coach exterior given the aluminum of each step set against the black powder coating of the connecting linkages. Also, I’m at the point where “lightweight” is a huge selling point for me so I can almost guarantee you’ll not get worn out moving Lippert’s Tread Lite Step assemblies in and out manually, even multiple times per day if so required. 

As for ordering either Lippert step, I’d suggest giving them a call first to determine the best method of payment and delivery. Call 574-537-8900  or visit www.lci1.com and enter through the “Parts Store” tab at the top of the page to see all their offerings. Here's the direct link to the Tread Lite Steps I mentioned above.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Electric Brakes - Unintended Break-away Switch Activation

After we set up our 5th wheel at the RV park, the breakaway switch cable got snagged in the truck box and I pulled the plug out of the breakaway switch. I noticed it laying in the box three days later. I immediately put the plug back in. The trailer is plugged into 50 amp service so the batteries are continuously being charged. Would there be any damage to the break magnets or the switch itself? Also when would the magnets release? When I reinserted the plugs, or would I need to jack up the trailer and spin the wheels? Your assistance would be appreciated. Garry F., (Mill Bay BC, Canada) 

The good news, Garry, is that it’s unlikely anything was damaged by the constant, three-day amp draw. I’m sure the magnets got pretty warm, but nothing was spinning so there would be no extra wear on the magnets or the armature plate inside the wheel assembly. As soon as you re-inserted the pin, the current flow was terminated. As long as the batteries held their charge by being plugged into shore power the whole time, chances are the batteries are fine too. Unless the trailer was also plugged into the truck during this time, there’s nothing to worry about from the dash controller end of the circuit. If the truck WAS plugged into the trailer, I’d replace its 12-volt circuit breaker, which may have been rendered weaker due to the constant current flowing through it. That component may have overheated, but typically it would not be involved in activating the brakes under normal break-away circumstances anyway. You should be good to go!
 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Water Pumps Out of the City Water Inlet

Greetings. I keep my 29-foot Dutchmen Class C parked under my pole barn.  It's plugged in for power but nothing else is hooked up. I've just noticed that when I turn on the water pump, it pumps gallons of fresh water out through the park water hose inlet. It's emptying my fresh water tank. When I turn the pump off, it stops. The pump is only a few years old. I would appreciate any guidance. Thanks! Jim Mac

Jim, all RVs have at least two backflow preventers (check valves) in the fresh water plumbing system. Some RVs have three and some actually have four backflow preventers. Every RV has one at the city water inlet which allows water to flow from the campground into the RV. The backflow preventer at the city water inlet has obviously failed in the open position. It will have to be replaced, or at least a new one installed right behind the existing one. Since it failed in the open position, it's not really necessary to remove it (though it's advisable if you can). A new backflow preventer can simply be installed just inboard (downstream) of the old one. That will prohibit water pushed by the onboard pump to be forced out the city water inlet. Actually, it's not a difficult task for the average handyman to accomplish in a few minutes....once you gain access to the rear of the existing check valve.

Who Certifies RV Technicians?

Thank you for the seminars you present.  I found them interesting and informative, especially your advice on getting a PDI by a certified inspector. My questions for you are:

1)  Who certifies these inspectors?
2)  What is the difference between a Certified and a Master Certified inspector?
3)  My wife and I are planning on going full time RVing starting next year sometime. We are looking at purchasing a used fifth-wheel toy hauler. My tow vehicle will be an F-450. What brands of fifth-wheel would you recommend? Bob M. 

Bob, any Certified or Master Certified professional RV service technician will be equipped with the knowledge and diagnostic tools required for performing a quality PDI. It does take specific procedures and the use of specialty test equipment to professional perform a PDI so a common RV “inspector” will not likely qualify. 

"Certification" itself, is a joint effort, following a certain protocol created and adopted by RVIA and RVDA (RV Industry Association and RV Dealer’s Association). There are other “schools” out there who might issue they’re own “certificates,” but the only official industry certification for professional service technicians is ordained by RVIA/RVDA. Don’t be fooled by someone with a piece of paper that states they've completed a program and now they are experts in RV troubleshooting and repair. It takes a lot of study, a lot of hands-on experience and the successful passing of a very energetic, timed exam. Currently, the difference between Certified and Master Certified is the actual score on the exam and the amount of time the pro technician has been working. Personally, I'd like to see a separate exam used for candidates seeking Master Certification.

As for brands of RVs, though I review them for magazine publication, I do not "recommend" any brand over others. It's my contention that all RVs require periodic preventive maintenance and since most every manufacturer produces a number of RVs at varying price points, I can’t see how someone could effectively choose which are "better" than others. There are so many variables, one of which is your personal use of it, it would be a very difficult task. It would only be one man's subjective opinion.
If you ever have the chance to attend my “Technically Choosing Your Next RV” seminar, that would be my recommended starting point in learning how to become a knowledgeable, discerning buyer since all RVs are not created equal. I can say this however; with your tow vehicle, you should experience very little difficulty in towing the majority of the fifth-wheels out there!

 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Generator Fuel Usage


We have a diesel generator on our motorhome. The generator uses the same fuel/same tank as what runs the motor. How much fuel will the generator use, let's say, in an hour? How can I figure out my gas mileage when using the generator once in awhile? Janice F. (Clifton, CO)

Janice, when the generator and the coach engine share the same fuel supply, typically the draw tube (dip tube) for the generator ends at about the one-quarter level in the fuel container; this, to prevent the generator from running the tank empty, rendering you stranded. How much fuel the generator consumes depends on size generator you have, how long (in hours) it runs and at what load. The heavier the load, the more fuel consumed. Most all makers of generators will publish a guideline of sorts that will estimate the gallons-per-hour rate at a certain load. Once you have that estimate, calculate the number of hours the generator is used on the each full tank of fuel and simply deduct that amount from your fuel mileage calculation. The result will probably be close enough, all things considered. So you have a little homework to do.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Old Water Heater Burner Needed

Hey Doc! I'm asking if you could help me find a water heater burner assembly for a 1977 Comfort. I don't want to get a new heater if this part can be replaced. It is an old camper and I have redone the whole inside floor, ceiling etc. The heater is a American Appliance 6-gallon water heater, model #6ARV. I hope you can help me or at least steer me in the right direction! Thanks! Chris (no city/state)

Chris, American Appliance was purchased by Suburban Manufacturing some years ago. It’s doubtful they’ll still have parts for the old line, however. Your best bet, short of replacing the entire water heater would be to locate an aftermarket repair facility that specializes in RV appliances. Many of these specialty shops have older components for obsolete units still in the field. One such shop I relied on many years ago was Howell’s RV Appliance Repair. I've known Leonard for forty-plus years and if anyone would have old obsolete components, it would be him. You didn't tell me where you're located, but Leonard still runs a mobile business in the greater San Diego area. Give him a call at 619-449-6231. You could also contact local RV dealers and repair shops in your area as well, but I'd put my wager on Howell's first.



Monday, March 10, 2014

PRVCA's Fun Monthly Contest!

Hey RV Doc readers! Does a free $100 gas card interest you? What about a 5-pound chunk of Hershey bar? Check out the Monthly Photo and Video Contest established by my friends at America's Largest RV Show. Just click here to learn more about the "My RV Moment" contest.




Keep Those RV Tires Clean and Dry


You have taught me so much over the years, thank you. You have discussed every aspect of vehicle care, including the importance of taking proper care of the RV tires. In some of those articles, it has been mentioned that something should separate your tires from the concrete. Would you be kind enough to either tell me, or make mention of it in one of your columns, the type of material that should be used? Harry A. (Smyrna, TN)

Harry, if you’ve ever attended one of my seminars, you know I’m a big proponent of keeping moisture, dirt and grime from accumulating on RV tires as well as preserving and protecting them from ozone and the UV rays of the sun during periods of non-use. Sure, they’ll get dirty while traveling, but be sure to wash them with a mild detergent the soonest you can after coming off the road. Applying a protectant such as 303 to help preserve and protect the rubber will also go a long way. 

Not so much on concrete, but when parked on asphalt, it’s advisable to have a barrier between the tires and the surface of the asphalt. Though wooden blocking is often used to separate the tires from the asphalt as well as to lift that corner of the motorhome, I also favor a separation between the wooden blocks and the tires to avoid excessive moisture and/or heat build-up. Plastic, web-like blocks are readily available in the aftermarket that allows you to accomplish this. The accompanying photo shows such a separating block. There are many on the market, but look for the type that will drain and not trap moisture. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

GFCI Hums in Class A Motorhome


I have replaced the GFI in my Class A motorhome and the new one hums when the inverter is on. Do you know why? Denise D.

My immediate thought is that the new one simply does not know the words Denise! Or it might have something to do with an internal line balance-detecting transformer (more likely). This, of course, is assuming no modifications were made to the wiring at the inverter itself. None would have been required if the inverter was installed correctly to begin with. The humming could also be related to the type of inverter in the system. Is it a true sine wave inverter, or perhaps it has a modified square wave output form. 

All GFCIs have a set of contact terminals labeled “Line” and another set labeled “Load.” The black and the white wire, (hot and neutral) from both the line and the load must be connected to the correct terminals on the GFCI. If, for instance, the hot wire from the line is wired to the “Line” terminal, but the neutral wire from the line is wired to the “Load” terminal, it will confuse the GFCI. The main purpose of the GFCI is to monitor the balance of that circuit between the black and white conductors. Mis-wiring the hot or the neutral at the GFCI may render it inoperable, but not to the point of actually causing it to trip. Nor will it likely trip the circuit breaker for that circuit. 

Here's something you can check; be sure the coach is not plugged in and the inverter is off before proceeding. With the GFCI removed from the receptacle box, there should be two sets of Romex conductors located in the make-up box. The black and white wires from each must be kept relevant to each other. In other words, the same pair of black and white conductors must attach to the correct (line or load) terminals on the GFCI. With the motorhome plugged in, the “line” set will be energized; the “load” set is everything else downstream of the GFCI and will not be hot when the GFCI is tripped. There is a remote chance the new GFCI is faulty, but chances are it is simply a case of incorrect wiring. I’ve actually seen all the white wires bundled into one wire nut behind the GFCI; a no-no for GFCI wiring. It is best to have a pro RV service tech take a look if you are unfamiliar with working on a live circuit. I certainly don’t recommend it. The circuit must be energized at a certain point in order to differentiate between the line-hot and the load-not hot sets of wires at the GFCI. I know this may sound a bit confusing, but a pro tech with an accurate VOM will be able to quickly discern the problem with a few simple measurements. 
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