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Monday, November 23, 2015

RV Water Heater Stripped Threads On Drain

I have a water heater on my RV that I had to use a impact wrench to undo the drain plug. I read in one of your articles a reference to a thread chaser or tap. Could you please let me know where I can buy this tool. I've checked plumbing outlets, machine shops and big box home stores. I have checked with a couple of local RV super stores with no luck. Your help would be appreciated! Sonny B.

Sonny, if the NPT size of the threads is 3/4-inch, you can use a standard, tapered pipe thread to clean out the female threads. Just don’t cut too deeply; only enough to restore the threads in the tank. The tank threads will be a whole lot softer, so go slow! Here’s a link to a pipe tap that should work, though I'm sure any brand will do the trick.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cable-Operated RV Dump Valve Replacement

I continue to have problems with my cable-pull dump valves on my waste water tanks. I can't even close the black water valve now. I had to buy a temporary valve for the end of the run. My question; Can these be replaced with any other type of valve? Even if I had to drop the under belly and re-plumb to get to the side of the coach for all three valves? I  tried to find prints or drawings of how the waste plumbing is layed out, but of course that didn't happen. I would appreciate some feed back, thanks! Bob B.

Bob, it’s bad enough to have to deal with such archaic methods of waste management, but having problems with those cable-pulls are no fun at all. Since it’s likely a routing or corrosion issue with the cables (or perhaps cheap valves), I’d recommend eliminating them altogether. Drainmaster offers an electric gate valve that is operated by battery power. I’d replace all three valves and mount the switches in the wet bay or close to the termination outlets. By code it’s mandated that the sewer valves be positioned only so far from the tank outlet, so moving all three valves to the side of the coach may not be the best choice. Since you’ll have to drop the underbelly anyway, why not just do it once and for all? Check out the Drainmaster here. Give them a call to find the best method of getting these valves to you. But do away with those cable-acuated valves!

Monday, November 16, 2015

2016 RVSEF RV Technical Education & Safety Conference!

Attention all RVers! Walter Cannon, Executive Director of the RV Safety & Education Foundation, RVSEF, has announced the plans for the 2016 RV Technical, Education & Safety Conference to be held in Elizabethtown, KY in May of 2016. Please read Early Bird Registration notice below.

The RVSEF Conference is a unique educational conference designed for all RVers, from novices to full-timers. The Conference further provides a positive, networking opportunity with Industry Experts in the classroom, round-table discussions, as well as in individual settings.

Registration Fee: $225 (Early Bird thru 12/31/2015) $249 Regular

Date: May 15-19 2016

Location: Pritchard Community Center, 404 S. Mulberry St., Elizabethtown, Ky 42701

Driving Directions

The Conference consists of seminars and classes addressing a multitude of RV-related lifestyle, technical and safety topics. There is also the opportunity for comprehensive Behind the Wheel training. The event features the largest assembly of RVIA award-winning RV experts, authors and educators, such as Gary Bunzer (the RV Doctor), Randy Biles (Pikes Peak Traveland RV), Gary Motley (Motley RV Repair Service), Bruce Hopkins (RVIA), Walter Cannon (RVSEF), as well as other respected educators in the RV world.

The RV Technical Education & Safety Conference was developed for new RVers, full-time RVers, and yet-to-be RVers. It is the only learning event where representatives from RV and supplier manufacturing, retail dealerships, aftermarket service providers and education all assemble in one location to educate the consumer in all aspects of RVing. RVSEF and the Conference are fully endorsed by RVIA and RVDA and are supported by the generosity of sponsors. Enrollment is limited, so those considering attending should act soon. Corporate sponsorships are also available. RVSEF is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization based in Merritt Island, Florida.

Watch this short video about the conference.

 To register, please visit this page.

Early Bird Registration Notice! If you register prior to December 31, 2015, the registration fee will only be $225 per person. Beginning New Year's Day the regular registration fee returns to $249 per person. Take advantage of the Early Bird Registration!

No RV Leveling System - What now?

Gary, I just purchased a 32-foot RV, my first RV. Unfortunately, it does not have any type of leveling system. Leveling must be done manually. How do you do this? I know it’s done with blocks, but that’s all I know? How do you know when it's level? Bob D., (Bloomsburg, PA)

Great question Bob! Some RVers might be shocked to know that not every coach comes equipped with automatic levelers, in-motion satellite reception, a dozen televisions and two bathrooms! Some coaches are equipped with just the basic accouterments; plumbing, electrical systems and propane appliances. Everything necessary to fully enjoy the RVing lifestyle, just not as "fancy" as some. In fact, prior to the genesis of leveling "systems," every RVer had to manually level the RV. Obviously for general comfort, for doors and cabinets to swing and close properly, but most importantly, for the absorption refrigerator to function correctly. Anyone still have their little round bubble level?

The process is to run the tires on the low side of the coach up on ramped blocks. Many are homemade from wood but alternate materials like plastic are also available in the RV aftermarket. The key thing to remember about leveling blocks is that it is vital to support the complete footprint of every tire that is raised. 

So it kinda involves guessing just how much to raise the low side or corner. Run the tires up on a block, check the level of the refrigerator evaporator or freezer shelf, add or subtract boards or blocks to get the unit level from side to side and front to back. 

On a towable RV, the front to rear adjustment is easy enough to manipulate with the tongue jack or landing jacks, but it's trial and error. And with a motorhome, there are any of four "corners" that might need to be raised to get the rig properly leveled. It is definitely trial and error at best. Now the good news!

I'm in the process of testing a new product called the ReVo Leveler. This little box attaches to the side of the RV and, with its own battery power, tells you exactly how much to raise the RV to obtain perfect level. This is one of those inventions that make you ponder, "After all these years, where has this been?"

The ReVo Leveler makes four crucial determinations. 1) How far to lift the tongue jack or hitch to disconnect the RV from the tow vehicle, 2) How far to raise the front of the unit to obtain front-to-rear level, 3) How far to lift the low side of the rig to get it level from side to side, and 4) To obtain the exact height needed to raise the front to reconnect the tow vehicle. 

Displayed in inches, you'll now know exactly how many boards or blocks to use. Best applied with a towable RV, conventional travel trailer or 5th wheel, I can see where the ReVo Leveler would be beneficial to motorhome owners as well. Level is level is level! And all RVs need to operate within a level orientation.

The ReVo Leveler kit includes a handy 12-volt adapter for its rechargeable battery which is said to hold its charge for up to 30 hours (the digital display indicates the amount of charge remaining). Mounting clips, labels and very detailed instructions are also included in the kit. It even comes in its own protective pouch! Nice touch! 

As testing and product evaluation concludes in a real-world environment, I'll report back with a final verdict on its usefulness. My initial reaction, however, is quite positive. The construction, design and functionality is very thought-out and well engineered.

For an immediate look at the ReVo Leveler, visit http://www.revoleveler.com. Inventor, Larry Karan has also posted several videos on YouTube which explain each function

So Bob, I'd suggest you take a serious look at the ReVo Leveler. It is available online, at select dealers and at RV shows.


Bottled Water for RV Toilet Use

We are newbies at this, and it's our first winter. If we winterize our 5th wheel, and then want to go camping in the winter, is it safe to use the black tank with bottled water only? Since the black tank hoses appear to be quite large it's hard to believe they would freeze. Or are there smaller hoses somewhere in the black tank system that we can't see that could freeze? We would be using bottled water only for any fresh water needs, so we wouldn't disturb the anti-freeze in the rest of the system. Is our thinking right on this? Barb H. 

Barb, it is perfectly doable to use the black tank with bottled water if you choose that route. It’s also possible to use the complete fresh water system in the coach during the winter with some proper preparation. See my winter RVing article here. But typically it’s a full 3-inch drain from the toilet into the solid waste holding tank so just pouring bottled water into the toilet before and after each flush, you should be fine. I’d add a little RV anti-freeze to the bottom of the holding tank just to keep it from freezing if you’ll be in extended below-freezing weather. And remember, you’re in an RV so you can always head south!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Adding an RV Storage Tray

I recently purchased a used, 2008 Keystone Springdale and it has just one small underbelly storage area that runs the full width of the travel trailer from one side to the other. Is it possible to add a long Pull Out Drawer to this storage area in order to access items easier?  If so, would it be best to add two? Meaning one on each side  of the travel trailer that would pull out from each side? Bonnie B. 

Bonnie, Lippert Components offers the Kwikee Storage Tray that can be mounted in just about any storage compartment. It’s a great way to easily access stored goods, especially for those compartments that open at both sides of the RV. Check it out here. I’m sure your local dealer can order the Kwikee Storage Tray and have it installed in no time. Or you may want to install it yourself if you're handy with tools!

Comparing Different Brands of RVs

We recently attended your seminar on RV Maintenance at the Hershey Show. It was really informative, thank you! We are in the process of buying our first RV and saw two Class C models with the same floor plan, but different manufacturers. They both have plus & minus items, but neither one was a show stopper for us. Our question is to try to get an unbiased opinion on the manufacturers, if you don’t mind. We know about Winnebago being around for a long time and that model has a fiberglass roof and the quality is good. We do not know about Coachmen owned by Forest River and their model has a TPO roof. We do not know about its quality and other than opinions of the dealer and one person we met at the show who also has a Coachmen and loves it, we would like to have another opinion. Paul & Dianne B.

Paul & Dianne, certainly Winnebago and Coachmen have been long-standing brands in the industry. And Forrest River is actually the 2nd largest RV manufacturer overall. I wish there was a true, unbiased, Consumer Reports-like publication for RVs out there. But I’ve not yet found one that provides a comprehensive, impartial comparison between brands X, Y or Z. The key word being “impartial.” Many RV publishers provide a “buyer’s guide” or something similar, but those I’ve seen have not been very technically comprehensive. I do present a seminar entitled, “Technically Choosing Your Next RV” which I presented at last year's Hershey Show, but not this year. I’m actually in the middle of an article that covers that material, but unfortunately, it is not yet finished.

The differences between a fiberglass roof and TPO are there, but neither one would be a deal-breaker for me. I endorse a completely new type of roofing system that can be applied over any type of existing roof, called RV Armor (www.rv-armor.com). So no matter what roof is on any motorhome you may purchase, you can upgrade at any time to a fully guaranteed (for life!) roof that requires zero maintenance or attention, ever. So the roof type is a moot issue today.

Other than that, I would equate most all other features being quite similar within the same price-point. It’s more important that you base your choice on what is required by you and the family and how you expect to use the RV. There are just too many questions needing answering, and most are truly subjective in nature. But I do have a few items to consider before making that definitive jump to RV ownership. The learning curve can be shortened drastically by taking the following into consideration before you sign on that dotted line.

* Type – RVs come in two basic types, motorized and towable. It looks like you’ve already determined the Class C is for you though.

* Budget – RVs cost real money, so be sure to stay within your budget.

* Accoutrements – Evaluate your family’s needs and wants. How many people will be using the RV? If you’re a couple with three or four kids, perhaps that 8-foot pickup camper is not such a good idea.

            * How much living space will you need?
            * How much sleeping capacity?
            * What can you not live without in the kitchen?
            * How much storage do you need to support your camping hobbies?
            * How sophisticated does the satellite receiver need to be?
            * Do you even need a satellite receiver?

* Size/Weight Restrictions – RVs come in many shapes and sizes. The larger units may difficult to maneuver in some older campgrounds.

* Brand – You’ve already narrowed it down to two that you saw in Hershey, but varying retail price points exist for virtually every potential RV enthusiast. Build quality, accessory sophistication and overall curb appeal will go up as the price point increases.

* Construction Techniques – I’m not sure which exact models you looked at, but there is a broad range of construction methods employed by builders. Construction materials include: steel, aluminum or wooden structural members, soft sidewalls, laminated sidewalls and varying composites of roof surfaces. They all have their pros and cons, periodic maintenance schedules and refinements, so be sure to ask the dealer lots of questions.

* Research and Homework – Be sure to do your homework before you buy. Here are some suggestions for gaining knowledge before making a commitment:

            * RV Shows – Duh, you’ve already done this one!

            * Neighbors, Family & Friends – I’d make a wager that everyone knows at least one RVing family. Be sure to get their input as well. RVers are typically quick to point out the good in their coaches; as well as the not-so-good. Take it all in and file it away.

            * Campgrounds – Try to visit a few campgrounds in your area. Ask the RVers staying there, how they like their particular RV.

            * Web Research –  Use this resource carefully. Most RV dealers and manufacturers will have a site so it’s possible to compare inventory, floor plans, factory videos, etc.

            * RVIA Seal – Over 90% of RV manufacturers belong to the RV Industry Association, the governing body of the industry. All approved manufacturers will have a “seal of approval” from RVIA prominently displayed beside the entry door. And Winnebago and Coachmen both have RVIA seals.

            * RVDA – The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association monitors its membership closely. I recommend buying a new vehicle only from a member of RVDA.

            * RV Rentals – Consider renting one from your short list for a weekend.

            * Avoid Impulse Buys – Always give it serious thought and revisit your needs to make sure that RV of your dreams indeed fits your requirements. Don’t be pressured into buying that unit while “in the moment.” 

Good luck! Let me know how you decide!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

30-Amp, 20-Amp Cheater Boxes

I was recently given a setup which has a 30-amp plug on one side and a 20-amp plug on the other side. The output is a 50-amp plug. I was told that if you plug in one side to a 30-amp source and the other to a 20-amp source, you will end up with 50-amp. Do these things actually work? No brand name on it, so I assume they are homemade. (Jerry M.)

Jerry, what you have is called a “cheater box” and though some are indeed homemade, there are a couple of suppliers that have them available online (as pictured). I do not recommend cheater boxes for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, they are not “approved” for RV use. Safety is paramount and I would never recommend something not approved for RV use. In most cases, the 20-amp receptacle at a campground will be GFCI-protected (it is a code requirement). Cheater boxes will automatically trip that GFCI breaker and you’ll only be provided power from the 30-amp side. 

Also, if the 20-amp receptacle and the 30-amp receptacle are connected to the same electrical phase, the cheater box will not function. To my knowledge, most 20-amp and 30-amp receptacles in the same pedestal at the same site are indeed wired to the same phase. If each receptacle is connected 180-degrees to an opposite phase, it might work. However, if there is an EMS (electrical management system), installed in the coach, or a sophisticated inverter/charger in the system, the cheater box will likely not function, or possibly add confusion to the EMS. 

Furthermore, you cannot use a cheater box with surge protection. They simply will not allow the voltage to pass through to the RV. Another reason is the sizing of the conductors. The neutral wire in the cheater box feeding its 50-amp receptacle must have the capacity to carry 50-amps as provided by two, opposite-phased sources of 120-volt hot wires. 

And finally, they’re called “cheater boxes” for a reason. If the campground is not aware of you using a cheater box, you’d simply be using more power than what it is expected of you (and charged accordingly by the campground owner), in those rare instances when the cheater box might actually work. Indeed, when all the right circumstances are correct, including permission from the campground owner, they have been known to work. A lot depends on how that particular campground was electrically constructed. 

The bottom line is that I consider it risky to use a cheater box. It’s much better to connect a 50-amp coach to a 50-amp receptacle. I’m not even fond of those 30-50 adapter plugs because it eliminates one of the safety factors built into the RV. FYI, the new 2017 electrical code for campgrounds calls for more 50-amp sites in campgrounds, so hopefully the park owners can keep up with the demand. The smart campground operators are already upgrading their parks to accommodate more 50-amp sites since more and more RVs demand the higher ampacity than ever before.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Purpose is That Clamp?

I am in process of fixing a poor waste plumbing job done on my Coachmen. I noted in an earlier edition of FMC Magazine, in your House Calls column, you had a picture of a gray water holding tank exit with a reducer installed. I also noted the hose clamp around the ABS exit pipe. I have a similar hose clamp on my RV and I am wondering what purpose is served by the clamp. Clearly clamping ABS together cannot be an acceptable practice. Roger M. 

Great question Roger! You’ll see that set-up often, the clamp (and sealant), whenever the holding tank is made out of HDPE; high-density polyethylene. All waste plumbing including the outlet pipe is made of ABS. Unfortunately, you cannot cement, bond or weld dissimilar thermoplastics. The actual outlet fitting on an HDPE tank is tapered a little and some technicians could not understand that the tighter you tightened the clamp, the more it tried to squeeze the ABS pipe out of the hole. It is necessary to cut the ABS outlet pipe to just the right length so that it wouldn’t slip out and such that it would not protrude too far into the tank outlet, trapping debris under the outer circumference of the pipe sticking inside the tank. It wasn’t necessarily a great design but when coupled in tandem to the other tank outlet via the whole termination assembly, it sufficed. Today you’ll mostly see spun-on or welded threaded fittings to make that connection. Pictured here is the sealant I use. Just slop it on the outside of the pipe and tighten the clamp just enough to keep it from leaking. It sill might be possible to manually rotate the pipe in the tank outlet, but once you reconnect the entire waste manifold, all will stay in place.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What's that Receptacle?

Dear Doctor, I just bought my first RV. It is a Winnebago Minnie Winnie 25B. I didn't receive any manuals so I am learning as I go. What is the service receptacle in the electric cord compartment? It says close when not hooked to outside power. I have left it open since I got it 6 weeks ago. I am also unclear if the house battery disconnect switch should be left on all the time, even when hooked up to outside power. Is this connected to my engine battery and if it is left on will it drain the engine battery? I have heard many different viewpoints. Thank you! Cathy R.

Cathy, if what you are seeing looks similar to this photo, that is the RV's generator output receptacle. In order for the generator to power the coach, the shore cord must be plugged into that receptacle. Some larger motorhomes come equipped with an automatic transfer switch that makes the connection automatically soon after the generator is started. But on some of the smaller coaches, in order to power the coach with 120-volts AC electricity, the shore power cord must be plugged somewhere; either into the pedestal at the campground, or into that receptacle inside the compartment.

When activated, the house battery disconnect solenoid removes the battery from the system during a period of storage or non-use. The house and engine batteries remain separated so it will have no effect on the engine start battery. Also, if the solenoid is activated while the coach is plugged in to shore power, the battery charger will not be able to charge the house batteries since they are now “disconnected” from the system. So typically you’d activate the disconnect switch during storage so the battery won’t be drained. But when using the coach, leave it off.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

RV Holding Tank Evacuations

Gary, I agree with your philosophy of filling the holding tanks almost full prior to dumping. However my wife and I go to all the home Penn State football games and rarely get half-full over two nights. We stop at a campground on our way home and always dump every trip. Do we have to do this every trip or can it sit in the tanks 2-3 weeks and then dump after the next run? How long can you go between dumps? Ray T., (Lower Burrell, PA)

Ray, as long as you are using a quality, enzyme-based, live bacteria tank additive like Pure Power Blue, I see no problem with leaving the tanks partially filled over the course of a couple weeks. The enzymes will continue to work, further breaking down the solid waste. It’s more of a personal choice rather than a technical mandate. But if you wish to evacuate sooner, simply fill the tank above the 3/4 mark with fresh water and dump after every trip home. This is probably what I would do, but again, there is no harm (unless odors develop), in having a partially filled holding tank when you start for the next home game. 

Some coach owners might argue that they’d rather not travel with that additional weight; especially if they refill the fresh water tank before the start of each trip. As a safety concern, you do not want to have more fresh water on-board than you have capacity to capture and retain in the black and gray holding tanks combined. Leaving waste in either tank may push you past your total capacity if you refill the fresh tank before evacuating the waste tanks. It does require some diligence from the user.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Motorhome Roof Support

Gary, I've just purchased our first coach, a used 28-footer from 2006. The unit is in great shape and I want to keep it that way. I want to clean the roof but have heard that you can't walk on all motorhome roofs. How can I tell if I can walk on mine or if I'll have to use a ladder all around the sides to clean it? Patrick H., (Denver, CO)

Patrick, quite likely all motorhomes today have a solid roof whereby it’s strong enough to support you during normal maintenance procedures. In fact, I can't recall a single manufacturer using anything but a solid roof, at least since the turn of the century anyway. If the motorhome is outfitted with a ladder, it’s a given that the roof is "walkable." A soft roof will show visible signs of rafters placed about every sixteen or 24-inches. If the roof surface on your motorhome is rubber EPDM, fiberglass or TPO, it’s safe to work up there. Just wear rubber-soled shoes and take care when using water or cleaning agents. And be very careful! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Battery Ratings

Dear RV Doc, your article on batteries was informative but gave information that is in conflict with information in two other articles I've read. You say the Amp-Hour (AH) rating is a 20-hour rating that indicates the number of amps a battery can deliver for 20 hours. From this one would expect a 100 AH battery to deliver 5 amps for 20 hours. The other articles I've read stated that the AH rating is based on a 20-amp drain. That at 80 degrees F., a 100 AH battery can deliver 20 amps for five hours before the voltage (12-volt battery) drops to 10.5 volts. The results may seem to be the same but one article went on to say that the length of time is not a direct inverse proportion to the amp drain. In other words, a 100 AH battery cannot be expected to last 10 hours at a 10-amp drain or 20 hours at a five-amp drain. What is correct? Keith L., (Swansea, IL)
Keith, I think it may be a matter of semantics mostly, but the 20-hour mention is the common time frame usually referenced for rating batteries, according to the Battery Council. Peukert’s Law notwithstanding! The 20-hour time frame is simply the usual benchmark. 

Here's how one major battery manufacturer states it:

"The amp-hr rating for an automotive battery is usually based on a 20hr discharge at 80° F, at a particular rate (determined by the amount of active material within the battery), until a minimum voltage of 1.75V/cell (10.5 volts for a 12 volt battery) is reached. For example, if a 12-volt battery at 80° F delivers 4 amps for 20 hours before its voltage drops below 10.5 volts, its amp-hr capacity will be 4 amperes x 20 hours = 80 ampere-hours.

Scientific measurements/data will be different. Obviously, to be 100% correct, the Peukert formula would have to be factored in. But to explain that would simply further confuse most readers not holding a degree in engineering.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stripped RV Awning Bolt

Hey Doc, is there an easy fix for a stripped out lag bolt on the bottom bracket for my older awning arm? Mine screw through the bracket that hold the awning arm. It goes through the aluminum sidewall and into the frame of the coach. Troy W., (Roy, UT)

Troy, typically the bottom bracket is secured through the sidewall at the floor level, but a lot depends on the how that portion of floor and sidewall is actually constructed and adjoined on your RV. You don’t mention the year, brand or model of coach, but I’ll cover a few different scenarios here. 

If you have wood frame construction, (I call these “old school” coaches), it’s sometimes possible to cut an access hole into the very bottom of the subfloor directly below the awning bracket and bolt all the way through the sidewall structure at the same location. An aluminum plate is affixed to the inside of the framing and the existing hole for the lag screw is re-drilled all the way through. Then bolts and washers are used to sandwich the bracket to the frame member. 

With other laminated wall assemblies, the awning bracket may actually be mounted slightly above the floor line. In this case the backing aluminum plate can be installed inside the coach above the floor using bolts, hopefully inside a cabinet. If the framing structures are wood, it’s possible to drill a hole through the siding and into the framing, then gluing a short piece of dowel rod into that hole. I’ve glued a 1/2-inch dowel hammered into a slightly undersized hole in the wood framing. After the glue dries, a new pilot hole can be drilled into the dowel plug and another lag screw installed as before. 

If the framing is aluminum, it’s best to try to sandwich the wall section by using an aluminum plate on the inside as described above. Another option is to drill a new hole in the awning bracket itself, above, below or next to, the problem hole. Then drill a pilot hole into the framing and just install a new, second lag screw.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Properly Testing RV Fresh Water System

Dear RV Doc, we are purchasing a used 2007 Winnebago with 16,000 miles. Unfortunately, it had been exposed to freezing temperatures and the water heater froze and cracked. The dealer replaced it. When installing the water heater, the water line from the engine (it has a motor-aid feature), was not tightened enough and the line gave out and it blew the engine, which was also replaced by the dealer. If nothing else goes wrong and the system is ready we are considering going through with the purchase. However, we are worried about the water system being stressed by the freezing temperatures. What tests do you suggest that have a decent chance of catching plumbing problems that are just waiting to show up? I am thinking of using higher than normal air pressure behind a filled water system. What water pressure should the system be able to handle? Michael L.

Michael, freeze damage to the fresh water plumbing system is indeed a concern and proper testing is paramount prior to finalizing your purchase. The formal testing procedures performed at the factory during manufacture included pressurizing the system (with air or water) to 80-100 psi for ten minutes. Typically, in the aftermarket, these same tests can be performed by any Certified or Master Certified RV technician using a specialty test device comprised of a gauge, a manual shutoff valve and special adapter that keeps the city water inlet check valve depressed during the test. 

Since the city water inlet employs a check valve that opens under incoming pressure, (typically between 1-5 psi), testing through the city water entry without using the blue specialty fitting could allow small leaks to go unnoticed, so it’s important the check valve be continually held open during the test. Here’s why; until enough pressure leaks from within the system to create a loss in pressure sufficient to open the check valve, no loss in pressure would be noticed on the gauge upstream of the check valve if it’s not held open. 

Air pressure is my preferred method in case leaks are abundant; no mess to clean up! In your case, it really doesn’t matter since the system probably still has water in it. The test fitting is attached directly to the city water inlet and subjected to 80-psi of clean compressed air. Remember, this is the fresh water system, so they should avoid using shop air, which could contain tool oils and contaminated moisture. 

In the not-so-distant past, the fresh system plumbing was tested at 100-psi, but the NFPA Standards now only calls for a minimum of 80-psi. If you have an icemaker, it is probably best to remove it from the system prior to testing in case the inlet valve is not designed for that much pressure. Check your owner’s manual to be sure. If no drop in pressure is noted after ten minutes, the coach is deemed sound. In your case, however, I would like to see a redundant test performed before and after a road test, just to be sure. And possibly extend the test to fifteen minutes, vice ten. I’d also have some type of rider written in case additional leaks develop later. 

It is important to note that when this testing is complete, residual pressure must be released through a faucet or low point drain valve to avoid damage to the check valve device. Backflow preventers/check valves are designed for directional flow and pressure induced in the reverse direction may cause O-rings to be dislodged from their seats resulting in a damaged product. 

It does take a technician with sufficient training to perform this test correctly! The test gauge can be inserted anywhere in the fresh water system; it’s just usually easiest at the city water inlet. If an alternate location is used and it is necessary to tap into the system to insert the test device, those fittings will also have to be tested under pressure with a soapy solution once the test device is removed and the system fully pressurized and made functional. If you have any drop in pressure during the test, a leak exists somewhere. Soapy solution is applied to each fitting until the leak(s) are totally eliminated. If the leak is a crack somewhere along the length of a section of the tubing, further troubleshooting will be necessary to locate the crack and replace that section of tubing. Remember, a new test should be run after replacing any component until the test proves there are no leaks anywhere in the entire fresh system!

Monday, June 1, 2015

RV Water Heater & Refrigerator Pilot Problems

Dear RV Doctor, I am having a problem with the pilot light on the hot water tank on my old motorhome. I can light the pilot light, but when I turn the dial to the ON position, it takes a moment for the ignition, and when the propane gas finally reaches the pilot light area, the combustion is so strong that it blows out the pilot light and the main heating flame too. This unit also has a refrigerator that I can run on AC, DC, or propane. On this unit, with propane selected, after you light the pilot light, it runs and cools the fridge automatically depending on the temperature level that I set it to. I can light that pilot flame, but after that, nothing happens. The pilot light just stays on and doesn't ignite a flame to cool the refrigerator. I believe that both of these problems are related, but I am not sure as to what the fix is. The hot water tank is near the front of the unit, where as the Norcold refrigerator is at the rear on the same side as the hot water tank. I appreciate any advice that you can offer in solving my problem. Dan R. (Howell, MI)

Dan, a couple things to consider; first on the water heater. There will always be a brief delay from the time you move the control valve from "Pilot" to "On" before the main flame ignites. The propane has to travel from the control valve, through the orifice and down the mixing tube, mix with some fresh air, before reaching the pilot flame. The alignment of this mixing tube is crucial. As the gas flows through the tube it draws in air to mix with the propane prior to it igniting. If the tube is not centered on the orifice fitting at the control valve and in line with the angle of that fitting, then turbulence will take place inside the tube and create an improper mixture for combustion. This can cause pilot and main flame outage. Plus the pilot flame should only encompass the very tip of the thermocouple. A too large or too small pilot flame can also lead to pilot outage. 

On the pilot model refrigerator, the standing pilot flame will stay small until the temperature inside the refrigerator rises above the setting of the thermostat. If the box is already cooled it’s not likely to ignite the main burner until you open the door a couple of times or put warm food inside. Now if the box is already warm and the main flame will not come on, chances are the thermostat capillary tube is mis-positioned or the thermostat has lost it’s charge necessitating a new thermostat. A few tests by a competent Certified service technician will quickly reveal the exact cause. But most importantly, for both the water heater and the refrigerator, (as well as the other two propane appliances), is the delivery line pressure of the propane. It must be set to 11.0 inches of water column. Being an older coach, it’s probably wise to have a service tech perform a timed pressure drop leak test as well as set the pressure regulator to the correct setting just to be safe. It takes special equipment to measure, set the pressure and to test the regulator, so unfortunately, this is one task best left to the professionals.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

RV Roof Construction

I have a question about truss style rafter construction for my walk-on roof. I wish to run a cable through/across the rafters towards the front of my trailer. My question is how are these rafters made and most importantly are they hollow?  I am trying to accomplish this without any drilling through anything. It is a PacificCoachWorks trailer 2014. Bill M.

Bill, according to Pacific Coachworks, all PCW units have wooden roofing structural components, including their trussed-roofed trailers. It would be very difficult to route any conductor or cable though the roof. But because they have ducted air conditioning, it might be possible to snake a cable alongside the duct work, at least part of the way. Depending on what you’re installing and how far the run would extend beyond to two extreme ducts, of course. Though the sidewalls are constructed using hollow aluminum tubing, the rafters are all solid wood, unfortunately.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

RVShare & RVing Accessibility Group

Dear Readers...The RV Industry has a long history of being a proponent of RVing for literally everyone who wishes to enjoy the RV lifestyle. Though this article was originally published back in March, it's worthy of another mention here. Kudos to RVShare and RVAG! Enjoy!

RVShare teams up with group to provide RVs for physically-challenged 

Photo courtesy of North Trail RV
Legal News Reporter

The ability to take an excursion to one of America’s many campgrounds in an RV is something many people take for granted. But for the physically challenged, there are serious obstacles to embarking upon such a trip starting with the fact that there are few RVs for rent that can meet the needs of this group. But now a unique partnership between Fairlawn, Ohio-based RVShare and the nonprofit organization RVing Accessibility Group, Inc. (RVAG) is offering a solution to this problem by connecting owners of accessible RVs with renters.

The two have different objectives, but they have one important thing in common, a love and appreciation for RVing. It was during a November 2014 trade show in Las Vegas that RVShare owners Mark Jenney, Joel Clark and Patrick Couch got their first glimpse of the uphill battle facing physically challenged individuals who want to take their vacations on the road.

“We stopped by RVing Accessibility Group’s booth and started talking about how a large portion of the country has accessibility needs and how there are few accessible RVs available for rent,” said Clark. “It really struck a chord with us since we aggregate all the RV rentals in the country.”

“Our group has been working hard to help make campgrounds accessible,” said Sabrina Thompson, an outdoor accessibility advocate and volunteer for RVing Accessibility Group. “While there are manufacturers that make accessible RVs, they are privately owned. Most people are not going to invest in buying an expensive vehicle without first deciding how they feel about RVing so we are trying to make it easier for people to find rentals so they can have the same chance to fall in love with RVing as those without physical challenges.”

“Renting an accessible RV is hugely frustrating,” said Kevin Hansen, president of World Wheelchair Sports in Eugene, Oregon. Hansen broke his neck in a skiing accident in 1975 and is now in a wheelchair. As someone who enjoys the outdoors, he has been trying to get his wife to take a trip with him in an RV to see how she feels about it. The problem is, there is never anything available, or if there is a vehicle, it may require a cross-country trip just to pick it up. “This is beginning to change,” said Hansen. “I think a site like RVShare is long overdue since it is filling an important need. I also think that any place that rents or sells RVs should have at least one accessible vehicle available. It makes good business sense.”

Cheri Fiducia, RV rental manager at Guaranty RV in Junction City, Oregon, said she has received a number of calls from people interested in ability-equipped coaches. She said she has ordered an Itasca Sunstar accessible RV. The vehicle is expected to arrive in the middle of June and reservations are being taken for July. “People who are not able to walk on their own may need features like a power roll-up door, a power lift, roll-in shower, lower shelves and switches as well as doors that are wide enough for a wheelchair,” said Fiducia. “They cannot rent just any RV.” “Our owner is very active
Photo courtesy of Guaranty RV
within the accessibility community,” said Marshall White, marketing director at Guaranty RV. “He has a disability himself so it is very important to him to provide freedom of mobility to a wide range of guests.” White said as the baby boomers age they will be looking for vehicles that meet various assistance needs. “Even if they are not in a wheelchair, they may need handrails or walk-in showers. Those dealers that meet their needs will reap the financial benefits.”

Finding an accessible RV is only one part of the equation; the other is the campground itself. Jeff Sims, director of state relations and program advocacy for the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, said his trade association works with members to help them understand and comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  “We have developed a self-evaluation form for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal for Priorities 1 through 4 and the recreational checklist for swimming pools, wading pools and spas,” said Sims. Priority number one is the approach and entrance, followed by access to goods and services, toilet rooms and additional access, he said. “Not everything on the list is readily achievable but we encourage members to have a transition plan in place.” In terms of making campgrounds accessible, he said owners have to start at square one from the moment the person pulls into the park’s entrance, attacking the accessibility issues each step of the way, including the office, store, pool, playground, common areas and restrooms. “People think that as long as a restroom is near the campsite, it is accessible,” said Sims. “But there is more to it. The person must be able to get through the door with the wheelchair and fit into the stalls.” Some things, such as making the trails available, are even more challenging he said.

Sims said in 2011 the United States Department of Justice set a mandatory deadline of March 15, 2012 for owners to install pool lifts. “The law says that the adjustments must be readily achievable, which means they can be accomplished without much difficulty or expense. “A number of campgrounds have made the change but some of the smaller ones, which have limited revenue, are developing compliance plans for the future. Technically ADA campsites are not currently mandated to make public accommodations under Title III of the ADA.”

Sims said this will happen in the future but the industry is doing its best to embrace the changes now based on the United States Access Board’s new Standards for Outdoor Developed Areas. He said these standards currently only apply to national parks and other outdoor areas developed by the federal government. However, Sims said the U.S. Access Board intends to develop guidelines for non-federal outdoor sites covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act under Title III.
The reason for getting a jumpstart on the requirements now is simple, he said, “We are an outdoor hospitality industry and we want to ensure that all people can enjoy the outdoors.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

Voltage Monitor Gone Awry

I have an issue with my Xantrex panel. When I plugged in the motorhome, all the panel lights for the charging sequence strobe and still strobe.  I have attached a movie to show you what I'm talking about. I also saw that the house batteries were showing 6 volts at the time. I really do think my batteries, four 6-volt batteries are bad as they do not hold a charge long at all. Could this strobing be from the batteries being shot and needing replacing? Doug K., (Redmond, WA)


Doug, Xantrex is aware of this problem and has released new software in the remote control unit. The problem happens with the older remote panels when the DC voltage dips momentarily, causing the processor to try to quickly track which LEDs should be illuminated on the display. Evidently it was searching too quickly and it basically confused itself! The newer remote re-tracks every three seconds which enables it to lock onto the correct sequence better. Replace the remote with a new device and it should be rectified. It might run through that rapid sequence once or so, but it will eventually fix itself rather quickly. Your local dealer can probably order one for you or you can also contact Xantrex directly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Slideout Valve Leaking

I own a 2011 Cedar Creek Silverback 5th Wheel Model 29 RE. I am leaking hydraulic fluid from the slideout selector valves (Triple Hydraulic Slide-Out Room IRC Assembly). My dealership tells me that I need to replace the entire assembly at a cost of $173.09 per valve. Is there another way to fix this? Please advise. Raymond S., (Cinnaminson, NJ)

Raymond, you can purchase the entire assembly directly from Lippert and save a bunch. Here’s the order page from their website.

You’d still have installation costs, but it shouldn’t be too much to replace the entire assembly as a unit I don’t believe individual components are available since they test and verify each assembly as a completed unit. There would be no way to guarantee the parts and pieces individually since it relies so much on installation/repair techniques of the technician. Plus I’m a firm believer in the safety factor as well. It's better to get the whole assembly, tested as complete.



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