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Friday, December 19, 2014

Product Spotlight: H2Out Dehumidifiers

Dear RV Doctor, I am new to owning and living in an RV so I am not familiar with propane heat. I have read that propane heat also puts out moisture. What is the best way, easiest and most economical, to handle moisture and condensation in an RV? Thanks! Jacki

Hey Doc, I have a 25-foot RV with a new 13,500 btu air conditioning unit. The problem is at night time the humidity level is high, over 80%, with the temperature around 70-degrees. What should I do? Dustin

Well Jacki and Dustin, it's true any gas-fired burner emits moisture (propane, natural gas, etc.), as well as rooftop air conditioners. And indeed moisture can be problematic in and around any RV. There are a multitude of desiccants commercially available that can help reduce moisture accumulation and I've experimented with many over the years since pervasive moisture/condensation have been a never-ending battle for RVers in most climates. 

I recently completed a test of a renewable dehumidifier that uses no electricity and does not require messing dumping of the water it collected. It's called H2Out. The nice thing is that it is available in varying sizes/capacities making it the perfect companion for RV travelers. And since there is no water collecting there's no fear of spillage as you travel up and down hills in the RV. And the best part; it works!

The H2Out is comprised of silica gel modules as opposed to solid silica clay particles. Silica gel can absorb up to one third its own weight. And each H2Out dehumidifier contains thousands of gel beads encased in a stainless steel canister that is easily stored, used and renewed. Renewed properly periodically, each canister will likely last the life of your RV.

The gel beads are normally blue in color and turn to pink as they absorb the moisture in the air. Depending on the size of the canister, they should easily last 30-60 days before needing renewing. At least that's what their literature stated. I ran my tests for a full 90 days just to see what would happen. 

For my review of the SD309, I first ran a three-month test of an unheated space, unprotected by a dehumidifier. I measured the humidity and temperature extremes during this benchmark test. I then placed the H2Out in the same space for another 90 days and measured both extremes again.

Here are the overall results:

Without Dehumidification                                     With the H2Out in Place
Temperature Extremes: 68 - 79-degrees                Temperature Extremes: 54 - 81-degrees
Humidity Extremes: 31 - 43%                                  Humidity Extremes: 24 - 69%

The test was performed in Seattle, WA where the moisture content can vary drastically over the course of the year. Clearly the H2Out obtained the lowest humidity measurement. The benchmark test was performed from late spring to early summer (May - July). The time period for the H2Out test ran from July to September.

The beads began turning slightly pink within a week, which is normal since the moisture is absorbed from the outside to the inside. After 90 days, it was clear it was time to recharge the canister. I'm convinced I would have gotten better results had I recharged the H2Out at the recommended 60-day mark. 

The renewing process is quite simple if you have an electric oven, (uh...don't place the stainless steel canister in a microwave!). It was a little more detailed with my gas cooktop. Do read the recharging instructions carefully! My test canister is now back in my controlled space to see how it performs during a 60-day run of a NW winter.

I am convinced the H2Out is quite worthy of its stout price since it will literally last for years with proper renewing. At the suggestion of a rep friend, I even stuck an SD106 in my refrigerator. Though it's probably harder to quantify since I recorded no measurements, I have not found one drop of moisture inside the food compartment yet. Well, other than when I spilled my coffee creamer.

I'd recommend readers visit the H2Out website and read through the informative pages. Though more costly than other, higher maintenance dehumidifiers, I feel serious RVers need to at least check it out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Propane Pigtails Needed

I'm replacing a pair of 12" propane pigtails as shown in one of your earlier posts. The only problem is I don't want to buy garbage. The last set lasted just under a year. What brands should I consider? Patrick, (Austin, TX)

 Patrick, I'm a big fan of Marshall propane products made right here in the USA. I'd avoid any and all imported propane components. It's my opinion that they are less than stellar in quality and quality control. According to the Marshall catalog, those pigtails come in the following lengths: 12, 15, 18, 20, 24, 30, 36, 48 and 60 inches. Here's an 18-inch version I found on Amazon. 

But you'll want the green QCC ACME nut on one end and I would guess either a 1/4-inch inverted flare or a threaded male pipe connector on the other end. However, they are available with a myriad of fittings on the regulator end should yours be anything different. You can check out the website and download their catalog right here. Any local RV service center or accessory store should be able to order a set for you if you'd rather buy in person.

Keep in mind, neither the green ACME hand nut nor the inverted flare fitting requires a sealant, but if the regulator end you need is MPT (male pipe thread), you'll definitely need a sealant applicable to flammable gases. Many RVers mistakenly use white Teflon tape as the sealant. The white tape is not compatible with propane gas. The yellow tape, however, is. 

To see what goes on inside those pigtails, check out this earlier post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Winterizing and Electrical Questions

I recently purchased a 2007 R-Vision Trailite RV. I live in Iowa and am trying to winterize it but when I put the RV antifreeze in, I can’t get it to circulate throughout the system. Am I doing something wrong or do you think I have a bad pump? The owner’s manual has very sparse information. I also have a couple of plug-ins that don’t have any juice. Do you happen to know where I can get an electrical diagram for this camper? Thanks! Bill A. 

Bill, the easiest way to induce the RV anti-freeze into the system is to pour a couple gallons directly into the fresh water tank and allow the 12-volt pump to pump it through the system. Are you saying your water pump won’t operate at all? You can also empty the tank, disconnect the hose leading to the water pump inlet and insert that hose into a bottle of RV anti-freeze, but that still requires the RV’s water pump. There are also kits available that attach to the kitchen faucet where you can “back fill” the system using a manual hand pump. Some RVs are equipped with a "tee" fitting and valve located between the tank and pump that permits a short section of hose to be inserted directly into the bottle of RV anti-freeze. These types of kits can easily be added after the fact. Some even come equipped with a separate, permanent tank for the anti-freeze. Let me know if you are experiencing a water pump issue. But if it pumps water, it will pump anti-freeze.

I’m assuming the “plug-ins” you refer to are 120-volt AC receptacles. If all the circuit breakers are turned on and you do have power at other receptacles, check the GFCI mounted in the lavatory or galley. It’s likely tripped and is protecting more than just that receptacle. Simply push the reset button and then check those other receptacles. GFCI’s are usually configured to protect the bathroom and/or galley circuit PLUS all other receptacles installed downstream of that one.

Personally I do not have source for an electrical diagram (if one even exists). R-Vision does, however, have an active club online at this website. But alas, you must be a member to search the forum. I'd suggest you join that organization and see if any of the members have access to the diagram you are looking for. Individual brand RV clubs are great sources of information, from owner to owner. Almost certainly you'll gain additional help from that group.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Swap RV Water Heator for Electric-Only

I will have to change my water heater on my RV because it is leaking. My question is: Can I replace it with an electric water heater only. I am not doing dry camping anymore so I was wondering if it was alright to have only an electric heater tank instead. Awaiting your reply and I thank you. Reinelde L.

 Reindelde, are you 100% sure your current water heater does not have an AC electrical heating element in it already? Many RV water heaters are equipped with an electric option along with the propane burner. I could tell from the model number or a photo of the data plate. If yours does, it may be less expensive to simply replace the inner tank that is leaking. If yours does not, the only drawback to installing an electric only heater, besides the labor costs, is when considering resale or trade-in value. Most RVers would certainly want an RV water heater so unless you plan on keeping that RV forever, I’d stick with an RV heater with an electric element.

But can you install an electric water heater? Sure, as long as the wiring and heater are installed properly by a certified RV technician. There are codes and standards that must be maintained for both the fresh water plumbing and the electrical circuit concerning those modifications. But if an aftermarket electric water heater fits in the same space, go for it!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sagging RV Roof Relief

Doc, I have read your solution on repairing sagging roofs with plywood. You mention in your answer that you can put this spacer between the metal roof and the roof rafters. Can you do this same procedure for rubber roofed RVs? Thanks, Larry B.

Larry, that earlier solution you read pertained only to hollow roof systems with aluminum sheathing simply installed over roof rafters; what we call “stick” construction. Though there may still be a few out there, the vast majority of RVs today have a vacuum-bonded, solid roofing structure. Basically it’s a one-piece roof consisting of plywood decking on top, some type of insulation installed between the support rafters (wood, aluminum or steel), with a panel type of ceiling finish. The whole structure is built on a flat, vacuum table, glued together and set on top of the walls. The synthetic membrane (sometimes fiberglass or aluminum) is then installed once the roof is secured to the side walls.

So the sagging roof solution in that earlier Q&A does not apply to one-piece, synthetic roofs like EPDM, TPO or fiberglass, unfortunately. The solution for a sold roof that sags is to first determine and rectify why it sags, then remove the rubber membrane and either replace the top decking with thicker plywood (preferred), or simply install another layer of plywood over the existing plywood decking. Of course, this assumes all the rafters and support members are not damaged and remain intact. But rather than installing rubber membrane again, I recommend a newer type of roofing system called RV Armor. Take a look at this web page and watch this video about the RV Armor system. It is actually preferred to install the RV Armor system on plain wood decking rather than over the final finish material when possible, so you have a golden opportunity now if you replace the decking. As I often state, serious RVers should definitely investigate its benefits!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

RV Generator Over-Voltage

Doc, I recently went to exercise my RV generator and I was surprised when at about 5 minutes after turning on the generator I saw the voltage meter running at about 160-volts and it suddenly sparked but kept functioning. We turned on the AC and all the lights, although one blew. It looked to be to bright. Even with everything on the RV on it brought the voltage down to about 140-volts. I am assuming this is not a good thing and possibly dangerous. I thought it was supposed to be around 120. Can you tell me how this happens? It was running fine before I took the RV to have it serviced. A belt was squeaking and they repaired that but now I have a problem with the generator. Also you advise not running any equipment while the generator is putting out this much electricity. Unfortunately I have run my AC's while it was doing this. They seemed to run fine. But since I have done it is there some maintenance step I should take at this point for them? Again thanks for your assistance. Dale V., (Nashville, TN)

Dale, there are a few reasons why any generator may get out of adjustment depending on the condition of the unit, the number of hours, etc. It’s always been a good idea to have the generator tested annually using a load bank. The load bank device can monitor the voltage (carburetor) and the frequency (governor) as incremental loads (amperage) are placed on the generator. It’s possible someone tried to adjust the generator engine by ear or by sensing how smooth it runs, etc. I mention this fact in my articles, videos and in my seminars, but ANY mechanical adjustment done to the generator has a predictable electrical result. That’s exactly why a tech cannot tune a generator by ear.

Normal wear, carbon buildup, poor quality fuel, bumps and vibrations, etc., can all affect these finer adjustments. Combined, they create the reasons why it’s important to have the RV generator attached to a load bank... I say every year, but no less than once every two years.

If your air conditioners survived 140-volts AC for a long duration, you were quite lucky! Roof A/Cs are quite susceptible to very high and very low voltages. There’s nothing to check on the A/C units if they operate properly on shore power. If they operate correctly on shore power, no damage was done. Also, by connecting to shore power you can check all other AC system components to see if any were damaged by the high voltage. But be sure to have the voltage and frequency checked on the generator by a specialist equipped with the proper diagnostic testers before relying on it. The safe spectrum for AC electricity, (by any source), is 120-volts AC, +/- 5%. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Loud Thumping Noise From RV Propane Regulator

Hey Gary, our goal in buying a new travel trailer is/was to enjoy the outdoors, but we are experiencing a relative thumping sound anytime an appliance is utilized which runs solely off propane. Watch this little video:


You will see me adjust the tank selection valve (slightly) to make it go away, only to have it come back on. Our bed is located just behind the tanks/regulator which makes sleeping a thing of the past. This trip out, I shut off the propane valves all together at the tanks, but we would still get the noise, one pop at a time in fifteen minute increments. That said, if you could point me in the right direction I will relay it to the tech if I can’t fix it myself. During my first conversation with the tech, he advised spraying WD-40 into the regulator which doesn't make sense as its completely sealed and any liquid sprayed into the coupling would then be sent to my appliances via the propane hose. I’m sure there is a fix, I just got to find it. We have taken it out only twice and the tanks (propane) were full upon delivery of the trailer. Also this noise comes on regardless which is selected as the primary, both tanks are open or one. We thank you! Shawn & Angie L., (Walla Walla, WA)

Shawn and Angie, that is one annoying noise! Propane regulators can and do create an audible whistling or humming noise while operating. Some humming, caused by the vibration of the diaphragm inside the regulator, is normal, but not a banging or clanging noise such that you are experiencing. But the recommendation regarding WD-40 is 100% incorrect! Never spray anything into the gas regulator! Typically the noise you are hearing is not created by the regulator or the changeover valve, but rather from the pigtails that run from each cylinder to the changeover mechanism atop the secondary pressure regulator. I’m personally appalled at the quality of the propane equipment used today. Most of the components are cheaply produced, usually acquired off-shore and quite deficient when compared to the quality of the yesteryear’s products.

Each propane pigtail contains a redundant safety mechanism called an excess-flow check valve inside the ACME nut that attaches to the manual service valve at each cylinder. This excess-flow check valve consists of a spring, an orifice, a brass seat and a ball bearing along with other safety components forming, effectively, a flow-limiting device at each DOT cylinder. Here’s what it looks like inside the ACME nut:

The purpose of the flow-limiting portion of the ACME connector nut is to restrict the flow of propane gas should an excessive leak exist anywhere in the propane system; it’s a safety device. Just about every time the DOT cylinder service valve is opened, this small ball bearing in the nut assembly is moved towards the piping system and into a brass seat, restricting the flow of gas. It does not, however, fully shut off the entire gas flow; the ball bearing only restricts it. By design, a small amount of gas is allowed to bypass the ball and continues to flow into the changeover valve, into the second stage regulator and then into the rest of the distribution piping system. As long as all the appliances are turned off and there are no propane leaks anywhere in the system, this small amount of bypass flow quickly builds up enough backpressure that it eventually equals the incoming bypass flow pressure coming through the device. When that happens, the small spring pushes the ball bearing back and off the seat and permits unrestricted flow of gas into the system. This whole process takes about five seconds and is designed to work in this fashion. What you are hearing is the back and forth movement of the ball bearing slamming into the brass seat inside the ACME nut of a cheaply constructed, high pressure pigtail hose. Replace the pigtails with a quality replacement hose. Avoid those cheap (by construction standards), imported hoses that most RV accessory stores stock these days.

There’s an outside chance the second stage regulator is faulty too, but I’m guessing your thumping noise will go away with a pair of quality pigtails installed. To be sure the propane regulator is working properly, have a Certified or Master Certified RV service technician (not that other guy!), run a propane regulator test, including a flow test, lock-up test and timed pressure drop leak test. Also be sure the DOT cylinders are never overfilled. But I'd wager that 90% of the time that banging noise is caused by vastly deficient pigtails.

Monday, August 25, 2014

An RV Roof Guaranteed Forever!

Hey Doc, I read an article some time back that talked about a new liquid re-roofing product  coming onto the market. One advantage of a liquid, is that it may get into all the "nooks & crannies." Any info you can share on this? What is your preference for complete roof protection or re-roofing? I have been reading your articles for many years; they are very informative AND helpful! Thanks! Dr. Bill G. 

Dr. Bill, for 40-plus years I’ve investigated many roofing types, coatings, cleaners, preservatives, sealants and other aftermarket products covering the gamut for both RVs and mobile homes. I’ve tested and evaluated many of these products over the years hoping to find that “silver bullet” product that solves many of today’s RV roofing issues. With the roof of the RV constantly being bombarded by airborne contaminates, the never-ending extremes of the weather, ozone, UV attacks from the sun, etc., it’s been an interesting search indeed. That, coupled with the fact that the RV roof is under constant tension and release via the racking and twisting of the structure as the coach moves down the road, it’s no wonder RV roofing leaks develop so easily. It is suggested by many experts that the Number One cause of RV damage is water intrusion and the RV roof is the first line of defense against that. It’s likely the most vital component on any RV. I do recommend Eternabond tape for repairs, component installations and seam protection, but if you're considering the complete roof as a whole, read on.

Last year I became aware of a service and process called RV Roof Armor. It’s a two-day installation process whereby the complete RV roof is sealed and protected against leaks forever! It comes with a lifetime warranty that stays with the coach. I’ve personally witnessed a complete installation and I’m now convinced this is the only way for serious RVers to go. Their literature states you’ll never have to go up on the roof again and I firmly believe that. The roof becomes totally locked in from gutter to gutter. And the best thing is that they come to you! No matter where you live (at least in the US), they’ll send their trained expert installer to prepare the coach and apply the surface material; it takes two days per coach. I do have to comment that you’ll not find the attention to detail for preserving a leak-proof roof more so than from their trained staff. I was actually blown away by the completeness of the process. Not bound by time constraints as you’d find in a typical RV service shop, these guys do it right the first time since its on their dime if they have to go back a second time. How many service companies offer a full lifetime warranty on their parts and labor? For a roofing product especially! I can’t remember ever seeing that before!

Check them out here.

I’d encourage you to bore down deep in their website. Convince yourself this type of service is for you. But I know I’ve found my “silver bullet" when it comes to full roof protection.

Monday, August 4, 2014

No Auto-Mode on RV Refrigerator

I recently purchased a 2006 Coachman Class A motorhome with a Dometic refrigerator that has an "Auto Mode" switch to start up electrically using 120-volts. It also has a "Gas Mode" switch to start up using propane. After several successful trips using both options, a problem has developed where I can only use the "Gas Mode" switch to start the fridge. It will not start using the "Auto Mode." The light inside will come on so it is getting power but it will not get cold even after 24 hours. Can you advise what is causing this problem? Patrick H., (Hockessin, DE)

Patrick, you say you can run the refrigerator on “Gas Mode,” but when you switch it to “Auto Mode” does the indicator lamp illuminate? You may have a blown fuse on the lower circuit board. It’s relatively easy to check if you have a volt, ohm multimeter. It’s possible you may have a problem with any number of the components or wiring within the AC circuitry, but the most common cause is a blown AC fuse on the lower circuit board. But when it’s running on “Auto Mode,” that indicator lamp should also be lit.  

Here’s what you can do; Unplug the refrigerator from its receptacle at the rear of the refrigerator, through the lower exterior vent. Gain access to the lower circuit board and carefully remove the cover. Once removed, plug the refrigerator back in, turn it on “Auto Mode” and measure for AC voltage at terminals J5 and J6 on the board itself. If the unit is already cold, you may have to turn the thermostat to a lower temperature setting or wait until it warms a bit. You should also read voltage on terminals J7 and J8 as they lead directly to the AC heating element. If you don’t have voltage at these terminals, check for continuity of the 5-amp AC fuse and the 3-amp DC fuse on the board. Chances are the 3-amp DC fuse is good since the DC lamp works inside the refrigerator, but I’m guessing the 5-amp AC fuse is blown. Worst case scenario is the board itself is faulty.

If indeed you have voltage at terminals J7 and J8, then it’s possible you have a burned out heating element. If that is the case, I’d recommend a pro service tech perform the replacement.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Winterize Using A "Schrader Valve?"

I have been hearing about dry winterizing a motorhome using a "Schrader valve" and blowing the water out using an air compressor set on 20-PSI, plus putting some of the pink stuff in the kitchen sink, bath sink and shower drains only. Is this a good idea? If so, how do I find the Schrader valve and where do I install one? Bobbie V., (Florissant, MO)

Bobbie, the device you are seeking that incorporates a Schrader valve is called a blowout plug. It has the air inlet valve (Schrader valve), on one end and a male hose fitting on the other end. Mine is made out of milled aluminum, but I've seen brass blowout plugs as well as inexpensive plastic blowout plugs. I do recommend the metallic type. 

The blowout plug attaches directly to the city water inlet hose connection, but only temporarily; it isn’t a permanent installation. Clean compressed air is then forced into the system to expel the water through the faucets and low point drain locations. It’s the quickest way to rid the fresh water system of water. Professional shops use them all the time while performing winterizing procedures or when any time an RV is going to be stored for any length of time. 

As you drain the fresh water tank and water heater, attach the blowout plug to the city water inlet. Open all faucets plus the hot and cold low level drain valves and then inject clean air. You can certainly apply more than 20-PSI since the entire piping system is pressure-tested at 80-PSI at the factory. And since all the faucets and valves will be open, it will be safe and quicker to use 80-PSI. Be sure it is clean air! Like I tell my seminar attendees, this is your fresh water system! Avoid using gas/filling station air or any air from a compressor equipped with a tank. The chance of contamination is greater if the compressor has a storage tank. 

In addition, pour a 1/4-cup of RV anti-freeze down each drain to fill the P-traps and you should be set for winter or any period of non-use. You can purchase a blowout plug at any RV dealer or service center’s parts and accessories department and many websites on-line.

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 
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.

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.


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