Where RV Travelers Come to Learn, Share and Help Each Other

RV Refrigerator

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Make sure you have read and understand  Basic Power
before reading this article.

RV RefrigeratorAn RV refrigerator is quite different than a conventional refrigerator.
RV refrigerators  are a heat absorption type instead of a compressor type.
They almost always feature 2 way operation. 1 way is 120 volt ac electricity and 1 way is L.P. gas.

Norcold Quick Start Guide

Most modern RV refrigerators have an automatic feature. When in the automatic position,
they will operate on available power. AC electricity will override L.P. gas when available.
AC electricity will be available only by power cord connection or gasoline generator.
Without ac electricity the refrigerator can operate on L.P. gas.
For the L.P. feature to work, the refrigerator must be switched to either L.P. or automatic.
The L.P. tank and leak detector must be on and there must be 12 volt dc power from the coach battery available.
The refrigerator L.P. gas valve requires 12 volt dc power to operate.
If the coach battery is dead, the refrigerator will not operate.

Safety: An RV refrigerator has a small flame outside the RV when in the L.P. mode.
You need to be absolutely certain the refrigerator and any other L.P. operating item is switched off
to extinguish the flame before entering a gasoline or L.P. filling station.
I recommend turning the refrigerator off electrically.
This means switched off at the control panel not at the L.P. tank shut off valve or leak detector.
The leak detector should always remain on, even when filling the L.P. tank.
Anyone filling the L.P. tank will turn the tank shut off valve to the off position
so be sure the refrigerator is switched to off at the control before entering the fill area.

NOTE: The reason the refrigerator should be turned off at the control
is because it needs to have the L.P. gas valve turned off.
If the L.P. tank shut off valve is closed without switching the control off,
the refrigerator will continue to run for a short time until the lines are empty.
This will cause a flame to continue until all L.P. is evacuated from the line.
Once the valve is opened, the refrigerator will not start again without cycling the power switch.
If the L.P. line is empty, the gas valve will get only air and will not relight for several attempts
causing a “check” light and no operation.

To operate the refrigerator, turn the power switch to the on position.
Some RV refrigerators do not have a temperature adjustment.
There will be some type of power light that will come on.
If there is an automatic position, I recommend using it.
If you prefer the refrigerator to operate only on L.P. gas, you can switch to L.P. instead of automatic.
When the power is turned on, the refrigerator should start. You will need to be sure it actually runs.
To do this, wait about 30 seconds to  be sure the “Check” light does not come on.
If there is no L.P. flow, the 12 volt coach battery is dead,
or there is no 120 volt ac electricity available if switched to that position,
the refrigerator will go into fault or “check”.
In the “check” mode the refrigerator is not running and will not cool.
Sometimes if the L.P. has been turned off at the shut off valve, or at the leak detector,
there may be air in the L.P. line.
If there is air in the line, the refrigerator may not light the flame on the first attempt.
This will cause a “check” light and no refrigerator operation.
This is why it is important to be sure  the refrigerator is operating.
When powering the RV with 120 volt ac electricity, the refrigerator will change to that power source
if in the automatic position.
This means either the shore power cord or the generator will power the refrigerator.
Because the refrigerator will be transferring from L.P. to ac electricity,
I recommend checking the refrigerator control
to be certain it is still operating and did not go into fault (“Check”).
If the “check” light is on the refrigerator is not running.
To reset the “check” simply turn the power switch off, count to ten, then back on.
This can be repeated until the refrigerator stays on.
(it usually takes about 30 seconds to go to “check” if there’s a problem)

Since RV refrigerators are absorption type, they are slow to cool and slow to recover.
You will need to have the refrigerator on several hours prior to needing it.
I recommend having items already cold before placing them in the refrigerator.
Be sure to keep door opening to a minimum.
Be sure the doors are latched while traveling and items inside are secured.
Do not leave anything open in the refrigerator while traveling.
Be careful not to scratch the refrigerator with sharp items.
Freezers are not frost free and will need to be turned off and melted to clear ice.
I have seen entire refrigerators destroyed by people trying to chip ice out.

RV refrigerators will do a good job for you as long as you remember to follow the correct procedures

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Do your RV spring check up now

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Avoid RV Vacation Disaster

RV in the Spring

Are you tired on spending your RV Vacation searching for quick RV Service?

You know how it goes, it’s Saturday morning you’ve just spent 3 hours loading, the kids are buckled in and ready to watch their favorite Sponge Bob DVD for the ride, you push the start button on the generator and the worst thing of all happens, nothing.

But what if you could spend 15 minutes now to make sure your generator will run when you need it? Sound good?

It starts with the priming.

Gasoline and L.P. powered generators are very similar. Typically, lack of fuel will make them hard starting after sitting for an extended time.

Some newer generators have a “prime” function to run the fuel pump prior to starting.

Late model Onan Microquiet and Microlite generators have this feature built in to the start switch, but in some cases are not marked.

Genrator

To operate the prime feature, simply hold the start/stop switch in the stop position. After a few seconds the light in the switch will illuminate indicating fuel pump operation. Run the pump for about 20 seconds to deliver fuel to the carburetor. The generator will start much quicker. If your generator does not have a prime feature, you will have to crank it until it starts. Let the starter rest to cool after about 15 seconds of cranking.

Cycle the starter until it runs. Let it run for a short while, then check the oil level. Check the air filter to be certain there are no rodent nests from storage.

Keep reading for 10 more items you can self check now to help avoid RV Vacation Disaster later

  1. Exterior: RV’s are meant for the great outdoors, but it is important to keep the elements on the outside, especially water.

    One of the most expensive mistakes an RV owner makes is not stopping a water leaks until it’s too late. When you see water spots on the ceiling severe damage has already started.

    You must take the time now to inspect all caulking to be sure it is not cracked or missing.

    Cracked caulk looks like this.RV Caulk

    Be sure to check caulking around windows, doors, all roof vents and seams. Even the smallest crack will allow water to intrude. If you see a hair line crack I recommend you take the RV to your service professional to have it repaired.

  2. Tires: Visually inspect tires for sidewall cracks and cracks between treads. Any cracks should be considered a danger and tires should be replaced. Check tire pressure. Refer to the manufacturers recommended tire pressure.

    INSIDER TIP: There should be a decal inside of a cabinet with recommended tire pressures.

  3. Cleaning Appliances: Remove the outside access covers for the water heater and refrigerator. Inspect the burner assembly for any foreign debris such as spider webs and rodent nests.

    LIGHT air pressure from a compressor can be used to clean the burner area. Be sure not to blow high pressure up the refrigerator chimney. If in doubt, let a professional do it.

    Batteries: Use Extreme Caution Safety glasses and latex gloves on. Shore power disconnected. All items in RV off or main cut off in off position.

  4. Check and clean corroded terminals, connections, and battery trays. Hot water and baking soda work well. Check battery fluid levels if possible. (Some battery caps are not removable) In many cases, you will need to pull batteries out or even remove them to check the fluid level. Be careful with wiring if removing. Many times positive and negative wires are not marked or color coded.

    INSIDER TIP: Take the time to mark each and every wire. I use masking tape and a sharpie. I also draw a picture of exactly how each battery is installed. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to straighten out someone’s mess from improper battery connections. (usually causes catastrophic component failure)

    Battery Burn Up

    It is important to check batteries for fluid. Many times the RV has been connected to shore power for extended amounts of time. This can cause the batteries to overheat and boil the fluid out. Top fluid levels off with distilled water. Be careful not to overfill. Keep the level below the upper case fill ring.

    This is a good time to test the batteries. You will need to have a professional perform a load test. Be sure the batteries are fully charged before the test. Low charge will cause a battery to fail the load test.

    INSIDER TIP: Many times the person testing the battery does not check the state of charge. This is improper. If they don’t check the state of charge, go elsewhere. They may just be trying to sell you new batteries.

    When replacing batteries, always replace multiple battery banks together. Don’t add an old battery to a new battery. (Coach Batteries and chassis batteries are banked separate)

  5. L.P.: Turn on the leak detector inside the RV FIRST.

    Be sure all L.P. items are turned off. Double check, leak detector on, all L.P. items off.

    No smoking, No flames, and No sparks!

    Open the valve on the tank all the way. Smell around the area for leaks. A soapy water solution can be used to check for leaks around the valve and regulator. I use a combination of an electronic leak detector and soapy water in a spray bottle. If you suspect a leak, turn the L.P. valve off immediately. Have a professional inspect and repair the leak.

    INSIDER TIP: Check closely around seals they can dry out over the winter causing new leaks that weren’t there before storage

    Water: Before filling with water, check the hot water heater bypass valve.Hot Water By pass

  6. It needs to be in the “normal” position and all faucets need to be

    closed.

    It’s best to do the initial season fill with the a “city water” connection. This will use the faucets water pressure to fill the empty lines and water heater. (It can also be done with the fresh water tank and pump)

    Open a hot and cold water faucet during filling to let the air escape until the water flows steady.

    Inspect faucets for leaks. Inspect the water heater over pressure safety valve for leaks. Inspect the water heater drain plug outside the RV for leaks.

    After the water runs steady, turn off the city water. Add fresh water to the onboard tank. Relieve the line pressure by opening a hot and cold faucet until water flow stops. Close the faucets. Switch the fresh water pump on. After the pump stops running, allow about 20-30 minutes to hear if the pump cycles on again. (The pump cycling on indicates a pressure drop or leak). If the pump does not cycle on, the system should be ready to use.

    Run enough water through each faucet to be sure all RV antifreeze is removed. If the unit was winterized properly, there shouldn’t be much in it.

  7. Test fire appliances: Once the L.P. and water systems are up and running, it is time to test fire appliances. For the first use of the season, start by lighting a stove top burner. Be certain the L.P. gas leak detector is on. Lighting a stove top burner will fill the L.P. lines. This is the easiest flame to see, so you will know when it ignites and the air in the lines is purged. Next you can light the other L.P. fired items. Be certain the water heater is full before igniting.

  8. Dump Hoses: Inspect your sewage dump hose. Dump hoses have a limited lifespan. Be certain the hose is in good condition with no tears or holes prior to use.

  9. Waste tank valves: While connected to a dump station, carefully operate the waste tank valves the first time of the season. Valve seals can dry out causing them to stick and make the valves hard to operate. Carefully working the handle in and out in short increments may save replacing the valves. There are additives for valve lubrication that can be added to the tanks.

  10. Awnings: Simply operate awnings and inspect fabric. If the effort to extend is difficult, the spring tension may need adjusted. (Take to a professional) Spring adjustment is very dangerous. I have the scars to prove it.

That’s the basics for a quick preseason check up for your RV. Thanks for reading, and happy camping!

 

 

What’s that Rotten Egg Smell?? 11 steps to “Fresh Hot Water”

Leaving water with sulfur content in a water heater can cause rotten egg odor.RV Hot Water

11 steps to “Fresh Hot Water”

The proper procedure for tank flushing is as follows:

  1. Turn off the water supply (water pump and/or city water)
  2. Relieve all pressure by opening hot and cold water faucets or opening the water heater pressure-temperature relief valve
  3. Drain the water heater by removing the drain plug and then reinstall the plug
  4. Remove the pressure-temperature relief valve
  5. With a funnel add 4 parts of white vinegar to 2 parts water until full
  6. Reinstall the pressure-temperature relief valve
  7. Cycle the water heater, letting it run through a complete heating cycle 4 to 5 times
  8. Let the water cool down and then drain the water heater
  9. Flush the water heater with fresh water for 5 minutes by using city water or the fresh water tank with the pump. You can also remove the pressure-temperature relief valve and flush through that opening
  10. Reinstall the drain plug and pressure-temperature relief valve
  11. Refill the water heater with water not containing sulfur. Be certain the tank is full by purging air during filling by opening a hot water faucet until you see a steady flow. Do not run the water heater until the tank is completely full.

RV Battery

The batteries in your RV are the “heart” of the electrical system. Good batteries with the proper charge are important for many reasons. There are a variety of items that depend on battery power to function.

In an RV, the batteries power basic items such as lights and water pumps.

Batteries also power many items you may not think of, such as the electronic igniter for the water heater, roof vent electric fans, the antenna booster for the TV, the L.P. gas valve for the refrigerator, the L.P. gas leak detector, the furnace blower, and an inverter if you have one.

It is important that battery charge level be maintained for proper operation of items. When the charge level gets low, available voltage may not be enough for electronic items to operate correctly. Some items, such as the furnace blower will simply slow or stop. Other items, such as the refrigerator may act erratic, stop operation, or even damage the electronic circuit board.

Proper battery maintenance is essential. Battery electrolyte level should be checked at regular intervals. I recommend checking the level when the oil change is performed. In addition, electrolyte level should also be checked when the RV is connected to shore power for extended periods. Most built in RV chargers operate continuous. This may overcharge the batteries. Overcharging can cause the electrolyte to overheat and in some cases boil. This will cause the electrolyte level to drop. Low electrolyte or complete loss of electrolyte can cause battery failure. It may be necessary to remove the batteries to check the electrolyte level. CAUTION: Be certain to wear latex gloves and eye protection when checking electrolyte levels. Be careful with wiring if removing.

Many times positive and negative wires are not marked or color coded. Take the time to mark each and every wire. I use masking tape and a sharpie. I also draw a picture of exactly how each battery is installed. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to straighten out someone’s mess from improper battery connections. (usually causes catastrophic component failure)

When replacing RV batteries it is important to install the proper type of battery. Campers should have “deep cycle” batteries. These batteries are constructed differently than a typical car starting battery. They are designed to be discharged and recharged. They typically have a higher reserve capacity (slower discharge) rate than a starting battery. Starting batteries should be used for the chassis battery of a Motor Home. Cranking amperage or cold cranking amperage is higher in a starting battery. This is important to start an engine, but is not important for the coach or camper. In some cases, the coach or camper batteries are used to start the gasoline powered generator. A deep cycle battery has plenty of amperage to start a generator.

There are several battery types that may be used in an RV.

  • Flooded batteries have liquid electrolyte in them. They are typically the least expensive and work fairly well. Outside ventilation is required. Corrosion from electrolyte leakage is the most common problem.
  • Sealed Gel batteries are another option. Costs are higher than flooded batteries. Maintenance is not required. Ventilation is not required. Corrosion is usually not a problem. Longevity is comparable to a flooded battery.
  • AGM (absorbed glass mat) is another option. AGM batteries do not require ventilation and will not corrode. AGM batteries typically last longer than flooded or gel batteries. There is no maintenance. Discharge and recharge rates are better. Costs are higher.

Proper battery testing methods are important. Deep cycle batteries typically have shorter warranty periods than starting batteries. This is due to construction, design, and use.

I recommend testing the batteries at least once a year.  I test all mine before use in the spring.

Any battery MUST be properly charged before testing. Testing should be done by a professional. The electrolyte specific gravity must be checked to be certain the battery is fully charged before load testing. An automated electronic load tester may be used. I still use my reliable carbon pile tester. If your batteries test weak or bad, be certain to replace them. A weak battery will likely fail during extreme conditions, usually under heavy use or extreme temperatures. In applications with multiple batteries, be certain to replace all batteries at the same time.

Proper battery care during storage is important. Batteries should not be discharged. A discharged battery may freeze during cold weather. Be certain not to overcharge. Remember, leaving the power cord connected for extended periods can overcharge the batteries.

Many times RV’s have a parasitic drain. A parasitic drain is an item that continues to draw amperage when the RV is not in use. For this reason, I recommend disconnecting the batteries during storage. You can disconnect with a switch if your RV has it, or remove all battery cables from a post. I also recommend an automatic battery charger be used during storage. This type of charger can be left on the batteries continuously.

Above all, use common sense and always take proper safety measures.

A&E Awning Disassembly

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RV AwningCAUTION: We recommend all awning work be done by a
certified professional.

Awning disassembly is dangerous and can cause serious injury.
If you need a professional contact Wilson RV   (located in Ohio)


First and foremost you need to know that there are safety issues involved with working on an awning.

The torsion spring inside the tube must be unwrapped and it can be quite dangerous.

If you are not mechanically inclined with “good” hands please take it to a professional.

You will need at least 2 people and it will be easier with 3.

The fabric must slide out the end of the awning rail that is attached to the RV after the torsion springs are unwrapped. This can be accomplished with the hardware attached.
You will need to remove a self tapping screw from the awning rail at each end used to keep the fabric aligned.

To unwrap the torsion spring tension, unroll the awning. If the awning cannot be opened due to a fabric problem, the fabric can be cut with a utility knife.
It is easier to unwrap the torsion springs with the fabric intact and attached (Once cut, the fabric cannot be reused).

Start at the rear of the awning.
Have 1 person hold the tube on one end.
A second person will release the upright from the RV at the bottom. With the upright in the shortest position, carefully swing the entire upright in a circle in the direction opposite of the arrow on top of the upright. (Opposite of the direction the tube rolls in) The upright will need to go all the way in a circle thus the need for one person to hold the tube so the other can reach all the way around.

Be careful not to hit the RV with the upright. You will need to go enough complete rotations to unwrap the spring tension. Typically it will be wrapped approximately 1 turn per foot of awning. (A 15′ awning will have 15 wraps). Count as you go so you can wrap it the same during reinstallation. After unwrapping the rear spring, reattach the upright to the RV.

Next follow the same procedure unwrapping the front torsion spring. Be certain to release the latch at the top so the spring will unwrap without damaging the mechanism.

Once the springs are unwrapped, the hardware disassembly can continue. If replacing the fabric only, skip down to the fabric replacement. It is not necessary to remove the entire assembly to replace the fabric.

The entire awning can now be removed from the RV with the proper amount of help. Check the rear end of the awning rail and straighten to be certain the awning can slide out easily. With one person holding each upright, release them from RV and then “walk” the awning out of the RV.

A third person can be helpful with stabilizing the awning as it comes out. Lay the awning out on the ground.

As a safety precaution, attach a set of needle nose vice grips on the main awning tube shaft where it comes out of the aluminum tube on one side. Holding these vice grips will help insure that the shaft will not turn in case you did not get the torsion spring unwrapped completely. Absolutely do not remove the upright unless you have unwrapped the torsion springs as described earlier. Next using a 7/16″ wrench, remove the bolt attaching the upright to the awning tube. While holding the needle nose vice grips, remove the upright from the awning tube. Carefully unwrap any spring tension with the vice grips after the upright is removed. Follow the same procedure on the other upright.

Next drill out 3 rivets on each end cap using a 3/16″ drill bit. Mark a reference line on each end cap and the awning tube so it can be reassembled in exactly the same position. Now pull out the torsion spring assemblies. You can now replace any awning hardware as needed. If replacing torsion springs, be certain to mark the new assemblies the same as the old ones so they will be in the correct positions.

Replacing the fabric requires only the rear end cap removal. Mark a reference for the fabric to tube. The fabric uses two slots to slide in the tube. Be certain to mark each so you don’t get mixed up. Pull the fabric out of the slots. Replacing the fabric only with the awning still attached to the RV can be done with 2 people pulling the fabric out of the tube and rail at the same time while a 3rd person holds the tube. After the fabric is removed, clean all debris from the drilled rivets out as they can interfere with the latching mechanism.

All RV education articles are provided for information only. Articles are based on the best professional judgment and experienced opinion of the writer.
Wilson RV nor the author accept any liability as a result of the provided information.

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4 Wheels Down Towing

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Towing 4 wheels down is the preferred towing method.
In my opinion any vehicle that does not require an additional driveline device is recommended.

We have been installing tow systems for nearly 25 years. In the beginning the choices were very limited. If you wanted to tow 4 wheels down, the choice was either a Honda or something with a manual transmission. Now there are many more choices.
There are also some driveline devices that can be added to make nearly any vehicle towable.
Remco manufacturing makes several devices that enable some vehicles to be towed that otherwise cannot be towed.
They offer a lube pump system that will lubricate the transmission form an electrical pump during towing.
These will work on front wheel drive vehicles and some 4 wheel drive vehicles. This is not a method I prefer.
There are a variety of potential problems with this system due to the complex use of electronics. They also have an axle lock
which mechanically unlocks a front wheel drive axle to release the transmission from turning.
The 3rd product they offer is a driveshaft release system to mechanically disconnect a driveshaft of a rear wheel drive vehicle.
All these systems require additional expense and operating difficulties compared to using a vehicle that does not require them.
When I search for my personal vehicle to tow, I look for a vehicle that can be towed without any additional devices.
There are several cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles with automatic transmissions that are now capable of being towed without additional driveline devices.

To tow your vehicle, you will need a tow bar, base plates, some type of rear lights and most likely a braking system.
There are a variety of tow bars and base plates on the market.
We deal with Blue Ox, Demco, and Roadmaster. My favorite is Blue Ox.
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Satellite in your RV are you tuned in?

Satellite television is a good choice for an RV.RV Satellite
Satellite service is very similar to a home system. The primary difference is in the antenna (dish). There are a variety of dishes available that will work. A basic “portable” dish provided by a service provider can work several ways. It can be attached to the RV with some type of a clamp or it can be mounted on a tripod. This type of dish must be manually aimed to find a satellite. There are many dishes made specifically for RV’s. There are manual crank up, electric pop up types, domed semi automatic, domed fully automatic, and domed fully automatic tracking dishes.

Wiring your RV is part of the satellite installation process. RG6 coaxial cable must be used. Most newer RV’s have RG6 already routed to the standard television antenna and many have a factory pre-wire installed for a satellite system. Older RV’s may have RG59 coaxial cable. This is an older style “smaller” coaxial cable that should not be used for satellite TV. Some satellite antennas use 12 volt DC wiring to run the electric motors. These 12 volt DC wires would need to be routed to the antenna. Routing wires can be difficult. Research the installation procedure prior to deciding on a system. Sometimes spending extra on the system will prevent a difficult or costly installation.

To make any satellite system work, you must have satellite service from a provider and a receiver with a valid card installed. RV’s are subject to special service rules. Some programs may not be available. To be certain you’ll be satisfied, I recommend getting the information on programming prior to deciding to purchase or install a system.

A manual crank up dish is mounted on the roof with a crank handle protruding through to the inside. The crank handle is used to raise and lower the dish and then rotate after the correct height is reached. They work similar to a standard crank up antenna. Sometimes finding the satellite with this type of dish can be difficult. There must be a clear view to the satellite. Trees can block the signal. It may be difficult to know whether the signal can get through or if it simply isn’t being aimed correctly. The same problem exists with using a portable dish.

An electric pop up dish uses an electric motor and a GPS to find a satellite. When parked and switched on, it will find the satellite and lock on. It is not enclosed and is subject to weather. One advantage to this type of antenna is a slightly larger dish than a domed dish.

A domed semi automatic dish uses an electric motor to move and rotate. The dome encloses the unit and protects the components from weather. There is a control to operate the antenna. The operator finds the coordinates for the satellite by looking at the zip code of their location. The coordinates can be input or the control can be put in to an automatic scan mode. This type of antenna works fairly well.

A domed fully automatic dish is similar to a semi automatic dish. The primary difference is a GPS unit. The GPS unit finds and locks on to the satellite automatically. This is easier then using a semi automatic antenna. It takes the “I’m not sure” factor out of finding a satellite.

A domed, tracking, fully automatic unit is the top of the line. These units will automatically find the satellite and move as you drive to keep the signal locked in. This makes watching TV while driving possible. Overhead obstructions such as bridges, tunnels, or trees may temporarily obstruct the signal.

There are a wide range of prices for antennas. They start at around $100 and can go as high as $3000.

My experience: I have tried many but not all of the satellite antenna brands. I have used all styles of satellite antennas. In my opinion, a basic portable dish will do the job. There are some issues with finding the satellite with any manual alignment dish. Tree interference tends to make the alignment even more difficult. You don’t know whether there is tree interference or another problem. Regardless of the cause, it is always the same result: no reception. Fully automatic antennas are very nice. I think the tracking dish is worth the extra money when buying a fully automatic. In my opinion, Trac Star makes the best satellite antenna. Out of the different brands I have sold and installed, the Trac Star is the only one that has worked every time without any problems. The Trac Star unit uses a very simple method for wiring. Their unit uses only an RG6 coaxial cable for the entire operation from the antenna to their inside unit. No other wires need to be run from the antenna to the inside. This means no drilling or trying to find a route for wires.  Their antennas track very well and they have good technical support with very knowledgeable people. Response from a phone call is quick, unlike any of the other satellite brands I have dealt with. The service and quality product is definitely worth the extra money.

If you are looking for a professional to install a TV Satellite system, please call Wilson RV at 888-800-7340

11 Steps to get your RV Ready for Spring

You need to prepare your RV for the first use of the season.

Here is a list of 11 important items and systems to inspect and test.

1.  Outside:  One of the biggest problems we see with RV’s is water leaks. Look at all caulking to be sure it is not cracked or missing. This includes caulking around windows, doors, all roof vents and seams. Even the smallest crack will allow water to intrude.

2. Tires: Visually inspect tires for sidewall cracks and cracks between treads. Any cracks should be considered a danger and tires should be replaced. Check tire pressure. Refer to the manufacturers recommended tire pressure. There should be a decal inside of a cabinet with recommended tire pressures.

3.  Cleaning Appliances: Remove the outside access covers for the water heater and refrigerator. Inspect the burner assembly for any foreign debris such as spider webs and nests. LIGHT air pressure from a compressor can be used to clean the burner area. Be sure not to blow high pressure up the refrigerator chimney. If in doubt, let a professional do it.

4.  Batteries:  (Safety glasses and latex gloves on. Shore power disconnected. All items in RV off or main cut off in off position.)   Check and clean corroded terminals, connections, and battery trays. Hot water and baking soda work well. Check battery fluid levels if possible. (Some battery caps are not removable) In many cases, you will need to pull batteries out or even remove them to check the fluid level. Be careful with wiring if removing. Many times positive and negative wires are not marked or color coded. Take the time to mark each and every wire. I use masking tape and a sharpie. I also draw a picture of exactly how each battery is installed. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to straighten out someone’s mess from improper battery connections. (usually causes catastrophic component failure) It is important to check batteries for fluid.  Many times the RV has been connected to shore power for extended amounts of time. This can cause the batteries to overheat and boil the fluid out. Top fluid levels off with distilled water. Be careful not to overfill. Keep the level below the upper case fill ring.

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This is a good time to test the batteries. You will need to have a professional perform a load test. Be sure the batteries are fully charged before the test. Low charge will cause a battery to fail the load test. Many times the person testing the battery does not check the state of charge. This is improper. If they don’t check the state of charge, go elsewhere. They may just be trying to sell you new batteries.

When replacing batteries, always replace multiple battery banks together. Don’t add an old battery to a new battery. (Coach Batteries and chassis batteries are banked separate)

5.  L.P.:   Be sure all L.P. items are turned off first. No smoking, flames, or sparks! Turn the leak detector inside the RV on FIRST. Open the valve on the tank all the way. Smell around the area for leaks. A soapy water solution can be used to check for leaks around the valve and regulator. I use a combination of an electronic leak detector and soapy water in a spray bottle. If you suspect a leak, turn the L.P. valve off immediately. Have a professional inspect and repair the leak. (Some times seals dry out over the winter causing new leaks that weren’t there before storage)

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6. Water:  Before filling with water, check the hot water heater bypass valve. It needs to be in the “normal” position and all faucets need to be closed. It’s best to do the initial season fill with the “city water” connection. This will use the faucets water pressure to fill the empty lines and water heater. (It can also be done with the fresh water tank and pump)  Open a hot and cold water faucet during filling to let the air escape until the water flows steady. Inspect faucets for leaks. Inspect the water heater over pressure safety valve for leaks. Inspect the water heater drain plug outside the RV for leaks. After the water runs steady, turn off the city water. Add fresh water to the onboard tank. Relieve the line pressure by opening a hot and cold faucet until water flow stops. Close the faucets. Switch the fresh water pump on. After the pump stops running, allow about 20-30 minutes to hear if the pump cycles on again. (The pump cycling on indicates a pressure drop or leak). If the pump does not cycle on, the system should be ready to use. Run enough water through each faucet to be sure all RV antifreeze is removed. If the unit was winterized properly, there shouldn’t be much in it.

7. Test fire appliances: Once the L.P. and water systems are up and running, it is time to test fire appliances. For the first use of the season, start by lighting a stove top burner. Be certain the L.P. gas leak detector is on. Lighting a stove top burner will fill the L.P. lines. This is the easiest flame to see, so you will know when it ignites and the air in the lines is purged. Next you can light the other L.P. fired items. Be certain the water heater is full before igniting.

8. Generator:  Gasoline and L.P. powered generators are very similar. Typically, lack of fuel will make them hard starting after sitting for an extended time. Some newer generators have a “prime” function to run the fuel pump prior to starting. Late model Onan Microquiet and Microlite generators have this feature built in to the start switch, but in some cases are not marked. To operate the prime feature, simply hold the start/stop switch in the stop position. After a few seconds the light in the switch will illuminate indicating fuel pump operation. Run the pump for about 20 seconds to deliver fuel to the carburetor. The generator will start much quicker. If your generator does not have a prime feature, you will have to crank it until it starts. Let the starter rest to cool after about 15 seconds of cranking. Cycle the starter until it runs. Let it run for a short while, then check the oil level. Check the air filter to be certain there are no nests from storage.

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9. Dump Hoses: Inspect your sewage dump hose. Dump hoses have a limited lifespan. Be certain the hose is in good condition with no tears or holes prior to use.

10. Waste tank valves: While connected to a dump station, carefully operate the waste tank valves the first time of the season. Valve seals can dry out causing them to stick and make the valves hard to operate. Carefully working the handle in and out in short increments may save replacing the valves. There are additives for valve lubrication that can be added to the tanks.

11. Awnings: Simply operate awnings and inspect fabric. If the effort to extend is difficult, the spring tension may need adjusted. (Take to a professional) Spring adjustment is very dangerous. I have the scars to prove it.

That’s the basics. Clean it up and have fun.

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Gas Mileage

For years curiosity has kept me searching for the most economical way to drive. I have found that a variety of driving techniques work depending on the variables in vehicles. Obviously driving an RV differs from driving a car. RV’s take much longer to accelerate up to speed than cars. The power to weight ratio is the key factor. While RV’s typically have larger engines and more power than cars, the amount of horsepower to weight is much lower.

The key to obtaining maximum fuel economy is to keep the engine load as low as possible. There is a “sweet spot” or balance in every vehicles engine load to speed ratio. Contributing factors include: engine size, horsepower, torque, gear ratio, rolling resistance, and weight. Many newer automobiles have some type of an electronic fuel economy gauge in them. These units are very helpful in learning how to drive for fuel economy. In my opinion, one of the most incorrect pieces of information regarding fuel economy is in driving habits. I have heard many times “experts” advise slow starts and slow speeds are the best method of saving fuel. I disagree in most cases.
One of the misconceptions about economical driving pertains to fast or “jack rabbit” starts. Fuel economy numbers are directly related to engine load. Engine load is at or near its maximum during acceleration. While accelerating, the fuel economy is very low. Slow acceleration increase fuel economy very little if any. The difference between slow steady acceleration and fast acceleration in fuel economy numbers is very little. Once the vehicle is up to speed and cruising, the engine load is reduced and fuel economy numbers go up. In a set distance, the less accelerating and more light throttle cruising you do, the better the fuel economy. Get up to speed in as short a distance as possible. Yes, I’m telling you that quick “jack rabbit” starts are more economical. During a slow acceleration, fuel economy is very low all the way until the target speed is reached.

A we all know, stop and go driving reduces fuel economy. Any time a vehicle is sitting still, the fuel economy is 0 and as I just explained, during acceleration fuel economy is very low. Coasting with the throttle closed produces maximum fuel economy. There is a balance somewhere between accelerating and coasting. This balance is achieved when light throttle will maintain speed without accelerating.

Speed is one of the keys to achieving maximum fuel economy. Slow speed is not necessarily the best way to do it. Slows speeds in a high gear with high engine load is a recipe for poor fuel economy. The gear ratio and engine load are important factors in fuel economy. Maintaining the speed limit should be the goal in an RV. Getting your vehicle up to the speed limit and in its top gear in a short distance is important. Speed variations will occur on hills. Don’t try to maintain the speed limit on hills if wide open throttle must be used to do it.

Remember, using the least amount of fuel in a given distance is the goal. Using the top gear with light throttle will achieve the goal. Drive at constant steady speeds. Try to limit stop and go driving. Turn the engine off when not driving. Experiment with different fuel grades. Your vehicle constantly adjusts air/fuel mixture and ignition timing. Fuel octane grades act differently in some vehicles. Performance and fuel economy may be affected. It may be worth the extra cost for a higher grade. Be certain your engines air filter is clean and tires are at maximum recommended pressure. Be scientific when checking fuel economy. Fill the tank to the same level each time. The most accurate method for an accurate fuel economy test is to average every tank. Simply reset your trip meter at every fill up. Fill the tank each time and average all the numbers. You will have an accurate assessment of your vehicles fuel economy.

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RV Holding Tanks

Holding tanks are the built in tanks that hold any waste coming from your RV. Typically, there are a series of tanks. Tanks that hold waste water coming from sinks and showers are termed “gray” tanks. Tanks that hold sewage are termed “black” tanks

There are procedures that should be followed to use the holding tanks properly.

Gray tanks simply hold waste water. Any water going down a drain will end up in a gray tank. In some RV’s there are more than 1 gray tank.
Many type “C’ RV’s have tanks mounted under the RV on each side of the chassis frame. Typically there is 1 “black” and 2 “gray” tanks. The easiest way to know if the tank is “gray” or “black” is to look at the waste valves. The waste valves are located near the holding tank exit where the sewer hose is attached. The “gray” valve is the smaller valve (typically 1.5 inches). The “black” valve is the large valve (typically 3 inches). There should be 1 waste valve for each tank.
All the pipes connect together after the waste valves to exit at 1 location.

Since “gray” tanks hold all waste water, you need to be careful what you put down the drain. Often times, food or other large items that can go down a drain will end up in the “gray” tank, but may not come out. Any item that sinks in water will go to the bottom of the tank.
If the RV is sitting still for long, the items may not come out when the tanks are dumped. Any items that remain in the tank may cause odor or can interfere with the waste valve operation.

It is important to always have water in the tank before dumping. I recommend not leaving the “gray” waste valve open while camping. A build up of water in the tank will help flush all items out when dumping. Let the water level build before dumping. This is especially important with “black” tanks. Do not leave the “black” waste valve open while camping. Solids will be at the bottom of the tank. Water build up will help remove the solids from the tank when dumped.

Dumping the tanks should be done in the proper sequence. Be certain your waste hose is in good condition. Waste hoses tend to degrade over time. Inspect the hose prior to use. If it has cracks, tears, or holes, replace it. The waste tank exit is always on the RV’s left side (driver’s side).
To dump, you will need to position the RV close to the in ground dump station pipe. The waste exit for the RV will be low. It may be in a compartment or under the side below a compartment. The exit will be a black plastic (ABS) pipe. It should have a termination cap on it.
I recommend latex gloves on prior to dumping. The cap will twist counter clockwise for removal. The waste hose will have an attaching ring on one end. Insert the end without the attaching ring in the dump tube in the ground first. Be certain to hold the hose since some dump pipes go straight down and the hose may be lost if not held. Next hold the waste hose end with the attaching ring under the termination cap while removing the cap carefully. This allows the hose to catch any residual water from the previous dump. Holding the hose under the cap while removing is also helpful in the event of a leaking waste valve.
Occasionally waste valves get objects caught in them, or simply fail and leak. Holding the waste hose under the cap during removal will help avoid a messy spill.

Next attach the waste hose to the RV, turning the attaching ring clockwise until locked on. Once the hose is attached to the RV and inserted in the dump tube, it is time to dump. Proper sequence is to dump the sewage first. Open only the “black” tank waste valve. Allow a few minutes for the tank to empty. Go inside the RV and flush the toilet. Allow some water to run down the toilet to help flush the tank.
If time permits, I recommend filling the toilet bowl with water then flushing several times. Next, with the sewage drain valve still open, drain the “gray” water tanks. The “gray” water exiting will help wash out the “black” tank and plumbing. When the tanks finish (you can tell by sound) close all waste valves. There will be some plumbing with water dripping out after the waste valves. Allow some time if possible for all water to finish running out before removing the hose.

Next detach the drain hose from the RV. Wash the hose with fresh water while still inserted in the dump tube. Store the hose and attach the termination cap.
RV Help Desk Tips for holding tank use:
Occasionally wash the black tank with a toilet wand after dumping.
This is done by inserting an RV toilet wand attached to a water hose down through the toilet. Be certain the wand is below the toilet exit and in the holding tank. Wear a dust mask and latex gloves (there may be splash back).
Turn the water on. A high pressure water jet will wash the tank. I wash the black tanks on every rental unit we own, every time they are returned. This keeps the tanks clean and odor free.

Another tank cleaning method is to fill the “black” tank with water, then drive the RV several miles before dumping. The movement of water while driving may help clean the tank.

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