What’s the Mark of a Great RV Dealership?

What’s the Mark of a Great RV Dealership?

We are first time “Snowbirds” enjoying the AZ sunshine this winter. Here’s a tip if you’re thinking about getting a pre-owned RV. There are lots of RV dealerships here in the city of Mesa, and I’m sure several are exceptional. I’d like to tell you what I’ve been observing at Main Street RV in Mesa, AZ that I think may-be unique.

Just so there is full disclosure, I’ve shopped on several RV lots, just not here in Arizona. My brother is the owner of Main Street RV. I didn’t buy my RV from my brother, because there isn’t much bunk-house inventory in Arizona. So now you know my bias. Also know, I wouldn’t be writing this if I wasn’t personally impressed, even if we are related.

Main Street sm

We’ve been hanging around the Main Street RV lot this week, their motto is “Making Friends One RV at a Time” I always thought the saying was NICE, but I’ve realized it’s the core of their business. Main Street RV isn’t the biggest dealership around, it isn’t the smallest either. They only sell pre-owned RV’s. They truly work hard to make friends with their customers.

May-be this happens in all the RV dealership, but I don’t think so. This last week several past customers have stopped by just to say hi. They weren’t coming to look at inventory, they stopped by the office to talk with Pete. Even if he was really busy at the moment he took the time to chat. Some stuck around anywhere from a few minuets to several hours. One even spent the night on the lot, and he didn’t need to there are two Walmarts near by. I heard stories about families, life, and a lot of joking/laughing back and forth.

Someone else stopped in to talk to their head mechanic, the customer thought I worked there so they were asking me the questions. I told him Ben wasn’t in at the moment. The customers comment was, “I’ll come back later, Ben has a great reputation for good work.”

Main Street isn’t a high pressure sales lot. Sure they are in business to make money, but they make an effort to treat people well, making deals that are mutually beneficial. I talked to several couples who commented on how they love the rig that they bought here previously.

If you’re looking for a great RV dealership I recommend Main Street RV, they’ll treat you like a friend.

Repair RV Holding Tank Valves

I needed Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs to join me for this one, but I never got around to inviting him to help repair RV holding tank valves.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed when I would empty our sewer tanks that one of the valves had failed. We have 3 valves on our 5th wheel (bath-shower & sink, Kitchen-sink, and toilet) two grey water, and one black.

It seemed like the bathroom grey water tank seal was not working anymore. I waited until we were going to be parked for a couple of weeks and then took on the job.

Let me walk you through the job..

This is what you see when you look underneath our 5th wheel, probably fairly typical. You can’t see the tanks or fittings because they are protected and insulated.

#1. Remove protective layer. Mine has roughly 15 screws spread about holding it up.

Seen above, after I dropped the protective layer, the insulation is not secured and just falls off (it is off to the side). Now everything is exposed.

#2 You have to figure out what size valve your trailer uses. The black tank it pretty standard a 3″, but the grey water tanks are not standardized.

Here you can see two of the tanks and their valves. On the right is the black water tank, and the left is the bath-shower/sink tank. Each of the valves clearly state what size they are when you get close enough. Once you know the size you can buy a replacement at a RV Dealership with a parts department.

Unfortunately I needed to replace both my valves.

#3 Before you proceed any further make sure your tanks are empty and no one will be using them while you are working. tip: Flush them as clean as possible.

#4 loosen and remove the 4 bolts that are holding the valve in place.

#5 Once the bolts are removed, you can pull the pipe enough to slide the valve loose.

And slide it out.

Be prepared for some leakage.I put a bucket under the joint just in case, and as you can see there were some drips.

#6 Slide the new valve into place. Before you do this make sure the rubber seals are facing the correct direction.Make sure the seals are not pinched or stretched out-of-place before you tighten the 4 bolts holding the valve in place. Open and close the valve it should move smooth and pretty easily.

#7 Now attach the rod extension to the new valve.

#8 replace the insulation and protective cover and you are all done. It’s a pretty simple job, but it’s a dirty job.

 

 

Remodel Switch-A-Roo

Today I decided to rearrange the furniture in our 5th wheel. I still have painful memories of my Mom asking me to help her rearrange furniture in our house when I was growing up. It seemed the piano would get moved 3 times and then back to the original position.

Our dining table is located toward the back of the trailer, and the couch is toward the front. I figured it couldn’t be too hard to move since I’ve seen the other arrangement as an option.
switching positions I figured would make the kitchen/living area work better for us.

before RemodelThe hide-a-bed isn’t bolted down so that was easy to move. We would like to replace it but we wouldn’t be able to get the sectional we would like in the door. So hide-a-bed stays.

I opened up the dining seat to find 8 screws that held the dining bench in place.

screw patter for bench

I was actually surprised by how little held the dining bench in place, but it was easier than moving a piano.

I removed the screws on the bench and table feet, and everything slid out of place.

1 bench removedMoved the bench to the new position, and screwed it into the floor using the same screw holes.

1 bench relocatedI had to cut the trim in the corner to let the bench fit tight against the wall, and used the piece to trim behind the hide-a-bed. The joint is hidden by the hide-a-bed so it isn’t noticeable. I also traded trim on the exposed sides. Moving the long piece to the side the hide-a-bed moved to.

after remodel

Swagman Bumper Mount Bike Rack

How do you carry your bikes for a family of 5 when towing a 5th wheel? I thought it would be pretty easy to find a bumper mounted bike rack for the 5th wheel. At least in my search I couldn’t find one that was designed for 5 bikes. After much searching and reading owner reviews I found the Swagman bumper mounted rack. It’s designed for 4 bikes, but I figured I could hang a kid’s bike on the ladder if I needed.

A couple of reviewers said they couldn’t carry more than 3 bikes because their spare tire was also mounted on the bumper. That made me nervous, because mine is bumper mounted too but I ordered it anyway.

The swagman bike rack is designed for 4 – 30lbs bikes. This rack requires that your trailer bumper be made from strong material and mounted solidly. Some lower end trailers won’t have a strong enough bumper. I am impressed with the design of this rack. It was pretty simple to install, It took me about 20min. to open the box and have it completely installed. The design makes it easy to take the bikes on and off the rack. I added a bike lock, and a couple of bungee cords to keep the tires from bouncing out while we drive.

I’m sure I have voided any warranty on this rack, but I was able to mount 5 bikes comfortably on the rack. The 5th bike is basically resting on the bumper of the trailer; the rack isn’t holding much more weight. I did have to make a couple of adjustments. I removed one pedal and twisted the handle bars of the bike closest to the trailer back wall (avoiding scratches and gouging to the trailer), and I twisted the handle bars of the second bike too. I have to say I was impressed, I got 5 bikes mounted and my spare tire too. You can still see my tail lights too.

So far we have driven 2500 miles and I haven’t had any issues with the rack, and the bikes have stayed put.

Repair RV Holding Tanks

RV holding tanks (grey & black water) can be damaged by flying rocks, or dragging on rough terrain. Having a leak can be messy, and in most area’s is illegal. Replacing a whole tank can be costly, and what if it happens while you are out on the road? This could create some real challenges.

Minor damage can be repaired fairly easily, inexpensively, and pretty quickly. Most holding tanks are made of ABS plastic. You can purchase a holding tank repair kit or you can buy similar supplies from a local hobby shop. All you need is a gap filling cyanoacrylate adhesive with separate activator (similar to super glue, but thicker and dries slower) some sand paper, and fiber glass cloth.

Repairing a crack

  1. Empty the holding tank
  2. Clean off any dirt or grime around the damaged area (make sure it is dry)
  3. Drill a small hole at each end of the crack, this will keep it from spreading.
  4. Cut a piece of fiberglass cloth a couple of inches larger than the damaged area.
  5. Saturate the fiberglass cloth with cyanoacylate glue.
  6. Use your hand to spread the fiber glass cloth over the damaged area. (wear gloves)
  7. Once the fiber glass is in place apply the accelerator and you will have an instant bond.

This repair is strong and long-lasting too. The tank should be ready to use in 15-20 min.

Do you have a holding tank disaster story? I’d like to hear it.

Winterize Your RV Water System

If you are a fair weather camper than winterizing your RV water system is a must. When water freezes it expands, when it sits still on metal it rusts. The water lines and joints in a typical RV are not able to handle the pressure ice creates. The metal in your water pump (the bearings) will rust and seize the pump if they rust.

The winters in Oregon are fairly mild compared to other parts of the US. We usually have a week or so of below freezing weather, but not much more. If there isn’t any heat on in the inside of your RV, it doesn’t take too long for the RV pipes to freeze up.

The two common ways of winterizing the water system either involve compressed air or non-toxic anti-freeze. Which ever method you choose it is best to drain your hot water tank, and by-pass it.

1. Drain fresh water holding tank. (drain valve will be located out side the RV typically on the side wall, or underneath).

2.Draining the hot water tank

  • There is a nylon plug that unscrews near the bottom of the tank to drain it. Remember “Lefty loosy, righty tighty” It doesn’t take much to strip the threads of this plug.
  • Open a sink or shower hot water valve. This creates a vent for the water to siphon easily to drain all the water out of the tank.
  • If you have a hot water heater bypass installed, close off the tank after the water drains.

3. Option A (Compressed Air) purchase an air adapter that connects an air compressor line to the city water connection of your RV.

  • Turn on the 12 volt water pump (sink valves should still be open). Operate the pump until it runs dry.
  • Connect the air fitting to the city water connection.
  • Close all the faucet valves, except the farthest one.
  • Blow air into the city water line until water stops flowing. Close the faucet valve.
  • Open the next farthest valve repeating the process until you get to the closest faucet including the shower, and toilet.
  • Water is now out of the fresh water lines.

3. Option B (Non-toxic) Anti-Freeze. Use only non-toxic anti-freeze that is designed for RV water systems.

  • Pour a couple of gallons of the solution directly into the main water tank of your RV.
  • turn on the 12 volt water pump, and open individual faucets individually until all faucets are pouring out the anti-freeze.
  • Before using the fresh water system. It is recommended that you sanitize the system.

It is a good practice to pour a little of the non-toxic RV anti-freeze into the drains of each of your sinks and shower drain to keep the elbows from freezing and breaking over the winter.

4. Dump your grey water & black water holding tanks too.

Solar Power (part 3) Wiring

In part 2 of this series I added a video that showed you how to wire photovoltaic cells together. In this post I will describe the best practice to connect the entire system together (batteries, regulator, panels).

Open space on your roof, and the number of panels you decide to install (typically 2) will determine where on your roof you can install solar panels. It is best to find the shortest wiring distance as possible from the panels to the battery bank.

8 gauge wire is the ideal size to use for your entire solar system. It will handle the fluctuating current best. Wires should be run inside flexible conduit to protect them from the sun’s UV rays. If you can run the wires through an existing vent such as the refrigerator it is better than drilling holes that could leak over time.

If installing more then one panel wire them in parallel.  Solar panels do not provide consistent current, therefore a regulator is required to make sure batteries are not over charged. Panels are wired to the regulator, both positive and negative wires run into the regulator (a.k.a charge controller). A fuse or breaker should be installed on the positive wire between the regulator and the batteries. The fuse or breaker should be rated 5amps higher than the capacity of the panels, and then to the corresponding battery terminals. From the batteries the standard RV wiring is sufficient to have DC power that runs lights and some other appliances. From the batteries power runs into a inverter that powers larger appliances. Fuses or breakers should be placed between the batteries and the DC appliances and a fuse between the batteries and the inverter, if not already equipped.

Let me know if you have specific questions.

 

Solar Power (part 2) Panels

Solar power is very attractive to many RV users. I have not installed a solar system yet, but plan to on my next RV. As I have been reading not all panels are created equal.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to selecting the components you’ll need for your RV Solar System. Some components are inexpensive and some cost an arm and a leg. Solar for RV’s is one of those things that you get what you pay for!

 RV SOLAR STORE

 

It is best to do some research to find out what panels will work best for your needs. Most solar experts suggest that 32-36 cell panels work best for RV use.

Things you will want to know for a RV installation is how durable are they, will they hold up when you drive on unpaved pothole filled roads? How well are they sealed, will they stay water tight in a heavy rain storm? Does the manufacture offer a warranty on the panel if it is installed on an RV? What are actual users of the panels saying about them?

As a DYI kinda guy I was intrigued by the idea of making my own panels. I found Green Power Science and appreciated their videos. I’m not convinced this is the best practice for a RV application, but it will give you a better understanding of solar panels.

Photovoltaic cells work at peak performance when they are faced directly into the sun. Unfortunately for RVers it is impractical to install a tracking system to keep the panels facing the sun, and the best location to install is the roof. The reality is that a panel will only be in the best location a couple hours a day, so keep this in mind when you are calculating the size of panel or panels you need.

The best way to mount the panels is to use Z brackets. This provides the necessary clearance between the roof and the panel. Use nuts and bolts between the Z brackets and the panels, so that they can be removed easily. RV REPAIR & MAINTENANCE MANUAL

Solar panel performance is affected by temperature this is a good reason to leave space, at least 2″ between the solar panel and the roof of your RV. You may want to install a wind deflector on the front of the panel so the panel isn’t lifted off the roof while driving.

How have you installed your panels?

Solar Power (part 1) Battery Bank

My previous series was on understanding batteries and different ways to connect them. This series is a continuation, but moves into solar power set ups.

How do you know how much power you will need to generate and store for your RV needs? All appliances are rated in AC watts or amps. You can use the following formula to determine the DC amp hour draw for a 12 volt DC system:

(AC amps X 10) X 1.1 X hours of operation = DC amp-hours
(AC watts / 12) X 1.1 X hours of operation = DC amp-hours

This formula should be used to calculate the number of amp hours used between recharges for each appliance. Although a deep cycle can be discharged 80% without permanent damage it is best practice to allow for 50% cycling to improve battery longevity.  Do this by calculating the amp hour usage between charging cycles and then use a battery bank twice that capacity.

 

Sample Power Consumption in 12 volt DC Amp hours

Appliance Wattage 15min 30min 1hr 3hrs
light 100   2 4 8 24
blender 300 6 12 . .
coffeemaker 1000 20 40 80 .
Refrigerator 750 . 21 42 126
microwave 1500 30 60 120 360
vacuum 1100 22 44 88 264

How many batteries do you have in your battery bank?

 

 

 

Some of the information contained in this post is from the Bob Livingston RV Repair & Maintenance Manual 1998

Batteries Series Wiring

This is my 4th post in a series about RV electrical set-ups. Although the information is is fairly basic it will help if you read the entire series.

Post #1 Deep cycle batteries

Post #2 Ratings and sizes

Post #3 Parallel wiring

In my previous post I talked about the most common way RV batteries are wired when there are multiple batteries being used for electrical power in your RV. In this post I will describe series wiring. To wire two batteries in a series you connect the negative lead to the positive lead of the second battery. The open posts of each battery are connected to the load. Keep in mind each battery increases the voltage. In the example below two 6 volt batteries connected in a series create a 12 volt output.

Likewise if two 12 volt batteries were wired together in a series you would have a 24 volt output. Most autos, motor-homes, and travel trailers operate with 12 volts.

So why would you use two 6 volt batteries wired in a series to run a 12 volt system? I’ve heard competing opinions on this topic. There is one school of thought that says 6 volt golf cart batteries have higher reserve capacity and are constructed better for deep cycle discharges than a 12 volt deep cycle battery. There is another school of thought that says today’s 12 volt deep cycle batteries are constructed just as well as golf cart batteries.

What set-up do you use?