Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let's Check Those Tires

While most of us are still digging out of the winter storms, some of us are dreaming about the first warm weekend of the new camping year. So what do you do first with your stored RV?  Check the tire pressure with a good tire pressure gage.  The tire's max pressure is located on the side wall of the tires on your RV.  Do not use the pressures recommended by the RV manufacture UNLESS the RV has the original tires that it came with from the factory.

I use both a screw-on tire pressure indicator, such as Quick-Pressure-PSI-50-Monitor , which at a glance can tell you that you may have a problem [use only if your tires are supposed to have 50 lbs of air when cold. Other pressures are available]  and the traditional pencil like guage, such as Pencil-Pressure Gage .  Be sure to test or look at the tire pressure gage before you have moved your RV a mile. 

You need to check the tire pressure when the tire is still cold
Another good, but pricey, system for monitoring your tire pressure as well as the tire temperature is the  Wireless Tire Pressure Monitoring System . I am saving for this one.

Wireless Tire Pressure Monitoring System

The system will tell you of an overheated tire, in most cases before it blows, and of course tell you of low pressure in any monitored tire, even the spare,  in real time no need to stop every 20 miles and check those darn tires - LOL.  When you stop for gas or a bathroom break you should do a tire check of the RV as well as tow vehicle. My daughter was checking the tow vehicle for me and found a large cut in the sidewall of the truck tire.  We were able to get the tire replaced before the large accident occurred.  I did not even remember hitting or running over anything on the highway.
Be sure to carefully look at the tread, and the side walls both on the front and the back of the tire.  Most RV tire experts agree that if your tiers are more than five years old from the date of manufacture you should replace them.  Most tire failures occur when the side wall of the tire is under inflated or rots out from the inside where you can not see.  You can thank Mr. Sun for sidewall failure in some cases.  Most tires have a Mr. Sun inhibitor built-in but when a tire sits and sits the inhibitor does not get moved to the outside of the tire by the tire going round and round.  Now you see why you need wheel covers right? Trailer Wheel Covers   for less than $25.  To protect the tires in storage from Mr. Sun and any other nasties that come along.  You can also use an RV tire protective spray which is applied, as directed, to the tire side wall that is exposed to the sun.
I have used RV Tire Protection Spray with good luck.  This spray is not designed to make the tire side wall shinier, it is not a decorative spray, but something that is designed to put back into the surface of the rubber what Mr Sun is taking out.
RV Tire Protection Spray
Also note that if you are going to store the RV for an extended period of time you should protect the tread from the surface that the tires are sitting on.  Nasty things can leach out of your tires into the blacktop or concrete that your RV sits on while being stored. Or from the blacktop or concrete into your tires during storage.  You can use an  Office Chair Mat that sells for less than $20, for each side of the RV and just back onto it as you are putting the RV away, Or you can Go to Tractor Supply or any farm supply and pick up horse stall mats. Cut to the size you need for just $40.  Now that is easy.

If you are supposed to replace your tires every five years how do you know when your tires were made?  There is a code date molded into the side wall of the tire. (you can thank our government)   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that Tire Identification Numbers be a combination of the letters DOT, followed by ten, eleven or twelve letters and/or numbers that identify the manufacturing location, tire size and manufacturer's code, along with the week and year the tire was manufactured.  Since 2000, the week and year the tire was produced has been provided by the last four digits of the Tire Identification Number with the 2 digits being used to identify the week immediately preceding the 2 digits used to identify the year.

Below is an example of a tire manufactured since 2000 with the current Tire Identification Number format:

In the example above: DOT U2LL LMLR 5107
DOT U2LL LMLR 5107  Manufactured during the 51st week of the year
DOT U2LL LMLR 5107Manufactured during 2007
While the entire Tire Identification Number is required to be molded onto one sidewall of every tire, current regulations also require that DOT and the first digits of the Tire Identification Number must also be molded onto the opposite sidewall. Therefore, it is possible to see a Tire Identification Number that appears incomplete and requires looking at the tire’s other sidewall to find the entire Tire Identification Number.
I know you are saying to yourself,  but the RV is only three years old.  We are not talking about the year your RV was built, but the year the tires were manufactured and they maybe not the same so please check.   If your tire's serial number can not be read by you, then you need to take the tire or RV to an RV dealer or tire shop and have the tires read.  Please do not be pulling your RV with old tires that may jeopardize your families safety as well as others.   [If you want more information on tire markings and such go to Tire Tech Information]

Ok, you have checked the date code of your tires and they are in fact only three years old.  Tire pressure is up and you're ready to go.  Not so fast!

We need to discuss lug nut tightness.  Each Spring or before a major trip you should check the tightness of the lug nuts on each of the RV tires.  You need to check your owners manual for the correct setting.  My KZ Spree has the specifications of 100ft LBS.  I use a inexpensive torque wrench, which I keep in the RV tool box, to confirm the setting. 1/2' Torque Wrench  To keep the wrench outside of the tire rim I also use an extender. 1/2" Socket Extension The socket size depends on your lug nut size.

Tire Check Quick Guide 
1. Check all RV tires for max pressure listed on tire sidewall.
2. Check tire tread and sidewalls for ware and cracks.
3. Cover tires from sun damage when not using.
4. Keep tires off of storage surface during storage.
5. Check age of tires yearly.
6. Check your tires every time you stop.
7. Do maintenance on your tires as needed.
8. Check lug nut tightness.

So what's next?  How about fire, smoke, and gas safety!

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Until Next time.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Severe Weather - It Happens

When you are asleep do you worry about this,

or maybe this

or even this?

 Well, I did!!

At the beginning of camping season and at the end of camping season are the most dangerous times for storms expected, or not.  And if predictions are correct and this is an El Niño year then things could get really bad or not. 
What  is an El Niño?  El Niño is an ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon that is linked to the periodic warming of waters across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. This warming is part of the natural climate system. On average, an El Niño event occurs every 2 to 7 years and typically lasts about 9 to 18 months. 
So why should you worry or even be concerned about an El Niño ?  During periods of El Niño,  warm water builds up off the South American coast and this sends more than the normal waves of moisture into the US.  These waves of moisture can, and do cause more storms, some of which are more severe than storms in a non-El Niño year.  This translates into more severe thunderstorms and more than normal tornado's
While you can use your phone most of the time for weather alerts and weather radar, when you are out camping your phone may not get a signal or changing weather conditions may suddenly make your phone not work.  And the basement of a 5er is not a safe place to be.  So what is a person to do?

During the check-in process to get your RV site, you should ask, where do we go in case of severe weather and do you have a method of alerting the campground of approaching bad weather?
In most cases the park will have a severe weather location, like a cement block bath house or  underground facilities.  But most will not have a warning system.  It is left up to you to know when bad weather is approaching and it is time to take cover.

So now your phone has no bars and the park has no way to tell you that a large thunderstorm is approaching your RV site.  Now what are you going to do to keep you and your family safe?  Buy a weather radio with built-in weather alert.  Our government built, many years ago, a National Alert System to let citizens know about disasters before they happen.  That was the old weather radio that went off (with its built-in siren) all the time for just about any reason (some good, mostly bad).  After a lot of citizen complaints over many years a new system of alerting people was developed by the government that had a better built-in method of stopping false alerts and added text messages to each alerts displayed on a screen on the new generation of weather radios.

I could go into detail on how this type of radio works but this is not a DIY Blog. This type of radio can be programed simply, thanks to SAME(Specific Area Message Encoding) technology you will only receive alerts for the locations that you have entered into the radio and you won't have to worry about false triggers or deal with an event that has nothing to do with your area. Also some weather radios like the ones pictured (above and below) you can customize some of the alert types, so it only alerts you to the alert types that you have selected.  For example, if the National Weather Service issues a thunderstorm watch and you have only thunderstorm warning selected. The radio wont alert you unless a  thunderstorm warning alert is sent. Most of these radios have battery back-up and you can attach your HDTV antenna to them to extend the pick-up range of this type of weather radio. You should never leave home to go camping with out one of these special SAME radios.

 Here is one that operates on just batteries and can be carried on the hiking trail or just outside around the campground.
No matter which one, or maybe both, you choose like a smoke detector or gas detector your RV is not complete and you are not fully protected nor safe until you have one.

Until Next Time

Monday, November 17, 2014

RV Fridge - Get It Cold & Keep It Cold

Do you find that your RV refrigerator does not keep your food cold enough?  Does your RV fridge have it's own unique smell?  Do you know how to chill down a warm RV fridge?  I think you are in the right frame of mind now.
Many of us store our RV in places that do not have electricity for us to keep the fridge plugged in and working all the time or even a few hours before we take off  for a fun filled and safe camping adventure.
So let's talk about the care and feeding of an RV refrigerator.

1.   I hope you do not keep the fridge sealed as tight as a drum during storage.  You need to leave the door cracked open just a bit, so that air can move in and out of your fridge. This helps keep the inside of the fridge dry and reduce mold build up.  Did you ever wonder what that slide button on the fridge door is used for? Well to lock the door during travel to be sure but, if you slide the button so that you are locking the fridge door while the door is being held open the slide lock can be used to keep the fridge door from closing during storage. Be sure your fridge is as clean as possible before you close the door on the RV.  Making sure the fridge is clean will help stop the growth of mold inside of the unit.  Also if possible you should use Naturally Activated Charcoal Odor Absorber like this one; RV Activated Charcoal

RV Activated Charcoal

This little odor eater would hang from a shelf at the back of the fridge to help keep odors out.  You can also use box of baking soda but that can spill going down the road and make quite a mess. 

2. What can you do to get the fridge colder quicker once you get to the camp ground or on the way?  You could buy a bag of ice and put it on the top shelf of the fridge next to the silver fins at the back.  You could buy some cheap cold packs That look like this;
Cheap Cold Packs

Freeze them (usually three) and use them in place of the ice.  Very little if any water to clean up.  Or you could get some Zip Lock Heavy Duty Freezer Bags and put ice cubes from your home freezer in them and use them in place of the bought ice. Another idea for an ice pack is to partially fill a strong zip-type sandwich bag with Dawn dishwashing liquid, close and freeze. The liquid soap stays cold much longer and it can be refrozen many times. The frozen Dawn will conform to the place you need an ice pack. Maybe a bit more water to clean up than you would like.
The Nu-Ice Freezer Pack is a  chemical freezer pack capable of maintaining a sub-zero temperature by putting the pack into an insulated environment for up to 96 hours. This is accomplished by first  freezing the special pack to initiate the simple chemical reaction within the pack. 

But you could do even better and help the ice or cold pack by adding a RV fridge fan like this one; RV Fridge Fan .
RV Fridge Fan

It uses 2 D cell batteries (be sure to use alkaline type) and will give you 30 days of use before the batteries need to be changed.  It will reduce your fridge cool down time by half. I use one in my TT and it does work. (just be sure to turn it off before storing the rig).

I know some of you are a bit more high tech than a simple battery operated fan inside the fridge, and would like something a bit more.  I reference you here; High Tech RV Fridge Fan .

CAUTION:  Do not run your RV Fridge on GAS while going down the road.  Guys this is very dangerous for a lot of reasons and not recommended by anyone in the know that I have talk to.   I am sure someone will tell you that they have done it for years with no problems.  But it only take one time, of a fire or explosion or both.

3. What else could you do to help your RV fridge?  You could put a fan on the backside of the fridge inside the outside fridge compartment.  I am talking about the outside compartment in back of the fridge.  There are several type of this kind of fan.  One type uses a thermostat  to sense when there is too much heat, inside the outside compartment, thus slowing down cooling, and turns on the fan.  Or there is the DIY system that uses a 12 volt computer fan that comes on when ever power is turned on to the rig (this is what I use).  Let's look at them both, first the thermostat controlled fridge compartment fan; RV Fridge Outside Compartment Fan
 There is some DIY here as well but a lot less that the system that I use.  Follow the link and read some of the user comments to better understand how this system works.
 RV Fridge Outside Compartment Fan

Next lets take a look at the one I used; 12 Volt Computer Fan
12 Volt Computer Fan 

This is a completely DIY project so please remember that.  I found a convenient place on the inside of the outside refrigerator compartment's grated grill cover and mounted the fan with some zip ties.  I ran the power wire from the fan to the rigs 12 volt power line, that I found inside the refrigerator compartment.  My 12 volt lines were the same color as the fan's wiring. The fan blows air across the fins on the outside of the fridge located inside the fridge compartment.  The power draw is so small I did not worry about it and the fan runs whenever the rigs 12 volt system is on.  The fan is designed to be used in a computer so is whisper quiet. Boy does it work.

4. So we have the fridge getting cold but how cold is it and when can I put in some food?  Well if you do not have a thermometer to measure the temperature then how do you know?  There are two kinds of thermometers one is digital and one is analog.  Let's look at them both.
Digital RV Thermometer Digital RV Thermometer

Digital RV Thermometer
The unit has two sensors one for the freezer and one for the fridge.  The unit runs off batteries and can tell you at a glance from the outside of the refrigerator unit what is going on inside and when you unit is cold enough for food.
Analog RV Thermometer; Analog RV Thermometer
 Analog RV Thermometer
This simple unit hangs from one of the shelves in the fridge and tells you when it is safe to put in your food. The negative thing is that you have to open the fridge to tell if it is ready, letting in more hot air and letting the cold air out.  I am saving for the digital version.

Well we've got your RV refrigerator humming along but, it is time to go home and park the rig until the next time.
How can you get it cleaned out and dried out fast?  One of these guys should help; Inexpensive Hair Dryer
Inexpensive Hair Dryer
Because I do not dry camp I have the power needed to use this, to dry out the fridge and freezer fast and get going home. Darn the ice cream is going to melt again.

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Until next time.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tools Of The RV Trade

What tools do you need to have when RVing?  If you ask 10 RVers you will get 10 answers. That's because we all seem to run into problems with our RV that is a bit different from the next RVer and the tools to fix the problem that arose is slightly different. But there are some basic tools of the trade, so let's talk about those.

You will find that you will need something to put whatever tools you decide to carry into something that is strong but light.  Tools have weight and it does not take too many until you have added measurable weight to your rig. So here is a tool box that works.Simple Tool Box

Simple Tool Box

Now that we have a toolbox, lets see what needs to be in it.

A screwdriver Multi Screwdriver
Multi Screwdriver
I chose one like above because it cut down on weight and space in my tool box.  If you rather, you could buy two flat blades (one large, one small) and two phillips screwdrivers a #2 and #1 or an  additional size of your choice.
You will need a special set of screw drivers for use with those pesky square headed screws that are used around the inside and the outside of the rig. These special square screw drivers are shown below.
square screw drivers
 A set of basic pliers is next.  You will need several types.  Here is an example Basic Pliers
Basic Pliers
You will also need several advanced pliers, such as the ones shown below.

Slip Joint Pliers

Vice-Grip Pliers
Vice-Grip Pliers
You will need and use all the above pliers.  It is just a matter of time.  Next we move on to crescent wrenches.
#8 Crescent Wrench (8" Crescent Wrench )
8" Crescent Wrench
#10 inch Crescent Wrench (10 inch Crescent Wrench)
10 inch Crescent Wrench

Now for the special stuff.  This is stuff you need but will not use monthly.  I use this stuff yearly.  The first is the torque wrench.  This is used to check the lug nuts on the tires of the rig to make sure they are tighten to factory specifications. 

3/8 inch Extension Bar Kit
3/8 inch Extension Bar Kit

The extension bar kit is used to get the torque wrench outside of the tire rim for a safer tightening of the nuts that hold the tires.  You will also need a drive socket that fits your tires lug nuts and is made for a  3/8" drive.

If you have a Suburban water heater you will also need a breaker bar shown below, to remove the anode to check the anode as well as to replace the anode if needed.
3/8" Breaker Bar Wrench

Suburban Water Heater Anode
You will also need the socket that fits the anode, along with the white plumber's tape

Plumbers Tape

 to prevent water leaking around the threads.
Hex Key Set

Of course a hammer is also a tool that should be carried


To see into those dark areas around the RV you will need a small but powerful flashlight.

Cree 7W Mini LED Flashlight

One tool that I have that I really like is not really a tool but my multimeter.  I can check to see if there is voltage what kind and how much.  I can check for open and shorted wires as well as other things.  I highly recommend one for your tool kit. 

Another tester that is handy, and some people think it should be a mandatory basic tool is the AC voltage monitor.  This shows what the park voltage is at any given time, (low voltage can damage your RV electrical system and electronics) and shows if the power pedestal is wired correctly if plugged into the pedestal before plugging in the RV.  You may have to get a Short jumper from 30 or 50 amps to standard AC wall socket to test the pedestal. Meter is shown below.

AC Power Monitor
The following is the tool I would not be without.  The multi-tool.  I carry this tool on my belt and I even bought the expansion kit for it.  You just never know when you need a screwdriver or pliers to tighten or loosen something.


I know someone will say, this is not all you need and will give me a list of stuff as long as my arm.  Things like gorilla tape, super glue, black electrical tape, clear and white silicone caulk.  I agree they are important and should be carried, but as I said earlier. This is the basic list and like American Express "I never go RVing with-out them"

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Until next time.