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Winterizing: Using your RV in winter

Be sure to read the previous post(s) in this series so you’re all caught up on terms and things.

So we talked about what Winterizing means, why we do it, and HOW we do it. Now let’s talk about how to balance winterizing with using your RV in cold weather.

You should recall that the entire point of winterizing our RV is to prevent water from freezing, expanding, and breaking the part it’s in, such as the water SUPPLY pipes, or the holding tanks. Well, if we’re using the RV in the cold, all we need to do is make sure water cannot freeze and expand enough to break anything. Simple, right? (I bet some of y’all want to smack me by now :P)

Here’s what we do to make sure nothing breaks:

  1. Leave plenty of room for expansion!
    For me, this means having tanks that are no more than 2/3 full at any time. I keep my fresh water tank 2/3 or less, and dump my waste tanks (Gray and Black) at no more than 2/3 full. I like to keep all my stuff at 1/2 or less, but 2/3 gives you more room to store if you need it.
  2. Let it drain!
    I like to leave my sewer hose connected as long as i’m at one site, and just open/close the valves as needed. In this case, I leave my gray tank valves open so the gray tank drains as soon as liquid gets in there; no chance of sitting water freezing if there’s no water sitting in those tanks!
    DO NOT do this with your black tank.
  3. Flush it down
    In freezing conditions, I drain my black tank at 1/2 full. (Another post on how to drain your black tank effectively).
  4. Keep the belly warm, too.
    Running the on board furnace is a good way to keep the underbelly area warm, which means your tanks and pipes won’t freeze. It’s also a good way to use a lot of propane quickly. I find that an oil-filled heater inside the RV does a great job at keeping the whole place warm, including the underbelly, even from inside the RV. (More on heaters here).
  5. When it’s above freezing during the day, and freezing at night, i’ll wait until after my shower, and any other heavy water use things (washing dishes, laundry if you have that option) are done, and then i’ll disconnect my fresh water supply hose. Once i’m disconnected, i’ll open all the faucets, and leave them open. By doing this, i’ve relived the water pressure in the lines, so they’re not quite full anymore. Then, i’ve left an opening for water to escape the lines as it expands, IF the water in my pipes starts to freeze.
    The big key here is that if i’m in the RV, it should be warm enough for me to sleep comfortably, which means 52 degrees or above (Below 52 I tend to get a little cranky when I sleep without my arctic sleeping gear).

    So there you have it, the secret to keeping your RV pipes in good shape while camping in the cold!

Winterizing: How do I do it?

If you haven’t already, be sure to read the previous post(s) in Winterizing to make sure you’re up to speed on parts and terms.

Winterizing your RV is simply the act of removing the liquids from the internal systems. To do this completely, there are three main parts:

  1. Drain/dump all tanks.
    You’ll want to dump your holding tanks, flush them out really well (i’d flush the black tank at least three times to get all the gunk out!) and make sure they’re completely empty. To do this well, i’d leave the sewer connection in place and all the valves open after i’ve flushed the tanks, just to make sure any residual water gets into the sewer system.
  2. Drain your fresh water tank.
    Somewhere on your RV there will be something called a ‘low point drain’, and this is simply a drain at the lowest point of your fresh water system.
    Open this drain, and let the water flow until it doesn’t flow anymore.
    While this is going on, you want to make sure you’re disconnected from city water supply, so no water is coming INTO your RV.
    I like to open all the faucets while this is going on (Kitchen sink, bath sink, shower/bath, outside) to help water drain from any low points in the faucets, and to provide plenty of air flow for the water draining out of the bottom of the fresh water tank.
    You can also turn on the water pump  to speed up the process, but you must be careful to turn it off as soon as the water level gets low so you’re not running your pump dry (more on that in another post).
  3. Last thing I do is drain my water heater.
    There’s usually a drain valve on the water heater, accessible from the outside access panel for the water heater, and you can open this drain and let the water out. Some people like to take out the heating element as it’s usually mounted low in the tank, and while it won’t hurt anything, it’s not necessary if you opened the drain.

 

So there you have it, three easy steps to winterizing your RV!

 

Quick tips:

You can leave the drains open so that any moisture collecting in the lines or tanks can drain out of the RV. Make sure you use some kind of bug/pest repellent since there’s openings into your RV when you do this.

You don’t have to, and probably should NOT, leave the sewer connection hose in place. I like to disconnect mine and hang it up/over something so it will completely dry out, and then store it in a way where it can drain, but is not left in the stretched position.

Winterizing: What about it?!?

Hello faithful readers! (Hey to you slackers that come by now and again… :P)

This series is all about Winterizing; what it is, how to do it, why it matters, how to mess it up, and most importantly, WHEN to do WHAT.

Yeah, I know, most ‘pros’ won’t tell you how to mess it up, but hey, i’m not most pros, i’m Ramblin’ Man Dan! 😀

Anyway, let’s jump in. Winterizing refers to preparing your RV (or boat, summer cabin, or other stuff you don’t usually use during the winter) for the cold that causes liquids to freeze. Here’s the part where I point out the importance of words, specifically this line right here: The cold that causes liquids to freeze. See, the entire point of winterizing is to prevent freezing liquids from causing damage, because when liquids freeze, they EXPAND, and when they EXPAND, they can break whatever is trying to hold them in, like pipes, tanks, hoses, and the fittings between those pieces.

So, winterizing is all about removing the danger of expanding liquids damaging things. Simple, right? Actually, it is. Your RV has 3 (or more) tanks for liquid:
1) Fresh Water – The tank you carry fresh (potable) water in,
2) Gray Water – The tank you hold Gray (dirty) water in from your sink and shower drains, and,
3) Black Water – The tank that holds Black water (sewage) from your toilet.
There’s also pipes in your RV, and those can be categorized as either:
1) Supply pipes – pipes that SUPPLY water to various parts and pieces of your RV, or,
2) Drain pipes – pipes that DRAIN water from various parts of your RV to the appropriate holding tank.
It’s important to understand the difference between SUPPLY and DRAIN pipes, most notably that SUPPLY pipes are under pressure, because it’s this pressure that can cause the most issues.

Read on through the series to see more great posts about winterizing your RV.

Getting on the road

So you’ve weighed the pros and cons (there are no cons, just stuff to do to go have fun!) picked an RV, and you’re ready to hit the road, right? Almost….

In between the getting of the RV and the hitting of the road, you need to gear up. Having the ‘right stuff’ will make your camping experience SO MUCH better, but let’s start with the basics. (A link about my gear here).

First, you need to get plugged in (see posts about AC versus DC and Shore Power vs Onboard Power (links coming soon!)).
For that, you may have a power cord that’s built in to your RV, or you may need to purchase one separately; check with the sales person, the owners manual, or send me the year/make/model of your camper to find out.
This connection allows you to bring Shore Power (AC) to your unit, and usually runs all your outlets, Air Conditioner, fridge/freezer, microwave, and other AC powered devices. (A little note about inverters goes here).
(A link for power supply protection here).

Second, you need a way to get water into your RV. When you connect to a water supply at a campsite (or anywhere else for that matter!) it’s generally called ‘city water’, or just ‘water’. This is used to differentiate between the water supply OUTSIDE your RV versus the water supply INSIDE your RV (The tank and pump (link coming soon!). Usually a quality garden hose that’s marked safe for potable water is fine. I recommend two hoses @ 25′ each so you have a spare, AND can reach faucets farther away.

Third, you need a way to get waste OUT of your RV, and that’s where a sewer hose comes in! A sewer hose kit (the hose and all the pieces) is a critical link between your RV and a dump station or site sewer connection, so this is one place you don’t want to skimp out!
I recommend two 10′ hose sections, a clear coupler,  a clear 90 degree elbow, and a clear 45 degree RV side connector with a hose clean out connection.
This kit is what I use: http://www.camco.net/superkit-20-rv-sewer-hose-kit-kit-39659
This is the 45 degree clean out piece I suggest: http://www.camco.net/rhino-blaster-bilingual-39080
I recommend clear so you can see what’s going on in there; it helps troubleshoot issues when they come up.

The rest of the stuff is optional, and we’ll talk more about gear in other posts, but those three things are what you HAVE TO HAVE to make an RV work. 🙂

To drive, or to tow….

There are many things we all agree on in the RV world; camping is fun, camping with friends is better, and it’s important that everyone cleans up their poop (pets and people!).

One of the questions i’ve seen a lot lately is, “Should I buy a motorhome, or a trailer?”
Now, before we get into this, let me clarify this point, we’re simply comparing RV’s that can be driven from one place to another, to RV’s that require a tow vehicle. Inside of those two things there are many more things to consider, but those will be covered in other posts.

A motorhome is an RV that has it’s own propulsion system, that is, its own engine, which means it can be driven from one place to another without another vehicle. These come in various sizes, shapes, layouts, and generally fall into one of three classes, which is covered in another post.

A trailer is an RV that is towed, which means it requires a tow vehicle to move it. The vehicle required is based on the RV you have or want, so be sure to learn all about Tow Capacities before you buy! These generally come in

Motorhomes are easy to get in and drive to where you want to go, so long as you fit where you want to be. The pro is that you don’t have to have a separate vehicle, but the con is that you’ll need to make arrangements for side trips, like groceries, site-seeing, and so on. You can get around that by towing a passenger vehicle, but you’ll lose some of your alreadt not so great gas mileage for that.

With a trailer, you can still go places and see things, but I find it nice to drop the trailer and be able to drive around to wherever I want to go from there. You’ll have to have a tow vehicle capable of handling your trailer, but you may already have one and just want to add a trailer that fits into the specs of your current vehicle.

Regardless of the mode you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy RV’ing all over the place, it’s just a matter of choosing which way you like better.

 

RTFM~!

So many questions, so many buttons, what do I do?!?

I know it’s generally ‘easier’ to drop a post on FaceBook and ask ‘how do I???’, but let’s take a few minutes to talk about the importance of paperwork, most notably, the manuals and guides that came with your RV.

There’s a lot of useful information in all those manuals, pamphlets, guides, books, and so on that came with your RV. If you didn’t get a big stack of stuff, reach out to the manufacturer and see if you can get copies of all that stuff.

In my TT, I have an accordion folder full of all the manuals, and all the paperwork for the stuff in the RV, so it’s all in one place. I’ve also got some digital stuff I keep, and the most important one is a note with the make, model, and serial number of all my big items so I can get to that info quickly. I recommend  having that info handy for:
The Fridge
The A/C
The Furnace
The Water Heater
The Coach or Trailer
any other major components that are separate from the body of the RV.

Having that ‘cheat sheet’ on hand makes it easy for you to get going on parts and repairs, but having all the manuals on board and organized will save you lots of time when you’re looking for answers.

Remember, with RV’s, it’s not IF something will break, it’s WHEN will something break! 🙂

Mid August Adventure, Part tree-fiddy

I crack me up…

So anyway, I got all packed up and ready to roll out of LaGrange. I got on the road, and dealt with the usual mix of people driving their phones and playing with their cars, people who don’t know how to merge, people who wait until it’s too late to merge and then cut you off, and one drunk motorcyclist who thought my decals were the coolest mural ever.

I get to my destination, I check in at the office, we make some changes to my site assignment, and off I go to set up camp. I got side-to-side level (always do this first!!) on the the third pull-in, without blocks, and was very happy. I set about setting up camp (check out my procedures posts!) and i’m thinking the worst is over. (Ominous music here).
I open the back compartment door to get my freshwater hose out and I see not one, not TWO, BUT THREE new ant nests. THREE. IN. MY. COMPARTMENT. Fine, you want war? War it is! I spent 20 minutes with a shop vac sucking those little buggers up, and i’m pretty sure all my neighbors think i’m bonkers now because I was quoting Enders Game the whole time. Damn buggers.

Ok, buggers vacuumed, connections made, camp set up, the dog walked, and a bunch of other little things, so now back to finish dumping my black tank (it never got emptied the second time).
I turn on the sewer flusher hose, hear nothing. Darn. I leave it on about halfway, open the black tank valve, and watch happily as mostly clean water drains out. Great! All clean, no big deal. I go inside, (I wipe my feet) I check the tank levels, and all three show empty. Awesome! I got outside, I close all three tank valves, and I go on working on the internet connection. I determine it’s a lack of park bandwidth, see that I need groceries, and hear my dog telling me it’s time to go to the park.

So off we go, Scout and I, to the park, where she had a great time and I hung out. Then off to get groceries, and finally, back home after three hours. Three hours…. that nagging feeling in the back of my head… three hours… odd. I think I missed something, forgot something. Weird.
I put away the groceries, feed the dog, and go to use the head. I notice its more than halfway full, which is odd, since I never leave it that way, and thought it was empty when I left. No matter, i’ll just flush it all away… BLOOOOMP. Yeah. Ever seen a toilet burp a geyser?? I have, I did, right there. Water all over the floor. Water all over the seat! Water all over my feet. (See? Even in a crappy time, I made a rhyme) (SARAH, SO HELP ME…)

What happened you ask? Well, i’ll tell ya. I checked the tank levels, and sure enough, black tank? FULL. I mean FULLLLLL to the BRIM, and then some. You may recall I left the sewer flusher on about halfway, and never did turn it off? Yeah, that’s what I forgot.
So, lesson learned, don’t leave your sewer flusher on and go away on adventure, because you’ll come back to a pedal activated geyser!

So now here I sit, fingers sore from all this typing, brain happy from the wine, floor clean from the towels, tanks clean and empty, and i’m happy to pass this story on to you in the hopes that when you make these mistakes, you’ll laugh about them, too.
(Ok Sarah, you can laugh at me now).

Mid August adventure, part duex

Part duex… as in doody.. Hahahaha….. hah. Ok, enough of the crappy jokes, back to the story!
So, I had just watched the dump station overflow, fought with it awhile, and finally washed it all away with clean water. I packed up my stuff and that’s when I realized I had left behind my splitter and regulator, but I did NOT want to take the rig back through the park (super nice park, but the one main road going through is narrow and twisty all the way through).

Ta-Da! The bike-mobile to the rescue. Yes, I rode my bike, yes, I went fast, and yes I breathed a lot when I got back. Shush (especially you, SARAH.)

So, i’m thinking it’s all good, I just need to put my crap away and go on, right? (All together now…) W R O N G.
The ground is now burping up MORE stuff, so i’m battling it with the hose, flooding the area with clean water, and losing. It took five whole minutes to get that under control, and the ground stopped burping; ridiculous.

You’d think i’d be done by now, right? Yeah. So then I go around the other side to put my wheel chocks back in their compartment (a place for everything, everything in it’s place) and when I open the door, did I find a nice, clean compartment with space for my wheel chocks?? No, I DID NOT. ANTS. ANTS ALL UP IN IT. They not only had a nest in there, they had a hotel, a pool, a jacuzzi, a strip mall, a strip club, and a strip for airplanes. So, being an external compartment, I just hosed it all out! Easy, right? (All together now) W R O N G. I got water EVERYWHERE. You know what else I got everywhere? Yep, ants. Ants all over. So now i’ve got wet, angry, ants on various parts of me, i’ve got a hose that’s all wet and slippery kind of in my hands, and i’ve got globs of mud coming out of the compartment from me spraying their nest in there. (Sarah, SHUT. UP.)

Ok, so, I get the hose under control, I rinse the compartment from a safer distance, I get the ants off of me, I get the wheel chocks put away, and eventually get everything else ready to transport in one way or another. I dry off (ALWAYS keep extra towels in the truck, you never know what life will hand you!) take a few minutes to just breathe, and remind myself, “A bad day of RVing is better than a good day in a house” (I’d like to spray wet, angry ants on the person who came up with that crap!).

Stay tuned for part three…..

Mid August adventure

Hello faithful readers!
(Hey to y’all that just come by now and then :P)

Today was packed full of adventure (problems) and I reminded myself several times that I really should be blogging more of my adventures, so here we are.

I did all the big packing last night, like I always do, so I only had a few key things to pack and put away this morning. I ran some errands, got those done, and proceeded to make ready, bring in the slides, and hookup.
I was camping in a park, on the lake (BEAUTIFUL site, AMAZING view!) but it was water and power only, no sewer, so I had to stop by the dump station on my way out, no big deal.
Well, it was a big deal (ominous music here).
I got to the dump station, got lined up just right the first time (Easy to do, there’s a big concrete strip in asphalt where your dump tube goes!) and hooked up my sewer hose. I pulled the black tank handle (Always dump the black tank first!), and watched with a silly satisfaction as the liquid quickly filled the hose and whooshed away (sound effect here). That lasted of all 10 seconds, and then, a slow, tiny, brown trickle (I hope you’re not eating while reading this!). Trickle, trickle, drip, drip, nothing.

Ok, no problem, just a clogged valve, I can handle this! I quickly cycled the valve gate several times in an effort to dislodge the stoppage, no help.
I hooked up the sewer flusher hose (having a built in sewer flusher is AMAZING) and turned it on… no noise, no sound, no flow inside.
The downside to doing this solo is that I have no one to tell me what’s going on inside, or to turn valves outside, while I do the other thing, so I have to walk around the RV, go inside, wipe my feet real good (hey, i’m solo, not an animal!) and look/listen for signs of my sewer flush system working. Nothing. No sound, no movement of water under the toilet flap, nada.
So I go back outside, disconnect the hose, check the water flow, and it’s flowing fine. Great. Take the elbow connector off, and find crud on the screen washer between the elbow connector and the hose fitting into the RV. Awesome, little screen did it’s job, I clean out the mess, verify the screen is good to go, and put it all back together. Now we have water flowing through the sewer flusher pushing the clog out, right?
Walk around the RV, get in, wipe my feet, go into the bathroom, look/listen. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Go back outside, walk around the RV, look at hose connection, scratch head, shrug, turn hose off, move hose to sewer line flusher. Turn on full blast, turn on little connector between hose and sewer connector, and…. psssss….. little tiny spray of water. That little rubber piece inside? All smashed up. Yay.
Ok, fine, next idea. Close black tank valve. Connect city water connection. Turn on city water connection, walk around RV, go inside (wipe feet), go into the bathroom, point very bright flashlight down toilet bowl, press pedal to the floor, and watch water swirl into the tank. Hold this position until tank is almost full (doesn’t take long, it was FULL when I started, and only let out a little).
Great! Go back outside, open black tank valve, grin as waste goes WHOOOOOOSSHHHH. Awesome.

Tank empties, I close valve, go back inside (wipe feet), fill up tank with toilet again. Takes forever, play on facebook and search on indeed while I stand there. Side note, there are no jobs for pedal holder, but plenty of jobs around pushing a pedal. I’m clearly overqualified.
Tank is full, go back outside, open valve. Big whoosh, mostly clear, much happy. Hear metal tinkling sound, think, “THat’s not good…”, turn to sewer connector in ground (less connector, more hole at ground level that you drop your elbow connector into) and watch as the ground burps up my connector, shoving it two feet to the side, and then spews… waste.
I take a BIG step back, close the black tank valve, and watch as the ‘water’ overflows the concrete drain area and into the grass area around it. It was at this point I took note of the much thicker, greener, taller grass in the middle of the small valley where the runoff was going, and it suddenly dawned on me… Yeah.
So, I scratch head some more, text the park manager, and attempt a couple of ways to unclog the drain. All failed, all made more mess, so I simply diluted the water until it was clear around the drain and didn’t stink anymore. I cleaned up my hoses, hung them on the back steps to dry while I drove, and pondered my next move.

Whew, we’re over the worst of it now, right? Wrong.

Road Readiness

Hello readers!

So in this series we’re discussing all the things relating to ‘Getting Started’ in RVing, so in this entry, let’s talk about Road Readiness.

Road readiness is something you should check your rig for before every trip, and maintain a constant eye on while traveling.
Road readiness for you is just as important, but seems to be often overlooked.
In order for you to be ‘Road Ready’, you’ll want to make sure you have:

  • Insurance!
    • Whether you add on to your existing policy, or buy a new policy, make sure you have insurance that covers yours needs.
      Some key things to look for are coverage for damage you might do to other people’s stuff (like backing over something and knocking a pole over), and coverage that insures your rig gets fixed if someone or something damages it.
    • I also recommend coverage dealing with towing, accommodations, and other travel insurance to ensure your trip goes as smooth as it can.
      This type of insurance generally covers a reasonable cost for out of pocket expenses incurred because you can’t use your RV for a few days while it’s being repaired.
  • Licensing!
    • Each state may have it’s own licensing requirements based on the Gross Weight of the vehicle, and some have further restrictions based on number of vehicles being towed, types of vehicles, and/or length. Be sure to check with your states regulating office for the details.
      I also recommend www.dmv.org for lots of useful information for each state.
  • Roadside Assistance
    • Your insurance policy may include roadside assistance, but it’s prudent to make sure it covers your RV, too. If it does, great! If not, having roadside assistance is something you should definitely have before you call yourself ‘Road Ready’.

 

No matter what kind of rig you have, making sure all your paperwork is in order before you go will help you have a hassle-free trip!