Alphabet soup for RVer’s

Letters and numbers and acronyms, oh my!

There’s a lot to learn about RV life, but it’s never been easier with all the tools the internet has to offer. Often times when you’re browsing the forums, digging around in social media, or surfing youtube, you’ll find an alphabet soup of initials, acronyms, and short hand that can be confusing at first. Let’s shed some light on these terms:

THE BASICS

  • RV: Recreational Vehicle. Technically, any vehicle that’s designed specifically for recreation, but usually means something to do with living out in the wild.

 

BODY STYLES

  • MH: Motorhome. A unit that you drive, camp in, and enjoy life with.
    • Class A:
    • Class B:
    • Class C:
  • TT: Travel Trailer. This is a unit that you tow with another vehicle, usually known as a ‘Tow Rig’. Another post about towing.
    • Bumper Pull: This is a trailer that you pull with a ball connection behind your truck, attached on, or near, the bumper.
    • Fifth Wheel: This is a trailer that connects using a pin on the trailer, and a plate on the truck. You’ve probably seen a lot of these on tractor trailers all over the place, but they’re also popular in the RV world. By placing the tongue weight directly over the rear axle, you gain more control, and a higher tongue weight capability.
    • Gooseneck: This is a trailer that works much like a Fifth Wheel, but instead of a pin and plate, the Gooseneck has an arm that sits down on a ball mounted in the bed of the truck. Gooseneck trailers are most common in Agriculture use, and allow a higher tongue weight, and better control, by placing the tongue weight directly over the rear axle.
  • Other towing:
    • TOAD: This is a car that’s towed behind a Motorhome, not on a trailer of any kind.
    • Tow Dolly: This is a two-wheel, short trailer that’s designed to have one end of a car on it, but the other end of the car rolls freely on the ground behind the trailer.
    • Car hauler: This is a longer trailer, usually with two axles, that’s designed to tow a car completely off the ground.
    • Enclosed trailer: This is a trailer that’s fully enclosed, like a box trailer, and can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Sometimes people will haul cars or motorcycles in these, other times they’re just for carrying extra stuff on the road. Especially handy for full time RV’ers.

 

CAMPGROUNDS

There’s several different types of camp sites, camp grounds, and connections for these.
A camp SITE is the individual site where you set up camp.
A camp GROUND is a collection of camp sites, and often include other amenities such as bath houses, laundry, a pool, and other such facilities.
When we’re talking about hook-ups, there’s two main types:

Primitive Camping: These are camp sites without any kind of connections. Great for boondocking, sometimes these sites aren’t even level or groomed in any way.

Improved Camping: These are camp sites that offer some kind of hookups. For tent sites, it’s usually just power and water, but for RV’s, we’re usually talking power, water, and sewer.

POWER
Power can be 20, 30, or 50 amp service, and sometimes there’s a combination of two, or even all three, at one spot. When you call ahead or check out the website for a camp site, make a note of what power options that have available. (Another post on amp numbers).

WATER
Water connections are usually just a standard garden-hose style spigot, just like you’d find at home. Sometimes you need a pressure regulator, but we’ll talk about that in another post.

SEWER
Sewer connections are really nice to have, especially when you’re going to stay in one place for awhile, so you can dump your waste tanks any time you want. Most of the time this is a 4″ white (or black) pipe with a threaded fitting on the end that you screw a connector into, and then connect your sewer hoses to.

CABLE
Some campgrounds have local cable channels available through a cable connection at your site. If they it, you can use a regular TV cable to connect your rig to the campground connection.

 

Camco Dogbone Circuit Analyzer

When I bought my TT I realized that I would need some kind of external circuit protection since I didn’t have anything built in. My TT does have a circuit breaker panel, but in the event of major electrical issues at a park, I didn’t have anything to protect my home on wheels!
I did a lot of research before I bought one, and the first one I bought was a $250 circuit protection device that was great, but it wouldn’t work with an extension cord, so I had to send that one back. That device was designed to keep tabs on volts, amps, and ohms of the power source, and included a power ‘cut-off’ feature, but it wouldn’t function if I used it with an extension cord, which is something I wanted to be able to do if ever needed.
So, back to the drawing board, and I finally settled on the Camco ‘Dogbone’ circuit Analyzer for it’s combination of function, price, and simplicity.
This one has built in surge and fault protection, which is great if there’s too much voltage or amperage, but it won’t do anything for under voltage or under amperage. It does let me know with the built-in lights if there’s a polarity or ground issue with the power source, so I always plug this in first, then plug my TT into it.
This device is terrific; it’s fairly light and compact, not at all difficult to operate, and has no moving parts to worry about breaking. I also like that the whole unit is weather resistant, and while that seems like it should be obvious, there are devices on the market that are not weather resistant, so be aware of that when you’re shopping for one.
So what do you use for your RV electrical protection?

Towing connections

Bumper pull? Fifth wheel? But I have a dually, so wouldn’t it be a seventh wheel? Or an eighth since I have a spare, too?? What in the world do these things mean?!?!

Well dear reader, i’m glad you asked! Today we’re going to talk about hookups, and i’m not talking about dating ;).

(More info coming soon!)

When we’re talking about towing, there’s two primary parts:
The Tow Rig: This is the vehicle doing the towing. Often a pickup truck, this can be any vehicle that’s capable of towing your trailer.
The Towed Vehicle: This is what’s being towed, and is usually a trailer, though it’s possible to tow other stuff too (another post!).

Winter weather water ways

Lots of talk about heated hoses, freezing water, and how to camp when it’s cold outside, so let me share a little about my setup.

I’m in GA now, without a heated hose, and here’s my system:
1) I’ve got two electric space heaters inside, both energy efficient, and both set to keep it around 62-65° inside, which is comfy for me in sweats.
2) I have the furnace set to 55°, so anytime it’s too cold for the space heaters to keep up, the furnace kicks in, which also keeps the belly warm.
3) I keep my freshwater tank no more than 3/4 full so I have water on board if I need to disconnect from the park, but with enough room for expansion if it were to happen.
4) If the weather is going to be 30° or less for more than four hours overnight, then i’ll go disconnect and drain my exterior hose after my shower, but before bed.

Remember that water starts to freeze at 32°F, BUT, that doesn’t mean all of the water inside a tank, or even a hose, will freeze at once.

Also, anytime your FURNACE is on, you’re heating the living area AND the under belly, which includes the tanks. This means, in theory, you could simply fill up your tank, keep the furnace on low, and live all through the winter (emptying your waste tanks and filling your fresh tank(s) as needed), but this means you’ll be using more propane (since your furnace uses the most propane of all your gas appliances).

Since I bought my TT in April of 2017, the lowest temp i’ve been in is 17°F (low for the night), and with the system called out above, I didn’t have any trouble at all! 😀

It’s a dogs life

I know, I know, i’ve been all hit-and-miss with the personal posts on my blog, and i’m sure some of you are saying, “Dude. It’s a BLOG. Where’s the LOG part of that?!?!”. Others just watched that joke go right by them without even slowing down. It’s cool, i’m selectively funny.

Anywho, i’ve been wanting a dog for a long time. I had a dog of my own as a kid in Georgia, and i’ve rescued/fostered/housed/dogsat a bunch of dogs along the way in life, but i haven’t had a dog of my own in many years. Well, meet Scout.

I adopted her 29DEC from the Humane society, and she’s part of my recovery team (i’ll get more into the injury and recovery stuff in other posts). So far, she’s doing a splendid job!

Now for the cliffhanger; if you’re not on my Facebook, you’ll have to stay tuned for more posts here. 🙂

Spare room for spare parts?

Do you carry spare parts in your RV? Well, you should. Let’s talk about why, and what parts you should have readily available.

The spare parts you carry will vary on a number of factors, like if you’re in a motorhome, or towing a trailer, what level of mechanical comfort you have, or the age and type of vehicle you’re in. People can do anything they put their mind to, and with blogs (like mine!) youtube, Facebook groups, and other self-help information readily available, anything is possible.

Coach:
Whether you’re in a motorhome of some kind, or towing a trailer, the area you live in is known as the coach, and you should carry a spare anything that’s essential to comfortable living. This will vary, but here’s some stuff I carry:
Spare fuses for the breaker panel (DC) so I can replace them if they blow. Small, inexpensive, and super easy to do, make sure you get the right size(s) you need, as well as an assortment of various amperage ratings.
Spare bulbs, for both inside and outside. I want to see, and be seen, so pull a couple of bulbs out, write down the numbers on them, or take them to your local auto parts store (I’m a big fan of AutoZone!) to pick up some spares. Most of the lights inside will be the same bulb, but make sure you check them all just to know what you’re up against.
Spare shower faucet. If i’m doing some kind of road-side repair, or I get stuck somewhere, my shower is the ONE faucet I will have to have. No matter how big or small the mess is, I can clean it off of me with the shower faucet, and carry on being a happy camper, even if i’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Water pump. I cannot stress this enough; if you’re out camping without hookups (or with hookups, and the park water is turned off for any reason) your water pump is invaluable! Of course, it means nothing to until it stops working… CARRY A SPARE! Also, don’t throw the old one away right away, a lot of them can be rebuilt for much less than buying a new one.
Water hose. Carry a spare water hose, in addition to your usual clean and gray water hoses, just in case. If your primary hose breaks and you need water in your RV, you’ll thank me for having a spare hose.
Pressure regulator. You should have one of these with a gauge so you can see what the pressure is, and adjust it if you want to. For a spare, carry one without a gauge, just in case. There’s nothing worse than pulling into a park, looking forward to a nice long shower, and finding out you’ll need a regulator to bring their 80 PSI water supply down to your rig’s max of 55 (except for not knowing, and blowing out a water line or fitting!).
Sewer connection. Carry a spare hose, a spare connection for each end, and two spare hose clamps. Even if it’s just a cheap 10′ hose, it’s still better than no hose when yours breaks, or worse, when you forgot to stow it before you left the park this morning… 400 miles ago.

 

For your tow rig (or motorhome chassis), I suggest:
Spare fan belt. Even on a brand new rig, some piece of highway debris can get kicked up, put a slice in your belt, and then POOF! you’re stranded because of a belt. Yes, I know, pantyhose work in a pinch, but a spare belt is way better, and works every time. Make sure to carry the tool(s) you need to change it, and learn how to change it by doing it twice. Yes, twice.
Fuses and bulbs. Just like in the coach, fuses and bulbs can be lifesavers on the road; see and be seen!
Tape. One roll each of electrical, gorilla, and flex seal just to cover all the bases. You might be amazed at what you can do with these!
Spare fluids for older vehicle are always good to have; oil, trans fluid, coolant, and washer fluid are all good things to have on hand, and can even be helpful in a newer vehicle if you run into minor issues on the road.
Zip ties. Yes, zip ties. Buy a small assortment pack, put them in your ‘uh-oh’ box, and hope you never need them. When things go sideways and you need to hold that thingy right there so it won’t rub on the doo hickey, zip tie it.

 

There’s always more stuff to think about, but the key idea is to carry a small amount of a variety of stuff so you can craft something that’ll get you to the next safe place when things go sideways. Other than the fan belt, don’t worry about getting the best, the most expensive, or the exact right one, just have some stuff that will get the job done, and remember; i’m only an email away 😉

W&M 3, How much can I tow?

I see this question often, and my standard reply is always, “Check your owners manual!”. While that’s the best place to start, let’s take a little trip deeper down that rabbit hole.

In “Weights and Measures 1: What’s it all mean?” we talked about all the different terms and basics we need. (If you skipped that, you may want to revisit it before falling down this rabbit hole).

So let’s say I have a nice pickup truck as my towing rig, and it’ll tow 15,000 lbs in a bumper pull configuration, or 18,000 lbs in a fifth-wheel or gooseneck configuration (more about towing types).
Great, so now I know my maximum towing weights? We can go now, right? Well, hold on a second, let’s talk about what we’re towing!
Let’s say i’ve got a 32′ Travel Trailer with a GVWR of 11,000 lbs, and it’s a bumper pull (I really do!). Ok, what else do I need to know?!?!

Well, in bumper pull configuration, my truck will tow (note the difference between towing and pulling!) 15,000 lbs, so that part’s all good!

The next part I want to look at is the tongue weight. Tongue weight is most crucial in the “Control” category of towing. If you have too much tongue weight, you’ll have a saggy rear end on your tow vehicle, and you’ll have less steering control up front. Too little tongue weight, and you’ll suffer from ‘fishtailing’ of the trailer, as well as potential slipping of the drive wheels on the a RWD vehicle.
Check out this link for lots more info on tongue weight.

I always tell people to never exceed the manufacturers tow rating because the people that designed it know the people who built it, the people that wrote the book about it, and the people that did the math to know when it’ll break. Don’t break your rig.

Once you’re all loaded and set, go get yourself a Non-Commercial Weigh so you know what you tow before you go! 🙂

Here I go, off to tow!

Quick note about towing versus pulling:

Just because your rig can PULL it doesn’t mean it can TOW it.
Towing generally refers to CONTROLLING a trailer, so it’s not just about getting it going, it’s also about slowing it, turning it, moving it around, and stopping it.
Why does this matter? Because if you can’t control what you’re towing, then you’re not towing, you’re pulling a collision looking for a place to happen.

#don’tbethatguy

 

W&M 2: Motorhome Math

If you’re in a motorhome, and not towing, then you’ve got very little to worry about. Let’s say you have a class A diesel pusher with a GVWR of 40,000 lbs, and it’s dry weight is 35,000 lbs. That means you have 5,000 lbs of weight capacity that you can add to this motorhome in fuel, water, stuff, people, pets, goodies, gizmos, gadgets… you know, ‘stuff’. 🙂 Seems like way more than enough, right?!

So let’s do some math:
If we fill up our 100 gallon fuel tank with diesel at 7 lbs/gallon (link), that’s 700 lbs.
Now we fill up our 100 gallon freshwater tank, at 8.5 lbs/gallon, that’s 850 lbs.
We also need to fill our propane tank, which is 40 gallons, and at 4.2 lbs/gallon that’s 168 lbs.
Now we bring aboard our camp chairs and table, our clothes, our food, our canopy, and all the other stuff we want to take with us to make life on the road more comfortable, so let’s say all of that is 2,000 lbs. I know, seems like a lot, but if you start weighing stuff, especially tools and spare parts, you’ll find it all adds up very quickly!
So, let’s add up all that stuff:
Fuel: 700 lbs
Fresh Water: 850 lbs
Propane: 168 lbs
Stuff: 2,000 lbs
Now we’re up to 3,718 lbs of stuff! We’re left with 1,282 lbs of ‘weight space’ left over, which means we can add more stuff! WooHoo! Time to break out the Ham radio gear! 😉

You don’t have to weigh every single item on board, but here’s what I suggest:
Fill up your rig with everything you want and need, then go get a Non Commercial weigh.
Once you know what your rig weighs fully loaded, you can see for yourself how much room you have, or how much you need to take off.

Non-Commercial weigh

Anytime you want to know the total weight of your rig, all you need to do is go to your local truck stop!
Park somewhere (in a designated space!), walk inside, and ask someone at the fuel desk for a “non-commercial” weigh ticket. This let them know that you’re not a Commercial driver, and they’ll log it differently in their system. Commercial drivers have to provide Truck, Trailer, and load numbers, along with Company name and other stuff, which you won’t have since you’re personal use.
After they give you the okay, go back to your rig, and drive slowly onto the scale, lining up in the center (left to right), and making sure your axle sets are in different sections of the scale. If you stop with the speaker/microphone box just outside your drivers window, you should be fine, and you can ask for a little help over the speaker/mic to get adjusted correctly.

Once you’ve settled down, they’ll let you know they’ve got your weight, so clear the scale (ALWAYS DRIVE SLOWLY on the scale!), park, and go get your ticket inside!