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!

W&M 1: What’s it all mean?

When we’re talking about a house on wheels, it’s important to understand all the different terms used to talk about weight; what they mean, how to use them, and why they matter.

First things first, here’s some terms you need to know:

1) GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
This is the total amount of weight your vehicle is designed to carry, and going over this amount is a recipe for disaster.
This applies to any single vehicle, so you’ll have one for your truck (or tow vehicle), another for your trailer, or one for your motorhome.
2) GCWR: Gross Combined Weight Rating
This is the total amount of weight your vehicle can weigh in combination with another vehicle, such as when you’re towing a trailer. If you’re towing a trailer, then you’d want to make sure your GVWR of your truck, plus the GVWR of your trailer, is NOT more than the GCWR for your tow vehicle.
3) GAWR: Gross Axle Weight Rating
This is the total amount of weight a single axle can support. Not as common, but worth noting here.
4) Towing Capacity
This is the maximum towing capacity for your vehicle, or the maximum amount of weight it can tow.
5) Curb (dry) weight
Curb weight is how much your vehicle weighs dry and empty (sitting on the curb). Think of this as how much your vehicle weighs without stuff, people, fuel, water, luggage, so on and on and on…
6) Tongue Weight
On your tow vehicle, this is how much weight you can put on the tongue of the vehicle, which is different than the total weight of the trailer.
On your trailer, this is how much weight should be on the tongue of the trailer, which is different than the weight placed on the wheels.

Okay, now that we have some terms down, let’s add one more section, weights per gallon:
1) Water weighs 8.3 lbs per gallon at 62°F, and
2) Gasoline weighs 6.3 lbs per gallon, and,
3) Propane weighs 4.2 lbs per gallon, and,
4) These weights vary with temperature because the mass changes with density.

The reason these numbers matter is because vehicles (all vehicles) are designed with specifications, and so long as they are used inside those specifications, they will operate as intended, as tested, and as certified. Anytime you operate a vehicle outside of its specifications, you run the risk of causing damage to the vehicle, losing control of the vehicle, or other troubles.

Read on in the following posts to learn more about Weights and Measures.

 

Right of way

Right of way is a fun topic (for me) to discuss, but so often it seems to be misconstrued by people who want it to be about feelings, rather than facts (a whole ‘nother series covered in another category).

Right of way has nothing to do with WHO is right, letting people in, ‘being nice’, or ‘polite driving’, but everything to do with which driver is supposed to do what, according to the rules of the road. The reason this matters is that we don’t have a readily available way to discuss these things from behind the wheel, so it’s important we all know, and follow, the rules of the road.

Right of way simply means which driver has which responsibility, based on position and situation. An example is at an intersection with a four-way stop; each driver has a responsibility to come to a complete stop, and then each driver has a responsibility to proceed through the intersection in a timely fashion when it is their ‘turn’. It’s also important not to block an intersection, as this causes congestion.

Another point about Right of Way is that it doesn’t just pertain to automobiles, but to anyone using any form of public walkway or roadway, which includes pedestrians, bicycles, motorcyclists, buses, trucks, and all other vehicles.

While the laws in your state may be a little different from some other states, here are some general rules of the road dealing with right of way:
1) ALWAYS yield to emergency vehicles. Police, Fire, Medical, Public Service, or other emergency vehicles should always have the right of way when their lights are flashing, their siren is sounding, or both. This does not mean you have to stop, pull off the road, or cause a collision, you are simply required to YIELD to emergency vehicles with activated lights, siren(s), or both. A great example of this is that if an emergency vehicle is travelling the opposite direction from you, and you will not impede their travel (they have no need to use your lane to get around other vehicles) then you don’t have to make any changes, you can simply keep travelling along as you are not, nor will you, impede their travel in any way.
2) ALWAYS yield to pedestrians!
In a pedestrian vs vehicle collision, the pedestrian ALWAYS loses, because the vehicle does not give way like human tissue or bone does. It’s not a ‘fair fight’ in any way, and the easiest way to prevent that type of collision is to simply yield to pedestrians. People standing about in the roadway, outside of marked crosswalks, are NOT pedestrians, but care should still be taken to avoid injuring them if possible.
3) KEEP IT MOVING.
My single greatest frustration in driving with the general public is that so many times, they fail to keep it moving. People will gawk, jerk, search, make sudden movements, fail to look before moving, and a long list of other things that create issues; all of that falls under ‘failing to drive’, and should be avoided at all times while operating a motor vehicle.
When you’re driving, keep it moving! At an intersection, take your turn when it’s your turn so traffic can keep moving. On the roadway, keep up with the flow of traffic, and don’t impede traffic whenever possible. If you’re lost, find someplace to pull off, stop, figure it out, and then get back on the roadway. On the freeway/interstate, use the proper lane, and keep it moving!

 

Further reading:
https://driversed.com/driving-information/signs-signals-and-markings/right-of-way.aspx
http://www.safemotorist.com/articles/right_of_way.aspx

 

 

Lights and Signals

Having been a driver for so many years (professional, private, for work, for pleasure, and otherwise), I often come across ambiguity, or sometimes downright confusion, with people who don’t know (don’t care?) what certain signals mean from other drivers.

Sure we all know the ‘typical’ hand gestures, often rude, rarely helpful, but did you know there’s actually a meaning behind what you’re doing with your lights?
Let’s start with defining terms:

Turn Signals:
When you activate your turn signals (or blinkers), you’re letting the drivers around you know that you intend to move or turn in that direction. Note that this signals intention, and does not give you license to move freely into otherwise occupied space. Left turn signal for a left turn or movement, right turn signal for a right turn or movement.

Hazards:
Hazard lights (Or flashers) are usually the same physical lights as your turn signals, but when you activate the Hazard lights, all four lights should flash at once (left turn, front & rear, right turn front & rear). Hazards should only be used to signal that you are a hazard to the drivers around you.

Marker Lamps:
Also known as ‘parking lamps’, these are the first stage of your two-stage headlight switch, and when activated, should show two solid orange lights up front, and two solid red lights in the rear. Note that these lights are often the same as your brake or turn signal lights, but are about half as bright. These lights are designed to ‘mark’ your vehicle, or to show other vehicles where your vehicle is.

Headlights:
Headlights (or Low-beams) are the front facing white lights, generally between 16″ and 28″ above street level (check your local legal library for specific measurements in your are), and are used to illuminate the roadway in front of you so you can see in less-than-light conditions.

High-beams:
High beams are the ‘high’ or ‘bright’ lights you use when it’s really dark outside, AND, there’s no other vehicles around you. You can read my other post for more info there. High beams are designed to give you maximum illumination when it’s very dark , and should not be used around oncoming or nearby traffic.

Fog lights:
Fog lights are a second, optional, set of lights situated low to the ground, and usually directly under the headlights. They’re often white, sometimes yellow or orange, and they’re designed to cut through heavy fog and illuminate the road in front of you.

Dip:
To ‘dip’ your lights is to flash them in an intentional manner, usually for a full second, perhaps two, and it simply means to change the state of your lights. So if your headlights are on and you want to signal to someone with your headlights, you would turn your headlights off, on again, off, and on again, in a smooth, steady sequence. This lets other drivers know that the change in light was intentional, and allows them to understand the signal you’re conveying.

Flash:
To flash your lights, typically your high beams, you want to activate and de-activate them as quickly as possible. Most vehicles these days have the headlight switch combined with the turn signal activator, so a tiny touch will usually do the trick.

Now that you know the terms and purpose of the different lights, let’s talk about what those lights are communicating:

Turn Signals:
These are used to indicate intention to turn, or change lanes, and should always be used so that other drivers can adjust if needed. Keep in mind that turn signals are merely an indication of intention, and do not give you license or right to interfere with other drivers.
If you’re in the passing lane (far left), and you’d like to pass the person in front of you, after you make sure they can move to the right, you would turn on your left turn signal; this is a polite of way saying, “Excuse me, I would like to pass”.

Marker lamps:
These are used to ‘mark’ the position of your vehicle, and should be used all the time, or anytime the sun is not shining brightly. This is especially true for dark or neutral colored vehicles in cloudy, rainy, foggy, or less-than-light conditions, so that other vehicles can clearly distinguish your vehicle from the background.
You can ‘dip’ your marker lights three times to signal a thank you, or an apology if you got too close to someone, or dip them twice to signal to someone on foot who is looking for your vehicle (this usually works best in the dark).
If you see someone dip their marker lights (which would include their headlights) five times, they’re signalling that you have an issue with your lights, and you should immediately head somewhere safe to check your lights.

Headlights:
Headlights are used to illuminate your path so you can see where you’re going. You should always drive in such a way that you can stop inside of what your headlights show you, otherwise, you’re ‘overdriving your headlights’.
If someone has just passed you, and you want to signal that they’re clear to move over, you would dip your headlights twice, but make sure they’re looking in their mirror first, or else they won’t see you. You might also reserve this for times when traffic is heavy, it’s dark, and/or there’s some precedence for the assistance.
If the driver flashers their marker lights three times, that’s their way of saying thank you.

High Beams:
The only time you should use your high beams for a signal is to alert other drivers of DANGER. Keep in mind that high beams are bright, and will often impair the vision of other drivers, so it can be seen as an aggressive tactic by police officers.
If you are a danger to other vehicles, such as when you’re sliding down an icy road towards an intersection, flashing your high beams at a high rate is a great way to get peoples attention. Couple this with your Hazard lights, and you’re conveying that you’re a dangerous hazard, and other drivers should avoid you.
DO NOT flash your high beams to let an overtaking driver know they’re clear to move over; it prevents them from seeing clearly, and conveys that there is danger, which of course if true if you’re the bad driver blinding people!
DO NOT flash your high beams at people you wish to pass, expect for emergency situations. Flashing your high beams at people is often seen as aggressive driving, and should only be used in an actual emergency.
During the daytime, you can tap your high beams twice from a distance to alert oncoming traffic that there is some danger up ahead; most notably used for alert that there is police activity, this can also be used for any danger that oncoming traffic is approaching. Do make the effort to keep it within one mile of the scene or site so you don’t get everyone riled up over nothing.

Fog Lights:
Because not all vehicles come equipped with fog lights, there’s no set meaning for them. You may have something worked out with friends and family, but expect that most people don’t associate any message with them.
The only common use I have for them is when i’m closely following someone, i’ll leave my headlights off and my fog lights on, both to avoid blinding them with my headlights, and to let them know i’m in ‘follow mode’. This is primarily a tactical use, and when I separate from them, they’ll know because I will turn my headlights on.
Another good use is in dense traffic, or urban areas; leave your headlights off, and just use your fog lights, as there’s plenty of light, and headlights often interfere with other drivers vision in dense traffic. Use this one with caution; it’s not often enforced in my experience, but it is a traffic violation.

Back it up, buddy.

So often I see people driving or towing an RV, and just like poor quality work, they’ll tell on you, just as soon as you try to back it up.

Please don’t assume i’m being an ass about this, I get that some folks can’t back up. I used to be one of those folks, and I fixed it. I’ve also trained a bunch of those folks, and they fixed it, too.

Backing is easy, if you’ll just focus on the principles, and PRACTICE. Notice which word is in all caps? Yeah. That’s the key part, right there.

Anytime you have a chance, go to a truck stop, go way in the back where there’s a bunch of empty spot, pick one, and back into it. Practice, watch what happens, and then practice some more. Get good at it by challenging yourself to get your rig in the spot in less times than you have axles. Have three axles? No more than three pull-ups. Have five axles? Fine, you get five.

1) Remember that when you’re backing, it’s all about positioning the non-turning wheels. With a Motorhome, this means putting the rear, or drive wheels, where you need them, using the front, steering, wheels to do that.

2) If you have a trailer, put your hand on the BOTTOM of the steering wheel, and move your hand in the direction you want the BACK of the trailer to go. See how that works? Like a charm.

3) Start in a wide open area, like a big parking lot, and practice staying inside the lines. Once you can do that, you can back anywhere you can fit.

4) Whenever possible, have a spotter. A spotters job is simply to look where you can’t readily see, to be always in your line of sight and out of your way, and let you know you’re about to mess up, BEFORE you mess up (critical timing right there, the BEFORE part).

5) BREATHE. For the love of (insert thing of choice here), BREATHE, dude. It’s just driving in reverse, and YOU CAN DO THIS. Seriously, just relax, breathe, and give yourself plenty of room to maneuver. You’ve got this!

I have four axles on my rig, but I back it in the first time, with a pull-up now and then. Go ahead, challenge me 😉

Come to think of it…

So it’s recently come across my brain desk that I should start making posts about my particular adventure, since it is, after all, a BLOG. So, here goes…

I’m currently working through a Workmans COmp case due to an injury at work. While I won’t go into details here (since the case is pending/working/driving me nuts), but I can certainly talk about how that affects my life as an RV’er.

I suffered a back injury at work, and i’m in a state where I can still function, but I cannot lift anything more than a few pounds, I can’t climb, and I have to be considerate in any moving/twisting/torquing activity. While this does place a severe limit on what I can do, it does not change my ‘can-do’ attitude; it just means I have to figure out a different way to get things done.

Thankfully, my rig was already well setup for a situation where i’m ‘limited-duty’, with things like electric slides, electric jack, and an electric awning (should I choose to use it, which isn’t likely here in the woods of West Georgia!). The stabilizer jacks are manual, but I used my Ryobi 18V electric drill, and Camco 3/4″ hex to socket adapter to run the stabilizers down, and with some specific body positioning, I was able to do this without hurting my back any further!

I’ll continue to add posts about myself and my adventure, along with other tips and tricks I have to share, but know that RV’ing is something that can be done by just about anyone, and if you’re not sure how to get started or going, drop me a line and i’ll help you along the way! 🙂

 

Navigation

In any community that deals with any kind of driving, we often hear of people talking about ‘distracted driving’, and while they’re most often speaking of smart phones, there are other devices that can cause a distraction, and i’d like to talk about one of those today: GPS/Navigation devices.

While I do not fault people for using some form of digital navigation, GPS, or combination device, I do want to caution you: Most devices are not designed for larger vehicles, such as commercial trucks, motor homes, travel trailers, or other RV’s. “So, Daniel, what do we do about this?” Well faithful reader, i’m glad you asked! This is a fairly simple fix, and there’s only three key pieces of information you really need to know:

1) Overall height: The overall height of the vehicle should be measured on mostly level ground, from the top of the highest point of your rig, down to the ground. Be sure to keep in mind A/C units, satellite domes, or other devices mounted on your roof. I recommend a sticky label on your dashboard with the OverAllHeight on it so when you forget, you have an easy reference when you’re driving.

2) Length: It’s a good idea to know how long your rig from tip to tail, or front most protrusion to rear-most protrusion, as well as distance between axles. Typically you won’t need that information on the Interstate system, but if you decice to venture off onto the US or State highway systems, you’re likely to come to a crossing of some kind that dictates how much you can weigh, how long you can be, or some formula involving both of those factors.

3) Weight: GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, is the maximum your vehicle can weigh and still operate within its specifications. This is especially important when towing a trailer, as you do not want to exceed the GVWR of the tow vehicle. Knowing the max you can weigh is helpful for places where your “licensed” weight is limited, but knowing how much your rig actually weighs (called actual weights) is just as important. You can find the GVWR on the stickers on your vehicle(s), and you can find your actual weight by loading up your rig as you normally would (be sure to top off the fresh water tank(s) if you normally travel with water!) and running across a scale at a truck stop (be sure to go inside and let them know you’re doing a non-commercial weigh, first).

Knowing your facts will help you decide if it’s safe to make that crossing, and knowing your route will help you put you at ease and get you where you want to go safely. If you do use a digital navigation device, do be sure to browse over your route for potential issues before you start driving, and keep your eyes sharp for issues along the way that your nav device can’t tell you about.

Happy trails! 😀

Knock out the Lock outs!

I read and hear stories all the time about people locking themselves out of their rigs, and I think, “Well, you need a lock out system!”.
What’s a lock out system? Well dear reader, i’m glad you asked!
A lock out system is a system you’ve put in place that allows you to gain entry into your rig without ONLY the knowledge in your head, and nothing else. It’s important to think this through, and create something that’s secure, but also simple enough for you to remember.
One example is to use a magnetic hide-a-key device with a spare compartment key in it. Inside one of your compartments, in a place that’s not easily seen unless you know where to look, you have a spare door key, and this two-step system allows you to regain access to your rig without keys, tools, a phone, or anything else; just the knowledge that you can never again be locked out of your rig! 🙂
If your rig is a MH, you should take the extra step of hiding a spare ignition key inside the rig somewhere, perhaps in a coded safe, so that you can get to it if you need to, but no one without the knowledge can get to it.

Take time to set up a lock out system today so you don’t get locked out tomorrow!

Feel free to get in touch for help in setting up your very own lock out system. 🙂

Spare Key

So most of us Wind Turbine Techs drive these big fancy pick up trucks, and they come with a key fob (The Ram trucks do anyway). Inside of that key fob, there’s a spare key that’s designed to allow you to unlock the door. May I suggest that you remove that spare key, place it in a magnetic hide-a-key box, and hide that somewhere on your truck?

Do be sure to hide it somewhere out of sight, and somewhere that if it were to fall (since we spend so much time on bumpy roads) it would be caught by another part, like in the rear bumper, or under the bed rail.

You’re welcome. 🙂