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RV Ready for Spring Yet?

by Guest Author: Ken Freund

It’s been a long winter and the combined effects of the elements can take a toll on stored RVs. If your coach has been in storage, now’s the time to prepare for those spring getaways. Taking a little time now will help ensure enjoyment all through the year.

Before hitting the road complete this RV spring-prep checklist: Begin with a thorough exterior inspection. Examine the outside, including the body and roof, for any cracks or separation and look inside for stains on the ceiling, sure signs of roof leaks. Look beneath the coach and/or or tow vehicle for signs of fuel or other fluid leaks.

Once you’ve determined there are no exterior leaks, wash the RV with a specially formulated soap designed for the exterior. Work in the shade, since washing a hot surface can result in hard-to-remove spots and streaks. Use specialized wheel cleaners to make tires and trim look new.An RV that’s been stored all winter needs to be aired out. Vacuum the carpet and clean the floors and other surfaces as needed.Spring prep should include a fluid and connections check. Look for insect and rodent nests and chewed wires and hoses. Check the amount of LP gas and test appliances for proper functioning.

Drain and flush the freshwater tank. Add 1/4 cup of household bleach for each 15 gallons of capacity. Then fill the tank almost to capacity, leaving room for sloshing. Drive or tow the coach to mix the bleach. Run the hot water to get the bleach through the water heater. Then drain the freshwater tank. Refill, along with 1/4 of baking soda per 15 gallons. Drive or tow to mix the water, run the hot water, then drain and refill with fresh water. Test the water pump and water system, including the water heater.

On motor homes, generators and tow vehicles, change the oil and filter and perform all recommended services according to the owner’s and maintenance manuals.

Batteries should be check for electrolyte level and connections should be removed, cleaned and after re-assembly, treated with an anticorrosive product.

Make sure all of the lug nuts are secure, check tires for cracks and other damage and set inflation pressures. Trailers should have the wheel bearings repacked.

Replace batteries and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Check the gauges on fire extinguishers. Check and refill your first aid and emergency kits. An emergency kit should include: flares, a gas can, reflective triangles, duct tape, jumper cables, wheel chocks, flashlight and basic hand tools.

Stock up with necessities for cooking, cleaning and entertaining. Review kitchen equipment and the inventory of favorite games, books, cards, puzzles, CDs, DVDs or videos.

To have peace of mind when you hit the road, Sign up for Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service Today!

You may also want to read: RV Fresh Water System Winterizing

Drain Master Electric Waste Valve is Key Part of RV Plumbing Makeover

I knew when we bought our new fifth wheel that I would eventually have to do something about the holding tank plumbing. I also knew that a Drain Master electric waste valve was going to be a key part of the makeover.

Our Coachmen fifth wheel bunkhouse floor plan was designed with two toilets, one up front and one in the rear. Apparently Coachmen couldn’t figure out how or didn’t want to spend the extra money to plumb the two together and instead we had to have two sewer hoses going into a ‘Y’ fitting at the sewer hookup. It was a real hassle and required carrying double the amount of sewer hose which was difficult to stow.

Drain Master Waste Valve from Phase Four Industries
Drain Master Waste valve from Phase Four Industries.

Old sewer connection for front holding tanl
The front holding tank drain before the upgrade.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. To connect a sewer hose or operate the valve on the front holding tank we had to get on hands and knees and crawl under the trailer to reach it! That wouldn’t be fun for a young person but for a couple of old folks it was literally a pain. We had to live with it for about six months.

It took me that long to figure out what parts I needed, how to do it and for the weather to get better but I finally got time to do some plumbing. The Drain Master electric waste valve was the perfect solution. We’re really happy with the way it works and recommend it to anyone.

New sewer cnnection test fist with Darin Master Waste Valve

Now once you start looking at the photos below you’ll see a couple of things that may concern you. Yes, I had the same concerns:

  1. The pipe going to the back seems really close to the axles.
  2. There is no slope to the pipe for proper drainage.

As close as I can measure, even at maximum travel the axles will not hit the pipe. The pipe will be dry when we are traveling so even if it does get damaged there won’t be a mess to clean up.

As for no slope, it hasn’t been a problem for the few months since it’s been installed, but as you can see in the photo, I included a standard bayonet sewer hose connection in the new system. Normally it will be left capped but if that long pipe ever gets plugged I can use the connection to dump the tank and I have an access point for a cleanout snake.

New RV sewer plumbing system
The new front holding tank connection. Notice the capped sewer connector that doubles as a cleanout if the long drain pipe ever gets clogged. New RV sewer system looking forward
View of the new holding tank drain system from the back of the trailer. The ‘T’ ties in the rear black tank which has it’s own gate valve.

The new sewer connection doesn’t look too much different from the old one. I salvaged the original valve assembly which is why I have ‘extra’ 3″ valve… you can see the black tank valve handle peeking out under the sidewall. But the extra valve may come in handy when we’re boondocking.

Since the front holding tank is a combination gray/black tank it tends to fill sooner than the rear black-water only tank.

With the third ‘extra’ valve closed it will be possible to open both holding tanks valves allowing us to balance the capacity. Plus we will gain the extra volume of the long front-to-back drain pipe. That should give us one or two extra days before we have to find a dump station.

New sewer connect for RV holding tanks

You may also notice the rubber couplers. They serve two purposes: 1) to compensate for my poor plumbing skills and 2) to allow the long front-to-back drain pipe to be removed easily when I need to gain access to the underside of the trailer.

I wanted the switch that operated the Drain Master waste valve to be back where the other valves and the sewer connection was.

I used 14 gauge automotive wire run in plastic wire loom.

A weather proof outdoor 120v receptacle cover was used to protect the switch. I couldn’t find a smaller cover so there’s room for another switch or connector if I ever have the need.

When pressing the switch, the Drain Master makes just enough noise to reassure you it is working.

location of the switch for the Drain Master electric waste valve

Installing the Drain Master waste valve was the easiest part of the whole project. If you have a hard to reach valve handle… even if it’s not as bad as mine was… you may want to consider replacing it with a Drain Master. If you are just a little handy, you can do it yourself. Phase Four Industries’ Drain Master kit has all you need to replace an existing manual valve and the instructions are complete, accurate and easy to follow. No special tools required.

Loose Bolt on RV 5th Wheel King Pin Box Could Have Caused Disaster

By Guest Author: Allen Inks

I want to alert you to a close call I had with my king pin, and what I did to help ensure it never happens again.

I have an aftermarket (not original to my New Horizons trailer) king pin box that has an air bag to help the ride while towing my 5th wheel trailer. I don’t think the brand is important, as the lessons learned are probably broadly applicable.

I’m pretty diligent about checking my rig before movement so I pretty sure the problem developed while driving from Denver, CO to Junction City, KS.

My king pin unit consists of an upper plate and a lower plate that are hinged together in the rear. The upper plate is fixed to the 5th wheel trailer. The lower plate has the the hitch pin fixed on the lower surface. The upper and lower plates are hinged together at their respective rear parts , and an airbag and shock aborbers are positioned between the plates at the front to absorb bumps.

The top portion is fitted down between the bent portions of the bottom plate, the holes are aligned and a hollow pivot pin is inserted through all 4 holes to form a hinge. Each end of the hollow pivot pin is threaded, and accepts a bolt with a large washer. The bolt and washer on the driver’s side is to prevent the pivot pin from moving out of the hinge toward the passenager’s side, while the bolt and washer on the passenger’s side is to prevent the pivot pin from moving out of the hinge toward the driver’s side.

A customer service rep said the bolts are to be periodically torqued to ensure they are secure. The owner’s manual says nothing about this and periodic torquing would break the bond of the thread lock compound that is specified. I think the customer service rep was blowing smoke; but at least she did put me in tough with the designer (it’s a small company) who told me thread lock compound (such as a LOCTITE brand compound) is to be used on the bolt threads to prevent the bolts from coming out of the ends of the pivot pin.

In any case, I didn’t assemble the unit, so I don’t know if the proper thread lock compound was used during assembly. I do know that I never torqued the locking bolts.

fith wheel hitch with loose bolts

Somewhere between Denver and Junction City, the passenger side locking bolt backed out, fell into the bed of my pickup with the washer (where I found them), and the pivot pin began working it’s way toward the driver’s side of the hinge! The pivot pin is about 12 inches long; there was only about 6 inches left in the hinge when I found the condition. The passenger side of the hindge was completely uncoupled. The driver’s side was all that was keeping the truck coupled to the trailer (apart from two shock absorbers, which aren’t designed to handle the stress of pulling a 14,000 pound trailer). The upper portion pivoted to right, and began rubbing up and down as the bumps in the road came along, fortunately not doing any real damage. I suspect every bump caused the pivot pin to work further and further out of the hinge. A few more miles may have seen me testing the break-away emergency braking of the trailer as the truck and trailer came un-coupled!

After completely disassembling the hitch and evaluating the damage done, in consultation with the manufacturer, I replaced a damaged bearing, and painted the parts that had rubbed together. I then reassembled the hitch. I put thread lock compound on the locking bolts and torqued them into place on both ends of the pivot pin.

I did one additional thing that I hadn’t discussed with the manufacturer. I drilled a small hole through a part of the head of each of the locking bolts so that I could insert a wire through the head of the bolt. I found two small bits of sheet metal, bent at a right angle, with a hold drilled through each. I used epoxy glue to attach each of these bits of metal to the hitch next to each locking bolt to serve as wire anchors. Then I ran safety (lock) wire between the bolt head and the sheet metal wire anchors. Now, because of the geometry of the arrangement (the lock wire is run tangent to the radius of rotation of the hole in the bolt head to the wire anchor in the direction of TIGHTENING the bolt), the locking bolts cannot rotate in the loosen direction. The photo below shows the safety-wired passenger’s side lock bolt.

fifth wheel hitch loose bolt fix

It’s been a year now, and I’ve had no indication of any further problems. And no, I don’t torque the lock bolt heads periodically. But I do check to see that my safety wire is in place and tight and the epoxy holding sheet metal wire anchors hasn’t failed.

I can’t see if the thread locking compound is intact, and don’t want to torque the bolts periodically (which would break loose the thread locking compound bond) but this lock wire arrangement provides me visual assurance that the bolt isn’t backing out.

Just thought I’d pass along this solution to ensure that these two “mission-critical” bolts stay in place.

NOTE: I am NOT a licensed engineer; this is not engineering advice. Every installation is probably unique. You must evaluate your own situation; you may wish to consult a licensed professional engineer to design something for you. This is just a description of a problem I had, and what I’ve done to address the situation – it may not be adequate, and I may have even unknowingly degraded my equipment – though I don’t think so.

Glenn Curtis Fifth Wheel RV

Wikipedia says: The term fifth wheel comes from a similar coupling used on four-wheel horse-drawn carriages and wagons. The device allowed the front axle assembly to pivot in the horizontal plane, to improve turning.

However I’ve also heard that the term originated with the way Glenn Curtiss designed the hitch for his fifth wheel trailer the Curtiss Aerocar Land Yacht. This origin makes more sense to me. At least as the term is used in modern day.

Glenn Curtiss Fifth Wheel Trailer

The “Glenn Curtiss Aero Coupler”, consisted of a tire and wheel mounted horizontally to the trunk floor of a passenger coupe or to sq specially designed tow vehicle. The tire is inflated to absorb lateral, longitudinal and vertical road shocks. The trailer’s goose neck kingpin slips into the wheel’s bearing journal where an axle would normally fit.

Glenn Curtis Fifth Wheel Hitch System

A list of common RV terms and their definitions.


A list of common RV terms and their definitions.

ANODE ROD
an anode rod, when used in a water heater, attracts corrosion causing products in the water. These products attack the anode rod instead of the metal tank itself. The anode rod should be inspected yearly and changed when it is reduced to about 1/4 of its original size. The rods are used in steel water heater tanks – an aluminum tank has an inner layer of anode metal to accomplish the same thing. Anode rods should not be installed in an aluminum tank!
AXLE RATIO
The ratio between the pinion and ring gears in the differential that multiply the torque provided by the engine. It is the number of drive line revolutions required to turn the axle one time. As an example, with a 4.10:1 axle the drive line turns 4.1 times for each full axle revolution. The higher the number, the more torque and thus more towing power. However, the higher the number also means less speed and fuel economy.
BLACK WATER
Waste water from toilet.
BAKE ACTUATOR
A device mounted under the dash of a towing vehicle that controls the braking system of a trailer. The Brake Controller senses the amount of braking force of the tow vehicle and applied a proportional force to the trailer braking system.
BRAKE CONTROLLER
A device mounted under the dash of a towing vehicle to control the braking system of the trailer. The Brake Controller senses the amount of braking force of the tow vehicle and applied a proportional force to the trailer braking system.
BTU – British Thermal Unit
A measurement of heat that is the quantity required to raise the temperature of one pound of water 1 degree F. RV air-conditioners and furnaces are BTU-rated.
CAMBER – Wheel alignment
Camber is the number of degrees each wheel is off of vertical. Looking from the front, tops of wheels farther apart than bottoms means “positive camber”. As the load pushes the front end down, or the springs get weak, camber would go from positive to none to negative (bottoms of wheels farther apart than tops).
CASTER – Wheel alignment
The steering wheels’ desire to return to center after you turn a corner.
CONDENSATION
The result of warn moisture laden air contacting the cold window glass. Keeping a roof vent open helps to reduce the humidity levels. Using the roof vent fan when showering or the stove vent fan when cooking also helps prevent excess moisture buildup.
CONVERTER
A converter is device that converts 120 volt A/C (alternating current) to 12 volt DC (direct current). Also recharges the battery.
DINETTE
Booth-like dining area. Table usually drops to convert unit into a bed at night.
DSI IGNITION
Direct Spark Ignition – A method of igniting the main burner on a propane fired appliance. The burner is lit with an electric spark and the flame is monitored by an electronic circuit board. This ignition system is used in refrigerators, furnaces and water heaters and some Stove tops and ovens.
DUCTED AC
Air conditioning is supplied through a ducting system in the ceiling. This supplies cooling air at various vents located throughout the RV.
DUCTED HEAT
Warm air from the furnace is supplied to various locations in the RV through a ducting system located in the floor.
DUAL ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
RV equipped with lights, appliances which operate on 12-volt battery power when self-contained, and with a converter, on 110 AC current when in campgrounds or with an onboard generator.
DUALLY
A pickup truck, or light-duty tow vehicle, with four tires on one rear axle.
GENERATOR
An engine powered device fueled by gasoline or diesel fuel, and sometimes propane, for generating 120-volt AC power.
GREY WATER
Waste water from sinks an shower. In some units, this is held in a tank separate from black water; is also dumped in tanks at campgrounds.
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
The manufacturers maximum load weight, in pounds, that can be placed on the axle. If an axle has a 3500-lb. GAWR and the RV has two axles (tandem axles), then the RV would have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 7000 lbs.
GROSS COMBINED WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
The manufacturers maximum load weight, in pounds, allowed for the trailer and tow vehicle. This rating includes the weight of the trailer and tow vehicle plus fuel, water, propane, supplies and passengers.
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
The manufacturers maximum load weight, in pounds, allowed for the vehicle. This rating includes the weight of the vehicle plus fuel, water, propane, supplies and passengers.
Gross Trailer Weight (GTW)
Gross trailer weight is the weight of the trailer fully loaded in its actual towing condition. GTW is measured by placing the fully loaded trailer on a vehicle scale. The entire weight of the trailer should be supported on the scale.
HEAT EXCHANGER
A device that transfers heat from one source to another. For example, there is a heat exchanger in your furnace – the propane flame and combustion products are contained inside the heat exchanger that is sealed from the inside area. Inside air is blown over the surface of the exchanger, where it is warmed and the blown through the ducting system for room heating. The combustion gases are vented to the outside air.
HEAT STRIP
An electric heating element located in some roof-top air conditions with the warm air distributed by the air conditioner fan and ducting system. They are typically 1500 watt elements (about the same wattage as an electric hair dryer) and have limited function. Basically they “take the chill off”
HITCH WEIGHT
The amount of a trailer’s weight that rests on the tow vehicle’s hitch. For travel trailers this weight should be 10% to 15% of the total weight of the trailer. For fifth wheels this weight should be 15% to 20% of the total weight of the trailer.
HOLDING TANKS
There are three different holding tanks on most RVs; fresh water tank, gray water tank and black water tank. The fresh water tank holds fresh water that can be stored for later use. The gray water tank holds the waste water from the sinks and showers. The black water tank holds the waste from the toilet.
HOOKUPS
The ability of connecting to a campground’s facilities. The major types of hookups are electrical, water and sewer. If all three of these hookups are available, it is termed full hookup. Hookups may also include telephone and cable TV in some campgrounds.
INVERTER
An inverter is a device that changes 12 volt battery power to 120 volt AC power. It is used when “boondocking” (camping without hookups) to power certain 120 VAC only devices like a microwave oven. The amount of available power depends on the storage capacity of the batteries and the wattage rating of the inverter.
LAMINATE
A sandwich of structural frame members, wall paneling, insulation and exterior covering, adhesive-bonded under pressure and/or heat to form the RV’s walls, floor and/or roof.
LP GAS
Liquefied Petroleum Gas. LP gas is used to fuel appliances in the RV, such as the stove, oven, water heater and refrigerator. Propane tanks are usually rated as pounds or gallons.
NET CARRYING CAPACITY (NCC)
The maximum weight of fuel, water, propane, supplies and passengers that can be added to an RV without exceeding the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).Sometimes called the payload capacity
PILOT
a pilot is a small standby flame that is used to light the main burner of a propane fired appliance when the thermostat calls for heat. Pilots can be used in furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators, ovens and stove tops.
PROPANE
LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas, used in RVs for heating, cooking and refrigeration. Also called bottle gas, for manner in which it is sold and stored.
RIG
What many RVers call their units. As in ‘What kind of rig do you have?’
ROOF AIR CONDITIONING
Air conditioning unit mounted on roof of RV.
RV
Short for Recreation Vehicle, a generic term for all pleasure vehicles which contain living accommodations. Multiple units are RVs and persons using them are RVers.
SELF CONTAINED
An RV which needs no external electrical, drain or water hookup. Thus, it can park overnight anywhere. Of course, self-contained units can also hook up to facilities when at campgrounds.
THERMOCOUPLE
A device that monitors the pilot flame of a pilot model propane appliance. If the pilot flame is extinguished the thermocouple causes the gas valve to shut off the flow of gas to both the pilot flame and the main burner.
TONGUE WEIGHT
Tongue weight (TW) is the downward force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler. In most cases, it is about 10 to 15 percent of GTW.
TOW RATING
Maximum weight a vehicle can safely tow. These ratings are set by the manufacturer and should be obtained from the vehicle dealership or owners manual prior to selecting the RV that you are going to be towing.
UNDERBELLY
The RV’s under floor surface, which is protected by a weatherproofed material.
UNLOADED VEHICLE WEIGHT (UVW)
The weight of the RV without adding fuel, water, propane, supplies and passengers. The manufacturers UVW will not include any dealer-installed options. Sometimes called the Dry Weight,
Waste Water Tanks
The gray water tank holds the waste water from the sinks and showers. The black water tank holds the waste from the toilet.
WET WEIGHT
The weight of the vehicle with the fuel, freshwater and propane tanks full.
WHEELBASE
Distance between center lines of the primary axles of a vehicle. If a motor home includes a tag axle, the distance is measured from the front axle to the center point between the drive and tag axles.
WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION HITCH
A weight distribution hitch consist of two parts. The first part being the receiver hitch that is mounted to the frame of the tow vehicle. The receiver hitch has two weight ratings, one is weight carrying and one is with weight distribution. Weight carrying is the weight that the hitch can safely tow with a standard ball mount and ball. The weight distribution rating is the weight that can be towed with the addition of a weight distribution package.

The weight distribution package pins in your receiver hitch and then two spring bars are attached to the camper and the receiver hitch. There are several manufacturers and methods used but all have the same simple principal. To distribute the weight evenly throughout the tow vehicle and the towed vehicle. Be sure to consult with and RV professional regarding the installation and operation of the proper weight distribution package as well as any other hitch accessory.

How to Clean RV Battery Terminals

RV Basics logo 468x60 RV Battery Care & Maintenance – Steps for Cleaning Battery Terminals RVbasics.com page header art Our Articles on
RV Care and Maintenance ]]> Home Page How to Clean RV Battery Terminals ]]>

Some RVers think if the battery terminal connections look clean then everything is okay. However it is the corrosion that develops between the posts and the cable clamps that needs to be checked and cleaned. Skin and eye protection is advised. Be sure you wear old clothes… one very small drop of battery acid can make a good-sized hole or at the least bleach them.

Tools & Supplies

  • A combination battery post and clamp brush, obtainable at any auto parts store. Even the best brushes are inexpensive so there is no excuse not to get a good quality one.
  • Battery post clamp puller or large pliers.
  • Toothbrush or similar brush.
  • Baking soda or commercial cleaner
  • Water.
  • Clean cloth.
  • Wrench.
  • Light grease or petroleum jelly

Battery terminal brush
Battery Terminal Brush

Battery terminal clamp puller
Battery Terminal Clamp Puller

Step 1 Loosen the cable clamp nuts remove the cable clamp from the negative terminal first then the positive cable. The best we to remove the clamp is with a clamp puller. If you don’t have on you can spread the clamp with a larger screwdriver and use pliers to twist and lift the terminal clamps off.

Be careful using pliers to remove the clamps, twisting too hard on the post can break them off.

Step 2 With the cables removed from the terminals, check the battery cables and clamps for damage or corrosion. If the damage is extensive, replace the cables and/or clamps to avoid future problems.
Check the battery case for cracks and the terminals posts for damage. Replace the battery if necessary.

Step 3 Apply baking soda directly onto the posts. Dip a toothbrush in water and use it to scrub the baking soda into the terminal posts and cable clamps. If the toothbrush isnt doing the job use a battery terminal brush. You can also use course sandpaper. Dry everything off with a clean, disposable rag.

Step 4 Replace the positive clamp first and then replace the negative clamp. Tighten them down with the proper sized wrench.

Step 5 Smear grease or petroleum jelly to cover the exposed metal surfaces on the battery posts, cables, and clamps. This will slow the formation of corrosive deposits.

Step 6 Replace the rubber or plastic shield that covers the positive terminal. If you dont have one, they are available from your local auto parts store.

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How to Hitch & Unhitch a Travel Trailer – The Basics

These steps for hitching and unhitching a travel trailer are basics instructions. As you gain experience at hitching your rig, you will develop techniques that are specific to you and your rig.

If you’re new to RVing we urge you to have an RV tech make sure your hitch is properly adjusted for your rig.

If you are or having a new hitch installed, the installer should set up the hitch for your rig and show you how to hitch up properly and safely.

Hitching a travel trailer to a weight distribution hitch.

  1. Raise the trailer tongue until there is enough room for the hitch ball to go underneath the coupler.
  2. Back the tow vehicle until the hitch ball is under the coupler.
  3. Open the coupler latch mechanism and lower the coupler onto the ball just enough so the latch mechanism will close correctly. Use a padlock or hitch pin to secure the lever.
  4. Raise the tongue… the tow vehicle will also raise… about 3 to 4 inches with the tongue jack to make it easier to install the weight distribution spring bars.
  5. Insert one end of the spring bars into the hitch head.
  6. Lower the snap-up bracket (sometimes called the saddle) and place the proper chain link onto the hook.
  7. If you have the Dual-cam hitch setup, rest the spring bars on the ends of the cam.
  8. Using a short piece of pipe that should have come with your snap-up brackets, raise it back up to its normal position and secure it with a safety clip.
  9. Repeat the above 2 steps for spring bar on the other side.
  10. Safety clip the snap-up brackets.
  11. Retract the tongue jack to allow sufficient clearance between it and the road.
  12. Attach the safety chains to a permanent part on the tow vehicle.  Cross the chains (like an X) under the hitch to make a cradle for the coupler. This will prevent it from hitting the ground should the hitch fail.  The chains should be long enough to allow the tow vehicle and trailer to turn sharply, but not so long that they can drag along the ground.
  13. Attach the breakaway cable to a permanent part of the tow vehicle.  This should not be attached to any other part that is used to pull or support the trailer tongue,  Should the receiver fail and the breakaway cable is attached to it, the trailer brakes will not activate
  14. Plug the trailer electrical cord into the receptacle on the tow vehicle making sure there is enough slack to allow for proper turning but it will not drag.
  15. Check all lights.
  16. Check brake controller for proper connection… a green light or other indicator.

Unhitching a travel trailer from a weight distribution hitch.

  1. If you will be camping, make sure the trailer is nearly level from side to side as you can get it by placing boards or blocks under all of the tires on the low side.
  2. Chock the trailer tires so they won’t roll.
  3. Disconnect the electrical cord from the tow vehicle.
  4. Disconnect the safety chains.
  5. Disconnect the breakaway cable.
  6. Raise the tongue high enough to take most of the weight off of the spring bars.
  7. Remove the safety clips from the snap-up brackets.
  8. Lower the bracket and release the chain.  You should be careful here. If there is too much weight still on the spring bars, it could cause the lever to jerk out of your hands.  Raise the tongue high enough to relieve most of the spring bar tension.
  9. Lower the tongue put weight is on the hitch ball.
  10. Unlock and release the coupler latch mechanism.
  11. Raise the trailer toung until the coupler is clear of the hitch ball.
  12. Move the tow vehicle forward away from the trailer tongue.

Troubleshooting Your RV’s 12-volt DC Problems

By guest Author: Mark Polk

If you’ve been RVing for any amount of time you are already aware that a good portion of the devices and accessories in your RV operate off of 12-volt DC power. 12-volt DC or Direct Current is electricity supplied by the RV batteries. DC electricity flows in one direction, from negative to positive. 12-VDC electricity is stored in the RV batteries and supplies power for components, devices and appliances that operate off of 12-volts.

These 12-volt devices include overhead lights, the water pump, vent fans, furnace fan, range hood fan, LP gas leak detectors, stereos, 12-volt TVs and the refrigerator when it’s operating in the LP gas mode. When you go camping you rely on these 12-volt items to operate properly, especially if you’re dry camping without hook-ups. So what do you do when one of these 12-volt items quit working?

For the sake of an example let’s say that we are dry camping and our 12-volt water pump quits working.

The Mastech MY68 is a fully featured auto-range digital multimeter, it is well knows for its high resolution and accuracy at low currents, you can use it to measure a few micro amps both AC and DC with less than 1.2% and 1.5% accuracy. It also has many nice features such as data hold, auto power -off, tilt back stand, test leads holder and etc. Accessories: * 9V battery (installed) * User Manual * Test leads (attached)

I am convinced that just about anybody is capable of troubleshooting a 12-VDC problem, and in many cases repairing the problem without it ruining your camping trip. For starters you will need a couple of simple tools to assist you in troubleshooting your RV’s 12-volt electrical system.

  1. An inexpensive 12-volt test light.
  2. A multi-meter that can test for DC power.

Both of these are available at local auto parts stores. You should also keep some electrical tape, various size wire nuts, 12-volt light bulbs and 12-volt fuses on hand. Check the amperage of the fuses used in the power distribution box and keep an assortment. If you’re aware of any inline fuses used on any of the 12-volt devices keep these on hand too.

Now, try to determine the last time the water pump actually worked. Did you leave the RV for a period of time with the pump on? Is there water in the fresh water holding tank? Were you working on or around something else that could have affected the operation of the water pump? Try to think of all possible scenarios. Something might jar your memory resulting in a quick fix to the problem.

If not, the first step is to verify that the coach battery or batteries are charged enough to supply power to these 12-volt items. There are a couple of ways to perform a quick test on the coach batteries. You can use the monitor panel to check the condition of the coach batteries. To get an accurate reading make sure the RV is not plugged into electricity and turn on a couple of overhead lights to place a small load on the battery. Check the reading at the monitor panel. (If you check the reading at the monitor panel when the RV is plugged in to electricity it will give you fully charged reading) A more accurate method is to test the battery with a multi-meter. Set the meter to read 12-VDC and place the negative test probe on the negative battery terminal and the positive test probe on the positive battery terminal. A fully charged battery will read in the range of 12.6 to 12.7 volts. If it reads less than 12-volts it is below a 50% state of charge and will need to be charged.

If the battery is fully charged, the next step is to make sure that any battery disconnect switch for the coach battery is turned on. If the battery disconnect switch is on, verify that other 12-volt devices in the RV are operating properly. If there is 12-volt power to the interior of the RV you need to check the fuse for the water pump in the power distribution center. Determine which fuse is for the water pump (fuses are normally labeled) and find a suitable ground for the 12-volt test light. Test both sides of the fuse for 12-volt power. If the test light only lights on one side of the fuse replace it with the proper size fuse and try the water pump again. If there was power at both sides of the fuse check for 12-volts at the water pump switch. If there is voltage, and the switch is operating properly check the water pump wiring for an inline fuse.

Find a good ground for the 12-volt test light and probe the wire on both sides of the fuse. If there is only power on one side of the fuse replace it with the proper size fuse and test the pump again. If there is power on both sides of the fuse check the water pump wiring connections at the wire nuts. It’s possible for connections to come loose due to excessive vibration. Correct any loose connections and try the pump again. If the pump still doesn’t work feel the motor to see if it is hot to the touch. If the motor is hot, a thermal breaker may have been triggered. Allow the pump time to cool off and see if it re-sets itself.

If you complete all of these tests and there is 12-volt DC power coming to the water pump motor, and it still doesn’t come on, chances are the water pump is bad and it will need to be replaced.

Troubleshooting a 12-volt electrical problem in your RV is not that difficult. Follow the logical path of the device you are troubleshooting and see if you can determine where the problem is. It might be possible for you to save your well deserved vacation, some money and a trip to the RV dealership too.

Note: If you don’t feel comfortable performing your own maintenance or troubleshooting the 12-volt electrical system, take your RV to a reputable repair center to have it checked out and repaired

About the Author:
Polk has a degree in Industrial Management Technology and his 30 plus years of experience in maintenance includes working as an RV technician, a wheeled vehicle and power generation mechanic, an automotive maintenance technician, Battalion and Brigade level Maintenance Officer, an RV sales manager and also in the RV financing department as the Finance & Insurance manager. Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk owner of rveducation101.com/

You may also want to read: RV Electrical System BasicsRV Solar Electrical Panels

Using a 50 to 30 Amp RV Power Adapter

Have you ever been in an RV park site where the 30-amp outlet was broken or the circuit breaker was weak and kept tripping? If it happens again and the RV power pedestal has a 50-amp outlet you can use it instead of the 30-amp outlet. All you need is the right adapter.

There are different types of adapters but the most common power adapter is often called a dog bone because of how it looks. Below is an explanation of why this works.

An RV power pedestal 30 amp outlet has a single 120 leg and breaker rated at 30 amps at 120 volts along with a neutral leg and ground.

An RV power pedestal 50 amp outlet has two 120 volt legs that supply current to the RV plus a neutral and ground. Each power leg can supply 120 volts to neutral or the two can supply 240 volts from Leg 1 to Leg 2. The outlet is protected by a double breaker rated at 50 amps on each leg. What that means is there are TWO 50 amp breakers, usually physically connected together, supplying the RV with current. (If you flip the breaker off, both are flipped at the same time)

50 to 30 amp RV electrical cord adaptor

In an RV wired for 30 amp service all outlets and appliances are connected to the single 30 amp leg. In an RV wired for 50 amp service some outlets and appliances are connected to one leg while other outlets and appliances are connected to the other leg. Manufacturers try to anticipate the power requirements and balance which outlets and appliances are connected to which leg. For example, all the kitchen outlets and appliances might be connected to leg one and the rest would be connected to leg two. RVs with two air conditioners would have one connected to each 120 volt leg.

When you plug your dog bone adapter into the 50 amp outlet the adapter taps only one of the two 110 volt legs and transfers the power to your power cord as though it was plugged into a 30-amp outlet. Yes you technically have up to 50 amps available at the adapter but the 30 amp circuit breakers in your RV’s power panel will only allow you to draw 30 amps. As far as your RV is concerned nothing is different.

You may also want to read: RV Electrical System Basics

Fifth Wheel RV Sliding Hitch… do you need one? – RV Basics

The following question was originally posted on the RVbasics Discussion List.

I am new to 5th Wheel hauling. My question is, I have a 2006 GMC 2500HD Crew Cab Truck with a 6ft 6in box and would like to know if I need a sliding fifth wheel hitch for the 5th wheel I have ordered. My concern is, with a standard fifth wheel hitch I cannot turn to 90 Degrees without hitting the corner of the Truck Cab.

Below is a compilation of the responses:

Answer: It depends on your pin box setup.  If the pin box is under the body of the 5th wheel trailer your turning is limited.  With a short bed pickup truck the bed is 6 feet 6 inches long.  Roughly half of that is 3 feet 3 inches.  The fifth wheel trailer is either 8 or 8.5 feet wide. Half of the trailer width is 4 feet or more.  Doing the math says no way to do 90 degree turns.

image of fifth wheel shwoing problem with shortbed truck

A thirteen inch pin box extension adapter puts the pin out from under some 5th wheels.  It won’t allow 90 degree turns but will give you more room for turns.  Probably about 80 degrees.

Conventional 5th wheel pin box Extended 5th Wheel Pin Box

Answer: I think the 90 degree turn worry is overrated.  You don’t see many jack knife turns.   I have a Reese manual slider which I bought for a good price before I got my rig put together.  These manual sliders are much cheaper and for most people would suffice for the few times you might need it.

Mostly the slider will make you more comfortable by keeping the trailer farther away from the truck.  When you get into the campground (at the office)  you pull the slider.  After you come out of the office, you hold the brake controller and pull the truck forward.  Leave it in that position until leaving the campground.  If it was easy to get into your site then reset the slide to the front position.

Watch out for other clearance restrictions.  If your trailer is level when on the hitch your clearance is usually less than a foot.  Many 5th wheels have front damage because they hit the tool box mounted in the bed.  If you want a box get one that does not mount on the rails.  Another clearance problem is with box rails.

Answer: SuperGlide is the only way to go with a short bed pickup. We have a 34 foot rig and started with a manual slide hitch. After one trip I sold that one and bought the SuperGlide. Very much worth the $2200! Look at the video on  their web site.

Answer: I have a slider that, so far, I haven’t needed. But if I do get into a situation where I’ll need the slider I’m set. My truck is a 2002 Dodge 1500 Quad Cab with the short box, and I pull a 1991 Fleetwood Wilderness 26 5N with it.

Answer: Okay, I know there may be good reasons for buying a short bed truck but the best way to avoid all the problems associated with a short bed truck is not to buy one. Consider the need for one carefully. Also, before using a pin box extension consider that it will create a lot of leverage on the frame that that it may not have been engineered to handle. Check with the manufacturer or a qualified RV tech before you buy.

Watch this video of an RVer with a short-bed truck who takes a turn just a little too tight.

If you look close it appears the trailer crunched the top of the truck cab which stressed and broke the rear window.

It could have been worse since there doesn’t appear to be any serious damage to the fifth wheel.

You may also want to read: A basic Checklist for Hitching and Unhitching an RV Fifth Wheel Trailer and Dropping a RV Fifth Wheel… It almost happened to me!