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

Cold Weather RVing Tips

By Guest Author: Mark Polk

There are lots of things to do and to see in the wintertime; beautiful winter scenery, snow skiing, hunting, riding snowmobiles and much more. It’s no wonder so many people enjoy using their RV’s year round. When winter approaches each year I get numerous e-mails requesting information about using RV’s in cold temperatures. One reason I haven’t written on this subject in the past is because it would require more than just a short article to thoroughly cover this topic. Another reason for not writing about this in the past is that there are no guarantees that your RV can or will be 100 percent protected from the harsh winter elements by following written advice on the subject.

What I can do is offer you some suggestions and ideas that will help to protect your RV if you plan to use it during the cold winter months. I just can’t guarantee that it will be 100 percent protected. These suggestions and ideas are for short term winter camping in your RV. If you plan to take extended RV trips in cold weather there are many other precautions and measures that need to be considered, like using insulated skirting around the bottom of the RV for example.

Travel trailer RV in winter campingNote: What we will be concentrating on is how to protect your RV during cold weather camping. It is extremely important that you also understand how to protect yourself and other campers in cold temperatures.

One of the first considerations for cold weather RVing is if you will be traveling in temperatures below freezing. If this is the case, and there is water in the RV water system, your plumbing lines or water heater tank could freeze, resulting in costly repair bills, not to mention ruining your winter wonderland RV trip. To avoid this from happening I travel with the water system winterized. It is actually much easier to winterize an RV than most people think it is, and it’s not very expensive either. I have winterized and de-winterized our RV as many as four times in one winter. Note: Our ‘Winterizing & Storing Your RV’ DVD will teach you how to winterize your RV, by yourself, and save money, especially if you enjoy using your RV during the winter months.

The good news is it is still possible to use the bathroom facilities when you are traveling with the RV winterized. We take one gallon jugs filled with water to use in the toilet, and if your holding tanks are not heated you can put some RV antifreeze in the holding tanks to prevent the contents from freezing. Add the RV antifreeze through the toilet for the black water holding tank and down the shower or tub drain for the gray water tank. The antifreeze will also protect the shower or tub P-trap which is usually located below floor level. The amount of antifreeze required for the holding tanks will be based on the size of the tanks, and it will be necessary to add more RV antifreeze as waste water is added to the tanks to prevent the antifreeze from being diluted.

Don’t allow the holding tanks to fill completely, before emptying them, during cold weather camping. This will reduce the chance of freezing, resulting in damage to the holding tanks. Take bottled water along for drinking and other needs like cooking, washing up and brushing your teeth when the RV is winterized. We have a five gallon jug that we always take on trips, filled with tap water from our house, for our pet’s drinking water and our other needs. This comes in handy when the RV is winterized.

When we arrive at our destination I try to select a site that will be exposed to the sun throughout the day, but also where there is some type of wind break available. Position the RV on the site so the front or rear will be facing the brunt of any wind, not the side of the RV. If there is an electrical hook-up I de-winterize the water system so we can use everything. All of the water lines in our motorhome are above floor level, in a heated space, so we don’t need to be too concerned about the water system freezing as long as the RV has heat. We leave the water heater turned on whenever the water heater tank is full so there is no chance of it freezing. Some water heaters operate off of LP gas and electricity. Keep in mind if it’s in the electric mode it will use 9 to 13 amps.

It’s important that you know where all of the plumbing on your RV is located. Some RVs have heat ducts going to the basement storage areas where the water system is exposed to outside temperatures, but many RVs do not. If portions of the RV water system are below floor level, in areas that are not heated, it is possible for it to freeze and damage the water lines. If you are hooked up to an external water supply one option is to leave a faucet in the RV dripping, to keep the water moving, and decrease the possibility of water lines freezing. Another option is to use heat tape to protect the exposed water lines. Heat tape can be purchased at most hardware or building supply stores. Make sure it is suitable for the types of water lines in your RV, and if you plan to use it on a water hose.

If it is extremely cold outside and the possibility exists that the outside water supply could freeze, or if the campground water supply is shut off for the winter, I fill our fresh water holding tank and use it for all of our water requirements. Again, keep in mind where your fresh water tank is located; ours is above floor level in a heated area. If the campgrounds shower facilities are still open it’s a good idea to use them to avoid the gray water holding tank from filling so quickly. In this situation it might be in your best interest to keep the RV winterized and just use the campgrounds facilities.

Tip: If you haven’t purchased your RV yet and you know you will be using an RV in cold weather make sure to include an artic package option when you buy it. Some packages include higher R-factor insulation, enclosed underbelly, heated holding tanks, dual pane windows and more.

RV Expert Mark Polk, seen on TV, is the producer & host of America’s most highly regarded series of DVD’s, videos, books, and e-books.

Sign up for your free “RV Education 101” Newsletter
Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk owner of RV Education 101

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DVD: Winterizing and Storing your RV You’ve had a great year camping, now it’s time to put your RV away for the winter. What do you do? Where do you start? These are common questions, ones that RV expert Mark Polk will answer for you in this instructional DVD. Watch detailed step by step instructions on how to properly winterize and store your RV. A printed checklist comes with your DVD.

Coachmen Fifth Wheel RV Turn Signal & Marker Lights Upgrade

Have you even been pulling your travel trailer or fifth wheel and signaled to make a lane change and the guy next to you just doesn’t seem to get the message. You watch your mirror, waiting for him to take some kind of action that will allow you to move over but he just hangs there next to your trailer.

It’s bad enough when it happens out on the highway, but when you’re in urban traffic trying to maneuver 50 feet of rig for an upcoming turn or lane merge it can get frustrating really fast.

Fifth wheel turn signal/marker light

Think about it, if a motorist is just forward of the end of your trailer, there’s a good chance he can’t see your rear lights and it’s possible the turn signal light on your truck is obscured by the front corner of your trailer.

On our old Prowler fifth wheel the back of the truck was very close to the front of the trailer and the truck tail lights were hard to see from the back of the trailer. My solution was to mount a pair of combination signal/marker lights at the front corner of the fifth wheel.

I really feel that extra signal lights help to make my intention to change lanes apparent to motorists and at night the marker lights help out as well.

When we got our new Coachmen Chaparral fifth wheel one of the first modifications I did was to add an extra pair of signal/marker lights. And, on the theory that more is better I added two more signal lights to each side.

Coachmen Chaparral Turn Signal Lights Upgrade

The red marker light was already there so I placed the amber turn signal light just in front of it. The middle turn signal is just in front of the wheels. The light up by the door is an orginal marker light. The front marker/turn signal light is hard to see in the large photo so I included the inset.

Installing the lights along the skirt of the trailer was as easy as anyone could hope for. The skirting is totally cosmetic and the underside is completely open. I tapped into the wiring for the tail lights for the rear and middle turn signals. For the front turn signal/marker lights I tapped into the junction box for the umbilical cord.

The wiring for the lights runs along the main frame members under the trailer so I wanted to make sure it was well insulated and weather proof. I went to the local builders store and purchased a 100ft 14 gauge outdoor extension cord. It was plenty long enough, durable, had the three conductors I needed. It cost about $12.

There are plenty of different connectors I could have used but I’m a little ‘old school’ so I just soldered and taped the connections.

Chemical Toilet Products Advisory for RVers in California

Prohibited Chemical Toilet Product Ingredients

If you own or spend time in a recreational vehicle (RV) or boat, you know of the odor problems coming from the holding tanks used for sewage (grey and black water tanks) and chemical toilet waste. There are a number of products available to control these odors, but some of these products may contain chemicals that are banned and cannot be sold or used in RV chemical toilets in California.

Class C Motor Home

Many chemicals are banned in these products, but formaldehyde, which is commonly used to reduce odor, in particular, has come to the attention of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Based on chemical information, formaldehyde may be a non-biodegradable toxic chemical substance and you hould avoid purchasing and using any chemical toilet product that lists formaldehyde as an ingredient in any concentration.


Chemical toilet products may contain chemicals that are known to cause septic tank failures by killing the bacteria essential to the treatment process in the septic tank. In 1979, the Prohibited Chemical Toilet Additives law was passed and it banned the manufacture, sale and use in California of non-biodegradable toxic chemicals in chemical toilets or waste facilities (toilets). This law was expanded in 1988 to include a similar ban on the sale and use of halocarbons in products used to clean or unclog a sewage disposal system.

What you need to know about toilet additives

Chemical toilet additives include chemicals that are known to cause septic tank failures by killing the bacteria essential to the treatment process in the septic tank. Formaldehyde can cause these bacteria to die in holding tanks as it controls odor by killing bacteria.

Formaldehyde also kills bacteria necessary to breakdown the wastes to decompose in septic tanks. When your holding tank wastes are disposed into a “dump station” at a campground or RV park (i.e., usually to a septic system), the formaldehyde may kill the bacteria in the septic tank which can eventually clog the system. When a septic system fails, sewage wastes does not breakdown and can cause an increased risk to people from contact with raw sewage.

What you can do to help

  • Use holding tank deodorizers that Do Not Contain Formaldehyde, and look for Biodegradable (enzyme or citrus-based) products instead.
  • Minimize your use of holding tank deodorizers by using toilet facilities at rest stops when you can.
  • Follow the directions for toilet additives and add only what is recommended.
  • Tell other RVers and boaters about what’s safe and legal to use in their toilets.

These chemicals have not been evaluated by DTSC, but based on their potential impact to dump stations should be avoided in holding tank deodorizers.

Note from Steven & Fran: The above is offered here as information only because it is a government publication. We do not endorse or necessarily agree with it. Careful reading of the Advisory’ shows that formaldehyde has not been studied for it’s affect on septic systems and is not one of the banned products. We have read conflicting evidence that formaldehyde does not adversely effect septic systems.

A Checklist for Buying an RV

A Checklist for Buying an RV

To determine the Recreation Vehicle that best fits your needs, your wants and your lifestyle, nothing can replace thorough research before buying a new or used RV.

Spend time researching different types of RVs, various makes and models and a variety of floor plans first-hand. RV shows let evaluate lots of RVs offered by several RV dealers in one location. That makes it easier to comparison shop.

After you’ve narrowed you search, work closely with an RV sales associate at the RV dealership to examine various features of the recreation vehicle you’re interested in purchasing, including its creature comforts and living space design, its engine specifications (when applicable), its tow-ability (when applicable), and the ins-and-outs of its optional equipment, including exactly how the refrigerator, stove, awnings, toilets, water pumps and holding tanks work.

Of course the more RVs you compare the better chance you’ll make the right decision. But it can get confusing and hard to remember which RV had what feature. The easiest way to keep it all straight is to use a RV buying checklist when inspecting each RV, make lots of notes and even take photos.

The check list below is meant to be a ‘starter’ for your own. You should add and delete items to make it your RV buying checklist.

RV Exterior Item Overall
Check for / verify


_____ General Appearance – Are there dents, dings, scratches or stains? Fading paint?
_____ Are there rusted areas?
_____ Check for loose screws. If they won’t tighten it may be a sign of dry-rot

Exterior compartments

_____ Are there locks on the compartments doors?
_____ General Appearance – Are there dents, dings, scratches or stains? Fading paint?
_____ Are they dry and clean, with no rusty areas?


_____ Does the awning open & close easy?
_____ Does the fabric/vinyl roll seem straight? No wrinkles etc.
_____ Is the fabric or/vinyl in good condition?
_____ Are the awning support arms straight and otherwise in good condition?


_____ Check for punctures and cracks in roof seams. On rubber roofs a little chalking is okay as long as the rubber seems to be resilient.
_____ Check for loose screws on metal trim where the roof material meets the side wall. RV Interior Item Overall
Check for / verify


_____ Is it big enough?
_____ Are the toilet and vanity in good working order?
_____ Check the condition of the shower floor (make sure there’s no cracks and step in to make sure to shower floor is firm).
_____ Is there an exhaust fan? Does it work?
_____ Is there a medicine cabinet?


_____ Check battery electrolyte level. A low level is a sign of neglect.
_____ Ask for the purchase date ( less than 2 yrs old is better) and check for condition.

Entry Door/s

_____ Is the door sound? No bulged panels or loose screws. No sign of water leaks.
_____ Check door hinges for excessive wear.
_____ Does the door close properly without slamming?
_____ Is there a deadbolt lock? does it work? Is there a Key?

Exhaust fans

_____ Do the overhead vent fans work?
_____ Does the stove vent fan work?


_____ Check the condition of all carpet and flooring.
_____ Check for soft spots on the floor (indicating water leaks).


_____ Start the furnace and be sure that it is working smoothly. Flame should not be too blue.
_____ Is the thermostat working properly?

Air conditioner   _____ Run the air conditioner for at least 15 minutes to make sure the air gets cold.

Holding tanks

_____ Add water and check for leaks. Check the fresh water and both gray and black waste water tanks.
_____ Are the dump valves working properly?
_____ Inspect the sewer hose and all seals.


_____ Is there enough storage?
_____ Is the kitchen table big enough?
_____ How clean is the chair / sofa?
_____ Is there a privacy door / curtain?
_____ Are the mattresses in good condition?
_____ Is there enough room for everybody to sleep?


_____ Check in cupboards for signs of previous water leaks.
_____ Look for warped or stained walls and ceiling – sure signs of previous water leaks.
_____ Check for “soft spots” around windows, vents and along the floor.
_____ Look under sinks for signs of previous water leaks.


_____ Are any of the light fixture covers damaged?
_____ Do the lights work properly?


_____ Are all cabinet and drawer latches working properly?


_____ Does the RV have and owner’s manual?
_____ Are there separate manuals for the appliances and equipment?


_____ Does it work?
_____ Is it big enough?
_____ Is it easy to reach and use?


_____ Is the RV wired for a phone line? This may not be important but it may be nice if the RV will be lived in for a long period of time at the same place.

Propane (LPG)

_____ Check the hoses for cracks / damage.
_____ Inspect the LP tanks for damage / excessive rust.
_____ Check the dates to determine expiration. Portable LP cylinders must be re-certified at 12 years of age.

Rear ladder

_____ Check the condition of the ladder.


_____ Does it stay cold using both propane and electric?
_____ Is the freezer icy cold?
_____ It takes several hours for the refrigerator to get really cold but you should know after an hour if it’s working.


_____ Look for water stains and sagging
_____ Is the ceiling clean and attractive.

Walls   _____ Check interior walls, bathroom, shower, closets, for firmness


_____ Are the oven and stovetop burners in good working condition?


_____ Is a TV included?
_____ Is there a working TV antenna?
_____ Is the RV wired for cable TV? Usually there is a TV connection in the living area and one in the bedroom on larger RVs.


_____ Check the tires for wear and cracking (sun damage). If the tires are over five years old they need to be replaced even if there is still tread on them.


_____ Is there a filter in the water inlet?
_____ Is the water pump working properly?
_____ Try all the water faucets
_____ Check for leaks around the water pump, water heater and under sinks

Water heater

_____ Is the water heater working properly?
_____ Is the tank big enough?


_____ Are there any items still under warranty?
_____ Are the warranty cards available?


_____ Are the window screens in good condition?
_____ Do the windows all open and close properly?

You may also want to read:


Brake-Friendly Driving Technique Demonstrated by Workhorse Tech Team

This article provided by the Workhorse Chassis Technical Team

On a trip to California the Workhorse Chassis Technical Team made notes on driving technique when descending a mountain pass in Death Valley.


The motor home was built on a Workhorse W22 gas chassis, fully laden to 22,000 lb. GVWR. The driver, let’s call him Mike, is an experienced driver with a valid Commercial Driver’s License and is also a professional automotive technician. We asked Mike to drive the vehicle in a fashion that would conserve the brakes, but also be reasonable in using the engine and transmission for braking (i.e. drive it like you own it!).

We were traveling in a south-westerly direction into Death Valley National Park from the Nevada side on SR-374, with a planned stop at Stovepipe Wells Village in the park. This is quite a steep descent with almost 10 miles of 7 percent grade and 4 miles of 5 percent grade, with a total drop of around 4,000 foot over 12 miles of driving. The speed limit on some road sections inside the National Park on this road is 45 mph, so Mike shifted down to second gear as soon as we hit the down-grade. The motor home was a 2005 model with the 5 speed Allison transmission and equipped with the ‘Grade-Brake’ feature, but Mike elected not to use the Grade Brake, instead preferring to manually shift down using the column shift.

Workhorse chassis logoMike would allow the vehicle to run against engine compression with the engine speed varying between 4,000 rpm to 5,200 rpm, depending on the grade. Each time we hit 5,200 rpm the transmission would force a shift to 3rd in order to protect the engine. Each time this happened Mike applied the brake for a few seconds to scrub off speed and this allowed the transmission to downshift to 2nd gear again, allowing maximum engine braking in the safe speed range. Drivers should not be concerned about the high rpms in this situation because, as noted, the transmission will automatically adjust when needed to protect the engine. Also, if Mike had elected to use the Grade Brake feature, the down- and up-shifting would have happened automatically once he touched the brake pedal.

Overall, Mike applied the brake only seven times during the 14-mile descent and this includes the final stop at the T-junction with the North Highway! Most of the applications were of short duration, with less than 5 seconds of brake pedal application required to control the vehicle speed.

Only once did Mike use the brake pedal for longer on a twisty section to ensure we remained at a safe speed. The total time of brake application was only around 45 seconds. This was quite an enlightening illustration of how driving technique learned on heavy trucks can allow for safe navigation of the most demanding descents with no danger of overheating and damaging the brakes on your motor home.

You may also want to read: Mountain driving: Let your engine do the Braking

AGM, Absorbed Glass Mat Battery – Pros & Cons

An AGM – Absorbed Glass Mat battery is a type of battery that can be used as a starter battery or a deep cycle, but is not as good at either of these uses as ones designed for a specific purpose. It is a middle choice that gives you some of both sides of battery use.

A starter battery delivers a sudden, quick burst of energy such as is needed to start a motor. These batteries have a high CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) rating. They lose their charge level fast and should be recharged as soon as possible. Typically these live a life of being at or near 100% charge, losing down to the 70% level (while cranking the engine) and then being quickly charged back up. They accept a charge fast. These batteries will run something such as a trolling motor, but not for as long as a deep cycle battery. You can use them as House Batteries in an RV, but they will discharge fast and wear out fast.

A deep cycle battery is made for long slow discharges, such as when running a trolling motor or as house batteries in an RV. They are often called Marine Batteries. They live a life of going from 100% charge slowly down to about 10%, then being slowly charged back up. It can take 24 hours to fully charge a deep cycle battery. In an emergency it can be used to crank the motor, but this will drain it fast.

The AGM battery falls in the middle. It works okay as a starting battry, but recharges slower than a high CCA starter battery. It can work some as a house battery, but only works well down to about the 50% level, but it charges faster than a deep cycle. It is a sealed, no maintenance battery. It is about twice the cost of other batteries, but will also last longer.

All the electrolyte (acid) is contained in the glass mats. They cannot spill even if broken. since there is no liquid to freeze and expand which makes the nearly immune to freezing damage.

Nearly all AGM batteries are “recombinant” which means the Oxygen and Hydrogen recombine inside the battery. The recombining is typically 99+% efficient, so almost no water is lost.

The charging voltages are the same as for any standard battery – no need for any special charging systems.

The internal resistance is extremely low so there is almost no heating of the battery even under heavy charge and discharge currents. Most AGM batteries have no charge or discharge current limits.

Deep Cycle Battery Care and Maintenance DVD by Mark Polk that is guaranteed to save you money and headaches. Take care of your deep cycle batteries and they will take care of you.

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!

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

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

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