How to Sanitize Your RV Fresh Water System

by Steven Fletcher:

Insuring clean, safe drinking water in your motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer requires sanitizing your fresh water system. For a new or new-to-you RV you will want to sanitize before your first use of the system. You may also want to sanitize the system if your RV has not been used for some time, for example if it has been stored for the winter.

Generally Accepted Method to Sanitize Fresh Water

The generally accepted method of sanitizing your RV’s fresh water system as outlined below involves filling the fresh water tank with a solution of household bleach and running the solution through each faucet. Then letting it stand for at least three hours. Finally, flush the system once or twice to remove the taste and smell.

This procedure is one you’ll find in most any book about RVing it tried and true but be sure to read on to find out what I do.

Start with a nearly full fresh water tank.

Turn the water heater off and let the water cool.

Dilute 1/4 cup of household bleach for each 15 gallons of tank capacity in to a gallon of water.

Add the chlorine/water solution to the water tank. (Never pour straight bleach into the RV fresh water tank. )

One faucet at a time, let the chlorinated water run through them for one or two minutes. You should be able to smell the chlorine. (Make sure you are using the water pump and not an external water supply.)

Top off the RV fresh water tank and let stand for at least three hours over night is better.

Completely drain the system by flushing the faucets for several minutes each. Open the fresh water tank drain valve to speed up emptying the tank.and Open the hot water tank drain plug and drain until it is empty.

Close all valves and faucets and drain plugs.

Fill water tank with fresh water.

Flush each faucet for several minutes each repeating until the tank is again empty. (Make sure you are using the water pump and not an external water supply.)

Fill the tank again. The water should now be safe to drink but if the chlorine odor is too strong you can repeat the fresh water flush.

Your RV fresh water system should now be safe for use.

The way I Sanitize My RV’s Fresh Water Tank.

A friend and fellow full time RVer, Bill Randolph told me how he uses something other than household bleach which works well for him and I also started using it. I think it is worth passing on to you. Before he retired, Bill spent twenty years in the swimming pool business. He’s an expert when it comes to sanitizing swimming pools and spas and says the same rules apply to RV fresh water systems.

Bill uses Chlorinating Concentrate (Sodium Dichloro-s-Triazinetricone or Sodium Dichlor for short). Sodium Dichlor contains 62% available chlorine. Compare that to household bleach which has something close to 3%. One pound of Sodium Dichlor is equal to 8 gallons of bleach! Also, household bleach contains other stuff, including a lot of salt, and that salt and other stuff is what causes the bad taste and why you have to flush the fresh water tank so well.

Bill says it takes only 1 teaspoon of the concentrate per 100 gallons of water to initially sanitize the system. Remember to run water through all the faucets. It’s okay to use the full teaspoon even on smaller tanks because you will be flushing the tank before adding the water you intend to drink but it seems wasteful.

Like most of us, Bill travels with a near empty tank to reduce weight. So if he arrives at park where he plans to stay and they have well water, he drops a half teaspoon per 100 gallons of the concentrate into the fill tube and fills his water tank. This insures the system will always be sanitized. No, you do not have to flush again. It’s the equivalent to drinking chlorinated city water. If you are filling your tank from a source that is already chlorinated then you don’t need to add the concentrate.

That said, if you don’t like to drink chlorinated water, don’t add the concentrate to the water you intend to drink. Assuming, you fill your water tank from a trusted source you should be safe. Or, you can add the concentrate and then filter the water you drink or cook with.

Truth is I almost always seem to be filling the fresh water tank from a chlorinated source (city water supply) so I seldom need to to use the concentrate. And we do filter our drinking water.

This is not a case where more is better. This stuff is concentrated and it’s best to use just what Bill recommends.

Because Sodium Dichlor is so highly concentrated you only need to carry a very small container… buy the smallest container available. And it is dry crystals so there is less chance of a spill. However, because it is so concentrated it is highly corrosive so you do have to be careful how you store it and use it. You should be able to find Sodium Dichlor (Chlorinating Concentrate) at any pool supplies or spa store. Bill says there are several brands to choose from but brand should not be a factor in your choice… it’s all the same stuff.

You may also want to read: RV Fresh Water System Care and Maintenance and RV Fresh Water System Accessories

Portable Generator or RV Generator for Recreational Vehicles

Portable Generator Question:

We just bought a new fifth wheel. I’m researching the different alternatives for a 4kw generator. My question is, are portable generators such as those available at Home Depot, adequate for occasional (non-campground) use?

I’m thinking of just throwing it in the bed of the truck to use when the A/C is needed for sleeping or we want to run the microwave on a boondocking trip. I can’t really afford a good RV class generator right now.


Most experienced ‘campers’ have gone through this dilemma and many of us have learned the hard way (is there any other way?) that the RV class generator is the only way to go. The basic reasons are that RV generators have about three times the horse power and run at around 1800 rpm., which is much easier to muffle. They also have electric start and are built for many hours of continuous use.

But if a portable is the only thing you can afford then here’s few thoughts compiled from a discussion on an online discussion group mailing list.

Portable or “contractor-grade” generators typically have cruder engines which are noisier of themselves, and run twice as fast as RV-type generators creating more noise. Compare the noise ratings. To make a fair comparison, make sure that the rating is given at the same distance e.g., “55db at 20 feet”.

These days portable or contractor grade generators have gotten quieter so if you can hear one run you may be satisfied with the noise level. Still it’s not likely to be as quite as an RV generator.

Check the height of the generator to make sure it doesn’t stick up past the bed rails of your truck and *rob* your clearance between your fifth wheel and the truck.

Running a generator in the truck bed often amplifies the sound. If you plan to leave it in the truck while it’s in operation, you can (1) mount the generator on sound-absorbing feet or thick rubber pad, and (2) supplement the stock muffler with an automobile or other large muffler. This will not reduce the mechanical noise made by the motor though.

Boondocking in the desert at Quartzsite we saw many RVers with portable generators set down in a wash (below grade) away from the camp site. This significantly reduced the noise level. The drawbacks are having to unload the generator and locate it in the wash and the need for a heavy gauge extension cord long enough to reach the RV. Also consider the walk out to start and stop the generator when you want to run it. There is a possibility of theft. And of course what’s quiet for you may be noisy for your neighbors.

“Throwing” a 150-lb generator into and out of the truck bed can really get old.

The exhaust system may not be an approved spark arrestor type, as required in many camping areas… although it’s sometimes an option.

An RV air conditioner is a large load for all but the biggest portable generators. Consider if you will be using the A/C, and therefore the generator, for several hours at a time. Make sure the generator is rated for continuous use.

The above also applies to a travel trailer assuming it’s pulled by a truck but motor home owners will have the added problem of storage. If you have space in your motor home to store a generator you should really consider installing an RV generator.

There are many RVers who are using the very small and quiet portable generators from Honda, Yamaha and other manufacturers to provide minimal power for TV’s, computer systems and Microwaves. While most are not powerful enough to run an RV air conditioner or a number of lesser appliances at the same time the RVers who use them are satisfied with them for what they can do. Also, these small generators are used more casually for short time use.

You may also want to read: Most Frequently Asked Questions about RV Generators and RV Electrical System Basics

Full Time RVing and Working on the Road

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by Steven Fletcher:
Earning a living while full time RVing depends a lot on your lifestyle and how much money you need to get along… if you have some pension, have a lot of bills etc. There are as many ways to full time RV as there are full time RVers and as many ways to work while full timing as there are full timers who work. Everyone’s health and abilities and interests are unique and that’s what determines the kind of work they do.

To get an idea of the jobs available for RVers visit Workamper News and Workers on Wheels You will find lots of listings for jobs at both sites. Most of these jobs are in campgrounds and RV parks as managers and maintenance. registration, bathroom cleaning, mini-mart, and grounds keeping. But other kinds of jobs are also listed. Also check out the Coolworks web site. It’s not specifically for RVers but does have jobs for and of interest to RVers.

If you have construction related skills you will have no problem finding work. The park we called nome-base for many years always has several construction workers. Most professional skills will allow you to full time.

There is also seasonal work… that’s what Fran is doing as I write this. She works at the local peach cannery dispatching trucks that haul the peaches into the cannery. The job lasts about three months… July thru September… and pays enough to get work done on the truck and RV etc and put a little in savings. She gets to draw unemployment most of the rest of the year and that, along with a little social security, gets us by. If we manage to pick up a few dollars with an odd job or two that’s all the better.

I know of a couple who ran off and joined the circus… she tutored the circus children. I don’t remember what the husband did if anything.

I knew a young man who was a computer programmer and telecommuted to his job from an RV park in Lake Havasu Arizona.

There is a couple who manage mini-storage lots temporarily until the company can find permanent managers.


Kay Seliskar does professional seminars all over the US. If they can’t drive to the next seminar she flies there. Tom, her husband then often drives on to the next place they want to visit and she flies back to the nearest airport. Tom does photography and is developing a business.

The bottom line is it is easy to find work, or make work, but you might have to be flexible about what you are willing to do.

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RV Club Directory

One of the best things about RVing is meeting new friends who share the same interests. Below you’ll find some of the larger RV clubs but don’t let their size fool you. They all have many chapters and you are sure to find one that fits your interests.

The Good Sam Club: Membership is over a million with many chapters accross the country. The biggest RV club in the world it offers members many benifits. Perhaps the best member benefit is a ten percent discount at most RV parks. And its monthly magazine Highways is one of the best, too, and alone worth the price of the $19 annual membership. Also Check out the RV Emergency Road Service from The Good Sam Club

Family Motor Coaching Association: (FMCA) A club for motorhome owners only. Hold national and regional rallies and publishes a informative magazine that surpasses many others in useful and entertaining content. Many member benefits simular to Good Sam.

Escapees: (SKPs) Founded by and for full-timers but it will be of interest to those who travel a lot. Holds two national and several regional rallies each year. Has chapters across America, and several member-owned campgrounds. The club magazine is packed with mostly member-written information. Major benefit is the Mail Fowarding Service which is generally considered the best for RVers.

Loners on Wheels: The most popular group for single RVers. The club holds well-attended rallies. Also owns an RV park in Deming NM.

Loners of America: Like Loners on Wheels.

SMART RV Club: For active and retired military, this organization has 56 chapters and 3,500 members.

RVing Women: This is the biggest and best RV club for women RVers. Any RVing woman, whether single, widowed should join.

National African American RVers Association: NAARVA is a nationwide camping club dedicated to providing family support for African American RVers.

Looking for others who own the same brand of RV? There’s probably a club. Check the manufacturer’s web site.


RV Air Deflectors for Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels Tow Vehicles do They Work?

by Steven Fletcher
I’m personally not convinced RV Wind deflectors for travel trailers and fifth wheels, are truly worthwhile. I’m not saying they don’t help but just not enough good to be worth the initial purchase price and all the hassles etc.

I am not an expert on aerodynamics but here’s what I think…

First, all the advertising you see shows a side profile with the air flowing nicely over the top of the rig. Usually a fifth wheel. But take a look at your rig from the front. There’s a lot of trailer hanging out the sides of the pickup and that’s a lot of drag. Now picture a wind deflector on top the cab. It is difficult to see how one can make much of a difference as small as they are by comparison.

Now think of that same wind deflector as a big air dam when you are not pulling the RV. Unless it is removable, it seems to me it will wipe out any fuel economy gained while pulling your trailer. Removing it may be an option but if you full time, or you are on vacation, where do you leave it when not in use?

Big Rigs (18 wheelers) probably get real benefit from a wind deflector for two reasons.

The tractor is as wide as the trailer and the wind deflector is as wide (or nearly so) as the trailer and as tall as the trailer.

Big rigs are almost always pulling a trailer.

If wind deflectors really worked on RVs I think we would see more of them being used.

Comment by Dan Deising:
I have purchased a wind deflector (cheap one for about $175.00) , I have use it all last year and have noticed a difference on real windy days. My wife and I always go camping with another couple. I have an old 1996 Chevy 1500 and I pull a 30′ 5th wheel, The couple we go with has a 2005 GMC 4 dr pulling a 28′ TT. On windy days, when we get to the camp sites he always makes a comment on how windy it was.

When the wind is gusting it wants to push the truck over, now using the wind deflector, I don’t notice it much anymore. Before I had one, I was very sceptical. It’s not as high or as wide, but, the front of my 5th wheel isn’t flat or square it’s round, so I think that’s why it helps.

You may also want to read: RV Air Deflectors for Travel Trailer and Fifth Wheel RV Tow Vehicles that WorkInstalling and Using an RV Air Deflector

RV Air Deflectors for Travel Trailer and Fifth Wheel RV Tow Vehicles that Work

by Guest Author Bob Thompson, Seattle, WA USA

I Used to work at Boeing and know a bit about aerodynamics. Yes the little sizes will not work for a 11 ft. high or bigger RV fifth wheel trailer. To work well and for a good payback of money and time we needed to find Something BIG like on a semi truck day cab.

Like I said, I now a little about aerodynamics and a deflector has to with the size; height and width of the truck be equal to about 75% of the trailers. If the deflector or combination of them is not this high and wide then it just won’t work well enough to bother. In physics terms the deflector needs to create a air flow pattern at highway speeds that with the lowest drag coefficient or it’s own lowest possible air resistance; direct the oncoming air up and around the front of the RV 5th wheel trailer. The wind deflector has to be as aerodynamic shaped and be set at a LOW angle of about 30 degrees. That means that a RV cab over deflector for a RV 5th wheel trailer needs to be about 6 ft. wide and stand at least 3 ft. high above the cab of the RV pickup cab. Also like you said the deflectors have to be wider to get the air movement around the sides of the trailer. Just tell people a good deflector shape should look like the top nose of a cargo or transport air plane and be 6 ft. wide x 3 ft. high, that they’ll understand.

After searching the Web for a bit I found a BIG RV fifth wheel trailer wind deflector that comes with a pair of side wings. We have been traveling around all summer and the truck has picked up a good 20%.of MPG. Me and a buddy put the cab over wind deflector and the side wings on in about a hour. Hey after driving south about 1000 miles there was only a few bugs on the trailer to clean in a few minutes; for me that’s time fishing or golfing rather than cleaning. Well for me the No or a little trailer bug and debris time that is saved cleaning on the trailer after every trip is worth the deflector alone. Heck spending a hour or two cleaning the trailer is not pleasant. The wife likes it because I am a Happier person and she gets to figure on what else to spend the money we saved on.

The mounting brackets that came with it lets the cab over deflector lay down in a couple of minutes with the air going through it. They have another hinge bracket I might try that lets it lay down behind and below the cab, a nice gismo feature. I park the truck under a high car port so there is not a problem with clearance most of the time.

It is too bad that the education at the schools don’t teach basic science or physics more effectively so people would learn how to apply it/them for their benefit.

We got the cab over deflector and the side wings at So some things out there do really work. Read more about how Bob installed and uses RV Air Deflector.


Note from Steven & Fran: We offer web space for guest author articles because we believe there is always room for another viewpoint and because we surely don’t know everything there is to know about RVs and the RVing lifestyle. in that spirit we invite you to submit your own articles. We’re happy to give you credit and provide a link to your website.

You may also want to read: RV Air Deflectors for Travel Trailer and Fifth Wheel Tow Vehicles do They Work?RV Air Deflectors, Do They Work?

RV Fresh Water System Care and Maintenance for Fifth Wheels, Travel Trailers & Motorhomes

by Steven Fletcher
Your motorhhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer’s on-board fresh water supply is important to your health. Proper care and maintenance is a must.

Use a separate, dedicated drinking water approved hose for your fresh water. Use a different color hose for your utility hose so you will never mix them up. Remember, you will be using your utility hose for lots of things including cleaning the black water tank and sewer hose!

When not in use, connect the ends of your fresh water hose together to keep the dirt and creepy crawlers out.

Know your water source. In our travels around the US we generally assume that water is safe to drink. However, RVers have reported filling their water tank with rusty or muddy water from campground taps. And some water, while safe, tastes really bad. Run some water from the faucet into a glass and check for clarity and odor. If the RV park water is not clear or it has an odor you may want to wait until you get to the next place to fill your fresh water tank. When we started RVing we used a water filter on the incoming water supply but now we just filter our drinking water. If the park water has an especially bad taste or is hard we may buy bottled water for drinking.

Keep in mind that filters will remove contaminates such as sand and rust and will improve taste and odor but a filter is not a purifier and will not kill bacteria and other microorganisms.

Before you connect you RV to a curbside faucet check the pressure. Your motorhome, travel trailer or fifth wheel’s fresh water system is designed to operate at pressures of 40 to 70 pounds per square inch. Water pressures at the supply may be much higher… over 100 psi is possible. To protect your plumbing and your water hose you can use a pressure regulator at the faucet end of the hose.

I sometimes do not use our regulator if the park pressure is low in order to get greatest water volume. The problem with not using a regulator is that the park’s water pressure can very. Even if it is safe when tested it may not stay that way.

You may also want to read: Sanitizing Your RV Fresh Water System and RV Fresh Water System Accessories

RV Water Pump Basics for Motorhomes, Fifth Wheels & Travel Trailers

by Steven Fletcher
When not hooked up to an external supply, fresh water must be pumped from the on-board RV water tank using an RV water pump. When the power is switched on, the pump works automatically whenever a faucet is turned on. It’s normal for the pump to pulsate. The water pump is preset to keep a more-or-less constant water pressure. When the pump senses a drop in pressure, because you’re using water, it runs long enough to restore the pressure and then shuts off. Depending on the demand for water that pressure can be restored rapidly causing the pulsing.

You can install a device called an accumulator tank that will minimize the pulsating. Also new model RV water pumps are available that claim to eliminate the pulsation and noise.

If your motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer water pump is excessively noisy check to see how it’s mounted. The pump’s mounting screws should go through rubber grommets and the screws should NOT be tightened down on the mounting grommets thus allowing the pump to ‘float’ on it’s mounting. This floating helps insulate the vibration of the water pump from the RV’s frame making operate more quietly.

It’s a good idea to switch off the pump when not in use… especially when leaving the RV unattended but it is OK to leave it on if you want.

IMPORTANT: If the water pump runs periodically when all faucets are off you have a leak in the water system. The leak may be in the plumbing or it could be in the pump itself. If you are sure that your plumbing is not leaking then the leak is most likely in the pump’s internal check valve. This check value is needed to keep water from flowing back through the pump into the freshwater holding tank when your motorhome, fifth whee or travel trailer is connected to an external water system. In fact, if you notice that the water level in the freshwater tank is rising it’s good sign that the pump is at fault. There are rebuild kits for most water pumps or, depending on how old the pump is, you may want to replace it.

We’ve been in parks where the water pressure has been very low so we had to use our water pump to boost the park’s water pressure to take showers. It works because the pump draws additional water from the fresh water tank to supplement that coming from the park.

If the pressure of the water coming from the hook-up is less than the pre-set low pressure of your fresh water pump then water will be pumped from your fresh water tank to increase the pressure to that of the pre-set high pressure of the pump. If you do not want to pump water from your freshwater tank turn the water pump off.

The two most common fresh water plumbing systems are:

1: A hose connection which bypasses the fresh water tank and RV water pump and a separate fill spout used to fill the fresh water tank directly.

2: A hose connection with a valve somewhere near the connection or in a utility area… turn it one way to fill the fresh water tank the other way for direct use.

There is a check valve in the plumbing system that permits the outside water supply to charge the system without going into the freshwater tank. This could be a check valve inside the water pump and it may be the only one or there may also be an external check valve on the discharge side of the water pump.

RV Water Heater Basics

The Water Heater installed in your RV is primarily a propane gas appliance. The water heater installed in most RVs typically has a 6-gallon tank but larger RVs may have 10-gallon units.

Dependent upon the model installed, your RV water heater may operate only on gas or on gas and/or 120 Volt AC.

Your RV water heater may have a gas pilot light which will have to be lit each time you set up camp. Or it may have an automatic, direct spark ignition (DSI) system which allows the water heater to be operated by an electric switch inside the RV.

RV water heater by-pass valve kit

Your RV water may have a by-pass valve kit installed. The by-pass kit is a popular option that allows for easier drainage of the hot water heater tank and winterization of the unit saving time and reducing the amount of anti-freeze needed. The by-pass kit is installed near the cold water inlet of the water heater and allows for blockage of water flow into the water heater.

All water heaters in recreational vehicles are equipped with a pressure relief valve that is designed to open if the temperature of the water within reaches 210 degrees F or if excessive pressure builds up.

When the water supply pressure reaches 50 pounds per square inch (PSI), the relief valve will open and water will drip from the valve. The valve will close automatically once the pressure falls below 50 PSI. This dripping is normal and does not indicate a malfunctioning or defective valve.

Also, when water is heated it expands and pressure can become greater than 50 PSI within the closed water system of the recreational vehicle and this will also cause weeping at the pressure relief valve.

One way to minimize relief valve weeping is by maintaining an air pocket at the top of the water heater tank. The air pocket forms naturally by design but will reduce overtime through normal use. See RV Water Heater Care & Maintenance for instruction on how to restore the air pocket.

Prior to operating the RV water heater for the first time, be sure there is water in the heating tank. Do so by first checking to see that the water heater by-pass valve, if installed, is open to let water flow into the tank. Next, connect the RV to a water source or turn on the onboard water pump. Open a hot-water tap and wait till water is flowing with no air in the line. Once water is flowing from the tap the heating tank is full and it is safe to operate the water heater.

The information above is provided as general information. Please carefully read the manufacturers users manual for complete operational and safety instructions.

You may also want to read: RV Water Heater Care & Maintenance

Why You Should Know Your RV Travel Trailer Weight

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Why You Should Know Your RV Travel Trailer Weight ]]> Most Recreational Vehicle manufacturers provide a dry or empty weight for RV travel trailers. However, to select a proper tow vehicle and RV hitch, you must know how much your travel trailer weighs fully loaded.

For example, when you are towing a travel trailer the gross weight (fully loaded weight) includes the weight of the trailer water, propane, safety equipment, supplies and personal items.

Develop a realistic estimate of the gross weight of your trailer. The time you spend doing this and getting properly equipped will save you time and money in preventing unexpected repairs to your tow vehicle and unanticipated breakdowns while on the road.

Recreational Vehicle Weight Related Terms Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Amount the Recreational Vehicle may weigh when fully loaded.
Tow Rating Weight a tow vehicle can tow. This figure may vary depending on the vehicles equipment, such as a manual or automatic transmission and whether it is equipped with four-wheel drive.
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) Permissible combined weight of the tow vehicle, rv travel trailer, passengers, equipment, fuel, etc., that the tow vehicle can handle.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) Weight a single axle can carry.

In addition to speaking with RV dealers and RVers who use RV trailers, the best way to know the actual weight of your trailer is to weigh it at a public scale.

RV manufacturers consider the loaded weight of a trailer when specifying tongue weightthe amount of the trailers weight that presses down on the trailer hitch. Too little tongue weight can cause the trailer to sway. Too much tongue weight can cause many problems, including not enough weight on the front wheels of the tow vehicle. When this occurs, the tow vehicle will be less responsive to steering. A weight-distributing hitch can remedy this problem by transferring weight to the front axle of the tow vehicle.

Manufacturers also establish the gross axle weight and provide a rating that denotes the maximum weight a single axle can carry. Knowing these weights will help you when it is time to load your trailer. Remember that the gross axle weight rating listed on the tow vehicles certification label must not be exceeded.

You may also want to read : How to Weigh a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel RVRV Tow Vehicle Basics… weight ratings, tow packages & hitchesHitching & Unhitching a Fifth Wheel RV


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