Filed under: Navigator, RV Maintenance
Mark, My Words: Q & A with Mark Nemeth – September 2013
This month, we’ll talk about leaks, storage issues, and cleaning the propane burner in your fridge. Since winter is coming all too soon, send me any questions you have about winterizing and we’ll cover that in upcoming columns.
We have a 1997 Starcraft Rene trailer. The fridge works extremely well on AC, but when I switch it to gas, it doesn’t seem to want to cool down. How long does it normally take for the fridge to get cool? Scott.
It can take 4-8 hours for the fridge to initially cool down when you first turn it on. Most fridges cool a little bit faster on propane, in my experience. If your fridge works well on AC power but not on propane, the most likely problem is either a dirty burner or a clogged chimney. First, turn off the fridge. Then, open the outside access panel for the fridge. You will see the gas valve and the piping that goes to the burner assembly. Most fridges have a small metal plate or cover over the burner that is easily removed by removing one or two screws. With the plate off, you can see the burner. Use a small brush to remove any bits of rust and gunk from the burner area. Compressed air can be used to blow out the chimney, which is the tube opening directly above the burner. Protect your eyes with safety goggles before using the air, as bits of rust may fly around. Here’s a website with some good pictures of the burner and the covers: http://www.rvparksrus.com/keep-your-fridge-cooler-and-more-efficient-clean-the-burner/ Once you have it all cleaned out and before you replace the covers, turn the fridge back on in gas mode and take a look at the flame being produced by the burner. It should be a nice even blue flame. If cleaning doesn’t fix the problem, it may be time to take the fridge to a fridge doctor.
I am a long-time RVer and know all about keeping tanks clean and sanitized.
I recently bought a new travel trailer and took it out for its first trip. There was a real strong rotten-egg smell coming up through both the bathroom cabinet and the kitchen cabinet. It was not coming from sink drains, and it was not coming from the new water heater. It happened while on both full hookups and dry camping. It could also be smelled on the outside of the unit. Called our dealer about it and he said that was a new one on him, but he would ask the Eclipse dealer and get back with us. Do you have any ideas? I will appreciate any advice. Dick.
The fact that it can be smelled both on the outside and inside of the RV immediately gets me thinking “leak.” In a new RV, if something in the holding tank plumbing didn’t get glued or sealed properly and a leak resulted, you’d experience odors coming up into the RV through the openings in the floor where the pipes pass through and would most likely also smell it outside of the RV. An inspection of the tanks and associated valves and plumbing should be the first order of business. If there are no leaks, then it is possible that a vent pipe isn’t connected properly between the holding tank and the roof vent, or there may be some other new-construction-related mistake that is allowing tank odors to get loose. Since it is a new RV, a trip to the dealer and a complete inspection ought to identify the problem.
This winter I will not be living in my RV and traveling to warmer climates. I will have it winterized, then leave it at my daughter’s farm. My question is, do I have to take the batteries out if I can leave it plugged in for the winter (Wisconsin), or does keeping it plugged in keep the batteries safe from freezing? What do you suggest? Mary
It’s fine to leave the RV plugged in over the winter, and the converter should keep the batteries up as long as it is plugged into a reliable source of AC power. However, someone will need to check your house batteries at least once a month and add water as needed. Many RV converters will slowly boil off the water in the batteries during a long storage period. Don’t forget to remove any freezable food and things like toiletries and cleaning products. Running a small heat source inside the RV may also be a good idea. Also, be sure to drain all tanks and winterize the plumbing system. In extremely cold conditions, your batteries will probably be happier if you remove them from the rig and store them indoors in a garage or building that is protected from freezing. In extreme conditions, batteries can freeze, and when that happens, they turn into boat anchors. When storing deep-cycle batteries outside of the rig, it’s not necessary to keep a trickle charger on them all the time. You’ll be better off letting them set for 3-4 weeks and then place a regular portable battery charger on them overnight to bring them up to a full charge. They’ll be happier that way and consume less water. Check the water when you charge them. Given the potential for extreme cold in Wisconsin, I would opt to remove the batteries for storage.
Hi, a very newbie here. One month ago, I purchased a class-C Winnebago Escape, and I will store it outside a month or two at a time, so my question is, roof vents open or closed during this time? Mine do have those covers to stop rain for coming in, plus we live in central Florida (hot and humid this time of year). Thank you, Jack.
I usually leave a roof vent open and also open a small protected window to allow for some air flow. This method works well in drier climates and in the cooler months, but can be less than optimum in hot and humid conditions. I live in East Texas, and my climate is similar to yours. In the winter, I just keep a vent open. In the summer months, I close the RV up completely and run a small dehumidifier for 4-5 hours every night on a timer. This works well for me. I only run the dehumidifier at night because after sundown is when the humidity really spikes up. The timed cycle also prevents the dehumidifier from adding to the heat build-up inside the RV during the day (they do produce some heat when they operate). Mine drains through a small drain pipe I installed inside a cabinet that comes out underneath the RV, but you can also drain them into a tub or shower drain. Be aware that the dehumidifier will produce a large amount of water, so make sure you have a sewer hookup or other adequate way to handle several pints (or quarts!) of water a night. I have never had a problem with odors or mildew using this method.
We purchased a 2012 Forest River Salem 27-foot camper last year. We love it but have been having some problems with the water pump. We are camping in it for a week-and-a-half for the first time, and the pump cycles every 20 minutes to one hour – at random – without anything being on that would use water. We have run water out of every tap, shower, and toilet to see if there was air in the system. We have shut off the water heater to see if that had any influence on the problem – no change. Please help. Lyn.
Intermittent pump cycling is usually indicative of a small leak somewhere in the fresh-water system. The pump operates on a pressure switch, so a leak in the system will allow the pressure in the fresh-water piping to drop over time, and eventually the pump will sense the pressure drop and run for a few seconds to build the pressure back up. It is essentially acting like a leak detector. It can be a very small leak; just a drip every minute or so is enough to do it. If you look for a weeping pipe fitting or a dripping faucet, you’ll probably find it. It can also be caused by a water heater pressure relief valve that drips, or a water pump with a bad valve in it that allows pressure to slowly bleed off back to the fresh water tank. With the pump valve failure, you usually get the bonus of a fresh water tank that mysteriously fills itself while you are on city water, because the water slowly leaks past the pump and fills the fresh-water tank. That one is pretty rare, so look for a small leak in the plumbing first.
Mark Nemeth has been involved with all things RV for more than 15 years, including almost five years on the road as a full-timer. He is the RV education director for Escapees RV Club and oversees the highly acclaimed RVers’ Boot Camp and SmartWeigh programs. Do you have a question for Mark? Please submit your question via email to MMW@escapees.com.
Please remember, material will be edited. Because of the large volume of material and correspondence submitted, individual replies will be limited to questions that are chosen for publication.
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