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Mark My Words – Q&A with Mark Nemeth – February 2014
I’ve got a real mixed bag for you this month! Keeping ants out of your RV, boondocking, and some tech Q and A. Hey, did you know you can email your RV questions to me? firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected questions will be published right here in the newsletter. Thanks for your continued support!
How do you keep ants from infesting an RV when left on a gravel drive in Texas for four days while visiting relatives? Thank you, Jean
I have found out painfully that the only way to deal with ants is to practice prevention. That means creating a barrier to stop the ants at every point where our RV’s wheels, jacks, hoses, and cords touch the ground. Use a commercial ant and roach spray to lightly spray hoses, cords, and stabilizer jack pads. Spray around the tires where they contact the ground as well. For towable RVs, I’ve found that spraying the hubs of the wheels is easier than spraying around the base of the tires, and it still works even after you have moved. Direct the spray onto the brake drums through the slots in the rims as shown in the photo below.
I’ve also learned to avoid parking where branches from trees are touching the sides and roof of the rig, and I even got burned once by leaning my walking stick up against the side of the rig. Those roving ant scouts are QUICK, sometimes only needing a few hours to find your kitchen. Speaking of kitchens, be sure to keep everything cleaned up inside. Remove trash regularly, and keep dishes washed and countertops and stovetops clean. It really helps a lot if there’s no food source to attract them. Finally, if the dreaded infestation does develop, see if you can spot the entry point by looking for the tell-tale ant trail, and then spray that area to create or re-establish the barrier. If the ants seem to be camping permanently in your rig, try commercial ant baits, or pick up a bottle of Terro ant killer from your local hardware store and use as directed. I have found that Terro is very effective on those little sweet-eating ants that are common in the South. www.terro.com
Several times, I have camped where the 30-amp service was apparently not up to snuff. The outside (service pole) 30-amp breaker tripped without the inside (trailer) 30-amp breaker having tripped. Other times, the inside breaker tripped when the draw apparently exceeded the trailer’s 30-amp breaker limit. This was usually due to the AC going and someone turning on too many appliances. What do you think about replacing the service cable with a 50-amp cable and replacing the main breaker with a 50-amp breaker? Also required would be replacement of the wiring from the service cable to the breaker panel. The individual breakers will still protect their associated wiring. Using the larger-gauge service cable will eliminate (or lessen) the loss (voltage drop) experienced with typical 25-30 foot-length cables. I don’t see any drawbacks or safety implications to this change. What do you think? Larry
RV park pedestal breakers take a lot of abuse, so it’s not uncommon to find defective ones. Circuit breakers do, indeed, become weak, especially if they have been overheated or tripped a large number of times. Since these breakers operate thermally, you may find that they are weaker on a hot day than on a cold one. While it is possible to modify the existing AC distribution system in your RV, it is a task that should only be attempted by persons with appropriate skills and knowledge. For that reason, I would be hesitant to recommend it. A lot depends on the ratings of the existing breaker panel in your RV. It may not be designed for, or adequate for, the higher working amperage. However, I may be able to offer a real-world solution that does not require modification of the electrical system. Simply purchase a standard RV 50A to 30A adapter cord, commonly referred to as a “Dog Bone,” and use it when the 30A breaker is weak and a 50A receptacle is available. While it’s not a perfect solution, it is a safe and easy one to implement. The 30A breaker in your rig becomes the primary protector of the umbilical cord rather than the 50A breaker at the pedestal. That’s not really a technically correct setup from an electrical code standpoint, but it works fine in practice, as many RVers have discovered.
I have a coachman 23 foot Rv for the past 13 years and have been the camp host in Juneau Alaska. There is no RV help in our area and I wonder what this means: My furnace when turned on squeals really loud. I am afraid to turn it on. Where do I get it fixed?? Joy
It sounds like your furnace fan motor has a bad bearing. They do wear out, especially if you use the furnace a lot, which I suspect you do! That squealing noise is caused by the bearing failing, and it will eventually seize up if you continue to run it. It is possible to replace just the fan motor or assembly, but after 13 years, you might be better off replacing the entire furnace. Most RV appliances are designed for occasional use, like for vacationing or camping. Living full-time in an RV really puts a lot more wear and tear on the appliances and fixtures. Since you are in Alaska, I’m not sure whether it would be better to try to track down a new furnace locally, or order a replacement from the lower 48 and have it shipped to you. Get the model number and manufacturer information off your old furnace (it should be on a label on the access panel or somewhere on the exterior cabinet) and check with some online RV parts suppliers. I recommend PPL Motorhomes, here in Houston, TX, as they have an outstanding parts department, and ship all over the country. http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/parts/rv-furnaces-suburban-atwood-parts-1.htm
They have a knowledgeable staff, and you can call them for assistance if you are not sure what you need.
Although we’ve had a class-C motor home for nearly three years, we’ve never had to boondock, nor have we had any “training” to do so. When I say “training,” I mean we have never been briefed as to how long our marine battery may provide power. Is running the generator necessary, and is it required to operate all the time while dry-camping? We have had several vehicle and marine battery failures; therefore, we are reluctant to try this method of camping. It is obvious something is draining our batteries constantly, so unless the engine is operated at least once every several days for 6-8 hours, we end up with a dead battery. Any advice or assistance you may provide will be greatly appreciated. Phillip
While most RVs come from the factory fully self-contained, many smaller RVs have only a minimal capability for boondocking. The length of time you can comfortably camp without hookups depends a lot on the number of house batteries and the size and capacity of water systems. Folks who boondock a lot usually invest in additional batteries, solar systems, and energy-conserving accessories like LED lighting. This allows them to extend their dry-camping stay. If your RV has only a single house battery, that will limit you quite a bit, but you should be able to run your generator for a few hours each day to recharge your house battery. Make sure that you are conservative with the use of lights and fans, and you may want to be sure that there are no hidden loads drawing power from your batteries. I call these “phantom loads,” and a typical example would be a light in a closet or storage bay that has been left on. You may not be aware of it, but it will put a load on your house battery, causing it to run down much faster. Watch your water use and holding tank levels. Dry-camping (or boondocking) can be a lot of fun. There are popular destinations like Quartzsite that offer free parking in the desert, and many RVers like to stay in places that are off the beaten path. Here are a few websites that contain boondocking information to get you started.
If boondocking doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t worry. While many RVers enjoy boondocking, many others prefer to have hookups every night. There’s no right or wrong way to go RVing!
Mark, when storing an RV for the winter or a short period of time, what is the best position to store the slide-outs, in or out? - roomaster85
Slideouts are designed to allow the RV to travel down the road in all sorts of weather. To prevent water from getting in while driving in a storm, slideouts must form a good weather seal when retracted. When a slideout is extended, the sealing system is much less stout and is designed mainly to prevent water entry in normal rain and wind. Since slideouts seal better when retracted, I feel it is best to store your rig with the slides in the retracted position. The better seal may also help prevent pests like mice from gaining entry to your RV.
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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