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Mark My Words—Q&A With Mark Nemeth, July 2014

July 15, 2014 by · 5 Comments 


mark-mugshot-2013-e1360277035775Hi, folks. This month we’ll talk about exhaust fumes, rubber roofs, leaks, brakes and backing. Remember, you can submit your RVing questions to Happy Trails!



When I run my generator while driving my class-A, the fumes come into the motorhome, especially into the rear bedroom. Is there a way to prevent this?  Debbie

Hi, Debbie:

That kind of problem is very dangerous. Please don’t run the generator again until you locate the problem and fix it! I would start by looking at the inside of the generator compartment for any obvious damage or openings that could be allowing the exhaust gases to enter the rig. Also take a close look at the generator’s exhaust system to be sure there are no holes in any of the components, and that the tailpipe and all other parts are intact. If everything around the generator looks okay, expand your search to nearby compartments and the sides and underbelly of the rig. There almost has to be an opening somewhere that is allowing the fumes to enter the coach. If you can’t find the problem, please take your coach to a dealer and have them look at it. Some RV repair facilities can use a large fan to slightly pressurize the inside of your rig and identify leaks. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, and a running generator produces a staggering amount of CO. Because the RV environment is full of sources of CO, all RVs need to have a permanently installed CO detector!


Hi, Mark:

I have a travel trailer with a rubber roof. There are a couple of spots, one about 4 inches by 16 inches and another one about half that size, that have come loose from the roof structure. It looks like a bubble. Should something be done about it, or is it okay as is? Thanks for your time and knowledge, Jim

Hi, Jim:

In general, if the bubbles (delaminated areas) are small, on the order of a few inches across, they will not affect the roof’s integrity. You just need to watch them to be sure they are not getting larger. Attempting to cut or puncture the bubbles and re-glue them or caulk them is not recommended. If the membrane is intact, you are better off leaving small bubbles or ripples alone. If the de-laminated area is large, or the membrane is discolored, the membrane may have been damaged by application of an improper cleaner. It is critical that no petroleum-based solvents, harsh abrasives or citric-based cleaners be used on rubber roofs. Petroleum-based solvents are especially damaging. They can penetrate the membrane and dissolve the adhesive underneath. You should only use a mild soap and water solution to clean the roof or use a cleaning product specifically designed for rubber roofs. It sounds like you are on the borderline between bubbles you can ignore and bubbles you need to worry about. For now, keep an eye on it, and if the bubbles get larger or you see new bubbles appearing, you may need to have the roof evaluated by a professional.



We have a 5th-wheel Komfort RV. We recently went on a weekend trip and noticed a slight but constant dripping of water when the hose line was hooked up to the intake. The leak came from the rear right corner of the RV.  The water intake is located in the rear middle of the RV. When we returned home, I checked the problem and it occurred again. I attached a pressure control valve and limited the pressure to 40 lbs. It still had a slight leak. Do you have any suggestions as to where it might be leaking and how I might fix the leak? Thanks, Ruben

Hi, Ruben:

Based on your description of the problem, I suspect that you are looking at a leak in the fresh-water supply plumbing. The first thing I would do is disconnect the hose from the city water inlet. Then, I’d put some water in the fresh water tank, turn on the RV’s 12V water pump and open every faucet long enough to purge out any air in the system. Make sure all faucets are closed, then see if the pump continues to cycle on and off with no faucet open. The pump works on a pressure switch, so if the pump does run or cycle, you have a leak somewhere in the fresh-water supply plumbing. That means it’s time to get out your flashlight and visually inspect all of the plumbing lines that you can see or can gain access to. You may need to look inside cabinets and compartments to find the actual leak. However, if the pump does not cycle at all, then it is fairly safe to assume that the fresh-water supply plumbing is intact. That said, you should start looking for other possible sources for the water. The water you see dripping could be coming from the sink or tub drain plumbing, your holding tanks, the fresh water tank, or could even be caused by a small leak right at the city water connection that is running aft to the rear of the trailer before dripping. Once you find the leak, most RV plumbing can be repaired using standard plumbing parts available from any home improvement store.


Hi, Mark:

When I apply the brakes in my tow vehicle, the brakes on the trailer grab, and I feel the trailer jerk against the tow vehicle.  I have a new Holiday Rambler Mintaro, but I had the same experience with my old travel trailer, a Fleetwood Prowler.  Could this be a problem with the brake controller?  Rick

Hi, Rick:

There are several things that may be happening. If you only notice the jerky behavior the first few times you stop after the trailer has set for a while, it may be nothing more than a thin layer of rust on the inside of the drums. The rust will briefly make the brakes “grabby” but quickly wears off with repeated stops. If the problem continues as you travel, the brake controller may be incorrectly installed or set too “high,” causing it to over-apply your trailer brakes. Most controllers have an installation and adjustment procedure you will need to follow to get them properly set up and adjusted. Once the controller is properly installed and adjusted correctly, the jerking should be minimized. It may never go completely away, however, due to the way electric trailer brakes operate. The trailer brakes, by design, tend to be more effective at slower speeds. That can lead to jerky stops from slow speeds even with the controller turned way down. If you turn the controller down far enough to eliminate the jerking, you will have hardly any braking effort at all at highway speeds. It’s kind of a catch-22. The best thing to do is aim for a compromise. Start by following the adjustment procedure in your manual, then do a little test driving. Try some stops from different speeds, and tweak the controller to the setting that seems to provide the best performance over your whole speed range. If you can’t locate your manual, try an online search using the manufacturer’s name to find their corporate website. Most sites have downloadable manuals for a wide range of brake controller models.


Wow, I am having a horrible time backing up our new trailer.  Does anyone have any tips or suggestions – please I need help. Herb

Hi, Herb,

If you are a complete novice at backing any kind of trailer, perhaps the best way to begin is to take the RV to a large paved parking lot near where you live. Spend some time learning how your rig maneuvers and how quickly it turns and recovers when backing. Practice getting it “between the lines” by using a marked parking space. Some hours spent in an empty parking lot learning the ropes will save a lot of agony and embarrassment in the campground!

Here are some additional tips:

  • When preparing to back up, place your right hand on the bottom of the steering wheel (6 O-Clock position). Now, simply move your hand in the direction that you want the rear of the trailer to go!
  • When you are approaching any kind of back-in situation, the job will be a lot easier if you set yourself up to back to the driver’s side. You will be able to see the rig and the site much better in your driver’s side mirrors, and you can glance back over your shoulder and see the rear of the rig. If you need to drive a loop around the campground to be able to approach the spot on your left side, then do so!
  • It’s a lot easier to back up in a nearly straight line, adding small corrections. Avoid trying to back into a spot by starting with a sharp 90 degree turn. If possible, pull into the space across the road to get a straighter shot. Once you get lined up as best as you can, make small corrections as you back up. Avoid making sharp turns of the wheel to correct your path. Above all, take your time and relax! If you aren’t sure, stop and get out of the tow vehicle and walk back there and look! No one is timing you and no one will deduct 10 points off your scorecard for taking too long. Most serious mistakes are made when you get in a hurry!


Do you have a question for Mark? Please submit your question via email to
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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5 Responses to “Mark My Words—Q&A With Mark Nemeth, July 2014”
  1. De Carlo Les says:

    Do you have any info with delaminated areas on the side of the rv?

  2. Rick Bates says:

    Use a backer that is aware of rocks, dips, overhead and hidden (blind side) objects and the physics of turning (HOW the combination turns). Make sure that you use a common language: DRIVER side, Passenger side, BACK and STOP (left and right have zero meaning). Use radios if possible for clarity and if the driver can't see the backer, NO MOVING!

  3. Marce Wilson says:

    If you say to yourself "If I want the back end of the trailer to go right I turn the steering wheel left" just taking that little bit of time to think it through in your mind helps. Also keep in mind that backing begins before you ever put the vehicle in reverse. As you pull up to the site you want to swing over in the other lane, watching for campsite traffic of course, so that the back end of your trailer is in a good spot and you have room on the side for your vehicle to "follow it in" Back slowly so that you have time to assess your movements. Most people over steer, you want to try and turn just one quarter turn at a time. Don't be afraid to pull forward and try again, we all do sometimes.

  4. Susan Smith says:

    I camp solo and I bought two orange cones to help guide me when backing my RV into a site. I place the cones where I want the back corners of the coach to stop. I find it makes parking in just the right location much easier.

  5. Ilean Danby says:

    Just a reminder that you can do as much damage as good with roof caulking and silicone. I dropped in to our local RV repair place today to arrange wintering. They have a 40' Class A in their which now has the open air concept. The whole roof is off and having to be rebuilt. The original owner of this very lovely unit decided to caulk around the base of the air conditioner, which gave the condensation absolutely no where to go. The water built up and ran down inside the unit instead of draining off, and rotted out the whole structure of the roof. We are not talking $20 grand in repairs. They had to lift off the whole roof and now will remove the outside skin and re-build the complete 40' length of structure. If you think you have leaks, take it to the pros to begin with.

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