Thursday, July 24, 2014

Preparedness for the Road

Sometimes I hesitate a bit when writing about the care and maintenance of the RVs that I and a lot of my acquaintances live and sometimes work out of. I don't want to come across as some haughty know it all. As some of my dear readers know, I am a licensed aircraft mechanic and have had tools in my hand for as long as I can remember. Additionally I went to my fathers mechanic "school" where I learned most, if not all of my basic mechanical knowledge.
A lot of the misfortune on the road can be traced back to the owner of the rig. Here are just a few examples that are sometimes overlooked.
All RVs are sensitive to weight and tire pressure. You should endeavor to weigh your rig (fully loaded) before heading anywhere. The gross weight of your rig is the determining factor in the amount of air that should be in your tires. There should be a data plate, manual or some reference you can use to verify the cold tire pressure of your particular rig. Incorrect tire pressure causes a lot of tire failures. Here is a tip. Most manufacturers err on the side of caution, so you should not have to sacrifice ride comfort to conform to posted tire pressure recommendations. It has been my experience that five pounds either direction will not overly tax the tire. If you have any doubts, consult a tire shop knowledgeable about RVs or talk to the manufacturer. If you are still in doubt, go by the inflation suggestions on the tire side wall.
If, despite your best efforts, you suffer a blowout you need to be prepared. The majority of Class A owners will have to call a road service. The tires and wheels are of semi truck size and weight, preventing the owner from performing a tire change. You should check your spare's condition and inflation pressure regularly. Additionally, I recommend an emergency road service club of some kind-it will pay for itself over time. If you're in a tow behind or 5ver you should be able to change the tire yourself. I'm not as strong as I used to be and suffer from heart disease; however, with Missy's help, I can change the tires on our 5ver. More than likely you will not find a jack or lug wrench in your RV; so make sure you buy them. If your trailer is a dual axle you can improvise by cobbling together a ramp to run up on and raise the flat tire for change. You can also buy a ramp which is available on Amazon and at other retailers.

Both RVs with their engines buried in the rear and your tow vehicle suffer from hard use. The RV is especially problematic since most vital components are buried in the back, typically beneath a small access panel. PAY A MECHANIC IF YOU CAN'T OR DON'T WANT TO PERFORM SOME OR ALL OF THESE SUGGESTIONS. Let me insert a quick tip to you noobs out there along with new or first time Class A pushers and tow vehicles. If the maintenance records are lacking or non existent, change all the fluids, including fuel and water separators (where applicable). Also have a mechanic do a once over of the engine and drivetrain, paying special attention to the hoses, belts and clamps. I recommend that any hoses or belts over two years old or that you have any question about be changed. A lot of Class A's (especially diesels) have air dryers which are designed to remove the moisture caused by condensation from the air lines. These dryers have filters and cartridges that need to be changed periodically and they tend to get forgotten. Lest you think that is not important, remember that a lot of diesel pushers rely on the air for brakes and suspension. Another often neglected task is to regularly inspect your fuel filters and drain the water separators. When we owned a diesel pusher we kept spare fuel filters and separators along with a filter wrench onboard. Typically, most RV owners fail to accrue any significant miles on an annual basis. This raises the question of when to perform periodic maintenance which a lot of times is based on mileage (usually 5000 to 7500 miles for gas rigs and 10,000 to 15,000 for diesels). The simple answer is to set a date and change the oil and other fluids, regardless of the mileage, every twelve months. Refer to your manufacturer recommendations otherwise.

I regularly hear reports of folks who have broke down on the road and found themselves stranded. You can add us to that list. A good road service is invaluable. You can lessen your chances of being one of those by performing periodic maintenance on a regular basis.

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