Tuesday , August 22 2017
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Campfires are for swapping stories, and RV tips

This week taught me another lesson about the value of hanging out with experienced RVers. Although I have been traveling full-time in my motorhome for more than two years, I certainly don’t know all the tips and tricks to making the journey successful. Not even close.

I was visiting very scenic Hollister, Calif., to get work done on my motorhome. The good folks at DrainMaster were replacing my old get-your-hands-dirty-while-dumping septic valves and hoses with their truly revolutionary Waste Master waste management system. I’ll have more on that in a future article.

But, while enjoying a meal that night, I was reminded of how valuable these spontaneous interactions are. Doug Swartz and his wife, Midge, were full-time RVers for many years themselves. It was through that experience that he developed his patented system. The Swartz are also a wealth of information about the RV lifestyle.

For example, he impressed upon me the importance of squirting a few shots of Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner on a campsite’s water spigot before hooking up the hose. It never occurred to me to do that, even after writing an earlier article about campground etiquette in which one of the top pet peeves was people who clean out septic hoses using campsite water faucets.

After getting the Waste Master system installed, there wasn’t any more room to store my fresh water hose in the water compartment, which meant I would have to twist it on and twist it off every couple of days. When I mentioned I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of doing so, Doug said nonchalantly, that I should install a quick attach nozzle to the RV.

So, for less than $10, my water hose now simply snaps on and snaps off. Who knew? It still needs to be screwed onto the campsite spigot, but at least the spigot is nice and clean.

When storing a fresh water hose, I never considered screwing the ends together to keep both ends super clean. I always let them flip flop all over the place.

Doug taught me another valuable lesson of RV operation — that it is important to clean out the black water tank to prevent sludge build up. So, that’s what the little valve for “waste tank flush” is in my water compartment!

No wonder the technician at Little Dealer Little Prices was a bit disgusted last month when I assured him that I emptied the tank before he started working on replacing the holding tank valves — only to watch as a bunch of @#$% started oozing out as soon as he started the job.

Did you know that if you want to completely empty your holding tanks, just use your levelers to raise the passenger’s side of the RV. I didn’t. Gravity will cause all the liquid to flow toward the drain.

It was another full-time RVer, Mark Polk, of RV Education 101, who stressed the importance of having a water regulator attached to my fresh water hose. Believe it or not, I accepted the “wisdom” of an RV dealership technician who told me that the elbow coming out of the inlet valve on the motorhome served to reduce water pressure. Wrong!

If the water pressure coming into the coach isn’t restricted, RVers can risk serious damage to their units because some campground connections are like little fire hydrants. They can push so much pressure into the system, people risk having the plastic plumbing explode inside the rigs.

Ever since I started full-time RVing in 2014, my water pump switch has been in the permanent “on” position — until three weeks ago. Another full-time RVer cautioned me against doing that because, if I were away from the RV and a leak sprung inside the motorhome, the pump would fill the coach with water before I returned.

I was reminded of an incident that occurred the second week I was full-timing. I was about to leave a campground in Lordsburg, N.M., when I opted to use the restroom one last time. I flushed the toilet and all of a sudden I heard a loud pop and water started pouring out of the back. Within seconds, the bathroom floor was underwater and it was pouring into the nearby return vent to the air conditioner/heater, which is located in the basement of my motorhome.

Some valve had blown up and needed to be replaced.  Thank goodness I was in the bathroom at the time and it didn’t wiggle loose while I was heading down the highway.

I have come to the conclusion that I know very little about how to operate my motorhome. In fact, I should probably have been forced to take classes and pass a battery of tests before I was ever given keys to my RV.

What’s that high-pitched whine emanating from inside my my motorhome as I’m traveling down the highway? I assumed it was my stereo speakers, which had been blown out last year when the volume on my radio was turned to high to listen to podcasts before I switched to music instead. Another lesson learned.

But, this time, I discovered the screeching sound was my auxiliary brake system warning me for 20 miles that the brake was stuck in my towed vehicle. Once I unhooked the car, the sound stopped. Fortunately, no major damage was done — that I know of.

Really, it’s not a good thing for RV dealers to install equipment — or even sell an RV — without ensuring that buyers are fully trained in its use and that of the components installed on it. There is so much that can go wrong when using an RV that can mar a vacation or bring a long-time journey to a sudden end.

There are a million — maybe even a million million — things that can go wrong in an RV. Thank goodness most RVers are willing to share their lessons learned to help reduce the learning curve for everyone else.

Even as a full-time RVer, I realize how much I have to learn about this machine that I own. I can’t imagine how people who use RVs a few weeks a year retain everything they need to know to ensure a successful journey.

Next time you’re hanging around a campfire with other RVers, make sure the conversation at some point turns to “what lessons have you learned while RVing?” I guarantee you’ll learn something new every night.

About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is the editor of Let's RV and the editor of RV Daily Report. A Wisconsin native and father of three grown daughters, he is now based out of Arizona and travels the country in his Winnebago Adventurer motorhome interviewing industry professionals and interesting RVers alike. He can be reached at editor@letsrv.com

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