RV Tips & Tricks – How to RV – RVing Pointers We’ve Learned

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Find lots of RV tips and tricks for making RVing even more fun - from towing to holding tank treatments!

18 volt Cordless Drill

with 8" extension, 3/8" drive and 3/4" socket.

RV tip - Timbren Suspension Enhancement System is a great way to aid your truck's suspension

Truck overloads made a huge difference for our rig.

RVing hint: use Timbren overloads to help support a heavy fifth wheel.

Before the Timbren overloads

were installed - a bit saggy.

Timbren Overloads offer better weight distribution when you are towing a fifth wheel behind a pickup truck.

Afterwards

better weight distribution.

Our Equalizer hitch welds cracked on our first full-time RV rig.

Cracked Equalizer hitch weld to the right of the top bolt.

Then the bolts sheered off Equalizer hitch on our first trailer.

Sheered off Equalizer hitch bolts.

Sheered bolt

Sheered bolt.

New Grade 8 bolt

New Grade 8 bolts, washers and nuts.

New Grade 8 bolt, nut and washer

New Grade 8 bolts

(6 hash marks).

Old Grade 5 bolt

Old Grade 5 bolts

(3 hash marks).

RV Boondocking Tip - Unique RV DigestIt is a fantastic solution for your black tank. RV Tip - Shrink-wrap your screen door in winter to keep the cold out and the sunshine in.

Shrink-wrapped screen door.

Let the sun shine IN !!

RV Tips and Tricks to make RVing easier!!

We have come across a lot of little tips and tricks since we started RVing, and I thought I'd share a few here.  These

are little things we've come across or come up with, and hopefully they can help you or even inspire you to come up with your

own even better ideas - jewels for how to RV!

UNHITCHING and SETTING UP

Cordless Drill for Easy Jack Setup

We don't have electric stabilizer jacks on our fifth wheel trailer (nor

did we on our travel trailer). However, we use an 18 volt cordless

drill, and it's very easy. We put an adapter in the drill that has a 3/8"

square male drive on it. This attaches to a 8" socket extension with

a 3/8" drive. Attached to that is a 3/4" socket with a 3/8" drive. This

setup worked on both the 4 stab-jacks on the travel trailer and the two

rear scissor jacks on the fifth wheel.  For ease of use, Mark glued the

socket to the socket extension with JB Weld.

If your jacks aren't too recessed, an alternative to all those pieces is

just to use this nifty Camco Scissors Jack socket!!!. Much simpler!

Working Solo - Hitching up a Fifth Wheel

Mark and I work together to connect the trailer to the truck (Mark drives and I operate the electric landing legs in the front of

the trailer).  However, for those who do this task solo, friends of ours have a great trick.  Our friend Bob marked one of the

front landing legs of his trailer at half inch intervals all the way up and down the leg.  Then he numbered each hash mark.  He

keeps a pad and pen in the hatch near the landing legs button.  When unhitching, once he's raised the trailer to where he can

drive the truck out from under it, he jots down the hash mark number that is visible on the leg.  Then he drives out, parks, and

walks back to level the trailer.  When he hitches up again to leave, he adjusts the trailer height to the exact hash mark where

he unhitched.  That way, when he gets in the truck to re-attach to the trailer, he knows the trailer will be at the correct height

as he backs the truck up into the hitch pin (and he doesn't have to get in and out of the truck several times to check and adjust

the height of the trailer).

Leveling with 5' Boards

There are many methods for getting a trailer level, but we have found that with two 5' lengths of 2"x8" board and one 5' length

of 1"x8" board we can always find a combination that works.  A 5' board is relatively easy to drive onto and provides a solid

platform for the trailer's wheels.  Our pressure treated 2x8's have lasted 2.5 years.  Our non-pressure treated 1x8 lasted two

years and then split lengthwise.  We store them in the bed of the pickup.  When using two boards, we stagger them a few

inches so the trailer is driven first onto one level and then up a step to the next.  We have to remember to back up when

coming off stacked boards or the upper one will tip up and hit the bottom of the trailer while driving off it (think of a sailor

walking the plank).

PREPARING TO LEAVE

Flexible Cutting Board Carpet Protectors

The carpets take a beating as the slide-outs roll in and out.  Most slide-outs aren't quite square and one wall or the other

presses particularly hard on the floor while driving.  You can buy fancy carpet protection gizmos from RV stores that fit under

the slides.  I went a cheaper route and bought a package of four flexible plastic cutting boards from Walmart.  Taping two of

these end-to-end, they fit under the slide-out walls perfectly and are thick enough to protect the carpets.  I keep one pair

under one slide-out wall while driving, because that slide is crooked and its one wall gets wedged against the floor pretty

tightly.  The other slide-out walls hover above the carpet as we drive, so I pull the plastic cutting boards out from under them

so they don't get lost underneath while in transit.

Bungees

After having a cabinet door fly open while traveling, allowing two unbreakable Corelle bowls to fly across the trailer and break

in half, we now latch every cabinet door with bungee balls.  We get the 3" loops with the ball end found at Camping World

and other RV stores.  For drawers we use a thin, short bungee with a hook at each end, hooking the top and bottom drawer

handles.

Rolled up Carpets

We have a large pots-and-pans drawer that always insists on opening, even on the smoothest drives.  We roll up our throw

rugs and place them so they can't unroll in front of the drawer to keep it closed.

Rubber Shelf Liners

Rubber Shelf Liners are invaluable, keeping everything in its place on each shelf as we travel.  We try to make sure no plates,

mugs or glasses are touching each other.

To Do List

We thought we could memorize all the things that need to be done before we start driving somewhere, but a few mishaps

taught us otherwise.  We now have a "to do" list taped inside the same cabinet that houses the main slide-out controls.  A

quick glance reassures us before we leave that indeed all the hatches are closed, the shower door is latched, the

hummingbird feeder is not hanging on a window somewhere, etc.

Slide Roof Cleaning

No matter where we park, the slide roofs need attention before we bring them in.  Either they are dusty, in the desert, or they

are covered with twigs and leaves, in the woods, or they are wet from rain.  Slide toppers might help with this, although I have

heard that they tend to make noise in high winds, sag over time, and sometimes end up with leaves and twigs trapped

underneath.  Mark has a telescoping brush he uses to get the water off, a broom for the leaves and branches, and a

California Duster and/or broom for the dust.  Getting up on the roof before each move is also useful for checking out all the

rooftop items like hatches, TV antenna, solar panels and wiring. Murphy's Oil Soap is what we use to wash the roof.

DRIVING OFF INTO THE SUNSET

Truck  Overloads

We have a Dodge 3500 (one ton) truck and a 14,000 lb. fifth

wheel.  When hitched up, although the rig looks quite level, it

actually dips slightly at the hitch, leaving the front wheels of the

truck a little light.  Mark would notice this lightness as we drove

in windy conditions or got passed by a semi on the freeway.

The truck had a tendency to wander.

He got the Timbren Suspension Enhancement System installed between the axles and leaf springs of the truck.  What a

miraculous change.  Suddenly the truck tracked really well regardless of wind conditions or size and speed of vehicle passing

us on the highway.  These are solid rubber donuts that fit between the axle and the leaf springs.  They are not airbags, so

there is no concern about them losing air or needing to be balanced.  The rig is not quite as level looking when hooked up, but

it drives a lot better.

Installation seems like a job that a handy guy could do.  However, it turns out that there are spacers that can be a vital part of

the installation, and they don't come with the kit that you buy.  Because we had towed our fifth wheel about 15,000 miles, the

leaf springs had sagged a little and needed more spacers.  The installer had these on hand and was able to get the truck

balanced properly in one shot, rather than Mark having to return to the store several times to find the right spacer combination

if he had tackled the installation himself.

Equalizer Trailer Hitch

We had two major mishaps with our 12,000 lb.-rated Equalizer bumper hitch in one year of use.  Despite researching

extensively before buying, and determining that Equalizer was the hitch to buy, I am not sure that this hitch was up to the task

of pulling a 7,000 lb. travel trailer full-time.  If we were to do it again, we'd look very seriously at the PullRite travel trailer hitch

instead.

Cracked Welds on our Equalizer Hitch

The first problem we had with the hitch was when the welds cracked.  By some divine good fortune, Mark noticed the cracked

welds while we were unhitched at a campground.  He is meticulous about checking things around the rig, and he was

checking the bolts on the hitch because they had a tendency to loosen.  What a shock to see that the welds were cracked on

both sides of the hitch!  The whole assembly was being held together by an inch or so of good weld on one side and little

more than that on the other.

Equalizer was very accommodating (the hitch was 4 months old at the time), and they replaced the entire hitch at no cost to

us.  The dealer that handled the replacement sent the failed hitch back to Equalizer, but we never heard their engineers'

reaction to it.  The fact that the welds failed at all is very scary, as our 7k trailer was well within the design tolerance of their

12k hitch.  We had not driven over anything unusual or abused the hitch in any way.

Sheered Bolt on our Equalizer Hitch

Our second problem with the hitch came when we had been using it

for 10 months and one of the two bolts holding the hitch together

sheered off.  We think it happened as we drove out of a bank parking

lot onto a street.  There was a short "ramp" from the parking lot to the

street, as there are at many parking lot / street intersections.  We felt

the dip as we drove very slowly onto the street but thought nothing of

it, as those kinds of things as well as speed bumps, curbs and

potholes are all over the place.  But apparently this dip was more than

the hitch could take.  We did not notice anything wrong immediately,

but 100 miles down the road when we stopped for a break, Mark

walked around the rig as usual just to check things out and he saw that

one of the two bolts was jiggling around with no nut on its back side.

The bolt had sheered off at the nut grooves.

There was a Fastenal store within a few miles, and we stopped to get a new bolt.  Here we

learned about the tensile strength of different types of bolts.  The bolts that came with the

hitch were Grade 5 (three slash marks on the bolt head).  The replacement bolts and nuts

that Fastenal sold us for a few bucks were Grade 8 (six slash marks on the bolt head).  The

new bolts and nuts worked fine for the remaining two months that we owned the trailer/hitch

combination.  It is hard to argue that the Grade 5 bolts were strong enough for this hitch.

However, when we told Equalizer about this mishap they assured us that the Grade 5 bolts

were well within their design specs for towing a 7,000 lb trailer with their 12,000 lb. rated

hitch.  If you own one of these hitches, I would recommend upgrading the bolts.

If you are curious about bolt tensile strengths, there is a chart

here:  http://www.k-tbolt.com/bolt_chart.html

DUMPING -- Also see our post DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS FROM THE RV DUMP!!"

Black Water horror stories are a favorite around the campfire, especially as happy hour drifts into its second or third hour.  We

were told we wouldn't be true RVers until we had a story of our own.  Now that we have two very gory stories to our credit

(both too disgusting to share on these clean white pages), I guess we have joined the ranks of true RVers.  (Just make sure

the hole in the ground where you place the sewer hose is actually the dump hole, and also be sure to close all the holding

tank valves when you finish dumping so you don't get a surprise the next time you flush). Sanidumps.com lists lots of RV Dumps.

Toilet Paper

Much of the trouble with getting stuff out of the black tank depends entirely on what has gone into it.  Many a horrific black

water story seems to get only partially cleaned up at the dump station, leaving the remnants of the tale for the next guest.

Yuck!  I am amazed at how much once-wet and now-dry toilet paper decorates the surroundings of many RV dump stations.

One easy way around potential tank-cloggings caused by toilet paper is to minimize how much toilet paper goes into the tank.

We keep a waste basket lined with a supermarket plastic bag next to the toilet and deposit most toilet paper there.  Each day

the bag is tied, double-bagged if necessary, and put into our main trash or tossed immediately.  It is a great way to stay on top

of all those accumulating supermarket plastic bags and it keeps the tank filled with organic material rather than synthetic.

That way we can also use the plushest toilet paper that we wish.

RV Digest-It

I mentioned RV Digest-It on the boondocking page but will mention it here again because it is great

stuff.  This bacteria-based product puts live creatures in your tank that munch on the black waste and

liquify it for easy dumping.  After emptying the tanks at the dump, we put 2 ounces in each of the grey

tanks (28 and 50 gallons respectively) and in the black tank (50 gallons).  We have been in our trailer full-

time for a year and a half and still have 100% accurate readings on our black and grey tank monitors.

Because the bacteria liquify the contents of the tanks, when we dump, 95% of what comes out of the

black tank is liquid (we have a clear connector that we put on the sewer hose so we can see what's

coming out).

Formaldehyde based tank treatments not only destroy RV dump stations but also potentially leach into

the ground and our ground water systems.  RV Dump stations have had to close due to poisoning by RV

tank chemicals.  Many RVers swear by formaldehyde based chemicals, but formaldehyde is a

preservative, and in reality it simply preserves what is in the tank rather than liquifying it.  Remember

those formaldehyde preserved dogfish and fetal pigs we dissected in high school?  They were perfect

specimens even after a few weeks of hacking by kids with scalpels.  Why preserve all those solids in the

black tank in their original form?  That leaves the tank vulnerable to clogging.  Better to use

biodegradable bacteria to break the solids down into liquid so they can easily be flushed out of the tank

like running water.

Pour a Pail of Water in the Toilet

The biggest problem in the black tank is right below the toilet.  The tank is some 8' long and 2' wide but only 6" deep, and the

bulk of the solids build up right below the toilet, for obvious reasons.  Even though we have a fresh water flush system on this

tank, it flushes the sides of the tank but not necessarily the spot right under the toilet.  Every second or third time we dump,

after the black tank has drained, I fill a 4-gallon pail with water and pour it down the toilet.  Usually a few solids get dislodged.

I repeat this process until Mark reports the water is running clear (usually one or two pails full, on rare occasions it takes

three).  If we had the right window configuration on the trailer, we could run a hose from the water spigot through a window to

the toilet, but marching the pails in and out of the trailer works fine for us.

Being Sanitary at the RV Dump

If you stop to think about germ propagation, RV dumps are scary places.  Surprisingly, many RVers jump into the task with

bare hands.  We have a long pair of heavy rubber gloves and a stash of disposable gloves.  Mark dons both, disposables

first and heavy ones for an outer layer, and he washes the reusable heavy rubber gloves before putting them away.  He keeps

a paper towel roll mounted in a hatch door and hand sanitizer nearby.  We have some spray bleach that we use to spray

down the fresh water nozzle and our hose nozzle before filling the fresh water tanks with potable water as well (even so, we

still don't drink from our water tanks, relying on gallon bottles and reverse-osmosis water refilling stations instead).  That's not

to say that we've got it all down -- too often, in the midst of trying to get this ugly job done quickly, we find that we've grabbed

something clean with "dump hands," but we try...

STAYING WARM IN WINTER

Plastic on our Screen Door

Our first winter we watched with envy as the experienced RVers kept their doors open all

day while the sun poured into their rigs.  They had shrink-wrapped thin plastic on their

screen doors and could enjoy the sun without feeling the biting wind.  We, on the other

hand, had a porous screen door and would freeze every time we cracked open the door.

And try to find a box of shrink-wrap plastic for doors and windows in Arizona!!  That stuff is

sold only in the northern states.  So the next year we got a bunch on clearance when we

hit Kansas in May.  Our second winter we had a wind-proof screen door too.

You can find window plastic in hardware stores and at Walmart.  The instructions for

installation are on the box.  For us it was a two-person job to get the shrink-wrap on.  We

simply cut the plastic with scissors to a few inches bigger than the door.  The shrink-wrap

plastic comes with two-sided tape in the box, and we placed the tape along the outer edge

of the door all the way around on the outside of the door, except at the door handle  There

we outlined the square open area where the plastic slide is, going in towards the middle of

the door (basically following the outline of the plastic slider when it is closed).  Then Mark

held the shrink wrap at the top of the door and I pulled it taught towards the bottom.  Then

he pressed it flat and pressed the edges onto the tape.  Next, he took a knife and cut out

the section that covers the plastic slider.  Last, he blew it with the hair dryer to tighten it all

up.  When it was finished, the plastic slider could open and close as always.  When open,

there is a "hole" with no shrink wrap.  But we keep that little plastic slider closed except

when reaching through the door from the inside to access the door handle.

Our first attempt had some wrinkles... the second season we got it clean and smooth (and use it year round now!).

Fireplace DVD

As a lark, we picked up a DVD of a fire crackling in a fireplace called Fireside Reflections.  Friends of

ours who wanted to bring their toasty Montana fireplace with them in their fifth wheel to the Arizona

desert in the winter turned us on to it.  What a fun surprise!   Put this in the DVD player, and you've got a

great backdrop for a cold  evening.  The fire crackles and pops and burns down, and crazy as it sounds,

the image adds a nice glow to the room.  You can discover just how susceptible your mind is to tricks of

suggestion if you sit in the seat closest to the TV.  Everyone who has relaxed in that chair in our trailer

has reported after a half hour or so that their face and body are getting warm on the side next to the fire!

Heater

There was so much to say about our vent-free propane heater that it's on its own page.

CLEANING

We have a fabric ceiling liner and twice we've had to clean a stain from it.  Each time we used a spray bleach and the results

were miraculous.  You couldn't see where the stain had been.  Just make sure you cover everything nearby before spraying

bleach in the air or you'll have not just a clean ceiling but white spots on the rugs and upholstery too.

* * * For more tips, see our TECH TIPS page and the RVing Gear category of our GEAR STORE * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New to this site?  Check out RVing Lifestyle and Tech Tips at the top of the page for detailed info about installing a vent-free propane heater, living the full-time RV lifestyle, how to go boondocking, the costs of full-time RVing and more.  Please visit our Home page and Welcome page for RVers to learn more about us and discover all the other good stuff available to you on this blog.

 

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