RV Keyless Entry Door Lock Problems? Try this quick fix!

Do you have one of those groovy RV keyless entry door locks on your rig? Our Genesis Supreme toy hauler came with one, and we weren’t sure we’d like it until we started using it. Then we loved it! But after a while it started having problems and acting up.

RV Keyless Entry Door Lock Repair & Quick Fix

The way these keyless entry door locks work is you punch in a secret code on the keypad and then it sings a little jingle. When you are unlocking the door, the notes in the tune ascend to a higher pitch. When you are locking it, the notes descend to a lower pitch. Kinda makes sense for opening and locking the door. Sing up and it opens, sing down and it locks.

One day when we went to unlock the door, the tune wasn’t so friendly — it made a nasty noise with two notes. Right after the nasty tune it made the sound of locking the door…but we were unlocking it!

RV keyless entry door lock

An RV keyless entry door lock is awesome — until it starts acting up!

For the next few months, every time we locked or unlocked the door we heard the nasty error message tune followed by the opposite sound for what we were doing. Unlocking the door gave the sound of locking the door, and locking it gave the sound of unlocking the door.

Every time we locked and unlocked the rig, we each thought, “We’ve gotta look up these weird sounds in the manual!” But we never did. The door still locked and unlocked, it just made weird noises. We lived with it.

RV keyless entry door lock

You enter the code and then press the “lock” or “unlock” button. It’s magic!

RV Keyless entry door lock

Finally, the other day, Mark decided enough was enough, and he opened up the battery compartment on the back side of the keyless entry keypad (on the inside of the entry door).

Back of RV keyless entry door lock

The battery compartment is accessed by removing these two screws.

The problem was immediately obvious: the batteries had leaked battery juice all over the place and they were dying a slow death.

Insides of an RV keyless entry door lock

Mark removed the cover and saw dried white fluid from the batteries.

Leaky Duracell AA batteries from an RV keyless entry door lock

The batteries were covered with yuck.

He cleaned out the little compartment that holds the batteries, put in a new set of four AA batteries, and POOF! The RV keyless entry door lock worked like a charm. No error code tune, and the locking and unlocking sounds matched what we were doing.

Duracell AA Batteries

So, if you have an RV keyless entry door lock on your rig, and it starts making unexpected sounds when you lock and unlock the door, you might need new batteries. Take the cover off the keypad and check them out. And keep some spare AA batteries on hand!

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We had battery problems on our sailboat in Mexico too:

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RV Solar Upgrade with Renogy and Go Power !

We recently did an RV solar upgrade project that proved to be both easy and cheap. We spent just $480 to jump from 190 watts of power to 570 watts, more than enough for our boondocking off-the-grid RV lifestyle, and it took less than three hours to install. What a great bang for the buck!

RV Solar Upgrade - CHEAP & EASY with Go Power + Renogy

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Our Genesis Supreme 28CRT fifth wheel toy hauler came with a small factory-installed Go Power RV solar power system that included a single 190 watt solar panel, a 1500 watt pure sine wave inverter and a 30 amp PWM solar charge controller connected to four dealer-installed Group 24 12-volt wet cell batteries with a capacity of 280 amp-hours.

Factory-installed RV solar power systems like this one are now a common option on many new RVs, and Go Power (a subsidiary of Dometic) is often the brand that RV manufacturers use.

Although none of the components in the system are “best of breed,” the Go Power system worked fine for us as we boondocked every night for four months last summer. As the months wore on towards the Fall (and away from the summer solistice), however, the batteries struggled more and more each day to reach full charge. In the last few weeks in late August and September they never did.

Fortunately, the Go Power 30 amp solar charge controller that came with this system can handle up to 600 watts of solar panels, so an RV solar upgrade was possible without replacing the charge controller!

As we contemplated doing an RV solar upgrade all last summer, the debate was: do we ditch the whole factory installed system and replace it with top of the line components or do we simply add some more panels to the existing system?

 

How much solar power do you really need when you live in an RV?

Answering that question is really important because it’s incredibly easy to end up installing a far bigger and fancier system than you actually need after hearing people discussing their mammoth systems around the campfire.

Just because a friend has a huge system doesn’t mean it will make sense for you to break the bank to install one too!

How big an RV solar power system you need depends entirely on how much power you use in your day-to-day RV lifestyle and how often your boondock.

We boondock every night, but we don’t use much power. Also, since we are now seasonal travelers instead of the full-timers as we used to be, we travel primarily in the summertime when the sun is high in the sky at a good angle for the solar panels and the days are long, allowing the solar panels to work for a few extra hours.

Our primary power use is our two laptops (which we use a lot), the water pump, and the interior lights for an hour at night (we go to bed early). We don’t watch TV and we rarely use the microwave or hair dryer.

Running the air conditioning on battery power is not possible for any but the most massive RV solar power charging systems and battery banks, so it’s not part of the equation for most people. We rely on the generator for running our a/c.

With our traveling lifestyle of minimal power use, we happily lived on 480 watts and 555 watts in our trailer and sailboat respectivlely for 13 years. That was plenty of power for us except in the dead of winter when the sun was low in the sky (poor angle to the solar panels) and the days were short.

RV solar panel installation using Go Power and Renogy panels

Our toy hauler had one factory installed solar panel (center).
An easy RV solar upgrade with two more panels tripled our battery charging capacity!

When we did those installations in 2008 and 2010, they were considered to be sizable for a boat or an RV. Seeing a rig with 1,000 watts on the roof in those days made everyone’s head turn while they mouthed the word, “WOW!”

However, by today’s standards, we had small systems on both our RV and sailboat! The third owner of our boat Groovy upgraded the solar panels to 930 total watts instead of the original 555 watts.

Last year, we met a full-timing family who had 3,500 watts of solar power on the roof of their 44′ toy hauler. They also had two huge Victron solar charge controllers (the panels were wired in two separate arrays) and they had a massive bank of lithium-ion batteries in the basement.

They could run their air conditioning on battery power all day and they had a full-size residential refrigerator to boot. They liked to keep their TV on all day long and the kids spent hours watching videos on their iPads. The kids also did homework on their laptops and everyone in the family had had phones and laptops to charge. They also had several internet access devices that gave them a total of 500 GB of data each month. They used it all and sometimes fell a little short by month’s end!

So, the size of the system you need depends entirely on how you live your RV lifestyle.

We knew when we bought our toy hauler last year that 190 watts wouldn’t be enough for us long term, but we didn’t have time to fuss with and do an RV solar upgrade before starting our summer journey. We were also curious to see how it performed right from the factory.

The solar charge controller is a lower end PWM unit (Pulse Width Modulation) rather an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracker) type of controller that eeks out more power from the panels. We wondered if the system would work at all. We were pleasantly surprised that it worked quite well and did the job all summer long, although our batteries did get down to 11.9 or 12.0 volts on quite a few colder mornings at summer’s end, much lower than we’ve ever seen our house batteries before.

Go Power 30 amp PWM solar charge controller

Go Power 30 amp PWM solar charge controller mounted on a wall inside the rig.

Ultimately, we decided the simplest and most stress-free RV solar upgrade we could do would be to add more solar panels and leave all the other components alone.

RV Solar Upgrade – Adding New Solar Panels – Wired in Parallel or in Series?

The Go Power solar panel that came with the rig is a 12 volt 190 watt panel. Although the Go Power 30 amp solar charge controller can handle 600 watts of power coming from the panels, it is unable to operate on anything but 12 volts. Fancier charge controllers can work with the panels at 24, 36 or 48 volts and then step down the voltage to 12 volts to charge the batteries.

This limitation meant we didn’t have the option of using 24 volt panels which are generally cheaper per watt. Also, it meant that the new panels would have to be wired in parallel with the existing panel to keep them all at 12 volts rather than having the option of wiring them in series because it would put the solar array at 36 volts.

As a side note, even though we didn’t have a choice in this case, the decision whether to wire the solar panels in parallel versus in series is a matter of how much shade the panels might encounter and how long the cable runs will be versus the guage of the wire.

When solar panels are wired in series, if one panel gets shaded, all the panels reduce their power output dramatically. Also, the voltage of the panels is cumulative while the current stays the same. That is, three 12-volt panels will be at 36 volts but the current running in the wires will be the nominal current of a single panel, for instance, 10 amps.

When solar panels are wired in parallel, if one panel gets shaded, the others continue to produce power at their normal rate. So, in a three panel array, if one panel drops out you still get 2/3 of the power because the other two panels are still working. Also, the voltage of the panels remains the same but the current is cumulative. That is, three 12-volt panels will be at 12 volts but the current will be additive, or 30 amps.

The more current there is in a wire, the shorter that wire has to be before some of the current dissipates as heat, leaving you less current for charging the batteries. A heavier guage wire will retain more current over a longer distance, but it is harder to work with during the installation and it is more expensive.

For reference, we wired the panels on our old full-timing fifth in series, and that worked fine because we almost always parked in full sun and rarely had any kind of shade on the panels. However, we wired the panels on our sailboat in parallel because the mast and boom cast a huge moving shadow across the panels as the boat swung at anchor, so one or another of the panels was frequently knocked out of the system.

New Solar Panels – What Size?

Whether the panels were wired in series or in parallel, any new panels we added to our system would produce the same watts as the existing panel: 190 watts. Even if the new panels were bigger than 190 watts, they would match the lower wattage of the existing panel.

There weren’t many 190 watt 12 volt panels available, except the same model Go Power panel we already had on the roof, and their panel is very expensive.

Go Power 190 watt solar expansion kit

Instead, we got two Renogy 200 watt 12 volt panels, and these seem to be good quality. Because the new panels will drop down to 190 watts to match the existing panel in the system, this RV solar upgrade will give us 570 watts of total power (3 x 190).

570 watts is more than either our boat or our full-time trailer, so it should be more than enough!

Renogy 200 watt solar panel

As for the batteries, we don’t have room for more batteries, and the existing batteries haven’t died yet (to my surprise!). So, we’ve decided to hold off on swapping out the batteries until another season.

 

RV Solar Upgrade: Installation

The total cost of the solar power upgrade was about $480 which included:

The tools required to do this RV solar upgrade project were:

The installation was straight forward.

On the back of each panel — both the existing one on the roof and the two new ones — there is a junction box with two 10 AWG leads (positive and negative). They are about 18 inches long and have MC4 connectors on the ends.

Renogy solar panel junction box and MC4 connectors

Most solar panels have a junction box and short leads with MC4 connectors on the ends, one positive and one negative.

On the existing solar panel, the MC4 connectors at the ends of these cables were connected to two other cables that ran from the roof of the RV down to the solar charge controller inside the rig.

All of this cabling was invisible as you looked at the face of the solar panel on the roof because it was all underneath it. Also, beneath the solar panel, there were two holes in the roof where the cables went into the interior of the rig down to the solar charge controller.

Renogy solar panel MC4 wires and junction box

Most solar panels have a junction box and two leads with MC4 connectors on the ends.

Here is a rough diagram showing the solar panel with its junction box and two 10 AWG cables with their MC4 connectors. These connectors are attached to two MC4 connectors on the ends of a long length of 10 AWG cable that goes through a hole in the roof (the blue circle) down to the solar charge controller in the interior of the rig (not shown).

The holes in the roof are actually under the panel, but this drawing shows the holes being above the panel so the diagram isn’t too messy!

Diagram of single solar panel with MC4 connectors on an RV roof

Our factory installed solar panel had two leads, positive and negative, that attached to wires coming up through the roof from the charge controller inside the rig. The holes in the roof (blue circles) are actually located under the panel.

We purchased two 3-to-1 branch adapters that would make it super easy to wire the three panels in parallel. The adapters look like bird feet with three toes (one for each solar panel), and a leg that would attach to the cable that went through the roof into the rig.

One adapter would be connected to the positive side of the system and one would be connected to the negative side. That is, all three positive leads, one from each panel, would connect to the three toes on one bird foot (the “positive” 3-to-1 branch connector) and all three negative leads, one from each panel, would connect to the three toes on the other bird foot (the “negative” 3-to-1 branch connector).

We also bought two 6′ lengths of 10 AWG cable with MC4 connectors pre-installedat each end. These were essentially extension cables that would connect to the MC4 connectors on the cables coming up through the roof from the charge controller down in the rig.

They were color coded, so the red one would connect to the positive cable coming up through the roof and the black one would connect to the negative cable coming up from the charge controller.

Fortunately, Genesis Supreme had labeled the cables coming up from the charge controller so we could tell which one was positive and which was negative.

MC4 solar panel wire connectors for an RV installation

We got two 3-to-1 branch connector (“bird feet”) and one 6′ pair of 10 AWG cables with MC4 connectors pre-installed on the ends.

Here is a rough diagram showing the layout of the cables. As in the previous diagram, the two blue circles are the holes in the roof which are actually located beneath the original solar panel in the middle. However, for simplicity in showing how the cables connect, the “holes in the roof” are located above the panels in this diagram and the 6′ extension cables are really short!

Diagram of RV solar power upgrade from 1 panel to 3 panels in parallel

Our 2 new panels would be wired in parallel with the existing panel, connecting all the positives together on one 3-to-1 branch connector and all the negatives on the other. The extension cables would connect to the wires coming up through the holes in the roof (blue circles). Note that the holes in the roof are actually under the center panel and the 6′ extension cables are drawn super short.

Our mission was to :

  1. Lift the existing solar panel so we could access the cabling underneath
  2. Disconnect the MC4 connectors on the panel’s leads from the MC4 connectors on the cables that come up from the solar charge controller in the rig
  3. Reconnect the cables coming from the charge controller to the new 6′ “extension” cables
  4. Connect the “extension” cables to the legs of the 3-to-1 branch connectors which would designate one as “positive” and one as “negative”
  5. Connect each panel’s positive cable to the “positive” 3-to-1 branch connectors
  6. Connect each panel’s negative cable to the “negative” 3-to-1 branch connectors

All of this would be done by snapping the MC4 connectors together, simply inserting one end into the other and pressing it together. So easy!

There’s a special tool for disconnecting MC4 connectors, but you can also disconnect them with your fingers by keeping the tab on one side depressed as you pull the two pieces apart.

Connecting MC4 connectors in an RV solar panel installation

MC4 connectors snap together.

To get at the cables under the existing Go power solar panel, Mark removed the hardened sealant that was covering each of the mounting brackets. He used a screwdriver but a narrow and rigid putty knife would work too.

Removing a Go Power solar panel from an RV roof

First step was to lift up the existing panel which required removing the sealant on the mounting bracket screws and then unscrewing the screws.

Then he unscrewed each of the screws holding the mounting brackets in place.

We bought a wonderful cordless power screwdriver last year that we BOTH absolutely LOVE! It makes screwing and unscrewing things infinitely easier than doing it by hand, and it’s much less bulky than a cordless drill.

Ryobi cordless screwdriver
Removing a Go Power solar panel from an RV roof

Unscrewing the screws.
The cordless screwdriver is one of our favorite tools!

He unscrewed all four feet and then lifted up one side to get at the cables underneath.

Changing the wiring under a Go Power solar panel under an RV roof

Working under the existing solar panel.

A positive (red) and negative (black) cable came up through the roof from the interior of the rig where they were connected to the solar charge controller and were connected directly to the solar panel. Mark disconnected each cable from the solar panel and then reconnected them to the two 6′ extension cables we had purchased.

Changing the wiring under a solar panel on an RV roof

The positive and negative extension cables go between the 3-to-1 branch connectors and the cables coming up through the roof from the charge controller inside the rig.

Then he connected the extension cables to the “legs” of each of the two 3-to-1 MC4 branch connectors (bird feet) and connected the solar panel’s negative and positve leads to the “toes” of the 3-to-1 branch connectors.

RV solar panel MC4 connector wiring on an RV roof

The original panel (black leads going to the middle “toes”) and the solar charge controller (red and black extension cables going to the “legs”) are now wired into the 3-to-1 branch connectors. We ran into the rig to verify everything looked okay and we saw the float voltage of 13.5 volts on the charge controller display.

Next, we needed to get the two new Renogy solar panels onto the roof of the RV, place them on either side of the existing panel, and then connect their positive and negative leads to the positive and negative 3-to-1 branch connectors.

Before that, though, we needed to figure out how to get the panels up onto the roof which is 13.5 feet in the air! We opened the patio of the toy hauler and put a ladder on it. This was much more secure than carrying a heavy solar panel one handed up the ladder attached to the side of the rig!

Ladder roof access on a toy hauler RV patio

The most solid way to get the panels up to the roof was to put a ladder on the patio!

Lifting a solar panel onto an RV roof

Here comes the first one!

Once we got both panels up on the roof, we attached the MC4 connectors on the two new panels’ leads to the outer “toes” of the two 3-to-1 branch connectors, positive to positive and negative to negative.

Now all three panels were completely wired up in parallel.

Three solar panels wired with MC4 connectors on an RV roof

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The next step was to mount the solar panels on the roof.

The roof is just wide enough (it’s an 8.5′ “widebody” trailer) that we could place the three panels side by side, leaving enough space between them so we could walk beyond them to the far end of the rig.

First Mark screwed the original Go Power panel’s mounting brackets back into the roof.

Then we used the Renogy mounting Z brackets to mount the new Renogy solar panels. The Renogy mounting brackets came with very handy hex head self-tapping screws.

Self-tapping screws for installing a Renogy solar panel on an RV roof

Self-tapping screws. So easy!

Then Mark used a scratch awl to make a starter hole for the self-tapping screws. Pounding a nail in a little ways would have worked too.

Mounting an RV solar panel on the roof

Mark made a starter hole for the screws with a scratch awl.

Then he used a cordless drill with a hex head bit to screw them in all the way.

RV solar panel installation- attaching the solar panels to the roof

The mounting Z brackets got screwed into the roof.

Solar panel mounting brackets screw directly into the RV roof

Done.

Last of all, he used Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant in a caulk gun to cover all the screws and seal all the edges of the mounting brackets. This will ensure that no water can find its way through the roof!

Sealing the holes in an RV roof after mounting a solar panel

Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant seals the whole mounting bracket so water can’t leak in.

Dicor Lap Sealant on a solar panel mounting bracket

After the Dicor Lap Sealant had leveled out, it completely surrounded and covered the mounting bracket

Ta da! The finished product looked great!

RV solar upgrade cheap and easy with Go Power and Renogy

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I couldn’t believe how easy this project turned out to be. Of course, the hardest parts were already done for us: running the cables from the roof down into the interior of the rig, wiring up the solar charge controller and wiring up the inverter. All we had to do was add two more panels and wire them up with the handy MC4 connectors.

If you have purchased a rig that has a “starter” solar power system like the Go Power system on our toy hauler, it’s not difficult to upgrade it like we did so you have the maximum amount of solar panel wattage that the charge controller can accept.

One thing to consider before buying any solar gear, especially from an online retailer, is to buy each piece individually rather than in a big kit. The problem with a kit is that if one item in the kit doesn’t work and needs to be returned, online retailers, like Amazon, may require you to return the entire kit. If the failed element is a solar panel and you’ve already installed the other panels in the kit and they are working fine, it may be a hassle to get approval to return just the one broken panel. I’ve read of cases where the entire system had to be dismantled and reboxed and sent back. For that reason, we opted to buy each piece separately just in case.

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Further reading…

SOLAR POWER OVERVIEW and TUTORIAL

BATTERIES and BATTERY CHARGING SYSTEMS

LIVING ON 12 VOLTS

ARTICLES ABOUT OUR GENESIS SUPREME TOY HAULER

REFERENCES

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Review and Installation

When we sold our Hitchhiker fifth wheel, which had been home-sweet-home for twelve of the thirteen years of our full-time RV adventure, we thought we’d never own a fifth wheel trailer again. So, we let our fifth wheel hitch go with the trailer as part of the sale.

Oops! Never say “Never!”

After trying Truck Camper Vacation Life for a year, we realized we wanted a bigger RV, and we purchased a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT fifth wheel toy hauler for extended travels and shorter getaways.

Suddenly, we needed a hitch so we could tow our new trailer home from the seller’s storage lot! Enter the Demco Recon 21k Fifth Wheel Hitch!

Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Review and Installation

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This is a detailed article. Here are shortcut links to each section:

Demco Recon 21k Hitch

We’ve owned two fifth wheel hitches over the years. The first was a Pullrite traditional fifth wheel hitch that was installed permanently on rails mounted under the bed of our 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck. This rail-mounted hitch design had been an industry standard for fifth wheel hitches for many years. We used it for 7 years.

Our second hitch was a B&W Ram OEM fifth wheel hitch. This new style hitch used the Dodge Ram OEM factory installed pucks that came with our 2016 Ram 3500 dually to mount the hitch to the truck bed. The four corners of the hitch base were secured into the four pucks by turning each puck handle a quarter turn. The hitch could be removed from the truck just as easily simply by turning the four puck handles, a game changer! We used that hitch for 5 years.

We loved being able to install and remove the B&W hitch at a moment’s notice, even though it had a big, beefy base that was a little bit of a challenge for one person to manage alone. So, when we went hitch shopping, we wanted our new hitch to be equally mobile but a bit lighter, if at all possible.

01 771 Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler towed by Ram 3500 dually truck with Demco 21K Recon fifth wheel hitch

Our first stop on our 16 week maiden voyage!

One of the shortcomings of any OEM puck system fifth wheel hitch is that the three diesel pickup manufacturers, Ford, GM and Dodge, have all designed their own unique footprints for the placement of their pucks in their pickup beds. This means that an OEM hitch designed for a Ram truck will not work in a Chevy or Ford and vice versa.

As we contemplated which hitch to get for our new toy hauler, we knew that there might come a day fairly soon when we would want to replace our current truck. Of course, that may never happen, especially given the weird state of the car and truck market today, but it has been on our minds for a while.

So, our hitch requirements boiled down to these two:

  1. Could be easily installed in or removed from the bed of any brand or age of truck
  2. Would be comprised of components light and small enough for one person to maneuver alone

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch – A Gooseneck Ball Mounted Hitch!

We discovered that the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch is mounted on a gooseneck ball in a gooseneck receiver in the truck bed. Gooseneck receivers come standard with all OEM puck systems and can also be installed as an after-market addition in any truck that doesn’t have an OEM puck system.

The beauty of this hitch design is that the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch can be used in any brand or age of truck. This took care of Requirement #1 in our new hitch wish list!

Like the OEM puck system fifth wheel hitches, the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch is installed in two basic parts: a base that installs onto a gooseneck ball mounted in the gooseneck receiver in the pickup bed, and a hitch head which mounts onto the base and latches onto the kingpin of the fifth wheel trailer.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Base

The Base unit for the Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch

The hitch head can be further broken down into two parts: the actual hitch head itself and a center column that inserts into the base. These two parts can be installed and removed separately, which adds a step to the process but keeps each individual part quite lightweight. Or they can be handled as a single and slightly heavier unit.

Upright Centerl Column Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch

The Center Column (or “Upright”) that supports the hitch head.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Head

The hitch head for the Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel

I called Demco to talk to a salesperson about the hitch and get some details about the sizes and weights of the individual components.

And I was absolutely floored when an operator answered the phone on the second ring and immediately transferred me to a salesman who picked right up and greeted me warmly.

How often does THAT happen nowadays?

We were delighted to find that the total weight of the hitch and the weights and physical dimensions of the individual components were slightly less than other manufacturers’ OEM puck based hitches. That took care of Requirement #2 in our hitch wish list!

But back to that phone call… In a fifth wheel towing setup, the fifth wheel hitch is one of the most important pieces of equipment to ensure you get down the road safely. For us, it is reassuring to have the company behind the product be easy to reach by phone without having to listen to endless lists of menu selections, punch in endless numbers and wind up leaving a voicemail in some unmonitored voicemail box anyway. In the RV industry today, most brands are owned by massive umbrella corporations. It is rare to find an independent manufacturer that is not a subsidiary of a massive corporation.

Demco Recon 21k Fifth Wheel Hitch Specifications:

  • Rated to tow a 21,000 lb. trailer. Our toy hauler has a GVWR of 15,000 lbs which is well within the limit.
  • Mounts onto a standard 4″ tall 2 5/16 gooseneck ball.
  • Total Hitch Weight: 134 lbs.

The component weights are:

  • Head Weight: 35.75 lbs.
  • Center Column Weight: 20 lbs.
  • Base Weight: 78.25 lbs.

If the Center Column and Base remain connected as a single unit, the weights of the two components are:

  • Head Weight: 35.75 lbs.
  • Center Column + Base Weight: 98.25 lbs

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Installation

The installation proved to be straight forward. As mentioned above, the hitch has three main components:

  1. The Base which is installed on a gooseneck ball in the truck bed
  2. The Center Column which slides into the Base and sets the overall height of the hitch
  3. The Head which mounts on the Center Column and whose jaw latches onto the trailer’s kingpin.

The parts included the following:

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Base and Base Parts

The Base, the Center Column Upright and some pins.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Head Handle and Parts

The Head, hitch handle and bolt, and a blue urethane pivot bumper.


Tools Required for Installation

Installing the Base

The gooseneck coupler (or socket) on the underside of the Base slips over the gooseneck ball in the bed of the truck.

If you flip over the Base, you can see that the coupler is slilghtly offest from the center of the Base. The coupler location is offset to accommodate the Center Column which stands directly in the center of the Base (for balanced support) and holds the Hitch Head.

Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch underside of the Base

On the underside of the Base you can see the gooseneck ball socket is offset from center.

When the hitch is installed in the truck bed, the gooseneck ball coupler is positioned towards the cab of the truck.

The Base is secured to the gooseneck ball in the truck bed by sliding the Coupler Pin through the hole in the square column at the bottom of the Base. By tightening the Top Coupler Bolt nut on the top of the Base to 30 ft-lbs, the Coupler Pin is cinched up against the Base, clamping the Base and gooseneck ball together into the bed of the truck. A very clever design!

Before getting to that step, however, the Top Coupler Bolt on the Base was loosened so the gooseneck ball coupler would slide over the gooseneck ball easily. We did this before placing the hitch in the truck bed.

Unbolt collar Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Bolt Retainer Assembly was removed and the Top Coupler Bolt was loosened so the hitch Base could slip over the gooseneck ball in the truck bed.

Remove bolt retainer assembly Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Bolt Lock Plate was removed.

The Top Coupler Bolt was loosened.

Then the Base was placed in the bed of the truck with the Gooseneck Ball Coupler sliding over the Gooseneck ball. As you can see, when the hitch is removed from the truck, the entire bed of the truck is open except for the small bump of the gooseneck ball. You can haul things in the truck or just drive around peacefully without a fifth wheel hitch clanking around in the back (especially helpful when driving on rutted dirt roads)!

Pickup truck bed with gooseneck ball

The gooseneck ball was ready and waiting in the pickup bed.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Base in Truck Bed

The hitch Base was mounted onto the gooseneck ball. The footprint of the Base is contained well inside the four OEM pucks which makes it both lighter and less awkward to maneuver than a larger OEM fifth wheel hitch base.

In order to secure the Base into the bed of the truck, the Coupler Pin was inserted into the Coupler Hole on the Base below the round head of the gooseneck ball. Then the nut on the Top Coupler Bolt was tightened to 30 ft-lbs using a torque wrench and 15/16 socket.

Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch Ready for torque

The Top Coupler Bolt cinches the Coupler Pin under the Gooseneck Ball up against the Base frame, securing the hitch Base onto the ball.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Top bolt

The Top Coupler Bolt is tightened to 30 ft-lbs.

The Bolt Lock Plate was placed over the Top Coupler Bolt head and then tightened the adjacent 1/4″ bolt with a 7/16 socket. The Bolt Retainer assembly blocks the Top Coupler Bolt from turning.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Notched Bolt Lock Plate

The Bolt Lock Plate slides over the Top Coupler Bolt and is held in place with a 1/4 inch bolt to prevent the Top Coupler Bolt from unscrewing.

Notched bolt lock plate aligns correctly flipped over

The Bolt Lock Plate goes over the Top Coupler Bolt.

Notched bolt lock plate with two bolts

The Bolt Retainer Assembly was secured using a 7/16 socket on the 1/4 inch bolt.

Installing the Center Column

Next, the Center Column was placed into the square opening in the Base.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Inserting Center Column in the Base

The Center Column was placed in the square opening in the Base.

The Center Column can be positioned at one of three different heights that are 1 1/4 inches apart. The height of the Center Column determines the vertical distance between the bottom of the fifth wheel overhang and the top of the truck box. Demco recommends that this distance should be about 6 inches.

The middle height looked like it would be the best choice, so we placed the Cross Pin through the center hole in the Center Column. The Cross Pin was secured with an R-clip.

Hitch head height Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Cross Pin is inserted in the middle hole in the Center Column

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Cotter Pin

An R-clip secures the other end of the Cross Pin.

Two set screws hold the Center Column in place in the Base. Using a 3/4 inch 12 point socket, the set screws were tightened to Demco’s recommended spec of 100 ft-lbs of torque. Then the jam nuts were tightened using a 15/16 inch deep well socket.

12 point socket Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The two set screws holding the Center Column in place were tightened to 100 ft-lbs with a 3/4 inch 12 point socket. The jam nuts were tightened with a 15/16/ deep well socket.

721 Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Torque to 100 ft-lbs

The Set Screws were tightened to 100 ft-lbs with a torque wrench.

Installing the Head

Flipping the head over, the blue Urethane Pivot Bumper was placed on the bottom of the Head. This quiets the hitch when you aren’t towing.

Dampening bumper for hitch head 27 721 Hitch head pin Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

To minimize noise when not towing, a urethane pivot bumper dampens the movement of the hitch head.

Dampening bumper for hitch head Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

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Then the Head was placed onto the Base, and a 1 inch Pin was slid through it to hold it in place. The 1″ Pin was secured with a Lynch Pin.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Installing the Center Column

The hitch Head was set onto the Base.

Hitch head pin Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

A 1″ pin held it in place.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch D-Ring on Center Column

The 1″ pin was secured by a Lynch Pin.

Then the Hitch Handle was assembled. A Safety Lock Pin held the handle in place while the bolt was tightened. A light coat of White Lithium Grease was applied between the Safety Lock Pin hole and the handle housing.

Hitch handle Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Safety Lock Pin held the handle open so the bolt on the handle could be tightened.

Lube hitch handle Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

A light coat of White Lithium Grease lubricated the hitch handle.

That was it!

Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Fifth Wheel towed using a Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch

Ready for new travel adventures!

Hitching and Unhitching

There are many different mechanisms used for locking a fifth wheel hitch’s jaws around a kingpin. The jaws of the Demco Recon hitch wrap completely around the kingpin. This 360 degree wrap makes a very tight seal around the kingpin and helps reduce chucking when towing, which we loved.

Demco 21K 5th Wheel Hitch has a wraparound locking jaw

The Demco 21K Recon fifth wheel hitch has a very tight wrap-around jaw that minimizes chucking.

However, the hitch’s tight wrap-around jaw also makes the process of hitching and unhitching a little bit more finicky.

Demco provides two brief videos that show the process of hitching up and unhitching (“coupling and uncoupling”) in action (click here and here).

These are well worth watching to get a feeling for the relative positions of the hitch head and the king pin. The videos are for Demco’s rail mounted fifth wheel hitch, but the positioning of the components is identical to the Demco 21k Recon gooseneck ball hitch.

Demco also recommends using wheel chocks for both hitching and unhitching operations. We weren’t accustomed to using wheel chocks, but we found they made a huge difference in easing the fifth wheel’s king pin into and out of the Demco hitch while preventing the trailer from rolling slightly.

RV wheel chocks

Wheel chocks are recommended when hitching and unhitching with this hitch.

The Demco 21K Recon hitch also requires that the fifth wheel’s landing jacks be lowered slightly below where they would be with other hitches.

We found that as we were hitching up, the trailer king pin’s lube plate needed to be positioned slightly lower than the hitch plate. The truck would squat a bit once the trailer was hitched up. Eyeballing across the lube plate and hitch head, the lube plate needed to be coming at the hitch about halfway up the little lip on the edge of the hitch head.

When unhitching, there needed to be just a slight hairline crack of light showing between the king pin’s lube plate and the hitch plate. Since our truck has a factory installed auto-leveling system, we’ve found we need to wait until the truck bed has completely stopped raising or lowering and then see if a hairline crack of light is visible betwen the lube plate and the hitch plate.

For unhitching, Demco provides a Safety Lock Pin to hold the hitch handle open until the truck has pulled out completely. We found we needed to use this Lock Pin whenever we unhitched or the handle would close on its own before the truck had pulled out completely.

Demco 21K 5th wheel hitch with handle open for unhitching

The Safety Lock Pin holds the hitch handle open while unhitching.

We also stabilized our Rota-Flex pin box with an Andersen Rota-Flex lockout kit as Demco recommended. Because both the Rota-Flex pin box and the Demco hitch are mobile in multiple directions, the two can end up working against each other. One will move in one direction and then the other will compensate for that motion in a counterproductive way. The Anderson Rota-Flex lockout kit prevents the pin box from moving at all, allowing the Demco hitch to make all the movements necessary to hitch up or unhitch.

After using the Anderson Rota-Flex lockout kit for a few thousands miles during our trip, we removed it and found that we didn’t really need it. So, if your trailer has a Rota-Flex king pin, you might try using the Demco hitch without the lockout kit first and purchase the lockout kit only if you are having trouble hitch and unhitching.

Towing

Underway, we have found that when suddenly accelerating or braking hard, or turning a sharp corner or starting a steep climb or descent, the hitch sometimes clunks loudly as it adjusts to the change in motion.

However, although we’ve taken the trailer over some very rough terrain and deeply pot-holed dirt roads, we’ve found the motion of the trailer has been surprisingly smooth. This absence of chucking is due to the very tight fit of the wraparound jaws encircling the king pin and is a wonderful feature.

After about 1,000 miles of towing, the shaft of the Center Column began to wobblie slightly. Interestingly, the set screws hadn’t come loose by unscrewing themselves because the two jam nuts were still tight. Probably the set screws had worn away a little metal on the shaft from all the jiggling as we went down the road. We didn’t have our torque wrench with us, so Mark tightened the two set screws as hard as he could and they never loosened again.

After 4,000 miles of towing, we noticed that the hitch base had twisted very slightly in the truck bed, about 5 degrees of rotation. This was due to the hitch being secured to the truck in just one location in the center, by compression on the gooseneck ball, rather than being connected in four corners like an OEM or traditional hitch. With the hitch slightly twisted in the truck bed, it was harder to slide the king pin in and out of the jaws while hitching and unhitching. We straightened the hitch and tightened it down again and it hasn’t twisted since.

One of our readers left a comment below suggesting that we try putting a rubber horse mat (sold at farm and feed stores) in the bed of the truck under the hitch with a hole in it for the gooseneck ball. This would provide some friction that might prevent rotation and would also protect the bed of the truck.

Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch rotated in the bed of the truck

After 4,000 miles of towing we noticed the hitch had rotated slightly in the truck bed. We realigned and retightened the hitch and it hasn’t rotated again.

Portability

The three components of this hitch are slightly lighter than some of the OEM puck system hitch counterparts, and the Base has a smaller footprint too, so it is less awkward to load into and unload from the truck bed than other hitch bases.

Mark can lift the Base in and out of the truck easily by himself. Of course, it is even easier with a second pair of hands and I happily jump in to help! The other two components, the Center Column and Head, are easily lifted and maneuvered by one person, even me.

That said, if you choose to keep the Center Column attached to the Base after the initial installation, which saves you from loosening and re-tightening the two set screw bolts on the Base to torque spec, then two people may be required to lift that Base/Center Column combined unit in and out of the truck.

Overall Impressions

The three great benefits of the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch are that it is:

  • Compatible with any pickup truck
  • Easily installed and removed by one person
  • Almost free of chucking when towing

The process of hitching and unhitching is a little different than with other fifth wheel hitches but is easily mastered (it took us a while to realize we had been doing it wrong!). The hitch also required two small adjustments after we had used it for a few thousand miles, but our adjustments have held since we made them.

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Truck Camper and Small RV Storage Tips!

We’ve been taking our new-to-us truck camper on short jaunts this summer. These “shakedown” cruises are helping us figure out the ins and outs of traveling in a truly tiny home, and we’ve learned a lot about living large in a very small space.

In the process, we’ve come up with some storage ideas that we’d like to share.

Truck Camper and Small RV Storage Tips

Northwood Manufacturing did a great job with creating large storage spaces throughout our 2005 Arctic Fox 860 camper. There is a full height closet, two shirt closets, huge bins on either side of the bed that can hold lots of clothes and good sized storage spaces under the dinette seats, not to mention several cabinets and a sliding pantry.

However, creating storage spaces for small things like keys, glasses, flashlights, pocket knifes, pens, pads, small tools, etc., are projects they leave up to us RVers. And it’s been fun to get creative!

The first thing we noticed on our maiden voyage was that all our small stuff kept ending up in a huge pile on top of the dinette table. Nothing makes a small space feel really cluttered than having a single horizontal space piled high with stuff.

So, we mounted a few different types of storage spaces for small items on the walls.

As a reminder of what our camper looks like inside, here are pics of the interior so you can see the bigger picture of where each storage item wound up.

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper kitchen

The kitchen needed a few extra goodies to increase the storage sapce

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The dinette also got some simple upgrades to keep the dining table clutter-free.

For starters, we put a spice rack on the wall next to the range hood right below the microwave’s swinging door but high enough to be out of the heat of the flames on the range. This is handy for all those things I like to have “right there” for cooking.

Spice rack on RV camper wall

A spice rack near the range makes cooking essentials easy to reach.

There is very little counter space, and I found that a second spice rack under the window helped get things like dish soap up off the counter so other things could be tucked underneath as needed.

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The towel rack was already in place, whether from the manufacturer or the previous owner, I don’t know. I added another towel rack for a dish cloth.

Spice rack on RV camper kitchen wall

Wire spice racks proved useful in the kitchen and elsewhere! A towel rack for the dish cloth helps it dry fast and keeps it off the faucet.

We like bananas and when we lived in our fifth wheel we had a banana hook for hanging banana bunches that we used a lot. So, we put a ceiling hook (also called a “swag hook” for hanging plants) in between the range hood and the kitchen light. It is screwed directly into the bottom of the cabinet. We may put a second one on the other side of the light too. In that position it would be further from the heat from the range burners.

We’ve found in both the fiver and the truck camper that the bananas actually stay on the hook while we’re in transit, even on bumpy dirt roads, and this helps keep them from bruising as we move from place to place.

Truck camper storage upgrades banana hook

Bananas bruise so easily we like to hang them up on a ceiling hook!

Although we rarely used a toaster in our fifth wheel, we’ve been enjoying having one in our sticks-and-bricks life and we wanted to have one in this camper too. Toasters and other small kitchen appliances are bulky and awkward, and I almost gave up on finding a home for it.

However, there’s a large cabinet over the sink that has just one shelf in it, and if I could get a second shelf in there it would be perfect for the toaster. After tossing a few ideas around for installing a shelf in that cabinet, I found a standalone shelf unit that fits perfectly. The dishware is stored underneath and the toaster fits on top. I take the toaster down and put it in the sink when we travel, but while we’re camping it is wonderful to store it out of the way and be able access it easily when we want to use it.

Standalone shelf for kitchen cabinet in truck camper

The big kitchen cabinet needed a second shelf. Building one in would be a good idea too, but I like this standalone shelf unit.

We’ve always had key hooks over our entry door, so we put two sets of four hooks over the door.

Key hooks on RV camper wall

Our many keys and glasses all need a home of their own and these key hooks work well.

After a few trips, we realized that these 8 hooks weren’t enough. Between the keys to the camper, the truck and the RZR plus multiple pairs of sunglasses (light ones and dark ones), multiple pairs of reading glasses (strong and weak) and various hats, we decided to add two more strips of 7 hooks each going right across the wall so there would be plenty of room for all those things.

There is almost no space between this rear wall of the camper and the slide-out wall as it slides in and out. So, all the things on the hooks have to be put elsewhere when we travel, but the hooks themselves fit just fine and it sure is convenient while we’re camping to have a home for all those items.

Key hooks inside RV camper

A long row of key hooks gives us lots of hanging options, and although we have to remove the items to move the slide-out, the strips of hooks themselves don’t interfere with the slide-out movement.

One of our earliest outings was a trip to visit our friends Ann and Phil who were camping nearby in the woods.

Phil and Ann have been living in RVs for over three decades and are a wealth of knowledge. They travel in both a “winter home” that is a beautifully appointed Alpenlite fifth wheel and a “summer home” which is a smaller, really well laid out and more maneuverable Class C. Phil spent his working years as diesel mechanic and mobile RV mechanic and he has an incredible shop built onto the back of his Freightliner that is a sight to behold. He and Ann ran an RV park for many years, and Ann is full of great ideas for ways to make life in an RV comfy and cozy.

During our visit they had two great suggestions for us. The first was to use a product called Alien Tape to mount lighter things on the walls of the RV. This is a double sided tape that has a stronger stickiness than any tape we’ve seen before, and it doesn’t ruin the walls when you remove it.

We used this tape to mount the key hooks and it was a snap. Later, when we mounted a clock and then decided we didn’t like the location, all it took was a good strong twist and the Alien Tape came off of the wall and also came off the clock and didn’t leave a mark or a stain behind.

Key hooks and Alien Tape for mountain inside RV camper

Alien Tape makes it a cinch to hang things on the walls — and remove them too!

We also wanted a bigger storage area for things like sunscreen, moisturizer, bug spray, wallets, flashlights, etc., right by the door. I found two cloth hanging baskets that fit perfectly in the space next to the bathroom sliding door — his and hers!

Hanging wall storage baskets on walls inside RV

These hanging baskets are good for slightly bigger items including wallets, moisturizer, sunscreen and flashlights that we want by the door.

You can also see the side-view of these baskets in the previous photos of the keyhooks.

The tricky thing with finding places to mount mini-shelves and storage areas on the walls is that we didn’t want to bump into them as we moved about and we didn’t want them to obstruct the movement of the slide-out as it went in and out.

The bare walls in the dinette were begging to be useful. Those walls aren’t near the slide-out movement, but we did have to worry about banging our heads on anything we put there if we leaned back in our seats.

Empty wall in RV dinette

This wall could definitely help increase our storage.

Empty wall inside RV truck camper dinette

So could this one!

They turned out to be the perfect places for more spice racks to hold things like our two-way radios, current book we’re reading, iPad, etc

We put one on each wall. Both were mounted high enough so if we threw our heads back they wouldn’t hit the racks.

Spice rack for storage in RV truck camper dinette

The spice rack can hold pocket knives, a book or two, an iPad and other goodes.

Spice rack doubles as a shelf for extra storage in a truck camper

The movement of the slide-out wouldn’t impact this space at all but we did have to place the spice rack high enough so we wouldn’t hit our heads on it if we leaned back in our seats.

We both enjoy reading magazines, especially if we’re camping in a place with no internet (which happened quite a bit this summer!).

There is a big open wall space next to the refrigerator that could definitely hold something. However, the slide-out comes in along this wall, so there is only about an inch of depth, just enough for a magazine or very thin book but not enough for a solid plastic wall filing system.

I found a fabric magazine rack designed to hold manila folders for school teachers, and it works perfectly. I put a manila folder in each pocket to keep the pockets from sagging. Mark used extra screws and washers on either side to hold the whole thing flat against the wall.

Hanging wall magazine storage in RV truck camper

We like to read magazines and this fabric magazine rack is nearly flush to the wall which makes it ideal for avoiding the slide-out wall as it moves in and out. It holds plenty of magazines!

We’ve always had a big struggle with shoe storage. We like to have a variety of shoes — a pair of running shoes, hiking boots, slippers and slip-on shoes/sandals for each of us — so the pile of footwear by the door is huge no matter where we live.

There is a tiny space between the step in front of the dinette and the back wall of the camper where I squeezed in a single tier shoe rack.

This shoe rack comes unassembled as a bunch of rods and shelf supports with holes in them for the rods. The smallest model I could find was a five tier unit, so I took the rods and shelf supports for just one level for the camper and built a separate four tier unit to use in our home.

Shoe rack inside RV truck camper doorway

Our shoe chaos was solved with one tier of a multi-tier shoe rack.

It doesn’t hold absolutely all our footwear, but the thin and flexible slippers and slip-ons can be shoved behind the dinette seat. The main thing was to get the clunky boots and shoes out of the way so we aren’t tripping over them each time we go in and out of the camper.

Shoe rack inside truck camper RV

Now the big clunky shoes and boots are out of the way.

There is just one drawer in the whole camper, right next to the range, and it is so narrow it has just a single divider inside. I use it for silverware on one side and cooking utensils on the other. I hadn’t really thought about how to get more drawers into the camper, but our friend Ann showed us an absolutely fabulous product that she is using in her Class C to hold her silverware. It is an “Under desk drawer.”

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

The Under desk drawer (or “add-a-drawer”) is a single unit that gets hung under the desk or table with double-sticky tape, Alien Tape or screws.

The whole sliding mechanism of the drawer is built into one unit, and you mount the drawer under the table using either the stick-on tabs they provide or Alien Tape (or screws if you wish). I bought two drawers that fit perfectly on either side of our dinette table — his and hers again! Surprisingly, they are shallow enough that our knees don’t hit when we slide on and off the settees getting in and out of the dinette.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

Two fit side by side just right and our knees don’t hit them!

Each drawer comes with a small sliding compartment so you can separate smaller and larger items if you wish (or you can remove it). These drawers are great for small tools and hardware as well as pads, pens, scissors and other office goodies.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

These can be used for paper, pens and other office items or for small tools and hardware or even for silverware or cooking utensils.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

I just love these — thank you, Annie, for your wonderful tip!

Well, that’s it for now. If you’ve got a small RV like ours, I hope these tips help you make the most of your space, and if you’ve got other cool space saving ideas please share them in the comments below!

Oh goodness, there’s Buddy under the covers. He took a nap throughout this whole post!

Puppy sleeps happily in truck camper RV bed

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After I took this pic, he opened one eye and said, “If you aren’t going to talk about Lizard Hunting or Rabbit Chasing then I’ll just keep snoozing under the covers.”

Happy campers

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More tips and anecdotes from our Life On The Road and At Sea:

Honda EU2200i Generator Review + Oil Change and Maintenance Tips

We have been loving the heck out of our Honda EU2200i generator for the last seven months and have already put about 150 hours on it. We live in our RV off the grid on solar power 24/7, and we rely on the sun for 98% of our power needs. However, in the last few months we have experienced an extraordinary amount of wildfire smoke and rain in our RV travels, and that trusty old orb in the sky was nowhere to be seen for weeks on end.

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping

Honda EU2200i generator

Why A Honda EU2200i generator?

In the past we have used a generator only for a few days in mid-winter when the days are really short and storms blow in for a week at a time, limiting the amount of power our solar panels could produce, or for just a few days in mid-summer when the interior temp of our trailer shoots into the 90s and we run our air conditioner to cool down.

Honda EU2200i Generator back side-min

The back side of the Honda EU2200i generator.

When we decided to get one of Honda’s new and easily carried 2200 watt generators in early May, we didn’t think we’d put it to use right away. We were headed to the cool mountains for a month or so, and we doubted we’d need our air conditioner.

But our longer range plans were to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and hang out along Lake Superior where we knew we’d be camping in shady spots under tall trees.

Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 1-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 2-min

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Honda EU2200i generator RV camping outlets side view-min

The “business end” of the Honda EU2200i generator

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping exhaust side view-min

The exhaust end

Ironically, within a few weeks of getting our new 2200 watt Honda generator, wildfire smoke filled the mountain air, obscuring the sun and preventing our solar panels from being as effective as usual.

The wildfire smoke was followed by weeks-long rain storms for the next few months as we traveled from the mountain states to Lake Superior. Oh my, were we happy it was so easy to set up our new little generator to keep our batteries nicely charged despite the dark skies.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer under stormy skies-min

Solar power is great until a storm like this sweeps in!

At one point we had to ask ourselves if we had inadvertently done a rain dance by getting this new generator!

Just like how one of us always get really sick whenever we put a new bottle of Nyquil in our medicine chest, we wondered if the deluge of smoke and rains came because we now had an easy access generator that could power our lives on a moment’s notice!

Fifth wheel RV camping with Honda EU2200i generator-min

When storms blew in we got the generator out — and it was easy!

The Honda EU2200i is light and easy to Carry!

The Honda EU2200i generator is a new and improved version of the much beloved Honda 2000i generator that has been powering the lives of RVers for many years. If you wander through the desert in Quartzsite, Arizona, in January, you’ll see the popular red generators outside of many RVs.

It weights just 46.5 lbs., holds just under a gallon of gas and delivers 2,200 watts of peak surge power and 1,800 watts of continuous power.

We have had a Yamaha 2400i generator with us since we started full-time RVing eleven years ago, and although it is a great generator, it is unwieldy to store, maneuver and set up. Too often we have looked at each other and said, “We really should get the generator out,” only to decide against it because neither of us felt like going through the hassle.

However, the light little Honda EU2200i generator has proven to be so darn easy to grab and set up that we often end up running it in circumstances where we wouldn’t have before.

For the moment, it is living in the back of our truck right next to the bigger generator. Either one of us can pick it up with one hand and lift it out of the truck, even while gingerly stepping around the fifth wheel hitch and the rest of the obstacle course in the bed of our truck. Not so with its big brother.

Starting the Honda EU2200i generator!

We like to start the Honda EU2200i generator without having it plugged into the RV so it can get a little warmed up before we put any loads on it. The shore power cord is plugged into the trailer, but we don’t plug the other end into the generator until the generator is actually humming along.

Since our trailer is a 50 amp trailer and the generator outlets are 15 amps, we use two adapters plus the shore power cord to get between the 15 amp female outlets on the generator and the male 50 amp outlet on our trailer:

We keep these two adapters on hand because it gives us the flexibility to connect the RV’s shorepower outlet to either a 15 amp power source or a 30 amp power source. However, you can also go directly from the 50 amp outlet on the RV to the 15 amp outlet on the generator and skip dragging out the heavy shore power cord by using a 15 amp Male to 50 amp Male adapter.

To start the Honda EU2200i generator there are three easy steps:

  • 1. Open the gas cap vent so a vacuum doesn’t build up inside the tank
  • 2. Close the choke (move the switch to the right)
  • 3. Set the generator switch to ON

Then pull the pull start cable and away you go.

Gas cap vent on Honda EU2200i generator-min

First point the gray dial to “On” to vent the gas cap.
Mark painted the “On” and “Off” labels to make them easier to see.

Honda EU2200i Generator front side-min

Then close the choke and set the generator switch to “On.” Now you’re ready to pull the start cord.

Starting the Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

Instant power!

Shortly after the generator roars to life, slowly open the choke (move the switch to the left).

We like to position the generator so the exhaust goes away from the trailer. If there are other people camped in the vicinity, we also like to place it somewhere in our campsite that it is as far from their campsite as possible so we don’t annoy them when we run it.

If it is raining out, we put it under one of the slide-outs so it doesn’t get wet.

Sometimes these locations are not optimal for pulling the start cord and getting the generator going (especially crawling under a slide-out!). But this little Honda generator is so light it is easy to maneuver it to wherever we want to place it, even after it is running.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer with Honda EU2200i generator-min

All set up and purring away.

RV camping with a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Buddy jumps for joy!

Using Eco Throttle for Greater Efficiency and Less Noise

One of the really nifty features on the Honda EU2200i generator is the Eco Throttle. This is located on the “business end” of the generator in the upper left corner.

Turning it on lowers the RPMs of the generator so it doesn’t use as much gas and runs more quietly.

If we are going to run the generator for a number of hours primarily to charge the batteries and do other things that put just a small load on the generator like using our laptops, running the lights at night, or watching a movie on TV, we keep the Eco throttle turned on.

We tested the generator to see how long it would run if we filled the 0.95 gallon gas tank before it ran out of gas. We had it in Eco mode and used our laptops and other small things while it was running.

It ran for 9.5 hours!

We don’t usually run the generator for nearly that long.

As I’ve described in our article about what happens when you run solar power and shore power simultaneously, the best time for solar powered RVs to run a generator is in the morning hours. This helps get the batteries sufficiently charged so they can easily reach their charging (Absorb) voltage under solar power alone once the generator is turned off. This gives them more daylight hours to complete the Absorb stage before the sun goes down.

Outlets and switches Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The Eco Throttle switch allows the generator to run more efficiently and quietly when loads are light.

Eco mode is our default with this generator, both to save gas and to hear the generator’s quiet purr instead of its louder roar. In Eco mode it is as quiet as our Yamaha 2400i generator, but when it is not in Eco mode it is a little louder.

If you suddenly place a big load on the generator when it is in Eco mode, it will temporarily go into higher RPMs to provide the required power.

If we turn on the toaster while in Eco mode (our toaster is an 800 watt model), we can hear the generator rev up while the toaster is making toast. As soon as the toast pops up, the generator idles back down. If we do the same thing in non-Eco mode, the generator is already humming along at a fast pace, and it doesn’t need much of a surge to operate the toaster.

Honda EU2200i Generator for RV battery charging-min

We camped under thick canopies of trees in the rain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

If the generator is in Eco mode and we use the microwave (ours is an 1100 watt model), the generator has a slight lag time as it first senses the heavy load and then revs up to provide the necessary power.

There is an audible drop in tone and dimming of the lights on the microwave for a second or two before the generator roars to meet the challenge. We’re not sure this momentary dip in power is good for the microwave, so if we plan to use it we prefer to have the generator running in non-Eco mode first.

Can it power an RV air conditioner?

We have a 15,000 BTU air conditioner on our 36′ fifth wheel trailer. With some coaxing (i.e., warming up the generator, then turning on the Coleman air conditioner’s fan and finally turning on the air conditioner itself), our Yamaha 2400i generator can handle the air conditioner’s initial power surge and run it for hours on end without a hitch.

We were hoping the much lighter and smaller Honda EU2200i might be able to run it too. However, the generator’s 2200 watts max power is not quite enough to handle the surge when the air conditioner starts. It is likely it could power a 13,500 btu air conditioner (standard on smaller RVs) just fine.

The Honda EU2200i generator is designed to work in parallel with a twin generator and connector cables, giving you 4,400 watts of peak power, more than enough to run a 15k BTU air conditioner. You can probably run the microwave at the same time with that kind of juice! The wonderful thing about this setup is that the two generators are a lot smaller than one big 4.4kw generator would be.

Honda EU2200i and EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit-min

Honda EU2200i + EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit with covers for each.

Putting Gas in the Honda EU2200i Generator

The hardest part about putting gas in a generator is fiddling with the child-proof, spill-proof, idiot-proof gas can. Government regulators have obviously never used a gas can in their lives, and we’re quite sure a lot more gas has been spilled on our precious environment because of the newfangled user-unfriendly spouts than ever was spilled using the trusty old gas can spouts of days gone by.

Putting the spout on a plastic gas can-min

Good luck with the gas can spout!

Putting gas in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Easy access on the top of the generator for gassing it up.

We’ve been adding Seafoam Motor Treatment to the gas in the generator. This fuel stabilizer cleans the carburetor, keeps the engine clean, and we find it makes it easier to start.

When we cruised Mexico in our sailboat, we used it in the outboard motor for our dinghy and were very pleased with the results.

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Changing the Oil

Changing the oil on the Honda EU2200i generator is a snap. First find a pleasant place to do it. Mark likes to elevate the generator onto some kind of platform so it is easy to drain the old oil out of the bottom.

As always, Buddy likes to supervise.

Changing the oil in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Changing the oil doesn’t take long, but doing it in a pretty place makes it more fun.

You’ll need the following:

  • A flat head screwdriver
  • A sealable 14 oz. or larger container for the old oil
  • A quart of SAE 10W-30 oil
  • Rags to clean up drips and wipe your hands
  • Optional: Rubber gloves

The first step is to unscrew the single screw that holds the front panel on the front of the generator and remove the panel so you have full access to the heart of the machine.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Access the heart of the generator via the side panel on the front.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Once it’s unscrewed, the side panel lifts off easily.

To check or change the oil, simply unscrew the dipstick in the lower left corner.

If you are just checking the oil, make sure the oil level fills the spout and is clear. Honda recomments changing it every six months or 100 hours of use (keep track of the hours of use in a log book).

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The dipstick is in the lower left corner.

Check the oil with the dipstick on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Unscrew the dipstick to check the oil and/or to change it.

When changing the oil, hold a container of some kind below the spout.

Any container that can hold 14 ounces of liquid is fine. Or you can drain the oil into an oil drain pan and then, after the new oil has been put into the generator, pour the old oil into the container that held the new oil.

In the case pictured here, Mark used an old plastic peanut jar with a screw top lid.

Drain the oil from a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Drain the oil into an easily sealed container that holds at least 14 ounces.

To get all the oil out, tip the generator slightly towards you.

Drain all the oil from a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

Tip the generator towards you to get out every last drop.

The Honda EU2200i generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil.

Honda EU2200i Generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil-min

The generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil

Once the old oil is completely drained out, pour the new oil in.

Change the oil on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pour the new oil in

The oil reserve is properly filled when the oil comes right to the edge (with the generator sitting level). Once it’s full, screw the dipstick back in and tidy up any drips with the rags.

Oil change on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The oil is full when it is level with the spout

The generator takes 14 ounces of oil and, of course, oil is sold in 16 ounce bottles. You can save the last two ounces for other odd jobs around your RV in one of these classic oil cans. Grandpa will be proud!

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Cleaning / Replacing the Air Filters

Since the front panel of the generator is off, now is a good time to inspect the air filters. To access the air filters, unscrew the screw holding the access panel in place.

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The air filters are in the upper right area of the front of the generator

Open air filter compartment on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Remove the air filter cover

There are two small air filters inside. Each one is a small piece of foam. If they’re dusty and dirty you can clean and re-oil them. If they are brittle and have started to fall apart, you can replace them with Honda’s air filter replacement kit.

Air filter on a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

There are two air filters inside, one above and one below

Honda EU2200i Generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Inspecting / Replacing the Spark Plug

Once the front panel on the generator is buttoned up again, this is a good time to check the spark plug.

The Honda EU2200i generator’s spark plug is located in a small compartment on the top next to the handle. The cover slides off easily.

Open spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

The spark plug has its own compartment on the top of the generator

Inside, the spark plug is covered by a spark plug cap. Simply pull the cap off to reveal the spark plug underneath.

Spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pull off the spark plug cap to reveal the spark plug underneath

To remove the spark plub, use a 5/8″ spark plug socket and ratchet plus 3/8″ drive extension. The spark plug is quite close to the generator handle, so a 5//8″ spark plug socket with an integral 3/8″ drive on a swivel extension could be very handy.

Remove spark plug from Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Use a 5/8″ socket and extension to remove the spark plug

The spark plug is the NGK CR5HSB.

Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

NGK CR5HSB spark plug

Inspect it with a spark plug gap tool. The gap should be 0.24 to 0.28 inches which is equivalent to 0.6 to 0.7 mm.

Check spark plug gap with feeler guage on Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

The spark plug gap should be between 0.24 and 0.28 inches (0.6 to 0.7 mm)

Before placing the spark plug back in the generator, spread a thin layer of high temperature anti-seize lubricant on the spark plug threads.

Apply anti-seize lubricant to spark plug for Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Apply a thin layer of high temp anti-seize lubricant to the threads

Anti-seize lubricant applied to Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

.

And that’s it!

Honda EU2200i Generator charges batteries while RV camping-min

Happy campers!

If you are looking for a lightweight generator that can run for many hours on end and power all of the appliances in your RV that require less than 2200 watts to operate (in our case, this is everything except our 15k BTU air conditioner), the new Honda EU2200i generator is a great choice.

Hopefully if you buy one, you won’t inadvertently inspire the rain gods to dump weeks of rain on you like we did!!

Note added March 24, 2019 – 200,000 Honda 2200i units have been recalled for a leak in the fuel valve. You can schedule a free repair at a Honda authorized dealer. There is more detailed info from Honda about the specific units affected at this link.

Where to buy the Honda EU2200i generator and accessories:

RV Power Adapters and Dogbones:

Generator Maintenance Goodies:

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RV Awning Installation and Repair – Replacing the Awning Fabric

Our RV awning is 11 years old now, and the canvas fabric recently tore at the top and bottom. RV awnings are a pain in every respect (except for the wonderful shade they offer), and we knew we were in for a challenging DIY repair if we tried to do it ourselves.

Fixing an RV awning is a job for at least two people, preferably three or four for certain parts of the job, and it’s easiest if someone in the group has done it before because it can be a little tricky.

Ripped RV awning torn before replacement-min

Oh no! Time for new RV awning fabric!

We were traveling through Rapid City, South Dakota, and recent hail storms had made a mess of many RVs and RV dealerships all around the area. Only one of the local RV dealerships and repair shops could get us in within the week, so we were thrilled when we backed into a bay at Jack’s Campers.

Fortunately, they had the fabric for a 17′ Dometic Sunchaser awning in stock, an old manual model that is not installed on new RVs any more. Luckily, there must be enough oldies-but-goodies on the road these days that Jack’s Campers stocks them.

We back our fifth wheel trailer into a bay at Jack's Campers in Rapid City South Dakota-min

We got into position at Jack’s Campers in Rapid City, South Dakota.

We called our RV Extended Warranty folks, Wholesale Warranties, to find out if this awning failure would qualify for reimbursement under our warranty plan.

We have had so much good luck with our extended warranty on major repairs like our refrigerator, trailer axle, suspension, toilet and window leaks and plumbing, that we were hopeful this repair would be covered too. However, only the mechanical aspects of the awning were covered, not the fabric.

In the end, the whole RV awning repair job ended up costing $444 out of pocket, most of that being for the new fabric, and it took the guys at Jack’s Campers just 45 minutes to do it.

The first step was to remove the awning arms and roller from the sidewall of our fifth wheel. They unrolled the fabric about a foot and unscrewed the mounting brackets that attached the awning arms to the side of the trailer.

Remove the bolts attaching RV awning to the side of the fifth wheel trailer-min

First, remove the awning arms from the sidewalls of the trailer.

There was putty in the awning fabric track where the mounting bracket had been, so this had to be removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Use flathead screwdriver to remove putty from RV awning track on fifth wheel trailer-min

There was some putty in the awning track, so it was removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Next, two guys slid the awning fabric off of the awning track on the RV wall and marched the whole thing into the workshop and rested it on some saw horses.

Two people slide the RV awning off the track on a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Two mechanics walked the awning out of the track on the trailer.

Rest the RV awning on saw horses to remove the fabric-min

Once in the shop the awning was laid across some saw horses.

Manually operated RV awnings have a spring inside the roller mechanism (a “torsion assembly“) for rolling up the fabric. At one end of the roller there is a locking mechanism to keep the spring inside the roller tight so the fabric doesn’t unroll. This locking mechanism became important when the new fabric was installed to get the spring tensioned correctly inside the roller.

Locking end of RV awning-min

The right arm of the awning has a locking mechanism which keeps the fabric from rolling off the roller.

At the opposite end of the roller there was no locking mechanism. The bolt holding the awning arm to the roller at the non-locking end was removed and the arm was pulled off. The arm at the locking end of the roller remained attached throughout the job.

Remove bolt holding RV awning arm to the roller-min

Remove the awning arm from the non-locking end of the roller.

RV awning endcap and spring-min

Awning arm removed.

Then the rivets on the endcap were drilled out and the torsion assembly was pulled out.

Drill out rivets from endcap on RV awning-min

Drill out the rivets on the endcap.

Remove spring and endcap from RV awning to replace fabric-min

The endcap and spring (torsion assembly) are removed from the roller.

RV awning spring and endcap-min

The torsion assembly is out of the roller.
Spraying it with silicone spray will help the awning roll more easily.

Then the awning fabric was slid off of the roller.

Two mechanics hold the RV awning to slide the torn fabric off the track-min

Two mechanics slid the old awning fabric out of the track.

The new fabric was unfolded and laid out in the workshop, and then it was slid into the track on the roller until the fabric stretched the whole length of the roller.

Open up and spread out the new RV awning fabric-min

The new awning fabric was unfolded and laid out.

Opened up RV awning endcap-min

The new awning fabric will be slid into the track on the roller.

Install new RV awning fabric by sliding it along the track-min

The new awning fabric was started in the track on the roller.

Spraying the track with a heavy duty silicone spray helped the fabric slide along the track smoothly.

Spray heavy duty silicone on the RV awning track before sliding the fabric onto it-min

Spraying the track with silicone helps the fabric slide more smoothly.

Slide new RV awning fabric onto the roller along the track-min

Two mechanics slid the new awning fabric along the roller track.

Then the torsion assembly was placed inside the roller and new endcap rivets were installed.

Reinstall RV awning endcap and spring-min

The endcap and spring were reinserted inside the roller.

Install new rivets on RV awning cap-min

Put new rivets on the endcap.

New rivet installed on RV awning endcap-min

New rivet in place.

The fabric was positioned so it went all the way to the locking end of the awning. At the opposite end a set screw was screwed in to prevent the fabric from sliding off the track.

New RV awning fabric at endcap on locking end of roller-min

Make sure the awning fabric has been slid all the way to the locking end of the roller.

Screw in set screw to keep RV awning fabric from falling off the track-min

Put a set screw at the non-locking end of the fabric so it doesn’t slide off the track.

The new fabric was laid out so it could be rolled onto the roller. Then a vice grip was used to turn the spring between 15 and 18 times to get the right spring tension.

New RV awning fabric installed-min

New awning fabric is in place.

Use vice grips to wind up the new RV awning fabric-min

Use vice grips to rotate the spring 15 to 18 times to ge the right spring tension.

Then the awning arm was reattached to the roller with a bolt.

Bolt on the RV awning arms to the roller-min

Bolt on the awning arm.

New RV awning fabric with set screw and awning arm attached-min

Awning arm (non-locking end) is reattached.

Back at the trailer, the awning track was sprayed with heavy duty silicone.

Use heavy duty silicone spray to lubricate the RV awning track-min

Out at the trailer spray the awning track with silicone.

Then the new awning fabric was loosely wrapped around the roller and the whole thing was marched outside to the trailer.

Wrap the new RV awning fabric around the roller-min

Four guys assisted in wrapping the new awning fabric around the roller a few times.

Carry the RV awning out to the fifth wheel trailer-min

The awning is taken out to the trailer.

Our little project supervisor, Buddy, had been watching all the goings on through open big shop door from a safe distance out by the trailer. When the awning and its new fabric were brought out to the trailer, he backed up as far as he could into the parking lot to give the guys room to work!

Supervising puppy keeps his distance from the RV awning project-min

Stand back!

Using ladders and reaching overhead, four guys maneuvered the awning fabric into the track on the trailer and slid it all the way to the front end of the track. This is where having lots of hands can help.

Slide the RV awning fabric along the track on the wall of the fifth wheel trailer RV-min

The awning fabric is slid along the track on the side of the trailer.

After installing the awning on the trailer, the mechanics noticed that the two feet that held the bottoms of the two awning arms had each developed hairline cracks. So, they replaced each foot.

Replace the cracked RV awning foot-min

The feet of both awning arms had developed small cracks, so they were replaced.

The last step was to test the awning by rolling it all the way out and then all the way in again.

New RV awning installed on our fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Test the awning to make sure it rolls all the way out and all the way in again.

Completed installation of the new RV awning fabric on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Done!

Ta Da!! A job well done. The whole project took 45 minutes from start to finish.

Now that we’ve seen how a manual RV awning gets installed, Mark is confident he could do it without going to an RV repair shop as long as he had some extra hands for sliding the awning fabric on/off the trailer awning track and on/off the roller track.

Side note: If you have a manual awning, it is really important that you use some kind of velcro straps or bungee cords wrapped around the awning arms as extra security to keep the awning from accidentally opening while you are traveling.

Our photo above doesn’t show them, but we have used these awning straps ever since we bought the trailer.

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Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

August 2018 – We absolutely love our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually truck, and we recently installed an Amp’d Throttle Booster on it. This small electronic unit decreases the occasional throttle lag you feel when you depress the accelerator pedal by increasing the throttle sensitivity and responsiveness.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster Installation and Review

Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

On older vehicles the accelerator was connected to the carburetor with a cable, providing a physical connection between the action of your foot depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine to make the vehicle go faster. On newer vehicles electronic signals do the job instead, and occasionally there is a slight lag between depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine. This is sometimes referred to as a “dead pedal” kind of sensation, and it can be a little frustrating to hit the gas and not have the vehicle jump in response right away.

The Amp’d Throttle Booster allows you to increase the throttle sensitivity by slightly raising the voltage. There are three sensitivity settings along with a Stock setting that doesn’t increase the voltage at all.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster in the box-min

Edge Amp’d Throttle Booster

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster core unit-min

The Amp’d Throttle Booster core unit

The Amp’d Throttle Booster is a small product that comes in two parts: the booster unit itself and a wiring harness.

The harness assembly has three ends:

  • One end that connects to a selector switch that gets mounted on the dashboard (labeled “A” in the photo).
  • One end that connects to the booster (“B”).
  • One end that has a Y connection that connects to two points under the dashboard (“C”).

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster cable harness assembly-min

The wiring harness has three ends.
A = Dashboard mounted selector switch
B = Connects to the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit
C = Both connectors connect under the dashboard.

The installation took 17 minutes, but allow a little bit more for reading the manual, etc!

The first step was to connect the pair of connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness to the corresponding connectors under the dashboard. These two connectors are keyed, so you can’t connect them backwards or accidentally plug them into the wrong spots.

Working under the dashboard was a tight fit, so I have a link to the Amp’d Throttle Booster manual at the end of this article to give you the nitty gritty about each connector and where it is positioned under the dashboard both for the Ram trucks and for other brands and model years.

Installing the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster_-min

First connect one of the two ends of the Y on the wiring harness to the corresponding connector under the dashboard.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

Connect the second of the two connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness under the dashboard.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

Both connectors are in place (only one is visible).

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness assembly-min

It’s tight under there but the connectors are keyed to make it easier.

We got the kit that includes the dashboard mounted selector switch. If you don’t buy this external switch there is a switch right on the circuit board inside the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit that has two sensitivity settings, Low and High.

Regardless of whether you get the dashboard mounted selector switch or rely on the circuit board switch instead, the next step is to set up the Amp’d Throttle Booster so it can learn the throttle response of your truck’s accelerator.

To begin this learning sequence (and to access the circuit board’s selector switch), simply unscrew the outer casing.

Opening up the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

Access the Amp’d Throttle Booster circuit board and go through the Learn sequence by removing the outer casing.

Circuit board inside the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min-min

The red arrow shows the location of the circuit board selector switch. It is set to Stock (Off).

Then attach the wiring assembly to the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit and follow the sequence of steps given in the manual to enable the throttle booster to learn the throttle response of the truck’s accelerator (this involves depressing the accelerator pedal a few times and monitoring some LED flashing lights on the circuit board).

Plug the wiring harness into the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

Plug the wiring harness into the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit.

Then mount the selector switch on the dashboard. One handy location is on the plastic tab at the bottom of the dashboard that holds the dashboard in place. Simply remove the existing screw, position the mounting bracket and screw it back in.

Use tiewrap to mount Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster on dashboard-min

Mount the selector switch on the dashboard and tidy up the wiring harness with tie wraps before tucking it under the dashboard.

Once it’s mounted, tuck the harness assembly and the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit up under the dashboard and secure them in place with zip-ties.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster installed on Dodge Ram 3500 diesel truck dashboard-min

Finished. The selector switch is easy for the driver to reach.

After the installation of the Amp’d Throttle Booster, Mark tested it with the truck in Park. He put the selector switch to Stock (Off) and revved the engine. The he did the same thing at each of the three settings: Low (50% sensitivity increase), Medium (75% increase) and High (100% increase). At each increased setting the engine responded faster to his foot depressing the accelerator pedal — as expected.

Mark has been driving with the Amp’d Throttle Booster installed on the truck for the last 5,000 miles, and he’s found he likes it best at the High setting (100% increase) which is where he keeps it set all the time.

He finds he notices the improvement a lot when passing people and also when driving in the mountains as well as when he’s in stop-and-go traffic.

Without the booster he sometimes finds that on a steep incline or when “gassing it” for whatever reason, he’ll depress the accelerator and then have a moment or two of no response from the engine before it kicks in. With the booster on High, the truck reacts and accelerates much more quickly.

We also have an Edge Juice with Attitude engine tuner on the truck, and Mark finds that the two work together well. He puts the engine tuner in Level 2 (Towing) and leaves it there most of the time. This improves the engine’s power when it’s towing our trailer.

Whenever we’re going to be driving the truck without the trailer attached for a long drive or for a few days of in-town driving, then he puts the tuner in Level 1 (Economy). This improves the fuel economy significantly.

Our truck has about 35,000 miles on it now, and we’ve owned it for two and a half years . For anyone wondering how many miles they might drive in the full-time RV lifestyle, there you have it — we’ve averaged 14,000 miles a year since January 2016, about half of that towing our trailer and half of that driving without our trailer hitched up.

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Repairing and Replacing RV Roof Vents After a Hail Storm!

July 2018 – We have been floating around northern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota for the past few weeks, an area that is prone to wild hail storms. The other day, while we were away from the trailer in town, a horrific hail storm came through our campsite and wreaked havoc on our RV roof.

A hail storm damaged a RV roof vents on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Will these gathering storm clouds dump hail on us?

We didn’t know this was happening while we were gallivanting around town, sipping lattes, running errands and chatting with the locals. It was nice there!

But we got a hint about what had happened (that we didn’t understand at first) as we drove back to our campsite when we saw a fifth wheel trailer going by us on the highway with a wildly flapping tarp strapped down over its roof.

When we got back to our trailer we noticed some large clumps of ice in the grass and began to wonder.

Large hail fell and broke RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

At least half an hour or more after the storm ended, big chunks of hail were still on the ground.

We’ve been through hail storms before, most notably at Bryce Canyon and at Cedar Breaks National Monument, but the hail has always been about the size of a pea. Even at that, the thunderous sound on the trailer roof is astonishing.

But this time, considering the storm must have ended at least 30 minutes or even an hour or more before we got back to the trailer (the ground wasn’t very wet), these ice chunks were still pretty big despite melting fast. Suddenly it hit us, “Uh oh. Are the solar panels okay?” Mark quickly climbed up on the roof to find out.

As he yelled, “Oh, WOW!” from the rooftop I noticed that another storm was darkening the sky and was on its way.

Checking RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer after hail storm-min

Mark surveys the hail damage on our roof while another storm threatens…

Luckily, there was no damage to our solar panels. However, the hail storm had smashed two of our RV roof vents!

These were basic RV roof vents with small 12 volt fans, one located in the toilet room and one in the shower stall, and the damage to each one was severe.

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Yikes!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

And more yikes!

Not only were the RV roof vent dome lids broken in multiple places but the fan blades above the screens had been broken off too!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer inside view-min

Not only did the lid get broken but some 12 volt fan blades broke too!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer view from inside-min

The other vent fared no better!

Interestingly, our two Fantastic Fan RV roof vents were still 100% intact and sustained no damage. That’s an especially good thing because they are over our bed and over our recliners which would have all gotten soaked.

We had little time to puzzle over it all because another storm was on its way and would be dumping either rain or hail or both on us again momentarily. If we didn’t fix the vents in the next 10 minutes or so, our shower and toilet room would get drenched inside once again. That wouldn’t be a disaster, but who would want to sop up the mess twice?

Mark surveyed the damage and decided the best way to fix the RV roof vents for the short term — until we could get some replacement RV roof vents — was to tape them up with Gorilla tape.

Gorilla tape temporarily repairs RV roof vent-min

A quickie repair job with Gorilla Tape was enough to withstand a few more violent storms!

The storm arrived with a vengeance and we were pelted with rain. Then another two storms passed over us in the next 12 hours. Not much hail fell, but one storm pounded us with a deluge of rain for over two hours.

Lightning strikes during a storm-min

As I clicked the shutter on this eerie landscape I saw a flash of lightning through the view finder. What luck!

Gorilla tape is amazing stuff, and not one drop of water leaked through the broken roof vents in all that rain. So, if you’re ever in a bind like this, it doesn’t hurt to have a roll of Gorilla Tape on hand!

Insurance? Warranty??

We debated whether to file an insurance claim, but the cost of this repair would barely meet our deductible. We also debated whether to try using our RV extended warranty since it had worked so well for us in the past when we needed some truly major equipment replacements (axle, fridge, suspension, toilet and plumbing). But warranties cover system failures, not accidents or acts of God (like hail).

So, this would be a DIY job without any outside financial assistance.

The next day we picked up two replacement RV roof vents (Ventline V2094 units by Dexter) at a local RV dealership and parts store. We didn’t get there until the afternoon, and we were amazed to find that there had been a run on RV roof vents that morning. They had just one left. The other had to be brought in from a partner store in the next town!

We also picked up a bunch of tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant, and then Mark got out the tools needed for the job and went to work.

Tools used to install new RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

Tools for the job: Screwdrivers, drill, wire cutters and a knee pad. Not shown: a caulk gun.

First, he used a flathead screwdriver to get the old Dicor Lap Sealant off of all the screw heads holding the damaged roof vent to the roof of the trailer.

Remove caulking from screw head on RV roof vent-min

First, scrape off the old Dicor Lap Sealant to reveal the screw heads.

Screw head revealed so RV roof vent can be removed-min

All the screws are #2 square heads.

Unscrew screws attaching RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Unscrew the screws using a #2 square drill bit in a cordless drill.

Then he used a #2 square bit in our Rigid cordless drill to unscrew all the screws.

All the screws on the old RV roof vent are removed-min

All the screws have been removed.

Then he used the flathead screwdriver to remove the Dicor Lap Sealant from the top of the RV roof vent flange.

Remove Dicor Lap Sealant from RV roof vent before removing the vent-min

Scrape the Dicor Lap Sealant off the flange so the RV roof vent can be removed.

The old RV roof vent was now ready to be pulled off of the roof all together. However, the wires for its 12 volt fan were still attached, so he clipped those off with diagonal cutting pliers.

Remove old RV roof vent from roof of fifth wheel trailer-min

The old RV roof vent is ready to be removed except for the 12 volt fan wires.

Wires for 12 volt fan still attached to old RV roof vent before it is removed-min

.

Cut the wires on the old RV roof vent before removing it from fifth wheel trailer-min

Cut the wires leaving plenty of wire remaining for the new RV roof installation.

At last the old RV roof vent was completely removed leaving just the gaping hole into our shower stall below.

Hole in fifth wheel trailer roof after removing RV roof vent-min

Ready for the new RV roof vent.

The next step was to prep the new RV roof vent for installation. Mark unrolled some putty tape, which is sticky on both sides, and pressed it onto the bottom side of the flange of the new RV roof vent. Then he cut it to the proper length and peeled off the protective strip to expose the sticky part.

Place butyl putty tape along edges of RV roof vent before installing it on fifth wheel trailer-min

Place strips of putty tape on the bottom side of the flanges on the roof vent. This is double sided sticky tape.

cut double-sided putty tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Cut the tape.

Remove protection from double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Remove the protective strip to expose the sticky side of the putty tape.

At the end there was a tiny gap in one corner. He rolled a small bit of the putty tape into a ball and pressed it into the gap.

Double sided sticky tape ball-min

If you end up with a gap, ball up a little putty tape and press it in the gap.

Fill gap in double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

.

One of the interesting things about these RV roof vents is that the lids are flexible. Our old ones were heavily scraped from going under low hanging branches (as you can see in the first pictures of the broken vents near the top of this article), and they are designed to flex when something presses on them.

We didn’t want to demonstrate this with the new RV roof vents, but Mark pushed his shoe into the old vent so you could see. Obviously, the lid is weakened by the taped up holes, but it still has huge amount of flex to it.

RV roof vent has flexible dome-min

The dome lids on these RV roof vents are very flexible which helps when you hit low hanging branches.

The next task was to get the RV roof vent installed on our trailer roof. We often pass things up to and down from the roof via the slide-out next to our front steps. This is much easier than climbing the ladder with one hand while holding something in the other.

Put the new RV roof vent on the slide-out of the fifth wheel trailer-min

The new RV roof vent goes up on the roof.

The Ventline RV roof vents had embossed labels showing how to orient them on the roof. The idea is to install the RV roof vent so it opens to the rear of the RV. That way, if you accidentally leave it open and drive off, the hinges won’t be fighting 65 mph winds on the highway that could rip the lid off.

New RV roof vent orientation towards the front of the trailer-min

Be sure to orient the RV roof vent so it opens towards the back of the rig.

Vehicle Front lettering on RV roof vent-min

It says “Vehicle Front” with an arrow. You may need to feel around to find the lettering!

New RV roof vent is in place and screwed onto fifth wheel trailer roof-min

The new RV roof vent is in position.

Before securing the RV roof vent in place, Mark wired up the 12 volt fan. First he made a note of which color pairs had been wired together before and then cut off the crimp-on barrel connectors from each pair of wires. Then he used wire strippers to strip off a little bit of the outer casing of each wire to reveal the copper strands inside. Some errant strands were sticking out of the group so he he twisted all the copper strands together.

Strip wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Note how the fan is wired, remove the existing barrel connectors and strip the casing from the wires.

Prep wires for 12 volt fan for RV roof vent installation-min

Twist all the strands so no stray ones stick out.

After doing this to all four wires he twisted the two pairs of wires together and screwed on new wire nuts.

Prep wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Twist the pairs of wires together and screw on the wire nut.

Completed wire nut for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

The last squeeze.

At this point he turned on the 12 volt fan just to be sure that it not only was wired correctly but also rotated in the right direction to exhaust air out of the RV. If he’d reversed the pairs of wires by accident, the fan would have run backwards, forcing air into the RV instead of exhausting it out.

12 volt wires for 12v fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Test the fan to be sure it turns on and spins in the right direction.

Then he tucked the wires in and closed the lid so he could screw it onto the RV roof.

Place new RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Then tuck the wires in and position the RV roof vent so the screw holes line up.

Using the #2 square bit on his cordless drill, he screwed down the four corner screws first.

Screw in corner screws on new RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

Screw in the four corners first.

Then, to ensure the RV roof vent would seal evenly on all sides, he placed all the screws in their positions around the edges of the vent and screwed them in using a star pattern in the same way that lug nuts get tightened when changing a tire.

Use a cordless drill and #2 square bit to screw in new RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

After placing all the screws in the holes, use a star pattern to screw them in evenly.

New RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

Done.

The next task was to cover all the screws with a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant. Mark had tackled this project in the early morning so he wouldn’t have to sweat it out on the RV roof at midday, but this meant the Lap Sealant was still quite cold and wouldn’t flow well. So, he took a break and left the tubes of Lap Sealant out in the sun to warm up for a while.

Dicor Lap Sealant for RV roof vent installation-min

Dicor Lap Sealant has to flow, so make sure it is warm enough that it will flow smoothly.

When the Lap Sealant was finally warm enough to flow, he clipped off the end of a Dicor Lap Sealant tube and set it in his caulk gun. He wryly joked with me that if you don’t invest in a quality caulk gun at the outset, you’ll keep throwing them out until you do!

Cut the end off the tube of Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Cut the end off the Lap Sealant tube and place it in the caulk gun.

Then he flowed the Lap Sealant along the edges of the RV roof vent flange, flowing a little over each screw head as he went. It took almost two tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant per RV roof vent.

Sealing the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Flow the Lap Sealant along the flange and over each screw head.

And Ta Da — he was finished!

This installation project took about 45 minutes per roof vent.

Seal the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Done.

Our old RV roof vents had been installed at the NuWa factory in 2007 when our trailer was built, and they had worked flawlessly right up until this hail storm in 2018.

We were intrigued to discover that the old RV roof vents had been tinted a dark shade. The new ones were pure white, and what a difference that made inside! The first time I used the toilet room I opened the door and wondered why the light was on because it was so bright!

These lighter colored RV roof vents may let in a lot more heat, but vent insulators can help with that on the hottest days.

RV roof vent installed on fifth wheel trailer-min

One RV roof vent finished and one to go. After that, time for a beer!

Mark did some other RV roof repairs while he was up there, but I’ll save those projects for a future article!

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MORryde SRE 4000 Installation & Review – Smooth Trailer Towing

The MORryde SRE 4000 is a fabulous replacement for the standard equalizer used in most trailer leaf spring based suspension systems. We recently replaced our fifth wheel trailer’s equalizer with a MORryde SRE 4000, and what a difference this has made when we tow on bumpy roads!

MorRyde SRE 4000 Trailer Suspension Installation and Review

MorRyde SRE 4000 Trailer Suspension Installation and Review

We have had our 14,500 lb. 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer for over ten years, and during that time we have replaced the leaf springs, the shock absorbers and the equalizer with beefier components than the ones that were installed at the factory. We also cut the hangers off the frame and placed them at a slightly wider spacing when the tires threatened to touch each other due to a failure within the suspension system (blog post about all that here).

Our leaf springs are now Rockwell American leaf springs made in America from American steel. In addition to switching brands, we upgraded our leaf springs from the factory installed 7,000 lb leaf springs to 8,000 lb springs.

These wonderful upgrades meant we no longer had a problem with sagging leaf springs or a faulty suspension system, but the ride inside the trailer had become very harsh. It was now routine for us to find things in total disarray inside our trailer after towing it down even modestly bumpy roads.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation and review-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 includes equalizer and wet bolts (heavy duty shackles) for each axle.

After arriving at a new campsite we’ve found our sconce lights dangling and we’ve had several light bulbs on our ceiling fan shatter all over the floor.

We keep some books in a cabinet in the far back of the trailer, above the rear window, and that cabinet was always a total disaster whenever we unhitched. Books and pamphlets and maps would be toppled all over each other.

In another rear cabinet in the trailer I keep a pocket flashlight and a chapstick, among other things, and darned if those two items didn’t always roll away and disappear under a pile of camera cleaning supplies every time we towed the trailer.

We had to be super careful opening our RV refrigerator door, because bunches of things would fall out onto the floor.

We have a few battery operated LED lights mounted under cabinets with Velcro, and they invariably would fall onto the counter tops. And from longstanding habit we tend to leave our place mats on our dining table, and they would always be on the floor when we arrived anywhere.

Mark’s tools down in the Man Cave? Oh my. We won’t even talk about that mess with all those tool boxes tipped over on their sides.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation and review-min

Here’s another look at the components of this system: MORryde SRE 4000 and heavy duty shackles

We had resigned ourselves to fixing a disaster every time we parked and set up camp, but it sure was frustrating.

Then Mark started reading up on the MORryde SRE 4000. MORryde is well known among RVers for their patented IS (Independent Suspension) system which is an axle-less rubber based system that doesn’t involve leaf springs at all. These are standard on the upscale New Horizons fifth wheels, and they are a pricey but popular upgrade with many RVers who have replaced their factory installed leaf spring suspension with the MORrydes IS suspension on their fifth wheel trailers.

However, the MORryde SRE 4000 simply replaces the equalizer in a leaf spring suspension system and leaves the rest of the system intact, including the leaf springs, axles and shock absorbers. Rather than having a boomerang shaped piece of steel (an equalizer) that rocks back and forth between the two axles’ leaf springs, the MORryde SRE 4000 adds a rubber component that provides 4 inches of travel. So, not only does it rock back and forth, but it absorbs the bumps.

Replacement of trailer equalizer with Morryde SRE 4000-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 replaces the above equalizer and bolt assembly that sits between the hanger at the top and the two sets of leaf springs on either side.

We decided that this seemed like a really neat solution to our problem, so we headed over to Rucker Trailer Works in Mesa, Arizona, to have the MORryde SRE 4000 installed.

Rucker Trailer Works has worked on our trailer before. They aligned the frame and rehung the hangers to laser-point perfection after our initial suspension replacement at another shop. They have been in business for decades and they are true trailer experts. We would trust them with our trailer any day of the week and will eagerly return to them for any work we need in the future.

If we had known about them at the time, we would have gone to them for our electric over hydraulic disc brake conversion, and they also would have been our initial choice when we had our failing suspension replaced.

Rucker Trailer Works Mor-ryde SRE 4000 installation-min

Rucker Trailer Works in Mesa, Arizona, did a superior job.

We got set up in a bay and three mechanics quickly got to work.

Fifth wheel trailer ready for Morryde SRE 4000-min

We parked our buggy (a 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel) in one of the work bays.

Our new puppy, Buddy, wanted to be the Project Supervisor. But he had been caught sleeping on the job when we did our RV screen door upgrades a few weeks ago. So, he reluctantly went away to take a nap in the truck while the experts did the installation.

MORryde SRE 4000 review and installation-min

Our new puppy, Buddy, wanted to be the Supervisor but he napped in the truck instead.

The first step was to remove the wheels and jack the trailer up with floor jacks, placing the jacks under the frame.

Remove 5th wheel trailer wheels for MORryde SRE 4000 installation-min

First things first: jack up the trailer and remove the wheels.

Once the trailer wheels were off the ground, additional jacks were slid beneath the axles to support them. This was an important step because the project would involve disconnecting and reconnecting one of the points where the axles are attached to the trailer via the leaf springs.

There are five attachment points on each side of the trailer between the axles and the frame. Three of these attachment points are the hangers. The hangers connect the endpoints of the leaf springs: one at each of the two the outer endpoints and one in the middle supporting both leaf springs via the equalizer. The other two axle/frame attachment points are the two shock absorbers.

When the equalizer is removed, each leaf spring loses one attachment point to the frame. That is, each leaf spring ends up connected to the frame by only one hanger at one end while the other end is left dangling where the equalizer used to be. As each leaf spring drops, the shock absorbers could also be stretched open and possibly damaged. Also, it’s much easier to line up the bolt holes when installing the MORryde SRE 4000 if the axles are supported!

Therefore, jacks were positioned beneath the axles to hold the axles in place during the job.

This “after” pic shows the five connection points between the trailer frame and the axles.
The axles must be supported when the center attachment point is removed during this job.

Because we have electric over hydraulic disc brakes on our trailer (an upgrade we highly recommend to anyone with a large fifth wheel trailer), the disc brake calipers were removed and set aside with the hydraulic lines still intact and attached.

Fifth wheel trailer disc brake rotor and caliper-min

Because we upgraded our trailer to disc brakes, the brake calipers had to be removed temporarily.

Fifth wheel trailer disc brake with caliper removed-min

The disc brake calipers were set aside with the hydraulic line still attached & intact.

The equalizer was now at a crazy angle because the trailer was raised up on jacks.

Fifth wheel trailer equalizer replaced by Morryde SRE 4000-min

The old equalizer is cocked because the trailer is on jacks and the weight is off the wheels

The bolt holding the equalizer to the hanger was removed, and then the bolts holding the equalizer to the leaf springs were removed.

Remove 5th wheel trailer equalizer to install Mor-Ryde SRE4000-min

The bolt holding the equalizer to the hanger was removed.

Bolts removed from fifth wheel trailer equalizer to install MorRyde SRE4000-min

Next, the bolts holding the equalizer to the leaf springs needed to be removed.

These were not the original factory-installed bolts. They were wet bolts that we had had installed when our suspension was replaced a while back.

Wet bolts and equalizer from fifth wheel trailer-min

The old equalizer and bolt assemblies.

To our surprise, the mechanics discovered that the one of the equalizers was damaged. The top hole had started elongating and the brass bushing had broken. We were both astonished because we had towed our trailer only 7,500 miles since the equalizer had been installed. Our trailer weighs in at its GVWR and is not excessively heavy.

Damaged Dexter equalizer removed from fifth wheel trailer-min

One of the equalizers was already damaged after just 7,500 miles of towing.

Damaged Dexter equalizer removed from fifth wheel trailer suspension-min

The top hole had elongated and the bronze bushing had broken.

As we pondered how this damage could have happened, we remembered one particularly nasty road we had driven down this past year. It was a 3 mile long stretch of miserably rutted dirt road that took us 45 minutes to cover. At the end of it we noticed that the top equalizer bolt was hanging halfway out because the nut had worked its way off.

You can read about the details and see Mark’s incredibly ingenious solution to get us back on the road in this post: Trailer Suspension Nuts & Bolts – One Nut From Disaster!

Here’s a pic from that scary moment many miles from nowhere:

Bolt falling out of equalizer in fifth wheel trailer suspension-min

Last year, after driving for 45 minutes on the nastiest dirt road we’ve ever been on, Mark noticed the bolt holding the equalizer to trailer frame was working its way out. This may be what caused the damage to the equalizer that we saw during the MORryde SRE 4000 installation.

Past damage behind us, the next step was to hang the MORryde SRE 4000 on the leaf spring hanger.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation on fifth wheel trailer frame hanger-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 was suspended by a bolt at the top.

Prior to tightening the bolt, the mechanic used a C-clamp to tighten the hanger arms and hold the MORryde SRE 4000 in place.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation on fifth wheel trailer frame hanger-min

A C-clamp held the MORryde SRE 4000 in place

Then the C-clamp was removed and the MORryde SRE 4000 was centered between the leaf springs.

Position MorRyde SRE 4000 on fifth wheel trailer frame hanger with disc brake caliper removed-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 was bolted onto the hanger.

Fifth wheel trailer suspension with disc brakes and MorRyde SRE 4000-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 was suspended from the hanger.

MorRyde SRE 4000 and fifth wheel trailer leaf springs-min

Looking good.

The next step was to install the heavy duty shackles (or “wet bolts”) on either side of the MORryde SRE 4000, first bolting together one side and then the other.

Leaf springs attached to Mor-Ryde SRE 4000 on fifth wheel trailer suspension-min

A new wet bolt assembly attached the MORryde SRE 4000 to one leaf spring.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installed on fifth wheel trailer hanger and leaf spring suspension-min

Now it was fully bolted on to the hanger at the top and to both leaf springs on either side.

And that was it! Of course, the process had to be repeated on the other side of the trailer.

The mechanic held up the equalizer to show where it had been.

Comparing fifth wheel trailer equalizer and MorRyde SRE 4000-min

For comparison, here’s where the equalizer used to be.

The next step — after admiring how the MORryde SRE 4000 looked between the leaf springs — was to reattach the disc brake calipers, mount the wheels and lower the jacks until the trailer was standing on its own wheels once again.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installed on fifth wheel trailer leaf spring suspension-min

The disc brake calipers were reattached.

Reinstall wheels on fifth wheel trailer after MorRyde SRE4000 installation-min

The wheels were mounted back on.

Finished installation MorRyde SRE4000 equalizer-min

The jacks were removed and the trailer stood back up on its own wheels.

We crawled underneath to have a look at the new MORryde SRE 4000 from the insides of the wheels.

MOR-ryde SRE 4000 seen from beneath a fifth wheel trailer-min

View from under the trailer looking at the back side.

One of the things we were curious about was whether the MORryde SRE 4000 would raise or lower our trailer. We often travel on dirt roads and tow our trailer through washes, and we prefer it to be quite high off the ground. Even driving up or down a short ramp into or out of a gas station can cause havoc at the back end of the trailer. A few years ago when our trailer still stood at its original factory height, we left a deep 50′ long scrape in an insanely sloped parking lot in Boone, North Carolina.

We measured the trailer height off the ground both before and after the MORryde SRE 4000 installation and were pleased that it raised the trailer over an inch, from 28 5/8 inches to 29 7/8 inches. Woo hoo!

Trailer height before installation of MOR-ryde SRE 4000-min

BEFORE the installation the measurement was 28 5/8 inches.

Trailer height after installation of MOR-ryde SRE 4000-min

AFTER the installation the measurement was 29 7/8 inches, 1.25 inches higher.

We have towed our trailer a few hundred miles since the installation, and quite a few of those miles have been on both bumpy paved roads where we were going 35 mph or so and on miserably rutted dirt roads where we were going 10 mph or less.

The first thing we noticed is that we were chucking around a lot less in the cab of the truck. So often in the past it seemed like the tail was wagging the dog, so to speak, and the trailer’s bouncing was making the truck bounce too. We have a Demco Glide-Ride fifth wheel pin box, which reduces the fore-and-aft movement of the trailer, but we were still being thrown around in the truck by the motion of the trailer.

But it is the difference inside the trailer that is most remarkable. We have been truly astonished each time we’ve gone inside the trailer to find everything is still intact. The books on the back bookshelf miraculously stay put. I haven’t lost that chapstick or that flashlight since the day the MORryde SRE 4000 was installed. And today, when we drove several miles on one of the rockiest and pot-hole filled dirt roads we’ve been on in ages, I was stunned to see that the placemats were still on the table when we arrived and the LED lights were still happily hanging under the cabinets.

Buddy was also excited that the water in his water dish was all still inside the bowl and hadn’t spilled out all over the sink.

He was also excited when we visited the parts shop at Rucker Trailer Works and scoped out what they had on their shelf: Buddy Wheel Bearing Protectors!!

Bearing Buddy wheel bearing protector-min

Buddy didn’t get to supervise, but he found a product he really liked in the Rucker Trailer Works shop!

If you are tired of cleaning up the mess every time you set up camp, look into the MORryde SRE 4000. We were actually a little skeptical about how much this system would improve our ride, and we merely hoped for a little less turmoil in the trailer. But we are absolutely delighted that it truly smoothed out the ride, enough so that things in the bumpiest part of the trailer — the far rear end — now stay in place.

Also, this smoother ride will help our trailer and everything in it last a little longer. With less jiggling and outright bouncing going on, there will be less wear and tear on every component in the trailer from the walls to the windows and cabinets to all the appliances that were never intended to withstand endless jolts and shocks.

In addition, our more delicate belongings, from our camera gear to our laptops and external hard drives, along with everything else we’ve put into the trailer will be much happier and less prone to breakage with our new smooth ride.

For RVers visiting Arizona, Rucker Trailer Works is a great choice (website here). We were back on the road in less than two hours. MORryde also does installations at their facility in Indiana (website here), and we found out they do electric over hydraulic disc brake conversions there as well, so you can get two excellent upgrades done at once!

Buying the MORryde SRE 4000

The MORryde SRE 4000 can be purchased with or without a steel crossmember (“X-Factor Performance Crossmember”) that goes between the two leaf spring hangers to eliminate flex. Our trailer already had a crossmember that was welded onto the frame when our suspension was upgraded, so we got the unit that doesn’t include it. The difference in the part numbers is that the unit with the crossmember has an “X” at the end of the part number.

Also, you must measure the distance between the axles (the wheelbase) to determine whether you need the 33″ or the 35″ version of the product. We needed the 33″ version.

Lastly, the heavy duty shackle wet bolt kit is sold separately.

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RV Screen Door Modifications & Upgrades

We have recently made two upgrades to our RV screen door. Combined with our annual screen door shrink-wrapping project (explained here), that makes for three easy DIY RV screen door modifications we’ve done. Who knew you could do so much to a silly screen door??

RV Screen Door Modifications and Upgrades

RV Screen Door Modifications and Upgrades

INSTALLING A GRAB RAIL ON AN RV SCREEN DOOR

Although we’ve been in and out of our RV door countless thousands of times over the last decade of traveling full-time, we had never installed one of those handy grab handles that crosses the door’s mid-section. Until this week!

Grabbing the screen door when it’s being whipped out of your hands by the wind is nearly impossible without one of these grab bars, and when we saw one of these handles on a friend’s fifth wheel trailer, we just had to have one.

Our screen door is 24″ wide (skinny by today’s standards) but these handles are variable in length. The instructions that came with the handle involved drawing templates and other complicated things, so Mark went with his instincts and got it mounted just fine. Here’s what he did:

First, after holding the handle up to the door at various heights to decide where to mount it, he drilled a hole in the RV screen door frame and then screwed one end of the handle into the door frame.

Drill hole in RV screen door to install the door handle-min

Drill a hole in the door frame to hold the handle in place.

Attach RV screen door handle to the screen door frame-min

Screw the handle to the door with just one screw at first.

Then he held the handle in place on the other side of the door frame and put a level on it to ensure it was level. Then he used a fine pointed Sharpie pen to mark the location on the door where the handle would be screwed in.

Position the RV screen door handle on the RV screen door frame-min

Position the other end of the handle so it is level and mark the door frame where the hole must be drilled.

The grab handle expands and contracts to fit the width of various RV screen doors, so he adjusted both ends of it to get it to the proper width and also have an equal amount of the aluminum center part extending into the two plastic ends (rather than having it shoved far into one plastic end and barely dangling in the other).

Once he had it positioned correctly, he marked the aluminum center part with a pencil mark at each end where the plastic ends would be permanently screwed in.

Expand RV screen door handle and mark the proper width on it with a pencil-min

Expand the handle and center the aluminum centerpiece between the ends. Then mark the aluminum with a pencil.

Expand RV screen door handle and mark the proper width on it with a pencil-min

The handle can be extended and retracted, so this step centers the aluminum between the ends and marks where the ends should be permanently positioned.

Then he unscrewed the one screw that was holding the handle to the door frame and removed the handle from the frame so he could screw in the two handle ends.

On the back of each plastic end of the handle there is a pre-drilled hole so the plastic ends can be screwed to the aluminum center piece.

Hole drilled in RV screen door handle-min

On the back of the handle each plastic end has a hole in it.

With the aluminum piece in the proper position according to the pencil marks he had made, he drilled a hole in the aluminum and then screwed the plastic end piece on. He did this at each end. Now the handle was fixed at the proper length to span the width of our door.

Installing an RV door screen handle-min

Drill the aluminum strip so the end cap can be screwed into it permanently.

Next, he drilled a hole in the door frame where he had made the mark with the fine pointed Sharpie.

Drill hole in RV screen door frame to support the RV screen door handle-min

Drill the hole in the frame where you put the Sharpie mark.

Then he screwed the handle to the door frame and then repeated the process for the lower hole on each side.

Screw the RV screen door handle into the RV screen door frame-min

Screw the handle onto the door frame.

Screw hole in RV screen door fram to install RV screen door handle-min

There are upper and lower holes in each endcap.

RV screen door handle screwed onto frame-min

Done!

We’re really happy with this new grab handle. It strengthens the flimsy door a bit and is great to grab onto when opening and closing the door!

RV screen door handle installed on RV screen door-min

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RV screen door with handle and plexiglass protector installed-min

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Goodies needed to install a grab handle on an RV screen door:

INSTALLING A PLEXIGLASS PROTECTOR ON AN RV SCREEN DOOR

The other mini-project we did recently on our RV screen door was to replace the lower shrink-wrap film with a sheet of 1/8″ plexiglass.

We recently acquired an adorable puppy, and all it took was one swipe of his paw at the door to rip the shrink-wrap film we’d had on there for months.

So Mark got a big sheet of 1/8″ clear plexiglass and cut it to fit the screen door.

Of course, Buddy insisted on supervising this project.

RV screen door handle installation supervisor-min

The back of this chair says “Supervisor.”

Mark used a straight edge and a utility razor blade to score the plexiglass. Then he bent it along the edge of a table to snap it.

Then he took short strips of industrial strength velcro tape and placed the hooked half on the plexiglass and the matching fuzzy half on the door frame so the hooks wouldn’t grab things as we go in and out of the door when we remove the plexiglass later.

RV screen door plexiglass protection-min

The lower half of the door has a clear plexiglass sheet mounted on the frame with velcro. You can see our patio reflected in it. Hey, where’s the Supervisor?!

Velcro attaches plexiglass sheet to RV screen door-min

Cut short strips of velcro and put the matching halves on the plexiglass and door frame.

The beauty of using velcro to mount the plexiglass on the door frame is that once the warm weather of summer rolls around we can remove it and let the cool breezes flow through the door. Or, perhaps we’ll just leave it up in case Buddy decides to paw at the screen. We can remove the shrink-wrap from the upper half of the door and enjoy the cool breezes up there and leave the plexiglass on the bottom to protect the screen from the mighty Watch Dog.

RV screen door with RV screen door handle and plexiglass installed-min

Ta Da! Our original shrink-wrap is still on the top half, the nifty grab handle is in the middle and the puppy-proof plexiglass is on the bottom half.

In hindsight, rather than shrink-wrapping an RV screen door for cold weather, another option would be to use plexiglass sheets and velcro. Certainly the installation each Fall would be a lot easier. Or, drill holes in the corners of the plexiglass and use sheet metal screws to attach it to the door. Every Spring and Fall the plexiglass could be screwed to or unscrewed from the door frame. However, the plexiglass sheets would have to be stored somewhere during the warm season…

Puppy chow our RV dog Buddy

When the project was finished the Supervisor reappeared.

Dog looks out the RV screen door-min

Buddy loves his new plexiglass window in the door!

Goodies needed to install a plexiglass protector on an RV screen door:

The details of our screen door shrink-wrapping are shown here:

How To Shrink-wrap An RV Screen Door

Goodies needed to shrink-wrap an RV Screen Door:

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