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Wednesday, 11 March 2020 14:40

Trailer Tires: ST or LT?

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Don’t undersell the importance of the trailer tires you choose. It all rides on those tires—quite literally. 

A blowout not only causes a handling hazard, it can damage a trailer as the shredded tire carcass whips against bodywork.

Never use passenger tires on a trailer. They are usually rated Load Range B, a 4-ply equivalent, because their sidewalls are flexible for a smooth ride—far too flexible for trailer duty. They are not engineered to stabilize heavy loads or to handle the temperatures that build with them.

ST, or Special Trailer, tires are intended only for trailers. ST tires must never go on drive or steer wheels. Their stiffer sidewalls are engineered to handle the tall loads of a travel trailer or fifth wheel on straights and in turns but not the stresses generated by steering and acceleration. They are at least Load Range C, which means the sidewall is rated 6 plies.

Lately some trailer owners—and even manufacturers—are equipping trailers with LT, or Light Truck, tires.

How Good Are Standard Tires?

American RV manufacturers, except some making compacts and popups with wheels smaller than 13 inches, equip each new trailer with radials. You can run bias ply tires on your camper and radials on your tow vehicle, but you cannot mix bias and radial tires on the trailer itself. Bias plies are cheaper but have a shorter life and get lower fuel mileage.

Don’t expect top-of-the-line tires on any but upscale models of travel trailers and fifth wheels. Some builders offer better tires as an option. Economy trailers and the increasingly popular light travel trailers usually have basic ST tires. They will have load capacities suitable for the loaded trailer, but they probably are rated 65 mph. Better ST tires are speed rated M, to 81 mph.

You can replace the standard tires with STs that have a greater load range, such as D or E. That would at least improve your trailer tires’ resistance to heat, a major cause of tire failure from the inside out.

Most trailer tires, especially the more affordable, are made in China. Shop carefully. If you’ve heard the expression “China bombs,” it’s a reference to cheap Chinese trailer tires that tend to blow out. For a while, Chinese-made LT tires and high-performance passenger tires had the same problem. Although some Chinese tires are poorly constructed, others are better built—and cost more. Many U.S. brands also are made in China.

Read the tire reviews, not just the publicity write-ups. Owners who’ve experienced product failure typically don’t shy from writing about it.

Are LT Tires Safe for Trailer Use?

LT tires are intended for vehicles that generate stress with heavy loads—pickups, commercial vans, and heavier SUVs. Their stability makes them ideal for mounting on a tow vehicle. Over the last couple of years, some camper trailer makers, including high-end manufacturer Airstream, have offered LT tires as an option. Some trailer builders have even made LTs standard.

ST tires and LTs differ. The truck tires have a higher top speed, typically to 100 (speed rating Q) or 106 (R). You may or may not want to haul a trailer at 75 mph, but the higher top-speed rating usually means a tire better resists heat buildup. Remember, heat is a tire’s enemy.  

Another difference is maximum inflation pressure. An LT tire likely has a lower maximum pressure than a similarly sized ST. Any tire pressure sticker on your trailer wouldn’t apply to LTs. If you go with LTs, inflate to the maximum pressure embossed on the sidewall. Avoid over or under inflating, and don’t overload your trailer.

Buying a higher load range stiffens a sidewall, so an LT tire with Load Range D, E or F is advisable on heavier trailers.

The farther into the alphabet the letter designation goes, the stronger the sidewall. Most passenger tires are Load Range B, but trailer and truck tires go higher.

Most tires have two-ply polyester cord sidewalls, and some are three-ply. Not all plies are the same. Plies are sheets of rubber encasing fabric threads that are twisted into strong strands, or cords. Depending on weight and thickness, those plies may be intended for lighter duty, as on a car, or for handling heavier loads, as on a truck.

Decades ago, the number of plies would increase on truck tires, sometimes to 10 or even 12. The letters used for load range today are intended to represent stiffness equal to multiple plies, not the actual number of plies:

trailer tire ratings

If You Switch to LT

Make sure an LT’s load capacity—for example, the number 125 in the tire size 275/70R18, 125R, E—is equal to or greater than what the trailer manufacturer specifies. LT tires typically have a significantly higher load capacity than passenger tires but a lower load capacity than ST tires. The 125 indicates a load capacity of 3,640 pounds per tire. Consult a load capacity chart. Also check to see that the trailer wheels can handle the maximum pressure.

Don’t forget to add an LT spare. You shouldn’t mix LTs and STs on the same trailer. Also check your warranty and insurance policies to make sure the change would not negate coverage. As always, check tires before every trip and keep them properly inflated.

Friday, 21 February 2020 16:04

Spring is a Good Time for Maintaining a Rubber Roof

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Some RVers think of rubber roofs as inferior to aluminum or fiberglass roofs, but the simple fact is that most RVs hve one, and a rubber roof can last for 20 years or longer—if it is properly maintained. Of course, maintenance is up to you, the owner.

Periodic maintenance performed on the rubber roof membrane helps to protect the wood roof panels beneath it and the interior of your RV from leaks. Spring is a good time to check your rubber roof for damage, clean it and seal leaks.

If the roof is beyond repair, spring also is a good time to replace one. That’s a labor-intensive job that you may want to leave to a pro, but be warned: Rubber roof replacement, including the membrane and damaged wood panels underneath, can cost $4,000 to $10,000, depending on where you have the work done and the size of your rig. Get competing, detailed estimates before agreeing to have the work done.

Repairs are affordable, especially if you handle them yourself. Whether you do may depend on how capable you are of  working on the roof and a ladder, and how comfortable you are with doing that. You can repair spots that have been torn or gouged, or you can replace sections.

Types of Rubber Roofs

Two types of rubber roofing are used on RVs:

  • EDPM, or ethylene propylene diene monomer
  • TPO, or thermoplastic polyolefin

Your RV owner’s manual should tell you which kind your RV has, and how to care for it. If the manual is missing, call the customer service number for the RV manufacturer and give the service rep your serial number. The manufacturer should be able to tell you what is covering your roof.

Cleaning a Rubber Roof

Sweep the debris from your roof.

Now inspect. Look for cracks, tears and gouges. Inspect not just the roof membrane, but also the sealant around anything that juts through the roof membrane, including fans, vents, skylights, air-conditioning units and electronics.   

Before you wash the roof, use vinyl tape to temporarily seal leaks you uncover.

There’ one other important step before you wash the roof: Wash, or at least rinse with a hose or pressure washer, the vertical areas of the RV first, including the front, back and sides. That prevents hard-to-remove streaks on the vertical areas that runoff from the dirty roof might create.

Use a mild soap, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap, or a dedicated RV rubber roof cleane, mixed with water. Do not use a cleaner containing petroleum distillates, citrus or abrasives, all of which can damage rubber membranes. Scrub using a sponge mop or medium-bristle brush on a long handle. If your roof is not meant to be walked on, walk or stand on pieces of plywood that you lay atop the roof.

Rinse with a garden hose, or better, a pressure washer, set to no more than 1,200 pounds per square inch. Higher pressure could damage the roof membrane.

Patching Rubber Membranes

For gouges, tears and cracks, often caused by tree limbs scraping or striking the surface, cut away any loose rubber from the clean, damaged area of the rubber membrane using a utility knife and a scraper. Be careful not to cause more damage to the plywood beneath the membrane. The membrane is glued to the plywood, so a flat-blade scraper may be needed to carefully remove damaged sections of the rubber. 

If the plywood is gouged, fill the damaged area with Dicor self-leveling sealant and allow it to cure. Do not use a silicone sealant because roof coatings and patches will not stick to it.

The wounded area, now enlarged, will need to be covered and sealed. Use Eternabond tapes or patches, or a similar product, and cut to size with scissors, generously but not excessively overlapping sound parts of the membrane around the wound. Eternabond and similar products have a sticky side that goes against the old membrane and plywood. They come in various widths and lengths. Keep leftovers for on-the-road repairs after mishaps with trees. Warning: Patching tapes won’t budge once in place, so align patches carefully and roll them out as flat as possible. If the tape has a protective layer on the outer surface, pull it back and discard it.

Smooth the patch by hand, then roll air pockets and loose areas flat, using a small roller, such as a wallpaper roller. Start in the center of the patch and work your way out.

Apply Dicor self-leveling sealant to the edges of the patch a maximum-strength seal against water. While you have your Dicor in hand, patch any cracked or leaky beads around roof-mounted accessories, such as fan and vent openings.

Sealing the Roof

Finish off your roof repairs and maintenance by coating the entire roof with a rubber roof-compatible sealant, such as Heng’s Rubber Roof Coating or 303 Protectant. Apply according to directions, typically with a paint-type roller and long handle. The sealant will make the roof even more waterproof. Just as importantly, the sealcoat will protect the membrane from the sunlight’s ultraviolet rays, which can dry and crack a membrane over time.

Check your roof periodically and do spot repairs as needed. A roof gets dirty nd dusty, so wash it at least one additional time during the season and before storing your rig.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019 15:10

When Your RV Needs Traction Devices

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It’s not unusual when driving in mountainous areas during winter to see a sign warning that chains are required. That’s a sign you don’t want to ignore—first, because it’s dangerous to proceed without them, and second, because you’ll get fined if you’re caught without the chains. The fines can be a lot deeper than the snow.

What exactly do you need to meet these requirements? Chains are proven effective on packed snow and ice, but these days other products also can effectively increase traction and satisfy authorities as chain alternatives. Check online for the rules of the highway department in the state you intend to visit, or of national and state parks that often post chain requirements.

Whichever you choose, you’ll be limited to 30 miles per hour, or maybe just 20 or 25, depending on the device. Given the conditions of snow- and ice-bound roads, it’s not likely you’ll need to go faster.

Let’s take a look at what traction devices will keep you and your RV safe and out of a legal quagmire.

Chains

Link-type chains are, without question, a safe and legitimate traction multiplier in deep snow and on packed snow and ice for tow vehicles, trailers and motorhomes. They do have some negative aspects. Link chains are:

  • Heavy—not good if you’re trying to keep weight down.
  • Easily tangled in storage, requiring untangling before installation.
  • Harder to install than some newer traction devices.

Watch a video on installing link chains or cable chains.

Vehicles with minimum clearance between the tire tread and wheel well—just under 1.5 inches— should use Class S chains. Chains that meet Class S requirements are  Z-Chain, Super Z LT, Radial Chain, and Quik Grip PL.

Chains, like all traction devices for tires, must be placed on the drive wheels but can be placed on other wheels as well—on trailer tires, for instance, or on non-drive front tires. On motorhomes and tow vehicles with dualies, chains go on the outermost drive tires. On 4- and all-wheel-drive vehicles, chains should be installed at all four corners.

Before installation, most link tire chains look like a tiny ladder, with long sidewall chains running parallel to each other and cross chains linking them, sometimes on a diagonal. Once chains are draped over a tire, the cross chains run from one edge of the tread to the other. The sidewall chains align with each sidewall to form a roughly circular shape and help pull the chains tight.

Install chains on level ground. Once chains are draped on the tires, drive forward or back about 18 inches so the ends of the sidewall chains can be hooked together on the inner and outer sides of the tire. If the chains have tightening hardware, use a tool to tighten them. On chains without tightening hardware, use a bungee cord in a circular shape, with hooks that intermittently attach to the sidewall chains to tighten everything, or a ready-made tensioner that does the same thing. Premade tensioners are available even in sizes to fit a large Class A RVs.

Don’t fail to tighten chains. Loose chains are not only ineffective, but also a threat to the bodywork of your RV or tow vehicle, and to the wheels.

Easier to use but sill quite effective are cable chains. They are lighter, tangle less easily, tighten with less effort and sometimes install without having to move the vehicle. Cable chains with a diagonal pattern are actually recommended for trailers because the diagonals provide much more sway control than ladder types, which are better for accelerating and stopping.

Traction Straps

For similar performance without the hassle of chains, consider tire traction straps. Each strap performs like a cross piece on chains, running across the tire tread to bite snow and ice.

Usually made of a textured, solid nylon, the traction part of the device has nylon straps on each end and a buckle or fastener. The straps run around the tread and sidewall, passing through holes in the wheels. This design often allows installation without moving the RV or tow vehicle.

Some traction straps have link chains that lie against the tread, with tightening straps that go through holes in the wheels to hook together and tighten.

Traction straps come in different shapes and sizes, so you can find a size to fit your tires. Bigger traction straps will do better in mud and deep snow. Keep in mind that the bigger the device, the rougher the ride and the more clearance will be needed between the device and wheel well.

Snow Socks

If you’ve ever spent time in the snow wearing a knit cap or mittens, you’ve seen how snow sticks to the cloth. Snow socks, developed in Scandanavia, work the same way once they’re wrapped around a tire. These textile donuts, open only on the inner side of the tire to allow installation, use that adhesive property to grab the surface of snow and ice to generate traction.

That may sound like fairytale logic, but snow socks really do work. And the more they soak up water, the better the traction. Some also get “hairier” with use, which in turn increases grip. In addition to being lightweight, snow socks install without tools. They do, however, require moving the vehicle a few inches the same as chains do to complete installation, and stretching the socks over a cold tire takes some work.

What is not required is mechanical tightening. Snow socks are purchased in a size to fit your tires. The socks center themselves on the tire as the tire rolls.

In addition to weighing little and requiring light effort to install, snow socks result in a better ride quality than chains or straps.

Use Caution

Adventurous souls may scoff at the notion that snow should slow them down, but if roads are so hazardous that chains are required, you may want to think twice about proceeding. That goes double if you’re inexperienced driving your RV in snow.

Consider rescheduling your drive—a week, a few days or even a few hours—if conditions require or suggest the use of traction devices.

Monday, 09 September 2019 17:28

Rodent Problems in Your Motorhome?

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Rats! Something is chewing the wiring on RVs, tow vehicles and dinghies!

Yes, rats, quite literally—or more likely mice, and maybe squirrels, rabbits or groundhogs.

The wire-chewing problem appears to have reached epidemic proportions. Ask any insurance agent and you’ll hear that claims for chewed wiring are rising. Online reports of damage are widespread. One woman complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that when she turned on her car’s air conditioner, mouse fragments rattled around the box fan and flew everywhere through the vents, including all over her. One Toyota Tundra owner has sued Toyota over repeat episodes of rodent damage to under-hood components.

Comprehensive insurance usually covers the damage, but owners are left covering deductibles that can reach $1,000 or more, depending on the policy, and they lose the use of their vehicles until repairs are completed.

A Matter of Taste

Rodent damage is nothing new, of course. Mice have always found a way to squeeze through the tiniest opening—or chew their way through anything but stainless steel—to reach any food not placed in a sealed container.

But that was all kinds of food. What has made rodent tastes go from eclectic to electric? Why have vehicles become all-you-can-eat buffets for rodents?

They’re attracted by the new coatings on automotive wiring. Once protected by a rubber-based product, and then by petroleum-based plastics, the wires are now increasingly encased in a more environmentally friendly soy-based sheathing.

And rodents love it. To them, it’s food. Automotive wiring manufacturers might as well have posted blinking neon signs in driveways and campsites that say “Mouse Diner This Exit.”

What Can You Do?

Short of poison, it is possible to keep rodents from wiring, but it’s not always easy.

Avoid resorting to poison. It can work, but it presents dangers to people and pets. The rodent doesn’t die where it eats the poison, but instead where it is when the poison takes effect. That could be inside a wall or air duct, where the odor can linger for weeks. In ductwork, it will not only smell, but also can spread the poison through air conditioning and heating.

If a pet eats a poisoned rodent—lying in a corner of your coach or on the ground outside—the pet is poisoned, too.

It’s a better practice to keep rodents away from the wiring.

Here are some things that can help:

  • Have metal screening installed around wiring under the hood of vehicles, and over vent openings. Screen is cheap, but the labor to install it may run into hundreds of dollars.
  • Wrap wires with an electrical tape that repels rodents. Honda 4019-2317 electrical tape is infused with capsaicin, a hot spice that will convince a mouse to dine elsewhere. You can install it yourself when the engine is turned off and cool.
  • Spray wires with a rodent repellent, such as Rodent Defense or Natural Armor Vehicle and Engine Protection. They don’t kill rodents, just ward them off.
  • Mouse Free is a spray applied to the underside of any vehicle with a compressed air sprayer before and after winter storage. It contains natural oils, including peppermint, which rodents hate. It’s not cheap, costing a bit over $100 for a gallon and sprayer. Refills are around $35.
  • To catch mice, set snap traps around tires when your RV, tow vehicle and dinghy are parked. You’ll need three traps per wheel—one in front, one in back and one on top. That means 12 to 18 for a tow vehicle or motorhome, six to 12 for a travel trailer and 6 more for your dinghy.
  • Plug any holes in your RV, preferably with steel wool, which mice can’t chew.
Thursday, 29 August 2019 11:08

Handling Motorhome Tire Blowouts

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If you’re an RV owner who experiences a tire blowout at highway speed, it probably scared you about as much as anything in your life. Even experienced drivers fear the sudden loss of pressure in a tire because of the vehicle control it takes away.

It is possible, however, to control a vehicle when a tire blows—even at speed—if you know what to do. Ironically, doing what you think is right is not always the answer.

How Do Blowouts Occur?

Blowouts aren’t nearly as common today as years ago when tires had tubes. In those days, once the inner tube was breached, pressure loss was immediate and critical—often deadly.

Tubeless tires blow out less often, but it still happens. So do garden-variety flat tires, which remain hazardous, especially on highways with high speed limits and heavy traffic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire-related problems, including flats and blowouts, caused 738 fatal accidents in 2017, the latest statistic available.

Blowouts occur because of sudden tire failure, sometimes from factors that build up over time. That can be over months, hours or, unfortunately, minutes. Resulting problems can be ply separations, tread disintegration, sidewall fatigue, failure of the bladder (which holds air in the tire), or leaks in the valve or valve stem.  

When a Tire Blows at Speed

The best thing to do when a tire fails while you’re driving an RV is counterintuitive. It’s all about physics—about real science, not gut feelings. Don’t hit the brakes or immediately slow down, reactions that many people believe are best. Instead, press the accelerator to maintain or, if possible, increase speed.

A flat tire will slow your RV, but with somewhat erratic control as it exerts a force to whatever side has the flat. So, for example, if a right tire blows—either front or rear—you’ll feel a pull to the right. You’ll sense a rear-tire failure in your seat; you’ll feel a front-tire failure in a stammering message from your steering wheel.

A study done by leading tire maker Michelin for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association with a lesson placed on video shows that accelerating allows the forward force of the RV to better overcome the sideways force. You’ll have to make a lot of steering corrections to maintain control—you’ll really wrestle with the wheel. Once you reach a safe place to pull over, signal and gradually slow and steer to the side of the road. There, you can change the tire yourself or call for a service truck.

How To Avoid Blowouts

It’s best to avoid blowouts in the first place. The leading causes of blowouts are overloads and under inflation. Don’t overload your RV. Don’t underinflate your tires—or overinflate, either.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll never experience a blowout, but doing these things will help to avoid one:

  • Buy quality tires. Search online for reviews of any tire brand and model you’re considering. Make sure it’s a real review, not just praise trumped up by a tire dealer trying to make a sale. Also check the NHTSA for recalls and complaints.
  • Look at ply ratings. Most tires have two or three sidewall plies, but those for heavier vehicles and trailers have higher ply ratings indicating more sidewall strength. Load Range B is merely two plies and impractical for trailers, tow vehicles or motorhomes. Load Range C is a 4-ply rating and still often inadequate for the stresses of heavy loads. Better are Load Range D (6 ply-rating), E (8-ply rating) or F (10-ply rating).
  • Make sure your tires are rated for proper load. Consult a standard load table. Check your load per axle on a truck scale. Evenly distribute weight as much as possible. And remember: Full tanks add hundreds of pounds to your load.
  • Check your tire pressure before a trip—and every morning.
  • Inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Remember that driving in high altitudes may require extra air, since pressure in the tire will drop as you climb.
  • Maintain your tires. Rotate them at least annually, or every six months. Maintain proper pressure. Make sure tires are balanced.
  • When you’re parked, use covers to shield tires from degradation caused by the sun’s UV rays, especially in the Sun Belt.

Take your time, particularly if you’re not overly experienced at driving or towing an RV. If you’re going a little slower when a tire blows—55 or 60 mph instead of 75—reacting to it will be easier. And keep a longer distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you, which gives you an opportunity to accelerate in the event of a blowout.

Photo Credits: Flickr.com

Wednesday, 28 August 2019 10:51

Hauling a Motorcycle with Your RV

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Motorcycles are a valid local transportation alternative to four-down towing.

Dinghy towing is becoming more popular but also more difficult in one respect: Many models that could be towed four-down years earlier are no longer eligible because of changes in equipment, often a switch to continuously variable transmissions or different transfer cases.

Motorcycles can be towed behind or mounted to motorhomes, and they can be tucked into toy hauler trailers. Although they can’t be towed behind or mounted to the rear of a travel trailer, they can be mounted to the tow vehicle in some cases or secured in the bed of a pickup.

A motorcycle can get you into town for supplies if you equip it with cargo accessories. It can easily transport you, and probably a companion, to a movie or restaurant. And if it’s a dirt bike, it can also take you exploring while you’re boondocking, at least where motorcycles are allowed. And of course it will deliver better mileage than most cars or SUVs. The disadvantage is that bikes aren’t the best choice for foul-weather travel or, for some folks, long distances.

Helmet laws vary by state, so make sure that as you travel, you know where a helmet is required.

Motorcycle Hitch Mounts

A hitch mount works fine on a motorhome. Think of it as a giant bicycle rack. It fits into the female receiver tube on the back of the motorhome.

It can also fit onto the hitch of a tow vehicle. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Great. I can mount a motorcycle carrier to the tow vehicle hitch, but then I can’t pull a trailer.” Some motorcycle carriers, such as the Versa Haul Sport, have trailer hitches of their own that extend off the back of the motorcycle carrier. The hitch on the VH Sport can tow trailers up to 3,000 pounds.

Motorcycle hitch mounts tilt or have a ramp to allow the bike to be placed on the rack. Make sure you like the arrangement on the hitch you buy.

Not all motorcycle hitch mounts are alike. Some things to consider:

  • Capacity. Some carriers can support bikes weighing up to 800 pounds, others less. Know your bike’s weight and the carrier’s capacity.
  • Tire width accommodation. Not all motorcycle hitch mounts can accommodate wide tires on sportier bikes.
  • Materials. Some carriers are steel; some are aluminum, which weighs less and doesn’t rust.
  • Hitch compatibility. Know which class hitch is on your vehicle and whether its receiver tube accepts the male connector on the carrier.
  • Trailer compatibility. If you want to tow a trailer and carry a bike on a hitch mount, make sure the bike hitch can accommodate a trailer as well, and know the maximum trailer weight allowed.

Another type of trailer hitch mount is a carrier rack, which places the front motorcycle wheel off the ground and lets the rear tire roll on the road. These carrier racks will attach to motorhome hitches for considerable savings compared to mounts that have both wheels off the ground. Most manual-transmission bikes can be towed this way, but check your owner’s manual.

Bedtime

If you use a pickup to tow a trailer, you can often secure a bike—or two—in the bed of the pickup. That’s easiest with an 8-foot bed, but a 6-foot bed will often suffice. You’ll need strong ratchet straps that you can attach to cargo hooks in the bed, and wheel chocks.

If you lack the necessary tie-downs, there are brackets that attach permanently to your bed and can help, such as the Bed Buddy brace. You’ll also need a ramp that you buy or make. Follow these instructions on securing motorcycles in a pickup bed.

One caution: Make sure the tongue weight of your loaded trailer, plus the weight of passengers and your bikes, does not exceed the maximum payload of your truck.

Motorcycle Trailers

Motorcycle trailers, depending on the model, will accommodate one or two motorcycles behind a motorhome. Uncovered doubles typically cost $2,000 to $3,000, and singles, $1,000 to $2,000. They provide the support your bike will need to be towed securely.

For an enclosed cargo trailer that accommodates two bikes, figure on about $3,500 or more. Enclosed trailers, although higher priced, protect your bikes from weather and grime, and provide security.

And if you’re not ready to buy a trailer? You can rent one, giving you a chance to try out towing a bike.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Jeffrey M. Dean

Monday, 01 April 2019 19:08

Small RVs Gain New Popularity

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Smaller RVs are becoming more popular as RV ownership hits new heights and attracts younger buyers.

With Millennials and Gen Xers now making up more than half of all RV owners, a trend toward small RVs make sense. Small RVs usually cost less, and younger buyers tend to have smaller bank accounts. Smaller RVs also are easier on the environment, which many progressive Millennials value.

Manufacturers Adapt

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association explains that manufacturers have adapted to demands from new camping enthusiasts. “RV manufacturers are offering innovative new products that offer an optimal mix of size, amenities and price for today’s budget-conscious consumers,” RVIA reports. “Manufacturers are producing lightweight trailers and smaller, fuel-efficient motorhomes.”

RVs of all sizes are becoming more environmentally friendly, RVIA says. “Green technologies such as solar panels and energy-efficient components are appearing on an increasing number of RV models,” RVIA notes.

It doesn’t take a full-size V8 pickup to pull a small trailer. A compact pickup, a midsize SUV, crossover, and some sedans can pull many pop-ups, teardrops and compact trailers. The shift to small SUVs is undeniable—so much so that Ford is phasing out all cars but the Mustang sport coupe, with the rest of its vehicles to be SUVs and trucks of varying sizes.

Small RVs, because of design innovation, aren’t as cramped as they used to be.

Pop-Ups Look Like Home Runs

forest river 206A pop-up trailer with tent sides and zippered windows, with a fiberglass roof that lifts up from the body, remains one of the cheapest tickets to trailer camping. For example, the Forest River 206LTD costs less than $7,500. It has central heat but not air, a roomy kitchen with under-counter refrigerator and adequate cabinetry, plus a clever carryout stove for outdoor cooking; foldout double and queen beds under canvas-covered bump-outs, plus a convertible dinette that sleeps two; stand-up headroom; and a 9-foot awning. The shower is on the exterior.

More protective are new “A” frame pop-ups with hard sides. In Forest River’s Flagstaff Hard Side, you see an awful lot of features and livability. At 2,600 pounds or less, it’s 21 feet long. There’s stand-up headroom; a heat pump; kitchen with 3-burner cooktop, sink, midsize refrigerator and cabinetry; sleeping capacity of four; a dining area; speakers inside and out; toilet; choice of inside or outside shower; and an awning.

Small Trailers Bring Real Comfort

Compact travel trailers have less floor space than a 35-footer, but they’re easier to tow, surprisingly spacious, and feature-rich, with standup headroom.

The Keystone Bullet Colt, for example, is 20 feet long and weighs about 3,000 pounds. It sleeps three or four in a queen bed and convertible dinette. The kitchen has a generously sized stainless steel fridge, two-burner cooktop, microwave and plenty of cabinet space. The bath is wet or has a curtained shower. Even a slideout is available. All Bullet Colts have pass-through storage. Buyers typically pay less than $20,000.

So Many Teardrops

iCampElite FLA staple of the 1930s and 1940s, teardrops never were quipped the way they are today. For campers accustomed to sleeping in tents, a teardrop is a nice step up. You know you’re still roughing it a bit when a teardrop has an exterior shower and a kitchen under a rear tailgate. The 14-foot iCamp Elite, however, is more refined, with a wet bath, full kitchen and dinette inside. It can sleep three. Some teardrops pop up for more headroom, then lower for more streamlined towing, and some have a manual slideout that expands space.

Class B Motorhomes

Built on extended gasoline- or diesel-powered work van chassis, Class B motorhomes offer just about everything a Class C offers, except the space. You’ll typically find dedicated beds, full kitchens, a TV, air-conditioning, sleeper dinettes, baths and awnings. Smart design, such as fold-up Murphy beds, expand living space.

A Class B isn’t cheap. A Winnebago Travato built on a Ram Promaster chassis sells for about $100,000 and up. Campers on a Mercedes four-wheel-drive platform may go as high as $250,000. A Class B is easy to drive—it would even get you to work in a pinch. It’s great for weekend getaways, including football games and tailgates.

RV Travato

“RV owners overwhelmingly said in recent surveys that their RVs make it easier to take more frequent weekend getaways or mini-vacations that accommodate busy family schedules,” RVIA noted. Without the need to hitch a trailer, a Class B can be especially attractive to those campers.

Photo Credits: winnebagoind.com, urvusa.com, keystonerv.com, forestriverinc.com

Tuesday, 27 November 2018 14:20

Dressing Your RV for the Holidays

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Ready to get your RV into the holiday spirit? Here are some ideas.

It’s easy and affordable to imbue your trailer or motorhome with Christmas spirit.

giftwrap cabinets for christmasGiftwrap Your Kitchen Cabinets

Nothing says Christmas like presents, so why not use that motif where you can in your RV?

Kitchen cabinet doors are a great place. They’ve got that Christmas-present rectangular shape. Their transformation into gifts concentrates on the doors.

You can just add ribbon and stick-on bows to the doors to dress them up in holiday style. Wrap the ribbons over the edge of the doors and tape them to the insides of the doors, or use a few tacks—as few as possible. If the bows won’t stay in place, use a paper stapler to fasten them to the ribbon.

Make a bigger splash by using rolls of wrapping paper to add color. Solid colors may be the best choice here; patterns can overwhelm. Use the paper—maybe a red or green, or a sparkly version—to wrap each door. Leave the smooth, full covering on the outside. Fasten with transparent tape or tacks inside. Fold the wrapping paper over the edges of the door and crease it at the edges so it lies flat more readily.

After the paper is on, you can apply the same ribbon-and-bow treatment mentioned above. Now, that’s a Christmas gift look.

Add Greenery

If you have the floor space for a tree, wonderful! It doesn’t have to be—and maybe shouldn’t be—too tall if you’re traveling, so it doesn’t tip over. If you’re here at the resort for the holidays, just set it up as you would in a bricks-and-mortar home. If you’ll be traveling, screw the tree stand onto a carpet-covered plywood cutoff, maybe 3x3 feet. Set the plywood on no-slip drawer liner so it doesn’t wander when traveling. It’s also good to tether the tree with string and thumbtacks before you move.

No room for a tree? No problem. Try stringing green garland—natural or artificial—along a wall. Natural will provide a holiday scent. Make sure there’s slack between connection points so it bows a bit toward the floor. You may not want to screw into your RV walls to do this, so use clear or white no-screw picture hangers every few feet. They’re cheap, they’ll get the job done, and they remove easily when you pull on a tab after the holidays.

christmas decorated RV motorhome

Whether you have a tree or garland for greenery, add some mini LED lights—white or colors—to liven them up, and some small ornaments. You can even find RV-themed ornaments. If you plan to drive with the decorations up, choose modestly sized ornaments and use green or black tie wraps to attach them, rather than metal hooks. Some big red or white velvet bows add a tasteful pop. String white or colored LED bulbs through the garland.

Outside: Light it up!

If you live in a park, make sure you stay within the rules for outdoor holiday decorations.

An easy way to add nighttime decorations is with a laser light that projects against the side of your RV. Lights that project red and green dots are common, but these days additional colors are available. Many laser projectors offer a menu of shapes, often including holiday-related shapes—holly leaves, trees, stars, angels. Some laser projectors are dedicated to holiday shapes. You can set the projectd shaps to be stationary or to move. You’ll need a lasr light approved for outdoor use and an outdoor-rated power cord. Tips for decorating inside can work outside, too. A tree with lights at your site is tasteful and fun, and garland and/or a string of LED lights can be temporarily strung on your RV exterior for holiday flavor. The wrapping technique can work on your RV door just as easily as on cabinets, as long as you’re not traveling. You can buy weatherproof holiday door wraps, which you’ll have to trim to size for your RV. If you use paper, make sure the roll is long enough to go the length of the door, then cover with clear plastic. A traditional wreath is always fashionable—and removable when you roll.

Wreath decals are also available. As are decals with other holiday images and messages. They eliminate having to remove them when you travel.

Happy holidays, everyone!

photo credits: Pinterest

Wednesday, 29 August 2018 04:09

Removing Bug Splatter From Your RV

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Bug splatter is a real problem with summer and fall driving, and the longer you wait to get the bugs off your RV, the more difficult it will be. Absolutely get rid of them before winter.

Even more aerodynamic RVs are like bricks on wheels. They’re bound to catch a lot of bugs, especially in Southeastern states, including Georgia. One look through a splattered windshield on your way to or from Crossing Creeks RV Resort and Spa in Blairsville gives you a good idea of what the bugs do to the painted front ends of your RV. They may not show as readily on paint as on a clear windshield, but the bugs are there.

Let’s look not just at how to get dead bugs off your RV finish, but also how to lessen the likelihood that they’ll become a real mess in the first place.

RV Rejex2Preventing Insect Sticking

You can’t escape bug splatter, but you can reduce just how much bugs stick to paint and decals.

The best defense is to do something you ought to do anyway to maintain the value and appearance of your RV: Keep it washed and waxed. Any high-quality wax will provide a protective layer against insects.

There are other preventive products, too. RejeX Polymer Coating, for instance, coats paint and decals with a micron-thin shield. Originated to protect airplanes, it’s glossy like wax, so you can use it alone on the front of your RV. Wax or RejeX make it easier to wipe off insect residue, but wax and RejeX don’t mix, so don’t use them together on the same area.  Rejex can also be used on headlight covers and windshields. Photo credit: Rejex.com.


Rv dryer sheetsBug Splatter Removal With Dryer Sheets

One of the traditional methods, but one that’s highly effective, is to use drier sheets—yes, the same sheets you throw in the drier to soften clothing. Do this in the shade or at least on the cool side of the RV, away from direct sunlight.

For bug removal, place a dryer sheet in a spray bottle and fill it with water. Spray the mixture onto the bugs and wipe off with—what else?—another dryer sheet. You may have to repeat, but the method gets the job done.

When you’re finished, wash and apply a new coating of wax or sealant. Photo credit: ezvidwiki.com.

 


RV Griots Garage Wash Scrub Mitt Griots Garage

Scrubbing Off Bugs

Some automotive washing mitts do a good job of scrubbing off dead bugs. A good example is the Griot’s Garage Micro Fiber Wash & Scrub Mitt. Use a bucket of water mixed with the cleaning agent you normally use to wash your RV. The mitt soaks up plenty of water for a thorough wash.

One side of the mitt has tendrils of micro fiber for routine RV washing. The other side is textured with plastic edges for bug removal. The honeycomb on the textured side bites into bug splatter and helps to remove bug residue without scratching paint. You’ll still have to scrub, and possibly repeat. Photo credits: Griot's Garage.

 


RV bug remover MeguiarsChemical Bug Removers

Chemical cleaners—Maguiar’s Heavy Duty Bug & Tar Remover is an example—are formulated to soften bugs so they can be wiped off. You know Maguiar’s is working when it foams on the surface. Different cleaners may give different results. A soft rag or sponge should do for scrubbing, if necessary. When using any chemical cleaner, it’s a good idea to use latex gloves to limit exposure to your skin.

The makers of chemical cleaners say they engineer their cleaners so they don’t harm finishes, but it’s always a good practice to follow a vigorous chemical bug cleaning with a thorough wash. Apply a new coat of wax to keep more bugs from sticking. Photo credit: Meguiar's.

Some RV owners swear by dry washes, such as Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All. You can use it in some RV parks that ban washing with water. You can also use it during stops while traveling. Spray it on, let it work in to soften the bugs, and wipe off with  a micro fiber cloth. For stubborn splatters, scrub with a wet cloth before wiping dry. It leaves a slick sheen that will help to prevent future insect sticking.

Thursday, 19 July 2018 14:42

Changing, Recycling RV Fluids

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Any RV has fluids that need to be changed periodically and disposed of properly.

Fluid change requirements in an RV don’t differ significantly from those of a car or SUV you drive every day. The biggest difference may be the number of miles driven. If your RV is on the road for only 3,000 or 4,000 miles each year, you may not reach the change intervals in terms of miles, but you should still change the fluids periodically, and the filters along with them.    

A motorhome has more fluids: motor oil, antifreeze/coolant and hydraulic fluid. An RV trailer may have only the hydraulic fluid.

Here are some fluid-change guidelines.

Motor oil

This is the lifeblood of your engine. Oil must flow freely to bathe moving internal engine parts. Oil lowers friction and heat, reducing wear. For oil to flow freely, it must be relatively clean, be the right weight for your vehicle and have a clean filter. All that information is available in the owner’s manual. A service department also will know it.

Generally speaking, an oil and filter change every 4,000 to 5,000 miles is sufficient. But certain conditions place additional stresses on oil and may call for more frequent changes: towing; driving under heavy loads, in extremely hot weather, and in high altitudes; and idling for long periods.  

If you don’t travel as many miles as are recommended for oil changes, change the oil yearly.

If you change the oil yourself, buy a pan to catch the old oil. Save it for recycling. (More on that later.)

Transmission Fluid

The difference of opinions on transmission oil changes is wide. Check your owner’s manual. Some sources say 100,000 miles; some say 50,000 miles. If you tow a trailer, your pickup’s tranny fluid should be changed under the “severe service” schedule, which would be more frequently. The Chevrolet Silverado “severe service” recommendation, for example, is every 45,000 miles. If you purchased an independent, extended warranty, check to make sure it does not require more frequent intervals.

It’s pretty safe to say that motor home transmission fluid should be changed under the severe schedule as well, since it’s powering thousands of extra pounds.

As a rule, check your transmission fluid seasonally, using the transmission dipstick, with the engine running. If the level is full, and if the liquid is clear and is its normal color—probably red—and doesn’t smell burnt, you’re good to go. If something is abnormal, have your transmission checked.

If you change the fluid yourself, make sure the fluid you buy is compatible. A dealer parts department or auto parts store will know the proper fluid. Catch and hold the transmission fluid for recycling.

Hydraulic Fluid

Much like transmission fluid, hydraulic fluid is usually good if it is clean, the original color and doesn’t smell burnt. A good rule to follow is to change hydraulic fluid every two years, but always if it appears out of the ordinary.

Hydraulic fluid changes are messy. Filter requirements vary. Some models have not only an external filter, but also an internal filter. Make sure you use compatible filters.

Capture and save hydraulic fluid for recycling.

Where To Recycle Used Oil

Safely and responsibly disposing of used oil isn’t as hard as you might think. The important thing is to keep it out of landfills, where it can leak and contaminate underground water and soil.

Many service stations accept used oil, including hydraulic fluid and transmission fluid, which are also classified as oil. Many service centers have setups that enable them to burn the oil, using it as heating fuel. Most Autozone parts stores and Pep Boys accept used oil, but many independently owned corner service stations do, too. Just call and ask.

Oil filters should be hot drained—kept at 60 degrees or above and allowed to drain into a container. For up to 12 hours. Drained filters can be sent to landfills in some states, including Georgia, but recycling is a more environmentally friendly practice.

Some municipalities hold annual hazardous waste collections and accept used motor oil and filters, even though normal used oil is considered regulated, not hazardous. Check your municipal government’s website or just call to find out. Hydraulic fluid, transmission oil and gear oil are all considered oil and can be recycled.

*Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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