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Mark...My Words

Hi, all:
I hope you all had a merry Christmas and are looking forward to a New Year of RVing! Remember to keep those questions coming!


Hi, Mark,
I have a pop-up camper with electric brakes. Recently, it felt like my camper brakes weren’t working right. I got home and tested the emergency brakes plug at the front of the camper. When I pulled the plug, I was able to pull the camper with the wheels turning just fine. I took it to a dealer to get it checked and fixed. They performed a diagnostic and told me the brakes were pulling 6 amps. That was all they did. I got a trailer emulator plug and checked that everything was coming from my car correctly, but I still don’t think the brakes are working. What else can I do to make sure they work properly? David

Hi, David,
Hitch up the trailer, drive slowly forward, and apply the trailer brakes manually from the brake controller. You can also jack up one wheel at a time and try turning it by hand while applying the brakes at the controller. If you cannot feel any grab at all, then there is either a problem in the wiring, or the brakes themselves are either out of adjustment or mechanically worn out. To do a quick check of the wiring, with the trailer umbilical cord plugged in, have someone activate the trailer brakes manually at the controller and check for voltage present on the brake wiring where it enters the back of each brake assembly on the trailer axle. You can use either a meter or a test light to do this. There will be two wires; one should be tied to chassis ground and one should carry the voltage from the brake controller. It may also be possible to listen at each wheel while someone applies the trailer brakes. You should hear a "clack" sound when the energized magnet contacts the inner brake drum when the brakes are applied. If power and ground is not getting to the brakes, then you will have to trace out the wiring and find where the problem is. If everything appears to be electrically correct, then it is time to pull the wheels and hubs and inspect the brakes for excessive wear or adjustment problems. If this sounds outside of your mechanical comfort zone, most trailer sales and service businesses can troubleshoot and fix the problem.


My question is something that just happened this year. After filling our gas tank and getting on the road for about an hour, our motor home started to lose power, almost like it was running out of gas. So we got off the interstate and filled back up with gas; it only took about eight gallons. We got back on the road and the same thing kept happening. We finally got to our destination in about eight hours that should have taken five.The motor home is a Ford (1990). Any and all suggestions are welcome. Sincerely, Sandy

Hi, Sandy,
That sounds a lot like a clogged fuel filter to me, and it is usually a fairly easy item for do-it-yourself mechanics to replace. You can also take the motor home to most automotive repair places and ask that they replace the fuel filter. It is usually an inexpensive job. If the fuel filter does not fix it, the fuel pump, which is typically located in the fuel tank, may be going bad. There are also a number of other problems that can cause a loss of engine power, so if the fuel filter doesn't help, you should have a competent mechanic diagnose the problem and make the necessary repairs.


OK, Mark:
Winterizing: Is blowing out your system enough, or should you always add antifreeze? Also, we're taking trips through January about every 3-4 weeks. Do I need to winterize after each trip before the next, or is there something I can do instead? Thanks, Brad

Hi, Brad,
In my opinion, blowing out the water lines with air is fairly effective when you are storing the RV in a somewhat mild climate, where the temperature falls below freezing at night but warms up a bit during the day. For storing in really harsh climates, where it gets down into the below-freezing zone and stays there, antifreeze is really the only way to go. Your RV owner's manual should have a section on winterizing. Be sure to follow the steps to get all of the water out and fully protect the entire plumbing system. There are a number of online guides for winterizing: Just type "winterizing the RV" into any search engine and you'll turn up a bunch of them. If you plan to use the RV after it is winterized, you will either need to de-winterize it for the period of use and then re-winterize it each time, or leave the fresh water system winterized and drink bottled water and minimize use of your plumbing system while camping. One possible alternative is to either find a heated storage place for the RV, or keep the furnace or heater running in the RV during storage to prevent the water system from freezing. However, you have to be really sure that the method you choose will truly protect the plumbing, or you'll be fixing broken pipes.


I have by-passed and drained the water heater, opened the drain valve for the fresh water, disconnected the ice maker line, removed the water filter and opened all the valves, which allowed all the water to be removed by blowing out the lines with an air compressor but have a concern that the pump itself may not be totally void of water. Should I run the pump with some RV antifreeze? I have poured a cupful or two of RV antifreeze down each "P" trap in case there was some residual water in them. Here in Minnesota, this is critical. RML

Hi, RML,
After you have used compressed air to purge the water from the plumbing system, you must then disconnect both water lines from the pump and allow all remaining water to drain from them. Then, run the pump for a few seconds with the lines disconnected to purge the water out of the pump itself. Remember to hook everything back up before trying to use the water system again!


Hi, Mark:
Glad you asked about winterizing as I thought I had it down pat until last winter. I have a Coachmen class-A with the "water works" panel. On the winterize selection, I am able to draw antifreeze out of the jug, into the system, and to every faucet and toilet till it runs red. I then switch to tank fill and draw some antifreeze into the fresh-water tank. On departure day to FL last Dec., I put water to the city water hookup and started filling the hot water tank and flushing the lines to all my fixtures. When finished, I switched to tank fill and the water wouldn't flow. This left me unprotected and with no means to "move" the water periodically. I live in Plymouth, MA, and on day two at Flying J in VA, I was able to fill the tank, as it had thawed out. What step am I missing? -Thanx, Walter

Hi, Walter,
RV antifreeze must be used in its undiluted strength to provide freeze protection. I suspect there was some water in your fresh-water tank, and that diluted the antifreeze and allowed the tank to freeze. In the future, try to get all of the water out of the plumbing and tanks before you start the antifreeze process. Use the tank drains and low-point valves to empty the water out as much as possible. I think that will prevent a recurrence of your problem.


Hi, Mark. I think I have the winterizing thing down pretty well except for one small problem. Our refrigerator has an ice maker (a wonderful accessory). How do I drain the line to the solenoid and from the solenoid to the ice maker?? Can't blow it out and can't get it "pink.” THANKS!

Hi, Charlie:
In most cases, you have to disconnect those lines at the solenoid valve and drain them out. Your ice maker may have additional winterizing procedures described in the owner's manual or maintenance manual. If you don't have a manual for your unit, contact the manufacturer for one. It is also possible to hook up compressed air to the ice maker water line and cycle the ice maker to purge the water. Take a look at this thread from the Heartland Owner's Forum. It has some great info and details for Dometic ice makers. It should give you some ideas.


Mark Nemeth has been involved with all things RV for more than ten years, including almost 5 years on the road as a fulltimer. Nowadays, Mark is parked for a while and works on staff for the Escapees RV club as technical advisor, consumer affairs director, and instructor in the Escapees RVer's Boot Camp program.

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Please remember, material will be edited. Because of the large volume of material and correspondence submitted, individual replies will not be possible, nor can we acknowledge receipt of your material. Selected questions will be answered in future issues of the Woodall's/CampingLife Navigator newsletter in the Mark, My Words column.

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Some content previously printed in Escapees magazine, published by the Escapees RV Club. All material provided by Mark Nemeth, Escapees Magazine Technical Advisor and Boot Camp Instructor. For more information about the Escapees RV Club, please visit or call 888–757–2582.

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