Hi, everyone! Spring has definitely sprung here in East Texas! The RV is out of storage and ready for a busy spring. I just returned from an extended RV trip to Quartzsite, AZ, where I participated in the big RV tent show and held another successful RVers' Boot Camp in Congress, AZ. Next I’ll be heading for the SKP ACRE (All Chapter Rally East ) rally in Marion, NC, in April, where I will be doing some seminars and providing RV weighing through our Escapees SmartWeigh program. I hope you, too, are making plans and prepping for your own RV adventures! Thanks for all the emails, and keep those questions coming!
I am a single female who has been RVing for 30 years. I religiously follow your columns and have learned a lot. I just bought my “retirement” RV: a 30-ft Newmar. I am in the market for a new car that can be towed on all fours. The Ford Escape meets all my other criteria, and this will be my only vehicle. The guide says that the “transmission fluid level must be lowered during four-wheel-down towing.” Can you tell me what this means? The dealer is of NO help. Will I have to drain fluid, then add it back each time I unhook? Surely not. If so, Honda CRV would be my second choice. Thank you for all your good tips and advice. Ev.
I was able to locate the owner's manual for the Escape, and here is what it says:
Vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission should have the transmission fluid level checked by an authorized dealer. For the correct transmission fluid level when flat towing (all four wheels on the ground), refer to Transmission fluid in the Maintenance and Specifications chapter.
Tow only in the forward direction.
Release the parking brake.
Place the transmission shift lever in N (Neutral).
Place the ignition to the accessory position (refer to Starting in the Driving chapter).
Do not exceed 65 mph (105 km/h) if the vehicle is equipped with an automatic transmission or 70 mph (113 km/h) if equipped with a manual transmission.
Vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission need to start the engine and allow it to run for five minutes at the beginning of each day and every six hours thereafter. With the engine running and your foot on the brake, shift into D (Drive) and then into R (Reverse) before shifting back into N (Neutral).
Checking transmission fluid level for recreational flat tow operation:
Before recreational flat towing your vehicle, the transmission fluid level may need to be set to a lower level. These guidelines are designed to prevent damage to your transmission. Before you recreational flat tow, your fluid level must be verified by an authorized dealer. This fluid level is within the normal operating fluid range and does not require that you have your fluid level readjusted after recreational flat tow operation.
The manual confirms that you need to set the fluid level to a different point for 4-down towing, but it apparently can be maintained at that level. I think that it will be critical, for the sake of your vehicle warranty, that you follow all steps carefully, especially the one about having an authorized dealer verify the fluid level. I suggest that you get something in writing when they verify the level, and be sure you understand how to properly check the fluid level to maintain it at the correct "sweet spot" for towing!
We have 4 “wet cell” batteries for our house batteries on a 2005 Newmar Dutch Star. One cell in one of the batteries is measuring on what I might term marginal, almost in the red, in the hygrometer. All other cells are in the green. These are on constant charge when the RV is parked in storage or, obviously, at a campground. The charging system is a good one and manages the batteries well. The inverter is a 600amp. I assume we are facing replacement before too long. When I replace these, I would like to use a battery that does not need to have the water level maintained. Could you recommend batteries (distributors, type, and manufacturers) which would replace these and fit within the same space as the current batteries? These batteries share a roll out with the two sealed batteries that service the non-coach house, motor, etc. We do very little camping where there isn’t 120-volt service available. Thanks, Everett
If those are the original batteries that came with the coach, they are definitely approaching the end of their service life. Even if they aren't original, your hygrometer readings are showing that at least one battery is compromised. It is best to replace all batteries as a set, and keep them matched as closely as possible. If you want a truly maintenance-free battery, the only one I would recommend for RV use is an AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery. They are 100 percent sealed, and require no maintenance at all. They are also true deep-cycle batteries and will last 4-8 years in typical RV service. I have included a few web links for vendors. These batteries are a bit pricey, so if you truly do very little dry-camping, you might want to consider only installing two batteries instead of four. This will reduce your ability to camp without hookups but should be enough to power critical systems on your coach for a single night's stop. This may be a good choice if you always plug in at a campground. You can start with just one pair, and if you find that you need additional capacity, easily add a second pair.
Mark, we store our RV in a lot in our complex, and the decals on the side that gets the most sun have cracked. Is there any quick fix to make these look better barring taking them off? Thanks. I love reading your column. Kathy
Most RV decals are vinyl, and the only way to keep them looking good is to keep a good quality automotive paste wax on them to help protect them from the sun and from drying out. Unfortunately, once the decals have begun to crack and fade, there is very little you can do to restore them. There are some polymer coatings that are used to rejuvenate painted surfaces that may be worth a try. Take a look at www.vivilon.com. They offer a clear coating that can be applied to just about any surface to restore its color and shine. I have never used it, but it may do the trick for you. (If you try it and it works, please let me know!) Another alternative is to remove the old decals and replace them. There are a number of companies that specialize in replacement graphics and decals for RVs. Take a look at
Removing the old graphics is a difficult task and may be best left to professionals. However, if you have near-infinite patience and a heat gun, they can be removed using a plastic or steel scraper, some heat, and a gentle touch. Of course, the third alternative is to develop a blind spot and just not see the faded decals. That approach has worked well for me in the past! (smile)
I'm currently contemplating the purchase of a fifth-wheel. The unit I'm interested in is 14,000 pounds. I'll have to buy a pickup bigger than the one I have to pull this. Do I want a diesel or a gas pickup? Why do I want either one? What advantages would one have over the other? Is there one you would recommend? Thanks. Richard
First, be very careful that you choose a truck that can adequately tow the loaded trailer and not exceed any of its weight ratings. It is very hard to have too much truck and all too easy to have too little. Err on the side of excess capacity! As to the selection of gas or diesel, I can only offer my opinion, which is sure to get me a lot of emails. In the "olden days," diesel engines offered better fuel economy, longer lasting engines, more torque, and diesel fuel was cheaper than gas. Today, with the advances in gasoline engine technology, the increase in diesel emissions regulations, and the fact that diesel fuel is now more expensive than gas, the playing field has leveled a lot. For a trailer in your weight range, there are a lot of gas-engine tow vehicles that would be very acceptable. Plus, the standard maintenance costs for gas engines tend to be a bit lower than for diesels, and the purchase price is generally lower. While I like the fact that diesel engines can be equipped with engine braking systems, like Jake brakes or exhaust restrictors, gas engines can also be fitted with exhaust restrictors to increase hill-handling ability. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably go with a gas engine.
Here are a few recent reader responses I'd like to share:
Mark, just an update, we found the Terro liquid ant bait at Home Depot. It is INCREDIBLE! I haven’t seen one ant inside, and we have since moved the “stations” outside. The little tear-off targets are now placed at each corner of our site, and I reapply drops as needed. I think we have effectively cleared our site (as well as our neighboring sites) of the ant population. Every here and there a new group pops up, but in a day or two they are gone. Thank you so much for the advice! Kristin
Mark, my fridge was not cooling properly and a friend told me to go to the computer supply store and get a computer fan and place it in the rear of the fridge to blow over the coils. This worked great and the fridge is twice as cool as it was, and the cost was $7.00. J.M.
I enjoy your column and read it each month, but I have seen this a couple of times and can't help but comment. I own a 1989 RV and returned home from a trip and hooked up my RV to my house, electrically, in order to run the fridge so I didn't have to clean it out. Unfortunately, my house was struck by lightning and, as well as $1,400 damage to the wiring in my house, it knocked out both my RV batteries, my microwave, headlights, resisters and converters, and the gentlemen that worked on the RV portion of fixing things said I was lucky it wasn't a newer model that had computer workings. I kind of lost that summer of camping because of the many things that needed to be found and fixed. So, it might be a good idea to at least warn people that it can happen. Keep up the good work and thanks. Dorothy
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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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 www.escapees.com or call 888–757–2582.
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