I hope you are enjoying a summer of RVing! We’ve got a mixed bag of questions this month, covering air conditioning, batteries, drinking water and leaks. Enjoy!! If you have a general RVing question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected questions will be answered right here in upcoming newsletters.
We were camped this weekend and the fridge in our 28-ft. motorhome got put on battery by mistake sometime during the day and stayed on battery all through the night. In the morning we discovered that all systems were dead as the battery was completely drained. It is a new (1 yr. old) battery. I have the motorhome plugged into the house electrical now. How long does it normally take to recharge a completely dead battery like this? The brand name is a “MegaCharge.” It is a bigger, longer battery than the one in the motor compartment used to start the motorhome. I have been checking it with a battery hydrometer and it is just about out of the “recharge” area and getting close to the “fair” area. Doug
When a lead-acid battery is discharged until it is completely flat, it may never come back to a fully charged condition. This is especially true of batteries that are “hybrid” marine deep-cycle/starting batteries. Take a look at the labeling on the battery and see if it is a “deep-cycle” battery or a “deep-cycle/starting” battery. A true deep-cycle battery is more likely to survive a full discharge. Either way, that deep discharge has done some damage. I think that your best bet to reclaim it is to disconnect it from the RV and put a standard automotive battery charger on it for 24 hours. The reasoning is, the RV converter in most RVs is not really a great battery charger. It is voltage limited to around 13.5 volts max, and that is too low a voltage to really recharge your battery completely. Most automotive chargers will charge up to about 14.5 volts, and that stands a much better chance of getting that battery back up to a max charge. After 24 hours on the charger, disconnect everything and let the battery sit overnight or for at least 8 hours. Then, using a digital voltmeter, check the voltage. If it is 12.6 volts or better, then it is fully charged and may be OK to put back into service. If it reads lower than that, it may be battery replacement time. You can also use the hygrometer to check it for charge, and if it does not read fully charged, or if one or more cells are weak, you should probably replace it. For a longer life, always avoid discharging deep-cycle batteries more than 50 percent, and recharge them as soon as possible after a deep discharge.
Do you know any way to improve the efficiency of my basement residential AC unit in my Winnebago motorhome? I love the motor home, but I definitely need more cooling. Can a rooftop unit be installed in the place of the Fantastic vent system in the coach? I could use this to supplement the main unit on a hot day. Thanks, Chuck.
Before you look into adding an air conditioner, take a good look at the basement unit to make sure there are no easy-to-fix issues. Make sure the intake air filter is clean and the cooling coils are free of any dirt or fuzz buildup. Also check the condenser coils. Dirt can really reduce the efficiency of the heat transfer. Check -your manual for help in identifying the various components of your basement system and for cleaning procedures. Also, check both the supply and return air ducting wherever possible. It is not uncommon to find places where the ductwork has come loose and created air leaks. It doesn’t take much of a leak to make a big difference in cooling capability. Finally, with the unit operating, test the air temp at both the intake and at the outlet. You should see at least a 20-degree temperature drop through the system. If everything looks good and you still need more cooling, then it is definitely possible to add a roof air to any standard roof vent. The biggest issue is getting power to it. In most cases, it will be a project for a good RV service facility.
Is there a way to get the taste out of drinking water from the fresh water tank? It seems like it is in the first part of the camping season after we flush out the antifreeze from winter storage. Thank you, Judy.
The taste may be coming from your water tank, or even from residue of the antifreeze in your fresh water piping. Try this: Drain your fresh water tank, then add a gallon or two of plain white vinegar, and fill it with water. For tanks up to 40 gallons, one gallon is plenty; for larger tanks, use two gallons. Turn on the water pump and run some water at every faucet to get the solution into the pipes throughout the RV. Let it sit as long as possible, overnight is best, but at least a few hours. Then, drain the tank and refill with fresh water. Run that fresh water through the system to flush out the lingering vinegar taste and odor. If you do the vinegar flush immediately after removing and flushing out the antifreeze, it usually kills the taste and odor. You might also consider installing a standard undersink water filter that uses a charcoal element to help filter out tastes and chlorine from your drinking water. These filters are available at most home improvement stores and can either be hooked up directly to the cold-water side of your kitchen faucet or plumbed to an additional dedicated faucet at the kitchen sink.
I have a 2004 Citation travel trailer, and my AC keeps tripping the circuit breaker. This happens even if it’s on low or only on fan. I've already had a new thermostat and board put in when the AC seemed to "cycle" (always ran, never shut off when reached temp). I've also replaced the converter. New ACs can be very expensive ($1200) and am hoping that is not the next step. Do you have any suggestions besides a costly replacement? Joyce
If the A/C is tripping the breaker even when it is on “fan only,” then there may be either a wiring problem, a problem with the A/C fan or controls, or the circuit breaker itself may be failing. Normally, the fan-only setting should not draw enough current to trip the breaker. I would first replace the AC circuit breaker for the air conditioner. Breakers do fail occasionally, and it is an inexpensive and relatively easy thing to try first. If replacing the breaker does not solve the problem, then you need to have a qualified service person check out the wiring and the A/C unit for problems. A tripping breaker signifies an overload condition or a short circuit, so for safety’s sake, the problem needs to be identified and corrected a.s.a.p.
Thank you for your column. I always read it and have learned much. I have a Rockwood ultralite 5th -wheel. This year here in Minnesota, we have had many heavy rains. I have noticed that after such a rain, as I drive away, water will be leaving from the underbelly. I can find no sign of water leaks inside the house or other signs of leaking anywhere. What's happening? Thanks, Wally
First off, are you absolutely sure that the only time you see the water is after a heavy rain? Underbelly leaks on RVs often are caused by plumbing issues, like leaking tanks or pipe connections. If you are certain that it is rain-induced, then even though you don’t see any signs of a leak inside the RV, there is something allowing water to enter the RV and collect. That’s a bad thing, and the source needs to be identified and fixed before the water does damage to the RV. In heavy rains, water sheets down the sides of the RV, so check every compartment door to make sure the seals are intact. After a heavy rain, look for any signs of wetness around the door sealing surfaces and inside the compartments. Check around all windows. Leaks can also occur at slideouts, so do a careful visual inspection of all of the seals, looking for any gaps or tears. Finally, have a look at the roof seams and all of the external light fixtures and fittings. Any place where something penetrates the skin or the roof of the RV is a potential leak source. Water can travel for great distances under the skin of the RV, coming in through a small leak at one end and pooling a long ways away. I have always found that a thorough visual inspection of the outside of the RV will eventually find the problem.
I read with interest the letter from Bob about why people RV. My wife and I have been RVing since 1983. At one point, my wife calculated how much it would have cost us to travel without an RV. My wife keeps very careful records of our spending. Anyway, she determined that we saved the cost of our first trailer within three years of purchase. This was based on gas, hotel, restaurant, etc. Since all costs have gone up for everybody, the same is probably true today. In addition, we have stayed in many places where the nearest hotel or restaurant was 10 or more miles away. Some examples include Capital Reef National Park in Utah and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. There are many more as you pointed out in your response. About the only way to travel cheaper is to use a tent or sleep in your car, both of which we have done. We also travel with our dogs, and while more hotels accept pets, it is touchy leaving them alone in the hotel room. Art and Sheila
Not so much a question but more of a comment. I've been dragging a 32' Carriage Cameo around the country for eight years now. I've had four blowouts with, of course, damage to the wheel-well area. This spring I purchased the Pressure Pro TPMS. We recently traveled from home (Wichita, KS) to Portland, OR, and I wish I had purchased the TPMS sooner. It really gave me a chance to monitor the tire pressures while actually moving down the highway. It's like I've told everybody I've ever talked to: I check my tires at "every" stop and I've never had a blowout while stopped, looking at my tires. The real proof will be if this TPMS actually alerts me of a low tire condition prior to blowout. Just about every tire manufacturer tells me that blow-outs usually occur when a tire becomes low and begins to heat up because of additional sidewall flex. Just my observations. Thanks, Bill
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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