Wellington and Me

Wellington and Me
My rolling home!

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Exercise your RV

So you have an RV.   It has some combination of heater/furnace, air conditioning, generator, engine, transmission.  Those system are used in different combinations, different times of the year, or sometimes not at all depending on your RV use. But no matter what, you want to make sure those systems stay in good working order even when not being used regularly.

To keep these systems humming along and ready to work when you need them, you should maintain them with regular exercise, and with standard maintenance.

Exercise your RV? 

Yep, think about it.  If you have a motor home and it's parked most of the time, the engine, its oil, its fuel, they're just sitting there idle, potentially breaking down over time.  If you have a generator but typically are connected to "shore power", it's not being used. Same as above... it has fuel and oil contained inside that needs to be regularly burned, moved, and used so it stays in good working order.  Your propane furnace, your hot water heater, your air conditioning units... they all need to be exercised periodically to maintain their seals and systems.

So a simple thing to do is mark your calendar for the 1st of every month as RV maintenance day! Start up your engine. Start up your generator.  Run your furnace.  Run your hot water. Run your AC... let them all run 30 - 60 minutes (60 recommended for gas/diesel systems to flush old fuel out of the lines).  This will help things stay lubricated, flushed and working well.

Maintain your systems

The other thing of course is to have things regularly maintained by an expert.  Camping World offers a yearly preventative maintenance package, but other RV shops likely have something similar they can recommend.  Check all vital systems, seals, change the oil on engines, clean/replace filters and more.  Check the roof status and seals, the slide-outs... Having this type of service done once a year should keep you putting right down the road, or enjoying your rolling home all year long!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beating the Heat in an RV

I was told, or maybe read, when I first considered RV living, that one of the things that can be a constant battle, is HEAT.  No problem in the cooler months, but when it's warm outside, its generally HOT inside.

Thankfully most modern RV's have air conditioning units on top to help keep things comfortable inside, but they do take quite a bit of power to run, require 110 power, so if you're not connected to shore power that means running your generator, and can be rather noisy.  It's a somewhat soothing white noise hum and whoosh type of sound, but if you want to watch a movie at the same time... well you get the idea.

Some things can help with the heat to reduce how often or how much you need to run those units:

1) Shade - if possible, ask for a space at the rv park or campground that is shaded by trees.  This helps a great deal, obviously.

2) Awnings - use your large awning to shade a large portion of one side of your rv.  If you have window shades that can help enormously too.  If you don't have window awnings, you can look into adding them.  They run into the hundreds of dollars... but if you are in hot sunny conditions often, they can be very worth it.

3) Window covers - The front window of your RV (if a motor home), if hit by the sun, is like a giant greenhouse.  Sure, you can use the curtains or shades your RV has on the inside, but the sun will still get in, and heat up the air between the window and the shades.  So you still end up with an enormous amount of heat inside that your AC units then have to battle.  Consider getting a sun blocking fabric shade that attaches outside the window with snaps.  I got a do it yourself kit from wayfair.com that allowed me to cut it to size, add the attachment snaps with peal and stick tape all for about $60.  I've also read that companies that make awnings for homes and businesses can make one for you to fit your RV for much cheaper than ones specifically designed for your model.  It can be a life saver.

As for your other windows... the same as above holds true.  Shading them from the direct sun, especially on the outside before the sun gets IN, will help keep the temp down.  You can get fabric covers as mentioned above, but I've also gone to a home supply store such as Home Depot and bought rolled silver bubble insulation, cut it to measure and attached it to the side out to cover the windows with some spring clamps.  Its very affordable and does the job well for those really hot periods.

4) Maintain your roof and exterior paint - Remember that your roof gets beat on by the sun all the time.  It must be maintained.  Keeping it clean, free of dirt, and protected with a UV protectant is a very good idea.  The cleaner and better condition it is in, the most it can reflect heat generating sun. Same is true for your RV exterior.  If it's clean and has a decent wax on the paint and/or decals, the better it can reflect the heat generating rays.

5) Watch the external temp - when the temp outside drops down below your inside temp, turn off the AC units, open the windows, door and vents and turn on those vent fans.  It will push air out the top (heat) and pull in the cooler air from the inside.  If your vents don't have those awesome Fantastic Fans, consider getting them!  They really help not only with heat but also pulling out moisture from showers, dishes, cooking, etc.  

6) As a last heat beating weapon, remember evaporation - Evaporation reduces the temperature of things but 10-20 degrees!  If you really have a heat issue, you can consider spraying some water on the grounds around your rv.  Spray some on the rv itself.  Install a mister to your awning or get a portable standing unit. This can be a great help to enjoying the outside area in high temps too.

Enjoy the sun in your rv!  And always remember... sunscreen.  :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Extended Warranty for your RV???

When I purchased my used 2003 Fleetwood Pace Arrow rv for my new rolling home, I knew from research that things can and will go wrong.  Just like any other home, there is the potential for systems to have problems. And an RV has LOTS of different systems:

The engine
Electrical system (for the vehicle portion)
Electrical system and batteries (for the house portion)
Heater/Furnace (propane)
Hot water heater
Air conditioning units (2 on most rv's my size)
Refrigerator (electric and propane functions)
Rear and side cameras, wired to the screen of the dash stereo
The roof and all its sealed edges
Seals around the slide outs
The slide out motors themselves
and on and on and on.

All these can potentially have problems.  Not every issue will be covered by an extended warranty, such as things considered regular maintenance or wear and tear, but most standard operations and functions will be.

My warranty was about $3200 for 3 years.  This can be extended further at any time if I wish.  I purchased it from the dealer and they were able to roll this into my financing so my monthly loan payment includes this amount.

Personal, I find great piece of mind in having this warranty on my coach... which is my HOME. Since buying the coach last may I've had recurring and ongoing issues with the brand new on-demand hot water unit I had the dealer install when I purchased it.  (Repairs so far have been under my warranty, but they are now trying to work with the manufacturer to replace the entire unit under it's own 2  year warranty.)  I've had 2 repairs to the heater/furnace unit.  I've had to replace the seal around the bedroom slide.  I've had the coach services for lube/oil/filter/coolant, etc.  Not all of these fell under the warranty I purchased, but lots of it did.  Even with a $200 per incident deductible, I'm very glad I've had it.  In less than a year I've probably already recoup'd 1/3 of the warranty cost.  I certainly wouldn't want something major happen that costs thousands of dollars and leave me without my home in a livable state.  So I certainly recommend going for the warranty, especially when buying a used coach.

Note that there are warranties available for purchase on your own. Just google search for them.  You can buy one at any time.

Also make sure you have adequate rv insurance as well in case of accident, etc.  Make sure it covers the cost of your personal possessions. Make sure it will pay out full reimbursement for the cost of your coach (this is often an extra you have to ask for!). Make sure it includes towing! Towing a big coach like mine costs ALOT.  You want that to be covered.  There's no spare tire you can put on yourself on a coach like this.  So towing coverage is a must!

Lastly, remember to BUDGET for maintenance and repairs.  If you are considering full time rv'ing there WILL be expenses every year to maintain your rv properly, and there WILL be repairs. Even with a warranty some of those expenses fall to you. Be prepared!

Happy trails!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Switched from Jeep Wrangler Unlimited to a Smart ForTwo

Being a full time RV'er in a class A motor home, I tow my car behind the RV when I travel.  I've seen some RV'ers who travel with multiple people actually opt to not tow and have one of the people drive the other vehicle, or iv they need more than one vehicle when they are parked in the RV. I however live alone, and even if I didn't it's far more enjoyable to share the road, conversation and even the driving if you are a couple on the road.

When I first sold my house and moved into my RV I had a beautiful "mango tango" colored 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that I'd recently purchased.  I read and heard that Jeeps are one of the easiest vehicles to rig and tow behind an RV so I figured I'd start out with that (I already had so many changes happening in my life, I didn't need that change right then as well).

So I had some friends help me mount a Blue Ox tow plate on the jeep. (Ugh, that was an all day install project, but saved alot of money doing it ourselves.) And I bought a Blue Ox tow bar to tow it behind my Pace Arrow.

I towed it behind the RV to the coast a few times, and all was fine. However I could definitely feel the difference having it behind my gas RV.  At about 4600 pounds, it was near the 5000 pound weight limit for towing behind my 2003 Pace Arrow, and I could feel the drag and could practically hear the gas being sucked out of my tank.

I was so thrilled by the savings I was getting off owning my former house and all the required (utilities, insurance, taxes, etc) and optional (seasonal decorations, knick knacks, etc) expenses that I started looking at other ways to save.  I couldn't ignore the car payment, insurance payment and gas required by the Jeep.  At average of about 16 mpg, the jeep wrangler is most definitely a gas hog by today's standards.  I started thinking about a smaller vehicle to tow behind my rv and that would save me on car payment, gas, and gas on the rv when towing.

I saw the Smart car when I was in Europe in 2005 and fell in love with them.  So cute, compact, easy to drive and park, I started investigating them.  I had seen them being towed and researched them to find that their unique automatic transmission that actually works somewhat like a manual shift allows this to be the case.

NOTE that not every car can be towed.  To tow 4 down (all wheels on the ground while towing) the transmission must be able to be fully disengaged.  Jeeps can do this via the 4wd shifter into neutral, but most of your average cars CANNOT be towed 4 down.  So if you're considering this you must find out of the specific car/year/model that you are considering can be towed.

I found a 2008 Smart ForTwo for sale from the original owner with only 30k miles on it.  He'd babied it, had died and his wife was selling it off. I really liked them and them me so it was a great match. I got it for a great price.  Oh and also, it's a cabriolet, so at the push of a button the top rolls back to open up the sky.  I LOVE it.  It's fun to drive, can park just about anywhere, and sips gas.  It's a fraction of the cost of the jeep so this greatly reduces my debt as well.

I knew already that Blue Ox had a tow plate for the Smart car, so I purchased one, had it installed along with the wiring harness so when RV brakes and turn signals are applied the lights on the car will appear as well.  I had it all set to tow!

So now to sell the Jeep.  I thought this would be relatively easy since Jeeps are so popular. The color of mine (beautiful burnt orange) was loved by everyone who saw it and not common on the road. Even maybe selling it to a fellow RV'er since it was already rigged for towing!   Unfortunately this wasn't the case.  I kept listing it on Craig's list, had signs on it and parked it at my local shopping area, etc.  Then I didn't notice while sitting in the rain that the "freedom" top (3 piece hard top with removable sections) had developed a leak so the interior got very wet, developed a bit of mold, and I had to dry it out, clean all the mold with lysol and get the top sealing again.  UGH.  Weeks later I got it all clean and dry and decided to take it to a consignment lot for them to sell it. They felt confident they could sell it at an amount that they could then give me what I needed to pay off the loan and still make a profit themselves.  Great!  No dice.  Months went by and no sale.  So I finally picked it up, took it back to the dealer where I'd bought it and they offered me an amount that gave me ALMOST enough to pay off the loan. I kicked in the remaining $560 to pay off the loan, and I'm free of it.

Nice thing... I am able to cash in the extended warranty I'd purchased on it which still had about 3/4 remaining on it.  So I should get about 1/2 or 2/3 of that purchase price back.  That will help.  Then I'll be saving about $250/mo in car payment, about $80/mo in car insurance, and I'll channel those amounts into a car maintenance budget line item to make sure I have enough stored away there for work or repairs that might be needed on the Smart, since I don't have an extended warranty on it.  

GOAL:  Saving money, reducing debt.  By downsizing my vehicle, and buying a bit older car, but in like-new condition, I was able to reduce my debt overall by about $15000.  I reduced my monthly expenses with car pmt, insurance and gas by about $400/month, plus the saved drag and fuel expense in towing it behind the RV.

LESSON LEARNED: Never assume a car will be easy to sell. Especially when it's on the newer side.

TIP: Make sure you OVER budget for car and RV repairs.  Keep socking away money into these budget lines because you never know what might come up, and vehicles always need to be maintained and will eventually require repairs.  Better to have the money waiting to be used, than have to put it on a credit card and service that debt after the fact.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Newbie RV'er Lesson Learned #1: The Black Tank

Ok, so this is my first time as an RV owner... yep. I sold my house and bought an RV and moved into it having nearly NO experience with RV's in the past.  Uh huh... Bold choices is how I roll.

So, even though I did a ton of research and talked with other RV'ers and read blogs and all in preparation for this big change in my life, it's bound to happen that I'll learn some lessons the hard way.

Thankfully, the first newbie lesson I learned was not TOO bad, or costly, or horrible.  But it could have been.

Let's talk THE BLACK TANK! For those of you not in the know, this is how they refer to the sewage tank in your rv.  It's the tank where the toilet drains to and that you empty with a large flexible hose into a dump station or an rv/campground sewer trap drain.

For some reason, I assumed that while hooked up at a park to water, electric and sewer that I should just leave the grey and black tank valves open to drain anything that went into them.  (Btw, the grey tank is the holding tank for the sinks and shower... non sewer things).   This assumption would be a MISTAKE.  While it is fine to leave the grey tank valve open to drain into the sewer trap constantly, the black tank is another story.

So here's the deal.  The black tank receives, from your toilet, liquid and... um... solids.  If you leave the tank open to drain, then the liquids will drain out and the solids likely will remain.  The solids need time to break down and this takes both liquids AND usually some catalyst such as an enzyme or chemical.  I'll mention below the one I've found that works GREAT for me.  So if you don't allow this breakdown to happen, the solids will collect, and even pile up, and form a hard clay like consistency in the tank and eventually it will be clogged up and require some serious work to unclog or even tank replacement.  RV'ers have coined this piling up "pyramiding".  Descriptive huh?

So what I've learned:
  1. Keep the black tank CLOSED.  I usually leave it closed for the week. Then on Saturday I close the grey tank to let grey water fill up some, then on Sunday I flush out the black tank then the grey tank so the grey water flushes out the hose.
  2. After flushing out the black tank, fill the toilet boil twice with water and use a tank additive to break down the solids and keep the smell down.  This starter liquid with the additive will keep things breaking down and working as they should.
  3. Periodically it's a good idea to use a tank cleaner.  Do this after emptying the tank and before you plan a trip somewhere so the movement of the RV will agitate the tank. You fill the tank about 1/2 full with water and use a commercial tank cleaner or even Simple Green (about 4 cups should do it).

With these steps you should never have a problem!

Oh, I'm sure your curious how I learned this lesson... Shortly after I got my RV I did as I described above, leaving the black tank open, no additives, etc... It was a very short couple weeks before the black tank was clogged.  I had to have my buds at JohnsonRV unclog it for me... Not TOO expensive, but a cost I don't care to repeat.  Thanks Johnson!!

Here's my recommendation for tank additive:

I use Happy Campers Organic RV Holding Tank Treatment.  (http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Campers-Organic-Holding-Treatment/dp/B007S0LDME/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409425305&sr=8-1&keywords=happy+camper+tank)

I love that this is an organic compound and it works GREAT.  Also, with this you don't need to buy special expensive rv toilet paper.  I just buy a septic safe toilet paper at Costco (much cheaper!) and it breaks down great.

BTW Happy Campers also makes an Extreme Cleaner tank and sensor cleaner. (Black tank sensors notoriously usually don't work, including mine, even after using this product.)

There you go!  The ugly truth about black tanks and how to avoid nasty issues.  Happy RV'ing!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Things I'm enjoying NOT doing as a full time RV'er

Ah RV living... as I walked Max and Myko around the RV park this beautiful Saturday morning, here's some of the things I remembered that I'm NOT doing...

1) Weeding the flower beds
2) Vacuuming and dusting 1250 square feet of house
3) Cleaning 2 full bathrooms
4) Paying sizable bills for garbage, water/sewer, natural gas, electricity, lawn maintenance, cable internet, alarm system (and related phone line and police registration)
5) Paying on the loan for the new roof I had to put on the house
6) Paying mortgages
7) Paying property taxes
8) Fence repairs
9) Watching all my income go to bills
10) Wishing I could travel more, but knowing I couldn't really afford it
11) Comcast!

I'm sure there are more I'll remember later...  For those of you who are also full time RV'ers, what are some other things you're enjoying NOT doing now? 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

How to bath your dogs in an RV ?

Well. Twice I've tried kneeling in front of my step-in shower putting a pug inside and soaping them up. Trouble is that they move around too much and I'm leaning over to reach them leaving me with a sore back, sore knees, a grumpy attitude and unhappy pugs. 

Solution?  The booster dog bath tub!  

Here's Myko modeling he and Max's new fashion forward, Jetsons-inspired, bathing apparatus. 

It elevates them to standing height. Easy to move around them. Has three point leash attachment to keep them secure. A drain with hose so you can direct the run off. Even padded non skid floor and a shampoo holder!  

My RV, like most, has an external hot and cold water faucet with hose and sprayer. So I can bath them outside or if weather is bad I think this would even fit inside my shower. 

Legs detach and store inside and it fits easily in my RV storage compartment.