RVing is a great way to Support our National Parks

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It’s about time to start talking about your 2012 RV travel plans. If you plan on staying at some of the more popular national parks, you may want to go ahead and make your reservations now. Please consider adding in some more visits to the national parks in 2012. They could use your patronage now.

Having already grown accustomed to a dwindling budget in recent years, the National Park Service is now facing the prospect of a decade of across-the-board cuts starting at nearly 8 percent in 2013.

What this could mean is shorter seasons at some national parks, staff reductions, deferred infrastructure maintenance, campground closings and reduced amenities.

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) released a report stating that in fiscal year 2011 the National Park Service had funding reduced by $140 million, including $11.5 million for operations. Since 2002, the report states, the agency’s discretionary budget has decreased from $3 billion to $2.6 billion in today’s dollars.

The organization’s report arrives at a time when the nation is mired in debate over how to trim the federal government’s deficit. The Budget Control Act of 2011, enacted in August, calls for cutting the deficit by roughly $900 billion through caps on discretionary spending beginning in 2012 and ending in 2021. Those spending caps will affect the national park system.

So, even though the nation park system is a tiny part of the federal budget, they will almost certainly be affected. Please do what you can to support our national parks. Plan a RV tour of your favorite parks for 2012!

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!

Pennsylvania RVers Boost Phone and Internet Range with an Antenna

I came across this great post about external antennas for your RV or trailer. I would guess that 99% of all RVers travel with a cell phone to keep in touch, plus they have a laptop computer to get travel info and email. That’s all great and good as long as you stay in the city where the reception is good. But RVers usually don’t spend their vacations in cities, they like to explore the great outdoors in their RVs and trailers. Unfortunately, there may be times when you have to sacrifice the modern-day amenities of mobile phones and internet connections. However, if you get a long-range antenna, that possibility can be reduced.
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This omnidirectional antenna is a good antenna for maximizing your reach when you’re in the middle of nowhere!
Here’s one RVer’s method: This gentleman mounted a roof-mount style satellite dish base on the top of his motor-home, using the appropriate sealant to prevent water leakage. But instead of topping the mount with a satellite dish, he used U-bolts to mount a omnidirectional/tri-band cellular antenna. This one covers frequency ranges for both his cell phone and his wireless broadband/internet card.

He routed the connection cable from the antenna, down through the rig’s gray water holding tank vent line. Inside the rig he bored a hole into the vent line (where it was accessible from in the living area), routed the cable out of the vent line, and then used a sealant to both “keep the stink out,” and to act as a protective grommet to prevent friction between the vent pipe and the antenna coax. The whole shooting match plugs into either the cell phone, or into a jack in his broadband card. If your card doesn’t have a jack for an antenna, there are inductive couplers that attach to broadband cards, allowing you to rig them to an external antenna.

Once on location, it’s a simple job to climb up the RV’s roof access ladder, lift the satellite dish mount into its “working” position, then turn the antenna around to point to the nearest cellular site. With a 24dB gain, this setup will bring signal roaring in that might otherwise be lost in space.[RV Tech Tips]

Take the time this winter to add some accessories like this to your RV. Then in the spring you’ll have some new RV toys to play with!

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!

Lerch RV Internet Access..How it works

When customers come through our doors, one of the first questions we always ask, is what’s on your must-have list for a new RV? It turns out that when people are considering purchasing an RV in Pennsylvania, internet access is appearing more frequently near the top of those lists. RVing provides singles and families alike an opportunity to explore the open road, enjoy parks, experience all sorts of outdoor adventures. One might argue that having internet access along said journeys will only enhance the experience, and perhaps make traveling more efficient.

Dial-Up, DSL, Cable, WiFi, Wireless (Cellular)

In the past, the most reliable way for campers to enjoy – and I use that term loosely – internet access was to plug-in to a dial-up modem at a campsite. This of course had it’s disadvantages as not all sites had access, or they offered extremely slow speeds in locations on the grounds that required trekking to a main office or some other site not necessarily close to where you were parked.

In some instances, campgrounds offer phone and cable connections at individual sites to RVers. Campers generally have  to activate these connections by calling the phone or cable company in that area. For the RVer who is having an extended stay, this can be a good means of high-speed RV internet access via broadband or DSL connections. For the visitor on the move who only spends a couple of days or weeks in a given spot, this is usually not an effective means for internet access on the road.

WiFi is a major improvement and allows RVers the ability to enjoy the luxuries of the internet in the comfort of their own RV. Most laptop computers come equipped with built-in 802.11 capability suitable for RV internet access via WiFi. More and more parks are installing WiFi networks creating hotspots much like those found in airports, coffee shops, and restaurants all over the country. While the speeds are much improved over dial-up, access may not be available in all areas on a campground and many campgrounds also charge fees for use.

Many full-time RVers are looking for 24/7 access to the internet if possible. Most major cellular companies offer wireless access via smart phones that can be used to surf the web and check email. These cellular connections can also be used as a wireless modem and many providers also offer wireless air cards that are connected to the computer to tap into the network.

If internet access is near the top of your list of RV needs, consider these items:

What type of access do you need, intermittent or 24/7?

Does your laptop or computer have the capability to access the internet wirelessly?

Does the campground offer WiFi service and if so, is it available on the entire grounds or just a designated area? Are there any fees associated with using the campgrounds WiFi?

Does your cell phone provider offer wireless service or cards that can keep you connected, regardless of where your RV vacations take you?

Now that we’ve covered internet, what else is on your list when looking for a New or Used RV Pennsylvania?

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!

Making an old RV new again. RV Restoration.

1948 Westcraft Sequoia:the Redux

Unique Design Gets Modern Amenities

The Westcraft Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles and later Burbank, California, manufactured two different lines of trailers: Westwood and Westcraft. The earlier Westwood brand models included the Coronado, Montecito, Monterey, Tahoe and Sequoia. The Westcraft series included the Coronado, Montecito, Shasta, Sequoia and Yosemite models.

Westwoods were only built by Westcraft during the period from 1946 through 1948, and designs for each of these three model years were different and unique. The earlier Westwood series had a plain “bread loaf” appearance. The Westcraft company discontinued the Westwood models and began focusing exclusively on the “Pullman” roof Westcraft models by 1949.

westcraft travel trailer, RV, Lerch RV, camper, restored camper, RV restorationBoth types were top-quality trailers that used aircraft-construction methods with aluminum frame ribs, but they used heavier-gauge aluminum skin panels than many contemporary brands. All Westcraft models had painted exteriors, many in handsome two-tones. During the late 1940s and early ’50s, Westcraft trailers were considered to be among the highest quality trailers on the market. Thanks to their excellent construction, they rarely leaked at the outer seams, vents or windows, areas where many other trailers had problems. Unfortunately, production had stopped by 1955.

The 1948 Westcraft Sequoia featured here is owned by Justin and Anna Scribner of Bend, Oregon. Anna told us: “We found this trailer just outside of Vancouver, Washington. It was in pretty rough shape, but we instantly fell in love with it.”
To return it to its former glory, the exterior was stripped of its many coats of latex house paint, polished, etched primed and professionally painted. All windows were removed, all glass was replaced and window frames were all stripped and either polished or repainted. All window gasket and rubber was replaced. Both front, rear and all “trolley” or clerestory windows were re-screened with original-style copper screening.

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The all wood interior turns the Westcraft Sequoia into a homey cabin on the road. Several modern amenities were added, all the while retaining the vintage look. A new awning was made, using Sunbrella fabric. All light bezels were rebuilt with new bases, but the original glass lenses were retained. Brand-new wheels were installed and painted to match with new white-wall tires. For safety, an entirely new LP-gas system was installed. The under carriage was prepped and cleaned, and rubberized under coating was applied.

The interior had to be gutted, with all existing cabinetry removed from the coach, repaired and re-skinned as needed and then refinished. Wall and ceiling panels were removed, and the trailer was reinsulated and completely rewired. The interior was then re-paneled using 1⁄8-inch birch, as would have been used in 1948. Expandable insulation was also shot into the floor, and a new sub floor was installed.

westcraft travel trailer, RV, Lerch RV, camper, restored camper, RV restorationEven the furniture stays anachronistic in the new Westcraft Sequoia.

Period-correct Marmoleum was installed with a border on each side with an inlaid Westcraft “W” at the entryway. A hidden surround-sound system was installed with a Blu-ray player and two 20-inch LCD screens, which are on motorized linear actuators that move up and down out of the cabinets. All of the appliances, including the stove, refrigerator and kerosene heater were dismantled, reconditioned and refinished to match; however the kerosene function of the heater was disabled for safety reasons.

Two forward cabinets were combined to make a bathroom, and a new toilet was installed. New stainless-steel counter-tops and a back-splash were fabricated and installed along with a new sink and faucet. An on-demand LP-gas water heater was added and vented through the roof. All new plumbing and drain lines were then installed.

Anna added, “We searched long and hard to find an original click-clack couch and finally found one in amazing original condition. All of the inserts for the trolley windows were re-manufactured on a CNC router; they are now better than the original with decorative metal trim. All cover plates, trim rings, etc. were also copied with a CNC machine and installed to match. Additional light fixtures were added in a tasteful way with several on a dimmer switch.”

westcraft travel trailer, RV, Lerch RV, camper, restored camper, RV restorationFor retro trailer campers, this is picture perfect.

Brand-new wooden blinds were installed with thick period-correct chocolate ribbons. Aluminum blinds were installed on the two doors and the original screen doors were reconstructed and refinished.

The final result is a great exciting travel trailer that looks like it did the day it rolled out of the factory, but includes some subtle creature comforts and safety features that weren’t available at the time.

Are you doing your own restoration project? Do you need RV parts?  If you do, give you central Pennsylvania RV Dealership a call at 800-722-1236.  Our RV parts and service teams will help guide you in the right direction.

Portions of this article are re-posts from Trailer Life Magazine.

Pennsylvania RV Owners Be Aware! Please USe Safe Towing Tips

Defensive driving skills and practice result in safe, enjoyable towing

Towing a trailer is certainly not difficult, but it does represent a step up in complexity from driving a solo vehicle, requiring new awareness of combined vehicle length, trailer width, braking distance, turning characteristics and several other vital factors that must be considered while towing a trailer. Most of us drive trucks, SUVs or passenger cars daily, and graduate to RVs only occasionally. Thus, it’s always necessary to make a mental transition and try to keep the size and handling characteristics of the larger rig in mind. Allowing solo-vehicle habits to take over may result in a tendency to make turns too tightly, run over curbs, hit stationary objects such as overhanging tree limbs or to follow too closely.

Eyes on the Road
The first towing precautions are those that precede towing — matching the tow vehicle and trailer correctly, adhering to weight limits and making sure hitch selection and adjustment are correct, as described elsewhere in this guide. And it’s also important to refresh defensive driving skills. From there, the real fun begins. The combined length of tow vehicle and trailer, as well as the combined weight, must be in the forefront of your mind, right from the start. Maintaining extended following distances is one of the most important towing-related driving habits that initially is difficult to adhere to because we tend to fall into our typical driving habits. Even though trailer brakes may be functional, braking distances almost always are extended.

It’s also important to make lane changes carefully and slowly, and to allow extended distances for passing. Good, solidly mounted extendable mirrors with large reflective areas — adjusted properly — are also essential. Speedy traffic seems more tolerant of slow 18-wheelers than of slow RVs, which makes courtesy an important safety factor for RV owners because an irate driver trying to pass can be a serious safety threat; courtesy is not only the consideration of others, it’s a safety issue. Frequent monitoring of rearview mirrors is necessary; when a vehicle is tailgating and trying to pass, we should help by driving slightly to the right to give the other driver a better view of the road ahead, even if a passing opportunity does not exist at the time. We should use turnouts whenever possible and avoid following another vehicle so closely that a vehicle overtaking from the rear cannot return to the proper lane.

Time for a Brake
While RV brakes are adequate for most situations, care is necessary to avoid overheating, which can lead to brake fade. If brake fade occurs, it will likely be on steep downgrades. If this happens, friction will raise the temperature of brake pads and linings to extremely high levels, resulting in temporary loss of braking. The cure is prevention — downshifting to a gear range that is low enough to retard speed sufficiently that brakes need not be used more than occasionally. This way, enough braking performance is reserved to make an emergency stop, should it become necessary.

When braking on a grade is necessary, apply the brakes intermittently, with moderate pressure, and release the pedal to allow the brakes to cool. The action of electric trailer brakes should be apparent to the driver, and sufficient enough to handle the trailer’s weight. The controller should be adjusted so that maximum braking action does not cause trailer-wheel lockup. Improper controller adjustment is a major cause of inadequate braking, so it’s wise to study the manufacturer’s instructions. Travel-trailer instability (fishtailing) should not occur in a well-balanced, well-hitched combination, but if it does, independent activation of trailer brakes usually will bring the trailer back into line.

Back-Up Plans
All trailers require more space for turns, and travel trailers follow the tow-vehicle track more closely than do fifth-wheels, which track farther to the inside of a turn. There is need for continual awareness, which should eventually become second-nature after a modest amount of on-the-road experience. Fifth-wheel trailers are different to back than conventional trailers, and require more practice for someone accustomed to backing a conventional trailer. A well-used technique involves placing one’s hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and moving it in the same direction the trailer is intended to go. It’s more effective with travel trailers than with fifth-wheels, which often require more turning of the steering wheel. Hand-held two-way radios can allow an assistant to more effectively relay backing instructions to the driver.

Before each trip, it’s essential to check the tires to assure that inflation pressures match those molded on tire side walls (cold), or that they are appropriate for your load (consult load/inflation tables). Also, be sure to inspect all vehicle fluids and make sure trailer-wheel lug nuts are tightened to factory specifications. Trailering is a great way to explore the new horizons and a great way to check out the wonderful camping destinations that are available to owners of recreational trailers. But always keep in mind that defensive driving will pay off in safe travel.

If you have any questions about safe towing practices, call your central Pennsylvania RV Dealer at 800-722-1236.  We will gladly answer any questions that you may have.

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!

Portions of this blog are a re-posting of an article from Trailer Life Magazine

Pennsylvania Learn to Control Your RV Trailer Brakes

New technology improves safety and reliability for braking when towing…

Electric-brake systems have been employed for several decades on most trailers that have any significant weight. Each trailer with electric brakes, in turn, also requires that the tow vehicle be fitted with a brake controller. For a number of years, brake-controller choices have been extensive — all aftermarket and all electronic — but Ford changed the game in 2005 with the first trailer-brake-control system included as an integral part of the tow vehicle’s design. The trailer-brake controller is part of Ford’s Tow-Command System. Today, GM also offers a built-in control on select vehicles. Until the advent of anti-lock brake systems (ABS), most brake controllers were tapped directly into the hydraulic lines of the tow vehicle’s on-board hydraulic-braking system. They were often described as hydraulic/electric brake controllers, as they converted hydraulic pressure in the tow vehicle’s brake system to an electric signal used to activate the trailer’s brakes directly proportional to hydraulic pressure in the vehicle’s braking system.

A significant factor in elimination of this system was the advent of ABS because vehicle manufacturers’ cautioned against tapping into the hydraulic system. The controllers displaced a small amount of brake fluid, and with ABS systems, brake-cylinder volume was more limited, so manufacturers warned not to add controllers that displaced more than 0.02 cubic inches. The tap-in could not occur downstream of the ABS mechanism, so the pressure was on to devise alternate systems. Electronics were the answer, and many different types of aftermarket brake controllers were developed — none tied in with the tow vehicle’s hydraulic system, however. Even in the old days of hydraulic/electric controllers, all were sold in the aftermarket, until Ford became the first to offer a trailer-brake activation system installed at the factory.

Timer-Based vs. Proportional

1452115_P3-Brake-Control.jpgA timer-based brake controller has a timer that generates an output signal for your RV’s brakes that increases with the amount of time you keep your foot on the brake pedal. It doesn’t know whether you’re braking gently on a gradual downhill grade, or if you’re in a panic stop. The rate of increase in output (the slope of the voltage ramp) has no bearing on pedal effort, but can usually be adjusted for braking aggressiveness.

An inertia-based proportional controller generates an output that is, as the name suggests, directly proportional to your braking needs. Most proportional brake controllers measure the tow vehicle’s rate of deceleration by means of a pendulum. The quicker you slow, the further the pendulum is displaced, via inertia, from its at-rest position. This creates an electric signal to your trailer’s brakes that is proportional to your deceleration rate. Tekonsha and its sister companies use a series of LEDs and photoelectric detectors in their proportional controllers to determine the position of the displaced pendulum, and therefore determine the deceleration rate. Hayes-Lemmerz uses the Hall effect, a well-known physics principle involving moving magnets, to determine the pendulum’s position. All pendulum controllers are subject to some inaccuracies, as the pendulum can tilt slightly forward or backward on steep grades. Most such controllers employ a damping device to stabilize the sensor against vibrations, and the damper helps reduce the effect of the fore-or-aft-tilt problem. The pendulum’s position is adjusted through the level-control knob. This allows the pendulum to be oriented to a true vertical resting position to compensate for the angle of the brake-controller body (the “leveling” referred to in some timer-based-controller advertising). The level adjustment also allows the driver to pitch the pendulum slightly forward or aft of its normal resting position to set up the trailer so its braking is aggressive or delayed.

Most drivers prefer some braking effect from the trailer’s brakes on the initial touch of the brake pedal, and adjust the brake controller accordingly to provide this so-called threshold voltage. This adjustment produces some output (typically 2 volts), without the initial time period having passed or deceleration having occurred in the two electric brake-controller types. This time period, or deceleration event, is normally needed to activate the timer-based controller or the proportional pendulum-based controller, respectively.


Which is Which?
With dozens of different models of brake controllers on the market, many RVers may find the selection of the right controller difficult without some form of guidance. While budgetary considerations may force a user into one category of controller, this is a critical system where pinching pennies may not be advisable. When faced with the need for a panic stop, most drivers want a controller that will respond in proportion to their braking needs at that moment. Keep in mind that a timer-based controller can’t respond in this manner, as its output is fixed for a certain timed duration.

I hope this helps you understand what your RV brakes are doing while you are on the road.  If you have any questions about your brake controller or would like to upgrade to a newer one, give your central Pennsylvania RV Parts and Service Center a call at 800-722-1236.  Our team will gladly help you.

Safe Travel and Happy RVing!


Portions of this blog are a re-posting of an article by By Fred Pausch from Trailer Life magazine.

The top 10 Five-Minute RV Maintenance Tips.

Of course, Lerch RV has an RV service department with the latest in diagnostic and repair tools and parts that can handle just about any problem your RV faces. I say, why not just avoid RV problems all together. Here are a few quick and easy RV maintenance tips you can follow on your own to keep your camper in great shape from year to year.

RV Service, RV Maintenance, camper service, Lerch RV Service Department, PA RV DealerQuick & Easy Maintenance Tips for the DYI-er RVer

Check sealants twice each month – check the rubber sealants around your windows to make sure they’re tight and not cracking. Cracked or loose sealant can let air in which causes drafts and leaks.

Check tire pressure before every trip –this one should be a no brainer. Make sure your tires are fully pressurized before you set off on your next road trip – it’s an easy RV maintenance tip that will prevent blowouts and it also  improves your gas mileage!

Run generator 2 hours per month under 50% load –letting your RV sit unused for months is not good for the generator. Run it under a light load for a few minutes each month to keep it primed so that it is ready the next time you decide to hit the road.

Check battery water level–making sure your batteries have enough water in them is crucial to ensuring that they will hold their charge. Check your battery water level frequently and add distilled water when necessary. Disconnect your battery from your camper when not in use, to prolong your battery’s life, use a battery maintainer (trickle charger) to keep it up to charge.

Clean holding tanks regularly –clean out your gray and black water tanks frequently to prevent bacteria and odors from leaking into the rest of your RV. Black and gray water tanks can get really gross, really fast – this is one RV maintenance tip you don’t want to forget! If you have to spend a vast amount of time on the road, cleanliness is a must.

Lube slide rails and gaskets twice each year –make sure all your slide-out rails and all gaskets on your RV are properly lubricated to avoid friction. This will help make sure your slide rails stay in working condition all season long.

 Torque lug nuts before each trip – it is very important that you always make sure your lug nuts are fastened tightly before you head out. This RV maintenance tip is crucially important – if you’re not careful, your whole wheel assembly could fly off! Accidents slow down trips and can drain your pocket-book, this type can be easily avoided.

 Sanitize fresh water system each spring – this is an RV maintenance tip that you should follow at the beginning of the RV season. Before your spring RV season starts, make a point to thoroughly sanitize your fresh water systems to keep your drinking water fresh and clean.

 Properly winterize each fall –this is one of the most crucial RV maintenance tips that you can follow. Before the winter hits it’s absolutely necessary to follow all of the steps to winterize your unit to protect it from the winter cold and lack of use (if you need help, check out our previous posts about how to winterize your RV!).

 Retract awning during heavy wind and rain – this RV maintenance tip is extremely important. On at least one of your camping trips you’re going to have to weather a storm. Make sure your awning is pulled back – otherwise, it’ll collapse like an umbrella and bend like crazy. Not to mention could invert and go over your roof!

If you follow the above RV maintenance tips throughout the season, you may end up saving thousands of dollars in service costs! And remember, for all your RV maintenance and service needs, visit Lerch RV in central Pennsylvania.

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!