Uphill – Downhill, tips to save those RV brakes….

Mountain driving can be a bit challenging at time and it can be especially hard on your RVs brakes. You need to be extra cautious on these roads and definitely take your time. And it’s always good to know in advance exactly what your RV is capable of handling.

Uphill Tips

  • When climbing long inclines, your RV needs to be operated within its power band.
  • The power band is a span of engine RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) where you have the maximum horsepower available to handle the extra load imposed when going up long inclines.
  • This becomes even more noticeable with diesel engines. Their power band is usually a rather narrow band of RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) . When operated within their assigned power band, you will have a tremendous amount of pulling power. Fall below that RPM, and it will do you no good to push harder on the throttle. All you’ll get is more black smoke coming out of the exhaust.
  • To stay within the power band, you must downshift to a lower gear, and you may even be required to  let off the throttle a bit so the engine can work more comfortably. Pushing too hard will only create more heat and increase the likelihood of overheating.
  • The whole point when climbing long inclines is to adjust your gearing, so you will remain within the comfortable RPM range that your engine likes. Maintaining a certain speed because the sign on the side of the road says that’s the speed limit may be impossible. Slow down and use a lower gear instead.

Down-hill Tips

  • So you’ve safely crested the high point in your RV. Now it’s time to come down the other side of the hill.This is where you make your engine and transmission work to hold you back. That way, you save your brakes for when you really need them.
  • The time to set up your downhill decent strategy is at the top of the hill — well before you’ve picked up so much speed that you’re in trouble.
  • You only have one set of brakes. If they get too hot, they may fade away and your RV will become a runaway train — a situation rapidly headed for disaster.
  • Experience will teach you how many gears down you need to drop from top gear in order to descend a hill without constant use of the brakes. If you’re new to steep descents, it’s best to error on the safe side by going down a hill in too low a gear. You may be slow, but at least you’ll be safe. It’s very hard to go back and have a do over, if you picked too high a gear at the top of the hill.
  • Many diesel engines are equipped with a retarder that will help hold you back. It functions by blocking off some of the exhaust gases from your engine. This helps to keep the engine from revving too high when the weight of your RV is trying to push you down the hill.
  • Some large diesel pusher motorhomes are also equipped with jake brakes.  A jake brake is an engine-mounted device that turns some of the cylinders into an air compressor when you let your foot off the throttle. Jake brakes are a very effective way to control your descent speed without the need for constant braking.
  • If you find yourself going downhill faster than the engine and transmission can hold you back, your braking should be done in short bursts. It’s far better to brake hard for a shorter distance than to ride the brakes for a long period of time.
  • The longer you apply the brakes, the hotter they will become.  At some point, they may just fade away — leaving you helpless and unable to slow your RV to a safe speed. Overheating your brakes can also do permanent damage to your RV’s brake components. Rotors, drums, and shoes can all be quickly destroyed by riding your brakes too long down a long hill. [RV Road Trips]

When you’re towing  on a mountainous road, we think you should just enjoy the ride and take it nice and slow and be safe rather than sorry.


Hitch up your 5th wheel and let’s roll.

When heading out on the road, whether to go on your next trip, or to come back home from the trip you are on. You may find yourself just going through the motions.  Sure, you may have done this many, many times before, but a simple lapse in judgment can have disastrous results.  Becoming complacent at anything is dangerous. Whether making sure all your provisions are packed, to cleaning out your rig, sometimes your mind just may be somewhere else. This goes for hitching and unhitching you fifth wheel as well.

The best way to get around the malaise that may occur when hitching and unhitching your fifth wheel is to make a check list for every trip.  This will help you stay focused on what you need to do, without you having to wonder if you forgot anything.  I found a great checklist that you can use from rvbasics.com that will help you get your fifth wheel hitched and unhitched safely and quickly.

Fifth Wheel Hitch Installed

Fifth Wheel Hitching

  • Raise or lower the 5th wheel trailer to set the 5th wheel kingpin to proper hitch height .
  • Drop truck tailgate … if you don’t have a special tailgate.*
  • Open locking bar on hitch.
  • Back under trailer until hitch engages the fifth wheel kingpin.
  • Secure hitch locking bar on the fifth wheel hitch.
  • Put truck in forward gear (don’t give it any fuel/acceleration)
    and ‘bump’ the hitch to make sure it is locked.
  • Connect umbilical cord/power cord and breakaway switch cable.
  • Check fifth wheel trailer lights and brakes.
  • Raise pickup truck tailgate. *
  • Raise 5th wheel trailer Landing gear.
  • Remove wheel chocks from trailer wheels.

Fifth Wheel Unhitching

  • Pull into the site/storage, and situate the trailer where you want it.
  • Chock the wheels tightly so the trailer will not move.
  • Drop the fifth wheel landing gear. (important!) Do this first so you won’t forget!
  • Disconnect the umbilical cord and breakaway switch cable.
  • Drop the truck tailgate… if you don’t have a special tailgate, a V-gate at they are called. *
  • Gently put your truck into reverse… don’t give it any fuel/acceleration. This effectively moves the 5th wheel kingpin off the locking bar which will allow you to easily disengage it.
  • Shift in to neutral, step on brake and apply parking brake.
  • Disengage the kingpin locking bar on fifth wheel hitch.
  • Slowly drive away. Making sure the kingpin is clear of anything in the truck bed and the umbilical cord and breakaway cable are not snagged.
  • Raise truck tailgate. *
  • Adjust 5th wheel height to proper front to back level.

*Disregard this step if you have a notched fifth wheel tailgate or you do not have a tailgate.

(A great trick to keep in mind of making sure your fifth wheel is hitched properly, is to paint the locking jaw/mechanism of you hitch bright white. This will allow you to visually see that the jaws are locked around your pin properly. Even in low light levels.)

Make sure that you go over each step in the above list and make sure that everything is where it needs to be.  While you may be thinking about everything you are going to do when you get to your camp site, you may forget to take care of the business at hand.  Once you have everything checked off, then its on to the open road! If you have any questions about how to hitch or unhitch your fifth wheel, be sure to contact Pennsylvania’s Largest Keystone and Open Range RV Dealership and we will gladly answer any questions that you might have.

Camping Activities for the kids? Do away with the “I’m bored syndrome”.

I came across this posting on the forums of Camping PA.com.   Camping is always enjoyable when the kids are having fun.  I know from personal experience, having two of my own.  If you have anything else to add to this list, please share.  Happy camping!

Here is a list of interesting things you can do with the kids when you go out camping! at one of our sponsoring campsites…

#1  Get the kids involved in the camp work. Work doesn’t sound like much fun, but things like pitching a tent, building a fire and cooking food can be a lot of fun for kids, particularly younger ones who aren’t used to having that level of responsibility. Don’t just let mom and dad do all the work–get your children involved in gathering firewood, building a fire pit, picking a place to pitch the tent and pounding in stakes.

#2  Hold a wilderness scavenger hunt. Designate a list of different plants, objects, rocks and wildlife native to where you’re camping and have the kids scour the surrounding area for them. To make it both rewarding and competitive, have a prize ready for whoever completes the list first. Just be sure to make them aware of harmful plants, animals and insects before they head out.

#3  Build a fort. Pretend that your tent has been lost in the woods and that you need to make shelter for the night. Get your kids involved in planning and building a shelter with available supplies like logs and branches. Building a fort is almost always an activity children will enjoy.

#4  Go on a nature hike. Get your children to enjoy and appreciate their surroundings by looking for wildlife. Bring a guide of animals and tracks and walk around the forest in search of footprints, animals, flowers and plants. In addition to looking, engage the other senses, including smell and hearing, on your search for wildlife. Bring additional tools to make it more fun, such as binoculars.

#5  Play survival games. Get your children thinking about what they’d do in a survival situation. Have them gather water, food, shelter and fire supplies. Try building a fire using only elements found in the wilderness for an educational activity. Use a guide to determine what plants and animals could be food sources in an emergency. Also teach your children navigation skills. Do make sure they know this is just a game, and don’t let them eat or drink anything they shouldn’t.

Alternately, pretend that you have to leave camp immediately. Have your children decide which items are essential to take with you and what should be left behind. Then navigate to “safety.”

#6  Play games. Some games that work well at a campsite include horseshoes, corn-hole and badminton.  The ever popular game of ladderball/ladder golf. Plan these games before your trip and pack accordingly.

#7  Hold a story contest. Telling ghost stories is a classic camping activity. Hold a contest to see who can tell the scariest, most believable story. Plan this ahead of time to give your children time to think and even to write their story. This will stimulate their imagination and may even get them to do a little “school-like story writing” while in the woods. Give bonus points for use of props or acting during their story.

I thought this would be fun for anyone with kids.

A Checklist Before Hitting the Road (with your RV)

Many RVing accidents occur because of simple neglect or carelessness. Forgetting to check one area of your RV could end up in a disaster, costing you thousands in repairs. To make all of your camping trips carefree and easy, make sure to do a safe check before leaving the driveway or camping site to return home.  Here are 3 distinct areas that need to be checked before hitting the road.  Regardless of it you are towing your coach or manning the wheel of one.  Safety should always come first.

Open Range H397 RGR from Lerch RV

Open Range H397 RGR Toy Hauler from Lerch RV

RV/Trailer Check:

  1. Disconnect all power, TV, phone, water and sewer lines. Make sure all lines are rolled up and securely in their storage areas.
  2. Visually inspect the inside of the unit. Make sure all furniture is secure using straps, do not forget to secure those TVs. Put away anything that might roll around and damage the interior.
  3. Retract jacks, steps and awnings. If you have a slide-out, make sure it has slid back into the trailer and is secure.
  4. Make sure all storage and main doors are closed and latched or locked.
  5. Look under the coach for signs of any fluid leaks.
  6. Make sure smoke and propane leak detectors are working
  7. Double-check tow bar and safety cables
  8. Check your brake lights, tail lights and turn signals are working properly.
  9. Check to make sure your air brakes, parking brake and tow brakes are engaging properly.

Propane Check & Tips:

  1. Never paint your LP tanks a dark color. It will absorb the sun’s rays and can cause it to over heat.
  2. Don’t travel with the stove, oven or heater burners lit.
  3. Never refuel while any propane appliances or your engine is running.
  4. If you have an older propane tank, make sure it has an overfill protection device. Most places will not refill LP bottles that do not have this important safety device.
  5. Have tanks regularly checked by a certified dealer.

Engine Check:

(on your tow vehicle or if you are driving a motor home)

  1. Check oil, transmission and coolant levels
  2. Inspect tire inflation pressure and tread wear on your truck and trailer.
  3. Check all your brakes to make sure they are engaging properly and the lights are working.
  4. When driving, know your surroundings (weather, overhangs and ground hazards)

Outback purchased from Lerch RV

Camping Season is here!

An Extra Safety Tip:
Practice S.A.F.E. Cornering – When pulling a trailer, fifth wheel or driving a motor home, you have to compensate for the extra weight, height and length of the vehicle when taking corners. Use S.A.F.E. when turning corners with your RV.

  • Slowly approach the turn.
  • Arc the turn, taking a wider turn. Watch your surroundings and the cars around you.
  • Finish the turn completely. Don’t straighten the wheel until the back-end has cleared the pivot point.
  • Experience is key. The more you drive your RV or tow your trailer/fifth wheel, the more practice you will have – improving your RV towing skills. And in the long run, making your RVing experiences more enjoyable and memorable.

With camping season finally beginning here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The above check list should be useful.  If you have any questions or concerns about the safety of your unit, please feel free to contact our service department.

Firewood Ban Set to expire in PA?

Organic Firewood...What a tag line!

Firewood Ban Set to expire in PA?  I discovered this article on CampingPA.com.  A great place to find information about campgrounds in PA.  The forums on the website are very beneficial to even the most experienced RVer.  However I found this small article to be very interesting. Especially with being a Pennsylvania State Park camper myself.

Rumor has it that the ban on moving firewood for recreational use between counties in Pennsylvania will be lifted in mid April.  This will once again give campers and other outdoor enthusiasts the freedom to load up their truck with firewood before setting out for their favorite camping spots.

Agrilus planipennis, the emerald ash borer

Image via Wikipedia

The ban has been in place for years, and was apparently effective in controlling the spread of  the Emerald Ash Borer and other non native invasion species which could have proved to be devastating to PA forests if gone un-stopped.  We are happy that the threat has been minimized to a point where firewood is apparently no longer a great concern to transporting the pests. But do keep in mind, that if you bring firewood in from home, burn it all or take it back home with you.

Now we can all rest in our campgrounds without those pesky ‘Dont Move The Firewood’ billboard trucks circling out spurs.

If you have any further information on this subject. Please share away.

RVing – A Good Vacation Option For Your Family!

I came across this article while reading some RV related blogs.  I thought it was a great reason to go RVing!  This article goes along with one of my previous blogs as to how affordable RVing/camping can be.  Even in the economical times we are experiencing.  Hitting the road towing a travel trailer, fifth wheel, pop up or even behind the steering wheel of a motorized coach, you make memories that are going to last a lifetime.  So take a few moments to read this article and determine if RVing is one of America’s greatest things to do.

Have you ever been camping in an RV? Well, according to the RVIA (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association) almost one in 12 vehicle owning households in the U.S. can answer yes to this question. If you answered No to this question, then stick around, this article is meant for you.

If you are like most people you lead a very hectic life. You feel like you are working harder now than you ever have before. The end result is you have less leisure time to spend with your family. So, once it is time for your vacation you are ready to get away from it all, relax and spend quality time with your family.

Going camping in an RV is an option you should consider for your next vacation. The reason is simple, it will allow you to slow down and unwind. And who does not want to do that? When you go RVing you don’t have to worry about missing a flight, losing your luggage or renting a car. You do not even have to worry about unpacking your luggage, as everything you need is already in the camper .

Our extended family has been enjoying the RV lifestyle for 34 years in some form or another. From one night stays to extended weekend stays. Over the years our extended family has visited many campgrounds, state and national parks. Don’t get me wrong: we have gone on vacations where we flew to our destinations, because of time constraints. We have even flown over the Grand Canyon a couple of times on commercial airliners. The pilots were always kind enough to point out that if we looked out the windows, we could see the Grand Canyon, and I have to admit it looked pretty good from 35,000 feet. But it wasn’t until we actually drove an RV into the Grand Canyon National Park and looked over the rim and saw it from ground level, that we realized its true grandeur.

An RV is a vacation home on wheels with one exception. One day you are in the mountains; the next day you could be at the beach. Try that with a vacation home. RVs come in all shapes and sizes. If you are looking for accommodations similar to those found in some of the best hotels in the world you may want to look at a Class A Motor Home or Fifth Wheel Trailer. If you want a more rustic experience, you might want to look at a Tent Trailer.

Regardless of which type of RV you choose, you may find that vacationing in an RV provides more time to relax and bond with your family. While RVing, getting to your destination is half the fun. You will be surprised by some of the interesting places you run into along the way. Seeing all of this at ground level makes a difference too.

I hope this article has piqued your interest in taking your family on a RV Vacation Adventure. I am sure that you have many questions. The internet is a great resource to get those questions answered. There are websites that have information on RVing, the Types of RVs available to both rent and buy and tips on what to see and do along the way.  I can honestly say that my worst RV vacation was still better than my best traditional vacation. The memories of our RV camping trips will last us a lifetime.

Your next family vacation may be the ideal time to go RVing and create some excellent family memories of your own.

If you don’t know what RV type is right for your family, please contact your locale Central PA RV Dealer. For over 34 years we have been helping families have fun.

RV Awning Locks and Care.

During some strong cross winds the living room slide out awning blew open and snapped the stop lever on the outside. I had to tie it down manually so I could keep driving. This has happened twice on separate trips.

Any suggestions to keep this from happening again? It is only the large living room slide out awning that has this problem. I see other travel trailers driving down the road with the same cross wind but yet not having any problems. Is there a cover plate or other mechanism that will prevent this from happening?

Unfortunately a lot of people go through the same problem you are having with your awning. Awnings have built-in brakes that are supposed to stop the awning from opening up while going down the road. These brakes do not always work or they get worn out over time. Once the air catches a corner of the awning with a weak brake; the awning fabric starts to billow up and catch the wind. Now the awning has basically turned into a giant sail and can exert enough pressure on the awning hardware to cause it to fail. If the problem is not caught in time the awning can rip itself and it’s mounting hardware right off of the RV. This can cause severe damage to your RV and other vehicles on the road.

You can always install an RV Awning Lock

There are locks available to prevent the awning from opening up while going down the road.  Pictured is the Coil n’ Wrap RV Awning Lock. This lock is easy to install and works on most RV awnings. The Coil n’ Wrap Awning Lock will prevent both the canopy from unrolling and the arms from coming open as you travel down the road. The #1 cause of insurance claims on RV’s is awning damage. This is caused by the failure of the awning roller tube locking mechanism. Often this is due to vibration, wind or operator error.  According to most sources I have come across, wind will always win out over the friction lock that awnings employ.  (This is true in most cases with Mother Nature.)  The lock is composed of two parts, the Lock Assembly and the Roller Tube Stop. This superior made Awning Lock is simple to install and simple to use. Using an awning lock will give you added peace of mind as you travel safely down the road. The package comes complete with full instructions and all parts including two drill bits, a metal center punch, screws and the necessary parts to install the Awning Lock. You open and close the lock using your awning wand. There is a groove in the rod and a spring-loaded plunger in the metal block. When the lock is closed the plunger drops into the groove preventing the lock from opening while you are traveling down the road. Only one lock is required for an awning. The lock fits Carefree and A&E awnings, with the exception of the A&E 2 Step. I would also suggest you get some Camco RV Awning Straps. The awning straps are used to secure the arms on the awnings while traveling. Even though the awning arms have locks on them, the straps act as a fail safe to prevent the arms from coming loose and damaging your RV. Hopefully once you start using these items, or items like them, you won’t have to worry about looking in your side view mirror and seeing your RV awning billowing in the wind.  This problem does not seem to affect the power awnings as much as the older style manual awnings.

As I have stated before I usually do not like to recommend on part over another. However I do like to pass along useful RVing Tips and information that fellow RVers can use.  Regardless if you use an awning lock or not, or just plain old Velcro tie ups.  Common sense and just some good preventative maintenance can make your RVing experience easier and more enjoyable.

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!