Camping in the Pennsylvania Heat

It is Summer and the temperatures have been heating up in our neck of the woods, with heat wave after heat wave. Camping season is in full swing and camping in these warmer temperatures can cause issues if you don’t take some precautions to stay safe in the heat. Here are few things we suggest that can help camping in the hot weather more enjoyable and safe.

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink lots of water when you’re spending time in the heat. It’s important to stay ahead of dehydration and drink water before you feel thirsty – the first sign of dehydration.
  2. Shade: When you’re setting up your campsite, think about creating the most shade possible. Staying out of direct sun will help keep you cool. Try to find the shadiest part of the campsite to set up you RV.
  3. Dress for the heat: Make sure to pack light clothes, both in color and weight.
  4. Wear SPF: It’s always important to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Always wear SPF and apply it several times throughout the day.
  5. Keep air circulating: If you’re spending lots of time inside of the RV, especially at night, it is important to keep air circulating. Using battery operated fans is a great way to keep the air moving.

These are just a few things you can do to help beat the heat on your summer camping excursions. Do you have any other tips to stay cool with the summer’s rising temperatures?

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!

Arriving safely in the rain.

After the week we have had here in central Pennsylvania, I felt this would be a great blog posting. Eventually all of us will camp in the rain at some point of our RVing life. If you have to travel in the rain to reach your destination or on your way back home, here are some great tips to help you reach that destination safely.

The Spring and Summer seasons brings all kinds of new weather conditions, including the increased chance for rain. In order to remain safe while driving or towing your RV it is important to be aware of the necessary precautions that should be taken in the event you find yourself driving in severe weather – including rain storms.

The Weather Channel has provided drivers with the following tips to take into account when driving on wet roads and in rainy weather.

1. In order to avoid hydroplaning, you should always make sure your tires are inflated properly and that your tire tread is in good condition. Never put off replacing your tires when they need to be.

2. In order to prevent skidding on the wet pavement, you should always drive slow and carefully, especially on curves and turns. You should also steer and brake with a light touch, and be careful not to make any quick movements with your vehicle. Never slam on your brakes in rainy, slick conditions and risk locking the wheel and skidding.

3. If you do happen to begin hydroplaning, again maintain a light hand on the steering wheel and brakes and do not brake or turn suddenly. Instead ease up on the gas and slowly pump the brakes if you need to.

4. If you do happen to skid in your RV, ease off the gas, steer into the direction you want your vehicle to go, and remain calm. You should also anticipate having to turn the steering wheel over and over until the front of the vehicle is traveling in a straight line.

5. Always remember to anticipate rainy weather and hazardous driving conditions. Slow down on wet roads, avoid driving through puddles, follow the drive tracks in front of you left by another driver, and always pay attention to others around you. A defensive driver is the best type of driver.

Being prepared for driving and towing your RV safely in the rain is an important part of being an Lerch RV owner.

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.

To Surge or not to Surge? What Brake System is On Your Travel Trailer?

Prodigy brake control for trailer towing
Brakes are an important feature of a travel trailer. And what type of brakes it has and how they work are very important to understand to ensure safe towing of a travel trailer. So what are the types of brakes do travel trailers have? Well there are two basic systems, surge and electric. These are the two types of braking systems available when towing a travel trailer.

Surge brakes require no electrical connection between the two vehicle and the trailer, except for, of course, the trailer lights.  Mounted on the tongue of the trailer is the surge coupler which inside of it, contains the linkage to a hydraulic master cylinder.

With the surge brakes the braking efforts start with the tow vehicle and are continued through to the surge coupler to the master cylinder . When the tow vehicle applies it brakes, the momentum of the trailer pushes on the surge coupler, which slides rearward and applies pressure against the master cylinder and releases the trailer brakes.

The reverse happens when the two vehicles brakes are released.  When the vehicle starts to move, the forward pull on the surge coupler relieves the pressure on the master cylinder and releases the trailer brakes.

Unlike electrical brakes, surge brakes cannot tell the difference between baking up and just normal braking. Therefore, either a reverse solenoid wired to the tow backup lights to vent brake pressure when backing up or a free backing mechanism that releases the brakes when backing up is needed.

The other type of braking system that can be found on travel trailers is electric brakes.  This type of braking system is activated by an electrical connection to a dash-mounted inertia switch in the tow vehicle or on the trailer itself or an electrical connection to the two vehicle’s brake pedal.

When the two vehicles brakes are applied it sends an electric current proportional to the rate of deceleration which energizes a magnet in each brakes. The magnet then moves an actuating lever to apply the brakes. When the brakes are releases via the driver in the tow vehicle, the current to the magnet is cut off and the brakes are released.  Since trailer loads vary you can adjust the controller to meet your needs. This is the more common type of braking system you find in travel trailers and fifth wheels nowadays.

If your travel trailer only has surge brakes and you want electric brakes you most definitely can do that. We recommend taking your trailer to the professionals at Pennsylvania’s largest travel trailer Dealership to make sure they are done properly. And if you have any questions about the brake system in your travel trailer just leave us a comment below!

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.