A Few Good Tips for the Pennsylvania RV Newbie

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New to RVing? We can help. Everybody has to learn the ins and outs of RVing at some time. Hopefully, your mistakes and accidents will be minimal in the beginning.

I thought I would put together some things to think about as you prepare your new RV and yourself, to experience the RVing lifestyle like a pro!

  1. Take care of your black water tank. This is one of the most important things to learn about. If your RV doesn’t have a black water tank sprayer, dump plenty of water down the toilet to clean it out. Add recommended chemicals regularly to ensure that tank material biodegrades properly. Packets are the fastest and easiest to use and require the least storage space; just toss one down the toilet with a gallon of water. Use RV toilet paper; it biodegrades faster.
  2. Make a maintenance checklist. Make a checklist of things to do before and after each RV trip to ensure that you don’t forget any maintenance procedures while you’re learning. Make notes of anything that you need to keep an eye on so that you can check it consistently. You don’t want any surprises while you’re on the road.
  3. Keep fridge and pantry stocked. Keep non-perishable staples on-board all season so you’re ready for spur-of-the-moment getaways.  Make sure they are foods that will work together to make a meal.  Remember to use food before their expiration date.
  4. Keep clothing, gear on board. Keep a set of toiletries, toothbrushes, clothing, games, leisure gear, pet supplies, etc. on board so that you have minimal packing to do at vacation time.

This is just a very small list to get you started in your quest to become an experienced camper.  Did I miss anything you experienced RVers? Please share more tips in the comments below….

Safe Travels and Happy RVing!

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.