Tip-of-the-Month – Shakedown Cruise

So you’ve checked fluids, tires, brakes, appliances, etc.; and are ready-to-go on your first big trip of the season…right?

Well, I’d suggest holding off until you really know that you’re ready by taking a shakedown cruise.  2 night trip somewhere close (within a one hour drive) from home at least a few weeks before my first big trip.

The reason is that there are some problems that may not show up until you’ve taken your rig down the road.  Everything from loose fixtures, a tire that may fail after being unused all winter to insects getting into places that they don’t belong.  I even had a fresh-water drain line that wouldn’t close all the way.

By taking that first trip early and close to home, hopefully you’ll discover any problems with plenty of time to take care of them before that first real trip of the year.

Product Review – Thermos Element 5…16 Ounce

During the winter it’s nice to have a hot cup of coffee or two after a long drive.  Most of my thermos bottles are fairly large (for soups) and to serve more than one person.  Travel mugs rarely keep my drink warm enough over the course of a couple of hours.

So, I was looking for something in-between and came across the Thermos Element 5 16-Ounce Travel Mug on Amazon.comThermos Element 5

Its size is just large enough for me to have 2 cups of coffee and it keeps my coffee hot for at least 4 hours.  To make sure that your drink is hot upon arrival you will want to fill it with hot water before you fill it with your favorite beverage.

This is a double-walled, unbreakable, stainless steel thermos with a leak-proof (at least so far so good) lid.  There are two silicone seals on the lid.  One is to allow you to unscrew the lid enough to let liquid pass and the other is the main seal.  You do want to be careful and not damage (by cross-threading) or lose these as it would render the thermos useless.  Also, when you open it for drinking you don’t want to open it beyond the point where liquid starts to come out or you end up with a full-on spill.

The best features are its size, handle, durability and ability to keep my coffee hot.  On the downside are that the base is too large for any cup holders and the area that you drink from isn’t covered (you don’t want to let this roll around on the ground or let the dog have at it).  Also, the mouth of the thermos and the non-spill lid aren’t designed to allow anything but liquids to pass so soup is a no-go.

The carabiner that they include for attaching to a backpack is pretty flimsy and I wouldn’t use it for that purpose.  I do use it to secure the thermos to other items in my vehicle so that it doesn’t roll around.

As much as I like this thermos I can’t recommend its use while driving unless someone else opens the lid for you.  I like it though as for me it is for use upon arrival.

Product Review – Zippo Hand Warmer

I’ve been using the disposable types of hand warmers for quite some time, but have often found that them to be inconsistent in the amount of heat they provided or how long they would last.  It also bothered me that they were a completely disposable product.

So, I decided to try out catalytic style hand warmers and purchased a Zippo one from Amazon.Zippo Hand WarmerThis type of catalytic hand warmer works through a chemical reaction of lighter fluid, oxygen and a catalytic element.  There is no flame and the emissions consist of heat, water vapor and carbon dioxide.  The fluid is standard lighter fluid, the oxygen comes from the air and the catalytic element is platinum on the mesh burner.  Basically you fill the hand warmer with the lighter fluid and then heat the burner until the reaction starts.  Once it starts it will generate heat until the fluid is exhausted.

When I first tried the warmer I was concerned about lighter fluid odors.  To my pleasant surprise it is only noticeable during the fill-up and lighting.  I did use the Zippo brand of lighter fluid so don’t know if other fluids would have more of an odor.

Prior to purchasing the warmer I went through all of the reviews, of which many of the negative ones had to do with getting the warmer lit.  I followed the instructions exactly and had no trouble with the ones I purchased.

How long does it stay warm?  Well the ads indicate up to 12 hours and the filling container is marked for 6 & 12 hours.  I’ve only filled it up to the 6 hour mark and every time have gotten at least 6 hours of heat.  One of the few times I’ve seen a manufacturer’s claim that was true!

The heat is nice and even and has kept my hands warm (used in pockets, no gloves) while being outdoors in the low 20′s F.

Aside from the lighter fluid (about an ounce per 6 hours) the only other consumable is the burner which is rated for 60-70 uses and is easily replaceable.

The only negatives for me are 1)  it’s too large to fit inside of a glove like the disposable types; 2) there is no flat base so when you fill it you have to hold it rather than sitting it on a table; and 3) that there is no safe/easy way to extinguish the warmer if you don’t need it any more.  You have to eliminate any air getting to it in order to make it go out.  Of course, this is true of the disposable warmers as well since you can’t turn them off either.

I definitely prefer this type of hand warmer now primarily for its consistent warmth, running time and it being less of a disposable item.

Tip-of-the-Month – Keep Hand Warmers On Hand

While it may seem obvious that you want to keep your hands warm in the cold, many of us rely on just gloves or mittens to keep our hands warm.  Although fine for many activities, the ones we have may be too warm when active but not warm enough when standing around.  In addition we may find ourselves in cold conditions without gloves handy.

In the past I have had to make due with various gloves depending upon the weather and my activity level.  But that hasn’t always worked well enough for me and as I’m getting older I sometimes want some heat even indoors on a cool day without resorting to gloves.

What I have found is that hand warmers — such as the Grabber , Hot Hands or Little Hotties brands — to work quite well.  Aside from the cost due to their being disposable, the only problem I’ve had is that often times I find the amount of heat and the duration of heat to vary considerably.  For my purposes, I have found that catalytic heater based warmers, such as those from Zippo & Peacock to work better for me.

I now keep at least one pair of hand warmers in each vehicle for those times when the cold catches me by surprise or I just need a little warmth.


Tip-of-the-Month & Product Review – Cabin Bright LED

Now that all of the winterizing was completed, I was going through the rig checking for burned out bulbs, loose screws, etc.  During this I noticed that one of the overhead fluorescent lights was dim.

Thinking that one of the fluorescent tubes had burned out, I removed the plastic cover and a tube fell out!  Luckily I caught it before it hit the floor and broke.

What had happened is that the sockets for the tube had broken in the fixture.  After removing the existing fixture so that I could take it to a parts store/search online for the parts required, I noticed that one of the rivets that held the side of the fixture to the back of the fixture was missing…apparently messed up during manufacture.  Also, when they installed the light fixture they only screwed 3 out of a possible 4 points into the ceiling.  Apparently the vibration of this combination caused the sockets for one tube to crack and eventually fail altogether.  I suppose I’m lucky that at least nothing shorted out while on the road.

Regardless of the cause I needed a new fixture and so went looking for an exact match so that the replacement would match all of the other fixtures in our rig.  To make a long story a tad shorter, bottom line is that I couldn’t locate an exact match and a replacement fixture (this was a 12″ 2-tube unit) was going to run me $45+.

So, instead of just replacing it I looked into LED replacements and found one from the Cabin Right company.  Basically they provide a set of LED panels wired to a harness that you use instead of the fluorescent tubes.  In my case I went with the 6 panel model which ran me $43 at Amazon.

LED Replacement

The instructions stated that you could leave the old ballast & sockets in but since I already had the fixture out I elected to remove these by drilling out the associated rivets.  Then I found a small sheet metal screw to secure the side-to-base plate that was missing a rivet.

The instructions are very clear and easy to follow.  They even include an alcohol wipe to clean the old surface with so that the adhesive pads on the LED panels will adhere properly.

After installation I can definitely state that I’m glad that I took this route.  Not only does it draw less power than the fluorescents, it is significantly brighter.  In addition, since it is the old fixture on the outside it matches the rest of the rig.

Definitely a worthwhile alternative to replacing fluorescents that fail…might be a tad expensive if it’s only a bulb, but if you want to reduce power draw and increase the lighting I think it is a great improvement.

Tip of the Month – Top it off at the end of each day

With winter approaching those of us still on the road need to remember to top off our fuel tanks at the end of each day to reduce water condensation in our tanks.

At the end of a long drive it’s tempting to just find a place to park for the night…but on a cold night your warm fuel tank will promote condensation.

While gas engines will burn off the water (still not great for the engine especially with the increased use of ethanol), diesel engines rely on a water separator to remove the water.

But…a water separator can only do so much and when it fills you will get a fault code or a warning about the water in  the fuel/full separator.

In addition if you run a generator off of your fuel tank then keeping it topped off will ensure that you’ll have plenty of power if the need arises.

So before you pull in after that long drive top off your fuel tank.

Product Review & Tip of the Month – Liquid Electrical Tape

In addition to everyone’s favorite fix-all in the toolbox (duct tape) I always carry some liquid electrical tape as well:

Liquid Electrical Tape

When you have a small electrical connector separation or crack or are trying to weather seal a connection, liquid electrical tape can be very useful.  Brushing it on allows you to get the protection you need without necessarily replacing a connector.

While it is not a replacement for a proper repair, it can handle many small jobs and get you by until you can have the electrical connector replaced.  I usually apply some standard electrical tape over the dried liquid tape to further protect a patched cable.

Over the years I have used it on shore power cords, umbilical power cords, low voltage wiring, weather-proofing a water pump power cable, etc.

There are many brands and all work well and they are inexpensive.  I have been using the Gardner Bender brand for some time and am very happy with it.  Also, unless you are fanatically applying it to everything you own, a small bottle will last a long, long time.  My current 4 oz. bottle is still going strong after about 3 years now.

You can find liquid electrical tape at stores like NAPA, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Grainger, Amazon, etc.  While usually available in black, you can also find it in white, yellow, red and probably other colors.

Tip of the Month – Other Batteries

As the season runs down we start to think about all of the things that need to be done to prepare for winter — draining tanks, adding RV anti-freeze, checking our RV batteries, etc.

But sometimes we forget about the smaller batteries:

9v cr2032

The ones that run the TV remote, the DVD player/radio, etc.  These need to be pulled when going into storage so that there is no chance of corrosion…and replaced in the spring.

In addition to your remotes if you have an interior water filter with a sensor, then make sure to take care of that battery as well.

For the smoke alarm, I don’t recommend removing the battery, but instead replacing it.  That way if you are able to sneak in an additional trip during the winter you won’t forget about it.

Deeded RV Lot for Sale – SOLD

We are selling our deeded lot in Pahrump, NV located in the beautiful Nevada Treasure RV Resort.

View from Grilling Area

View from Grilling Area

Some of the amenities include:

  • Gazebo.
  • Stainless Steel Gas Barbeque grill.
  • Benches.
  • Gorgeous landscaping – on drip so your rig doesn’t get wet.
  • Full 50 AMP service.
  • Outdoor Jacuzzi.
  • 2 Outdoor pools – one with a waterfall.
  • Fitness Center. – Includes state-of-the-art Cybex equipment and Direct-TV™ Monitors.
  • Men’s & Women’s Lockers.
  • Indoor Jacuzzi (under a large skylight), Sauna and Steam Spa.
  • Complete Laundry facility.
  • Club House.
  • Bowling Fun Center.
  • On-site restaurant and bar.
  • Convenience store.
  • Fantastic mountain views.

Our lot (#10-8) is at one of the premiere locations – across from the pool entrance and near the laundry facilities.  It has mature landscaping and is large enough to accommodate a 45’ rig as well as a parking spot for another vehicle.

We are asking $35,000 for a cash sale; which is well below market for this lot.  The only reason we are selling is that we have relocated to the Northwest and don’t anticipate travelling any longer in the Southwest.

If you want to trade your existing lot for ours we are looking for something in the Northwest, preferably along the Washington or Oregon coast.

The monthly fee is $220 which includes the gym, pool, trash pickup, water, sewer and security.

This is a rare opportunity to buy a luxury lot at a 5 star RV resort.  You could even rent your lot out when not in use.  You can rent it yourself or let the resort do so through their rental program if you want them to manage it for you.

If interested, please e-mail me (admin@rvschooner.com).

Lot with 34' Airstream

Lot with 34′ Airstream

Tip of the Month & Product Review – Pump Converter Winterizer Kit

If your rig doesn’t have a built-in winterizing capability you can either pour a LOT of RV antifreeze into your fresh water tank and pump it through or install a winterizer kit at your pump like this one from CAMCO:

CAMCO Winterizing Kit

CAMCO Winterizing Kit

Installing the kit was easy for me as access to my pump is not a problem.  Only tool needed was a wrench to loosen the existing pump connection.  Just be careful to not cross-thread any connectors when you thread the components back in and don’t over tighten.

I’ve had this installed for 2 years now and no problems with use or leaks.  My only real criticism is that the tube that they provide for sucking the antifreeze from its container could be a little longer and they should provide some plugs at each end for storage.

Now, aside from not needing as much antifreeze, it avoids placing any into your fresh water tank.  By avoiding the antifreeze in your tank it reduces the amount of flushing that you will need to do in the spring to get rid of any aftertaste.

Using this kit (I bought mine at Camping World) I can completely winterize my rig using less than 3 gallons of antifreeze…that includes pouring a cup into each drain, adding a 1/2 gallon to each of the waste tanks and filling the toilet bowl as well.