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The first set are some lessons learned since full-timing 05/02.  These do not include the hundreds of lessons learned by reading books and on-line before starting or that we have put on our website at www.skyaid.org/rv.  I welcome your comments/corrections/suggestions. Henry Lahore   hlahore at skyaid.org   Additions 07/04, 10/04, 05/05

RV suggestions not just 5th wheel

Level the RV for your comfort, not for the comfort of the refrigerator

People waste effort leveling RVs for the refrigerator. Thirty years ago RV refrigerators which were not leveled would fail after a few months of operation. Now the coolant system in RV refrigerators no longer fails if the RV is not level.  Non-level refrigerators are less efficient, but they do not fail.

Eliminate clothes falling while driving by reversing clothes hangers

We found that rough roads would cause our clothes hangers to fall/jump off the rods in the rear closet. Just reversing the coat hangers, so that the hanger openings were in the direction of RV travel eliminated this problem.

Reduce driving fatigue

I reduce driving fatigue by using ear plugs, sun glasses, and Ribose ( a supplement which helps replace ATP) . 

“Books on Tape” are nice to listen to while driving

Books on Tape are available free from libraries and can be rented from Flying J truck stops.  Several internet companies also have “Books on tape” in MPEG format which can be downloaded.  I am considering subscribing to www.audible.com which provides a free MPEG player.  Downloadable audible files are not practical unless you have a fairly high speed internet download connection (we have a satellite link).  Noise canceling headphones are also very useful, and only cost $50.

Make a night light

We needed a toilet night light.  I powered it from the 12volt wiring in the toilet wall.  I purchased a bright (1600 mcd = 1.6 candle) LED from Radio Shack and wired it in series with two 250 ohm resistors to make a night light which constantly draws only 1/50 amp. Total cost was about $3.00.  I connected the two resistors near the 12 volt source so as to share the power dissipation and greatly reduce the chance of accidentally shorting the 12 volt source.

RV clothes dryers are not all slow  

Almost all RV clothes driers are slow because they condense the water before sending it out of the RV. The Splendide clothes washer/drier however uses an air vent but its wash function consumes 25 gallons of water.  We don’t have this washer/drier, just heard about from other RVers

Don’t depend on just a single ATM system

You should have a different ATM system card in case the first is missing, cannot be read, or does not work with the current ATM machine, etc.  Alternately you could keep spare cash hidden someplace.

Ziploc bags and tote boxes provide great storage containers

We use a variety of Ziploc type plastic bags for food, spare parts, projects, photos, etc.  Tote boxes with integral lids are great stackable containers in our RV, truck and non-moving long term storage. We of course label the contents of the bags and boxes. 

Mail forwarding

There are a variety of local and national mail forwarding services available to RVers. We are using the biggest – Escapees  www.escapees.com . We must call in at least one day before shipment.  US mail is the cheapest forwarding method but typically takes 3-4 days.  We have gotten into a habit of having the mail sent on Friday. It usually arrives on Monday while we are in the Western US, but 1 time in 10 it will not arrive until Tuesday , and 1 time in 30 it will not arrive until Wed.  We suspect that the Wed arrival is due to the post office not actually getting shipment out of Texas until Monday.

Reduce engine failure by reducing cooling system cavitation

Antifreeze used to have an additive to reduce engine cavitation. Engine cavitation can erode holes in the engine after many years.  This was pointed out by Bill Farlow in his book “Professors Farlow’s Guide to RVing”  Vol1  $14 published 1998.  A coolant additive which also reduces cavitation costs about $5.  It is only needed when flushing the coolant - once or twice a year.

Reduce engine failure by periodically testing lubricant for trace metals, etc.

Many commercial truckers periodically send in a sample of the truck lubricant to be tested.  This allows early detection of wear and contaminates.  You may also use the test results to delay your replacing the lubricant, thus saving some money.  Cost of the test with re-paid mailing from www.amsoil.com  is $20.  This tip was also from Professors Farlow’s Guide to RVing”  Vol1  Purchased Spring 2004

A low cost source of RV toilet tissue

The toilet tissue must pass the test of dissolving quickly in a glass of water. The single ply Scott toilet tissue is one which passes this test. See http://www.rvclub/rving_faq/rv_faq_tp.cfm  Scott tissue is available at many Wal-Marts

Under inflated tires will show increased pressure while driving.

Under inflated tires will heat up and increase their pressure when driven.  Over a long time tires which heat up will fail.  We have lowered our tire pressures from 95 to 75 lbs to improve the ride.  Our “H” load tires are able to easily support the load at this lower pressure.  A nice web reference for tires is http://www.rvlifemag.com/file297/rvtip297.html  
Tire air pressure caps added Dec 2004- green turn red when the tire pressure decreases by 10%:
come in various pressures, such as 85lbs. about $7.50 each, including shipping

http://www.accupressurecaps.com/accupressure.asp  

 

You can reliably sense the level in the black and gray tanks

Our RV black tank sensing is apparently fairly typical, in that it is unreliable. Our black water monitor frequently indicates that the tank is partially full immediately after dumping as the sensing wires are easily coated.  We are considering replacing the monitors at a cost of about $125 with wireless monitors from www.catconproducts.com or http://www.boatfix.com/elec/acugage.asp .
One model of Stud Finder nicely indicates the water level when slid up the wall of the tank.
Zircon had 4 models at Home Depot.
Their 2nd lowest cost model ($20)
Studsensor projects a nice red line and beeps to show the edge of the water (the edge of the water is a stud to the sensor)
There was a nice review of Stud Sensors in July 2004 issue of Popular Mechanics
Had earlier auditioned the Stanley from Wal-Mart - but that did not do the job.    new Sept 2004
We also clean the sensors by putting water softener into both tanks a few times per year before traveling (sloshing water on the sensors).

Additions we have made 6 to 26 months after starting full timing.

Sears sells a nice vacuum for RV: small, low cost, fairly powerful, good CR rating, narrow enough head,
      quiet, no detectable dust out of bag, variable suction motor controlled at wand

Added resistors in series with the 12 volt lights.  This greatly reduced the rate at which the bulbs burned out.
   1) reduces inrush current and 2) reduces the 13 volts down to the 12 volts that the bulbs are designed for.

Reduce AC power consumption by replacing several incandescent fixtures with compact fluorescents

12V bullet light gives us a nice bright light for reading without having to turn on the inverter.  Used a regular bullet lamp + 12 volt bulb+ replaced 115 plug with a 12V plug

Tinted windows block UV and heat in Teton and many other RVs– but absorb so much heat that the RV heats up. 
Our workaround to minimize heating up the RV and overtaxing the single air conditioner is putting aluminum foil shielding inside or outside of the RV
We cleaned the ROOF which had gotten slightly gray after a year of dirt, rain, etc.   This reduced cooling load by about 2000 watts - so air conditioner could keep up.

Thermopane windows expand at higher altitudes.
Wonder if we can travel above 12,000’ altitude with without windows breaking due to the reduced air pressure at high altitude.

Electric blanket and portable electric heaters are nice and even heat when we use the inverter

Changed keys for all of the outside compartments – many of the RVs on the road have the same exact keys for compartments.

Improved storage in closet with a modified shoe shelf from Home Depot

Marked the top of polarized AC plugs with white-out:
This allows seeing easily which is the top side for plugging in various devices which do not have 3rd wire ground:
     portable heater, electric blanket, laptop chargers, cellphone chargers

Spare toilet paper roll holder added on shelf above window in the toilet – used springy brass door stops

Bought a “chop chop” thin transparent cutting sheet for kitchen. Stores easily in the narrow slot above the microwave.

Velcro can be used to hold many places - including: TV Remote, DVD remote, space heater, penlights, clocks

Added a vertical grabber bar near toilet.  It helps in getting up from the toilet in that tiny room.

Added a vertical grab bar in shower in 2006

Microfiber cleaning cloth is AMAZING. Helps cleaning al sorts of things: RV exterior, steering wheel, woodwork, ...
It puts other rags to shame. You must buy at least one.  I doubt that after trying microfiber you will limit yourself to just one.
Available at many different locations, but the lowest cost appears to be Wal-Mart for about $1 each. 

TV antenna channel reception seemed strange until we finally realized that the TV has to “memorize” the channels at each new location.

Added a tiny postal scale  which is normally stored in drawer, but hang it up when in use.

Sewer spill eliminator was a great $30 addition when our waste water valves ceased to operate after a year and it would cost us perhaps $500 to repair since the valves are buried inside of our RV so as to not freeze at 0 degrees. The sewer spill eliminator and exposed pipe would probably freeze up now, but we have no expectation of being in such a cold area - we are snowbirds now. Now sold at Camping World

Use www.TouchOfOranges.com   (wood wax: bees and carnoble) This product really restored the shine to our wood cabinets.

Wireless thermometer was a nice addition.  Tells us the temperature under the RV. 
Our previous window-mounted thermometer always lied when it was in the sun.
Battery lasts about 1 year.   replaced in 2006 with $13 Wireless thermometer from Wal-Mart

The shower drain broke, as we were told would happen at some point. We replaced the broken drain pipe with a rubber coupling
This stops the stress fractures generated by the shower bouncing differently than the plumbing while we drive down the road.

We reduce the rock and roll of the RV if we are parked for more than a few days with scissor jacks (cost $1 at some auto wrecking yards)

3M Command strips are a great way to "glue" items inside of the RV, yet leave no residue when they are removed.
They come in different sizes: 1lb to about 20lb.  Available at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's etc.

Rand McNally Map of US/Canada which includes Wal-Mart locations is only $5 at Wal*Mart. 
They also have very low prices on the Next-Exit book, another excellent RV book

Hard water - we purchased de-ionizing cartridges. 
Approx 20 cents per gallon, but eliminates having to clean the water pump, tanks, and valves.  We cleaned our tanks with vinegar.

Hard Water   yes, there are cartridges to filter hard water.

Low AC voltage: We tried an AC booster = Automatic Voltage regulator. Burned out in less than 1 day.
However, we have seen one park which does not permit a booster, but lots of parks need them.

Maintenance - you can do virtually all of your own periodic (semi-annual, annual) maintenance on an RV.. 
The only professional maintenance we needed to pay for was Dometic Ref. requirement that the annual inspection be done by a RV technician.

Added an rope to hold on to if we should ever have to use the escape window in the bedroom. 
The original suggestion for the rope was printed in Trailer Life Magazine May 2005.
Our additions were use of a soft rope and loops instead of knots.

 Additions after 2005

Ignite stovetop with a small amount of propane. After years of RVing we have just learned that the propane stove top burners (Atwood) ignite best with just a small amount of propane. (Too much propane does now allow for the Oxygen needed for ignition) We had often had to click the stove's piezo igniter 10 times to start the burners before, and now it ignites with just 1 or two clicks.