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Take an RV Shakedown Cruise and find those problems early?
A Shakedown Trip in your RV
So you have a NEW (newer?) RV. Now What are you going to do?
Over the past forty years or more, I have owned (along with the Bank) a number of RV’s, from travel trailers, to fifth wheelers to Class-A Motorhomes.
And, along the way, I have had some interesting situations arise soon after I purchased each one of them.
Some of these problems were just small even humorous things that you talk about over a fire with friends, years later.
But just as often we have had some really disastrous things occur that scared us both, at the time. to you at the time.
All of these problems, small and large, were totally unexpected and and after all of these years with our different motorhomes we have developed our own method for managing any such problems.
What I have learned to do, is to take a “Shakedown Cruise”.
My Bounder getting a PDI
Shake those problems out fast.
Well, it’s not a Cruise of course, and its not a real Shakedown like when I was in the Navy, years ago but, it is a “getting to know each other trip” for my wife and I and our new RV.
What every new owner needs to do is "get to know their RV", understand how everything functions, learn its idiosyncrasies, and figure out its special little controls and accessories.
And honestly, your RV needs to get to know you.
Just like you have habits and memories of your old Motorhome, how to make it work and function properly; your newer RV probably has several newer limitations operating procedures for the new owner to understand in order to it operate safely.
So, I have found that the best thing for me to do is, “to do nothing”; nothing different that is.
Emergency Beacon Flare Kit
Sure, Research and Study is necessary too.
Oh sure, I read through all of the newer and different manuals you get in that big suitcase-like bag with your RV.
I also talk to friends that have a newer Rig than mine about the good and the bad of their experiences, and I even do a little research on the web to enlighten myself on what the rest of the RV world has to say about this newer RIG of mine.
It all helps!
I can attest to the fact that this kind or self-education does help you start out traveling safer with what you pick up doing such research.
But, in my opinion, nothing is as good for you and yours to do than to get out there, as soon as possible and “just do it”. Just live in your Motorhome or other RV, as soon as possible, for at least a week, two if possible.
You don't have to go far, but go ..... Camping
Me, I usually pick a campground that is relatively inexpensive with full service sites that isn't too far from my home.
We will get to the campground, closely monitoring how it drives and functions on the road and once there we quickly hook up our RV, and sit back.
Over the next few days, we try to operate everything in the RV; the fridge being first, of course, and then the AC, the Furnace, as well as all of the appliances and accessories.
We use everything that operates on; campsite power and 12-VDC converted power making sure the batteries and Inverter all function well under load.
And we use the propane stove, we use the fridge in Propane mode and we run the furnace several time to make sure everything operates OK and there are no Propane leaks.
At least a couple of tomes we will run the generator for a couple of hours and check that it operates well at; no load, half load, and near full load. All the while, we functionally check the electrical appliances to make sure they have no problems.
When I have an Inverter in my Rig, I load the 12-VDC system up and make sure it is operating well enough that my all of my electrical devices can run properly on the converted voltage supplied by the Inverter.
I will even watch my chassis (engine) battery and turn on lights and things to see how they handle a load before I restart the engine and charge it back up.
Then there are such things as; the adjustable TV antenna, the automatic Satellite Antenna, the Stereo system, along with all of the 110-VAC receptacles (especially the GFI ones). And I check that my slides work smoothly when opened and closed several times, and on and on.
Small, convenient Air Compressor for your RV
A recent Shakedown of my own
To, to this end, recently, I was sitting in a campsite in North Fort Myers Florida. It was only a 1-1/2 hour drive on I-75, south of where I live in Ruskin, Florida, so the trip was as simple one.
We had been hooked up and pushing buttons for a couple of days and guess what; we had already found a few small problems with our New (older).
Now, you might ask, didn’t the dealer check out your Rig before you bought it? Well, of course they did,
I purchased the Rig at LazyDays in Florida, and they, like so many of the better dealers these days, performed their “PDI” on my Rig.
This is the thing now with purchasing New and Used RV’s; getting the dealer to have a certified tech functionally operate and confirm that everything works before you take possession of your new Rig.
And my Rig did have a conscientious PDI performed don it, and after purchasing it, we drove the thirty miles or so to my home, without even a hint of a problem.
Popular Multimeter, autoranging
My surprising Shakedown Problems
Oh, I mentioned a few problems, didn’t I?
So far, after this short period of time in the campground, I had already found several ”problems” that I definitely did not want to be finding while traveling far away from home, or on a vacation. Here are a few of the problems we found, that are worth mentioning;
Problem-1: Engine Battery.
Before we got to go on our little shakedown, I had my Rig stored for a couple of weeks, occasionally going in and out of it to store things that I knew I would need when we next traveled.
As luck would have it, the day we were to pull out, we settled in our seats, strapped our seat-belts on and then? Well, the engine didn’t start.
You RV owners out there probably just shrug this off like I did. It’s not uncommon to find you left something on in your RV, or forgot to throw the “battery disconnect” switch to off while storing your RV.
I don’t know why, but this little thing happens to a lot to RVers; not disengaging your Chassis Battery from the electrical system in your RV when you are not on the road.
You see, your RV, unlike your car, has a number of things that are connected to the Chassis electrical system that will, over time draw a very minor amount of current; things like; power Awnings, storage area lights, front over-dash fans, dash radio, etcetera.
Honestly, the average camper’s poor memories are the reason for a lot of the things you find going wrong on an RV, by the way.
So, again, I wasn’t worried, I just held the “booster switch” down and then started my engine. No problem. For you novices out there, a Motorhome has two battery systems, the Main (or Chassis) battery, and the Aux (or Coach) batteries.
This booster switch momentarily connects both battery systems together, and when your engine battery goes dead so you can still start the engine by parallel conecting both electrical systsm's batteries.
Anyway, we started the engine, performed out "hitting the road" checklist and then we made the short hour and a half drive, in good time.
The first inkling of a problem was when I had shut the engine down to check in at the gate to the campground and came back out to the RV. The engine didn’t even click when I turned the ignition switch.
Well, I calmed myself and thinking to myself, “Let the Games Begin”, we pulled our RV across the campground and into our assigned campsite. Then we hooked up and I took my trusty multimeter out to check the battery.
My multimeter had died. “More fun?", I asked myself as I calmly beat the now useless meter against the nearest Palm tree.
Luckily, a friend was traveling with us and he was also “shaking down” his new fifth-wheeler, so he rooted around and found his multimeter.
The Gods finally smiled on me and my friend's meter was a good one. But a quick check of my battery told us that it was my culprit and needed replacement.
The whole engine compartment of my RV looked pristine, clean as a pin they say, and the battery itself looked like it was brand new. But, a closer look at the battery labels told us it wasn’t.
Later, that first day, we made a trip to the closest . AutoZone (a popular auto parts store) and picked up a new battery. Then it was a quick drive back to the campground and I installed the new battery into my RV.
I then kept a close eye on the battery, starting the engine a number of times but it held its charge well, so my fingers are crossed that my problem was just a battery.
Of course, I kept watching the battery for weeks, but by now I am comfortable that I was lucky, the problem was the battery and not something more serious.
Problem-2: My Multimeter
I recommend that every RVer own a good multimeter. And if you are not technical at all, you should still get one and have someone show you how to use it safely.
With all of the accessories and appliances in today’s RV’s, you’re going to have problems of some kind, it’s just a matter of time. when you do have a problem, a multimeter is an invaluable tool for any RVer to own when diagnosing such problems.
I had no idea that my meter had died just sitting in my garage, and finding that I had to get another one now rather than when on the road and some electrical problem cropped up was actually a good thing, I guess..
Problem-3: Indoor Lounge Chair
Our RV has a pretty standard layout and the living area has a Sofa and a Lounge Chair. My wife has a bad back and she prefers being able to move around on the Sofa so that’s hers.
I, on the other hand, love sitting in a nice recliner sofa when I am writing or just watching TV at night, so we automatically migrated tour favorite seats as soon as we had everything set up in the campsite.
Now, this new problem of ours is a simple one actually.
The lounge chair in an RV is mounted to a specific spot on the floor of the RV, so it won’t end up bouncing around as you travel down the road, and mine, as expected, was firmly mounted. For you novices, again, this mounting system also has a stop to keep the chair from swiveling too far in either direction.
Mine, it seems, is not set right. It stops me about 20-degrees from where I want it to be when I am watching the TV. Its not a bad thing, but it is a nuisance. Now I have a new task when i get home, I will need to move this mount and set things for my Lounge chair to be aligned properly, for me.
Problem-4; Wiper blades
Actually, I did find a few really small things I needed to replace like the wiper blades which were Ok, but a little hard from age and sun exposure I replaced them.
Problem-5; Entrance Light
And, The lightbulb over the entrance door was bad, So, I went to Camping World and got a LED replacement for it. With this done, I will have adequate light at my door, but there will be much less current consumed, and it will have a very long life before it goes bad on me.
Problem-6; Loose gaskets
I did find that I had loose gaskets on two of the exterior storage compartment doors. Checking closer, I could see that I only had to add some silicone rubber to the underside of the gaskets and close the doors to old them in place. So far, they have stayed set and the doors seal properly.
These last problems were definitely not disastrous for us, but we did find them fast and took care of them right away.
In Summary, my Shakedown Cruise philosophy is working.
But, again, this is why we took our “Shakedown Cruise”, in order to root out these little problems and fix them before we hit the road on a longer trip.
In fact, most of that week we were sitting around our campsite, in 87degree temperatures, under a bright blue Florida sky, actually wishing we could get a couple of hours of a blowing rain. That would test my roof and slide gasket seals. Crazy, Huh?
by Don Bobbitt, 2015
Preparing for your first RV Trip
© 2015 Don Bobbitt