<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> RVing Made Easy (Joe & Vicki Kieva)
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Topic: RVing Made Easy

Instructors: Joe & Vicki Kieva

This course will be for those who are just starting out RVing. Here's everything you'll really want to know to get started. It's sort of like get in, turn the key, and start having fun. It's really not all that difficult. Read on...

The call arrives: Your RV is now ready -- c'mon down and pick it up. This will be your first look at your new unit. These are exciting times!

The first thing that will happen is a "walk through" by an RV technician. Be sure to take all the time you need to learn everything there is to know about your new unit. He should tell you about each item, show you, and letting you do it. Too many people do this way too fast. Don't! Consider taking a camcorder, or at least take notes. There will be far more than any mortal can remember from this session. If it's a used RV, make sure the previous owner takes you through the same process, so you know everything about the unit. Get the same detail of information from the former owner as you would if buying new. Be sure to get all the owner's manuals too.

Now the exciting part: You're going to drive this new unit home. It'll be a bit of a white knuckle experience just driving it home, because it's still so new to you. But once you get home, you'll have ample time to go through each of the manuals, and actually operate each appliance so you'll have a feel for the basics. Pretty soon you'll start to get comfortable with the unit, and can move on to the next step -- loading it up with your own gear.

Hookups versus self containment. Commercial parks all have "hookups" which means you can connect the campground utilities to your RVs systems: water, electric and sewer. Where you don't have hookups (called dry camping), you'll need to rely on your self containment systems. These are really creature comforts that let you enjoy your RV whether you have "hookups", or you're relying on your self containment systems.

Let's look at the various systems in your unit.

Electrical Systems: It has three: The automotive (chassis) 12 volt system, the "house" 12 volt system, and the 110 volt system. The automotive electrical system has the prime function of providing a burst of 12 volt power which will start the engine. After that, the vehicle's alternator takes over and supplies all the electric current for other uses (lights, horn, stereo, etc). The coach has its own 12 volt system, but this one's based on deep cycle batteries -- these are designed to put out a relatively small amount of electricity for a longer period of time. How do the house batteries get recharged? When you run your RV, the alternator will recharge not only the chassis battery, but the deep cycle house batteries as well.

For maintenance, be sure to keep water level up inside the batteries. Use baking soda and water to keep battery terminals clean. When you store your RV, make sure your battery is fully charged, and disconnect one of the cables. Some come with a switch which will disconnect the battery. Keep in mind even when you're not using the RV, there is still a small electrical drain going on. By disconnecting the battery when in storage, this problem can be avoided. Incidentally, in a pinch you can use the house battery to start the engine if the chassis battery should go dead. Happily there's an "isolator" which keeps the chassis battery from discharging into the "house". So if you leave the lights on too long in the "house", you won't drain your chassis battery.

The 120 volt system comes on easily when you plug into the campground's hookups. Also, most RVs will automatically recharge the house batteries whenever you're plugged into shore power. Also, the "converter" will automatically transform some of the 120 volt power to 12 volt electricity so you can run all your DC appliances. Incidentally, an "inverter" does the reverse -- it will take 12 volt power from the battery and change it into 120 volt AC power. But it's really only for smaller electric loads. It can't be used, for example, to run an air conditioner. Keep in mind it does drain your battery if you use an inverter!

A generator is another source of electric power. It's probably going to be powerful enough to operate your air conditioner. A good tip is to make sure you turn on the generator for an hour or more at least once a month. Should you have a generator? If you haven't missed it, you probably don't need it. Generators usually come equipped with an hour meter. If you buy a used unit and see very little time on the generator, you'd probably want to check to make sure the generator doesn't have leaking seals from disuse.

Water Systems:

By hooking up to the campground's water, you'll have water pressure to all water appliances -- sinks, toilet, shower, etc. And if you're out in the woods, you'll be using your 12 volt water pump. Somewhere in the RV you'll have an "on/off" button. Turn it "on", and it will build up water pressure and use water from your fresh water holding tank. When you turn on a faucet, the water will flow, and the water pump will come on again to replenish the water pressure. Going down the road is like a 3.5 earthquake, so turn it off. Breaks or leaks can occur, so turn the water pump off when you're driving. That will avoid any unwanted surprises.

Aside from winterizing, there is very little care and feeding of the water system. Drain the water tank periodically, see instructions for chlorinating/sanitizing the water system, and refill with fresh water.

Sewer Systems: You will have both a gray water tank (shower and sink) and a black water tank (from toilet). You'll need much more capacity for your gray water tank than black water tank. At a campground you can leave the gray water valve open once you're hooked up to the campground's sewer system. When you shower, it goes right through your system, through your hose, and into their sewer system. But do NOT every leave the black water tank "open". It needs to be filled up at least 1/2 to 2/3 to create enough water pressure to flush out completely. A good tip: keep your gray water tank closed for a day or more before flushing the black tank. Then after dumping the black tank, drain the gray tank to flush out the hose. Also, after dumping the black tank for the last time before storage, fill it at least half full of water, add dishwasher soap, drive down the road to shake it all up. Then stop at the last dump station before getting home and empty the black tank again. These systems are really not all that complicated; and they're quite easy to use.

Also, don't trust the gauges that pretend to tell you how full the gray and black water tanks are. They typically don't work accurately. You'll get false readings. Pretty soon you'll get a "feel" for how often you'll need to dump the tanks. Pretty soon all this gets to be easy too!


What a great deal propane is! You get so much for such a small cost. It goes into your tank as a liquid; but it comes out of your tank as a gas. It purposely has an odor which you can detect if there is a leak. It powers your range, refrigerator, hot water heater, and heater. All newer RVers have propane "sniffers", which will sound an alarm if it detects any propane leaks. If you suspect a leak, go outside immediately, turn off the propane at the tank, open all the windows and door, and get an expert to fix it. But these are well made systems, and malfunctions of the propane distribution system is uncommon.

Refrigerator: These are different from what you have in your house. These usually operate on either 120 AC, or propane. And occasionally they will run on DC as well, though that's becoming less common because it causes a significant drain on your batteries. Recommends you not use propane while you're driving, because it's unsafe. Better, shut off propane at the tank whenever you're driving. The only thing you need to do is ensure your rig is reasonably level, so the refrigerator can operate as designed.

Equipment List:

Look at a Camping World catalogue -- it's a candy store. Here are a few things..

Voltage meter: This is a little device that you plug into an outlet to check the voltage coming into your rig. You need to have at least 105 volts. If you have less, you can burn out electric motors. If it goes over 130 volts, that's too much.

Polarity tester: Check the campground outlet with it. If the polarity is reversed, this device will tell you. If polarity is wrong, don't use it.

Water pressure regulator: The cheapest insurance you can get.

Water filters: Only in the last couple of years has this become such a major issue. Unfortunately, some water sources are bad, and are chlorinated. Some critters that are dormant in chlorinated water will multiply when they get in your water tank, where there is less chlorine. So you need a filter to eliminate the critters that survived into your tank. You can also filter out the taste of chlorine.

Sewer hoses comes in 10 or 20 foot length hoses. If you have a 20' hose only, you'll be parked right next to the sewer. If you have a 10' hose, you'll be miles away. Tip: Take a 20' foot hose, cut it so you have a 6' hose and a 14' hose. Also carry a 10' hose. That gives you anything from 6' to 30'

Leveling jacks: A wonderful boon for RVers. A wonderful option to carrying around a lumber yard full of leveling blocks. But avoid lifting a tire off the ground -- especially a rear tire. More recently the air leveling systems offered as part of the chassis are also a wonderful option.

Getting Started with Driving

Okay, now you're ready to go. It's time to take it out on the road. But even before you drive it the first time, measure it from the ground to the top of the highest point on the roof -- often the air conditioner. Then measure its width -- how wide -- outside mirror to mirror. Made a 3x5 card with these measurements on them, and take it along for quick reference.

Once your ready, first adjust your mirrors. Then have someone walk around your rig, and find out where your "blind spots" are -- because that's where the small car will be. When you first start driving, go first to a big empty parking lot. Put up some water jugs or boxes and experiment with how close you are to them. Practice making right turns -- see how close you can come without hitting them. Learn how to make that turn so your rear wheels easily clear the turn -- but not so widely another little car could sneak into the vacant space.

Practice backing. It's an acquired skill, but it can be done. If you're backing a trailer, move your hand to the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the back of the trailer to go left, turn the bottom of the steering wheel to the left; if you want to turn the back of the trailer to the right, turn the bottom of the steering wheel to the right.