Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2019 REVISED (w/Links!) - How to Go From Winter's Slumber to Spring's Re-Awakening And Perform A Yearly Safety Check.

I had a few nicer days last week, so I have been slowly beginning my Spring Re-awakening started. It's getting close to the RV Season here so it's time to think about getting your RV ready to travel! I know I'M ready to travel!

Look Ma...No Snow!

    Time to wake the slumbering beast (well, my RV is more like a tame house cat than a beast). I'm going to de-winterize, inspect and repair for the upcoming season. Winter was great for planning and researching projects, not so great for actually DOING them! If you plan ahead and prepare, getting your RV ready for the season or checking it once a year if you are blessed to live in a warmer climate, should go smoothly and easily. Yes, I know NOTHING ever goes smoothly and easily. Let's hope this Spring's charmed.

**Many of the tasks below have links to articles on that subject. Click and find out more!**

Start with a list of basic tasks. The list below can be modified to suit your particular RV, but is a good guideline. Mine reads as follows:

Remove Cover Straps  (or Get a Fabric Hangar Building!)
Remove Cover (Did the building hold up this winter?)
Inspect Cover for Rips and Tears, Repair if Needed/Possible
Roll and Fold Cover and Store. (In a Dry Place!)
Walk Around Outside Look For Obvious Defects
Inspect/Clean Windshield Wiper Blades - Replace If Needed
Inspect Windshield Washer Nozzle and Hoses (Cracks, Breaks, Dry Rot.)
Inspect/Repair Running Lights
Inspect Front/Rear Lights/Headlights
Inspect Mirrors!
Inspect Backup Camera
Inspect Underneath For Leaks, Puddles, Dry Rotted Hoses, Excessive Rust, Cracked Gas Pipe Joints, Frame Problems, etc.
Inspect Tires and Inflate to proper pressure (Check Dates!)
Check TPMS Sensors (Tightness and Battery Replacement, if needed)
Wash RV and Inspect for cracks, chips, glass breaks, leaks, etc. Repair if needed.
Check For Mold/Mildew on Exterior Seals (Clean As Needed)
Open Outside Engine Compartment, Check for Leaks and Nests.
Open Storage Compartments and Inspect Doors, Seals, & Locks(leaks, bugs, critters, etc.)
Clean Outside Refrigerator Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Clean Outside Furnace Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Clean Outside Water Heater Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Replace Water Heater Drain Plug and/or Anode.
Clean Battery(ies) and Terminals if Needed. (Chassis, House and Generator)
Check Coach and Chassis Battery Water Level, Refill if needed. (Distilled Water ONLY!)
Check Hitch Receiver
Check Hitch/Trailer Wiring

Open Door(s) Test Operation. Lubricate if Needed.
Test Operation of Electric Stairs (Lubricate/Repair as Needed)
Turn On Lights, Replace Any Bad Bulbs/Fluorescents
Check All LED Bulbs and Fixtures
Open Vents, Test Seals and Operation
Clean Pop-Locks On Vents
Open Blinds - Check Function (Adjust If Needed), Clean
Open Windows, Test Seals and Operation. Check Locking Mechanisms
Close and Clean Blinds
Open Cabinets (Upper and Lower) Organize Shifted Contents
Check for Leaks; Roof, Doors, Vents, etc.
Check for Critters. (Bugs, Mammals, Gremlins, etc.)
Check & Clean Interior (Carpets, Walls, Floors, Cabinets, Fridge, etc.)
Check LP/Propane/CO Detector Operation
Check Smoke Detector Battery and Operation
Check Fire Extinguisher(s) for Expiration and Fill Level
Check Monitor Panel, Tanks and Propane
Check Converter/Charger For 12 Volt Output
Check All Fuses and Breakers (12V and 120V)
Confirm Solar Charging System Voltage and Amperage (If Applicable)
Check Bathroom Skylight for leaks and cracks.
Check Bathroom Vent for Operation and Seal.
Check All Flashlights (Batteries, Charged? and Bulbs)
Check and Tighten ALL screws and fasteners Everywhere!

Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed
Check Coolant Level, Fill if Needed
Check Brake Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Power Steering Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Transmission Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Windshield Wiper Blades Replace If Needed.
Check Windshield Washer Nozzles, Replace if Needed
Check Windshield Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check All Hoses and Tighten Clamps
Check Airbag Compressor for operation and leaks.
Check Air Bag System Pressure
Check Air bag System for Leaks

Check Fuel Levels on Gauges
Check Battery Volts
Start Engine
Check for Oil Pressure Rise
Listen to Idle (Sound OK?)
Check Idle Speed RPM
Check for Battery Charging (Volts/Amps)
Check TPMS Monitor for Operation and Correct Pressures
Check Temperature Gauge for Rise
Listen for "strange" noises. Clangs, Bonks, Whistles, Squeals, Chattering, Rattles, Clunks etc.
Shift Into Each Gear (Foot on Brake!!)
When In Reverse, Check Backup Camera Monitor
Switch On Dash Air Conditioner (Got Cold Air?)
Select Dash Heat and Defrost (Got Hot Air?)
Shutdown After Everything Warms Up to Operating Temperature
Re-Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed
Re-Check Transmission Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Go Outside, Look Under RV..Any New Leaks?

Check Shore Power Cord & Plugs
Unplug Shore Power Cord
Check Generator Compartment for Oil Leaks
Check generator and Wiring for Obvious Problems
Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed (Coolant too! If you have it)
Start Generator
Check for leaks
Check for Transfer Switch Operation
Run for 30 minutes (or so)
Check Voltage at Sockets without Load
Check Voltage at Sockets with Load
Shutdown Generator
Turn On Inverter (If You Have One!)
Check AC Power From Inverter 
Turn Off Inverter
Switch to Shore Power
Check All 120V Outlets for Ground/Polarity

Turn On Gas at Main Tank Valve
Listen and Check for Leaks (Use handheld detector)
Check for leaks in Refrigerator, Furnace and Water heater Compartments
Check for leaks Inside (Stove, Water Heater, Furnace, Refrigerator)
Check & Clean Stove Vent System
Light 1 Burner, Check for Blue Flame and Even Burn
Turn Off
Check Other Burners.
Turn Off Stove Valves
Set Thermostat to Heat
Confirm Furnace Ignition
Confirm Heater Vent Airflow and Temperature
Shut Off Thermostat
Confirm No Leaks from All Stove Valves in the OFF Position

APPLIANCE CHECKS (On Both Shore Power AND Generator/Inverter)
Attach Shore Power (or use Generator)
Check and Clean Air Conditioner Filters
Turn on Air Conditioner, Wait for it to engage
Check for Cool Air
Check for Heat Strip Operation (if installed)
Shutdown Air Conditioner
Inspect Microwave
Set Clock
Run for 1 Minute (heat something up!)
Check Coffee Maker Operation (VERY Important!)
Remove and Store Refrigerator Door Spacer
Inspect And Clean Refrigerator Interior
Check Fridge DC Control Panel Operation
Turn On Refrigerator (on AC Power)
Clean Out Refrigerator Chimney/Fan/Cooling Fins/Tubes and Check for Debris/Nests/Bugs
Confirm Refrigerator Heating Element is Warming Boiler in Outside Compartment)
Switch Refrigerator to Propane (LP Gas)
Confirm Flame Ignition (By Sound AND Visually Outside In Compartment)
Switch Back to Electric (or AUTO)
Check Refrigerator Door Seals and Lock(s)
Replace Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer Batteries
Turn On Entertainment System
Replace Remote Control Batteries (As Needed)
Check Inputs (Antenna/VCR/DVD/Satellite/VGA/HDMI)
Check Bluetooth (If Applicable!)
Check Sound
Raise/Lower TV/Satellite Antenna
Turn Everything Off.

WATER SYSTEM (without Sanitize) 
Re-Connect Water Pump to Tank
Set Valves to Tank Fill
Re-Insert Water Heater Drain Plug
Close Low Point Hot and Cold Water Drains
Check All Fittings
Close Faucets
Partially Fill Water Tank (Hose or Connect City Water)
Set Valves To Operating Position
Turn off Water Heater Bypass (If You Have One!)
Pressurize System (Pump and City Water, One at a time)
Check For Leaks
Open Each Faucet Until It Runs Clear(to Remove Antifreeze and Air)
Check Toilet Main Drain. (Holding Antifreeze?)
Check Flush Fill and Drain
Fill Fresh Water Tank (and/or Use City Water)
Check Faucet Water Filter
Check For Leaks (Look in All Cabinets! Under Coach as Well!)
Open Faucets and Run Water until Clear
Check For Leaks AGAIN!!
Make Sure Water Heater Emergency Pressure Relief Valve is Closed!
Turn On Water Heater (Propane)
Check for Ignition
Wait At Least 10 Minutes (Water Has to Heat Up You Know!)
Confirm Hot Water and Flow
Check For Leaks (Inside Hot Side Plumbing AND Outside Water Heater Compartment)
Switch Water Heater to Electric (If You Have It Installed)
Confirm Hot Water and Flow
Clean and Inspect Water Drains and Pipes
Shut Everything Down

Close All Windows
Shut Off All Appliances
Shut Down Propane Gas Flow
Turn Off Lights
Close and Lock Doors.

While this list is geared toward my coach, most of it will likely apply to yours. Hopefully, it will start you off safely and with some peace of mind this season.

Feel free to send me new items to add or ask questions!

Be Seeing You....Down The Road

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Does A Vacuum Sealer Do Anything Worthwhile On An RV?

    I store a lot of items on board my RV. I always wish I had more space for lots of things. I also like to prepare gourmet (semi!) meals in my galley and have to keep lots of ingredients handy. When preparing my RV for my yearly Spring awakening (Next week!! Stay tuned for the newest list!)  I noticed some stuff I just keep in there year to year, were going bad. Like the garlic powder that was more like a garlic brick! Years ago, I had purchased a vacuum sealer and bags to be able to store meats in the freezer for longer time periods without the dreaded "freezer burn." That worked pretty well. I also used it to package first aid supplies and items that couldn't get wet for storing in the trunks of my vehicles. That worked pretty nicely. I also prepackaged some snacks for emergency use. You know, like trail-mix , beef jerky or something similar. What about actually taking one along onboard your RV? Is there a reason to do it? What about energy usage? Read on!

A Typical Model Vacuum Sealer
It's a pretty decent question. There are quite a few uses for vacuum sealers. Mostly food related, but there are a few other things I had already done. First aid kits are a great example. Keeps stuff fresh and dry. I've put film in vacuum sealed bags too...but who uses film anymore? The actual vacuum sealer device is both a generator of vacuum as well as a bag sealer. It sucks the air out of the bag or container (more on that later) and then heat seals the open end. It's pretty easy to do. The bag material comes in a few widths and long lengths so you can vary the length of the bag by heat sealing one end, rolling out the length of bag you want then cutting it. You now have a bag. Fill it with stuff and then put it in the sealer, open side in. Hit the button and it pulls the air out and then seals the bag. Done.

Bags of Any Length
I was toying with the idea of pre-preparing meal items like say, a chicken stew. Then vacuum sealing it in bags and freezing. That way, they take up way less space, last a long time and can be reheated either in the microwave or, if you want to save battery power or generator use, on the stove in a pot of boiling water. Lots of meals could be done this way. Snacks too! I mean, you can always figure out a way to boil water, right? I can even do it with 12 Volts DC. Yes, it takes a while, but works fine. OK, maybe you don't like the food idea. Anything that gets ruined when too much moisture gets in is a likely candidate. Flour? Sugar? How about vacuum sealing important papers? Water and paper don't mix! This way, you don't let them. They even make plastic containers (like Tupperware) that have a vacuum valve built in. You could take these along after they were sealed. Then re-use after.

Some Of The Variety Of Containers
If you don't want to mess around with the bag making, there are MANY sizes of containers with vacuum valves on the lids. There is even an adapter to use regular sized Mason jars. To use these, you just plug in the clear hose to the sealer's vacuum port (mine's on top) and the other end to the container and press the sealing" button. Once it's finished, it stops. Pretty simple really. I'm not sure I would use glass Mason jars very often (if at all,) but it's an option. The containers are pretty easy to use and the variety of sizes means you can usually find one to fit. They can also be used to quickly marinate meats. Put in your meat of choice, add the liquid marinade, vacuum the container and let sit...longer the better (up to overnight in the fridge). Great idea if you know what you'll want to eat during a trip. You can pre-do the marination beforehand. Amazing flavor!

So what about using the vacuum sealer on board? It uses a pretty good amount of power. Around 110 Watts at 120V so about 9.167 Amps at 12 Volts (maybe another 15% if using an inverter). Not terrible, but significant. Plus, you have to find space for the device to live. My opinion? Leave it at home and take the packages with you. As always, Y.M.M.V. (Your Mileage May Vary!)

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Can You Put A WiFi Camera In Your RV And Look Inside While You're Out? YES!

    When I am traveling, I like to feel that my RV is secure when I am out. Some folks install alarm systems, but typically they go off and no one does anything about it. Sure, you could get one that calls your cell phone and you could return in a hurry or call 911, but that usually ends in a "barn door closed after the horse has already left" result. What if you could SEE what was going on in real time and had a recording of the perpetrators to give to the police? Or, simply see that nothing is going on at all? What about monitoring your RV in storage for the off-season? Well, you can. There are a few glitches, but nothing insurmountable. Read on!

Notice The USB Power Supply
The cost of WiFi cameras has been steadily dropping for a long time now. A model with Remote controlled Pan, Tilt, and Zoom (PTZ) can be had for $21.00 or so. They are pretty easy to set up and can run on your cell phone's data connection or a hotspot. If you set it up to only use your data when it "sees" something, you won't waste too much data at all. You'll be able to connect to it remotely and look at what's going on inside your RV. If you place it in the right place, you'll be able to see out the windows as well. Remember the PTZ will allow you to MOVE the camera's view around at will. There is no reason why you couldn't have more than one camera on this connection. They do not require much power at all, so that's not of major concern. You could even run them wired into your RV's 12V system. Some of the cameras even take 12V input via USB. But, to be sure, check the AC adapters voltage output...some are much lower!
Old Mobile Router And Dongle
Now, the issues to setting this up. First, you need to have an internet connection that is always on. Not much bandwidth nor data will be flowing when nothing is happening, but you need to be able to reach the cameras via the internet. If you have a cell phone, you could use it as a hotspot, but obviously you wouldn't be able to take it with you. So then you wouldn't be able to check the cameras! Catch-22! A second cell phone or stand-alone hotspot from a provider would work, but would likely cost extra each month (maybe even plus data). If you have two people with cell phones, one can leave the phone while the other takes over the monitoring portion. Of course, if you are in a location with WiFi already, you could set up a small (and cheap!) Mobile router to connect each time. Then you are all set.

I've got a few spare cameras that I purchased for home use, and have set up one in the RV. Since it's parked inside the fabric hangar and there is WiFi right inside the house, I have 24/7 access for storage. I can also see inside the fabric building through the windows when I Pan the camera around. Works really nicely! I've tried it through my cell phone hotspot and it's fine. If 720P movies will stream through it (They do!) this was a piece of cake. The cameras have SD Card slots, so they record internally AND when set up to be triggered by motion, you can have the cell phone application open automatically and record the video as well. Some of the cameras even include Audio! A permanent record of what happened to trigger it. Of course, it may have just have been a critter...but why take the chance?!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Clothes Pins - Not Just For Clothes Any More!

Wishful Thinking!
    Have you ever noticed that sometimes the most mundane items take on an almost mythical reverence? Like Duck Tape for instance. While I am not saying clothes pins should be raised to that level, I am saying there are far more uses for them than just hanging clothes on a line to dry. Who even DOES that anymore? I even have a drying rack that attaches to my roof ladder to dry clothes. No pins needed. So what's so good about them? Well, first off, they are really inexpensive. No, let's say it like it is. They are CHEAP. 36 of them for 1 dollar! Yes, but what can you DO with them? Read on!

Cheap And Effective!
It all started when the plastic snack bag clip broke. You've seen them, a 6-inch or so plastic clip with a metal spring designed to keep bags of snacks closed and (allegedly) fresh. It's pretty flimsy plastic, not to mention awkward to use. They break on me all the time. Probably why they come in sets of three. To add insult to injury, they don't fit in my silverware drawer. Terrible, I know. Well, when the last one broke, I decided to try something different. Yup, you guessed it, the lowly wooden clothes pin. I had a bunch at home and figured they would be useful for other things too so I had brought a few with me. Turns out, if you fold the bag down one corner at a time, then straight, it makes a perfect seal that a clothes pin will maintain. The bag is smaller and easier to store AND it won't open. Seems to be more airtight as well. Though I usually don't have a bag of snacks last long enough to know for sure.

Crossover And Fold Down, Then Clip
What else can you use them for? Well I use them for adding "gels" to lights, you know the colored transparent plastic that allows you to change light colors. Same goes for diffusion paper. Lots of other photographic uses too...Once in a while I still develop my own photos, you couldn't hang the prints to dry without the good old clothes pin. Holding things down or at an edge comes to mind. Like a table cloth on a thin table (like the one I have you can roll up to store). It works perfectly to keep those cheap plastic tablecloths on the table! How about holding your nose to prevent a bad smell from getting in? I'm kidding! But felt it needed to be in here as I've seen it so many times in cartoons! How about adding a tiny Velcro strip to one side of a few of them and using them to hang small bags of spices (or whatever) to your wall or even the ceiling. Sounds a bit crazy, but my ceiling and walls are carpeted.

You can come up with lots of other uses...just try, imagination is king. Come on, send me a few!

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"