Mark My Words – September: More Advice on Slides, Pesky Mice and General RV Maintenance

September 24, 2018

Mark My Words - Easy Fixes to Common RV Problems - Mark NemethHi folks! More about slides and mice this month, and some general maintenance answers. Remember to send your RVing questions to [email protected].

Hi Mark

We have a 2012 Forest River Georgetown 38′ motorhome. When it’s parked and the slides are out, the bedroom slide will sometimes creep in a couple of inches and when the slides are in, storage mode, it will creep out a couple of inches. Any thoughts?? Thanks, Dave

Hi Dave

You rarely see this kind of problem with electric/mechanical slides, so I’ll bet you have hydraulic slide mechanisms. Creeping slides usually indicate a leak somewhere in the system. The hydraulic pressure is supposed to hold the slide in position, but the pressure bleeds down over time and the slide creeps either in or out from where it’s supposed to be. Sometimes the leak is in a hose or fitting, which means you’ll find a puddle of hydraulic fluid somewhere. Check the fluid level in the reservoir tank for the hydraulic system. If it is low on fluid, that’s a sign that you have a leak somewhere. If there’s no loss of fluid, you probably still have a leak, but it’s an internal one. Sometimes, the valve body, which controls the motion of the slides with electric solenoid valves, will develop a small leak in one of the valves. The leak is internal, so no fluid escapes from the system. Rarely, the problem may be in the hydraulic ram or cylinder that moves the slide, and again, that leak may be internal, so no telltale puddle of fluid. Unfortunately, small leaks tend to get bigger over time, so it’s probably a good idea to schedule some shop time at your convenience and have the system evaluated by a tech.

Hi Mark:

Thanks for all of your articles and advice. Much appreciated!!! I am very new to RVing so….no laughing at my questions. I have a 2013 Thor Palazzo 33.3:

My RV pump is not working. One of the water lines had a leak in the water connection bay so I had the leak fixed. Now the water pump does not appear to be working. Any thoughts on why this might be and what I can do in order to correct the problem?

I usually hook an electrical cord from my house to the RV. Should I have a battery tender/charger instead of this electrical cord from the house? If I have a battery tender/charger do I need to buy one tender/charger for each of my four (4) batteries? I’ve always wondered about this.

Thanks again for everything that you do!! Mike

Hi Mike.

Thanks for your kind words! Does the water pump run at all? If not, make sure you disconnect from any fresh water hookup and then open a faucet to bleed off any water pressure in the system. Turn on the pump switch. If it doesn’t run, the first thing I’d look at is the wiring to the pump and the connections at the pressure switch on the end of the pump housing. Recent repair work may have dislodged a wire. If the pump runs but doesn’t supply water, check for any kind of restriction or valve closure that’s preventing the pump from drawing water from the water tank.

When you have your RV hooked up to AC power, the onboard converter or battery charger will keep your house batteries from discharging during a storage period. If you want to use a maintainer, disconnect the RV from AC power or disable the onboard charge system before you hook up the maintainer. You can usually just use a single maintainer, as all of the batteries are electrically connected into a single bank. Larger battery banks may require a maintainer that can deliver at least an amp if needed. I really like the Schumacher SEM-1562A-CA 1.5 Amp Speed Charge Battery Maintainer. I’ve been using them for years, and they will keep your batteries healthy over long storage periods. (Battery maintainers available from Camping World).

Hi Mark,

I have a 2005 42 ft. Monaco Dynasty with three slides and cracking or checking paint and I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. The unit looks nice from far but far from nice when you are up close and see all the hairline cracking or checking. Can just the clear cote be sanded and the unit be repainted with just the clearcoat or what is usually done with this problem if you wanted to fix it? I used to own a 97 Beaver Marquis so I was kind of used to a mirror glass perfect finish but that doesn’t seem to exist anymore since Beaver shut down. Grant

Hi, Grant

I’m assuming that your coach is painted, and it’s not fiberglass/gelcoat. The good news is: if it’s a full paint job on there now, it can indeed be repainted. The bad news is a typical full body paint job on a big coach often runs in the $10K to $15K range. If the deterioration is only surface, it may be possible to re-spray the clearcoat, but that kind of job is usually iffy, because if the clearcoat is in bad shape, the color coat underneath is probably affected as well. Best bet is take it to a paint/body place that can handle a big coach and have them take a look. Be prepared for sticker shock. Outside of a repaint, there’s not a lot you can do to restore the weathered/checked surface.

Hi Mark,

We live in rural Pennsylvania mostly wooded area, and bought a 23 ft Catalina In January of last year. We have done what you suggested as to plugging every hole with steel wool and expanding foam. The problem seems to be behind the water heater and above the holding tanks as they have chewed all the Styrofoam insulation off of our water heater. We cannot reach this area. We have nine traps set within the water heater compartment and under the sinks in bathroom and kitchen we get at least one or two mice a week, year round. We have poison bait stations also and they have emptied a few. Starting into the second summer season and their numbers don’t seem to be diminishing. Any other suggestions? I enjoy reading your articles and they have been very educational for me the newbie. Thanks Deborah

Hi Deborah

That is a tough problem, and it’s very hard to keep mice out once they have found an ingress point. That’s because each mouse leaves a scent trail of urine and feces as it travels, so the next mouse that comes along can follow it. They are getting in somewhere, and the most effective cure is still to find their access route and plug it. That can be difficult, as you have discovered! You might look at any points where drain piping penetrates the floor on its way to the holding tanks. There are usually unsealed gaps around those pipes. Sometimes the penetration is accessible enough from above to use steel wool to block the gaps. It might be possible to build a barrier using 1/4″ metal hardware cloth around the tanks. I have also heard that a product called “Fresh Cab” is effective at repelling mice.  It is a highly aromatic blend of natural ingredients that mice don’t like. It’s great for storage, but isn’t much good if you’re living in the rig, because people don’t like it much either, it’ll make your eyes water! Another possibility is to try to reduce the local population with traps. Some folks don’t like to hear about trapping any wild animals, but in areas where the mouse population is very large, it may be helpful. I had friends who lived in the California desert, and they were overrun by mice. They used 5 gallon buckets buried in the ground so that just an inch or so of the top of the bucket was above the ground. They put 6 inches of water in the bucket, and then spread peanut butter in a narrow strip around the inside of the bucket about 3 or 4 inches below the rim. Mice try to reach the bait, and fall in and drown. It’s not pretty, but it is surprisingly effective. Google “bucket mouse trap” and you’ll find many D.I.Y. versions of this trap. If any of you readers have additional suggestions for Deborah, please email them to me and I’ll publish them in a future column.

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  1. Anonymous

    Hi, Regarding the mice issue, I have a suggestion. I personally have used this method in several areas and it worked perfectly….NO MORE MICE!!!
    1. In Sedona AZ, packrats ate wires in my car. I used this method in my car and around the garage.
    2. Marlborough NH, It’s country! mice were in our garage, kitchen & pantry.
    3. In our Travel Trailer, NC & OK. Works on ants also.

    Here is the method: Purchase a high grade of pure peppermint essential oil, use a carrier oil such as coconut oil, almond oil ( massage oil) or any non scented massage oil, cottonballs. Saturate the cottonballs with the oil and then add the peppermint oil so that it holds a strong smell. Place them where you know the mice are coming in…
    At one point I mixed 1 bottle of peppermint oil to 1 bottle of massage oil, mixed well and did the cottonballs. Be sure to place enough cottonballs around. I used them in my cabinets for ants. Both mice & ants HATE the smell. It interrupts their sense of smell.

  2. Anonymous

    I have read, putting Irish Spring bars of soap in RV helps with mice. Haven’t tried it yet. MaryAnn

  3. Anonymous

    After having a mouse problem in our travel trailer last winter/spring I began the process of cleaning up after them. Years earlier I had sealed up what I thought was everything, I did the areas where the water pipes and wires pass through the floor with spray foam, but of course I had missed some areas. This year I noticed mouse droppings in the heating ducts in the floor. While cleaning them I noticed holes cut in the bottom side of the ducts that were put there to enable heat to get to the water tanks. Mice were coming up through these holes and going up to the heater and getting into the camper. Of course the manufacturer could not be bothered with putting some hardware cloth/wire mesh over the holes to prevent this! Well I decided it was not important to have the underbelly heated since like most people, we don’t use the RV in weather cold enough to be a problem. I used 2 layers of aluminum tape inside the ducts. This was very tricky to apply since the openings were not real close to a floor vent. I used a mirror and remote camera to guide the tape that was lightly attached to a stick, once in place another stick was used to press the aluminum tape in place. I removed the fresh water tank to gain access to the underside of the opening. There is a layer of insulation between the floor and frame, fill void with fiberglass insulation, seal with either heavy duty duct tape or with ice and water shield. Ice and water shield will need to warmed up with a heat gun or hair dryer and pressed or rolled for best adhesion. Use caution if using a heat gun. You may choose to put some hardware cloth in as well.
    So, I thought I had fixed all my problem spots, right? Wrong! While doing other spring cleaning such as removing the ceiling vent screens I noticed mouse droppings on the trim. Further inspection revealed mice had been in the ceiling also! Ugggh! I then realized I never sealed the vent pipe from the black water tank because it is hidden in a wall. Luckily the area is next to some drawers that I was able to remove, cut paneling out and fill the gaps in with foam.
    Once again I thought I finally got it all, wrong again! I noticed mouse droppings behind the fridge area and I previously removed the fridge to clean all around it and on top of it and to seal any holes to the ceiling. I set a trap and caught a mouse! Now how were they getting in? Once again I removed the fridge. At first I could not see any opening. Upon closer inspection I noticed a gap in the frame work that formed the fridge roof vent opening. This gap is due to the ceiling being flat and the roof being curved and the wood framing being used is not tapered to fill the gap properly. A mirror was needed to see it best. So I sealed that and replaced the fridge and looked for where the mice where getting in. The only area I could come up with is at the bottom of the front fiberglass cap where there is a gap. From there they could travel up the front wall up to the roof. I have now sealed that gap with spray foam. I sure hope I got it all!
    From Tony in Maine