Hi Mark My Words readers! This month, we’ve got questions on severe weather, dripping slides, weight ratings and a great reminder about your brake fluid. Remember to send your RVing questions to [email protected].
Recently, we parked our truck in an RV park pavilion, along with other travelers, to protect it from anticipated hail. We were under severe thunderstorm warnings and then tornado warnings that lasted about four hours. While we were able to take shelter in restrooms or other stone buildings, our rig, of course, could not. Question is: when leaving the rig alone during expected high winds and rain should, you pull the slides in (I have three) or leave them out. Which configuration makes the RV more stable and less likely to tip or overturn? (Stabilizers out of course, and kingpin tripod also). Thanks, Bob (turned out everything was fine back at the rig… no wind damage or leaks).
To answer your question: If you are in a severe weather situation, always retract all slides, as the slides have a much better weather seal when they are retracted. The seals on an extended slide will not stop wind-driven rain from entering the coach. The coach, with slides retracted, is capable of travelling at highway speeds and can withstand high winds very well, as long as they are not straight from the side. Even then, it takes a lot to tip a rig over.
Still, severe weather is a real danger for RVers, because RVs are generally not built strong enough to provide any real protection. The greatest threat is from flying objects propelled by high winds. When traveling in areas that often experience severe weather, it is mandatory to stay connected to the local weather forecast. A weather radio is probably the most reliable means to do this. Yes, I know it’s possible to get notifications of severe weather on my cell phone, but I still carry a portable weather radio. These radios work almost everywhere and don’t depend on the cell network, which can go down during bad weather. You can listen to local forecasts and current watches and warnings.
I recently retired my old Radio Shack battery-powered weather radio, which I have had since the 90s. I replaced it with this: The Midland HH50 Pocket Weather Radio. It doesn’t receive AM/FM— just weather bands — has a good alert feature and is small and portable. I was surprised at how clear it sounds for such a tiny radio! You can usually get one for about $25.
There are many other styles and brands to choose from, just be sure the one you buy has the NOAA label on it. While some of these radios can be programmed to only alert you for a specific county, that’s really only helpful if you are staying put for a while. I prefer a simple radio without this feature. I make it a practice to always be aware of what county I’m in. Often, that information will be right on the park map or posted in the campground.
When a storm threatens, take steps early to prepare the rig: Retract slides and close windows and vents. Stow all chairs and satellite dishes, awnings, antennas, etc. I suggest that you prep the RV for travel in the case of a hurricane approach or a developing flooding threat, as you may need to move quickly if an evacuation is started. If a severe thunderstorm or tornado threatens, move out of the RV and into a safer place, like a strong permanent building or shelter.
Most RV parks located in severe-weather-prone locations will have some sort of suggested shelter on-site, and that information is usually on the park map or information sheet you get when you check-in. If not, ask the staff when you check-in. I would never, for instance, stay in an Oklahoma, Kansas or Nebraska RV park in severe weather season without knowing where the shelter was and how to access it! If you are on the road, and in the path of a tornado you can see, immediately abandon the RV and seek shelter in a ditch, culvert, or structure. Anywhere is safer than the RV, even if you are just lying flat on the ground! You can minimize your risks by paying attention to the weather and keeping track of your location and the shelter resources around you. A little advance thought and preparation will pay off in a big way if bad weather develops.
Having spent thousands on this particular problem and still without a fix, I’m hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction. First, a little background. My wife and I are remodeling a 2002 Monaco LaPalma 36DBD. Didn’t see any signs of leaks when we bought it, but we’re learning as we go just how much we don’t know. The problem is with the bedroom slide. Once we pulled up the carpet and removed the bed, it was clear it had been leaking for a while. Took it to a service center that had a good recommendation, but after multiple attempts and a lot of money, it is still leaking. Doesn’t leak when the slide is in but leaks on the left side (as you look at it from inside) and it appears to be leaking in the wall. I’ve been up on the roof multiple times looking for any signs of a leak and looked all around the slide and seals as best I know how, but I cannot see how the water is getting inside the wall. There were some other leaks initially and found some separation between the molding that covers the roof/sidewall seam. I used Dicor to seal those and haven’t had a problem since, but the bedroom slide has me stumped. I’m hoping you can give me some things to check I’ve not yet considered.
Leaks in slides are a real hassle. Water can enter through the tiniest opening or crack, and then it can travel a long distance on the interior structure of the RV. The main clue here though is that the slide doesn’t leak when it’s in. That tells me that the leak is somewhere in the actual slide itself, and probably not in the structure of the RV or the roof. I suggest you do a really close visual inspection of every inch of the slide itself. What we’re looking for is any kind of a fastener, a rivet, or any place where there is a seam or a joining of two parts. Be sure to pull the air seals away from the slide structure and look behind them. Apply sealant over any place where there is any possibility that there could be the slightest gap or opening. Cover every screw and rivet with sealant. Once the sealant has set up, use a hose at low pressure and put water on the top of the slide and see if you’ve stopped the leak. If you’re still seeing water at the bottom of the slide, then it may be traveling down or through one of the slide seals that close the gap when the slide is open. Sometimes if you dry everything out very carefully and then apply a little water with a pitcher to a single area of the slide, you can track where that water goes. Remember that water travels, so it may appear a long distance away from where the actual leak point is. Pay attention to the lower parts of the sides of the slide, water can enter there and then run across the bottom of the slide mechanism or structure until it finds a place to drip into the RV. These are never easy to find, and often it will be a very tiny opening that’s allowing water to enter.
There’s a discussion about rear axle weight rating on a half-ton truck website that I follow. Some say the Ford 150 rear axle weight rating is higher than what is posted on the door jam. They say that number is based on the truck’s current suspension and tires, and the actual weight rating is at least 4,500 pounds vs the typical 3,850 pounds. I don’t know if you have ever heard of this. Is it true that you can increase rear axle weight capacity by various suspension system adjustments, i.e. extra leaf, airbags, a RAS (a type of suspension system add on), wheels, etc?
If the statement is that you can increase your vehicle’s legal weight capacity with suspension mods, that’s quite incorrect from a legal standpoint. While suspension mods may make the tow vehicle safer, can help correct ride height, or help offset the handling effects of excessive weight, aftermarket mods do not change the vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and that is found on the Federal ratings plate on the door jamb. If the vehicle is carrying more than that weight, it’s legally overweight and can be cited or halted by any law enforcement officer. Doesn’t matter how much beefier stuff you put on.
Axle ratings (GAWR) are usually not enforced but may cause insurance liability if exceeded. Ditto with tire ratings, which many folks forget all about when trying to make the truck carry more weight. Exceeding a tire rating is generally a really bad idea, as it directly impacts your safety.
It’s true that sometimes an axle rating is reduced due to suspension or other design issues. The axle by itself may have a 5,000-pound rating, but the ratings plate might say 4,000 pounds. In such a case, airbags or helper springs can increase the vehicle’s ability to carry the load without overloading the axle’s inherent rating, but you’re still going to be up against GVWR.
The only agency that can issue a new or revised DOT ratings plate for your vehicle is the manufacturer, and that’s usually only done to correct an error by the manufacturer, like affixing the wrong plate at the factory.
I read your comments every month and look forward to them in the online Good Sam Blog that comes in my email. Being an automotive tech for over 40 years and an RVer almost 30 of those, your advice/recommendations are usually spot on. I will, however, point out your response to Steve in June’s installment concerning brake fade missed the target. While yes Steve was experiencing brake fade that is caused by excessive heat, it is the brake fluid itself that has failed and is boiling so it can no longer apply the hydraulic force needed to stop the vehicle. In my extensive career, I have discovered brake fluid is one of the MOST neglected fluids on a vehicle. Especially one that is not driven daily. Brake fluid by nature is hygroscopic. That is to say, it will absorb moisture right out of the atmosphere! The normal act of driving creates heat and as the components cool, condensation forms. All of this moisture lowers the boiling point of brake fluid to the point it can’t stop the vehicle. My advice to Steve is get your rig to your local brake specialist and have the fluid flushed. Most car manufacturers have this listed in their maintenance schedules at 30-50k miles. That recommendation is for normal passenger and light trucks. Add in the extra weight etc. of a motor home and in my opinion, every 25k would seem prudent. Yes, even the dealer misses this one regularly.
You’re totally right, on all counts! Unfortunately, I’m one of those folks who never think about brake fluid. 😊 Thanks for the reminder!