Hi Mark My Words readers! We’re coming up on RVing weather, so it’s time to get your rig ready for travel. If you have any de-winterizing or after-storage questions, send them to Mark Nemeth at [email protected] and we’ll cover them in the next couple of columns.
I have a 24-foot Class C motorhome. I read with interest your January article about running the refrigerator off the storage battery (non-engine) while driving or possibly for short periods when parked. I have a 2K watt (4K peak) inverter and connecting to the battery is the easy part. How do I connect to the refrigerator? Is it 12-volt or 120-volt? I see that there are 2-way and 3-way refrigerators. Do I use a dual male cord and plug into the inverter into any outlet? That would put 120 volts into the system, but would bypass the circuit breakers. Any information you can offer would be great.
The idea is to use the inverter to supply 120-volt AC power to run the refrigerator in AC mode. To accomplish this, we need to either run a separate 120-volt circuit from the inverter to the fridge or tie the inverter’s 120-volt output to selected circuits in the RV using a transfer switch. Under no circumstances should you ever use a male-to-male AC power cord between the inverter and an AC outlet to accomplish this. This is very dangerous, as you would wind up with 120-volts AC present on the unshielded lugs of your RV power cord plug! One possibility is to run a dedicated circuit from the inverter output to a dedicated 120V outlet located in the refrigerator outside the compartment.
With this setup, you’d have to plug the refrigerator AC cord into the dedicated outlet when you wanted to run it on the inverter. A better answer would be to install a transfer switch, either manually operated or automatic, that would switch selected AC circuits between shore power and the inverter. This is really something that requires a qualified electrician to implement. Inverters that are designed for RV use often incorporate this transfer switch into their design. Consider that 120 vols can kill you, so safety is of the utmost concern here. An inverter designed for RV use that hard-wires to the battery system and incorporates the transfer switch function is really the best way to go. If your present inverter does not have that capability, you may want to consider replacing it with one that does.
I’m wondering if it is a good idea to engage my trailer breakaway switch by pulling out the breakaway key to lock my trailer brakes while parked in a campground with a non-level site? Would this action damage the magnet in my electric brakes if I left it that way for several days? Would this cause my battery to drain quickly and affect my ability to dry camp for longer periods?
That’s not a good idea for several reasons: First, the trailer brakes are not designed to be powered constantly, so the magnets may overheat and fail, leaving you with no brakes for the road home. Also, it is best not to pull out that emergency breakaway lanyard except for an occasional test. When the pin is pulled out, the switch contacts inside the housing are left exposed to the weather, and that may cause the switch to get dirty or corroded and prevent it from working if you ever need it to. And, yes, it would run your house batteries down, as that’s where the power is drawn from. An inexpensive set of plastic wheel chocks will do the job just fine. They are lightweight and easy to stow.
We have been following this site for years and are now moving up to a bigger travel trailer. The question we have regards the rearview camera for the trailer. The newer trailers list a camera-ready feature, but what do we have to do to get a camera hooked up? Our tow vehicle is a 2016 Tundra that has a great tow package as well as a rearview camera. The cameras out there for trailers range in price from $45 to $500. What would you recommend for a 30- to 32-foot trailer? Also, the Tundra has standard tow mirrors, but I fear that they might not be adequate, so now we are talking about the aftermarket. What brand or kind of mirror extension would you recommend?
Thank you kindly,
Jack and Jeanne
Hi Jack and Jeanne,
A rearview camera on the trailer can be a very handy thing to have, and thanks to wireless technology, they can be easy to implement. In my experience, “camera-ready” on an RV generally means there’s a mounting plate back there, and 12-volt DC power is already run to the area. There are many wireless rearview cameras on the market, and they are a snap to install. It’s much easier to use a wireless camera system on a trailer or fifth-wheel, as running and connecting a wired system is a challenge. Don’t go cheap! Stick with a good quality system that is well-reviewed. Check out this highly rated one.
Regarding mirrors: first, check to see if your existing mirrors can be extended for towing. Many truck mirrors will slide outward far enough to be adequate for towing. If not, any RV parts source will have extension mirrors available that simply attach to your stock mirrors. You may be able to purchase extension mirrors designed specifically for your make and model truck, or you can purchase a universal mirror. I like the CIPA 11960, as it has a ratchet-style strap that allows you to really tighten it securely, but is super easy to install and remove.
I’m wondering how to reduce the amount of shaking and bounce in our fifth-wheel. We put four jacks underneath. We’ve tried placement in different locations to reduce the shaking when we walk across the floor, but it doesn’t work completely. I’m wondering if we should put a tripod in front under the front end where the bedroom is located. Or would that be approximately $100 spent for nothing? We are living in the RV fulltime and parked on a concrete pad. I also need to know the best way to clean RV carpet. I don’t think it wise to steam clean as I know the flooring underneath is either pressed or wafer board.
Thanks for any advice you can offer,
I had similar issues with my 30-foot fifth-wheel and I found that the tripod stabilizer that attaches to the hitch makes a huge difference. Mine was actually a bipod, but it really worked well and stowed easily. The tripods are supposed to be even more effective. Adding one, and chocking the wheels securely, will make a lot of difference. It will never feel like a house on a foundation, but the improvement is worth the money, in my opinion.
I always used a typical rental floor-cleaning machine in my fifth-wheel without any problems, but my rig, like many out there, had a layer of vinyl flooring under the carpet. It is fairly easy to determine if your RV has the same floor design: just look into a cabinet that is attached to the floor. The way they build many of these rigs is to put a floor on the frame then lay all the flooring and carpet. Then all the interior cabinets are installed right over the top of that, so it is usually possible to peel up a little carpet somewhere hidden and see what’s under it. If it’s vinyl or another waterproof flooring, then there’s no problem using a typical rental carpet cleaner.
I’m having a problem with my Travel Star Expandable by Starcraft. Last summer, a severe storm came up and knocked out the electricity in the park. I have a Surge Guard RV power protector, Model No. 44740, that I plug the camper into before plugging into the park’s 30-amp receptacle. When the electricity went out, of course, it surged, and the surge guard shut down. We had no power except battery power until the next afternoon. When the power came back on everything, all seemed to be fine. However, by the following day, we noticed the battery was drained. I have checked all the fuses, breakers, etc., and everything is working fine with no problems.
The next month, we went camping but again and again, the battery was drained and would not take charge. I bought another battery, the next day the same thing, and the battery was drained down. I bought a trickle charger to charge the battery while we were camping for the rest of the week. I’ve replaced the two semi-automatic circuit breakers in the battery to a convertor/charge line cable, which protects the cable in the front wall of the camper, which is under a plastic cover and had these two circuit breakers checked. They showed to be in good condition, but I decided to replace them with new ones.
After all this, the battery is still not being charged while plugged into electricity. I’ve been camping my whole life and have been able to fix any problem that has come up. But this one has me stumped. I’ve talked with someone from General RV, and he is stumped also. He says if it’s in the converter that I shouldn’t spend the money to replace, I should just keep using the trickle charger. The converter is an Elixir power converter/charger model ELX. Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.
It sounds like you have eliminated everything but the converter. First, make sure that 120-volt AC power is getting to the converter. If it is, then test the battery voltage at the battery with the camper plugged into AC power, preferably after it has been plugged in overnight. The voltage should be around 13.5 volts or higher if the converter is working at all. If it is dead, as I suspect it might be, a replacement converter is really a better solution than using an external charger, especially a trickle charger, which isn’t designed to recharge a depleted battery.
I always recommend Progressive Dynamics RV Chargers. They are solid-state, very efficient and are three-stage Chargers. It’s a simple job to retrofit one, it simply replaces your existing converter. A 3-stage charger will quickly charge your batteries, even on generator power, and, unlike a basic 12V converter, it will bring your batteries to 100 percent and then switch to a low float voltage that minimizes water loss.