Mark My Words – February: Tires, Alarms, Anti-Freeze, Leaks…

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February 16, 2016

Rear tire on white vehicle

Mark NemethHi, folks,

We’ve got a mixed bag of questions this month, covering tires, alarms, anti-freeze, leaks, and why the heck do you want an RV anyway?  Please send your RVing questions to [email protected]. Happy trails!


Hi, Mark,

My question is probably an oldie, but I would like someone to please explain to me, with all the knowledge of tire pressure as far as safety and value, why doesn’t the motorcoach industry make it standard to have easier access to checking tire pressure? I may be a vehicle dummy, but I know how to check tire pressures–if I can get to the valves. Also, how can it be okay to sell an $80,000 motorhome without a spare tire? Is it about cost? Shouldn’t it be about safety? I mean, I didn’t even bother to think there may not be a spare or I would have negotiated one to be on the vehicle for sure. Live and learn, but they need to help us stay alive so we can live. Thanks, Jeff

Hi, Jeff,

I agree that those duals can be a real hassle to check. You can add aftermarket tire valve extenders to make it easier to check the tires, but be aware that some of the inexpensive extender sets have been blamed for loss of air pressure and tire damage. If you do go with extenders, buy good quality ones with reinforced hoses that attach firmly to the center hub of the wheel. You might want to look into one of the remote tire pressure monitoring systems on the market. There are several that either attach to the valve stem or mount inside the rim itself and will report your tire pressure in real-time to a dash-mounted monitor. Pretty slick! They won’t make it easier to add air, but at least you won’t have to get down there all the time to check pressure. As far as the spare tire goes, it seems that most large coach manufacturers have stopped providing a spare. Most dealers will tell you that the majority of RVers do not carry the necessary tools to remove the lug nuts on those large wheels nor typically have the strength to manhandle a heavy 19” or larger tire/wheel around. In fact, most large motorhomes do not come with jacks or lug wrenches either! Given the difficulty in changing your own wheel, I guess they feel the space for a spare tire and tools can be better used for other purposes.



I don’t own or have ever used an RV, but I keep looking at them. I thought I would try renting to see if I would like to purchase. But I do the numbers and find I can motel a lot cheaper than renting an RV. My wife thinks I’m nuts even looking. I see the gas prices climbing and wonder how can people afford to do this? Do they have some unlimited funds from some overseas bank account to support them? What am I missing in the formula? There doesn’t seem to be a savings in RVs. I’m retired and would like to travel this great country, and the thought of an RV is exciting. But the thought of the costs is scary. Any thoughts? Bob

Hi, Bob,

While it may be cheaper to stay in a motel, it’s nowhere near as comfy! When you look at how an RV can provide you with all the comforts of home even though you are camped way out in the boonies, the motel room looks pretty shabby by comparison. Also, there aren’t many motels within a few steps of a trout stream or a national forest. When I was traveling, I always thought of it like this: When you travel in an RV, it’s just like being at home, except the front yard changes every couple of days! I slept in my own bed, cooked my own food, had a comfortable chair, and had all of my “stuff” with me. You just can’t get that in a motel. I can’t tell you that RVing is a way to save money when traveling, but I believe it’s a way to get MORE for your money. You might want to go rent that RV and give it a try.


Mark –

My husband and I are new to the RV world as we recently purchased a 5th-wheel Montana trailer.  It is stored by the side of our home; however, it still got broken into.  The culprit got in by breaking a window/frame.  Are there any alarm systems available that we can have installed to prevent future break-ins?? Thank you! Jennifer

Hi, Jennifer,

Although there are few alarm systems designed specifically for RVs, you can make use of either standard auto alarms or standard home alarm components and systems. I prefer to go with alarms designed for car use, as they run on 12v, rather than 110v, and can be powered by your RV’s battery system. Check with a local auto parts store or car stereo store to see some examples. The car stereo store may even be able to install a system for you! It may be enough to install a single “trembler” type alarm, or a simple sound detector alarm in the RV, as either one should react to someone attempting to force an entry. Alternatively, you can purchase an alarm system that makes use of individual window and door sensors. Most can be installed easily with simple hand tools. The only downfall to these types of alarms is that they can only be armed and used when the vehicle is unoccupied.


Dear Sir:    

My wife and I are brand new to Rving. We bought a brand-new 25-foot travel trailer at the end of last summer; because we didn’t know how to get it ready for winter storage, we paid to have it winterized, but now I am not sure how to safely get it ready to use this season. Any tips or information you can give us would be a big help. We live in New Hampshire, so I know they used antifreeze in the system, and I don’t know how much flushing and what else I have to do so I don’t get sick or break something. Thank you very much, Bill & Denise

Hi, Bill & Denise,

The main thing is to thoroughly flush the antifreeze out of the RV’s plumbing. First, put some water in your fresh-water tank, then run the pump and let the water flow from every fixture until there is no more antifreeze color or odor. Then, hook up the hose to your city water inlet and repeat. It may take a while to get it all flushed out, so watch that you don’t overfill your holding tanks. RV antifreeze is nontoxic, so even if there’s some taste or odor left, it won’t kill you. Any residual taste or odor usually fades after a few days of use. Once you’re flushed out, put the water heater back into operation by installing the drain plug and setting the water heater bypass back to the normal operation mode (check your RV manual!). Now, let the water heater fill completely before you try to light it. Once everything is full and all faucets are shut off, unhook the hose from the city water inlet and turn the pump back on. The pump should run long enough to bring the pressure up and then shut off. Wait a few minutes to be sure that the pump doesn’t “bump” on and off when no faucets are open. If it does, you may have a leak somewhere. Hopefully, you are now all set to go! Be sure to check tire pressure before you tow, and check your owner’s manual for any other recommendations for putting your rig back into operation after winter storage.


Hi, Mark,

I live out West and, of course, it’s the rainy season. The last few trips I noticed a few window leaks and did attempt to seal the frame to the RV body with a quality silicone. I’m sure you can anticipate that this didn’t work. Searching the web, I found a couple of suggestions being applicable to RV or boat. The work looks time-consuming, involving removing the frame, cleaning it and shimming it to apply and form a rubber gasket, then reinstall. If that doesn’t solve the problem, the next step is removing the window, R&R the seal, and reinstall. Is this accurate? So the question: In your experience should I take this on or hire a pro? Some projects just aren’t worth the time and expense of materials. Scott

Hi, Scott,

While I can’t be positive without looking at your rig, the majority of water leaks that are occurring around the window frames do indeed require that the frame and/or window be pulled to properly renew the seal. Just adding silicone around the outside where the frame meets the sidewall will be a temporary fix at best. It’s not a fun job and requires that all the screws that secure the window assembly to the rig be removed. Then, the window assembly is carefully pried out and the old caulk is removed from the window opening and the window frame. New butyl-rubber caulk is applied to the window frame, and the whole thing is reinstalled. Sometimes, prying the window out (without damaging it) and cleaning off the old caulk can be a major pain, so unless you are feeling “handy,” you may want to take it to an RV repair shop and have it done.

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