Professional photograph of Mark NewmanThis month we’ll talk about converters, battery charging, blown fuses, and tank cleaning. Remember to send your RVing questions to [email protected].

I’ve heard a number of comments made about changing out the dumb OEM converter for a smart one. We still have the original converter in our 1996 Itasca Sunrise. There are no problems that I am aware of. New deep-cell coach batteries were installed when we got on the road last August 2017 along with a new sealed-in engine battery as well. I have checked the water levels in the coach batteries and have added minor amounts from time to time. When I have talked to RV mechanics about updating the converter, they have challenged changing until there is a problem. Your counsel is appreciated! Sincerely, Phil

Hi Phil,
If you’re a person who generally does not Boondock a lot, and you pretty much have electric hookups everywhere you go, then it’s probably not something that you need. However, if you do like to Boondock or dry camp, then it’s to your advantage to have a better battery charger. I have a lot of experience with the Progressive Dynamics RV Chargers (Available here). 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. The advantages are that your batteries will be charged properly and fully, and in very short order, every time you have AC power available. This is great if you do a lot of camping away from AC power. Check them out here.

Hello Mark,
I have a new Montana fifth wheel and, yes, I am new to RVing. The problem after owning the RV for 2 months is my 2 marine batteries no longer charge from the RV 50-amp power cord. They will charge when the RV is connected to my truck. I have checked both disconnects and they are both on. I checked all fuses and they are good. I have charged the batteries with my 1.5 amp trickle charger and the battery will discharge in 3 days with no lights on the RV. If I leave the lights on the batteries will discharge in 24 hours. All the time the RV is hooked up to the 50-amp service. I have tried to get the RV into Camping World, where I purchased it, but they say they can’t accept my RV at this time. I also tried other Keystone warranty dealers, but all have the same issue, “check back with me in November.” I leave for my maiden voyage October 8 for a week of camping and plan to use my charger to keep the lights on. Any other suggestions. Thanks for your time, Terry

Hi Terry,
It sounds like the converter in your RV is not functioning. The converter is the device that will charge your batteries when you’re plugged into AC power. If you can gain access to the converter, there are a couple things you can check. First, do a visual of the converter and the battery system and see if you can spot any loose wires. Most converters have fuses right on the converter box, you might want to check and make sure that those fuses are not blown. Also, make sure that the converter is getting AC power. If everything looks good, and the converter is simply not working, then it has probably failed internally. I assume your RV is still under warranty, so I’m not going to suggest that you replace the converter yourself. However, while you wait for warranty service, you can still travel. A standard 12-volt automotive battery charger can be used to charge your batteries when you have AC power available. These Chargers can be purchased at any auto parts store, and typically produce about 10 amps of charge current. Simply connect the charger to your battery Bank, paying close attention to polarity, and plug it into an AC power outlet or extension cord. If you do this every time you stop for the night, the charger should bring your batteries back up to full charge overnight, and then you can travel the following day. If you’re staying put for a while, it doesn’t hurt to leave these chargers connected for several days, because they are pretty much self-regulating. It’s a bit of extra hassle, but it’ll get you down the road.

Hi Mark,
This is my first time submitting a question to you. I have a 2016 Jayflight 28-foot tow-behind. The overhead lights on the live room slide-out quit working. I found the fuse box and replaced the bad fuse but still no lights. Could there be another fuse blown? I really haven’t found any connections unplugged as others have suggested. Any ideas would be helpful. Thanks in advance, Rod

Hi Rod,
Normally, when a fuse blows, it indicates a short in the circuit, or damage to the wiring the fuse protects. Since the lights are in a slide-out, I would inspect the flexible cable that supplies power to the slide-out. It can get cut or damaged by the movement of the slide if it’s not properly routed or if something got in the way while the slide was moving. You may be able to see the wiring underneath the slide, or perhaps in a cabinet or drawer that’s in the slide itself. If you can’t locate it, I suggest you have the slide inspected by a service tech, because the failure of the lights may be an indication of a bigger problem with the routing of electrical wiring or other utilities that go to the slide.

We are full time RVers & usually go to the Phoenix area in the winter. We are going to stay in a park that is about 5000 ft. elevation. We have been at this park since March 2018. We have a 42 ft diesel pusher motor home. It has a 4-point hydraulic leveling system. Should we run them up to take pressure off the tires? If so, how much?  I run the engine, the generator & my aqua hot at least once a month. Anything else you would recommend? Thanks, Terry

Hi Terry,
You really don’t need to raise the RV to unload the tires. They’ll be fine as long as you make sure they are maintained at the proper air pressure. However, I feel it’s necessary to drive the RV periodically when you sit for more than a few months, or during a long period of storage. Yes, you can run the engine and generator once a month to help keep them healthy, but that doesn’t address all the other systems that are just sitting there. If you drive the rig for at least 30 minutes every 2-3 months, it exercises the engine properly by allowing it to reach normal operating temperature. It also keeps transmission, drive train and brakes limbered up, and the fact that you need to cycle the jacks and slides doesn’t hurt either. Your tires will benefit greatly from the exercise as well, as tires need to roll to keep the volatiles in the rubber distributed evenly. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle, but I think it pays off big in terms of reducing maintenance costs and extending the lifespan of your RV.

On the topic of water hose cleaning, I suggest you fill your water hose with white vinegar and leave it overnight then rinse it in the morning and blow it out then store it and that will keep it clean.

That’s a good suggestion, Gil! Thanks!

Hello Mark,

We are traveling on Oregon coast and have a problem with black water line clogged and a broken toilet. Can we plunge the line to unclog? No bm’s in toilet and it is new. When trying to empty, nothing comes out of line. Not sure what to do? Thank you, John

Hi John,

Plunging won’t work, as the toilet connects to a tank that is vented. If the line to the dump valve is clogged, it usually requires someone who can flush it out using a special sewer fitting. All Pro Water Flow has franchises all over the country, and they offer mobile service. You may want to check with them here.

Most RV service places are equipped to deal with those sorts of problems as well.

You may be able to unclog it yourself with a special fitting: the Camco Dual Flush Pro Holding Tank Rinser with Gate Valve. Check out a review here.

This device attaches to your dump fitting and allows you to force water back up into the tank to help remove clogs. You can find them at many RV parts dealers or camping world stores.

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  1. Anonymous

    Hi Mark, just a quick comment on the plugged black water line. I’m sure you likely heard from someone who, like me had the line plug up because of either floor or tank cut outs (from installing the tank/toilet) plugging the line. Mine happened on a road trip. But I was lucky(??) and could reach in to pull it out.

  2. Mark’s answer: “The low oil warning switch is usually just a little mechanical float switch in the engine crankcase, and they do fail. If the generator is reporting low oil, but there’s plenty in the crankcase, then the switch has either failed, or the wiring from the switch to the control board may have become disconnected. With such a new rig, I’d suggest having it looked at by a service facility, and any needed repairs should be under warranty.”

  3. Mark provided the following answer:
    It’s possible that the problem is caused by a gray water tank vent pipe that extends too far into the tank. Those vent pipes are typically attached to the tank through a rubber grommet, it’s a slip-fit, and it’s possible for the vent pipe to slide down into the tank. Since the owner recently replaced the roof vent caps, I think that’s a strong possibility. If the pipe has slid down, it will be necessary to gain access to the pipe and pull it back up so that the top of the pipe is flush with the vent cap. It’s tricky, because if you pull it up too far, it can come completely out of the tank grommet, then you really have a problem! Might be best to have a shop look at it.

  4. Anonymous

    I have a 2019 Winne View. We ran the diesel generator for 6 hours continuously one night.
    The check gen oil light alert was on in the morning. I checked the oil level and it was full. How do I reset the alert? Or is there a problem

    Phil T

  5. Anonymous

    My gray water will not drain unless I am hooked up to a drain hose. If the hose is not hooked up it doesn’t take long before the shower stall starts to fill up as if the tank were full. I replaced the caps on the roof thinking they may be bad as they looked pretty weather beatened even though the trailer is a 2015.
    2015 Keystone Montana High Country.