Hi Mark My Words Readers! This month we’ve got questions on a dead tow battery, tire sprays, odd fridge behavior, V-10 spark plugs and RV antifreeze. Remember to send your RVing questions to [email protected] as you hit the road this fall.
We have been having trouble with the Honda CRV we are towing with our Class C motorhome. The battery dies before we get to our destination, even if the trip is just a few hours. The battery in the CRV is just 3 years old. We’re sure all utilities are turned off. We do use a Brake Buddy. Is there anything we can do to prevent this from happening?
Well, it could just be that the battery is getting tired. Sometimes they only last a few years, especially if it has ever been run down flat, like when you leave the lights on by accident. The brake buddy does draw some power, especially when the pump is running to apply the brakes. Most auto parts stores will do a load test on your battery for free.
Some towed vehicles require you to leave the key in the “On” or “ACC” position in order to unlock the steering wheel, and that can run down the battery. Even if your car doesn’t require this, the brake buddy does put a load on the car battery while traveling. There is an easy fix: simply run a +12V wire from the motorhome’s starter battery back to the trailer-lighting connector, and then add a similar wire from the lighting connector on the towed vehicle to its starter battery. It’s a good idea to use a fairly stout wire (12 gauge) and inline fuses at the batteries at both ends. This will provide some charge current from the motorhome’s alternator to keep the towed car battery from running down. Several kits are available; try this example.
Most towbar umbilicals are 6-pin, so the +12V wire can be assigned to an unused pin.
Thanks for this opportunity. We have an Electric/Gas Norcold refrigerator that has caused me some concern this year. We have noticed that, while on “GAS,” it seems to run longer than it did, even in comparison to last year. I have gone over the Manual and checked all areas that they suggest in the maintenance checklist; seal, thermostat, flue, flame color and configuration. There has never been a known ammonia leak. While it does “run,” it does cycle “OFF,” but only does so only for a few moments. All this takes place, regardless of ambient temperatures. It does not appear to do the same while it’s on “ELECTRIC” mode. I understand that the ammonia is in a closed system and shouldn’t “wear out”. But without the evidence of a leak or loss, I am at a loss as to where to proceed. Do we need to replace the entire unit? The RV is only 5 years old, and it seems like it should last longer than this.
Well, first off, does the fridge appear to be cooling properly? Does it maintain correct inside temp? Check it with a thermometer, check the freezer temp as well. The freezer should be around 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the main box 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit if the cooling unit is operating normally.
If temps are good, this doesn’t sound like a cooling unit failure to me, especially since it seems to work fine on AC, but it stutters on propane
If it only shuts off for a few moments on propane and then relights, I would suspect that the control board is having trouble sensing “flame lit.” This can be caused by a lot of things: A low flame height, problems with the gas supply pressure, or a dirty orifice can do this, but you indicated the flame looks good. A dirty or damaged spark electrode or incorrect electrode position will cause this symptom, as the board senses the flame through the igniter electrode. It has to be in the flame, and its position is fairly critical. Sometimes the electrode will erode away over time. If the fridge appears to cool OK, I suggest cleaning the electrode and playing with its position in the flame. Or just replace the electrode, they are inexpensive and easy to swap. Go to the Norcold nanual site and grab the manual for your fridge model number. Once you have the part number for the ignitor assembly, they can be found via many online sources, or at most RV parts stores.
There are other things that can cause this symptom: a failing control board, a bad or corroded connection where the electrode wire attaches to the coil on the board, or a bad or iffy ground connection.
Is there a difference between RV antifreeze & plumber’s antifreeze? We have had problems with lines and our filter freezing and even the antifreeze freezing in the toilet of our RV.
RV antifreeze is formulated to be non-toxic and safe for use in potable water systems. Plumber’s antifreeze is essentially the same stuff as RV antifreeze, and can be used in your RV, but I am unable to find any that offers any better protection. Automotive antifreeze is very toxic and should never be used in plumbing systems. Most RV antifreeze must be used undiluted, so it is necessary to get as much water as possible out of your plumbing system before you pump in the antifreeze. RV antifreeze is designed to protect down to -50 Fahrenheit, so it is very unusual to have a freeze problem with it unless it has been diluted with water. If you live somewhere that routinely gets colder than that, I’m not sure what else to suggest, except maybe it’s time to move your RV to indoor storage or move yourself somewhere warmer?
I’d love to get your opinion on changing spark plugs in a Ford 6.8-liter V10 engine, especially a 15-year-old (55,000 miles) one like mine. I have heard that the head has only 2 or 3 threads and is made of aluminum, so a spark plug replacement is risky, as the threads might strip out and fail (requiring the installation of an insert). On the other hand, I have heard that the plugs sometimes “weld” themselves into place if you wait too long to replace them. What’s your opinion?
I have read that many folks with V-10s wait till either the 100,000 mile mark to do a plug change, or until they are experiencing a rough idle or loss of fuel economy. I would be itching to pull them sooner than that, but that’s me. If you decide to wait, you may prefer to take it to a dealer and let them do the plug change. That way, if they mess up the threads, it’s on them.
It’s not impossible to remove them yourself: I have worked on several aluminum-head engines, and I have always been very careful with spark plugs on them. I never try to remove a plug from a warm engine. I only wrench on a cold engine that has not been run for 8 hours or more. Turning the plug back and forth a little bit after you initially break it loose can help get it out safely, and I always break the plugs loose from the head and immediately spray some penetrating oil at the base of the plug to help lubricate the threads before removing it. If it drags significantly on removal, use more oil and loosen/tighten/loosen back and forth gently until it comes out freely. If you do bung up the threads, you can usually install a HeliCoil, provided you can see/reach the plug hole. Before you install the new plugs, put a dab of anti-seize compound on the threads. This will ensure that the plugs can be removed easily next time. Anti-seize can be found at all auto parts stores.
I have a 27-foot Dutchman travel trailer, and my auto mechanic told me his dad use to wipe brake fluid on his trailer tires to extend their life. I do keep tire covers on all the wheels and have my wheels on top of my plastic leveling blocks to keep the tires of the pavement or ground during the off season. Would wiping brake fluid on the tires extend the tire life or is this not a good idea? Also, if it is not a good idea, are there any products out there that would extend tire life? Thank you. Some excellent comments on your site, always great.
Don’t put brake fluid (or any other petroleum product) on your tires! It collects dirt and can damage the rubber and lead to tire failure or early sidewall deterioration. All the major tire manufacturers recommend that you use nothing on your tires except soap and water. No tire dressing product currently on the market will extend the life of your tires. They just make them look shiny. Great for show cars, not so great for RVs.