Getting to the Campground
With the upcoming summer season, our thoughts turn to cleaning the camper and doing seasonal maintenance to prepare for that much-needed downtime and relaxation at the campground or maybe the lake. Well, it’s been a long winter season and a trying spring due to the COVID virus. Were all anxious to get out there and enjoy the outdoors. So I wanted to take a minute and review our checklists. Oh, you say you don’t have one; I suggest that you create one or more. Don’t believe that you can remember everything. Whether it’s stocking the galley or airing up the tires, we don’t want to miss anything. So let me offer some thoughts on getting those checklists freshened up.
Tips for Maintaining Your Tires
Before hitting the road, perform regular tire inspections. To get the best performance and life out of your tires, follow these tips:
- Inspect all-wheel and tires regularly for wear and tightness. Look for signs of rust, indicating loose wheels.
- Inflate tires to manufacturer's recommended pressure based on the weight of the vehicle
- Keep tires clean. Dirt on tires can act as an abrasive. Regular washing with a mild soap, water, and soft brush can remove dirt, as well as ozone.
- Sun and the ozone can cause damage to your tires during periods of non-use. Use tire covers to keep the tires completely covered.
If tires are worn, replace them. Select tires that provide adequate traction on the drive axles, and adequate tread on the steer axles.
Are you ready for Towing?
When choosing a tow system, ask these questions and expect answers!
- How do I know what vehicle I can tow?
- Motorhome weight ratings
- Tow bar weight ratings
- Is my vehicle towable with 4 wheels down?
- What do I need to meet Federal requirements?
- What about state and local requirements?
- How easy is the system to use?
- What will my tow car look like with it installed and when I'm not towing it?
- What type of warranty comes with it - does it cover everything?
- Who should do the installation – me or a professional installer?
- Why type of service does the manufacturer/dealer provide after the sale?
- What else do I need?
- A supplemental braking system for the tow car?
- Tow car vehicle protection?
- Climbing hills on hot days may increase the water temperature. Drop to a lower gear to speed up the fan and water pump; turn on the heater, if necessary, to cut engine heat. Going downhill put the tow car in the same gear you would use if coming up.
LOOK AT THE LOAD. Obey the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR), the maximum permissible weight of the tow vehicle and trailer combined when both are fully loaded. If you overload the RV or tow vehicle, components such as the brakes, gears, engine or transmission can wear out prematurely or fail altogether when you're on the road.
WATCH WATER WEIGHT. A full 40-gallon freshwater holding tank adds 332 pounds to your load. Take only what's necessary to get to your destination, and then refill.
SAVE MONEY. Improve gas mileage by keeping your motor home or tow vehicle tuned up and tires at the proper pressure. Poor emissions or a faulty oxygen sensor can cause a 40-percent drop in fuel economy.
TUNE IN. Traveling can take you through a variety of weather conditions. RV-ers should own a National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio receiver that broadcasts National Weather Service information 24/7.
CHECK IT TWICE. Before hitting the road, walk around the unit twice to check everything. You'll be amazed at how many times you notice something wrong the second time around.
BE SAFE. Keep emergency supplies on hand: first aid kit, bottled water, flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food, can openers, blankets, rain ponchos, medicines and pet supplies.
There's really no reason for hitch failure if you match the hitch to the trailer. Hitches come in three classes:
Class I for light trailers up to 2,000 pounds and 200 pounds tongue load;
Class II for medium weights, 2,000 to 4,000 pounds and 500 pounds tongue load; and
Class III for heavyweight trailers, 4,000 pounds plus, and 750 pounds and more tongue load.
You should match a hitch's maximum weight capacity with the trailer tongue weight (10 percent of a trailer's weight up to 2,000 pounds and 12 percent of the total weight of trailers over 2,000 pounds).
There are two types of hitches: frame hitches, which carry both the trailer tongue weight and tow car weight, and axle hitches, which support the tongue weight only and are not affected by car weight but have less clearance underneath. Bumper hitches should be avoided.
Trailering accessories for safety
Overload springs and air shocks are often needed on cars with frame hitches to keep both vehicles level. Equalizing hitches, or torsion bars, should be used on trailers over 2,000 pounds. They throw one-third of the tongue weight back on the trailer and transfer two-thirds between the car's two axles. Sway bars, which reduce dangerous sway, are needed on trailers 17 feet or over. And it's best to have independent trailer brakes on all trailers over 1,000 pounds.
Properly equipped units may sway if the tow bar isn't rigid if the trailer is loaded with too much weight in the rear or on one side, if the tow car's front wheels need an alignment or if there is uneven air pressure in the car and/or trailer tires.
Never paint the ball on a ball hitch, since it serves as a ground for the electrical system. And if you hear unusual static on your radio, stop and check your trailer wiring. It may mean a ground wire has worked loose in the car-trailer hook-up.
When loading a trailer, place 60 percent of the weight in the front, 40 percent in the rear, with heaviest items on the floor just ahead of the rear axle and lighter goods overhead. The weight of an empty trailer differs substantially from one that is fully loaded. Don't exceed your trailer's GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating).
All aspects of trailer towing require know-how and practice, not superior driving ability. The best way to learn is to practice near home on quiet roads and in vacant parking lots.
- Place a few empty cardboard boxes in a parking lot and learn to back between them.
- Also practice turning, the second trickiest trailer maneuver. Trailer wheels track tighter than a car's in a turn. You have to compensate by making sweeping turns to avoid scuffed trailer tires, or worse.
Don't judge trailer clearance by what you see in front of you. Your trailer may be wider. And remember that all trailers have blind spots. Be cautious when you pull out to pass or turn right. Watch both side mirrors for vehicles creeping up on you. Tree limbs in campgrounds wait for the unwary. Allow for trailer roof vents and air conditioners when gauging your clearance.
Stopping distances increase with the added weight of a trailer. Even so, other drivers will pull in front of you, not realizing you have reduced braking power. Learn to expect the unexpected.
Are we there yet?
Congratulations, we’ve made it to our campsite safely and without incident! Now we need to back in and set-up. At this point, a number of us have shaking knees. What? Me? Back in? Are you kidding me? Well, it’s not that traumatic. With a little practice it’s a piece of cake, trust me.
I have worked in various campgrounds as an escort, guiding guests to their campsite and assisting them backing their units into position. Sometimes it can be funny to watch. So many couples have developed a routine for themselves. The wife will jump out of the tow vehicle or the motor home and start waving her arms in an attempt to guide her partner into position. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well and an argument will ensue. I try not to get into the middle of things and if I just stand there they will usually settle down and just look at me, and that’s my queue to take over and direct the driver into position.
Towing and backing a trailer doesn't have to give you headaches, heart failure, or make you feel like you should have stayed home. With a little practice and preparation, you can do it!
Any trailer camper will tell you that once you get the hang of it, there's really nothing to fear about towing a trailer. Millions of practicing trailer towers, ranging from young drivers to senior citizens, will attest to that. For example, the most feared trailer maneuver for novices is backing up. But it's not so difficult if you do as follows:
- Before starting to back, don't look at the trailer; look at the steering wheel in front of you. Grab the wheel with one hand at 6 o'clock. Whichever way your hand moves is the direction the trailer will move. (Another technique that I use is to turn the steering wheel in the direction that the trailer is going to chase it in the opposite direction.)
- Once the trailer starts turning to excess, turn the steering wheel the opposite way as you look behind you to guide your car behind the path of the trailer.
- It's easier to back to the left, where you have greater vision than to back to the right. When backing right, try to station someone behind you to signal directions. Speaking from experience, do not try to rely on verbal directions only, watch your guides hand signals. A number of truck drivers have a saying called "What is the GOAL"? If necessary, "Get Out And Look" before you back up.
- Pull ahead of the parking spot and point the car on a right angle when backing left, and on a left angle when backing right
We’ve made it! We're in where we want and we didn’t have to say, “Oh it’s okay the way it is.” The tires are alongside the pad and the door and slide clear any obstructions. Now it’s time to set-up and start relaxing. The first thing most of us do is connect the power cord.
Plugging into the electrical pedestal
When we pull into the campground and get positioned and leveled we plug into electric and water and we are set, right? Well even though I know better, I sometimes forget, so I am adding this to my checklist to remind myself.
First, before going outside, make sure no 120-volt electrical appliances have inadvertently been left on. Make sure everything is off.
Second, it is highly desirable to check the voltage and polarity of the pedestal outlet. There are several outlets that have inexpensive devices to accomplish this. They can be found at places like Lowes or Home Depot. Bad electricity is common and can cause serious problems.
Third, check the post to determine what adapter you need. Choices are 30 amps and 50 amps. Some parks will have one or the other but not both. I suggest having an adapter to convert from one to the other. (50 to 30 amps or 30 to 50 amps). These can be found online at most RV supply stores.
Fourth, turn off all the breakers in the pedestal's electrical box.
Only then should you carefully plugin.
- Avoid standing in a puddle of water.
- Use rubber-soled shoes.
- Consider using rubber gloves.
Then turn on the post breakers and finally the electrical appliances inside.
And of course, it is even more important to shut down everything (120 volts) in the RV and shut off the pedestal breakers prior to unplugging. I am more likely to forget this part. The loud spark usually reminds me after it is too late. That’s when I begin to cry and visualize dollar bills floating away.
Have a great summer season camping and visit the Outdoor Family Store for your camping needs.