Visiting Family in Missouri – New Dash Camera and Upgrading RV Suspension

We stopped in Kansas City Missouri for a month to visit our daughter and ended up taking a two week trip without the RV to Howell Michigan to visit Karen’s elderly mom. The RV park in Kansas City, Basswood Resort, gave us a good deal on a monthly spot. One of the employees we know kept an eye on our trailer. I always let management know if we are going to be gone longer than overnight. We have placed the RV in storage in the past while taking an extended trip without it. If the price is right, compared to the storage lot cost, I prefer to leave it in the campground.

We then traveled to central Missouri for a wonderful campout with family on Lake Pomme De Terre outside Hermitage Missouri. Site H413 is one of the best in the loop which I reserved about two months earlier. My sister Mary setup her vintage camper next to ours and family came from miles around as they pleased. We celebrated everyone’s birthday at once, enjoyed the conversations and lake front fun. Missouri passed a special tax in 1976 for conservation which has resulted in some of the best, and affordable, state parks in the nation. It’s 7:00 am here at the campground as I type this. There was a storm overnight. Everything is peaceful now. The dog and I just came inside after an early morning walk. There are only six campers in the park, the lake is smooth with early morning sun reflections. Can’t live anywhere better for $20 a night.

Site H413 Hermitage Campground Pomme De Terre State Park Missouri. 50 amp only. We used our 30 gallon water bladder and portable “blue boy” waste tank in order to extend our stay. All worked wonderfully.
Wyatt is now 17 months old. His swimming skills are much improved.

Installed a Dash Camera in the Truck

After more than two years of travel, I decided to install a dash camera for two reason. Of course to capture images of anyone who cuts us off on the highway that could result in a crash. Secondly, after our trip out west in Montana and Wyoming we really wish we had better video of the landscape. Karen can record on her phone but who wants to ride around holding a phone out the window just in case you see a once in a lifetime view.

I began researching cameras under $50 but found I’d need to spend closer to $100 for the options I wanted. This includes a camera that does not have lithium batteries that get hot in the sun. I wanted one that fits behind the rearview mirror, out of the driver’s view. All dash cameras will save video in the event of a crash. This one also has a button to push should you want to save a video such as the scenery. Karen pushes the button from the passenger seat or, as our camera is expandable, I can order a $20 remote button that links the camera via bluetooth. The camera has a WIFI feature where I can change settings or review video using my cell phone. A long USB cord came with the package so the camera is hardwired to an outlet. The power cord was easily cancelled behind the trucks interior trim. I purchased the VIOFO A129 without the rear camera option. I did not purchase the add on power cable that allows for a parking feature whereby if the camera senses something touches the truck the recorder will start.

The camera attaches to a small clip on the windshield and can easily be removed to check video using a cord and laptop or from a memory card. I can remove the camera in order to use a front windshield shade screen when parked in the sun without the camera being in the way. The base of camera has a GPS feature that records the location of videos. For now, I’ve disabled the interior microphone feature.

Here is an RV tip: While planning a route and wondering about the condition of roadways, driving through cities, elevations or whatever, go online and watch other’s video while they drive down specific highways. I’m amazed by the volume of videos out there.

Camera lens is on the other side and is adjustable up and down.
Baseplate where I slide the camera on. I take the camera off if I want to use a solar shade or I suppose to stop someone from stealing the camera. Although my truck has an alarm system and you can barely see the camera from the outside.
Karen saved a video of cloud formations by pressing a button. The camera saves those videos in a separate directory so they are not overwritten by other video.
Location on Google Earth based on camera GPS coordinates where Karen saved the video of cloud formations.

I’ll Be Upgrading our Fifthwheel RV Suspension

If you don’t have 12 things to fix, change or upgrade on an RV then you are not using it enough! If planning for a future traveling fulltime in an RV don’t be fooled thinking buying a rig is a one time expenditure. You will be replacing parts more often than you planned for.

Back in the 1980’s there was a recession and RV sales plummeted with many companies going out of business. Lippert bought up 80 percent of the patents so now every RV trailer on the road has plenty of parts in common all provided by Lippert. Each RV brand manufacturer adds their own construction parts based on their capabilities and buys the remainder to install on their rigs. For example, many buy a single chassis consisting of the frame, tires, suspension, brakes and more. Then the RV manufacturer bolts on their walls, slides, water tanks and more. Televisions, air conditioners, microwaves or whatever are purchased and installed. There are several different companies you might have to contact for warranty work, especially after the first year of ownership. Joining an owner’s forum online for whatever brand of camper you have is a must. Others who own your particular RV brand are the best source for help! When you are researching to buy an RV and can’t find a decent online owner’s forum, for example on Facebook, then don’t buy that brand!

RV repair and maintenance is just as concerning as finding all the RV parks reserved during a holiday. Many have stopped long-term RV travel because of broken rigs which can be safety issues. You better be mechanically inclined if traveling fulltime. We lost our brakes this past year on our fifthwheel while on a trip. I called around and no one could help us within three weeks. We were stuck but fixed it ourselves in order to continue the trip. It’s a hollow feeling to be stuck in a strange place with a busted rig. Getting used to thinking outside the box and going with the flow will be required to survive the lifestyle. Beware however if you become a knowledge junkie and want to know everything that could potentially break on an RV because it’s downright scary. Sometimes I think it would be better to drag this trailer around totally unware that a single suspension part could fail, breaking a spring, losing one side of an axle or worse. I’ll write more about our suspension upgrade after it’s completed hopefully later this month. For now I’ll pass along what I know to date.

Below are a few photos and explanations about what suspension parts to keep an eye on. I took some time to narrow this down. I’ll also mention improper tire inflation is the leading cause of tire blow outs. Get a pump, check your tires before every move.

On a fifth wheel or travel trailer are hangers that extend down on both sides of the RV undercarriage. Use your fingers and eyes to check the welds. There are heavy forces put on these hangers for example when backing into a camping spot. As the trailer turns the suspension pushes on these hangers, side to side. There are add-on components to improve their durability and safety.
These are U-bolt nuts. It is absolutely important to know the torque values and keep these bolts tight. If they loosen at all then the trailer axle will move. If you ever remove the U-bolts they should be replaced with new ones as over time the bolts, for lack of better words, reshape themselves when tightened. It is imperative to check the bolts with a torque wrench when new and after a few hundred miles of travel. I visually check everything at every stop.
These are shackles, and in my case they are the thin ones. Reputable RV manufacturers are now installing thicker shackles, which now includes our brand of RV. In our case, there are bolts that hold all this together that must be lubed. Sometimes you have to take the weight off the trailer to get any grease in. There is lots of discussion on what type of bolts to use, specifically about the type of bushings. I trust Morryde engineers and have to think bronze is best. They all fail over time. Lippert offers a “Never Fail” bushing that requires no maintenance. Well, at least they used to but now have stopped selling them. Their technical support folks tell me they are not sure why they stopped selling them but suggested it might have been a falling out between Lippert and the company that built the Never Fail bushings. Believe me when I say if you are a full time traveler all these parts have a chance of failing because we haul and drive our rigs 6,000 miles a year.
This is a photo where two of our tires make occasional contact with the underside of the RV, probably when going over pumps. Our clearance when the trailer is under load (not stopped and leveled on a site) is down to 2.5 inches on one side. Probably our springs are flattening out. Lippert springs use inferior steel in the opinion of far more knowledgably repair techs who don’t sell springs. All the suspension parts work together in spreading the energy of bumps in the road to various places on the trailer.
This photo is for Debbie and Steve. Some companies are welding cross members inside the spring hangers to reinforce them from side to side. Some who own heavier rigs are buying bolt on beams that run under the trailer from one side to the other between the hangers. Those upgrades have been proven not to interfere with the normal operation of the suspension systems.

I’m doing away with the shackles, bolts and bushings for the most part by having our factory service center install the Roadmaster Comfort Ride System with Slipper Springs and Shocks. Several others who own our brand trailer have done the same over the past two years. I’ve yet to find a negative review. Roadmaster has been building parts for a long time and bought the patent to the system. Some have suggested money would be better spent upgrading to disc brakes but I’m fine with what we have and our trucks ability to help stop the trailer. The Roadmaster system is as close to an independent suspension as I can afford. I’m not wanting to add the better and highly praised Morryde Independent suspension which add a lot of weight to the trailer.

Lippert will want to send out a new set of the same springs to replace the old ones under warranty. Maybe going to 4,000 pound springs from 3,500 would help as well but the ride would be worse. All this after just 13,000 miles of usage. Not to get technical but our trailer brand had a recall where they replaced shorter shackles with longer ones. I suspect that might have allowed for more travel distance between the top of the tires and the bottom of the trailer when going over bumps. I’d also not want longer spring hangers to allow for more clearance as longer hangers might be less durable. Vanleigh has been good to work with and Lippert answers the phone when called. They are a huge company and so far I like their customer service. We can discuss all this in the comments section if you are interested.

Roadmaster Comfort Ride with Slipper Springs and Shocks – Everyone is having trouble getting parts so order well in advance of installation date. We have to double back 200 miles to the Mississippi factory service center once our parts arrive – which includes new U-bolts as we are removing the old ones and you should not reuse them per E-Trailer and others. I also liked the Morryde 4000 equalizers with heavy duty shackles which are shorter than what we have now.

Here is a video with two guys actually riding in the back of a fifthwheel comparing basic equalizers against the Roadmaster Comfort System (previously called the Liberty Rider). I noted there are better equalizers than the stock one of this trailer such as the Morryde 4000 and some say the newer Lippert Road Armor. Here is an E-Trailer video review. Additional E-Trailer information can be found at this link.

One word of caution if you decide to start replacing suspension components when the trailer is still under the Lippert three year frame warranty. They may deny a warranty claim if Lippert parts were not installed. We will have four months left on our frame warranty when we start changing suspension components.

I can see why dealerships have trouble getting parts which delays RV repairs, sometimes for months. It was a nightmare to negotiate the process of identifying what parts I’m having delivered to the repair center in advance. I suggest if you order parts that you compare them against images of what is already on the trailer as there are slight, but important differences. In my case Lippert suggested I order a kit to replace the U-bolts which I noted have flanged nuts. I was worried flanged nuts require a different torque value than what we have now which is nuts with washers. Vanleigh has a parts person one can call who knows everything about what’s on our particular rig and told me what to buy.

In my humble opinion, no one builds an RV for fulltime travel. Some just build better rigs than the others with parts that hold up better with extreme usage. That’s why they are called recreational vehicles, built to stay together through the one year warranty period and good enough to keep the government from regulating their business. And also for what people are willing to spend. I’ll bet a lot of rigs are sold because of floor plan and what the customer can see when they walk in. I can tell you, for sure with less expensive toy haulers, not many get underneath and look at the suspension in detail. As a new customer I knew very little myself. Costs money to go to college! Paying for trailer repairs and upgrades sure has taught me a few things. As well as good neighbors who don’t think it’s strange when I ask to climb under their rigs to see if anyone is using better suspension parts compared to even 2019 when we bought ours.

We are currently parked in southern Missouri and will be heading to Laura Ingles Campground east of Springfield Missouri.

Equipping an RV – 50/50 Decisions

We have lived in our current RV for about a year, having bought it several months prior to moving in fulltime. This should be a good time to provide feedback about several hard decisions we had to make while equipping our new home. For more detailed explanations please click on Our Choices Page (a must read) where you will find links to prior blog posts and more.

Karen and I will be leaving our current location north of Kansas City on 7/26/20. As usual we have booked our camping areas for destination spots. We will also book our first stop on the route and leave times between the first and final stops open for flexibility. We will be at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska on 8/16. We scheduled a month long stop at Broken Arrow Horse and RV Camp near Custer SD beginning 8/23. It’s so nice to be able to “live” in the Black Hills for a month.

At the end of this blog post I’ve included photos of our new Cocker Spaniel puppy Wyatt who is doing great. We are having a wonderful time training him to be an RV dog.  Slowing down travel because of the virus thing has presented an opportunity to spend time getting Wyatt used to his surroundings and allowing us to equip the RV with puppy stuff.

There were dozens of tough decision we made while equipping and purchasing our RV. I cut the list down to 10 for this blog post.  Hope it helps those making the same decisions. Of course our style of RV life may very from yours.

Refrigerator: Might as well start off with a topic I’m still not completely decided about. We went with a double door RV gas/electric. You will have to do your own research for this decision. So far a residential fridge would have worked for us. Our underlying idea when making all decisions was not to limit where we stay any more than necessary. Hence the 35′ trailer, small generator, very capable tow vehicle, RV gas/electric fridge and more.  We have lost power at four campgrounds which only required we run the generator to charge the batteries on one occasion. We have not camped without an electrical connection but plan to as yet another way of experiencing the journey. We turn off our propane when we travel which shuts down the fridge. I’ve left it running when traveling as well. The initial cool down of the fridge takes some time but is not an issue when it’s off a few hours. Personally, I would not own a residential fridge without four batteries, a generator or capable solar system. I’ve never had a residential fridge in an RV. Experience with a residential fridge in an RV might influence my feedback. I have several friends with one. We paid hundreds $$ for the RV gas/electric as an option when installed in the camper. Residential fridges are less expensive and require less framing and venting to place them in a camper. If RV gas/electric are not installed correctly to include framing the box around it for air flow then there will be problems. Ours is located in a hydraulic slide and there is no issue with the weight. We have an ice maker which I’d never want to do without. We had to disconnect the water line under the slide one time when in below freezing temperatures as a safety measure. The water line is braided metal and probably could have handled even lower temperatures. Others have figured out how to add a valve to drain the line which I might later do myself. We have replaced one plastic door handle as you have to learn how to open RV fridge gas/electric doors. The light fixture is out and a plastic hinge where the doors come together could use replacing. I’m convinced RV gas/electric fridges are harder to repair. I’m satisfied with our decision at this point but still wonder about the long-term as our type of travel evolves. It’s nice to click the fridge over to gas when we only have 30 amp electric service. Camping without electric service is not a concern.

Washer/Dryer: Would probably be a good idea to have Karen type this one out. I’ll do my best and change whatever she might not agree with after she reads the post. We decided not to have one installed but are glad to have the option with water and electric hook-ups in the closet. Also glad that if we ever installed a unit the door would face forward and not require we fish around in the master bedroom closet to gain access.  We figured out sources for $40 a month in quarters as we use campground facilities and sometimes travel to small town laundries (that don’t have security bars around the windows.) Like others said would happen, it seems Karen often does multiple loads at a time when a lot of machines are available, thereby knocking out the laundry once ever couple weeks. Sometimes she does smaller loads prior to taking off to the wilderness on a trip. We have lots of extra towels, perhaps clothing and bedding which I feel we would still have even if we could do laundry in the fifth wheel. Glad we don’t have the added weight of the unit. If I ever had a unit in the trailer then separate washer/dryer would be nice but at the least a combo unit would be vented to the outside for sure. Glad we don’t have to worry about having a sewer and water connection to do laundry. Glad we don’t have to listen to a tiny combo unit running and shaking. Glad we have two bars in the bathroom to hang clothes we don’t put in dryers anyway. As a side point, Karen still irons using an apartment sized board or at times, during longer campground stays, she uses ironing boards commonly left in the laundry room (Update – Karen wants a full size ironing board that will store behind our theater seating. Small things make this lifestyle more enjoyable) .  Personally, I wear shorts and shirts that don’t require ironing. We both still want our clothes to look clean and ironed just like we still live in a sticks and bricks house. This is our lifestyle and not a vacation. We want to feel “normal”. Karen dresses up more than I do and still likes to wear her shinny jewelry. I appreciate that!

Generator: Went with a 3500 watt gas portable inverter (quiet) unit that rides in the bed of the truck. Someday I’ll post how I finally figured out how to secure it in the truck where it does not move and exhaust out the back of the truck. Propane generators eat propane quickly and filling a gas can is way easier than hunting down propane. By the way, I use our extra 30 pounds propane tank that came with the trailer for our gas grill. Our 3500 watt unit provides a full 30 amps of power. If we had two of the smaller and lighter units then we could do the same. Ours weighs 75 pounds because I left off the option of remote starting or even push button starting which requires a battery that has to be maintained. We used the generator a lot when our trailer was in storage to power the RV and top off the batteries when needed. I even left off the generator prep option when we ordered our fifth wheel which freed up space in the storage area which we need as our 35′ trailer does not have the same basement space as a 40′ trailer. 100% satisfied with this decision even if so far we don’t use the generator much. The portability is nice as we can power stuff when away from home. Even used it to vacuum the truck once.

Batteries: All decisions regarding electric were made keeping in mind to start with the bare minimum and add on later once we figure out what we actually need. Decided to just have the dealership add a second 12 volt battery. The 50/50 decision was if to ditch the initial 12 volt battery and go with two or four 6 volt batteries. Wish we had the type of batteries that don’t require checking the water level. Glad we don’t have the space of four more batteries taken up. Maybe our next electric decision will be to purchase a folding portable solar panel which I’ve talked to others about. Again, we started small and will build upon our electrical needs as necessary. I also know if we change out a battery or both that it’s not good to mix older batteries with newer batteries. For our current style of travel two batteries has worked perfect.

Tire Monitoring: At this point in the learning curve I’ll have to agree most tire blowouts are caused by improper tire inflation which is another topic. Because it makes pulling the trailer less stressful I added tire monitoring. Our unit has an easy to read color display and monitors tire inflation and tire heat. Fun to watch the numbers change on warmer days or when I might purposely run the tires five pounds lighter in air. So far I trust the unit to check the tire pressure before I decide to get out the compressor. I check my tires before every move. And while I’m down there inspecting tires, I check the suspension before we leave and at every stop. Glad our tailor tires came with metal valve stems. I still think the nitrogen filed tires might be  B.S as I still have to add and lower air at times. I’m helping you big time by saying get a unit to start off with rather than taking a long time to decide which unit.  Does add yet another thing to the dashboard to be looked around. I take mine off the dash for longer stays but the portability is nice during move day when I can turn the unit on in the trailer to precheck the tires.

Electrical/Surge Protection: Took me months to decided on which unit. As fulltimers there will be more chances for electrical issues at a campground power pole compared to if we only used the trailer a few times a year. Because we use it all the time I decided to spend money on the best unit which is any that monitor low and high voltage. Especially on days when everyone is running their AC units. So we don’t leave the monitoring unit at a campground our rule is it goes in the box in trailer storage as soon as we disconnect. We don’t place it anywhere but in the box! I decided to purchase a 15′ cable to lock the unit to the trailer which adds yet another step for move day. At least all our locks are keyed alike or have a user set combination. I decided to get the optional wireless display that I placed in a cabinet inside the trailer. It’s handy to check when the power goes out and has a side benefit of displaying our power consumption which is informative. I was fine with delaying the decision until we figured it out. Months ago a nearby camper ended his trip when his wiring inside the camper was fried. I’m not sure if surge protection would have saved him or not as the surge was due to a lightening strike at a tree five feet from his class C camper.

Window Shades and Dual Pane or Not: Glad we have daytime shades in additional to the night shades. Makes a huge difference in hot weather. Provides added privacy when we want at least a little light coming through the windows. But dual window shades adds yet one more thing to adjust or fix.

Dual pane windows also make a difference and are worth the cost and weight to us. Last winter there was no frost on our windows inside the trailer. I think they make a difference in blocking some outside noise. The factory said most RV’s they built in our price point did not have them installed as an option which I was surprised by. We have plenty of cargo capacity for the added weight. Maybe other than cost/weight the biggest concern is if the rubber seal breaks between the panes then the windows will haze and need to be replaced or repaired.  Tiffin (Vanleigh brand) owns the windows company so I’m hoping if we have issues it’s a easier fix. Again, as we live fulltime in the trailer I felt comfortable with the decision to get dual pane. I’d not have them for a vacation unit or worry if resale would be better or not. Many of the would-be fulltime trailers we walked through at RV shows did not have dual pane windows which I’m thinking is the dealers attempt to keep the price down as many people do not consider the decision. It’s not the end of the world to skip dual pane windows. I’ve had both.

By the way, if you can get a second outside awning as an option then get one or have it installed later. Shading the entire side of a camper makes a massive difference in cooling inside during direct sunlight. Some trailers have very long single awnings that might be braced in the center when closed so they don’t bend the roller. We can also walk around 75% of our fifth wheel trailer in the rain and not get wet. Under the awnings, under the front overhang and under the bedroom slide with access to all the outside storage doors.  We prepare for storms by moving stuff under the fifth wheel overhang. If we are awake and at home where we can monitor the wind, it sure is nice to leave both awnings out to keep stuff dry.

Water Filtration: Still deciding on yet one more aspect or addition. So far we are fine with an external filter at the campground water connection. We also have a built-in single filter inside the trailer. Thinking about adding a filter for drinking water under the kitchen sink. Personally, so far I don’t see a need for a water softener or elaborate double filter outside but I’ve researched them.

Air Conditioners: Glad we have two 15,000 BTU units. In high humidity and heat they make a difference. I’d consider a third unit in a 40′ trailer. Some brands equip the front bedroom area with a 13,500 BTU unit. Our living room unit has a heat pump which we use down to 40′ degrees. We sometimes use the living room unit to cool the bedroom as our tailor AC system is ducted throughout the trailer (central air so to speak). That way it’s even quieter in the bedroom. We always use the front bedroom unit to help the rear living room unit, even partially closing the vents in the bedroom during hot days which forces more air into the living room. For full time living I don’t see how folks stay cool in lets say a 30 trailer with one AC.  The guy parked next to us says the single AC cannot keep up on hot days by noon.  Glad our trailer is 35′ with less space to heat and cool using the exact same furnace and ACs installed in a 40 and above trailer. On hot days with high humidity you should run the AC on high fan settings to avoid freezing up the unit with ice. If it does freeze up then turn off the cool setting and run the high fan which will thaw it quickly.  I had been using the auto fan setting until our rear unit iced up which you will know has happened because the air flow is dramatically reduced and there might not be any condensation dripping from the roof.

Storage Unit: Throwing this in among the topic because from the storage unit we move equipment stuff in and out of the trailer when we are near family back in Missouri. I view storage unit expenses just like insurance expenses. We have a 5×10 climate controlled storage unit and glad we made that decision. If for some reason we did not like full time RV travel the first year or so then we still have important stuff we did not dispose of in storage. I could have also seen us getting a larger storage unit with agreement we would downsize in a year or so. Our 5×10 is not full. We must have done some good planning as we are taking less than a small box back to storage and only retrieved a few items. Glad I can pick up my bike when in town and leave it behind or not. Glad we still had some dog stuff in storage for Wyatt.

Thanks for the toys Aunt Lisa. Wyatt loves his stuff.

The trip home from the breeder. Wyatt raised a hell of a fuss when he wanted to stop the truck for a pee break. Good sign? Or will route planning take on a new meaning?

Everything is new. Mom explains stuff to Wyatt. I laughed when he experienced rain the first time. He figures it out and is somewhat headstrong, wanting to do things his own way.

Thank you Aunt Mary for the puppy equipment. Wyatt figured out how to roll the portable play pen around so now we are using a wire fencing. He sleeps through the night in the pet carrier.

Wyatt does this all the time beginning at 9 weeks old. He tries to climb in the truck. Frankly, anywhere Karen might be heading or sitting he will do what it takes to get near her.

The puppy color matches our furniture 🙂

Wyatt is so smart and fearless!  Started using a leash the second day he came home. Loves to ride in the truck where thankfully he is also content to sleep for a couple hours at a time. Having pets on the road is a big decision. Getting a puppy is a way big decision. We will talk about it later. Thankfully he sleeps through the night in his kennel. The first two nights at home with Wyatt were sleepless nights.

Here are a couple videos if you enjoy them. I don’t bother with editing video so sorry they are less than professional.

 

 

 

 

Outside and Truck Storage

Thought I’d throw together this quick post with photos regarding what our outside and truck storage has become. Karen and I did not plan extensively as to where we would be storing everything from the beginning, knowing from experience stuff just seems to find its spot.  Although a key to being organized and keeping this tiny space usable is to know every item has its spot and to put that item back into its spot when you are done using it.

Keep in mind we have a 35′ fifth wheel. The basement area is generally not as large as a 40′ model.  I opted to not have the RV built ready for a generator because I did not want the front basement/garage space taken up by a box for the generator.  Also our cabinets inside the RV extend to the top of the flat ceiling thereby offering more inside storage well within the gross weight limits of the RV.

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In our truck you can see the following:

  • I don’t store anything that would have a chance of interfering with the fifth wheel hitch operation to include the emergency break-away wire.
  • I kept our extendable ladder although it is heavy but fits well under the trucks roll up bed cover canister.
  • A five gallon gas can although I don’t keep it full. I try and have eight hours of gas for the generator knowing I can buy more.
  • Rolled up under the gas can is an extra garden house. The can sits in the center of the hose.
  • An extra 2.5 gallon container of diesel exhaust fluid (D.E.F) for our diesel truck. Our trucks D.E.F tank holds about 6.5 gallons. Always carry extra because it can be very hard to find in small towns and if you run out it could be miles away finding any. Meanwhile your truck will not run or runs poorly without it.
  • The red box you see is our emergency road triangles in case we break down on the side of the road. I keep the yellow vest inside the truck.
  • Our 3400 watt generator is strapped to the inside of the truck with the exhaust facing out towards the tailgate. Although it weighs only 76 pounds, I can run it without moving it from the truck. The power cord from the RV easily reaches it.
  • I could not live without the locking tonneau truck bed cover.  I also have a 15′ cable I can run through everything when traveling if I want but have never used it for that.
  • One item not visible is a two step ladder. I use this as a step to climb into the truck bed, for various places around the RV and store it under the fifth wheel pin when parked as a reminder not to pump my head on the pin.

Here are a few photos of our two basement storage areas:

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  • I kept storage containers from our old sticks and bricks house to use rather than buying new. They fit well.
  • I put the sewer connections in a five gallon bucket. Right now I’m still using a trash bag for the sewer hose. I keep all things related to drinking water inside a separate tote with a good lid.
  • I store items we don’t need access to on a regular basis in the front basement/garage. In the black storage boxes are items sorted by use. One for extra clothes or anything we might otherwise store inside the RV. One box for camping stuff. One for fluids/RV parts and another for larger tools, grease gun, caulking gun and such.
  • In the basement areas, one photo is the utility side and the other the passenger side. The largest container holds our dirty grill and doubles as a bathtub for the dog.  You will find the stuff you use the most will be in the front and top of everything else. When we arrive at a spot, depending on how long we will be there, the chairs, rug and other stuff come out which opens up the basement space for easy access.
  • Notable is the tool bag in front. Some tools I tend to use at stops more often and face them to the front. Such as a level to check our adjustable stairs.

 

I’m working on a few more posts that may keep you coming back to my blog for a reason and commenting with ideas you might have.  I’ll post them when finished, some of which have been months in the making such as:

  1. Finishing up a serious list on RV maintenance.
  2. Attempt to downsize chemicals, waxes, bug spray and more.
  3. My list of tips covering RV living that I had not commonly seen in five years of reading other’s lists.
  4. I have kept a list of every thing I ever fixed or need to fix on the RV.  Right down to if I caulked a joint or tightening screws. The reason for the detailed list is to help set expecations for others who might be considering a future in an RV. Will probably post this after or end of April appointment with the Vanleigh factory repair center.

And a bunch more….

We have left Goliad Texas and are migrating towards Mandeville Louisiana. Right now we are setup at a campsite ready to drive through Houston Texas on a Sunday.  Found a great website to check live Houston highway traffic called traffic.houstontranstar.org.

Water Connection and Cold Weather

Currently we are located in Branson Missouri. On 11/18/19 we will be stopped outside Little Rock Arkansas, moving south to Texarkana and then eventually to Livingston Texas.

Here is a quick post regarding how we are handling our water connection during below freezing temperatures.  Any feedback or suggestions is appreciated.

We have been in our fifth wheel in temperatures as low as 12 degrees outside. It handled it well and we are impressed with the heating and insulation.  This campsite (America’s Best in Branson Missouri) had a note posted in the office. If you leave your water connected to the spigot in freezing temperatures and there is damage to the spigot the repair costs start at $250. I’ve heard other parks have the same warning.

We don’t have a heated hose so we disconnect our water hose during freezing weather. And as we do not expect to stay longer term in freezing weather I don’t intend to buy a heated hose which costs between $80 and $120.  If you do plan to buy a heated hose then I refer you to Bill and Kelley’s American Odyssey blog for an option to build your own as part of your research. I’ll be saving the storage space and skipping the heated hose for now.

I keep an eye on the expected low temperature and unhook our water hose, drain the hose and put it in the basement so it does not freeze. We have a fresh water holding tank that is 70 gallons plus the hot water tank at 10 gallons for a total of 80 fresh. Make sure your water heater tank is full before turning it on or it will be damaged by the way.

When temperatures are freezing I add water to our fresh tank to feed from while unhooked from the city water spigot. I turn on our 12 volt heat pad tank warmers. I’ve read that even if the tanks are dry the 12 volt heat pads will not hurt the tanks. We figure about 10 gallons of fresh water per day. I put at least that much in the fresh water tank for overnight when unhooked, maybe more if we are going to take showers and don’t want to run out. If it’s above freezing during the day we will reconnect to city water and take showers.

For now, I do not use our external charcoal water filter when I’m adding water to the fresh water tank. Seems to me if we remove the chlorine from the water then it would go bad over time in the fresh water tank.  Although on occasion I can drain the fresh water tank and sanitize it (another maintenance item I need to do).  Our trailer has an inside water filter which I understand will filter the water from the tank to the faucet.

If you stay hooked-up to city water in freezing temperature, even with a heated hose, beware of the external water filters as they will freeze and the cheap plastic may rupture. I saw that at our last stop and turned the guys water off as he was away from his trailer. I notified management who said the external water filters (like the blue one’s at Walmart) are very likely to crack in freezing temperature. The below photo is an idea using a bucket to heat the spigot if you leave it on and it’s short enough to cover with a bucket:

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Bucket covers spigot

Our water pump is somewhat loud. I’m in the process of researching if I can get in the basement and maybe install some rubber under it to help with the vibration. I’ve also intended to buy a spare water pump in case ours goes out. I’d use the spare to pump water into our holding tanks from a water bladder someday.  If the spare pump is of better quality, I may install it in the camper and use the old one to transfer water from a bladder.

We are getting ready to travel in some hilly areas so I’ll be keeping our fresh water tank weight down. Before we leave I’ll be draining the remaining water from the tank and using my water counter (gauge) to add back maybe 10 gallons plus what’s in the hot water tank.

I’ll post more later about how we are heating our trailer. Just a quick reminder to run your furnace at times if your basement and utility bay is heated or the water lines inside the trailer may freeze.

Equipping RV, Preparing Home for Sale and More

Well it was 10 days ago that I posted we had brought our new fifth wheel home and stuck it in storage. We are committed to spending this month preparing the house for sale and fiddling with the RV while it’s in storage.

I’ve come to grips with the house will not be 100% perfect before it goes on the market. We don’t want to miss the better window to sell it. When we moved in 17 years ago we were a family of three. The folks most likely to buy this house could be roughly the same age we were 17 years ago with one or two children or in other words at the same place in life we were when we moved in. That’s our best guess anyway. So selling while school is out for the summer is the most likely option for a quick sale.  And should it sell quickly then we have our new home on wheels to move into.

It really has helped to have kept a list of possible purchases for our RV. Karen and I are being very selective in how we equip our fifth wheel, knowing we will learn more on the road. Some items are essential and a few items are just fun to have.

We plan to load up the truck if it’s not raining tomorrow, taking a load to the camper. I turned off the main electrical disconnect to prevent draining of the two batteries but know there remains a small electrical draw according to what I’ve read on owner’s forums. So I’m taking the 3400 watt portable generator to juice up the batteries while we are there. For now the batteries are hard to get to as the battery box has a ton of screws to remove to open the cover. I’ll change that later when we might upgrade our batteries.

We had a couple issues develop during our maiden voyage and have the fixes ready to go. Our elderly dogs had trouble coming down the bottom two steps of the RV (Lippert Solid Steps) so we purchased 23″ x 18″ stair rugs for the bottom three stairs.  We are hoping they will give the dogs better footing. We went with the Campco brand with double ribbed texture. I read where others have bought less expense carpet runners and cut them up. They wrapped them around the stairs and used Velcro or wire ties to lock the ends together. Apparently you can purchase longer lengths of carpet runners off a roll at Home Depot but I’ve not confirmed that.

 

When we left the last campground I drained all the water out of the hot and cold water lines and discovered a low water point drain valve was malfunctioning. When we arrived home I sent an email to the Vanleigh RV Service Center where an operator emailed back 20 minutes later with a contact name and email. I emailed the technician who sent a reply 10 minutes later.  The next day a new valve showed up in the mail at home as did another email making sure I received the valve and phone number to call if I want any help installing it. I talked to a factory service technician on the phone and believe I can handle it on my own.

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New Low Water Point Drain Valve to Install

A few equipment related decisions have been harder to make then expected. Finally decided on a coffee pot! You may have read the earlier post regarding how important coffee is to us. Finally it struck me I was looking at the decision completely from the wrong view point. I’m not buying a coffee maker for a large house with all kinds of counter space nor at times infinite supply of electricity. We already have a smaller French press but wanted to replace the older large machine we have now.  I considered all the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) certified expensive brands. But after thinking like someone who is going to live out of an RV, decided on – believe it or not – an old fashioned electric Presto percolator.  Takes up 1/4 of the space compared to a machine, uses 1/2 the energy (think batteries at 800 watts) and makes good tasting hot coffee. Yes, it is slower than a automatic coffee maker. And does not have a digital clock that might cause one to have to reset the time when moving from camping spot to camping spot.

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Still can’t decide on a surge protector – size and hardwired or not.  And if I was to purchase a tire monitoring system, with heat and pressure detection, I’d go with the TST 507 model without flow-through valves for the trailer. Others say the valves with caps take no more time to remove when checking the air then standard valve stem covers.  The larger flow-through valves, which can remain in place when airing a tire, stick out from the sides of the tires and are easier to knock off if you hit a curb or whatever. The only thing stopping me from buying one is I’ve yet to figure out if our 2018 Ram truck’s system can handle add-on sensors rather than having to add yet another stand-alone monitoring device (update, the 2018 Ram does not allow for adding more wheels to the factory tire monitoring but the 2019 trucks have it as an option)

Also decided to skip the RV specific GPS for now. The trucks GPS is awesome and I’m getting a better paper atlas. Finally figured out there is a difference between trip planning and navigation in that it’s hard to find one thing that can handle both aspects. So after we use whatever to come up with a route I’ll just check it against the truck’s GPS. A friend added he has a phone app to check low bridge clearances. I like the Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ paper atlas but am having a hard time deciding between it and the large print standard atlas. Personally I prefer to look at a paper map for local highways when first starting to plan a route. Then use the digital stuff, like Google Earth Pro, Allstays and such.

Sometime in the next two weeks I’ve got to check my vehicle and insurance to see if they cover roadside assistance. And make sure it’s not covered under the factory warranty which is doubtful.  Also for safety I’m getting a pull-over reflective vest and some triangular roadside markers in case we break down in a busy area.

Lastly, knowing this may seem minor, I’m changing out the disposable 3.5 mil gloves I use when dumping the black tank. The ones I bought earlier tear easily. I got with our Evidence Technician at work regarding the brand and thickness we use for touching gross stuff and ordered the same. Adenna Shadow 6 mil are the ones to get!

We have a local camping trip planned for the first of June, then a couple weeks later we are off to central Missouri for a family campout. We are also considering another trip to Michigan and have booked a two week stay in Carthage Missouri in October for the local Escapee Chapter Rally and a festival in Mt. Vernon Missouri. There is a better than average chance come October 4th we will not be returning to “home” but setting a course elsewhere. Karen and I are leaning towards a trip to the Vanleigh Service Center the first of November in northern Mississippi, then on to Tennessee. From there we should be in Texas maybe by December to establish or domicile.  Here in a few months I’m going to setup our mail service so I can start changing the addresses. More on that later.

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Still looking to get some photos out of our new home when the time is right.

Taking Delivery of our RV and Trip Home

Here I sit at our dinette table in our new home on wheels with a view of a wonderful state park from every window. On the way from Kansas City to the dealership in Tulsa Oklahoma we stopped at each point we would be visiting again on our return trip. Such as one fuel stop and a campsite. Being new to towing a fifth wheel, especially a larger one, I wanted to help ease the tension by reducing the chances of any sudden surprises. As it turned out, after spending three nights camped near the dealership, we received a sudden call from a Oklahoma Park Ranger that a campsite we planed to spend time in at the Grand Lake of the Cherokees was flooded. Darn, I thought as I’d visited the actual spot we intended to back into during the trip down. The Ranger offered an alternate site which I had not researched. I was ready to find a commercial RV park but rightfully, Karen insisted this is a vacation and we are staying in a wonderful wooded state park near a lake. So blindly I agreed with the Park Ranger we would just find a spot when we arrived at our new destination which was the Honey Creek State Park in Grove Oklahoma.

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Truck Bed Cover and Locks

A concern we all share is how to protect our property while traveling or parked. I had no idea spending time in the crime prevention unit would come in handy years later as we prepare for our future in an RV.

Its been awhile since I looked up the statistics. Nationally maybe 26% of property crimes are solved and maybe half of those solved theft crimes result in recovering any of the stolen property. The Sheriff’s Office I work for had been in the upper 40% success rate which is rare. I feel for the victims who might not experience justice  when the criminal is captured and does not pay you back for what they have stolen or escapes punishment.

Perhaps the best approach to property crimes is protecting yourself and not becoming a victim, or at least lowering the chances of becoming one. Two topics come to mind those being target hardening and natural surveillance.  Not to get wordy in this post but I feel the need to lay some foundation, much of which very well could be self-evident.

Target hardening is using such measures as locks, alarm systems, and planting rose bushes below windows to make it difficult for property to be stolen or increase the time the criminal is at the scene, improving the chance of detection.  Natural surveillance is designing a building, city park or whatever to increase surrounding neighbors and visitors view of the area. Or perhaps adding lighting as long as the light does not trespass through the neighbor’s windows. Folks who live in downtown spaces and residential neighborhoods become more territorial and are more likely to notify authorities when someone is up to no good. I suspect in a mobile lifestyle people might pay less attention as they are not vested by “living” in the neighborhood.

I’d think both target hardening and natural surveillance would  be more difficult to deploy when your home is mobile. And surely a few of you have figured out some interesting ways to accomplish this. In my relatively limited RV travel experience I generally have the opinion folks that are camping are good people. And certainly there is a chance of making friends when parked for a longer period.

I’m approaching target hardening, or adding locks, to cover times when we are traveling and when parked. Right or wrong I added a truck bed cover. But still have to secure items in the bed of the truck when traveling which leaves the bed cover open where someone could quickly lift property at a highway rest area.

During my research for a truck bed I narrowed the field of what is available to a soft cover that rolls up, a hard cover that folds over and a hard cover that retracts into a cannister. I kept in mind the mounting rails for the cover could impact with a fifth wheel pin box on sharp 90% turns such as backing in.  Generally speaking, others told me rails and covers that do not extend above the truck bed sides better avoid the chances of the hitch impacting the truck cover rails. But, in some cases you might need a slightly raised bed cover to allow room for your fifth wheel hitch.

The least cost approach is the soft cover that rolls up to the back of the truck. Two popular models are the Truxedo and Access. Depending on construction materials, folding covers and retracting covers can be comparably pricy. Our truck is a long bed so folding covers would be less likely to get in the way of the hitch when open. Popular brands include Bakflip with it’s four folding sections. It’s high dollar and certainly there are less costly brands.  Arguably the best retractable cover would be the Retrax.

My list of wants included a cover where the rails of the cover were relatively level with the sides of the truck, provided some measure of security that would make it more difficult to cut through, handy to open or close and did not require a separate key to unlock.  Keeping items dry under the cover or being able to close the cover half-way were secondary in my list of wants. Some covers are designed with rail locking systems that allow you to open them just enough to attached the fifth wheel hitch, leaving the remaining portion of the truck bed covered presumably to protect the contents from weather.

I was torn between a hard surfaced folding cover and a cannister model which is expensive. That decision became much easier when I suddenly found a manufacturer I was interest in had a 20% off sale.

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Pace Edwards shipped their Switchblade cover to our home in two boxes. Alone, I installed it in about two hours. This cover does not lock half way back, leaving it fully open or closed when traveling. The cover top is not metal but made of a durable vinyl. I’ll use 303 protectant on the vinyl. The underside of the cover consists of aluminum slats. The cover retracts into a box which this manufacturer designed the box to take up the least bed space as possible. The locking mechanism requires you to open the tailgate and squeeze two small handles to open it. Our truck bed is locking and the key fob can be used to unlock it. No extra keys to haul around was important to me.

Yes, it leaks a little with heavy rain but is rated for a reasonable snow load. I suppose had I not opened it with standing water on top, there would have been less water leaking through the cannister where the cover retracts. The center of the truck bed and hitch, even in a heavy rain, were dry.  I should also mention our B&W hitch is at least two inches below the cover when closed.

So we have some level of security for our stuff in the truck bed but I wondered about security with the truck cover open and the fifth wheel RV is hitched up. I’d not want someone lifting something out at a truck stop or campground.  Locks and cables/chains might be the answer. You see, Karen and I decided to go with the shortest fifth wheel we would feel comfortable living in. Our 34’11” trailer has less main basement space than a 40′ model. We are making up for that by anticipating using truck bed space, the trailer has 8′ tall slides and hence taller cabinets and we bought a portable generator rather than a built-in model to free up front basement space.  Our RV as configured is rated for 3,600 pounds of cargo so it’s possible we might be able to make use of it’s storage without going over the weight limit. The frame of the RV is also engineered to handle optional heavier axles for increased cargo capacity.

Criminals will do what is easiest. In the crime prevention profession, we call property left in view, like a purse in a passenger seat or generator sitting freely in the bed of a truck – an attractive nuisance. Criminals will go after the neighbor’s property if it’s unsecured rather than yours if the target is hard to get at. And any security measure is only as good as the weakest link in the system. I’ll also add sometimes expensive security measures, when it comes to personal property, could be more expensive than the property you are protecting. Safes, for example, are rated by how long it takes a professional to break into them. The theory is if it takes someone a long time to break-in then the chances of them giving up or being detected increase.

So now I need a solution for padlocks, chains or cables. Or any ideas how to secure the fifth wheel from being stolen, items taken from the truck when the cover is open and maybe attractive items exposed at the campsite.

The solution I’m considering is as follows:

Purchase enough padlocks that are keyed alike to secure our 5×10 storage locker we are keeping, the arm of the fifth wheel hitch so someone cannot unhook the trailer at a rest stop, a lock for a chain or cable threaded through the hitch, generator, toolboxes or whatever is in the bed or the truck, maybe a bike rack and maybe a cable at the campsite.  I add “maybe” because I’m not sure yet or in some cases I might wait and see what others are doing.

I’m thinking of starting off with five or six padlocks keyed alike because I don’t like carrying keys or figuring out which one opens which lock. I’ll buy one spare lock as well. I’ve got zero ideas for which cables or chains to use.

In over 30 years of law enforcement I can’t recall but twice where an RV was stolen but I’m still getting a king pin lock that will make use of one of my keyed alike padlocks. The lock type I’ve found crooks pass up the most are ones with protective shrouds making them harder to cut. Although someone with above average skills can pick many of the common padlocks in a few minutes.  And, not to be giving crooks any ideas, we are also finding them using battery operated cutting tools more often than in the past.

King Pin Lock

King Pin Lock – Thank You Rick for the suggestion!

Master is the most popular padlock brand and affordable when you need five or six of them. I’ve been researching the German made brand Abus for something a little more sturdy with better internal parts which are harder to pick and smoother to open with a key as well as having long-term durability.

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Again, keep in mind the security methods we select are only as good as the least secure point, such as the cable or chain. And when boondocking in the middle of the desert I’d suspect all beats are off other than having good neighbors or an internet linked trail camera that send images to your phone such as ones offered by Verizon. Those trail cameras really work. I’m hunting down three people on a case right now because of them…

Mark your valuable with something that makes them different such as the last four digits of your social security number. At work when I find items that might be stolen I always call the phone number that some write on the item. Calling a phone number is something a cop can easily do and crooks are too lazy to wipe off the numbers. Write down serial numbers on the owner’s manual or whatever. That way the cops can input stolen items into databases which can be tracked nationally. You would be surprised, and I’m not going to reveal, some of the technology law enforcement have today to find your stolen stuff. But then again who wants to drive thousands of miles back to attend court!  Best secure our stuff and hope the crooks go to an easier target down the road. In my opinion, take the N.R.A and any stickers off your truck or RV that suggests you have a gun aboard. Crooks appreciate the advertising as there is a big market for stolen guns.

Fifth Wheel Order – We Have a Build Date

Note: For those coming to this page from the Vanleigh Owner’s Facebook page, enter Vilano in the search function to get a list of articles.  This link should work as well. – Mark 

It’s getting real exciting around the Seneker’s house.  Because our new RV is to be built starting 4/7/19. Just got the word from the Vanleigh RV factory who as a side note are now a formal subsidiary of Tiffin Motorhomes.   The dealership is in Oklahoma and has been great to work with so far. The factory support during the ordering process is over the top excellent. I’m planning on asking their sales staff to take a few photos while it’s being built. Some owners drive there and watch the six day process.

I decided to write a blog post in the future about the ordering process to include the details up to scheduling the delivery. Then another after we get it home.  I’ve been spending a lot of time downloading pre-delivery inspection sheets so once we arrive at the dealership Karen and I will know 100% what we need to check before taking delivery. I got lucky and found a longer YouTube video where a guy walks you through the features of the 320GK floor plan we ordered. It’s the best I’ve found so far. It’s last years trailer model but does contain some interesting notes.

I’ve also been spending time reviewing an old spreadsheet I’ve kept over the past few years containing RV related accessories. It’s organized by priorities to include what we need on day one of ownership.  I could use some pointers if you have them!

What about wheel chocks?  I’m leaning toward rubber ones that I can add a rope to.

What about leveling blocks for tires? I’m leaning towards cutting 1×6 boards that are long enough to hold two tires and the wheel chocks. I assume if you have to use leveling blocks/boards then you still need to chock the tires?

And what about a couple modern products like X-Chocks for stabilizing the trailer so it does not move so much when you walk around inside?

X-Chocks

X-Chocks

Do any of you use Anderson Levelers for Trailers? I watched some YouTube video on how they are used and claims that they reduce the time to level the trailer side to side.  And what about knowing if you are close to level before you let the trailer automatic leveling stands down?  Do you guys with automatic leveling use some type of gauge to see if you really need to add anything under the tires?

Anderson levelers

Anderson Levelers for Trailers

And what about blocks for under the jack stand and leveling pads? Those Snap Pads sure look promising. At first I’m planning just to cut some 2×12’s for blocks. If you are looking into Snap Pads their website has a tool for selecting the model you need based on your specific trailer. And a YouTuber I contacted says Snap Pad is getting ready to release a new product that incorporates the need for any blocks under the pads so you don’t extend the levelers to far, causing the trailer to sway when you walk inside. That new feature presumable replace the 2×12’s folks use at times.

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Snap Pads (feet for leveling jacks)

 

I’m still looking into locks we might need for the king pin to stop someone from backing up and hitching up the trailer. Readers have been giving me ideas – thanks for those!  I also got to thinking even with a truck bed cover (blog posting coming soon) we will still need a cable to string through the hitch, a couple boxes with tools, the generator or whatever – because the truck cover will be open when stopping at rest areas and such. It would be nice to have one keys that fits all those locks so I’m been looking at solutions that would allow me to use keyed alike pad locks.

Lots of other accessories to be purchased before we pick up the fifth wheel. I’ll keep you posted on those individual decisions and of course, as always, asking for suggestions.

Karen and I are real excited.  I came home the other night and she had taken nearly all the artwork of the walls of our current sticks and bricks house.  She has been going through drawers and tells me some of the stuff is now in plastic containers that we might as well start getting used to living out of.  We have a tentative schedule for RV trips before I retire later this year and hope to get the house on the market in maybe July. So far we figure we will be in central Missouri in June then up in Michigan in July for sure.  Lots of small trips in between.

 

new flash Here is a Vanleigh Vilano 320GK video that just came out today. Leigh Tiffin is highlighting what the fifth wheel has special compared to others.

Bought a Hitch

We now look closer to real RV owners when riding around in our truck, having just bought and installed our fifth wheel hitch. I got amazingly lucky one day last week. I wondered if by chance there was a B&W Companion hitch on Craiglist.  Found a brand new one that had already been installed on the same year and model Ram truck we own. The lady selling it used to transport RVs professionally but gave it up after a major accident in the snow. The insurance company replaced her truck and equipment. Thankfully she was not injured.  She never used her new replacement hitch and gave me a heck of a good deal.  Karen and I met her in a Walmart parking lot and moved the hitch from her truck to ours in 10 minutes.

It’s easy to start a major debate on what hitch to buy. I’ll just say my final two selections were the Curt and B&W. And I’ll explain why I went with the B&W simply as it’s beefier, with a 25,000 pound fifth wheel weight capacity and more than a 6,000 pound pin weight capacity.  Compare the locking jaws on hitches and you will see what I mean by beefier.

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You will notice in the above photo how the legs of the hitch attach to the truck bed. That’s the RAM puck system that is part of the fifth wheel prep option. Ford and Chevy have something similar. This allows you to remove the hitch by breaking it down into two parts by turning the handles to lift it out of the truck. The base of the hitch weighs 135 pounds so that’s a two person job. The coupler or head is 75 pounds. Of course you would remove the hitch in case you ever wanted to lay something flat in the truck or hauling large objects.  I’ll repeat this for those that are truck shopping.  Make sure you get the factory fifth wheel prep option with the puck system. The cost of installing a hitch is large without it. 

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I was happy to learn the top of the hitch is below the bed rails of my truck. Although I had studied photos before and expected that. Because – in my garage is a truck bed cover that I’ll report about after it’s installed. This hitch is very adjustable up and down by a few inches and front to back over the rear truck axle.

It also has an articulating head that twists and turns with the trailer. Something very important to note when you go hitch shopping is to make sure the hitch works with whatever king pin you have on your trailer. Some king pins also articulate and can work against the hitch head with opposing forces. Maybe easier described as if the king pin moves one way and the hitch head moves another it could place unnecessary pressure and wear on both. I learned that by joining the Facebook users group for our particular trailer. I talked to friends who own this hitch and claim it’s easier to hitch and unhitch when the trailer is at slight angles.  It does not bind up as easy, if that make sense.

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I should also mention the professional RV delivery person I bought this hitch from has a word of advise. She says there are parts of the country where if you leave your rig unattended a trucker might just pull the arm and release the hitch from your trailer when parked. I circled the area in red above. She says replace the pin that holds the arm closed with a locking pin. She said the issue is more common in… well I’ll say it, the west and east coast.  She says in some areas of our country there are professional drivers that don’t appreciate sharing the road and parking spots with us RV people.

Update: 3/31/19 – It took a long time to figure out where I needed to apply lubrication for this hitch.  I bought a 10″ king pin Teflon disc rather than having to keep adding grease between the pin and hitch.  You also will need spray white lithium grease for the black plastic “saddles” where the hitch head sits on the lower stand.  And finally you will need some automotive lithium chassis grease, with a grease gun. There is a grease zerk under the hitch head. And use some of the same chassis grease inside the jaws.   I decided to go with anything NLGI #2 certified.  The Lucas red tacky is what I bought because I can use in on the truck as well.

Tools

Selecting what tools to hit the road with has been a harder decision than I expected.  Watched all the YouTube videos as to what others are using and talked to a lot of friends in the process.  It became apparent that until we are on the road we may not have a great idea of what tools will come in handy. For sure, the types of tools one keeps depends on how much of the truck/RV maintenance and modifications one plans to perform on their own compared to hiring it out. For me, I plan to learn as much as possible and do as much as possible.

For me, the starting point is taking inventory of what tools I already own. I sold off some of the larger items in our first garage sale, keeping for sure what I know I’ll need to finish home repairs before our house goes on the market.  Then I looked around at all the boxes and bags, sorted by tool type, and wondered how to consolidate all those into just a few bags for the road.

After years of reading other’s blogs and the Facebook users group for our trailer brand I’ve got a reasonable idea of what to expect. For example, common problems where bolts were not checked and may have led to mechanical failures in the suspension systems.

As our 35′ fifth wheel has a smaller basement than a 40′ model, I suspect the bed of our truck will someday include a larger container for whatever will fit in it.  Here are a few of my tool decisions and what I’m wondering about keeping or not.

Tree branch trimming and wood cutting:  This is a hard one for me. Do I keep the battery operated Sawzall, longer axe or hatchet, buy an electric chain saw or just keep the ratcheting  loppers?  I suspect, but am not sure, there will be times when we at least collect small dead tree branches to start fires and for sure there will be those times when low hanging tree branches may need to be cut from the roof of the fifth wheel before we back in?

Hand tools and electrical stuff: This was an easy decision. I took my two boxes and consolidated what I thought I would need into a single bag. I should have done this a long time ago because more times than not I ran back to the garage for yet another small tool that happened to be stored in a different bag than what I had with me.  I kept a couple extras of some tools, such as a screw driver, for a drawer in the fifth wheel for quick work and a spare set of pliers to store outside with the RV water hose connection rather than having to get the entire bag of tools out. I ended up buying this bag to consolidate everything into:


Mechanics Set of Tools:
  Over 30 years ago I purchased my first set of 3/8″ sockets. Over time I bought a small 1/4″ socket set and had amassed dozens of miscellaneous sockets which I kept in a box, bought more than likely at yard sales.  I would purchase a wrench here and there.  It was time for something more substantial and all inclusive.   Something in a single box I could grab and run with.  Adding a mechanics tool set, along with my new single bag of hand and electrical tools, brings together 90% of what tools I think I’ll need.  Keeping weight in mind, or something reasonable to carry around, I researched a new mechanics tools set. I decide on a 1/4″ and 3/8″ set.  I just do not think I’ll need a full 1/2″ drive set so why add the weight to the box.  I discovered mechanics sets after watching a YouTube where a guy was changing fuel filters on his diesel truck. This is what I purchased:

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Dewalt DWMT73802 142 Piece Mechanics Tools

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Lifetime Guarantee

 

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No One Builds Better Latches than Dewalt

Power Tools:  Of course I’ll take along a cordless drill. But what about the remainder of the set I already own that include even a small skill saw?  I’m still undecided and might just keep what I don’t take in our 5’x10′ storage unit until I see if I miss them.

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Not Sure If I’m Keeping These?

Other ToolsFor More Specific Usage: Following the Facebook user’s group for our brand of fifth wheel has netted some great advise. Folks provided specific recommendations for various tools and sizes of wrenches. Adding a torque wrench and one single 1/2″drive deep socket with 6″ extension is apparently all I’ll need for the major suspension components. I’m hoping to avoid bolts backing out while bumping down the road by keeping them tightened at the manufacturers recommendations. Of course take a caulking gun and make sure to have tape and caulk for repairs. I’m also wondering if it’s worth keeping my electric buffer for waxing the trailer? And what about a small shovel, maybe a folding entrenching tool would work. I’ve got a heavier 25′ extension cord which will work, especially as I can pull out the generator if I need to be closer to something. Here is what I bought:

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Tekton 24335 1/2″ – 10 to 150 Pound Torque Wrench

Air Compressor: I own a pancake model with a small tank that is capable of the air pressures I would need. But it’s heavy and takes up space. I’ve looked at the popular Viair portable brand, but they are expensive and slow to inflate. I might get a smaller pancake model that has a tank now that I’m not running any air nailguns nor plan to use air tools. Finally figured out how to air up dual wheel tires and have the basic chucks for that, along with a quality air gauge attached to the air hose. Might write a blog post later on that. I’m not concerned with having a model that hooks to a car battery because we have a generator if needed. I’ll be taking another look at the hoses that are available, especially the space saving type. Although it makes since to go with what I have for now.  I also have a gun attachment that blows air which is invaluable for cleaning dusty parts and even blowing out the garage floor. Wonder if that might work for blowing off the tops of slides? (update 6/19/19 need to replace current pancake model which apparently is to old to inflate anything higher than 104 pounds.  I’ll sell the old one grouped with my nail guns).

Gas Powered Equipment: Figure these are not coming along but not sure yet.  We have a 3500 Watt gas generator already so will already be hauling around a few gallons of gas.  What about keeping my gas leaf blower and collapsible weed trimmer?  These two items come apart for storage. The leaf blower could come in handy for blowing off the slide tops or outside mat. I’ve stayed in more than one camping area that needed weeds trimmed.

Ladder and Stool:  Not technically a tool but something to consider. We have a two step folding stool to be used to reach high shelves in the RV and I use it to get in and out of the truck bed. Really thinking about keeping the two step stool in the camper and buying a shorter three step model to keep in the back of the truck. I also have a 12′ heavy folding Werner ladder. I’ve considered going to a collapsible ladder in place of the folding ladder:

Two steep

 

LadderLAdder 2

 

I’ve got a place at home we are storing tool and camper accessories we are not using right now. We plan to take several boxes with us when we pick up our fifth wheel from the dealership. There is time now to put all this together.

Karen and I were talking yesterday about pricing items for sale. We both agreed although we had paid X amount for something new we had, for lack of a better word, joy in using it. That joy cost something and the item is now worn. For me, some tools are harder to dispose of because even after years of usage they are not even close to worn out.  So when you are downsizing it might be helpful to keep in mind you had joy in owning and using something. You can always buy the same worn item again later at a yard sale or any of the same places you used to dispose of them.

Thanks for following along and providing comments. I’ve been shopping for a new truck hitch and still considering a truck bed cover for all the stuff we want to secure. More on all of that later.