RV Tips and Tricks

Ask RV Bill - April 2017

RV BillQ- Bill, What is your opinion on surge protectors? Which manufacturer makes the most reliable unit? I’ve heard many horror stories about lightning or voltage problems in RV Parks and would like to avoid such problems.

Cheers, John Atkins

A- John, There are a lot of pros and cons about surge protectors, whether you purchase a unit that hard wires into your system or simply plugs into the pedestal. If you purchase a unit that plugs into the pedestal, you can eliminate it if there is a problem related to voltage or wiring. Built-in surge protectors can cease to function if it detects faulty wiring at the pedestal leaving you without power. This type of surge protector can be very noisy, say, in the middle of the night if there’s a problem with the power going on and off it will surely wake you up with a loud clacking noise. If you do decide to have a built-in unit, get the model with the remote read out if available. You can use this to diagnose what is wrong with the voltage or configuration of the wiring. I think for the most part now days RV parks are pretty consistent with their AC systems. Lightning is a whole different story. If you do not have a surge protector, unplug your RV and run on your batteries until the lightning storm subsides. I suggest Progressive Industries as they are tried and true along with the best warranty in the business.


Q- Bill, We love camping in rural areas such as state parks and national forest campgrounds. The problem that we are running into is that mice seem to think that our motorhome makes a great home. I don’t want to poison them and have them die in the coach emitting a bad smell for a week or two. Trapping seems to work, but would like to prevent them from entering our rig altogether. I’ve plugged up every hole that I can find on the outside to no avail.

Wishing they were all blind mice, Dean

A- Hi, Dean. I’m not sure which is worse, a dead mouse that smells or the urine and filth that they leave behind especially if long term occupancy is established. It’s always amazed me how rodents can squeeze through holes that are much smaller than they are. Science shows if they can fit their head through a space, the rest of the body will fit, too. Try soaking peppermint oil onto cotton balls and place in paper cups around the RV. Mice hate the smell of the strong oil peppermint and if they get a whiff of it before they even enter the RV they’ll change their mind for a return visit. Distribute the cups of peppermint cotton balls in storage compartments from front to back of your RV in locations that the smell wont permeate the inside of your RV, not that the peppermint is so bad, but it might irritate your pets sensitive noses. You could even leave cups of the peppermint oil around the tires, power cord and water hose where they are most likely to climb up into your domicile.


Q- Bill, I was great seeing you at the Sunriver Thousand Trails. We are purchasing a used 2005 32-foot Carriage Cameo fifth wheel and I understand that the frame of the trailer is built very well. My question is could we put a lift on the back of the trailer for our Harley motorcycle? I believe that our motorcycle weighs in at about 800 or 900 pounds loaded plus the lift.

Be well and Happy Trails, Don and Gayle

A- Hello, Friends! I’m afraid that you won’t be able to put the motorcycle on the back of your trailer, simply for the fact that the added weight will offset the kingpin weight and make the fifth wheel handle poorly. Fifth wheels need between 18 and 25% of their gross weight to be on the king pin for proper handling. That particular trailer should be around 2200 pounds of Pin weight, if you put the leverage of 800 or 900 pounds on the rear of the trailer if you can imagine what it would do reducing that 2200 pounds. By the time you paid for a custom-made hitch and a hydraulic lifting motorcycle rack for the back you may be able to purchase an “Idaho Tote”. This is a type of trailer that bolts permanently to the back of the fifth wheel frame, solving the problem of towing doubles and it has a swivel wheel so that the fifth wheel can be backed up without jackknifing.


Q- I have an Atwood model G6A2 water heater in my 1994 pace arrow motorhome. During our last outing the water heater would not function on propane. I looked at the burner area see if there were any pieces of debris or something preventing the ignition cycle without luck. I can hear a loud ticking noise when the switch is turned on but I don’t get in the ignition.

Could it be the sparker thing?


A– Jeff, Direct spark ignition water heaters are convenient but can be problematic. The problem could be in the circuit board, thermostat and ECO (emergency cut off) switch, a simple adjustment of spark probably assembly, a ground, the gas valve, or simply gas pressure. A quick way to tell if gas pressure is the problem, light three of the burners on your stove and turn the water heater on. Watch the flames, As soon as you hear ignition, see if the flames reduce significantly in the size which will mean the gas pressure is dropping too low for the water heater to ignite. Replace the LP regulator. If the burner flame does not diminish in size then you will need to check the other items that I had mentioned. You may want to have a technician diagnose it at this point, as it can be dangerous when you’re working with a gas appliance. If it does prove to be the circuit board, replace with a board from Dinosaur Electronics. The Dinosaur Boards are the best circuit boards that I have ever used with a failure rate of less than 1%.



Q- Bill: I wrote you about an issue some time ago and you were very helpful.  I’m wondering if you have an advice on how to mitigate glare on the instrument panel.

We have a 2012 Fleetwood Bounder, which we like and are very, satisfied with.  However, the dash is such that it is almost impossible to see any info, including the backup camera and “radio” dials when the sun is out.  The direction does not seem to matter.

Any ideas?


A- Hi Terry, it’s great to hear from you and good to see that you are enjoying your motorhome. It sounds like the sunlight coming through the windshield reflects on the dash because of the angle of the face of the dash. Is the glare worse when the sun shines directly through the windshield? More than likely you’ll have to do a bit of experimentation to find a solution. I would try setting either a piece of carpet or cardboard on the dash overhanging the instrument panel blocking the glare and see if that works, you might try window tinting on the side windows and a cross the top of the windshield. That includes a back up camera. I’ve seen back up cameras that were mounted on the dash and had a visor over them to cut the glare. Thanks for the write in.

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