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Tech Topics - April 2017

by Paul and Kerri Elders

This month, let’s take a look at a few quick and easy Blackwater System maintenance tips and see how some very minor headlight adjustments can simplify your travels.  Ready? Let’s get going!

Headlight Halos:  Installing super-bright headlights (like halogens) on your RV may sound like a great idea, but brighter isn’t always better.  While bright headlights may help you see the road ahead more clearly, ultra-bright headlights can actually have a blinding effect on oncoming traffic.  As a matter of fact, you can even unintentionally “blind” the drivers you follow behind, if your headlights are overly bright or improperly set for your loaded RV.

How could that happen?  Headlights that are perfectly set when a vehicle isn’t carrying a trailer or a load can change dramatically when a heavy load (like a trailer or fifth wheel) is added to the rear. This added rear axle weight makes the vehicle’s front end dip up, causing headlight beams to angle upward.  Not surprisingly, misaligned headlights can temporarily blind drivers in oncoming traffic, which can be a bit of an issue for you both on winding, narrow roads.  It can also be more difficult to clearly see the road ahead of your RV at night if your headlights are poorly aimed, since the headlight beams actually project a bit upward and off the road surface directly ahead of you.  This effect is even more noticeable in a rainstorm or snowstorm. Improperly aimed headlights can actually make it harder to see in driving rain or heavy snow, because the rain or snow acts like a screen, reflecting the light directly back into your field of vision.  Luckily, all these issues are easy to fix!

Ideally, headlights should be set after you’ve loaded your vehicle, especially if you’re towing a trailer or fifth wheel.  The best way to adjust headlights is to have your mechanic do it for you before leaving on your next trip.  Swing by the RV Service Center with your tow vehicle and trailer or your motorhome, loaded as usual and with tires properly inflated. Your mechanic will know just how to adjust these and do it quickly.   If you’re already out on the road & realize this is a concern, a quick visit to a local garage or RV Service Center will quickly solve the issue.

Blackwater Tips:  Your RV’s on-board blackwater (sewer) system helps make your RV a truly comfortable, self-contained home-away-from-home. And it’s easy to maintain, if you know a few Old School tips. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so Rule #1 for Happy Camping is a simple one:  keep your system clog-free. This is extremely simple: always use RV bathroom tissue or a single-ply tissue. Adding enzyme-based RV tissue digesters to your tank (like Thetford Corporation’s Tissue Digester) will help dissolve and digest any bathroom tissue that’s been added to your system, helping to assure trouble-free dumping of the blackwater tank.

Another simple tip: it’s actually a good idea to keep your blackwater valve closed, even when hooked up to a sewer connection at a campground.  Why? If the blackwater valve is left open, all liquids can drain through the hose, leaving solids behind. This means that over time, solids can begin to collect on the bottom of the blackwater tank, the dump valve and, possibly, even in your sewer hose. Eventually, these collected solids can clog the drainage system.  By keeping your blackwater tank filled with at least 20% liquid at all times, you can help prevent this headache.  Keeping an adequate volume of liquids in the tank will help flush the solids out of the blackwater holding tank each time you dump, carrying everything through the sewer hose and down into the campground’s dump tank, clog-free.

When you first arrive at your campsite after a few days’ travel, it’s a good practice to empty your holding tank, since the solids are still suspended in liquid (from the jostling effect of driving). Dump blackwater, dump graywater, re-close the dump valve, and then flush your toilet several times to replenish the water in the blackwater tank to about 20% capacity.  Add some holding tank deodorant and/or tissue digester and your task is complete till you’re ready to dump again.

It’s a good practice to keep a separate garden-type green water hose on hand that’s used only for rinsing your RV’s blackwater (sewer) lines.  NEVER use your drinking water hose to rinse blackwater lines and fittings!  Store your cleaning hose in a compartment close to the blackwater connections, but in an area completely separate from the compartment housing your drinking water hose to avoid any risk of cross-contamination.

It’s also a great idea to keep some cheap disposable plastic gloves on hand for blackwater tasks.  They’re helpful when dumping and rinsing blackwater connections.  Once the job’s complete, just reverse-peel the gloves off your hands directly into a trash can, then immediately wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water and perhaps finish with some hand sanitizer.  Happy trails, trailblazers!

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