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Ask RV Bill - October 2017

Q- Hi Bill, I am interested in your opinion on our new 2017 Open Range Trailer. It has to do with sway bars on an equalizer hitch. On my old 25′ trailer it came with a sway bar set up – so I used it and never traveled without it on. When I picked up the new 35′ rig, there was no sway bar and when I asked the parts guy doing the walk through he said I wouldn’t need it & that it would be over-kill. I am not so sure… Maybe it’s just my preconception that one is needed? Or is he correct?

Thanks, Tyler

A- Tyler, You should always use an equalizing hitch and sway control with a bumper pull type trailer- the bars are not sway bars, they are truly equalizing bars. The sway control unit is separate in most cases unless the bars perform both functions. Good job being suspicious and taking the time to inquire as safety is always first. My recommendation is to buy the Equal-I-zer 4-point Sway Control. They are not cheap, but incredibly effective. You will find different weight capacities available for different sized trailers- 400, 600,1000, 1200 and 1400 pound hitch ratings. You will need to know what your actual tongue weight is on your trailer. If you go online you can find a way to use a set of bathroom scales and 2 x 4’s to get the tongue weight. If you travel with a full water tank, you will need to fill the tank to get the correct total weight. Round up when ordering the proper hitch for your trailer. If you have any questions, get the tongue weight let me know and I’ll tell you which one to get. If there are any truck scale is available, you could actually way the tongue weight within just a few seconds by disconnecting the trailer from the truck.


Q- Bill, We have a 1989 Southwind Motorhome with an Atwood water heater. When we light the pilot the burner comes on and heats the full tank of water. When the flame shuts down the pilot goes off with it, we can re-light the pilot and cycle it again with the same result. It has an ITT Jade control valve and the pilot assembly and burner and the front of the water heater is very rusty. Is there anyway to adjust the pilot or clean the pilot to get it to work? We checked into the price of a new water heater and it seems like there are rather expensive.

Fellow Full Timers, Jack and Jennifer

A- Hey RVer’s, I think it’s time to replace your water heater, not just for the rust, but the age of the water heater alone. That particular gas valve had a history of pilot outage because of the electromagnet that was built in to the control assembly was not adequate. By the time you buy a gas valve a burner and a pilot assembly and if the inner tank starts leaking, which it could any minute now. You could wind up spending more than you would for a new water heater not to mention he could still be unreliable because of the rust and the age.


Q- Hi Bill, We have a workhorse chassis in our motorhome and we are having trouble with some of the gauges in the instrument panel in the dash. My local repair shop says that there are no parts available for an older Workhorse chassis. He said perhaps he could put in some individual gauges but where would you put them and it’s expensive.

HELP!, Jesse 

A- Fortunately, I can help you. I’ve run across this problem many times over the years. There is a company called and are specialist in the business of repairing instrument panels. Give them a call at 800-417-4559.


Q- Bill, During our last camping trip I discovered a 3 inch long crack in my black tank, yes, all joking aside, it was messy and smelly. It is on the side about halfway up, it was not an issue until the tank level got to that height. I tried to repair it with some caulking and whatever I had on hand but it was futile. Have you got any suggestions?

Thanks, Carl and Judy

A- Hi, Johnson Family! We love your neck of the woods for off the grid camping and super fishing along the Duchesne River. Over the years, I’ve repaired literally hundreds and hundreds of holding tanks with great success. You did not mention the type of material the tank was manufactured from, whether it is ABS or polyethylene. Thus, here are your options; If the tank is made from ABS, yes it is basically the same material as the plumbing pipe material. If the crack is not too wide, sand the crack and the area around it with 150 grit sand paper. Next clean the area with acetone, be careful not to use too much acetone, it can eat the material up. Using ABS cement you can purchase at any hardware store apply several coats to the crack and the surrounding area. If the crack is separated you will need to perform the same process only this time you will use a piece of fiberglass mesh to bridge the gap. There are a couple of companies that make holding tank repair kits complete with epoxy and the fiberglass mesh, but not as effective.

If the tank is made of polyethylene, you will need to sand it clean it with alcohol and use one of the holding tank patch kits designed for patching holding tanks, this type of plastic is tough to make anything adhere to. As always, preparation is the key to success. In either case be sure that all of the old caulking and patching material has been eliminated. Best of luck!


Q- Bill, Our Norcold Refrigerator in our 2000 Winnebago Motorhome does not work on the electric but it functions fine on gas. Most of our trips we have hook ups and we would love to be able to use the electric.

Do you think that there’s anything simple that I could look at or repair?

Sincerely, Jason

A- Jason, yes, I do have a couple of suggestions that may help you diagnose your problem. Check to see if there is voltage where the refrigerator is plugged in. A ground fault circuit interrupter controls refrigerator outlets as they are in an outdoor environment. Using a hairdryer or other object plug it into the refrigerator outlet and see if it has power. If it does not, check all of your GFCIs in the coach to see if one of them has been tripped, very often there is more than one GFCI’s in an RV, so check them all. If that does not solve the problem switch the refrigerator to electric after letting the refrigerator completely cool down from the gas function. After the electric has been on for about an hour, check the insulated flue box in the back of the refrigerator for heat, if the heating element is burned out there won’t be any heat. The heating element can be difficult to change, go onto U-Tube and find a video for this process. New elements can be purchased online. Thank you for your inquiry.


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