RV Tips and Tricks

Tech Topics - January/February 2018

by Paul and Kerri Elders

This month, we’ll take a look at RV backup camera systems, LP gas monitors, and offer a few useful tips about the importance of properly maintaining your RV’s drivetrain. Ready? Let’s go!

Backup Cameras: If you’ve ever needed just a little extra help backing your RV, a backup camera system might be the perfect solution. Backup cameras and their cabin-mounted monitoring screens have been standard equipment in luxury motorhomes for many years. Thanks to technological advances, they’re also now a workable option for fifth wheel and travel trailer owners.

In the “good ol’ days,” the only backup cameras available were hard-wired and needed to be installed by a professional (usually either the motorhome manufacturer or an RV dealer). Now a wide variety of wireless camera options are available, making it possible to have a truly portable backup camera system for your RV that you can set up and use all by yourself.

Backup cameras offer a viewing screen mounted within easy sight of the driver; some models we’ve seen even offer a screen that doubles as a rearview mirror. Some backup camera systems are equipped with audio so that the driver can both see and hear what’s going on behind him. Many models are paired with backup buzzers/alarms to help keep bystanders safely out of your way as you back.

Some cameras offer a remote control that swivels the camera to adjust the viewing angle. Backup cameras can double as a handy security system for your RV and they give you an easy way to monitor your toad in transit. Browse Amazon.com and you’ll even find some wired models that are cleverly and discreetly concealed inside a license plate frame.

LP Gas Detectors: RVs feature a wide range of LP gas powered appliances: everything from ranges and stoves to 3-way refrigerators and LP gas heaters. LP gas (Liquified Petroleum gas) is a clean and convenient fuel source, but there are some special considerations to take into account when using it. LP gas is a mixture of propane, butane, and an “odor marker” (that familiar, offensive, garlicky “gas” smell, added for easier leak detection) and sometimes, other hydrocarbons. When pressure is released, LP gas typically expands to about 250 times the volume it occupied in its liquefied state. Since it’s heavier than air, LP gas tends to collect in low spots. Although an extremely rare occurrence, a substantial leak in an LP gas system has the potential to ignite. But, fortunately, most accidents can usually be prevented with a little foresight.

Never overfill your RV’s LP gas tanks beyond the recommended 80-85% fill point. Periodically inspect your LP gas tank and its hoses and fittings to be sure that all connections are tight and that all hoses are in good working condition. Verify that your RV is equipped with an LP gas alarm and test it from time to time to be sure it’s in good working order (manufacturers usually recommend replacing them every five years). Operating much like a smoke detector, this alarm will warn you with a loud audible alarm if LP gas is present in your living area.

Many RVs are delivered from the factory pre-equipped with an LP gas detector; if your RV doesn’t have one, you can easily install one yourself in just a few minutes. Be sure to install it at floor level, not at eye level, to take advantage of LP gas’s “heavier than air” nature. If you suspect a leak or if your LP gas detector goes off, immediately turn off all LP gas bottles and have your system inspected and repaired.

Drivetrain Maintenance:

Few of us ever give any thought at all to our RV’s drivetrain, but it’s a virtually invisible workhorse that helps keep you happily cruising down the highway of life. All the stress and strain that’s put on your RV’s engine is directly transferred to the drivetrain of your RV (or tow vehicle). The drivetrain includes your transmission, driveline/shaft, and drive axle. All of these components should be maintained with the same enthusiasm you offer your engine.

Overheated automatic transmissions are often caused by simple factors: low transmission fluid, a transmission cooler (located in the grille) that is clogged with debris, or by attempting to pull too much weight. Likewise, the solutions to these problems are equally simple. Keep your transmission fluid at the proper level and diligently watch for leaks. Be sure to clean the transmission cooler when you clean your radiator. And, most importantly, NEVER exceed your manufacturer’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).

Driveline universal joints must always be kept properly lubricated. Have your service technician regularly examine these for wear. Don’t overlook the differential gear’s oil level, because this tiny bit of neglect can cause some serious damage, resulting in burned-out axle bearings and unnecessary wear on the gears. Generally speaking, this universal joint lubrication work is typically best done by your favorite trusted RV Service Center. Happy trails!

Sign up for our Newsletter and
stay informed