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Tech Topics - July 2018

by Paul and Kerri Elders

Let’s take a look at some simple tips for managing your RV’s interior temperature, diagnosing roof leaks (and hopefully preventing them before they start), and learn how to easily fix a “broken” turn signal.  Ready? Let’s go!

Thermostats: We’re dependent on our RV’s thermostat to help keep us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Today’s ducted air conditioner/heater systems usually feature a remote thermostat. Ordinarily, this remote thermostat is mounted on the surface of an interior wall, where it won’t be as greatly affected by exterior temperature changes and will read and respond to the RV’s interior temperature more accurately.  

Here are a few simple tips for trouble-free operation of your air conditioner’s thermostat:  Contrary to popular belief, a thermostat isn’t an accelerator—your room really won’t cool any faster if you drop the thermostat to 60 degrees than it will if you set it at 72. Set the thermostat at your desired temperature and leave it there. If you turn the thermostat off in the summertime, it’s a good idea to leave it off for at least three minutes before turning it back on. This allows the air conditioner refrigerant cycle to equalize its pressure, creating less stress on the air conditioner’s compressor.  

Diagnosing Roof Leaks: Thanks to improved roofing materials, modern RVs are much less prone to roof leaks than in the past, but occasionally, leaks can and do happen. Nobody likes the thought of a leaky roof, especially when you’re enjoying a little vacation time in your RV. Luckily, there’s a logical cause and effect relationship for roof leaks and they’re usually easy to trace. Even if the source of the leak is not directly above the water leak inside the RV, it’s usually a simple matter to locate its source on the rooftop.  

Potential problem spots should be checked regularly to ensure the integrity of your RV’s roof and to prevent leaks in the first place. If you do this yourself, exercise appropriate caution and always wear tight-fitting, slip-proof shoes. Start at the back of the RV and work your way to the front, beginning with the roof ladder. Check the plates used to secure your ladder to the roof and all mounting screws. Frequent use of the ladder often loosens the hold-down screws and may crack the sealant, especially if the ladder isn’t securely fastened to the roof beams. Tighten these screws securely without over-tightening. After tightening the screws, re-caulk, again using the manufacturer’s recommended sealant around the mounting. If the recommended sealant is not readily available, a good substitute is a high-quality siliconized acrylic caulking.

Next, check the roof rack, especially if you frequently carry luggage and gear up and down.  Most RV manufacturers install heavier decking under the outside skin of the roof rack, and the outer skin ordinarily has a reinforced non-skid surface. If this is the case, you should have minimal problems with roof leaks here, but it’s still a good idea to check all joints and seams around the rack.  Use the same procedure as for the ladder: check all screws and reseal all hold-down plates, making sure to seal the screw heads with a sealant after tightening. Methodically work your way through your rig, checking all roof penetrations, including air conditioners, roof vents, plumbing vents, antennas, etc. and seal as needed.

Turn Signal Troubles: Have you ever tested your turn signals before a big trip, only to find that one of your blinkers wasn’t blinking? The most common source of failure of an RV’s turn signals or clearance lights is corrosion on the electrical connections, a conspiracy of time and moisture.  If you’ve checked for burned-out bulbs and found that they’re in perfect working order, you might have a corrosion problem. Fortunately, this is usually easy to see and easy to fix.

Begin by popping off or unscrewing the light’s plastic lens. Remove the bulbs and use fine sandpaper to clean up the connections on the bulbs and their contacts. An emery board (cardboard-type fingernail file) works great for this little job.   

Sometimes, the ground connection (the return path for the electrical current) is supplied by the skin of the RV via the clearance light’s mounting screw, which can sometimes become corroded or rusted. If this is the case, simply remove the rusty screw and replace it with a new one. If the screw isn’t corroded but simply can’t be properly snugged in place, just replace it with a slightly larger screw, being careful not to over-tighten it.

After cleaning, spray all connections with WD-40 to help prevent future corrosion, wiping the bulb’s glass surface clean before replacing it in its socket. Clean and replace the plastic lens and, if desired, lay a fine bead of clear silicone on the top and sides of the lens-to-mount joint. Don’t silicone the bottom joint, since this can seal in moisture, ultimately leading to more corrosion. Keep your eyes on the horizon, and blaze a trail. Happy travels!

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