How to Know a Tornado is Coming?

April, May, and June are the three most active months for tornadoes in the U.S. comprising more than half of the annual average of 1,333 twisters

Is a tornado coming? An RV is not a safe place to be during a tornado. Here are warning signs and how to stay safe in the face of a tornado.

Tornado season is here! How do you know if a tornado is coming? 

Here is my guide to all things tornado! I cover the tornado warning signs and how to stay safe during and after one occurs. 

What is a tornado? 

I know most of you know this but you’d be surprised how often this question is searched for in Google! I did say this guide is for all things tornado so here’s a quick definition.

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that reaches from a thunderstorm to the ground beneath it. Most tornadoes are thin but some can be greater than two miles wide. A tornado hits when warm air collides with cold air.

Is a tornado coming? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tornado season

Tornadoes can occur in the U.S. at any time throughout the year but there’s a distinct seasonal peak in tornadic activity and it starts in April. Long-term severe weather records show April, May, and June are the three most active months for tornadoes in the U.S.

Between 1991 and 2020, an average of 1,333 tornadoes were documented across the country each year of which more than half―54 percent―occurred between April and June.

Looking back on history, May is typically the most active month for tornadoes averaging 294 each year. That’s followed by April and June, each with an average of 212 tornadoes.

But remember―these are just averages based on a 30-year period and the weather doesn’t always follow what’s considered to be average.

Different weather patterns that set up each spring can cause the number of twisters between April and June to be significantly greater or much fewer than the 718 tornadoes that are typical during those three months.

Is a tornado coming? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where do most tornadoes occur? 

Tornado outbreaks during spring are most common when a southward dip in the jet stream punches into the Plains or Midwest and warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico surges northward out ahead of it at the surface.

A stronger jet stream can be fuel for extreme weather adding spin and energy needed in the atmosphere that will allow for thunderstorms to grow and intensify, potentially developing into supercell thunderstorms that could produce tornadoes if wind shear―the change in wind speed and/or direction with height―near the surface is particularly strong.

By the spring, the jet stream is migrating northward out of the South and setting up more frequently over the Plains and Midwest as it retreats toward the Canadian border for the summer.

That’s why the potential for tornadoes increases in Tornado Alley during the spring while the risk of tornadoes decreases for the southern U.S.

The term Tornado Alley has been given to the broad area where most tornadoes occur in the United States. The boundaries of Tornado Alley change depending on the criteria you use to define it. 

Generally, the region includes central Texas stretching horizontally through Oklahoma to northern Iowa. Then from central Kansas and Nebraska eastward to the west edge of Ohio. 

The U.S. tornado threat shifts from place to place during the year. The Southeast states are threatened during the cooler months. The southern and central Plains are most at risk in May and June. The early summer is a risky time for the northern Plains and Midwest areas. 

While tornadoes generally stay in these regions they have occurred in all fifty states!

Is a tornado coming? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tornado watch and tornado warning

Tornado watch

A Tornado Watch is issued by the meteorologists at the NOAA Storm Prediction Center. They watch the weather all day, every day across the U.S. for signs of severe weather. A watch can cover parts of or entire states. 

If you know there is a chance of severe weather, you can tune into NOAA Weather Radio to hear when an advance warning is issued. Many survival radios have the seven NOAA Weather Stations pre-programmed for your convenience. 

Tornado warning

A Tornado Warning is more urgent. It is issued by the NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office meteorologists watching a designated area nonstop. It means that radar or spotters have picked up on an actual tornado that is threatening people or property. 

A Tornado Warning means that you are at risk of danger and need to seek an immediate storm shelter. A warning can include parts of counties or several counties. When in an area issued with a Tornado Warning be sure to watch for the tornado warning signs. 

The National Weather Service cannot always predict a tornado nor give much warning. That is why it is a good idea to be able to spot the warning signs of tornadoes yourself. Advance planning can also mean the difference between life and death. 

Is a tornado coming? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are a few things to learn how to spot if you think a tornado is coming your way.

1. Wall cloud

You may see a wall cloud or the lowering of the base of the thunderstorm. Be especially cautious if the wall is rotating. 

2. Debris cloud

Even if a tornado is not visible look for a whirling dust or debris cloud near the ground which can indicate a tornado without a funnel. 

3. Large hail

Large hailwith the absence of rain can be an indicator of an impending tornado.

4. Heavy rain

When hail or heavy rain is followed by a quick, intense wind shift or a dead calm be watchful. This can indicate a thunderstorm as many times they are wrapped in precipitation and cannot be seen. 

5. Still weather

Many times before a tornado strikes, the wind speeds will die down producing a quiet, still air. Many report this as eerie silence. Others call it the “calm before the storm.”

6. Roaring noise

A tornado can produce a loud rumbling sound that is similar to the loud roar of a freight train. This can occur during the day or night. 

7. Funnel cloud

A rotating extension of the cloud base can signal the formation of a tornado.

8. Dark sky with greenish tint

The sky may appear dark and have a greenish hue.

9. Small and bright, blue-green flashes

At night, pay attention to small, bright, blue-green flashes near ground level. That could indicate power lines are being snapped by strong winds or a tornado. 

Is a tornado coming? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to do if you are caught in a tornado

Tip #1: When referring to tornado safety, your stationed RV is similar to a mobile home. It’s even less safe. If you are camping somewhere and find yourself at risk of a tornado get out if possible. 

Tip #2: While you do not want to be exposed outdoors you do want to try and find the safest place possible. The best places are underground shelters or sturdy, permanent buildings. 

Tip #3: If you are driving your RV or other vehicle and get caught near a tornado, it can also be dangerous. Your best-case scenario is to try and drive out of the tornado’s path. To do this, drive at a right angle to the tornado if at all possible. 

Tip #4: If you get caught in high winds or hit with flying debris, park the vehicle as quickly and safely as possible. Lower your head below the windows. Cover your head and hands with a blanket or coat. 

Tip #5: If you spot an area lower than the roadway, leave your vehicle and lie down in that area. Cover your head with your hands. 

Tip #6: If you are in the outdoors, try and locate some sort of storm shelter in a sturdy building. If that is not possible, lie down at the lowest level you can find.

Tip #7: Try to avoid trees and vehicles and cover your head with your arms. 

Tip #8: Invest in a Survival Radio before you leave on your next road trip whether heading toward Tornado Alley or not.

Tip #9: For more helpful information, refer to the NOAA’s Tornado Safety Guide.

Is a tornado coming? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to do after

Once the tornado passes, assess the damage. Look and smell for a gas leak and move away if needed. 

If you can stay put and wait for medical personnel or law enforcement. Help any injured people that you can. 

If you haven’t already, turn on your radio and tune in to NOAA weather radio or local radio station. 

If you must drive out of the area, be careful to watch for any downed power lines. 

Worth Pondering…

Outside the rain began to pour in sheets, and the wind howled. Giant pieces of hail began to pelt the building—banging off the skylights so hard that Simpson worried the glass might shatter. Then, as it had earlier in the day, the wind briefly let up. It was then Simpson heard a sound she had dreaded—a sound she couldn’t believe she was actually hearing. It was 2:40 p.m. and the tornado sirens in Moore started to wail.

―Holly Bailey, The Mercy of the Sky: The Story of a Tornado

UNWRITTEN Rules for Overnight RV Parking at Cracker Barrel

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is a great convenience for RVers looking for a free place to park for the night. However, there are UNWRITTEN rules every RVers should follow.

Most RVers have heard of Wallydocking which is parking overnight in a Walmart parking lot. It’s a form of lot docking that extends to another popular location: Cracker Barrel.

There aren’t nearly as many Cracker Barrels as Walmarts but with 660 locations (as of March 2024) in the United States, there’s often one nearby. And the company has always been welcoming to RVers, allowing people to park overnight for free.

Of course, their hospitality should only be expected to extend so far. There are UNWRITTEN rules that RVers should abide by to ensure Cracker Barrel’s courtesy continues to be extended to us. 

I will outline those rules for you so you can enjoy what I like to call Barreldocking.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not all Cracker Barrels allow overnight RV parking

Before we get into the rules, it’s important to note that not all Cracker Barrels allow free overnight parking. It is at the discretion of the manager whom you can call ahead and ask.

In most cases, the managers are more than happy to oblige. 

However, some state and city regulations do not allow overnight parking. Cracker Barrel, of course, has to abide by these regulations, so in some locales, they can’t permit you to stay in such cases.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to find Cracker Barrel locations

The easiest way to find Cracker Barrel locations is to visit their website’s location finder. You can enter a city, state, or zip code, and the map will display nearby locations. Or, you can browse by state.

There are only five states that do not have Cracker Barrel:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

The states with the most Cracker Barrels are:

  • Florida (60)
  • Texas (54)
  • Tennessee (51)
  • Georgia (47)
  • North Carolina (41)
  • Kentucky (37)

The cities with the most Cracker Barrels are:

  • San Antonio (5)
  • Knoxville (4)
  • Louisville (4)
  • Nashville (4)
  • Jacksonville (4)

So then, what are those rules?

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is meant to be an overnight convenience, not a full-on campground stay. It’s perfect if you just need a place to sleep for the night on the way to your next destination.

Out of respect and gratitude for the company, it’s highly recommended you follow these UNWRITTEN rules.

By the way, this is one article in a series of UNWRITTEN Rules. You should also read:

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 1: Eat something

Ideally, RVers should enjoy a meal at any Cracker Barrel where they park overnight. Whether you have dinner when you pull up or breakfast when you wake up, it’s a great way to thank them for their hospitality.

After all, they’re not really offering their parking lot altruistically. They’re hoping (and perhaps expecting) you’ll eat at their restaurant. And why wouldn’t you?

It’s a win-win for RVers, too. They get a place to stay for only the price of a good meal. And thankfully, Cracker Barrel is reasonably priced and the food is yum delicious.

If you have a tight budget, you don’t have to have an entire meal. You can enjoy a slice of their delicious pies, cobblers, or biscuit beignets. 

If you’re not hungry, though, you have another option to be a patron.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 2: Buy something

In addition to its all-day breakfast and homemade cornbread, Cracker Barrel is known for its Old Country Store. This little shop is packed with fun little souvenirs, toys, clothes, and treats. So, if you don’t wish to eat in the restaurant, you can opt to purchase something from their store instead.

The jump-one-peg games and giant checkerboards are favorites. There’s always the Ye Old Candy Section, too!

RULE # 3: Don’t take prime parking

It’s considered proper boondocking etiquette not to take prime parking if you’re parking overnight at Cracker Barrel. Park off to the side or nearer the back of the lot. You don’t want to park right up front where dinner or breakfast patrons are most likely to park. 

In truth, you want to do this for your own privacy as much as you do it out of respect for the other patrons. You don’t want people peering through your windows as they walk into the restaurant.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 4: Park safely

You don’t want to take prime parking; however, always keep your safety in mind. It’s not, for instance, a good idea to park in dark areas that butt up against a back alley. Find a happy compromise between safety and not taking parking away from patrons that are coming just for a meal.

Cracker Barrel is, of course, not responsible for your safety. So, you need to rely on your own street smarts when choosing a parking space.

Here’s another parking hint: Don’t park next to the dumpsters. You don’t want to block the access for employees or their garbage truck service. And those trucks come VERY early in the morning. Often way before sun up! If you are next to a dumpster, I guarantee you will be awakened by the noise.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 5: Stay one night only

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is meant to be a one-night courtesy. You are not meant to stay more than one night. More so, you’re not meant to hang around all morning, either. Once you wake up and have your breakfast, you should clear out.

This brings me to the next UNWRITTEN rule…

RULE # 6: Don’t set up camp

You cannot treat a Cracker Barrel lot like a campground. You should not extend your awning, set out camping chairs or portable grill, or even extend your slides if you can avoid it. 

If your RV requires you to extend a slide to reach the sleeping quarters, try to find an end spot where you won’t overlap into the next parking space and/or only extend it the minimum amount to get through.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 7: No bathing in their bathroom sinks

Some people use public restrooms to sponge bathe or wash their hair in sinks. While this behavior can be considered acceptable at some locations (like some rest stops), you shouldn’t do it in a Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrels are restaurants serving food to patrons who trust that they uphold the highest health standards.

Customers don’t want to enter a restroom in between their entree and dessert course to find someone sponge bathing. Cracker Barrel management doesn’t want that either. It’s best to tap into your own water supply if you’re in dire need of a cleaning.

On that same note, don’t take your pet’s potty near the restaurant! Take them away from the restaurant (especially away from the entrance) to do their business and don’t forget your biodegradable doggy poo bags.

(PSST! If you travel with a pet, check out these UNWRITTEN Rules of Camping with a Dog)

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where else can you stay overnight?

Most of us know about parking overnight at Cracker Barrel or Walmart or Harvest Hosts but there are numerous other places where RVers can stop—places right along the highway where pets are welcome and you can find just about anything you need for an overnight stay.

Worth Pondering…

 Folks know Cracker Barrel for comfort foods, the fire place, the rocking chair, and nostalgic candy.

—Jim Taylor

March 2024 RV Manufacturer Recalls: 14 Recalls Involving 8 RV Manufactures

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall, creating a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?

It’s always important to keep up with the latest recalls, no matter how small the issue may appear to be. Each week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes the latest information on recalls from minor to major defects. NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

When a manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality. NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

Information on previous safety recalls follow:

NHTSA announced 14 recall notices during March 2024. These recalls involved 8 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Jayco (5 recalls), Forest River (3 recalls), Winnebago (2 recalls), Keystone (I recall), Pleasant Valley (1 recall), Grand Design (1 recall), Airstream (1 recall), and Cruiser (1 recall).

River Sands RV Resort, Ehrenburg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2021-2025 Jayco Solstice LI, Swift, Terrain, Terrain LE, Entegra Coach Ethos LI, Expanse LI, Launch LE motorhomes. The battery relay contactors may become stuck in the closed position.

The remedy is currently under development. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 21, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903603.

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2024 Jayco Granite Ridge, Solstice, Entegra Coach Condor, Expanse, and Expanse LI motorhomes. An inadequate amount of rear axle lubricant may cause rear axle tail bearing damage and seizure, which can result in wheel lock-up or driveshaft separation.

Dealers will inspect the rear axle and replace the axle bearings or axle assembly as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 12, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is Ford 24V-102.

Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort, El Mirage, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023-2025 Entegra Coach Anthem and Cornerstone motorhomes. The steering gear may have foreign material inside the gear that could build pressure within the system, resulting in a loss of power steering assist.

Dealers will remove and replace the steering gear, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 12, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is Shyft Group 24V-052.

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Jayco Solstice, Solstice LI, Entegra Coach Expanse, and Expanse LI motorhomes built on Ford chassis. The rearview camera, or 360-degree view camera if equipped, may not display a rearview image when the vehicle is placed in reverse.

Ford or Lincoln dealers will replace the rearview camera, and update the software and wiring as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 19, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is Ford 23V-598.

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Entegra Ethos, Expanse, Jayco Solstice, and Swift vehicle. The liquid level remote fill gauge on the propane tank may leak when in the “Open” position.

Dealers will inspect and replace the bleed valve as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 26, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903604.

Forest River

(Forest River) is recalling certain 2024 IBEX and No Boundaries travel trailers. The recessed space heaters may have been installed too close to the ceiling.

Dealers will reinstall the heaters, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 1, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-642-1612. Forest River’s number for this recall is 91-174.

Tucson/Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Coachmen Prism PRC24MB motorhomes. The Federal Information label may indicate the incorrect number of seat belts installed, resulting in an incorrect cargo carrying capacity.

Forest River will mail new labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters were mailed March 13, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-825-8487. Forest River’s number for this recall is 215-1747.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Dynamax Isata motorhomes. The nut on the backside of the main 12V disconnect may have been improperly tightened.

Dealers will tighten the nut, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 24, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-264-3474. Forest River’s number for this recall is 55-1751.

Winnebago

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2023 Sunstar motorhomes. The tire information label incorrectly states the tire size and Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”

\Winnebago will mail owners a corrected certification label, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 26, 2024. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-641-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885.

de Anza RV Resort, Amado, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winnebago

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2024 Solis motorhome. The lavatory may have an incorrect standard outlet installed when there should be a GFCI protected outlet.

Dealers will replace the outlet with a GFCI protected outlet, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 26, 2024. Owners may contact Winnebago customers service at 1-641-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885. Winnebago’s number for this recall is 182.

Keystone

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2024 Hideout 175BH, 177RD, 178RB, 179RB, 181BH, and 2024 Springdale 1700FQ, 1760 FQ, 1800BH, 1810BH, 1860SS, 2010BH travel trailers. The propane cylinder holder may have an insufficient welds, allowing the propane cylinder to detach.

Dealers will replace the holder, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 7, 2024. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 24-451.

Campground USA, Apache Junction, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pleasant Valley

Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers LLC (Pleasant Valley) is recalling certain 2023-2024 nuCamp TAB 400, Cirrus 620, and 820 trailers with the Lithium Upgrade. The incorrect battery disconnect switch may have been installed.

Dealers will replace the battery disconnect switch, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to mailed March 1, 2024. Owners may contact Pleasant Valley customer service at 1-330-852-4811- ext. 327.

Grand Design

Grand Design RV, LLC (Grand Design) is recalling certain 2024 Solitude and Momentum Fifth Wheel trailers. The U-bolts may have been improperly tightened, which can cause the axle to move out of position.

Dealers will replace the U-bolts, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 27, 2024. Owners may contact Grand Design customer service at 1-574-825-9679. Grand Design’s number for this recall is 910042.

Airstream

Airstream, Inc. (Airstream) is recalling certain 2023 Basecamp 16 & 16X travel trailers. The metric and imperial GAWR values were transposed. As such, these trailers fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”

Airstream will mail corrected labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed May 14, 2024. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-877-596-6505 or 1-937-596-6111 ext. 7401 or 7411.

Cruiser

Cruiser RV (Cruiser) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Avenir trailers. The Federal Certification labels are missing the tire size and correct PSI. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 120, “Wheels and Rims-Other Than Passenger Cars.”

Cruiser will mail new certification labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed May 15, 2024. Owners may contact Cruiser customer service at 1-574-562-3500.

Please Note: This is the 61st in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

Who Needs an RV Supplemental Braking System?

I brake it down here!

Bringing a towed car along with your motorhome is a great way to increase your mobility and see local attractions near your campsite. But if you’re bringing a toad you’re going to want an RV supplemental braking system.

RV supplemental braking systems go between your motorhome and your towed car to help with braking making you safer on the road. Let’s take a closer look at what an RV supplemental braking system is, why you may need one, and different options for buying one. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is an RV supplemental braking system?

An RV supplemental braking system is a device that applies the brakes on your towed vehicle whenever you apply the brakes in your motorhome. There are four main types of supplemental braking systems:

  • Pre-set
  • Proportional
  • Direct
  • Vacuum-assist

Pre-set systems

Pre-set systems are the most basic type of RV supplemental braking system. These are portable electric systems that connect to your RV and respond when your RV’s brake lights engage. When the brake signal reaches the device in the car, it responds by depressing an extended arm onto the brake pedal. 

These systems are portable and easy to install but they don’t offer the accuracy or control of other types.

Proportional systems

Proportional supplemental braking systems are the most popular type. They’re designed to sense when your RV slows down. The system then applies the brakes in your towed vehicle with proportional force to how you apply them in your motorhome—hence the name. 

Proportional systems are more accurate and provide finer control than pre-set systems. This braking system can provide emergency braking. 

Direct systems

Direct systems connect directly to your RV’s brake lines to directly detect your brake timing and pressure and replicate those factors in your towed vehicle. These features make the system more difficult to install but the benefit is that direct systems are highly accurate and responsive. Plus, direct braking systems never require manual adjustment. 

The downside of a direct system is you’ll need professional help or a mechanical background to install it. 

Vacuum-assist systems

Many vehicles, particularly hybrids, won’t work with most RV supplemental braking systems because they utilize power-assist braking. Using a typical braking system with these vehicles can damage them. 

This is where vacuum-assist systems come in. The actual mechanics are a bit complicated, but basically, vacuum-assist systems tap into a vacuum source to safely and effectively apply braking force to cars with power-assist braking.

Vacuum-assist supplemental braking systems don’t offer full emergency braking and the installation is fairly involved. However, if you have a vehicle with power-assist brakes, this braking system may be your only option. Alternatively, you could opt to tow your toad via a trailer or another means.

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who needs an RV supplemental braking system and why?

If you’re towing a vehicle behind your motorhome, you need a supplemental braking system. Nearly anywhere you drive in the U.S. and Canada an RV supplemental braking system is a legal requirement if you’re towing any vehicle or trailer over a certain weight. Your RV’s warranty also likely requires you to use supplemental brakes when towing over a certain weight. 

RV supplemental braking systems have benefits besides helping you follow the law and keep your warranty. They also make you much safer on the road, especially if you have a system with full emergency braking. 

A supplemental braking system also reduces the stress on both your RV and your towed vehicle. Your motorhome’s brakes aren’t designed to handle the extra weight of your towed vehicle leading to lots of extra wear and tear if a supplemental system isn’t used. The same goes for your towed vehicle which will experience excessive force from your RV if it doesn’t engage its brakes. 

The supplemental brakes also improve the function and lifespan of your tow bar. Having a braking system reduces stress on the tow bar. As a bonus, supplemental brakes also reduce the chances of jackknifing when braking suddenly. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3 great options for RV supplemental braking system

Now that we know all about RV supplemental braking systems, let’s look at three of the best options you can buy right now. 

1. Blue Ox Patriot braking system

The Blue Ox Patriot 3 Braking System is one of the most popular RV supplemental braking systems around. This is an all-electric proportional system that’s able to work on hybrid vehicles without the use of a vacuum source.

For even more control, the system includes a wireless remote control so you can manually apply the brakes if needed. The Blue Ox Patriot system also includes a built-in battery to ensure it always has the power needed to brake. 

2. Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System

The Demco Stay-in-Play Duo Braking System is a vacuum system that can work with any car. This RV supplemental braking system only activates when both your RV’s brakes are applied, and sufficient force is detected. This creates a safer, more reliable system. 

Even better, the Demco Braking System doesn’t need to be removed when you’re not towing a vehicle. Once installed, the Stay-in-Play Duo is always ready to tow. 

3. Roadmaster 9160 Brakemaster Supplemental Braking System

The Roadmaster 9160 BrakeMaster Supplemental Braking System is one of the most popular direct braking systems available. This system provides truly proportional and synchronized braking between your motorhome and your towed car. It also provides a full breakaway emergency braking system. 

Once the Roadmaster system is installed, it can be connected and disconnected from your towed vehicle in under a minute without the use of tools. Plus, because it weighs less than 5 pounds, it’s easy to store when it’s not in use. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RV supplemental braking system is a must if you have a towed car

An RV supplemental braking system isn’t just a good idea; it’s usually a legal requirement. These systems help keep you, your motorhome, and your towed car safe by detecting when you brake your motorhome and applying the brakes in your towed car. This allows you to slow down more easily and safely and avoid losing control of your vehicle or causing an accident. 

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie (1867-1934), physicist and chemist

RV Manufacturer’s Recalls Lead Entire Auto Industry

It’s only February and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has already issued several new batches of safety related recalls on thousands of RVs from a range of manufacturers and in particular two well-know names. Read on to learn more.

Who would think that an RV manufacturer would top all automakers in safety recalls in the early days of 2024? Forest River, the second largest RV manufacturer is cranking out recall notices faster than Ford and GM, each of which dwarf even the largest RV maker (that would be Thor Industries) in production.

As of the end of February, two well-known RV manufacturers made the 2024 year-to-date Top 12 on the recall list from NHTSA, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The list identifies vehicles and equipment that have been recalled for highway safety concerns.

Campground USA. Apache Junction, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River is number one on the recall list

Forest River’s 15 different recalls for the first two months of the year represent a full 25 percent of ALL recalls from NHTSA for 2024. The other RV manufacturer on the list is Tiffin Motorhomes running far behind Forest River in the number eight slot with three recalls representing 8 percent of total recalls.

As recently reported in February 2024 RV Manufacturer Recalls: 18 Recalls Involving 6 RV Manufactures, Forest River had nine recalls while Tiffin had two during the past month of February alone.

What caused these two manufacturers to make it into the Top Twelve of the recall list? Forest River’s baker’s dozen of recalls covered a wide range of issues. From LP tank gas brackets on motorhomes that could break—imagine a 50-gallon LP tank dragging on the freeway—to other problems including:

  • Axles that could break
  • Tires that could impact an adjuster and blow
  • Overheating furnaces that could blast deadly carbon monoxide into the coach
  • Awnings that could open while tooling down the highway
  • Shorting electrical wires

Of course, not all of Forest River’s RV recalls for highway safety concerns are as dramatic such as:

  • Marker lights that don’t reflect as they should
  • Incorrect tire placards not giving the straight dope
  • Tail light bezels that didn’t get installed reducing rear visibility

On the other hand, if you had a Forest River travel trailer and the draw bar mechanism failed allowing your trailer front end to suddenly drop, you’d probably prefer one of the lesser evils.

Tucson/ Lazydays KOA, Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The latest Forest River recalls

Forest River Motorhomes

  • 2020-2023 Coachmen Galleria
  • 2021-2023 Beyond
  • 2021-2023 Coachmen Nova Class B 

Retractable awning defect – 2,519 units affected

The retractable awning may extend unintentionally during transit.

What owners of affected products should do

Dealers will install a wedge to support the internal components in the gearbox and replace the motor as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 5, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-825-6319. Forest River’s number for this recall is 225-1723.

2023-2024 Prism Class C motorhomes

Furnace defect – 213 units affected

The furnace may overheat and cause a crack in the burn chamber which can allow carbon monoxide to enter the cabin.

What owners of affected products should do

Dealers will install the correct cold air return, grill, and heating ducts as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 6, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-825-8602. Forest River’s number for this recall is 215-1730.

Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort, El Mirage, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River Towables

  • 2023 & 2024 Ibex
  • 2023 & 2024 R-Pod
  • 2023 & 2024 No Boundaries

Bolts that attach suspension to chassis not correctly tightened on some units – 157 units affected

On certain RV trailers, the bolts that attach the suspension to the chassis may not have been tightened correctly. As a result, the suspension could detach and separate from the trailer and cause a loss of control.

What owners of affected products should do

Forest River will notify owners by mail and advise you to take your RV trailer to a dealership to inspect and, if necessary, tighten or replace the bolts on the independent suspension. Recall number: 51-1727

2024 Coachmen Clipper and Viking Travel Trailers

Tail light bezel defect – 18 units affected

The tail light bezel may not have been installed on the vehicle. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 108, “Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment.”

What owners of affected products should do

Dealers will install the tail light bezel, free of charge. Forest River expects to have owner notification letters in the mail on March 6, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-269-467-4600. Forest River’s number for this recall is 120-1729.

2023-2024 Salem and Wildwood fifth-wheel trailers

The federal placard may have incorrect tire size information – 107 units affected

The federal placard affixed to affected trailers has the wrong tire size and pressure information. This could result in the wrong tires being installed, creating a safety hazard.

As such, these trailers fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 120, “Wheels and Rims – Other Than Passenger Cars.”

What owners of affected products should do

Dealers will mail new federal placards, free of charge. Forest River expects to have owner notification letters in the mail on March 13, 2024.

de Anza RV Resort, Amado, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tiffin is number eight on the recall list

And what about venerable Tiffin Motorhomes—how did it hit the Top Twelve of the recall list? Imagine sitting behind the wheel of your motorhome when suddenly your view of the freeway ahead is hampered because your driver seat broke away dropping you on the floor. Two other gremlins plagued some Tiffin motorhomes:

There were issues with shifting batteries that could allow their terminals to come into contact with grounded metal creating shorts

Solar panels could sometimes come loose, flying off the roof

The latest Tiffin Motorhomes recalls

2023-2024 Convoy and GH-1 Models

Solar panel bracket defect – 67 units affected

The bracket that secures the solar panel to the roof may crack and break which can cause the solar panel to detach.

What owners of affected products should do

Dealers will replace the brackets, free of charge. Tiffin expects to mail owner notification letters on March 22, 2024. Owners of affected RVs may contact Tiffin customer service at 1-256-356-8661. Tiffin’s number for this recall is TIF-136

2022-2024 Allegro Bay motorhomes

House batteries could shift during transport and cause a fire – 300 units affected

The standard house batteries may shift position during travel, which can cause the battery terminals to contact the steel hold-down bar and create a fire hazard.

What owners of affected products should do

Dealers will install a new battery hold-down bar and angle brackets, free of charge. Tiffin expects to have owner notification letters in the mail on April 1.

2022 Allegro Bay, 2022 Phaeton, 2022 Allegro Red

Driver’s seat base could move in crash – 16 units affected

The driver seat base may not have been properly welded on certain motorhomes. As a result, the seat could move or detach in a crash, and increase the risk of injury.

What owners of affected products should do

Tiffin will notify owners by mail and advise you to take your motorhome to either a Tiffin dealership or an authorized service facility to inspect and, if necessary, replace the driver seat base.

River Sands RV Resort, Ehrenburg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Others have more recalled vehicles

To be sure, there were plenty of others who made the Top 12 list and some of those with far more vehicles being recalled.

From Ford which had 10 percent of all recalls on the list, five individual recalls netted a whopping 2,060,929 call-backs.

And while representing only 4 percent of the total recalls on NHTSA’s list, Tesla took the cake with its 2,393,869 recalls. Its biggest issue between two total recalls was 2,193,869 vehicles recalled because the font size of their dash warning lights were too small.

The number of recalled rigs between Forest River and Tiffin combined are, indeed, small potatoes in comparison.

Nevertheless, that two RV manufacturers would make the Top Twelve of the recall list should cause the industry (these two manufacturers in particular) to take a step back. Granted, the issue of Tiffin’s driver seat support breakage isn’t technically Tiffin’s fault. The same is true for the LP gas tank brackets that could break in Forest River’s camp. These issues came from outside manufacturers.

Still, the issues reflect on the integrity—and safety—of products sold by RV builders. Are RV manufacturers just in too much of a hurry to shove product out the door? Before shopping for a new rig, buyers might do well to examine NHTSA’s recall history books.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that not all RV manufacturers are created equal. It is a good reason (actually more than ome) why we own a Newmar motorhome.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are a few links to related articles I’ve previously posted on the RV industry:

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

February 2024 RV Manufacturer Recalls: 18 Recalls Involving 6 RV Manufactures

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall and may create a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?

It’s always important to keep up with the latest recalls, no matter how small the issue may appear to be. Each week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes the latest information on recalls from minor to major defects. NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

When a manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality. NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

Information on previous safety recalls follow:

NHTSA announced 18 recall notices during February 2024. These recalls involved 6 recreational vehicle manufacturers— Forest River (9 recalls), Winnebago (2 recalls), Tiffin (2 recalls), Jayco (2 recalls), Gulf Stream (1 recall), MCI (1 recall), and Foretravel (1 recall).

Campground USA, Apache Junction, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2020-2023 Coachmen Galleria, 2021-2023 Forest River Beyond, and 2021-2023 Coachmen Nova Class B motorhomes. The retractable awning may extend unintentionally during transit.

Dealers will install a wedge to support the internal components in the gearbox and replace the motor as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 5, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-825-6319. Forest River’s number for this recall is 225-1723.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2024 Coachmen Clipper and Viking Travel Trailers. The tail light bezel may not have been installed on the vehicle. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 108, “Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment.”

Dealers will install the tail light bezel, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 6, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-269-467-4600. Forest River’s number for this recall is 120-1729.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Prism Class C motorhomes. The furnace may overheat and cause a crack in the burn chamber, which can allow carbon monoxide to enter the cabin.

Dealers will install the correct cold air return, grill, and heating ducts as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 6, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-825-8602. Forest River’s number for this recall is 215-1730.

Settlers Point RV Resort, Washington, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Coachmen Prism Class C motorhomes. The furnace may overheat and cause a crack in the burn chamber, which can allow carbon monoxide to enter the cabin.

Dealers will install the correct cold air return grill as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 6, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-825-8602. Forest River’s number for this recall is 215-1733.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Salem and Wildwood fifth wheel travel trailers. The Federal Placard may have incorrect tire size information. As such, these trailers fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 120, “Wheels and Rims – Other Than Passenger Cars.”

Dealers will mail new federal placards, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 13, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-534-3167. Forest River’s number for this recall is 69-1731.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2024 Coachmen Catalina and Forest River Aurora travel trailers. The tire may contact the slide adjustment bolt and puncture the tire.

Dealers will replace the slide adjustment bolt and install a shackle kit, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 20, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-4995. Forest River’s number for this recall is 205-1735.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Coachmen Concord motorhomes. The lower control arm bracket may fail and cause the axle to rotate or detach, resulting in a loss of vehicle control.

Dealers will replace the lower control arm mount, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 20, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-8602. Forest River’s number for this recall is 210-1734.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019-2024 Georgetown and FR3 Class A motorhomes. The liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tank mounting brackets may break which can result in the LPG tank becoming dislodged and damaged.

Dealers will inspect and replace the brackets and welds as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 23, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-206-7600. Forest River’s number for this recall is 68-1736.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2015-2017 Sanibel SNF3550 and 2021-2023 Sanibel SNF3902WB fifth wheels. The hitch (pin box) may not be sufficient for the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and may fail.

Dealers will install a properly rated hitch, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 27, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-862-1025. Forest River’s number for this recall is 49-1737.

Winnebago

Winnebago Towable (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2024 Access travel trailers. The breakaway switch and trailer brakes may not activate when needed due to an incorrectly wired breakaway switch.

Winnebago will rewire the breakaway switch, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed February 9, 2024. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-574-825-5280 ext. 5220. Winnebago’s number for this recall is CAM0000034.

Winnebago

Winnebago Towable (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2022-2023 Micro Minnie, Micro Minnie FLX, Hike 200, and Minnie travel trailers. The LED backlight circuit board in the cooktop range may fail, causing the board to overheat.

The remedy is currently under development. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 29, 2024. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-574-825-5280 ext. 5220. Winnebago’s number for this recall is CAM0000035.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tiffin

Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. (Tiffin) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Convoy and GH-1 motorhomes. The bracket that secures the solar panel to the roof may crack and break, which can cause the solar panel to detach.

Dealers will replace the brackets, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 22, 2024. Owners may contact Tiffin customer service at 1-256-356-8661. Tiffin’s number for this recall is TIF-136.

Tiffin

Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. (Tiffin) is recalling certain 2022-2024 Allegro Bay motorhomes. The standard house batteries may shift position during travel, which can cause the battery terminals to contact the steel hold-down bar.

Dealers will install a new battery hold-down bar and angle brackets, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 1, 2024. Owners may contact Tiffin customer service at 1-256-356-8661. Tiffin’s number for this recall is TIF-137.

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023 Entegra Expanse, Expanse LI, Jayco Solstice, and Solstice LI motorhomes. The retractable awning may extend unintentionally during transit.

Dealers will install a wedge to support the internal components in the gearbox and replace the motor as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed February 29, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903601.

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2020-2023 Entegra Anthem, Aspire, Cornerstone, and Reatta XL motorhomes. The pedestal mounting plate on the driver’s seat may be improperly welded, causing the plate to separate and the seat assembly to loosen or detach. As such, these seat assemblies fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 207, “Seating Systems” and number 210, “Seat belt assembly anchorages.”

Dealers will inspect for a missing weld and replace the pedestal as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 1, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903602.

River Sands RV Resort, Ehrenburg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Stream

Gulf Stream Coach, Inc. (Gulf Stream) is recalling certain 2024 Trail Boss 160FK trailers. The incorrect tire size and tire pressure are listed on the federal certification label. As such, these trailers fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims” and 49 CFR Part 567, “Certification.”

Dealers will mail replacement federal certification labels to customers, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 1, 2024. Owners may contact Gulf Stream customer service at 1-800-289-8787. Gulf Stream’s number for this recall is 106FK/23

MCI

Motor Coach Industries (MCI) is recalling certain 2014-2018 D4000, 2013-2019 D4005, 2013-2023 D4500, 2013-2020 D4505, and 2021-2024 D45CRTLE coaches equipped with a Ricon wheelchair lift. The red beacon lighting on the Threshold Warning System (TWS) may not be bright enough. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 403, “Platform Lift Systems.”

MCI will work with Ricon to replace the TWS kits, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 29, 2024. Owners may contact MCI customer service at 1-800-241-2947.

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Foretravel

Foretravel, Inc. (Foretravel) is recalling certain 2023 Realm FS605 and Realm Presidential FS605P vehicles. The steering gear may have foreign material inside the gear that could build pressure within the system, resulting in a loss of power steering assist.

Foretravel will work with the chassis manufacturer, Shyft Group to replace the steering gears, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 03, 2024. Owners may contact Foretravel customer service at 1-800-955-6226.

Please Note: This is the 60th in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

RV Battery Basics

When shopping for deep-cycle batteries for your RV, you’ll see both lead acid RV batteries and lithium RV batteries. What’s the difference between a lithium RV battery vs a lead acid battery? I tell you here!

Lithium RV battery and lead acid battery differences

Both serve the same basic function: to provide power to your RV over a long period of time. Both are designed to be discharged until almost empty then recharged (this is what deep-cycle refers to). However, when comparing a lithium RV battery to a lead acid battery there are plenty of differences. 

First, let’s look at what specifically a lead acid RV battery is and what a lithium RV battery is. Then we’ll compare the differences between them.

What is a lead acid RV battery?

The lead acid RV battery like all lead acid batteries uses flat plates of lead submerged in an electrolyte. This allows it to store a charge and provide power in many applications especially in cars and RVs. 

Lead acid batteries are fairly old technology. Over time, a number of different kinds of deep-cycle RV batteries have been developed.

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flooded lead acid batteries

The first kind is the flooded lead acid battery. They’re called this because the lead plates are completely covered by a liquid electrolyte. They’re cheap and fairly reliable but they have several downsides:

  • They need to be regularly topped off with distilled water
  • Freezing temperatures destroy them
  • They’re very big and bulky
  • They don’t have a very long lifespan
  • Lead acid batteries can emit toxic gases in a process known as off-gassing
  • They must be stored upright or you risk spilling the electrolytes 

To overcome these limitations, new lead acid battery technologies were created: gel and absorbed glass mat.

Campground USA, Apache Junction, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gel batteries

The first is the gel battery. Instead of a liquid electrolyte, these use a semi-solid gel. These batteries are designed to be used in any orientation. They are completely sealed meaning they don’t experience off-gassing and are resistant to spillage. 

Absorbed glass mat batteries

The next is the absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery. AGM batteries use fiberglass mats to absorb the electrolyte. This arrangement makes them spill-free and gives them other advantages. For example, these batteries can be charged faster, be discharged more deeply (up to 80 percent), and are resistant to off-gassing and freezing temperatures.

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a lithium RV battery?

Lithium batteries also called lithium-ion batteries use the metal lithium in place of lead. There several different types. In most cases, your lithium RV battery is going to be a lithium iron phosphate battery. These are usually referred to as LiFePO4 batteries.

LiFePO4 batteries have many benefits over lead acid batteries:

  • They can store more energy in a smaller space because they have a higher energy density than lead acid batteries
  • They have a flat discharge curve which means they provide a consistent current for longer
  • They have very low self-discharge so even if these batteries are stored without use for long periods they’ll still hold a charge.

LiFePO4 RV batteries also have advantages over other kinds of lithium batteries. 

For one, they’re much safer. Some kinds of lithium batteries are unstable and pose a risk of fires and even explosions! LiFePO4 batteries, however, are highly stable and safe and won’t explode or catch fire. 

LiFePO4 batteries don’t require the use of nickel or cobalt. This makes them somewhat cheaper to produce as these materials are very expensive and hard to find. It also avoids the ethical concerns surrounding cobalt mining.

Lastly, a lithium-ion RV battery can be discharged by as much as 100 percent before recharging. They can also be recharged very quickly because you can use very high charge rates. 

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lithium RV battery vs lead acid RV battery

Now that we’ve covered the nuts and bolts of both lithium and lead acid batteries, we can compare them directly. Let’s look at the big differences between a lithium RV battery vs a lead acid RV battery. 

Performance

In every measure of performance, the lithium ion RV battery comes out on top. A lithium battery provides more (and more consistent) power—and for longer!

At the low end, some flooded lead acid batteries can only discharge up to 30-50 percent of their capacity. Even for the more advanced AGM battery you’re only looking at 60-80 percent discharge.

By comparison, a lithium RV battery will provide 80 percent (to as much as 100 percent) of its capacity before you need to recharge it. Plus it can recharge more quickly than a similar lead acid RV battery.

Lifespan

When it comes to the lifespan of a lithium RV battery vs a lead acid battery, lithium wins again.

A battery’s lifespan is measured in cycles—a.k.a. the number of times it can be discharged and recharged. For a lead acid RV battery, the lifespan is usually in the hundreds range. Some will have as few as 300 cycles whereas only some batteries survive over 1,000 cycles. 

A lithium RV battery, meanwhile, delivers thousands of cycles over its lifespan. Some batteries can provide as many as 5,000 cycles!

To put the number of cycles in a battery’s lifecycle into a time perspective: a lead acid RV battery will last 2 to 5 years; a lithium RV battery can last 10 years or more.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cost

This is one of the few cases where a lead acid RV battery might come out on top in the debate of lithium RV battery vs lead acid. 

A lead acid RV battery will generally cost between $200 and $700 (depending on the size and type). The cost of lithium RV batteries starts at around $900 and can go up to multiple thousands of dollars. So for your initial investment, you’re spending as much as 5 times more for a lithium RV battery vs a lead acid.

However, while a lead acid RV battery may be cheaper upfront, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Remember that a lead acid battery only lasts a few years while lithium batteries can last a decade or more. Over the same time span, you’ll likely spend the same amount (or even more!) replacing your lead acid batteries every few years. 

To boil it down, a lead acid RV battery may save you some money in the short term. But, in the long run, a lithium RV battery could ultimately save you money.

Weight

The last category for comparing the lithium RV battery vs lead acid is weight. And once again, the lithium RV battery is our winner. 

Because of their higher energy density, lithium batteries are much, much lighter than lead acid. In fact, lithium RV batteries are half the weight of lead acid batteries or even lighter!

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Lead acid batteries have some perks because they’re such old technology. They’re cheaper upfront and while they may require some maintenance, they’re highly reliable. But when you compare a lithium RV battery vs lead acid, lithium is almost always better.

A lithium battery will be lighter, more efficient, and more powerful than lead acid. And while they cost more they also last much much longer so they save you money over time. Because of all these factors, lithium RV batteries are the best choice for most RVers.

Worth Pondering…

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.

—Henry Ford

What Is Travel Decision Fatigue? + How to Overcome It

Travel decision fatigue results from having to make too many decisions in a short time. This affliction is common among RVers who have to make more decisions than usual as they travel.

While traveling, RVers can become overwhelmed by the number of decisions they must make. These can be big decisions, everyday things, or tiny decisions like where to stay, what to do, what to eat—whether to turn left or right.

These decisions no matter how small pile up and a lot of people experience negative effects mentally and emotionally. It can put a damper on how much you and your travel companions enjoy your trip.

In this article, I’ll explain what decision fatigue is and how to identify symptoms. I’ll also share tips that will help you prevent or overcome decision fatigue as you travel.

Let’s dig right in.

Camping at Sonoran Desert RV Park in Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is travel decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue also known as ego depletion is the idea that after making many decisions a person’s ability to make additional decisions becomes worse. This increasing difficulty in making decisions taxes our brain and our emotions which is not a great combination.

The psychological effects of decision fatigue can vary but they often lead to making poor decisions, impulse buying, or other avoidance behaviors.

Travel decision fatigue is simply decision fatigue that you experience while traveling. Since you are outside of normal daily routines and more predictable daily life at home, you are more likely to experience decision fatigue while traveling.

Eating lunch at La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Symptoms of decision fatigue

Many RVers experience decision fatigue and don’t even realize it. More accurately, they feel the effects of decision fatigue but don’t realize it is the cause.

So, it’s good to know the symptoms to help you identify if you’re succumbing to decision fatigue. If you can identify it, you can combat it and overcome it!

The most common symptoms are:

  • Brain fog (inability to think clearly)
  • Frequent procrastination even on simple decisions
  • Irritability and a short temper
  • Impulsivity (Forget it! Let’s just do this!)
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time making a decision
  • Feeling dissatisfied with whatever choice you ultimately make
Touring the Painted Churches of Fayette County, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How RVers can prevent or overcome travel decision fatigue

Living the RV lifestyle for 25+ years after retiring from a long career in education as a Principal, I know a few things about travel decision fatigue. I’ve spent my life out of routine and have learned tricks along the way to help me avoid this unique kind of burnout.

It comes down to two strategies. The first is to learn how to make better decisions faster. The second is to minimize the amount of decisions you have to make as much as possible.

The first strategy requires you to exercise your choice-making muscle, so to speak. You practice making decisions quickly and give yourself a small reward when you do even if that reward is a nice pat on the back. This practice can be as simple as giving yourself one minute to decide where to eat.

The second strategy is what I’m going to focus more on today because I have actionable advice specifically for RVers. As RVers, certain kinds of decisions come up often that we can tackle in different ways.

So, let’s jump into those!

Exploring Sand Hollow State Park in southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for overcoming travel decision fatigue

The most common decisions RVers have to make revolve around what to eat, buy, pack, and do. There are ways to systemize these decisions even if you’re traveling to different places and climates.

1. Delegate decisions

One of the best ways to save your mental energy is to delegate decisions to others. If you have travel companions, take turns making decisions. For instance, you decide one meal and your spouse decides on the next.

When you delegate decisions set the rule that the delegate has the final say! It’s their decision and you go along with it. Or, there’s another great tactic you can use…

One person narrows it down to three options they’d be happy with and then another person makes the final decision. That way, everyone is happy.

2. Minimize your wardrobe

What to wear is one of the daily decisions that can add quite a bit to decision fatigue. After all, deciding what to wear is actually requires many small decisions. You have to consider the weather, your comfort, what looks good, and more.

By minimizing your wardrobe you’ll have fewer options and thus fewer decisions. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Remember, less is more when packing
  • Make a packing list and edit it down as much as possible
  • Build a capsule wardrobe of interchangeable outfits
  • Make a master list of items you use as you travel (noting climate, activities, etc.)
Wandering Joshua Tree National Park in southern California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Systemize grocery shopping

Grocery shopping is always packed with a lot of decisions. And it’s just made that much harder when you’re shopping in a different grocery store every week as you travel.

To make your shopping trip to the grocery store less mentally taxing have a shopping list ready to go.

If you want to take this to the next level have a standard shopping list you take on every trip that includes items you always buy. Things like bread, eggs, milk, cheese, your favorite ice cream, snacks, and drinks. Laminate it and keep it on your fridge!

Then you can make a separate short list of items you need or want for this particular shopping trip.

To further help you avoid a state of mental overload, ask a store associate for help as soon as you enter a new store. Don’t wander around and then ask. You can even take a minute of their time and have them tell you all the aisle numbers for the items on your list.

4. Streamline deciding where to eat

Finding a good place to eat while camping or on a road trip is another thing RVers have to decide daily. The difficulty of making the decision is exacerbated by not knowing what’s good in the area.

I have a few tips to help you decide where to eat more easily.

Tip #1: Assign a type of cuisine to certain days (i.e. Taco Tuesday or Wednesday is Mexican food day). This strategy narrows down all the restaurants in the area to a more manageable number. In remote locations, it might even narrow it down to one!

Tip #2: Let a local decide. Stop at a gas station or find the nearest local and ask them what their favorite restaurant is. Don’t ask questions. Eat there.

Tip #3: Don’t get overwhelmed by Yelp reviews. Look at overall star ratings but don’t read the reviews. Reading too many opinions makes it harder to decide.

Time to relax at Meaher State Park on the Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Follow a travel itinerary

One of the best ways to avoid travel decision fatigue is to try to make as many decisions in advance as possible. You can make as detailed a travel itinerary as you think you’ll need. (Just be sure to always leave room for serendipity!)

Worth Pondering…

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

—Anne Lamott

Planning your Summer Road Trip Begins NOW

Mapping your route and stocking up on gear in advance will pay off when you hit the road

In February’s cold, dark days, a summer road trip might be the farthest thing from your mind. Without the need to book a flight or coordinate other transportation, it’s easy to rely on spontaneity for a last-minute escape once the weather warms up. The beauty of an RV road trip is its structured freedom: you can do anything you want just as long as you are willing and able to drive.

But pushing off your planning until sunnier days could affect your vacation down the road. Investing a little time now will go a long way toward making the most out of your summer.

If plotting a course feels daunting, start by clustering destinations that will you give you something concrete to plan around. Depending on the number of days you expect to travel, you can add or remove stops along the way.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For example, a trip through three national parks in New Mexico and TexasWhite Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Guadalupe Mountains—could be knocked out in a long weekend. Tack on Big Bend National Park for an additional few days to account for the extra mileage and time to explore.

A classic way to plan a road trip is to follow one of America’s best-known vacation drives such as Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, or the Lewis and Clark Expedition Trail. Though they may seem cliché these drives are still famous for a reason: They capture the history of America. You can use social media to find modern attractions along these well-tread routes.

Search for geotags along the route for crowdsourced advice on what to visit while you pass through. Use hiking apps like All Trails to explore what nature recommendations people have outside of national park suggestions. Start following accounts of bloggers or local experts who post about the areas you’re visiting. To keep yourself from overcommitting, keep a list of these potential food stops, campgrounds, roadside attractions, and nature areas along the way to reference when you need options.

Whether you’re planning to follow a well-known path or keep a looser schedule, become familiar with your major waypoints by April. This will give you time to research lesser-known sights and dig for local suggestions. By the time you hit the road, you’ll have the confidence to make quick (but informed) decisions.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make reservations at national parks

While reserving a spot inside a national park isn’t the only way to camp near popular nature sites, it is well worth the foresight if you can book a few nights ahead of time.

Every park has its own schedule of openings, reservation requirements, and campsite availability so the best advice is to closely track a few parks for announcements. While some national parks save a portion of their campsite reservations to be released a week before booking, most park reservations open six months in advance.

Most National Parks reserve a few spots per campground as a first-come, first-serve option. They can be impossible to predict so do not rely on their availability if you are set on camping inside the park. Note that reservations often become available at 8 a.m. in the time zone of that park.

Permits for popular hikes and activities also become available at this time at Recreation.gov.

Timed entry reservations will still be required at a handful of popular parks during the peak summer months: Yosemite, Arches, Zion, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Haleakalā National Parks will all require some reservation to enter.

For complete details read 10 National Parks That Require Early Reservations for 2024 Visits

To the National Park Service’s credit, these required dates cluster around the most popular weeks and holidays and there are usually exceptions like entering a park before 5 a.m. that still allow for some flexibility if you can’t score a reservation in time.

Friday’s Fried Chicken, Shiner, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buy gear and supplies

A backpack, good walking shoes or hiking boots, wide-brimmed hat, and sun protection are all important regardless of how much outdoor activity you’re planning. It’s not just the outdoor gear to keep an eye out on—road trip essentials range from storage options to electronics to RV supplies.

Be sure to stock up on household and RV-related items: paper products, water filter, plastic bags, tissues, disinfecting wipes, and a fully stocked first aid kit.

That’s why I wrote this article: 35 Little Things to Remember to Pack for Your RV Road Trip

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your vehicle

Don’t forget about a checklist for your RV. A tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, and a roadside tool kit can all come in handy even if you’re renting an RV. And always keep a paper atlas on hand in case you’re out of cell service range.

Beyond the typical under-the-hood checks—engine oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic oil, coolant, and washer fluid—be sure to check your lightbulbs and brake reactivity, even in rentals. Spending hours on the road can decrease your focus and reaction time so ensure that the RV will be safe and comfortable. That’s why you should follow the 330 Rule.

The biggest investment to make in your pre-road trip vehicle is a new set of tires especially if you tend to only drive in the city. If you’re planning on driving or pulling a camper, van or RV and have been putting off upgrading your tires consider buying tires with a longer tread life or thicker tread for more diverse terrain.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some helpful resources when it comes to tire safety:

Worth Pondering…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Miyamoto Musashi

What You Need To Know Before Buying a Pre-Owned RV

Are you thinking of buying a pre-owned motorhome or travel trailer? That’s such an exciting decision that also comes with a long list of questions regarding how to make the best purchase decision possible.

An RV is a serious investment and buying one should not be taken lightly. Many people opt to buy a pre-owned RV rather than a new one due to the lower price. This practice is fine but there are certain things you should look for to avoid an unfavorable deal.

In some cases, the seller may not be consciously trying to take advantage of you or they end up charging more than the vehicle is worth (whether intentionally or not). Underlying damage may be hard to spot at first but it can wreak havoc on your RV down the road.

It’s important to understand the value of each RV you look at and examine the whole thing for any hidden flaws or issues. Below is a simple guide of a few things to watch out for if you’re in the market for a pre-owned RV. Even less-expensive models cost a lot of money so it’s worthwhile to do your research.

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dealer or private owner?

If you’re interested in a pre-owned RV the first thing to do is decide where you will buy from. There are tons of forums and resources available for those who want to buy and sell RVs. Your two main options will be to go through an RV dealership or buy from a private seller. Both have their pros and cons.

When you’re dealing with a private seller there are a lot of unknowns. They may not have all the paperwork to confirm records of maintenance, repairs, or upgrades. You’ll find a large range of prices when you go through private sellers which can be good or bad.

The seller could be pricing the RV cheaply because they just want to get rid of it. In other cases, they may mark it up because they don’t have records to show that it’s seen a fair amount of wear and tear. They could also be counting on some haggling so they may price it higher than they expect to sell it for.

As a general rule: Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. 

On the other hand, a dealership is often more expensive but more trustworthy as well in most cases. They’re likely to have documentation on the RVs they are selling as well as qualified mechanics and inspectors who can confirm the condition of each vehicle. Because of this quality assurance, they can afford to make up their prices more than the average private seller. 

No matter who you choose to buy from, it’s worthwhile to arrange a third-party inspection. 

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Confirm manufacturing year/original price

Let’s talk depreciation. This is not positive for people who bought their RV new and are attempting to sell them. However, it can be a real benefit to those who are in the market for a pre-owned RV. 

If you want to know how to buy an RV without getting ripped off you’ll need to know the average rate of depreciation for RVs. As time goes on, an RV will be worth less and less money. There are many variables to the problem but an RV will usually depreciate between 20 percent–30 percent each year until it’s about 10 years old. At that point, it’s worth 50 percent or less of the original price. 

When you’re looking at a pre-owned RV, always confirm the original year and model. You can then look up the original MSRP and compare it to the asking price. For instance, if someone is selling a 10-year-old RV for anything more than 50 percent of the original cost, you’re probably being overcharged,

Do some cross-referencing research as well. Look for models of a similar size, features, and brand that are listed for sale. You’ll be able to spot if someone is pricing theirs higher or lower than the average asking rate. 

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a test drive

In many cases, you won’t know if the RV is in good shape until you take it on a test drive. Ask the seller if you can take it out for a short drive. If they say no without a sound reason consider that a major red flag and walk away. 

If buying a trailer, check to see if it connects to the hitch smoothly and if it seems stable on the road. If you’re checking out a motorhome, listen for any concerning rattles or signs of strain. 

Don’t forget to check out the living space as well. Test the kitchen and bathroom faucets, and examine the floors, walls, and ceiling for any signs of mold or warping. Leave no stone unturned during your test/exploration phase. This is a good tip for anyone who wants to know how to buy an RV (whether pre-owned or new).

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perform an inspection

Now we get to one of the most important parts of any pre-owned RV sale: The inspection. Even if the model is listed for a reasonable price (considering its year) you should still perform a thorough check of the inside and outside. A salesman could be hiding serious issues under the guise of a fair price.

Knowing how to buy an RV without getting ripped off includes not buying an RV with interior or structural damage. These issues will only get worse over time and the vehicle will turn into a money pit. 

There are several important areas you need to check before you even think about buying. These areas of interest include:

  • De-lamination/water damage
  • Mileage (or frequency of usage)
  • Tires (condition and age)
  • Mold
  • Pest damage
  • Window, door, and vent seals
  • Black streaks
  • Awning functionality
  • Condition of slide toppers
  • Engine condition (if applicable)
  • Water heater and pump functionality
  • Roof integrity
  • A/C and heating effectiveness
  • Battery health
  • Outlet number and functionality
  • Overall stability and ability to level
  • Any stains, fading, or other aesthetic damage
When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of these issues are more important than others but all of them could bring the value of the RV down. The most important concerns are anything that has to do with water damage and structural integrity. If you’re dealing with a motorhome, you’ll also need to make sure that the base vehicle is roadworthy and has been well-maintained. 

Almost every RV has some quirks and flaws. Ask the seller about every appliance and piece of hardware in detail. If anything is rattling, blocked, or clogged, you should know about it before you buy. This is partly why a test drive is such a good idea.

Now you have some good base knowledge that will help you know how to buy an RV without getting ripped off. Never be afraid to ask questions or dig deeper. Sometimes even the seller doesn’t know there are issues if they don’t look hard enough!

Related Articles:

Worth Pondering…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Miyamoto Musashi