Southward Ho! Snowbird RV Tips for Migrating South

Learn the basics of RV snowbirding

As Neil Young once sang, “the summer ends and the winter winds begin to holler all around the bend…”

The snow doth fly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yes, it’s that time of year once again when the cooler weather sets in and the truly cold and snowy months of winter loom ever closer on the horizon. Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds are already preparing for the journey south for the annual escape to the sub-tropical climates in southern states that include Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.

Quail Ridge RV Park near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are several key tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your journey to gorgeous coastal regions, inland escapes, or breathtaking desert areas.

RV and Tow Vehicle/Toad Preparations

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure that your RV and tow vehicle or toad are in top operating condition before leaving for your winter destination by following several practical tips:

  • Have a local auto shop inspect your tow vehicle/toad before departing; you never know if you may have missed something and it’s always a good precaution to take
  • Have a local RV service center inspect tires, brakes, axle bearings, and other moving parts
  • Check the air conditioning to ensure it is working properly. A broken air conditioner in a hotter climate makes for an uncomfortable snowbird experience
  • Add tank cleaner to your rig’s waste tanks

Winterize Your Home

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires a regular walk-through during your absence and if so, how frequently.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrange with a mail forwarding service to have your mail forwarded to your winter destinations.

Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Palm Springs Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

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

Turn down the thermostat on your heating system.

Unplug lamps, TVs, radios, and all electric appliances.

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

Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve. Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Finally, lock all windows and doors, and activate the alarm or security system.

Pack the RV

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to ensure you have stowed aboard you RV all the essential items is to use a checklist. Following is a starting point for creating your own personal checklist:

  • Clothing for all types of weather
  • Toiletries
  • Fully stocked first aid kit
  • Tool box (stow on curb side of RV)
  • Essential house wares (dishware and utensils, cooking supplies, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, fire extinguisher, batteries, LED flashlights)
  • Technology (smart phone, laptop, tablet, ebook reader, printer, camera, batteries, battery chargers)
  • Outdoor recreation/hobby items (hiking boots and poles, fishing poles, cameras and camera supplies and equipment, knitting/quilting/sewing supplies)

Canadian Snowbirds

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to all of the usual preparations, Canadian snowbirds must deal with extra details that include:

  • Passports and other travel documents
  • Extended health care insurance (Don’t leave home without it!)
  • Smart phone and internet service
  • Buying U.S. dollars/U.S. dollar credit card
Casa Grande RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous

Keys to Avoiding RV Accidents

A key to avoiding RV accidents is a basic understanding of the most common ones and how best to avoid them

Driving an RV is like driving a small house around the country—down highways, through back roads, and up and over mountain passes. And as more people join the RV lifestyle, it becomes increasingly important that RVers have a basic understanding of common RV accidents and how best to avoid them.

Driving safely on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you hit the road, ensure your recreational vehicle is roadworthy, and that you’re prepared in case of emergency.

Most of the common RV accidents can be avoided by preventive maintenance and proactive attentiveness.

Driving safely on Newfound Gap Road in Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the hazards are numerous, taking simple steps to avoid them is much easier than finding yourself facing the consequences of an RV accident or mishap. Knowing the most common mistakes and having the knowledge to prevent them will keep RV drivers safe and their trip enjoyable. Accidents such as lack of clearance can cost more than just the expense of the RV repair—such disasters can harm the traveling family as well.

The Low Hanging Tree Branch

Use special care when driving to your camping site in an RV park with overhanging trees © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the problems with certain campground owners is that they can be sloppy about trimming tree branches that hang over their roads. They make the mistaken assumption that people who buy travel units know enough to look up as they drive through RV parks, but many do not. The problem is that many recreational vehicles these days sit high, so when you put that kind of height together with an overhanging branch, you’ve got the recipe for problems.

Use extra care when driving in or backing out of a camping sites © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One newbie learned this the hard way. She was pulling out of a campground and, although she was trying to be careful, she forgot to look up. Even though she was driving slowly, her roof hit a heavy tree branch, and she was unable to stop in time to keep it from doing major damage.

Know your clearance height and don’t take unnecessary risks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The branch actually curled the front portion of her fifth wheel roof back a few feet, and this also loosened and misplaced the area that was a few feet behind it. It was an expensive way to learn an important lesson.

Know Your Height

Know your height, width, and total combined weight © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know your height and always look up when you are driving in areas where overhangs of any kind are present. Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many people forget the extra height of an RV while driving. Hitting bridges, low hanging trees, and overhangs or misjudging the amount of clearance beneath an overpass or inside a tunnel can put an immediate stopper on your road trip.

Use extreme care and caution on backroads. Pictured above Moke Dugway as it drops into Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In order to keep your RV in one piece and avoid getting hung up—literally— consider the following guidelines:

  • Pay close attention to posted clearance measurements
  • Know the height of your RV and place a sticky note on the dashboard with your exact height (remember to include A/C)
“We’ll probably fit” doesn’t cut it! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’ll probably fit” does not cut it—don’t take the risk

Also be aware that the typical width of an RV is 8.5 feet and the typical highway lane is 10 feet in width. This gives you about a foot-and-a-half to work with.

Learn From This Story

Lessons like these are hard ones, but people can avoid having to learn them if they take an RV Driving Course that is taught by a certified instructor prior to taking their coaches out on the road.

Use extreme care when approaching a bridge or tunnel with low clearance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to protect yourself from having the kind of accidents you’ve learned about in this article, my best advice is to learn to drive an RV before taking it out on the highway, maintain it well, pay attention to what you’re doing when you travel, and always be aware of what the drivers around you are doing. Be proactive!

Drive safely! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

Prep Your RV for Summer Travel

The weather is getting warmer and summer will soon be here

Now is the time to start planning your summer travels. But prior to booking a campsite, owners of recreational vehicles should perform some basic and routine maintenance to ensure that their road trip goes smoothly. Preventative measures and maintenance will reduce the risk of problems.

It is a much better to take care of any problems while at home rather than having to deal with costly repairs while on the road. Trouble-free camping makes for happy camping.

Plug it in and turn it on © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plug it In – Turn it On

After taking the RV out of winter storage, plug it in to shore power, turn on the LP gas, and connect to city water to ensure that all electric and propane appliances function normally and there is no evidence of water leaks. Also run the air conditioning units and furnace, turn on the refrigerator and freezer, start the water heater, and power up the generator and run with a full load.

Connect to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check and Double Check

Top off the fluid levels in your batteries, check all hoses and belts for cracking, and all fluid levels on a motorized RV. Also check the converter and/or inverter for proper voltage. Check the headlights and turn signals. Take a look at all your hitch and towing equipment. Check fire extinguishers, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and propane sensor.

Turn on the refrigerator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kick the Tires

Check the age of the tires—RV tires usually age out before they wear out.

Hook up the sewer and flush the tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check that all tires are properly inflated. Improperly inflated tires means more money for fuel. Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency. Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure and blowout.

Or drive to the nearest dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have a travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer you may need to pack wheel bearings.

Clean the tires and rims and inspect them for evidence of any splits or cracks in the sidewalls and weatherization damage.

Not the way to care for tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jack it Up

Regardless of your RV type, check the jacks and leveling systems, the awnings, crank and run the generator and service if required.

Open awnings and check for frayed or ripped material. Remove stains and mildew with special awning cleaner and allow awning to dry before rolling back up. Check hardware for functionality and replace as needed.

Keep the RV clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep it Clean

Regular cleaning of a recreational vehicle is essential for its maintenance and to ensure the longevity of your RV especially after a long winter in storage. Cleaning starts with your RV roof, because whatever lands on your roof eventually ends up everywhere else on the RV. Always exercise extreme care when working on the roof of an RV, especially when wet.

Cleaning starts with the RV roof © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When inspecting the roof look for tears or holes. Beware of small slices that can allow water intrusion. Get any holes or slices repaired immediately.

Look for peeling, cracking, or openings in the sealants and if found should be cleaned, dried, and resealed.

Cleaning includes the side mirrors…oops, a late snow fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next clean the front of the RV including side mirrors, the side walls, and back using a quality RV wash such as McGuire’s. The safest and easiest way to reach the upper part of the RV is with an extension pole system.

Pay special attention to the seams where the wall joints, storage bay doors, marker lights, and appliance outlets are found. Remove dirt, bugs, tar, and other road residue from the surface of your RV.

Finally, it’s time to wax the beast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inspect the side walls and around windows and doors for cracks or voids in the seams and seals. Scrape and reseal any affected areas with the appropriate sealant.

After a general clean with the soap and water it’s time to wax the beast with a quality product such as McGuire’s Wash and Wax.

Worth Pondering…

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

—Ben Stein

Is Your RV Road Ready?

Are you and your RV ready for a brand new camping season?

There’s something magical about a summer road trip. And it’s a standby in literature and movies—from John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley to Smokey and the Bandit.

Much has changed in RVs over the years © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Times have certainly changed since Steinbeck and his dog Charley made their way across the country 54 years ago. But one thing hasn’t changed: A summer road trip is still the best way to see America, see its natural wonders, national parks, historic sites, and big-name tourist attractions.

But RVers still travel with and pamper their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hitting the open road can be the highlight of any spring or summer camping expedition but don’t let preventable maintenance issues put a damper on your vacation.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance includes inspection of the entire unit from top to bottom on a regular basis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance is designed to prevent or identify potential problems that could lead to mechanical breakdown, malfunction, or failure of a component or system. Don’t confuse this with regularly scheduled maintenance (SEE below).

Inspect all the roof and window seals of your RV and reseal any that are showing signs of damage or aging.

Washing and waxing your rig on a regular basis is an important part of preventive maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check awnings for damage, mildew, and insects.

Examine the hitch system for wear, loose bolts, and cracks.

Check for cracks in hoses and fan belts and replace if necessary.

Check all lights. Make sure headlights, fog lights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals are all functioning properly.

Preventive maintenance includes the interior of the rig © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance applies to the RV interior as well as the exterior. Stains become more difficult to remove when vinyl or leather is allowed to become dry.

Scheduled Maintenance

Schedule maintenance as required by the owner’s manuals © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Scheduled or routine maintenance is performed in intervals normally based on time, mileage, or hours.

Note: It is absolutely essential that you read your owner’s manual and warranty information in regards to who is responsible for what when it comes to scheduled maintenance. Adhere to the service schedule outlined in the manual. Scheduled maintenance that is required by the manufacturer and not performed can void your warranty.

Safety Alarms

Maintenance includes ensuring that all safety features are operational at all times © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check Smoke, LPG, and Carbon Monoxide alarms for proper operation and replace batteries as needed.

Battery Care

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check the water level in your batteries monthly. Remove the vent caps and look inside the fill wells. Check the electrolyte levels. The minimum level required for charging the battery is at the top of the plates. When you add water, use only distilled water and fill the cell to 1/8 inch below the fill well. Also remove any corrosion on the connections with a wire brush and baking soda/water solution.

Tire Maintenance

Not the way to care for your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tire manufacturers stress that there are four main considerations concerning tire care:

  • Proper air pressure should be maintained
  • Under-inflated tires can cause handling problems, increased tire wear, and even sudden tire failure
  • And don’t just check the pressure at the start of the season, but every time you are heading out
  • Age of the tires: RV tires usually age out before they wear out; tires should be inspected annually, especially after the first five to six years, regardless of the mileage

Emergency Road Service

A quality road service plan provides peace of mind for problems that occur down the road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Even with the best preparation, issues can still arise with your RV, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a roadside assistance plan.

Like any insurance plan, Emergency Road Service is an investment that you hope you’ll never need. But if you spend much time on the road, sooner or later you’ll have a breakdown.

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Excellent plans are available from CoachNet and AAA.

Your plan should provide coverage for emergency gas/fuel, lockout service, tire changes, and jump-starts. These services should be available no matter where you travel. Think about your needs and ensure that your emergency assistance plan will meet them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my plan cover all vehicles that we normally travel with: motorhome, toad, trailer?
  • Does my plan include a lodging allowance if we aren’t able to stay in our RV?
  • Am I covered in the U.S. and Canada?
  • Does my plan have an upper limit? A deductible?
  • What hoops do I have to jump through to get reimbursed if I have to pay cash for service?
See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Shop around. Match your plan to your needs and your budget—and you’ll drive with peace of mind this spring and summer.

See you down the road and Happy and Safe RVing!

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.

—Fitzhugh Mullan

12 Simple RV Maintenance Tips

Here are 12 of the most important RV maintenance and repair tips every owner needs to know

Taking the time for preventive maintenance on your recreational vehicle will pay big dividends down the road.  Most maintenance procedures are fairly simple and can be done without seeking out an RV tech. You can tackle these 12 simple items yourself.

Lubrication 

Keep all moving parts lubricated and operating normally © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A little lube goes a long way. Keep all the hinges, locks, sliders, and basically, anything that moves well lubricated. A good lube to keep on hand is dry silicone. Works well in almost all applications and resists attracting dirt.

Tighten 

Ensure you maintain a tight sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Your RV is basically a house on wheels and exposed to minor earthquakes during every trip. Things will come loose. Every so often grab a screwdriver and a wrench and give everything a re-tightening. This little preventive maintenance can save you big time. Pay special attention to items attached to the outside that may fly off during transit and cause safety risks.

Clean it 

Clean it! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mechanically everything works better when clean. Dirt and grime causes wear. A good coat of quality wax and UV protectant will keep the rig looking sweet and extend its life.e

Tires 

Not the way to treat your motorhome tires ! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Inflate to recommended specifications and check them often. Inspect for any imperfections before travel. Keep lug nuts tightened to proper torque settings. Get a torque wrench and learn how to use it. Minimize exposure to the sun.

Tanks 

Gray and black water tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sanitize the fresh water tank as needed. When dumping ensure your tanks are three-quarters full to properly expel the solids with a good flushing action.

Lights 

Carry spare bulbs and fuses © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Carry spares for every type of bulb your RV uses. Check the signal lights, brake lights, headlights, and fog lights prior to every travel day.

Seals and Seams 

Keep close tabs on the external seals and seams. Look for any cracking or holes, especially on the roof. Water leaks and high humidity can cause severe damage to RVs and over time and cause rot and mold to develop.

Voltage Checks 

Whether small or large, all RVers should monitor their voltage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A safe voltage range is between 108 volts and 130 volts. Anything lower or high can be harmful to your system and may result is costly repair. I highly recommend getting an electrical management system such as the one available from Progressive Industries to monitor voltage, protect against power surges, and check for polarity.

Look Underneath 

All operating parts need to be checked and inspected on a regular basis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It may be a pain but its well worth inspecting under your rig on a regular basis. Check for loose, corroding, or broken items and fluid leaks. A quick inspection can save you from being stranded on the side of a highway.

Exercise all systems 

It’s time for a road trip! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Systems that are left dormant in the RV for long periods of time should be run periodically. As an example when on full hookups for extended periods it’s a good idea to use the water pump occasionally and run the generator on full charge for a half hour or so every month.

Deep-Cycle Batteries

Connected to city water using a pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Deep-cycle batteries are designed to discharge power at a slow rate for an extended period of time. In RV applications, deep-cycle batteries power the comforts of home like your cooking appliances and lights. Add distilled water when the electrolyte level falls below a half-inch above the plates. Do not overfill. keep the water level an eighth of an inch below the battery’s internal vent-wall.

Protect Against Fire, Propane Leak, and Carbon Monoxide 

Always be safety conscious © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check your smoke, propane, and carbon monoxide sensors on a regular basis and replace batteries annually.

Those are some basic things I recommend to maintain the life of your RV.

Share this post with other RVers, thanks!

And it’s the end of another beautiful day living the RV lifestyle! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

Five RV Tips BEFORE Your First Road Trip

The sun is shining, the RV is washed, and its tank is full

If you have an RV or camper, the open road and possibility of adventure is tempting.

What may not be as enticing is carbon monoxide exposure, usually from improper use of portable gas equipment, operation of someone else’s vehicle or generator when camping in close quarters, or inadequate maintenance.

Palm Campground in Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas known as the “silent killer.” It’s produced when a fuel like gasoline, oil, kerosene, natural gas, wood, or propane burns incompletely. Carbon monoxide incidents occur all too often, even though they can be prevented with proper preparation and attention.

Review the following five tips to ensure your RV season is a safe one.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort, Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Test Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

Newer models of RV are usually hardwired with a carbon monoxide detector. Test, and replace the carbon monoxide detector as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s a good practice to replace the batteries when you change the clocks for daylight savings time or on a specific date you will remember, such as your first camping trip of the season.

Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Watch Your Generators

Exhaust leaks from a generator are a common cause of carbon monoxide incidents. Inspect the generator exhaust system each time before using it. Do not operate your generator if the exhaust system is damaged in any way or making an unusual noise.

If you are camping in close quarters with other RVs that are running their generators, keep your windows and roof vents closed to prevent exhaust from entering your vehicle.

On-Ur-Wa RV Park, Onawa, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you use a portable generator, place the generator downwind of the RV with the exhaust pointed away from the camping area. Don’t sleep while the generator is operating and leave a roof vent open while it is running, even during the winter.

Not feeling well? Shut off the generator and step outside for some fresh air just to be sure you aren’t being exposed to carbon monoxide.

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

Stay Warm, Safely

Fuel-burning appliances such as portable heaters, portable stoves, barbeques, or kerosene lamps should remain outside when in use—NEVER bring them into your RV. Inside, DO NOT use range burners or the oven to heat an RV. When using the stove, keep the range fan on and always leave a window cracked open for fresh air and ventilation.

Cajun Palms RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning while using appliances attached to your RV, immediately turn them off and open the doors and windows so the gas can escape and leave the RV. While the area is being ventilated, seek medical assistance.

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

Have your RV serviced by a Certified RV technician

Inspect your RV’s chassis and generator exhaust system regularly, at least before each outing and after bottoming out or any other incident that could cause damage. Inspect your RV for openings in the floor or sidewalls. If you locate a hole, seal it with a silicone adhesive or have it repaired before using your generator again. Inspect windows, door seals, and weather strips to ensure that they are sealing properly.

Do you see yellow flames in propane-burning appliances such as coach heaters, stoves, ovens, and water heaters? This usually indicates incomplete combustion which may indicate servicing is required.

New Green Acres RV Park, Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Keep Exhaust Away

Park your RV so that exhaust dissipates away from the vehicle. Parking next to tall grasses, fences, walls, or buildings can keep exhaust gases from dissipating as they normally would. To avoid this, be sure there is ample clear space around you when you park. When stopping for long periods of time, be aware of other vehicles around you, such as semis at rest areas, that may have their engines and refrigerators running, and take the necessary precautions. 

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

These simple tips can go a long way toward keeping you and your family safe on the road. Always be sure to have work on your RV and any related gas-fired appliances performed by an individual with the appropriate qualifications.

Much of the above information is courtesy of Technical Safety BC.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.