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

5 Tips for Safe RV Travel

Plan to travel safely with these tips

It’s that time of year again. The weather is warming up and spring has finally arrived. That means more motorists on the road and as the spring and summer travel season to picks up.

RV travel can be enjoyable but these large recreational vehicles demand respect. RVs are not particularly difficult to drive but there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your travels safer and more relaxing and enjoyable.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

RV Checklist

Many accidents are caused by simple forgetfulness: leaving doors unlatched, awnings up, or steps extended. Use a step-by-step checklist and conduct a final walk-around visual inspection before driving away. A pre-departure checklist should include the following:

  • Check propane level and fill if needed
  • Check oil, transmission, and coolant levels
  • Check tire inflation pressure and adjust as required
  • Ensure all signal, four-way hazard, brake, running, and fog lights are operational
  • Turn propane off at the tank
Sunset Valley RV Resort, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

RV Safety Check

Before leaving ensure you conduct a thorough inspection on your RV. Do a final 360-degree walk-around the RV before getting in the driver’s seat and leaving on your road trip. Check all doors to make sure they are properly latched, disconnect power, water, and sewer lines.

River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Look for any leaks and ensure your propane and smoke detectors are in working condition. Always test your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it is working properly. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are only noticeable when you’re awake, they include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, muscle twitching, headache, throbbing in the temples, weakness and sleepiness, and inability to think coherently.

As a final step prior to departure, check mirror adjustments. Adjust the side-view mirrors to barely see the side of your RV. Adjust the convex mirrors to include blind spots, keeping in mind that distances may be distorted.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Drive Safely

Be extra cautious when driving or towing an RV. RVs brakes are different from those in a car or SUV. Since most RVs have air brakes rather than hydraulic brakes, braking will have a different feel. Turning a corner in an RV is very different from a car. You need to compensate for the additional weight, height, and length. Slowly approach your turn and make sure you finish the turn before straightening out.

Experience is a key. The best way to become a good RV driver is by practice.

Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Know RV Height, Width & Length

Some of the most common RV accidents include hitting bridges, underpasses, and gas station overhangs.

Post your exterior height, width, and total length in the motorhome or tow vehicle where it can easily be seen while driving.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Height: Measure to the highest point such as air conditioner or satellite dish

Width: Measure to the outermost points such as mirrors, awnings, or handles

Length: Measure from the front of the vehicle to the end of the towed vehicle or trailer

Also keep in mind that a typical highway lane is 10 feet. Most RVs are about 8.5 feet in width.

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

Tips to Backing up an RV

Have the co-pilot get out of the vehicle and scan the site before backing up, checking for site obstructions, overhanging branches, levelness of site, and location of utilities.

Adjust the mirrors to tilt down enabling you to see the lower rear corner of the RV.

Waltons Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The co-pilot should stand at the back of the site slightly to the side of the vehicle. Make sure that you can see the co-pilot in your side-mirror. The co-pilot should use hand signals that you both understand.

Back in slowly and very carefully.

Practice makes perfect. Try backing up in a big parking lot before tackling a campsite.

Blakes Ranch RV Park, Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Remember, safety is no accident.

Worth Pondering…

Take your time.

Slow down.

LIVE.

Forest River Workplace Safety Violations Top $250,000

The RV industry is booming. Production is high and sales are good, but is it coming at the cost of worker safety?

Between September 2017 and November 2018, ten of Forest River’s 26 plants in Elkhart County were hit with a total of 55 violations, 44 of them serious. The initial fines totaled $254,975, according to an ABC57 report.

Forest River showed up in a 2017 annual state occupational safety report as a “significant case” due to “excessive injuries.” According to the report, in the first nine months of 2017 alone there were nine fingers amputated, a fractured pelvis, and multiple foot fractures.

Polomino Solaire travel trailer, a Forest River product, camped at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The ABC57 Investigates team spent almost a year going over stacks of IOSHA (Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspection reports and talking to several current and former employees at Elkhart-based Forest River. What they found paints a picture of a fast-paced work culture filled with alleged drug use and lax safety practices—all proving to be a dangerous combination.

In the last few years the Elkhart RV industry has soared back to life after sinking deep into the depths of the 2008 recession. Demand is so high many RV manufacturers are offering highly competitive packages to potential employees to help increase production. But in that rush to meet demand worker safety seems to be falling through the cracks at Forest River—one of America’s largest manufacturers of recreational vehicles.

A Class A motorhome camped at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

ABC57 spoke to several current and former employees who shared those concerns. Many declined to speak on camera out of fears of retaliation. One former employee did agree to speak on camera—if we hid his identity out of fears he would be frozen out of the industry for speaking up. His employment was confirmed through an old Forest River pay stub. He described the work environment inside the plant as fast-paced.

The company has a 3.2 rating out of 5 on indeed.com, a website that allows current and former employees to review their employers.

Outback travel trailer by Keystone RV, a Thor Industries Company © Rex Vogel, all rights reserv

Some call it a great place to work, while others say there are problems. One thing almost every worker agreed on was the fast pace. That pace inspired by the “piece rate” one former manager told us about. It means the more pieces completed the more you get paid.

“They try to enforce safety as much as possible, but of course there are slips within the system you would say,” the former worker said.

Those slips eventually drew the attention of the Indiana Department of Labor with the company showing up in a 2017 Annual State Occupational report as a “significant case” due to “excessive injuries”. According to the report, in the first nine months of 2017 alone there were nine fingers amputated, a fractured pelvis, and multiple foot fractures.

Alpha Founder diesel pusher. One of the casualties of the recession, Alpha is no longer manufacturing RVs

IOSHA then sent a team of six people to Forest River plants in Goshen and Middlebury and eventually several others. Between September 2017 and November of 2018, ten of Forest River’s 26 plants in Elkhart County were hit with a total of 55 violations, 44 of them serious. The initial fines totaled $254,975.

To compare, during that same time period only four other local RV companies were hit with safety violations. The most was Lippert Components with 10 violations and initial fines totaling $45,000.

Golden Palms RV Park in Hemet, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Among Forest River’s violations inspectors cited risks of amputation, falling, and electric shock. In some cases, inspectors found Forest River employees were not properly trained and wearing the proper protective gear was not mandatory.

The violations and injury reports continued to come in through most of 2018. Paramedics were called twice to the company’s Starcraft division in Goshen, one of the locations hit with repeat violations. ABC57 obtained all dispatch calls to the Goshen plant. One from January 2018 was for a 50-year-old man who fell 12 feet hitting his head. Then in May a man in his 50s had two deep lacerations to two of his fingers.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Warren Buffet, are you listening?

And remember that not all RV manufacturers are created equal.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Martin Van Buren

February 2019 RV Manufacturer Recalls

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?

When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (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.

La Quintas Oasis RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

The number of RV recalls has increased significantly in recent years: 169 recalls were issued during 2016, 203 recalls during 2017, and 230 for 2018.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality, violating labeling requirements listed in federal motor vehicle safety standards.

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.

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

NHTSA announced 4 recall notices during February 2019. These recalls involved 3 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (2 recalls), Heartland Recreational Vehicles (1 recall), Triple E (1 recall).

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Coachmen Apex recreational trailers. The inner hub bearings may not have been sufficiently greased, which can cause the bearings to overheat and fail.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and repair the hubs and bearings, as necessary, free of charge. The recall began February 4, 2019. Customer service number unknown at this time. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-0923.

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

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Salem and Wildwood recreational trailers. The power cord hatch is located above the water heater exhaust, possibly resulting in the cord or the hatch melting.

Forest River has notified owners, and dealers will secure the power cord away from the water heater exhaust, free of charge. The recall began February 4, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 574-534-6127. Forest River’s number for this recall is 44-0929.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Heartland Recreational Vehicles

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC (Heartland) is recalling certain Milestone recreational trailers, model 377MB. The liquid propane (LP) gas hose for the water heater may have been improperly secured with a zip tie. If the zip tie fails, the hose may contact the tire.

Heartland will notify owners, and dealers will secure the hose with a P-clamp and replace the LP hose if damage is found, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 11, 2019. Owners may contact Heartland customer service at 1-877-262-8032. Heartland’s number for this recall is 99.01.44.

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

Triple E

Triple E Recreational Vehicles (Triple E) is recalling certain 2019 Serenity recreational vehicles, model S24CB. The coach battery compartment door support metal cable may contact the positive battery terminal.

Triple E will notify owners, and dealers will replace the battery compartment door support metal cable with one that is covered with tubing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in February 2019. Owners may contact Triple E customer service at 1-877-992-9906. Triple E’s number for this recall is CA#9208-1

Columbia River RV Resort, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Note: Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the first 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