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Helpful Tips for RVers

1. TV Antenna up or down?

TV antenna crankMany an RV’er has been dreadfully reminded, often by a low tree branch or overpass, that they forgot to lower their rooftop TV antenna. And who hasn’t looked up during a walk around to ensure that their antenna is down? I thought of this tip while lying in bed one morning, wondering whether mine was up or down. To insure that it was “down,” I simply cranked the antenna handle until it was down completely and marked the ceiling at the end of the handle, using a stick-on label colored green for “Go.” Get it? On your mark … Go!

When cranking up the antenna, I make sure that the end of the handle is on the opposite side of the mark. Now I just have to remember to check the position of my handle before getting underway.




2.  Eliminate water pooling in slide-out awnings

Hole in slide-out topperWhen rainwater collects in slide-out awnings, the weight of pooled water stretches the fabric and eventually may tear it away from the attachment, as it did in my case.  RV’ers have used various strategies to deal with this problem, such as repeatedly climbing a ladder to insert, and later remove, items such as plastic frameworks or small beach balls to provide more slant to the awning.

RV manufacturers could easily address this problem by attaching the awning to a higher position on the outside wall, thus providing more slant for draining off water.  Until they do so, here’s a simple solution that has worked well for me. With a round soldering iron, I burned a 3/8-inch hole at the low point where water normally pooled.  The plastic fabric around the edges of the hole melted to prevent tearing.  Now, instead of pooling, rainwater simply trickles down the side of my slide-out.  And here’s the best part: I only had to climb the ladder once.

Note: If your awning is under warranty, be advised that burning a hole in it will likely void the warranty.


3.  Using headsets when backing up

HeadsetsWhen backing into a campsite, the wife is usually outside as a spotter and the husband is behind the wheel.  All too often, the dialogue goes as follows:  “Come back.  Whoa!  No, go forward and turn to the right … further right.  Now come back. No, not on an angle, straight back ….”  The volume increases to shouting, sometimes accompanied by the spotter pounding on the side of the rig.  Anyway, that was us … until we discovered RV Headsets.  Our brand is “Tech Link ESP” — Easy, Safe, Parking — which we got for under $100.  They’ve been working well for the past eight years, allowing us to communicate quietly and efficiently, without attracting the attention of other campers.

I call them “Wife Savers.”




4.  Cooking on the level

stovetop leveling bolt

The metal grid of my Magic Chef stove was not level, causing liquid to pool on one side of a frying pan.  In my case, the back end was ¾ inch lower than the front.  To fix this problem, I removed the two rubber grommets on the back end of the stove top.  I then visited my local hardware store with stove top and grid in hand.  In the plumbing section, I found two brass fittings (plastic will melt), which screwed perfectly into the holes and had an opening at the other end to accommodate the feet of the grid.  After hack-sawing off the unneeded section of each fitting, I screwed them into the holes as far as necessary to level the grid, using a pan of liquid to indicate “level.”

Although my cooking isn’t that great, at least it’s on the level!


5.  Boondocking safety

5th-wheel in lot

Most RVers, especially when traveling, will spend the occasional night dry camping in the parking lot of a big-box store or casino, or perhaps on a side street in a residential neighborhood.  Here are some safety tips to consider:  Pick a lighted area near the center of the parking lot, rather than along the edges.  Turn on your security lights and make sure all doors, windows, and compartments are locked before retiring for the night.  If you’re parked on a residential street, advise the local police by cell phone of your location.  Not only will you then have their number in your phone for ready access, most officers will be happy to drive by occasionally to ensure all is well.  Lastly, always have a flashlight and the ignition key to the truck, or motor home, beside the bed so you can set off the security alarm if you hear suspicious noises outside. Having done all that, sleep tight!


6.  Mouse guard

mouse guard

Mice inside your RV are not only messy, but destructive as well. The most common entry point is where your water hose comes into the basement through a standard 4-inch hole. To block this entry, buy a cover that is designed to fit the hole. Then hacksaw out a section just large enough to accommodate your hose. Finally, with a scissors cut a piece of SOS scouring pad large enough to fill the hole around the hose. Mice will chew on cheese, electrical wires, and plastic water lines, but not on soapy steel wool.

Listen up … not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse!




7.  Towel racks

towel rack lowresMost RV’s seem to have a limited number of kitchen towel racks. No worries: if you have drawers with handles on them, you have potential towel racks. Drawer handles are often not suitable for hanging dish or hand towels because they are too close to the outside of the drawer. A simple solution is to insert plastic spacer washers (from ½ to 1 inch) between the handle and the outside of the drawer and replace the screws with longer ones. Most hardware stores carry spacer washers and “break-away” screws that can be broken off at appropriate lengths to accommodate the washers. Not only will these handles provide racks to hang towels, they will hold damp towels away from the wood cabinetry, allowing them to dry more readily.

A word of caution: before implementing this tip, make sure you have space to accommodate the extended handles when your slides are in.


8.  Gutter Spout Extensions
Most trailers have a drip rail to collect A/C discharge water and rain water that runs off the roof.  Many have plastic add-on extensions designed to send water away from the sidewall.  Unfortunately, some of these extensions are either not long enough or inappropriately placed.  Wind or a protruding light can cause runoff water to dribble down the sidewall, creating black streaks.

My solution was simple and cheap:  Since my extension was ¾ inch wide, I bought a short length of 3/4-inch (inside dimension) flexible plastic hose at a hardware store.  Then, I cut off a 4-inch piece, heated one end with a hair-dryer for a few minutes until pliable, applied epoxy, and pushed it firmly onto the extension.  The epoxy ensures the piece remains in place during transit, runoff water clears the sidewall, and black streaks are gone.


9.  El Cheapo Wastebasket

Many RVs do not have an out-of-the-way space in the bedroom/washbasin area for a normal-size wastebasket.  However, one side of your dresser will likely be within a few inches of a wall or washbasin.  Here’s how you can use that space to discard tissues, razor blades, dental floss, and other small items.  All you need is an empty cereal box, some Scotch tape, and a hook with adhesive backing.

Purchase a box of cereal (family-size if space allows).  When empty, remove the wax-paper liner and fold down the top flaps of the box on the inside.  Secure with tape.  Then, with a paring knife bore a hole about 2 inches below the top edge.  Replace the liner and snip the four corners; fold down over outside top edges of box and tape in place.  Mount the hook low enough, about 8 or 10 inches, so you can insert your hand into the space above the box to discard items.  When full, empty and replace.  Not only is this basket inexpensive, it is well hidden, durable, and stays put while travelling.

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