Q: Please give me some information on traveling in California and Nevada. My motorhome is a 42-foot Beaver and I typically have a towed car attached. What are the allowable motorhome lengths in these states?
Grant Holmes, F300386
A: According to information published in the January 2002 issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine (“Motorhome Regulations,” page 82), Nevada has a motorhome length limit of 40 feet and a combined length limit of 70 feet.
California had been actively enforcing a 40-foot length limit law; however, on October 9, 2001, the state legislature enacted a new law that increased the length limit for motorhomes to 45 feet on approved roadways. California residents must have a Class B noncommercial license with a house car endorsement. Out-of-state residents may legally drive motorhomes that are longer than 40 feet on approved California highways if they possess an out-of-state driver’s license authorizing the operation of the vehicle. The combined length limit in California, for those towing a vehicle, is 65 feet.
Approved roadways include interstates and state routes identified by the California Department of Transportation. A map of these roads, called “Motorcoach and Motorhome Network Map,” is available from the California Department of Transportation, Truck Size & Weigh-In Motion Branch; phone (916) 654-5741. Requests also can be made by e-mail to: [email protected] or [email protected]. One free copy is available per single-unit bus or motorhome that is in California or will be visiting California. If sending a request via e-mail, you are asked to state the length of your motorhome and provide your phone number and complete mailing address.
You also can learn which roads are permissible for motorhomes between 40 feet and 45 feet in length by visiting the Web site of the California Department of Transportation, www.dot.ca.gov. Once there, click on Truck Services, and then click on 45-Foot Buses & Motorhomes. You can go to the page directly by typing in www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/trksnwim/motion/motion.htm. A printable map is available on the Web site as well, along with updates to the hard-copy map.
Towing A Tracker
Q: We have tried to find a better way to tow our 1994 Geo Tracker, with varying answers. This includes contacting GMC directly.
The car has an automatic transmission and automatic locking hubs. We have been towing it on a dolly, rear wheels up. However, the car is so light that the dolly weaves all over the road.
We have been told that a cable release can be put on the driveline and manual hubs installed on the rear wheels so the car can be towed four wheels down. Is this possible and is it satisfactory? Will the car be damaged? Do you have any other solutions?
Paul Dixon, F267571
A: The main reason the Tracker wanders all over the road is because you have its weight facing the wrong direction. The engine needs to be on the dolly to avoid the classic trailer wander syndrome. I know the drive wheels are in the rear and that is why you’re towing it backward, but this causes the wander. To avoid this problem you have two choices: purchase a trailer or call Remco Manufacturing.
The downside of a trailer is that you have to find a place to park it while in a campground (usually in the overflow area), but the upside is no accrued mileage on the Tracker, the ability to back up the trailer, and brakes. In addition, usually the reduction in the rolling resistance of a trailer versus the Tracker will offset the added drag of the trailer’s weight and everything comes out fairly equal.
As noted, another option is to contact Remco Manufacturing and discuss four-wheel-down towing alternatives for your Tracker. The company offers several solutions to motorhome owners who want to tow vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions. Remco can be reached at (800) 228-2481 or by visiting www.remcotowing.com.
Q: We have a 37-foot 2000-model Itasca gasoline-powered motorhome. I have been reading several articles regarding the advisability of using a braking system on our towed car, and it seems like the sensible thing to do. I was impressed with the thought that the brakes of the motorhome are designed for the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), not the gross combination weight rating (GCWR).
Now my question is which system to use? The article “Hooking Up The Towed Vehicle” (page 74, March 2002 issue), referred to another article titled “Supplemental Braking Systems” (page 60) in the July 2001 issue. I dug out the latter and re-read it. There were many, many systems described, and my eyes glazed over after reading the descriptions, prices, installation time, etc., of them. Boy, do I wish Consumer Reports would test this stuff for me! How in the world can I make a decision on quality, endurance, safety, dependability, convenience, and applicability?
Could some of your readers share their experiences with this hardware to help me sort the wheat from the chaff?
Dan Mulcahey, F273008
Oswego, New York
A: Your confusion is understandable. One way to gather feedback from users of the systems would be via the Internet. You could visit some of the RV Web sites that have bulletin boards and post your question there. Ask for opinions from those who have used the various systems. Two Web sites that come to mind immediately are www.funroads.com (which hosts FMCA discussion forums) and www.rvamerica.com.
Q: My motorhome drives quite well when I am not towing. However, with a towed vehicle attached, I am constantly steering and cannot take my eyes off the road for a second. Will it make a difference if I lower the hitch on the motorhome? The motorhome hitch is approximately 21 inches off the ground and the car is 12 inches. We have had the wheels on both vehicles aligned several times. The motorhome is a 2000 Pace Arrow Vision 34N and the towed vehicle is a 1999 Honda Accord.
Tom Nickerson, F296685
A: Obviously, your problem isn’t being caused by the motorhome, since it drives fine solo, so the Honda must be the culprit. As Bill Hendrix mentioned in his article in the March 2002 issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine (“Hooking Up The Towed Vehicle,” page 74), the more level the tow bar is, the better it will perform. Use a dropped hitch of the appropriate dimension to accomplish this. This may very well cure your drivability problem.
Towing A Chevrolet S-10 Truck
Q: The March 2002 article in FMC on towable vehicles (“Towables For 2002,” page 66) does not mention the Chevrolet S-10 series trucks. Aren’t they on the same frame as the Blazer/Jimmy products and have the same powertrain?
The engine in my four-wheel-drive Dodge just died, and I have to replace it soon. Talking to a dealer and getting a straight answer is a gamble.
Donald Willis, F188210
A: It’s not because the salespeople are trying to mislead you, but rather because many are not familiar with recreational towing. The S-10 is not listed in the 2002 survey because the manufacturer did not indicate that it is approved for flat towing without modifications. To verify this, ask to see the vehicle’s owners manual and look for a section titled “Recreational Towing” or something similar. This should put any question on flat towing the S-10 to rest.
Q: Recently, I consulted our motorhome’s schematics to see how our inverter is wired and discovered that it powers only a few outlets and our microwave. Since we almost never do any no-hookup camping, I began wondering whether we could switch the output of the inverter to power our refrigerator and thus negate the need to keep the gas turned on while we’re on the road. So far, I’ve not been able to determine whether the load presented by the refrigerator is one that an inverter could handle properly, assuming that its output amperage was adequate. Other than capacity, is there any reason that the inverter could not be used for the refrigerator?
Lou Einung, F296968
Santa Maria, California
A: There is no reason the refrigerator can’t be operated on inverted AC power while you are traveling as long as you have adequate inverter output. An 8-cubic-foot refrigerator will consume approximately 325 watts of electricity, and a 12-cubic-foot model will consume approximately 420 watts of electricity. You also should have a generous cushion of inverter power above what the refrigerator requires, because inverters tend to overheat if operated at maximum output continuously, usually due to inadequate ventilation. While you are in transit, the engine alternator provides the power to recharge the batteries and operate the inverter — so, you must remember to switch off the inverter upon arrival when you turn off the engine. In the absence of 120-volt shore or generator power, the inverter would discharge the batteries rather quickly.
On certain models of Dometic refrigerators, with square wave or modified sine wave inverters, the function lights will flash after the thermostat has been satisfied. This doesn’t affect anything, as the system is dormant with the thermostat not calling for cooling. I highly recommend using the inverter for this purpose, since using propane while traveling involves serious safety risks in the event of an accident.
Q: We just joined FMCA and already have a question. We are in the process of purchasing a new cell phone and carrier. Have you published an article on this, or do you have information? The main criteria for our decision are which service has the best coverage in the United States and, of course, no roaming charges.
Gary & Kit Poeschl, F307961
A: Unfortunately, we don’t have a ready answer for this question. Opinions on this topic vary, and the answer seems to depend in part on where you travel. Two popular options seem to be AT&T and Sprint, and for a while, one of FMCA’s partners was offering both of these services to FMCA members. They apparently found advantages and disadvantages associated with each provider. They are no longer offering cell phone service but currently are exploring other opportunities that might fit the needs of FMCA members.
If you haven’t already made a decision, you might want to visit some of the RV-related Web sites that have bulletin boards and post a question there to gather some firsthand information from other RV travelers. One possibility is www.funroads.com. Another that comes to mind is www.rvamerica.com.