Q: I am puzzled! When not traveling, we keep our Gulf Stream Scenic Cruiser in our garage. I came home the other day and found the LP-gas detector beeping. I immediately turned off the propane, and the alarm stopped. Our plumber happened by and I asked him to check the propane system, but he found no leaks. Later in the day our home carbon monoxide detector sounded. I phoned a friend in the local fire department and asked him to bring a detector, and he found different signals around the house. When we walked past the battery compartment, the detector went wild. The battery was on trickle charge and quite hot. This was the culprit. What were both detectors sensing?
Battery replacement is probably needed. How may I obtain the battery article from awhile back, and where can I buy the batteries so I can upgrade my battery situation?
Darrell Dean, F190506
A: The most recent article about batteries that appeared in FMC magazine was “Absorbed Glass Mat Batteries” by Bill Hendrix in the December 2000 issue. If you would like to receive a photocopy of this article, send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope, along with your request to the attention of Editorial Assistant, Family Motor Coaching Inc., 8291 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244.
In addition, here are some suggestions for you from a couple of the technical correspondents for this column.
After reading Darrell Dean’s message, I’m assuming the motorhome’s garage is attached to the house. Since any LP-gas pressure regulator is probably going to leak out the vent hole after six or seven years (or less), leaving the propane tank turned on in ANY building is a no-no. It’s a good chance the LP-gas detector was just doing its job.
The carbon monoxide detector in the house was possibly warning of hydrogen gas coming from the hot lead acid (sulfuric acid) batteries nearing the state of thermal runaway. Mr. Dean is going to need more than just new batteries. The hot battery is likely the result of a defective trickle charger. If so, Mr. Dean could replace it with a three-stage smart charger that will correctly recharge the batteries and then “float” the battery bank, not burn it up. Replacing one battery in a parallel (or series) battery bank is not recommended. The new battery will be drawn down to the same lower voltage/power potential as the old batteries. The only exception is if a person performs a successful cell equalization process on the older batteries with a three-stage smart charger. I recommend purchasing your batteries from a battery professional who can provide the correct type and capacity batteries for your needs.
A: Here’s my understanding of the battery situation: In theory, whenever a storage battery is down to 80 percent of its rated capacity (according to load test), it should be replaced. In real life, if the batteries are approximately the same age and the failure is due to normal deterioration and not a broken plate, etc., it’s probably best to replace them all at the same time. If they are connected in parallel, using a new battery in combination with an older, weaker battery is not likely to damage the new one, but the full-load output will be less than perfect. If they are connected in series, however (golf cart-style), the constant drain of the weaker battery could cause premature sulfation of the newer one.
A: You can buy new house batteries at Sears, Camping World, Wal-Mart, etc. Just make sure you choose deep-cycle, marine-type batteries for your coach’s needs and an automotive-type starting battery for the chassis.
Q: Can you refer me to a Web site that will give me an evaluation of the different types of tow dollies? I would like to see a comparison of brands, braking systems (electrical brakes as opposed to surge brakes), and any other important information. My primary towed vehicle will be a Dodge Neon with a manual transmission. I prefer a dolly as opposed to a tow bar for the versatility of being able to tow any of my other vehicles with fewer changeover issues.
Shelton Campbell, F319411
A: Unfortunately, we are not aware of any resource that offers in-depth comparisons of various tow dollies. Articles published here and elsewhere have described the features of various tow bars and tow dollies, but did not contain comparisons. We published a roundup-type article about towing equipment in the May 2003 issue of FMC.
FMCA’s official Web site “” www.fmca.com “” has a list of towing equipment manufacturers and suppliers that might help you. You can find it by clicking on “Motorhoming Guide” on the navigation bar on the left side of the home page; then selecting “Towing.”
Motorhome owners today have wonderful resources at their fingertips thanks to the Internet. In addition to visiting company Web sites, you also might want to visit some of the RV-related sites that have bulletin boards and ask for advice and input from motorhome owners who have firsthand experience with various tow dollies.
Q: I have been informally collecting information about lightning damage to RVs. The data I have cover incidents where shore power was the means of entry to the RV. Namely, lightning hit a nearby power transformer and the surge came into the RV through the shore power cable. I contacted the manufacturer of my motorhome and was told that it does not maintain a database of occurrences of this type of damage.
Have there been any discussions at RV rallies about the internal damage that can be done to an RV by lightning, and about how the power surge traveled to ground? I have not checked on other types of RVs, but I do know that my motorhome does not have a power grounding cable (ground strap) to conduct a power surge from the chassis frame to the ground. Is there a need for the RV industry to develop a lightning protection system?
John McHale, F245128
Silver Spring, Maryland
A: On a 30-amp or 50-amp cord, the round connector links the coach frame/body ground to the power post’s earth ground. This path is designed to prevent an electrical shock from touching an electrical enclosure; however, it will not provide a sufficient conductor in the event of a lightning strike. There are devices that are available to help absorb some of this tremendous energy by putting a gang of MOVs (metal oxide varistors) from the line to a common ground, but I know of no sure-fire, 100 percent safeguard for lightning. If you are in a severe storm, the best protection is to unplug, but by doing so you may run some risk of personal injury, as you are exposed while you are out there unplugging.
Towing An S-10
Q: We have a 2002 Georgie Boy Suite and have decided we would like to tow a vehicle behind it. We already have a Ford F-250 SuperCab with a long bed, but it’s just too heavy to pull. Our thoughts were a two-wheel-drive manual-transmission Chevy S-10. Then someone told us an automatic would be better. We want to tow all four wheels down. We e-mailed Chevrolet to find out whether the S-10 was towable four wheels down and got back a “No” to our inquiry. Our question is: what is the ideal pickup to tow, or is there one?
Robert & Joanne Heare, F41308S
A: The January 2003 issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine contains an article with information and a listing of vehicles that can be towed four wheels down without significant modifications. We can’t recommend one pickup over another. There are simply too many variables and personal preferences involved. However, the S-10, as Chevrolet told you, is not approved for flat towing.