House Calls with the RV Doctor
By Gary Bunzer
Dear RV Doctor:
My Generac generator runs fine but no power is generated. One day it worked, and then not the next. Any ideas as to what I should look for first?
Erin, New York
RV Doctor: Gary, getting power from the on-board power plant to the rest of your motorhome requires one of two basic methods: either the shoreline cord must be physically plugged into a receptacle inside the shoreline compartment (manual method) or the coach must be equipped with an automatic transfer switch. There is a third, older method of manually flipping a set of circuit breakers, but that design has been absent for many years. If your motorhome is equipped with the manual receptacle method, make sure the shoreline is indeed plugged in. In addition, almost every RV generator today is equipped with integral circuit breakers, completely independent from the panelboard distribution box located inside the RV. In a typical configuration, you’ll find two independent breakers on the generator; one protects the output circuit, which feeds a second roof air conditioner, while the other protects the output circuit that powers the rest of the RV. A good possibility exists that one of the two circuit breakers on the generator has tripped. If none of the circuit breakers inside your coach has tripped, check the breakers on the generator itself. They are usually located near the control box of the generator, but each model may be different. You may have to refer to the generator’s owners manual for their exact location. Flip the breaker fully off and then back on. Be sure all loads inside the coach are turned off before once again starting the generator. If all the breakers inside the coach are in their “on” position and likewise both breakers on the power plant, I’m afraid further troubleshooting is in order. Perhaps the automatic transfer switching device has malfunctioned, or the generator gremlins are playing tricks again. Either situation demands a more in-depth look by a service technician.
Dear RV Doctor:
How do you install window awnings on a 36-foot Bounder?
RV Doctor: Donna, the correct method of mounting window awnings on any RV is dependent upon the manufacturer’s recommendations and the type of coach construction. In other words, it depends on the brand of window awning and whether enough mounting support is available inside the sidewalls. Awning manufacturers provide detailed installation instructions with their awnings for all types of sidewall construction methods. Your Bounder has vacuum-bonded, sandwiched sidewalls, which may or may not require additional support for the window awnings. There is usually plenty of “meat” directly above the windows where the awning rail is secured, but it’s also important to have a firm foundation where the arm brackets mount. Fleetwood has typically added sufficient supporting materials inside the walls during construction for future awning installations. Additionally, each awning requires a certain amount of pre-tension on the spring assemblies. This is determined by the length of each awning. Again, the awning manufacturer will have all these specs in the installation instructions. If you happen to have some awnings without any installation instructions, contact that awning manufacturer directly. The company will gladly provide you with a set of installation instructions and/or perhaps guide you to an online source of instruction; many makers have downloadable instructions on their Web sites
Dear RV Doctor:
I am interested in receiving some information about the negative effects of ultraviolet rays causing damage to the tires on my RV. Why are RV tires so susceptible to damage from the sun when the tires on my truck don’t seem to be affected? What are the facts?
RV Doctor: Murray, the damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation as well as exposure to the ozone affects all tires. RV tires in general are more susceptible to this type of damage, because they are considered a slow-wearing tire. RV tires typically are not driven as far or as often as regular automobile or truck tires.
A symptom of ozone or UV damage is the evidence of cracking or “weather-checking” around the sidewall. Ozone is simply a gas that is in the atmosphere. A mutant of sorts, ozone consists of an extra oxygen molecule that is easily attracted to the oxygen in the air and just as easily attaches itself to other oxygen-related compounds such as water and carbon monoxide. The biggest detriment is that it virtually attacks the rubber in the tires and causes brittleness and a lack of pliability. The big disadvantage is that ozone-produced cracks cannot be repaired or restored. The tire must be replaced.
One of the ways tire manufacturers combat ozone is by blending ozone-resistant rubber compounds during the making of the tire. These special waxes form a protective barrier against the ozone, but in order to be effective, the waxes must be constantly brought to the surface of the tire. During the flexing and moving of a tire while driving, a fresh layer of combative waxes is kept at the surface. Dormant tires on stored vehicles do not receive enough “exercise” to allow the waxes to migrate to the surface, and the ozone has a virtual picnic on any exposed area.
Ultraviolet light (UV), on the other hand, is produced by the sun and travels in the air as solar radiation. An invisible light, UV is harmful to rubber, plastics, fiberglass, etc., all of which are common to RVs. The effect of unprotected UV exposure on rubber is similar to that of ozone damage — cracking, discoloration, and lack of physical mechanical properties. As in the ozone war, tire makers use a carbon substance to combat the effects of UV radiation. Carbon black is a UV stabilizer that actually absorbs the damaging rays and converts them to a simple heat by-product. The carbon substance will eventually lose its ability to protect against the never-ending assault of the UV rays. Contrary to what some suppliers may say, there is no such thing as a permanent UV protectant.
Here are a few ideas suggested by virtually every tire manufacturer:
1. Keep RV tires clean. Avoid heavy buildups of mud, sand, or dirt. Dirt on tires may act as an abrasive of sorts that could inhibit the natural wax protection achieved through normal tire flexing. Also, regular washings with mild, soapy water and a soft brush can remove significant amounts of ozone, especially if you are located in a higher-than-normal ozone area.
2. Inspect the tires regularly.
3. Inflate the tires to the exact requirement based on the actual weight at that tire position.
4. During short periods of non-use, keep the tires completely covered. Regularly apply a non-petroleum-based preservative to all surface areas of each tire.
By following these simple guidelines, most motorhome tires will provide many miles of safe travel.