April 2024
April 2024 cover
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April 2024
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April 2024
Volume 4, Number 2
hand using a tool to work on a tank
Tanks a Lot
Like a lot of appliances and components in an RV, water heaters are usually taken for granted — you just expect them to work. Unfortunately, they can fail to fire at the most inopportune of times, and it’s hard to imagine life on the road without hot water. By performing basic maintenance before and after each travel season, you can ensure that it will work when you need it.
trailer hooked up to a truck
Get Rid of That Sagging Rear End
Hitching up big fifth wheels with plenty of pin weight can make it difficult to keep the towing truck on a level plane without assistance from overload or air springs. RoadActive’s clever-but-simple suspension add-on — the big takeaway is its easy adjustability — has a profound effect on handling while towing, without the need for additional leaf-spring support.
family hanging out outside their trailer
2024’s RV OEM’s ‘Rediscover’ Entry-Level Towables
If you’ve gone shopping during the past few years for anything from a car to a bag of groceries, you know that your money doesn’t buy what it used to. That goes for RVs, as well; towables have jumped by 25% to 40% or more just since 2022. Now, manufacturers — including some that have never ventured into the space before — are fighting back with a new wave of “entry-level” travel trailers and even fifth wheels.
tent set up on top of a van
It’s hard to believe that Class B motorhomes — the medium of the “van life” movement — were originally a trend fueled by surfers and hippies. Today, “living small” helps a new generation of RVers live large.
two people looking at and signing paperwork
In the first of a series of articles, Campers Inn COO Ben Hirsch offers insights on how to gauge a dealership’s ability — and desire — to provide service and after-sale support to its customers.
hand using a tool to work on a rim
One reader’s Fleetwood motorhome goes “clickety-clack,” while another questions a recall on certain axle Zerk fittings. A third complaint centers upon an errant awning during extension. We can help.
April 2024 cover
David, Rose and Gabriel Blea enjoy an outing in an Ember RV E-Series 25RUD. Photo by Bruce Hampson
hand using a tool to work on suspension
Squatters Not Welcome
Tow vehicle suspensions take a real beating — and, in many cases, just don’t have the strength to carry the load of a hitched trailer. One of the easiest solutions is SumoSprings — easily installed supports that, due to their progressive design have a soft initial engagement (meaning support ramps up when loaded). Plus, they require zero maintenance after installation.
man using a tool to work on a floor replacement
Slideout Floor Replacement
Few RV problems cause owners more distress than wood rot. That’s especially true when you discover soft spots in your RV’s floor. Slideout rooms are especially susceptible to this malady, so when Carrier RV Services let us know they were replacing a slideout floor, we tagged along. It may not be something you want to tackle in your driveway, but it’s nice to know what it takes to get the job done.
aerial view of people at a convention
Hottest New Parts & Accessories
When it comes to new product debuts in the RV industry, there are no better venues than distributor shows — and there is no bigger distributor in the industry than NTP-STAG. Our partner, RVBusiness magazine, attended this year’s EXPO 2024 and reported back in-depth about the latest parts and accessories that attracted attention – and that you’ll be seeing this summer.
PUBLISHER – Bob Livingston
(805) 320-6909
[email protected]

EDITOR – Bruce Hampson
(574) 584-4616
[email protected]

(805) 340-5015
[email protected]

[email protected]

Business Office
26362 Douglas ave., Elkhart, in 46514
Advertising Director
Sue Seidlitz
(805) 816-8759
[email protected]
To subscribe electronically, log onto: www.rventhusiastmagazine.com, click on the “subscribe” icon and follow the prompts to add subscriber and payment information. Alternately, you may also mail to: RV Enthusiast Subscriptions, 26362 Douglas Ave., Elkhart, IN 46514. Subscription rates: Subscriptions for U.S. and Canada: $9.99/one year, $18.99/two years. Premier membership subscription rates available upon request.
Correspondence is invited from subscribers and readers of RV Enthusiast. Technical inquiries relating to RV function, maintenance, repairs and/or upgrades should be directed to Technical Director Bill Gehr at the above email addresses. Letters to the Editor should be directed to Editor Bruce Hampson at the above email address. Personal replies cannot be sent due to the volume of mail received. By forwarding letters to RV Enthusiast magazine, the author consents to allow letters to be published at the discretion of RV Enthusiast editors. Letters may be edited for brevity and clarification.
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Publisher’s Notes
By Bob Livingston
“Living Small’’ Helps a New Generation of RVers to Live Large

t’s funny how trends are recycled. Back in the 1970s, van conversions were popular, a movement driven by the surfing craze and “hippies” who lived life on the fringe. Undoubtedly, the Dodge Tradesman van was the most popular foundation for those RV companies that transformed a common work vehicle into a mobile bedroom for spirited individuals who wanted to spread their wings and explore beyond the routines of daily life. As a young person emerging from the late 1960s, when it could be argued that the anti-establishment movement helped shape the future of America through its “peace and love” mantra, I, too, became infatuated with “van life,” which has evolved into a hot ticket for the RV industry.

I built my first RV by converting a used Dodge van into a traveling motel, but I moved in a different direction from that of the surfer crowd (although living near the beach in Southern California was certainly the impetus for my surfboarding adventures). This van, of course, was rather crude by today’s standards, but it had everything my wife, Lynne, and I needed to hang with the RV crowd.

News & Notes

Taxa Outdoors Debuts ‘Dark Sky Mantis’

quarter view rendering of the ‘Dark Sky Mantis’ from Taxa Outdoors
The recent total solar eclipse was more than just another celestial event — and Taxa Outdoors has decided to capitalize on it with a special limited edition of its most popular overland vehicle, the Mantis.

The company’s Mantis is designed for off-road adventures with axle-less suspension, rugged all-terrain tires and articulating Lock ‘N’ Roll hitch. Its newest version, the Dark Sky, includes a custom matte wrap, limited edition graphics and matching dark wheels.

Choosing an RV Dealer
By Ben Hirsch
Part One – How to Measure Dealership Service and After-Sale Support
two women looking at documents

avigating the landscape of RV dealerships can often feel like traversing uncharted territory. With myriad options and varying levels of service, the choice of dealership significantly shapes the RV ownership journey. This column kicks off a multi-part series designed to demystify RV dealerships — offering consumers a roadmap to identify the hallmarks of exceptional service and support.

At Campers Inn, we know that there is a large segment of our customer base that feel that dealers are more similar than different, and that after-sales service isn’t important to most dealers. However, we’ll explore and explain the nuances that set dealers apart — from sales and finance to after-sales service to engaging with the community — ensuring you’re equipped to make informed decisions.

Zerk Lube Fitting Recall
close up of a wheel and axle
Hey Bill, I noticed that my 2022 Grand Design fifth wheel had a recall on the axles. I wasn’t sure what they were talking about and how critical it is to have it done, because it’s not easy for me to get my trailer to a Grand Design dealer. We live in our fifth wheel full time and, of course, they want us to leave it, which creates a problem finding a place to live. We’re not sure what to do. What do you suggest?

—John Wilson

John, you’re in luck. I have a 2023 Grand Design fifth wheel under the same recall (NHTSA 23V- 455) and it involves a problem with the Curt axle Zerk fittings. Apparently, these grease fittings were installed at the end of the axle spindles and one or more of them came loose and migrated into the bearings, which created an imminent failure.

back 2 basics; tanks a lot
The RV water heater is something we sometimes take for granted. By performing basic maintenance before and after each travel season, you can ensure that it will work when you need it.
By Chris Hemer / Photos by Chris Hemer

t’s hard to imagine life on the road without a water heater. From washing hands to bathing and doing dishes, it is one of the key appliances that makes life in an RV comfortable.

Until it doesn’t work.

RV tank-type storage hot water systems are not complicated devices, and in fact are much like the units found in most residences, albeit smaller. The fact that they have not changed much through the years is testament to their reliability; the bulk of RVs on the market today still use six or 10-gallon units manufactured by either Atwood or Suburban, and they can last for years if they’re properly maintained. However, if they’re stored for months outside without being maintained or were not properly drained before the end of the season, you could be repaid this spring by a water heater that won’t fire — or produces water that smells like rotten eggs.

get rid of that sagging rear end
get rid of that sagging rear end
Man drinking cup of tap water with clothespin pinching his nose
Hitching up a big fifth wheel with plenty of pin weight can make it difficult to keep the truck on a level plane without overload or air springs. RoadActive’s clever-but-simple suspension add-on has a profound effect on handling while towing — without the need for additional leaf-spring support.
By Bill Gehr / Photos by author

ow vehicle suspensions play a vital role in ride quality, safety and the ability to handle hitch and overall weight imposed by a trailer or fifth wheel. Owners who tow with a pickup truck must pay attention to axle ratings, gross vehicle and combination weight ratings and towing capacity. Typically, trucks have enough payload to handle most trailers on the market, but in many cases, the springs don’t have enough “backbone” to keep the truck on a level stance under heavy — or maximum — loading, like towing a big fifth wheel.

That can be dangerous. Too much rear-end sag can impact front-axle loading, headlight aiming and handling — to the point where safety can be compromised. Unfortunately, too many owners end up with a truck that doesn’t meet expectations when it comes to towing. A case in point: a new RV owner who purchased this 2022 F-350 long-bed truck to tow a 38-foot fifth wheel. The rather large fifth wheel had 3,800 pounds of pin weight and the rear axle payload was rated at 5,600 pounds. Although Ford claimed the truck could handle the 5,600 pounds, the rear end still sagged when the fifth wheel was hitched — which in turn forced a nose down attitude for the trailer.

RV Manufacturers ‘Rediscover’ Entry-Level Towables
man and woman holding child while sitting in outdoor chairs in front of RV camper
David, Rose and Gabriel Blea enjoy an outing in Ember RV’s new E-Series 25RUD travel trailer.
OEMs respond to a tough economic environment with a host of new travel trailers and even fifth wheels to appeal to new RV enthusiasts.
By Bruce Hampson

nyone who has gone shopping for a car, bought groceries or eaten at a restaurant in the past few years has come to grips with a runup in costs not seen stateside in 40 years.

That holds true for RVs, as well.

Building units to meet specific price points is a juggling act for RV manufacturers in the best of times — and no one would characterize the past few seasons in quite those terms. Granted, the pandemic-fueled resurgence in the RV lifestyle pushed shipments and registrations to record highs, but even then, shortages of parts and appliances created by closed manufacturing facilities overseas — coupled with huge jumps in shipping charges — began to impact RV prices.

And then, of course, record consumer-price inflation reared its ugly head, followed by a near tripling of interest rates as the federal government worked to corral these rising costs. None of these factors could be controlled by the RV industry, but their after-effects are on display on dealer lots. Depending upon who you talk to, the total cost to consumers of towable RVs, for example, have increased in price anywhere from 25% to 40% or more just since 2020, forcing manufacturers to reevaluate what they offered — or didn’t offer — especially in the price sensitive entry-level arena.

big silver truck in a parking lot with a hitch
Squatters Not Welcome
Watching the rear end of a truck dip when a fifth-wheel trailer is hitched is disconcerting — especially after shelling out big bucks for a heavy-duty tow vehicle that’s supposed to handle the weight. Sumo-Springs are maintenance-free and designed to provide a better attitude.
By Bill Gehr / Photos by author

ow vehicle suspensions take a beating and, in many cases, simply don’t have enough “oomph” to carry the load of a hitched trailer without rear-end sag. Overload springs are claimed to be “bulletproof” and are supposed to take care of the squatting, but they often don’t do the job — and can result in a harsher ride.

Air springs are another alternative (as is the adjustable coil-spring RoadActive Suspension featured elsewhere in this issue) but air springs (also called air bags) can sometimes suffer from problems related to bracket failures when overloaded — and air pressure must be maintained to prevent damaging the bags. In all cases, suspension add-ons will not increase axle weight ratings.

SuperSprings International (supersprings.com) has been a major player in this arena for many years. Its SumoSprings are designed to offer suspension support without maintenance of any kind and are simple to install.

RV Slideout Floor Replacement typographic uppercase letters form title in black on top of a rectangular gold color shape background while there is also a bigger dark grey rectangular shape background behind that as well
Landscape close-up indoor photograph of a man in a faded dark black/grey hat, dark faded navy blue long sleeve t-shirt, light blue denim jeans, and black Under Armour fitness shoes kneeling down on the ground skillfully crafting wood in a workshop environment area using a power drill tool
Slideouts damaged by water intrusion are one of the most common — and most expensive — repairs that face RV owners.
By Bruce W. Smith / photos by author

ew RV problems cause owners more distress than wood rot. Given the amount of wood products used in the construction of a typical RV, rotting wood — and its attendant traveling buddy, mold — is like a cancer that needs to be addressed quickly and decisively to prevent doing more damage to the motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer.

That’s especially true when you discover soft spots in your RV’s flooring. While wood rot — caused by water incursion — in any area of an RV is cause for concern and immediate action, rotting floors truly compromise the structural integrity of the unit.

Slideout rooms are susceptible to this dilemma. Floor rot in a slideout is usually traced to water accumulating on the sub-floor material through a small tear in the vapor barrier and/or a bad seal between the slide and the body of the RV. This can be a real problem if the RV slideout uses OSB (Oriented strand board), layers that are compressed and bonded with resin into a sheet.

2024’s Hottest Parts & Accessories
overview of the EXPO 2024 RV show

hen it comes to new product debuts for the RV industry, there are no better venues than the annual winter shows staged by the major distributors responsible for supplying the industry’s dealers and independent parts and service facilities with new and replacement parts and accessories — and when it comes to distributor shows, none is larger or has more impact than the program staged by NTP-STAG.

This year’s program, EXPO 2024, presented by Airxcel, was even bigger; the event marked the first-time collaboration with SeaWide Distribution, introducing prominent marine suppliers alongside the RV industry’s premier product manufacturers.

And, while the event was highlighted by a number of thought-provoking addresses — including from author Sterling Hawkins and basketball legend Bill Walton as well as a performance by American Idol winner Noah Thompson — products were the real stars of the show. Covered in length by RVEnthusiast’s partner, RVBusiness, here are many of the new and proven popular components that attracted attention at the EXPO — and that you will be seeing at your local RV parts emporium this camping season.

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