May 2021
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May 2021
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May 2021
Volume 1, Number 3
man working on a battery
Battery Basics, Part 2
Batteries power a number of systems in an RV. Here’s how to keep your 12-volt batteries alive and properly charged.
RV pulling a car driving in the desert
On The Road Again
Checking seals and caulking, inspecting tires, retorquing lug nuts, topping off or replacing engine fluids…de-winterizing an RV requires more than simply flushing the water system.
sunset and property
Boondocking with Panache
Finding a place to stay overnight when RV parks are full used to mean a Walmart parking lot. Harvest Hosts has changed that, with more than 2,000 unique locations from Old West towns to wineries.
man being shocked by RV
Hot Skin, Part 2
A look at some advanced concepts and testing methods for troubleshooting and correcting potentially injurious hot-skin voltages on your RV.
defective wheel bearing
Keep on Rolling
A defective wheel bearing can cause extensive damage to the spindle, hub, brake components — and your vacation. Like anything mechanical, maintenance is key.
two men working on a fridge
Fridge on the Fritz
Nothing lasts forever, especially when subjected to life on the road. Replacing an absorption refrigerator cooling unit is a viable alternative to forking out big bucks for a new model.
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Your RV represents a significant investment — don’t risk it by following questionable advice often found on the Internet.
three smart phones
RVing is ranked as the safest travel option for 2021. Meanwhile, campground projects are on the rise and the NPS debuts a new mobile app for visitors.
hand holding sealed raw meat
You can’t recreate your home kitchen in your RV, but a sous vide will let you elevate camp cooking well beyond burgers and brats.
New Orleans
By stepping out of the party scene, RVers can discover the cultural — and quieter — side of one of America’s oldest cities, New Orleans.
May 2021 cover
James Linnebur, customer service supervisor at Roadmaster Inc. in Vancouver, Washington, finishes installation of an Eaz-Lift ReCurve R3 weight-distributing hitch. Special thanks to the Roadmaster team for their assistance with our May cover. Photo by Chris Hemer.
Special Section!
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car towing a trailer
Matching a Tow Vehicle & Trailer
How to find a vehicle’s tow and payload ratings — and familiarize yourself with the towable “alphabet” of knowledge, from CCC to GAWR, GVWR and UVW.
building a hitch
Fifth Wheel Hitches & Ratings
Designated by the maximum weight of the trailer they are designed to tow, fifth-wheel hitches can handle the biggest RVs with ease — when properly installed and adjusted. Some installations, though, may require a “slider” hitch or pin box extension.
Truck with Trailer on a scale
Worth the Weight
Weight plays an important role in the RV you choose, how it’s loaded and how much cargo it can safely handle. The best way to weigh a vehicle is by wheel position, but if that’s not possible the local truck scale is a viable option.
setting up a hitch
Travel Trailer Hitches & Ratings
Understanding the differences between weight-carrying and weight-distributing hitches, deciphering the capabilities of Class I through Class V hitch receivers — and how to correctly install a weight-distributing system.
hitch drilled into truck bed
The Hookup
Now that you know all there is to tow anything, here’s a look at some of the newest fifth wheel and travel trailer hitches and accessories — including brake controllers, sway controls and tire-pressure-monitoring systems — available for your trailer and tow vehicle.
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EDITOR – Bruce Hampson
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Chris Dougherty
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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 either Technical Director Chris Dougherty or Technical Editor Chris Hemer 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.

RV Enthusiast is published monthly by RVE Media Group Inc., 3425 East Golden Valley Road, Reno, NV 89506. RV Enthusiast magazine is copyrighted in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and other countries. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint or quote excerpts considered on an individual basis and granted only by written request. Advertising rates and Editorial calendars provided upon request.

On The Road
By Bruce Hampson
Can You Trust Your Source for Accurate Information to Repair Your RV?

am old enough to remember researching school papers at the local library. Okay, full disclosure: I’m old enough to also remember cars that had window cranks, headlight dimmer switches mounted on the floorboard and AM radios — but using a library’s resources was an important part of growing up.

Why? Because aside from being a place where you could find books for entertainment and, quite often, meet up with your friends, it was where you went for information. You knew that when you consulted the “Encyclopedia Brittanica” or searched for a non-fiction title in the card file using the Dewey Decimal System, you’d be getting the straight scoop. Yea, facts would change as more knowledge was gained, but that’s why encyclopedias were continually updated and new books would be published.

Today, we quite literally have the world at our fingertips. It wasn’t always like this. I can recall the angst that came with using dial-up AOL — at a whopping 56Kbps — only to lose the connection when someone else in the house picked up a phone extension to make a call. Who at the time could have imagined being able to travel down the highway at 60mph, spy a billboard touting an interesting stop and have your travel partner pull out a smartphone, type the subject into a search engine and know everything there was to know about the location before you passed the exit ramp?

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Tire Protection Peace of Mind typography
Tire Minder logo
Tire Protection Peace of Mind typography
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black handheld Tire Minder Device
External device
Flow Thru device
Flow Thru
Extra Strength Booster device
TireMinder 88C
The only tire-monitoring solution that features lightweight — 0.7 ounces or less — flow-through or external tire-monitoring sensors, paired with an extra-strength signal booster designed for ultimate tire pressure and protection. The TireMinder monitoring system installs in minutes — without the need to rebalance your tires and wheels!
Questions? Call 772-463-6522 or [email protected]
News & Notes
NPS Introduces New Visitor App
Three phones showcasing New NPS Visitor App
Want to plan a trip, find interactive maps, download maps and tour ahead of time and find things to do and places to visit at a National Park Service (NPS) location?

The new National Park Service mobile app will do all this, and more. Created by park rangers with visitors in mind, the NPS App — available for downloads in the IOS App Store (Apple) and Google Play Store (Android) — gives the public up-to-date information about all 435 national parks.

Fully accessible with included tools for visitors with accessibility needs, the app also allows users to find a selection of parks to explore near home. Users also can build personalized trips and share information with friends and family. The app also is available offline, so visitors can download necessary resources ahead of time. For more information, visit

By Jim Mac
Oui. Oui. Let’s Go French
A sous vide can elevate your camp food well beyond just grilling burgers and hot dogs

f your enthusiasm for RVing is only equaled by your passion for great food, you’ve probably had to make a few concessions when it comes to life on the road. Even the largest Class A motorhome simply doesn’t have the room you’d need to recreate your fully equipped home kitchen.

That doesn’t mean you’re stuck grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, however — it just means that you have to broaden your horizons and get creative. Cooking well is a constant learning experience, and in an RV you learn to cook with less (hence the growing popularity of one-pot meals). But while you can’t tote all your pots and pans, there also are a number of pretty neat kitchen gadgets well worth considering. For those with room to store it, for example, an Instant Pot multi-cooker offers foodies the opportunity to do everything from steaming rice to pressure cooking. My favorite accouterment, though, only takes up the space of a wine bottle.

Sous Vide. Yea, it sounds fancy and a bit hoity-toity, but, really, sous vide (pronounced sue-VEED) is perfect for RV cooking.

Part Two
Part Two
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How to keep your 12-volt batteries alive and properly charged
By Mike Sokol / photos by author

atteries are invaluable to anyone who has ever gone “off the grid” in search of adventure — and we’re not talking about those 1.5-volt Type D dry cells you pump into a flashlight to keep from stumbling over tree roots at night. Most of an RV’s electrical system is powered by one or more 12-volt batteries, so knowing all you can about them might save a vacation should you flip a light switch and nothing happens. When last we met, I discussed the differences — from cost to chemistry, energy capacity, maximum charging rate and lifespan — for three popular RV battery types: flooded lead-acid, absorbent glass mat and lithium iron phosphate (for more information, go to In this part two of Battery Basics, I’m going to divide the article up into a few sections of “Do’s and Don’ts” — covering how to charge the various types of RV house batteries properly, what you should do to maintain them during usage and the best ways to store them over the winter.

Match Your Charger to Your Battery Chemistry
While FLA (flooded lead-acid), AGM (absorbed glass mat) and lithium (lithium iron phosphate or LiFePO4) batteries can be dropped into most any RV and provide nominal 12-volt power, each of them behave differently while charging. Not understanding this can shorten their lifespan considerably and even destroy them in short order.

Maximum strength and peace of mind for wherever you go.
bottles and bags of AquaMAX Products
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© 2021. AquaMax is a trademark, and Thetford/Thetford [Logo] are registered trademarks of Thetford Corporation. All Right Reserved. Made in the USA.
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De-winterizing an RV requires more than simply flushing the water system. A detailed preventative maintenance schedule makes all the difference between frustrating repair stops and pleasant journeys
By Bill Gehr / Photos by author
tan RV at Joshua Tree

or a large part of the country — meaning those not blessed with nearly year-round mild weather — May roughly translates into “It’s almost time to kick off the travel season” for those RVers who have stored their rigs during the winter and are anxious to hit the road. After a long hibernation, however, preparing an RV for travel requires more than just flushing the water system. Winter can be rough on everything from house batteries to door seals, and everything should be inspected before easing back out into traffic for another summer.

Following a few simple procedures will help ensure that your RV will perform as designed and expected, providing trouble-free travels from Day One. It should go without saying that, before starting this process, just be sure that freezing temperatures are in the rearview mirror for the season.

Uncover and Inspect
If the RV has been covered for the season, remove the cover and pack it away neatly for the travel season. Wash the RV and inspect the roof from front to back, paying particular attention to caulking, vents, antennas, satellite dish (if so equipped), air conditioner(s) and any other accessories installed on the roof.

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Harvest Hosts offers overnight boondocking at nearly 2,000 wineries, breweries, farms and more. The stay is free, and members can utilize the program as many times as they want.
sunset and property
Harvest Hosts offers overnight boondocking at nearly 2,000 wineries, breweries, farms and more. The stay is free, and members can utilize the program as many times as they want.
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Looking for a unique location to spend the night en route to your destination? Harvest Hosts CEO Joel Holland is fast creating ‘A place to go before you go’
By Bruce Hampson

hakespeare Ghost Town — so named because “it sounded English,” according to one tour guide there — is one of those pieces of Americana that most people read of and few ever see. Found by following a dirt-packed road a few miles southwest of Lordsburg, New Mexico, the National Historical Site is often called “The West’s most authentic ghost town,” a place where visitors can roam dusty streets once walked by John Ringo, “Curly Bill” Brocius and the Clantons and where a skinny blonde teenager once washed dishes at the Stratford Hotel before gravitating to Lincoln County, Arizona, and a date with destiny as Billy the Kid.

All this, and more, can be learned during any of several daily tours held during the seven hours the town is open daily — but as full-time RVers Bob and Lynne Livingston discovered, the real beauty of Shakespeare doesn’t reveal itself until long after the site closes for the day. Newly minted members of Harvest Hosts, a membership program that invites self-contained RVers to enjoy free overnight stays at upwards of 2,000 oftentimes unique locations across North America, the long-time RVers used their membership for the first time to boondock at Shakespeare after embarking in April on their 50th anniversary six-month tour de force.

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Part Two
Advanced concepts and testing methods for troubleshooting and correcting potentially injurious RV hot-skin voltages
By Mike Sokol / Photos by the author

s you may recall, Part One of Hot Skin covered the reasons why hot-skin voltage conditions occur on an RV chassis and skin. This may happen more frequently than most RVers know, because it usually passes without anyone noticing and there can be normal electrical potential of up to 5 volts AC between the RV chassis and the earth caused by the power company.

Go much beyond that, however, and all sorts of things can happen. I consider a hot-skin condition to be any voltage potential beyond 10 volts AC between the RV chassis and the earth, but it’s possible that this can increase up to 120 volts AC under certain conditions.

Where does this voltage come from?

How To Tow Anything! typography
A large SUV like the Ford Expedition is a great match for a travel trailer. However, since full-size SUVs can seat up to seven passengers plus cargo (as well as the potential for additional cargo on a roof rack) it’s particularly important to pay attention to the vehicle’s tow rating, payload rating and GAWR, as well as the gross trailer weight and hitch weight of any trailer you are considering.
Ford Expedition with a travel trailer
A large SUV like the Ford Expedition is a great match for a travel trailer. However, since full-size SUVs can seat up to seven passengers plus cargo (as well as the potential for additional cargo on a roof rack) it’s particularly important to pay attention to the vehicle’s tow rating, payload rating and GAWR, as well as the gross trailer weight and hitch weight of any trailer you are considering.
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Properly Matching a Tow Vehicle and Trailer
How to find a vehicle’s tow and payload ratings and understand the towable alphabet, from CCC to GAWR, GVWR and UVW
By Chris Hemer / Photos by author and Chris Doughtery

railers are by far the most popular RV choice, simply because many people already own half of the equation: the tow vehicle. However, that doesn’t mean that creating the perfect tow vehicle/trailer match is easy; balancing your needs and wants with what a vehicle is engineered to tow can often be a challenge, particularly when the whole family is taken into consideration. However, once you have the correct information in hand, narrowing down your best choices will make it easier for you to find the right trailer, tow vehicle or both.

Know Before You Tow
Let’s begin with the beginning. If you’ve already got a truck or SUV and you’d like to find a trailer that’s a good match, the first step is to determine your vehicle’s tow rating (if you don’t know it already). Most vehicles designed for towing list this information in the owner’s manual under “towing” or “trailer towing,” and the rating may vary depending on how the vehicle is equipped. Factors that may influence the tow rating include the engine, transmission, drive system (RWD/FWD or 4WD/AWD), the final drive ratio and whether or not it was ordered with a towing/payload package.

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Fifth-Wheel Hitches and Hitch Ratings: Unlike travel-trailer hitches, which are broken out into classes, fifth-wheel hitches are simply designated by the maximum weight of the trailer they are designed to tow
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Fifth-Wheel Hitches and Hitch Ratings
Unlike travel-trailer hitches, which are broken out into classes, fifth-wheel hitches are simply designated by the maximum weight of the trailer they are designed to tow
By Chris Hemer / Photos by Bob Livingston

f you’re new to RVing, or perhaps have considered moving up to a larger trailer, you’ve probably thought about a fifth wheel and may have wondered how these larger models differ from their travel trailer counterparts. Fifth wheels typically represent a much larger investment in both the trailer and the tow vehicle, so it’s a good idea to learn about what equipment is required to tow them.

Prepping the Truck
It wasn’t long ago that a fifth wheel represented the ultimate commitment in towing. Unlike a travel trailer hitch — which simply slides into a receiver already on the tow vehicle — a fifth-wheel hitch required that a structure first be fabricated and attached to the truck’s frame for mounting the hitch. So, in addition to the cost of the hitch itself, there were often significant labor charges involved — and hopefully the technician you trusted with the job did it correctly. Later, aftermarket kits were made for various models of trucks to simplify the process. Still, sometimes the truck bed had to be disconnected and raised for the installation.

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Truck with camper getting weighed on a scale
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Worth the Weight
Weighing your RV loaded and ready for travel isn’t difficult, and will net valuable safety benefits
By Chris Dougherty and Chris Hemer / Photos by Chris Dougherty

f you’ve done your fair share of research on RVs (in this magazine or others), by now you’ve noticed a re-occurring subject: Weight. Regardless of whether you’re shopping for a quad-slide luxury fifth wheel or a simple teardrop travel trailer, weight always plays an important role in the RV you choose, how it is loaded and how much cargo it can safely handle.

Elsewhere in this issue, we’ve touched on the importance of your vehicle’s tow rating and how you can find it, as well as considerations like gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combined weight rating (GCWR), gross axle weight rating (GAWR), cargo carrying capacity (CCC) and payload. All are important for safe towing, but in most cases, you’ve only got the manufacturer’s figures to draw from. In most instances, that won’t be a problem as long as all of the important figures are within range — but getting the actual weight of your specific tow vehicle/trailer or truck/camper is always a good idea.

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Ford F-150
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Travel Trailer Hitches and Hitch Ratings
Understanding the differences between weight-carrying and weight-distributing hitches — and how to correctly install a weight-distributing system
By Chris Hemer / Photos by author

oday, there are more RV choices than ever — from well-equipped, versatile truck campers and vans to luxurious diesel pusher motorhomes costing more than a million dollars. It’s safe to say that there is truly something for everyone out there, but the most popular RV choice remains the travel trailer. It’s understandable: An outdoor enthusiast can buy one with “the basic necessities” for less than five figures or opt for every conceivable amenity — from slide out rooms and island kitchens to flat-screen televisions, theater seating and fireplaces — when using the proper tow vehicle.

Before you set out to find the perfect travel trailer for your needs, however, it’s important to understand the key component in towing: the hitch system. Let’s take a look at the various types of hitches, and how to set them up the right way.

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Ford F-150
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The Hookup
Whether you own a travel trailer or fifth wheel, these manufacturers offer proven, quality products and accessories to enhance your towing experience
By: Chris Hemer and Tom Morr / Photos Courtesy the manufacturers

nce you’ve established the type of trailer you want to purchase (travel trailer or fifth wheel) the search for a hitch system begins. As with RVs, there are plenty of choices to serve every need, application and budget — and usually several different options to help make your towing experience safer and more enjoyable. To help give you an idea of what’s available, we’re presenting this handy hitch and accessories guide. As you peruse each company’s offerings, keep in mind that almost every company featured offers a variety of products and accessories — we just can’t fit them all within these pages. So, if you see a product that strikes your fancy, be sure to visit that company’s website, because there’s sure to be more for you to consider. There are also many smaller manufacturers that may offer a hitch or related product to fit your needs, so take your time and shop wisely.

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greased bearing placed in a rotor
Servicing wheel bearings, following the axle manufacturers’ maintenance schedule, will help keep trailers on the road without catastrophic failures
By Bill Gehr / Photos by Bob Livingston

erforming recommended service of wheel bearings and brakes are two of the most important tasks for owners towing a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Maintenance is the key to safe travels because, unlike your truck or car, many trailers sit for long periods of time — allowing the grease to cake or attract condensation, depending on the climate where the RV is stored. Most manufacturers recommend an annual service after 10,000 to 12,000 miles of travel, whichever occurs first. Without proper inspections, a defective or broken part may not be detected, leading to a possible catastrophic failure on the road.

A defective wheel bearing will put a serious damper on any outing, especially when a failure occurs on a weekend when repair shops may be closed. Wheel bearing failure can cause extensive damage to the spindle (axle end) and a total loss of the hub and brake components. A replacement axle could take weeks to arrive, since it is usually a special-order item.

Article of title
Replacing an absorption refrigerator cooling unit is a viable alternative to forking out big bucks for a new model
By Bill Gehr
Photos by Bob Livingston

odern gas/electric absorption RV refrigerators are quiet and efficient. This technology has been around since 1850 and, more importantly for RVers, these refrigerators will operate on LP-gas — which, unlike compressor-type residential units, enhances the ability to park off-grid. These versatile refrigerators have a network of tubes that are filled with ammonia, hydrogen, water and sodium chromate, a chemical that coats the inside of the piping to prevent rust from attacking the steel.

Like all refrigeration systems, there are many components that are needed to keep everything functioning properly. If you have owned an RV with a gas/electric refrigerator long enough, you may have experienced a failure of the cooling unit — which always seems to happen when fully loaded and on vacation. That invariably spurs a discussion on whether to repair the existing unit or buy a new one. Of course, there are factors to consider, including age, condition, technology and desire for a new refrigerator. Swapping the cooling unit will save quite a bit of money — whether installing a new or a rebuilt replacement — while opting for a new refrigerator will likely mitigate the risk of premature failure. Remanufactured cooling units can be cheaper, but quality is in the hands of the rebuild company.

Making Memories
By Sue Strauss photos by author
Discovering the Cultural — and Quieter — Side of New Orleans
By stepping out of the party scene, RVers will find a wealth of history and natural places to visit and photograph in and around one of America’s oldest cities.
The front of Oak Alley plantation grounds in New Orleans
Oak Alley’s historic grounds and plantation can be seen from the Greater River Road drive— a historic drive from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. This plantation is named for its distinguishing visual feature, an alley created by a double row of southern live oak trees about 800 feet long. The oak alley runs between the home and the Mississippi River. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

ew Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the most eccentric and vibrant cities in North America. Known for its amazing food, live music and warm southern hospitality, festivals abound in New Orleans, including the French Quarter Festival, Satchmo Summer Fest, and Mardi Gras — the greatest “free show” in the world. And yes, you should attend Mardi Gras at least once.

But while the city is alive with plenty of glitz, music and fun watering holes, there are numerous historical and cultural points of interest that are worth visiting during your RV travels.

In the winter of 2019, my husband and I were planning a trip across the southern United States, with stops in many of the major cities, including Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans and Atlanta, to name a few. I own a “Passport To Your National Parks, Collector’s Edition” book, which lists pertinent information and maps on national parks, national battlefields, national monuments and more. It was in the Passport book that I discovered Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

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