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RV Tech Q&A: April 2019

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Safety First: 30-Amp Versus 50-Amp

Red letter QI live on the outskirts of Pensacola, Florida, and there are several large state parks within a three-hour drive that only have 30-amp electric hookups. I have a 2012 Dutchmen Denali 262RLX fifth-wheel that has a 50-amp cord that came with the RV when I bought it new. Is it safe to use an adapter so I can plug into the 30-amp outlet? I do not want to damage my Denali’s power converter.

Dan Higgins | Pensacola, Florida

Green letter AThere’s no danger in plugging your 50-amp-equipped trailer into a 30-amp supply using an appropriate adapter, Dan. The only drawback is that you can’t use all of the higher-consumption 120-volt AC appliances as you would if plugged into 50-amp service. For example, you can use only one air conditioner instead of both, because there isn’t as much amperage available for accessories. As long as you keep the reduced power availability in mind, you’ll be good.

Tire-Pressure Monitor Selection

Red letter QThirteen TPMS systems were presented in the December 2018 “Watch Your Back” article by Bruce W. Smith, but no advice is given on which is the best for which application. I have a 31-foot travel trailer and want to monitor both the trailer’s and tow vehicle’s tires. I called TireMinder, and its reps advised using the new A1A product. What other systems might do just as well for me so that I can do a cost comparison of equally good systems? Also, do you have any idea on which manufacturers might have deals?

Bob Dewey, Lakewood, Colorado

Green letter AYour local accessory dealers might have occasional seasonal sales, Bob, but that information isn’t available to us. A buyer’s guide, like the one Smith wrote, is meant to provide you with a list of many available products of a given type, and from there, it’s up to you to compare their features and decide which is best for your application.

Neither Smith nor the Trailer Life staff test and evaluate every system in such a guide.
Each listing details the product’s strong points and functional abilities, based on manufacturer input. For example, some people don’t like the idea of needing to replace the batteries in a sensor mounted inside the tire, which calls for dismounting the tire from the wheel, so they choose a valve-stem-mounted system. Evaluate the features and choose the one that’s best for you.

You can also search online for user reports and comments from people with hands-on experience.

RamBox Hitch Matchup

Red letter QWe own a travel trailer and a 2015 Ram 2500 Crew Cab with a 6.4-foot bed and RamBox Cargo Management System but would like to upgrade to a fifth-wheel, possibly a Keystone Springdale 262FWRK. Opinions seem to vary as to a suitable hitch setup with a shortbed RamBox. The number of available hitches is also a bit overwhelming. Can you recommend a hitch combination that would give enough cab and also side-to-side clearance for this setup?

Tanya Lutz | Scranton, Pennsylvania

Green letter AEvery hitch manufacturer has online details and dimension specifications about its hitches, as well as application guides about which truck make and model they will fit. You can use those guides, along with measurements taken from your truck, to find a hitch that fits. You can also take the truck to a local RV-hitch shop or RV dealer with a service department and have the technician measure it for a possible fifth-wheel hitch installation. Not a lot of RV owners do their own hitch installations, so a trip to the dealer will be time well spent.

There should not be any problem finding a hitch to fit your RamBox-equipped pickup. Given the shortbed configuration, however, you’ll need a hitch that’s adjustable front to back to accommodate tight turns. This helps avoid expensive damage that can occur when you turn sharply and the front of the trailer hits the back of the truck cab.

PullRite makes a hitch that automatically slides back during turns and moves forward for towing, and other manufacturers also make sliding hitches that must be manually released and relocked with each such turn. But you can’t forget to do this in a sharp turn — not even once.

Depending on the size and body shape of your planned fifth-wheel trailer, you may be able to use one of the hitch pin-box extenders on the market as an alternative to the sliding hitch. You can replace the pin box with an extended model or use a product such as the Reese Sidewinder. The extenders move the trailer back from the truck, and in many cases, provide extra turning clearance. Here again, depending on the trailer-body configuration, they may not accommodate a full 90-degree turn or have enough clearance to the top of the truck bed/tailgate.

Satellite-Antenna Placement

Red letter QI have a 2018 Keystone Dutchmen Atlas fifth-wheel. I called Keystone, and a tech there recommended putting the satellite antenna on the roof. Is there a reason not to install it on the roof? Would it be advisable to make a wood mount and attach the disk to it like a portable satellite antenna?

Paul Clark | Sanford, Florida

Green letter AWell, Paul, you have a couple of options depending on what provider you want to use. If you want to watch DirecTV HD, then the Winegard Trav’ler is the only option you have, aside from a complex tripod-mounted Slimline antenna. If you want Dish HD, you’re in much better shape.

Mounting to the roof makes it easy to operate the satellite. However, if you park under or around trees, you may be unable to receive a signal. A portable or hybrid portable/permanent mount system will work the best because you can move the dish around without moving the whole RV.

As far as mounting the hardware to the roof, follow the instructions carefully, and be sure to use the proper sealants for the roof on your RV. Once installed, it’s not really any different than any other roof-mounted accessory. If you’re getting a hybrid model, like the King Quest or Tailgater with the quick-disconnect roof mount, attach the mount, if possible, not only where it will have the best signal (away from the air conditioner, etc.) but also where you can get to it easily to remove it if needed.

Tub/Shower Leakage

Red letter QI have a travel trailer with a tub/shower combination. Water will run out of the tub when we are showering if the front of the trailer is too high in the front or level. What happens is water will run down the shower wall, catch the lip of the tub and run out on the floor.

I purchased a piece of plastic in the shape of a triangle with a 90-degree angle to place in the corner where the water runs out. I used silicone to hold it in place. The silicone would not hold, and the plastic quickly dislodged. The obvious solution would be to have the trailer slope toward the A-frame, but this would place my head down when trying to sleep and would not work for me.

Bob Davis | Shady Spring, West Virginia

Green letter AYou’re on the right track with the triangular add-on water deflector, Bob; you just used the wrong adhesive. As useful as many RTV silicone products are for some sealing purposes, they aren’t always the best choice as an adhesive for the surfaces you’re dealing with. Check your local hardware store and look for a urethane- or acrylic-based product such as an acrylic caulk. Lexel is a great product for this and is available at Ace hardware stores. Be sure the surfaces to be glued are clean, for example, by wiping them down with alcohol first. You could also use some fine-grade steel wool on the triangular deflector piece to give the adhesive a better surface to grab. With the right glue, you should have better luck keeping the deflector in place, your shower water where it belongs and your head from being too low.

Have a Tech Question?

Email [email protected] and include your full name and hometown. Selected letters will be answered in the monthly RV Clinic column, but time does not permit individual replies.

Man with grey beard and wearing blue shirt leaning over open car hoodJeff Johnston served as technical director of Trailer Life for 20 years and has been an RV enthusiast, mechanic and writer since he could hold a wrench. In his monthly RV Clinic column, Jeff replies to Trailer Life readers’ technical questions about RVs and tow vehicles. He also serves as associate producer of Rollin’ On TV, a nationally syndicated television program for RV enthusiasts.

Jeff JohnstonRV ClinicRV ElectricalRV Tech

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