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RV Tech Q&A: March 2020

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Red letter QCan products like Drano and Liquid-Plumr be used on RV drains to eliminate or reduce the potential of clogs? If not, is there a product on the market specifically for RVs? I own a 2019 Jayco Pinnacle.

Don Van Wormer | Palm Harbor, Florida

Green letter ANo, do not use something like Drano or Liquid-Plumr in your RV’s sink or tub/shower drains! That stuff will go through your plumbing like a marathon runner through a plate of pasta. There are numerous drain cleaners available that are specifically designed for RV use. A brief internet search will show you what’s available from the usual suspects such as Thetford, Valterra, Camco and others.

Pipes Freezing

Red letter QI have a 2016 Keystone Bullet Premier FBPR with the Thermal Package. This past October while dry camping, my RV’s water froze up. The outside temperature was 15 degrees, and the inside temperature was 60 degrees. I removed the cover for the water pump, and no warm air was coming into the space through the large hole in the floor (where the water and electrical enter the space) while the furnace was running.

I contacted Keystone, and the only assistance the company provided was the recommendation that I take my trailer to one of its service centers. I want to know where and how to troubleshoot this problem and fix it. Keystone’s other advice was to see if the duct from the furnace to the underbelly was compromised.

See Related Story:
RV Clinic FAQ:
Top 20 Tech Questions

My previous trailer was a 2009 Keystone Springdale, which also had the Thermal Package. I had no problems with the water freezing in this trailer in even colder temperatures. Two other RVers with trailers that I was camping with at that time had no water-freezing problems. Their inside temperatures were several degrees lower than mine.

I am retired and quite handy. This problem should be fixable but may require removing the bottom cover of the underbelly. This cover removal may be necessary now anyway to repair any broken or burst waterlines. How is the underbelly bottom cover removed and replaced?

The Thermal Package includes: 1) Ducted, heated and enclosed underbelly, 2) 2-inch pipe off the furnace to the underbelly, 3) 30,000-Btu furnace and residential heat registers, 4) “Radiant heat.” Are there any diagrams showing how and where this ducting is routed?

I have a limited income, and taking this problem to a service center or RV-repair shop with an unknown cost is not an option. I don’t expect Keystone to fix it, but I would like someone to lead me in the right direction so that I can make the necessary repairs.

Ladd E. Dick | Oak Harbor, Washington

Green letter AMost RV manufacturers do not keep any kind of blueprint database for things like heat-register routing, so you may be out of luck there. You can look at the furnace and see how it is connected to the in-floor ducts. They are commonly run in the center one-third of the floor space.

As for how the underbelly material is removed and replaced, you can best answer that by crawling under the RV and taking a look. Most manufacturers use pneumatically set nails with washers that pierce the steel-frame flanges, to hold the underbelly material to the frame. Unfortunately, RV manufacturers don’t always make it easy to access components enclosed in a heated and insulated underbelly. Once pried off, they can be replaced with self-drilling hex screws with washers.


In regard to the “Additional Insulation” letter in October 2019’s RV Clinic concerning extra tent-trailer insulation, I have had good results using Reflectix reflective insulation between the plastic windows and curtains. It reduces heat loss significantly and is a relatively inexpensive fix.

Cathy Sellers
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Thanks for the suggestion, Cathy. Reflectix is a material that finds a lot of insulation-related uses in RVs. For those not familiar with this product, Reflectix looks like small-size bubble wrap with a layer of aluminized reflective mylar on each side. It’s available in single- and double-bubble layers, and is sold by the foot from rolls ranging from 2- to 4-feet wide. It has no allergy-irritation characteristics like fiberglass-based products, and because it’s relatively soft plastic, it can be cut with scissors but won’t cut your hands when working with it. It’s flexible, but stiff enough to stand up in a panel against an RV window, for example. Check it out at home-improvement stores, and your imagination may come up with a number of handy uses for it in your RV.

It seems like the water-pump space is accessible via a panel that opens to the trailer interior. You might try cutting a small hole in the cabinet and installing a low-current-draw “computer fan” similar to those used for extra cooling air circulation for RV refrigerators. The fan would push ambient-temperature room air into the space with the water pump, and while it’s not warm air direct from a furnace, it’s better than nothing.

If that access area is inside a cabinet, be sure to keep the cabinet door open when operating the fan so air can be effectively drawn in from the RV interior. While the underbelly is down, consider increasing the amount of insulation in the space and adding tank-heating pads.

Tow-Vehicle Selection

Red letter QI am a future RVer and would like some guidance regarding an economical vehicle that is good for towing an RV, and what RV is good for starters to possibly live in full time.

Shirley Jackson | Albuquerque, New Mexico

Green letter AYour seemingly simple question could require a long, detailed answer, but much of the answer is up to you. For example, by “economical,” do you mean economical to buy, economical on fuel use, or economical to own and operate long term? And what size and type of trailer do you have in mind? Because it’s for your planned full-time use, we can presume, although you didn’t specify, that it will be a larger trailer and probably require a full-size pickup to safely tow it.

Any full-size truck that can handle a full-timer’s trailer will be expensive to buy and operate, although buying used can shave off some of that initial expense. As for “economical,” for example, a diesel pickup may deliver a few miles per gallon more than a gas-powered truck, but the cost of ownership may outweigh that fuel-economy improvement. It depends on how many miles you plan to drive each year, towing and solo.

You can start figuring how these factors come together by reading any of the Trailer Life towing guides, available online, which include detailed information on choosing a tow vehicle. The tow limits in the annual guides will allow you to make direct tow-rating comparisons between the full-size truck models and other vehicles designated for towing, so you can get an idea what you’ll be up against when making the final selection.

Also check “Perfect Match: How to Pair a Tow Vehicle and Trailer.”

You’ll need to research which trailer makes and models are approved for full-time use. Many trailers are not, and in fact, will not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty if used for full-time living. Most manufacturers of full-time trailers are proud of that fact, and it’s not hard to find them by researching the manufacturer websites or brochures. Once you know the general details about a preferred trailer, such as overall weight and hitch weight, you can start making a tow-vehicle selection that makes sense.

Best RV Wax

Red letter QWhat is the best wax to use on the nose of our fifth-wheel trailer to help keep bugs from sticking to it?

Lewis Manhart | Middlebrook, Virginia

Green letter AThere are many different waxes designed for use on fiberglass surfaces, Lewis, both in paste and liquid forms. It’s hard to recommend one over another because, more so than the specific type of wax that’s used, the important factor is diligence of use. That end cap isn’t all that easy to reach for cleaning or waxing, but it has to be done if the wax is going to work.

Start with a thorough washing, followed by application of a substantial coat of the wax. This should be repeated several times a year as needed. If you’ll be traveling through an area known for swarms of those bugs with “super glue” innards, add a fresh coat of the wax before you begin the journey.

Also, it’s important to clean the bugs off as soon as possible after you stop driving. If you leave them there overnight, their innards dry on the surface and become far more difficult to remove. Tackle them fast, and the job will be a lot easier, and don’t forget another coat of wax when you’re done cleaning.

RejeX is a protective wax product that’s well worth checking out, but it is not for sale or use in California. There’s also a product called Bugg Banner, a washable nylon cover that fits across the front cap of a fifth-wheel. You can read Publisher Emeritus Bob Livingston’s review of the Bugg Banner.

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 leaning over engine wearing blue shirtJeff 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 101RV ClinicRV DIYRV MaintenanceRV TechTrailer Life RV ClinicTrucks for Towing

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