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RV Tech Q&A: May 2018

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Tire-Temperature Monitoring

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I’d like to know your thoughts on the ability of the tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to correctly read a tire’s temperature. I have a system on my fifth-wheel and wouldn’t be without it, but I don’t believe this sensor can come anywhere near reading the correct temp while it is outside the tire. The systems that use sensors inside the tires would more likely give a true reading.

Larry Pittman | Fenton, Michigan

Answer iconYou’re right, Larry; a TPMS sensor mounted on a valve stem does not have the kind of direct access to the air in the tire that’s available to a TPMS installed inside the tire. Valve stems, metal or rubber, are not insulated, so that’s going to affect the temperature reading by a small amount at the tip. However, the air inside the tire is constantly circulating during travel, and even that small amount of air in the valve stem will be changing as you drive, so it’s going to be fairly close.

In general, the temperature readouts are most valuable for relative comparison to the other tires. All of the tires will be reading out their temps under identical mechanical setups. Being aware if one tire’s temperature starts to increase due to low pressure, for example, relative to the other tires, is the important detail.

Bed-Frame Rebuild

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I have a 2012 Keystone Montana 3400RL fifth-wheel. The last time I used it, I noticed that when I ran the bedroom slideout, it tipped inward more than usual at the top. Upon inspection, I found that the frame for the bed was no longer attached to the wall of the slide, which caused the slide to tip or rock in the opening to the point that I am afraid it could jam in the opening.

I removed the deck of the bed frame to see if I could reattach the frame on the wall. I stuck an ice pick through the ¼-inch wallboard, trying to locate something solid, and found there isn’t any stud or solid item to attach to. The only solution I can come up with would be to drill through the bottom of the slide, then put the bed frame in place, and go outside and drill up through the 2×2 on the bed frame, using carriage bolts through the slide and bed frame. I feel the smooth head of the carriage bolt wouldn’t cause any problems, and
the bed would be fastened solid.

Owen Dunfee | Neptune City, New Jersey

Answer iconEvery manufacturer uses a somewhat different system for slideout and furniture construction, Owen, and without seeing your setup in person or by way of a group of detailed photos, it would be difficult to make a firm recommendation about your planned repair. In general, it seems as if you’re applying sound engineering principles toward your intended repair, so you’re probably on the right track.

Your principal concern is making sure you don’t create any obstructions that would hinder the full movement of the slideout. The use of carriage bolts does reduce the chance of a fastener protruding and causing movement interference, but you might also want to consider recessing the bolt seat a bit by boring out some material with a Forstner bit. That would leave you with a truly flush surface. Good luck with the job!

Battery Tender Use

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I have a 2016 Wildwood Heritage Glen fifth-wheel with dual batteries and a battery-cutoff switch. No matter how I connect a Battery Tender, it never gets to the point of the batteries being charged. If I use the Battery Tender on my truck’s 12-volt battery, it works fine. Could I be doing something wrong? I have tried it with the switch in both the on and off positions.

Andrew Moothart | Vacaville, California

Answer iconUsing a Battery Tender or maintainer charger is as easy as falling off a log, Andrew; you clip its power leads to the battery posts and plug it in, just as you do when charging your truck’s battery. I would use the battery-disconnect switch to eliminate any parasitic drain caused by electrical devices in the RV. Are you connecting the charger directly to the battery posts, or elsewhere to a power line from the battery? They should go right on the posts to eliminate any circuit problems along the lines.

Your trailer isn’t very old, so battery age should not be a factor, but it would be good to have a battery shop do a condition and load test on both batteries to ensure they’re in good shape. If some cells are low on water, for example, that would cause incomplete charging, and if your RV’s converter has overcharged them, they could likewise have been damaged. The batteries will take a full charge only if they’re in good condition.

You might also want to consider buying a second charger so you can have a separate one on each battery, due to slight variations in charging needs, as this will eliminate one battery causing overcharging in the other one, for example.

Less Squirm with Stiffer TIRE Sidewalls

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I use a Ram 1500 4×4 to tow a 28-foot Coachmen Freedom Express travel trailer with a base weight around 5,000 pounds. When passing semis or in a crosswind, the combo gets a little squirmy. The tires are Goodyear 275/60R20 with a load rating of 114.

The highest rated replacement tire I found in that size is Cooper Discoverer H/T with a load rating of 119T. My theory is that the stiffer sidewall will reduce the squirmy feeling. Have you had experience with tire load ratings and their effect on towing? I have a Class 4 weight-distributing (WD) hitch and sway bars.

Doug Spraley | Dayton, Ohio

Answer iconYou’re right, Doug, a tire with a stiffer sidewall will tend to have less flex and “squirm,” as you describe it. Going to a higher-rated tire with more plies in the sidewalls may help the handling situation, but it may also stiffen your ride somewhat, so you should be aware of that.

Yours sounds like a good truck-and-trailer setup, but I’d look at a few other details to help improve towing stability. Mainly, make sure the WD hitch is properly set up and adjusted. If the spring bars aren’t tight enough, for example, it can result in squirrelly steering that gets worse with passing commercial traffic or high winds. Shift some heavy trailer cargo forward to make sure you have at least 11 or 12 percent of the trailer weight on the hitch, and check your truck’s steering and suspension hardware to be sure it’s up to specs and in good condition.

As for tire brands, stick with a known name brand, such as Cooper, for your best chance of success. Going cheap doesn’t pay with tires.

More Mouse Deterrents

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Adding to the discussion started by December 2017’s “Mice Intrusion” letter, my home exterminator suggested using copper mesh and Pur Black expanding foam to keep mice out of our house. Copper won’t rust, and rodents will chew most spray foams, but they don’t like the taste of Pur Black. Both can be bought online.

My new wife talked me into buying a trailer last year. It’s a 24-foot Heartland North Trail. I love it, and I look forward to getting Trailer Life each month.

Larry Goodyear | Monson, Massachusetts

Answer iconThank you for the recommendations, Larry. The ongoing problem of keeping rodents out of an RV has many solutions, according to our reader mail. Copper screen is a great idea. From what I read about Pur Black foam, it doesn’t have quite the same expansion properties as the more commonly used yellow foam, which means a slightly different application technique may be called for. But if the foam tastes bad to mice and helps keep them out, it’s sure worth a try.

Custom-Trailer Builders

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For several years now, we have been looking to replace our 2004 R-Vision Trail Cruiser C-21RBH travel trailer. Its uniqueness is what drew us to that particular trailer in the beginning. The hybrid floorplan was perfect for the camping style of our family of five. It has been well used and is now suffering the effects.

We have looked at virtually every brand of travel trailer currently being manufactured and have found nothing comparable. We have even tried researching custom builders but have found their idea of custom build is very limited. Do you know of any company that can and will truly build a trailer to specification?

Clark Toothman | Saint Clairsville, Ohio

Answer iconSpaceCraft Manufacturing (www.spacecraftmfg.com), Recreation by Design (www.recreationbydesign.com) and North American RV (www.rvsandcargotrailers.com) build custom trailers from the frame up, Clark, and an internet search may reveal more such manufacturers. They start with a blank sheet of paper and do whatever you want. This costs more than a mass-produced trailer, but I’m sure you’re aware of that part of custom-trailer ownership. Give them a call, and I’m sure one or the other can accommodate your needs.

See Related Story:
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