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  5. Tech Q&A — December, 2023
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  5. Tech Q&A — December, 2023

Tech Q&A — December, 2023

Generator Intel, Fishtailing Facts & How to Tune In, Wherever You Are

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Parallel Power

Q: We have a 2021 Thor Axis. I always find good advice in Tech Q&A, I’ve learned a lot. In the September 2023 issue, Steve Mark explained how he gets good use of two generators hooked in parallel. I must be missing something about how these generators operate. With two independent sources of 60-Hz power, how do I ensure they are in phase with each other? Do the generators somehow sense existing power and sync up? I believe connecting out-of-phase AC sources together would be dangerous. Please keep up the great stories.

—Tim Sell, Bellbrook, Ohio

A: Good questions, and thanks for the kudos. I enjoy explaining how things work and helping folks.

The ONLY way you can connect two generators together and make it work is with special parallel wiring harnesses, which are designed by the specific generator manufacturer for use with specific models. Only inverter-type generators can be paired like this, and you must verify before purchase that a parallel kit is available for that model. What the harnesses do is match up the timing of the AC cycles so they occur at exactly the same time. This allows the generators to work together as if they were one. Without the special harness, connecting two generators together would cause big sparks to fly! Don’t try it!

Air Conditioner Short Cycles

Q: We have a 2022 Grand Design XLS model MLE22 with a Dometic air conditioner. It works and cools great throughout the day, but it seems that when the inside temperature is close to the outside temperature, it begins to cycle. This happens mainly at night. It will come on for 30 seconds then shut off. When it does this, the compressor never comes on, just the fan. It will shut down for maybe a minute or less, then come back on for 30 seconds. It will cycle like this up to eight times. After cycling several times, the compressor may come on and start and start cooling. Why does the unit cycle so much? After a few times, it gets rather annoying—especially not knowing or understanding why it does this. We have not been able to get a clear answer as to why this happens. We would just like to know if this is normal for these units. Thank you.

—Ken Nekos, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

A: Short cycling is a fairly common complaint. Try changing your thermostat setting slightly and see what happens. I suggest shutting off the air conditioner and opening the windows if the thermostat setting is similar to the outside temperature. This will save energy and reduce noise and wear and tear on the unit. Check for restricted airflow, such as a blocked filter or other restrictions. Check the rooftop unit for damage or restrictions. I’ve seen plastic bags get sucked into the rooftop unit, causing problems.

Drain Valve Lubrication

Q: In the September issue, a reader wrote in regarding having to replace his drain valves on his black- and gray-water tanks. We’ve owned several RVs and trailers, and there have been times when I’ve had a difficult time opening a valve and thought about what I would do if the handle were to break or some other misfortune, such that they had to be replaced. I don’t recall reading any recent articles in our RV Magazine about lubricating those two dump valves.

Would you please share your thoughts on the following: Should the valves be lubricated on a regular basis? If so, what type of lubrication should be used? What process should be used?

—Mike Flock, N8917 Water Power Road

A: I suggest lubing them at least once or twice a year, such as when put your RV in storage or take your RV out of storage. On YouTube you can find short videos on how to lubricate the dump valves externally. This is an inexpensive method that anyone can do.

I prefer using silicone spray rather than WD40, because it’s less likely to cause seal swelling. Several companies sell ready made chemical additives specially designed to lube and protect the seals and plastic in the drain valves. I prefer formulas designed by chemists specializing in solving this problem, such as Thetford Drain Valve Lubricant, over homemade concoctions.

TV on the Road

Q: What is the best way to get TV—networks, Netflix, Hulu etc.—with Starlink or Dish Network?

— Kevin Oneal

A:  Dish’s main service is satellite television, and its offerings are comparable to other satellite and cable companies. Viewers can choose from a series of service bundles, paying more money for more channels. Starlink is simply an internet provider and doesn’t provide live TV channels. However, you can stream live TV with Starlink using internet streaming services such as Hulu, YouTube TV, and Sling TV.

Pickup Camper Cover

Q: What is the best pickup camper cover for my Palomino camper?

—David Rose, Wayland, Michigan

A: That depends on where you will use it. If you are in a high-wind area, you need to choose a cover designed for this, otherwise it will get torn apart. Hot, harsh sunlight requires different fabric than a cloudy, wet coastal area. I don’t have any way to do product testing like Consumers Union does, but I know that ADCO, Camco and Eevelle Goldline make good covers for pickup campers.

Refrigerator Question

Q: We have a Jayco Alante 29S with a Norcold refrigerator. When we get to a campground and plug in to shore power, we put the refrigerator on electric. It will run on electric for one to two hours, and then it goes to gas. We have had a RV technician out to check it two times, he could not find anything wrong. At home when we plug it up it works fine, it stays on electric. Has anyone else had this problem?

Thank you in advance for your help

— Thomas Johnson, Mt Airy, NC

A: When these refrigerators don’t ”see” suffcient voltage to operate, they switch to gas. It could be that the campground voltage is unstable and drops down below about 109 volts due to heavy loads at peak times, such as air conditioner use, etc. Monitor your campground voltage, you can get an inexpensive plug-in meter to keep an eye on voltage.

Ford AdvanceTrac Problem

Q: We I have a long-standing and very aggravating problem with the Ford F-53 chassis on my 2021 Winnebago Sunstar 32M gas motorhome. On the first day of our full-time adventure, I received the following on my dashboard: “Service AdvanceTrac “Hill Assist is Unavailable, ABS and Traction Control” yellow warning lights, “Cruise Control is Unavailable.”

Over the past 14 months, there has been no change. These warnings come on every time I start the RV, and stay on. During this time I have had my RV at a Ford Commercial truck service center three times. I have set up three Ford PRO cases and worked with five different specialists on my case. None of these actions have solved my “ AdvanceTrac” issue.

It seems there are two schools of thought on the cause: “Tone Rings” and “Software.” For the uninitiated, the Tone Ring is a segmented part mounted to the axles. The ring has a series of openings that are counted as the wheels spin. All is good if the counts are equal. If the wheels are going at different rates, it indicates the vehicle has lost traction or control, triggering the ABS, Traction Control and disabling Cruise Control.

Those who are on “Team Tone Ring” maintain that the replacement parts in the supply chain are improperly manufactured. They say the openings being counted are too big for the sensor to count. They say the evidence of this can be seen by just looking at the parts. Too much light is visible through the openings.

“Team Software” appeals to the Luddite in all of us. Software is a mystery and therefore an easy source of the problem.  Evidently, there is a Ford Technical Service Bulletin SSM51210 that recommends a software reload of the ABS system. The problem with this TSB is that Ford service centers have never heard of it. Ford PRO has never heard of it. Maybe this will work, maybe not. I will let you know if or when I get someone to try it.

I am not alone with this issue. A review of RV online forums will show many pages on the Ford F-53 AdvanceTrac issues and their struggle to find a solution. Some issues are isolated to rough roads, high winds, rumble strips or fast moving trucks. Mine is far more intrusive, being a constant issue. Most of us have been trying to fix the problem for over a year with no success. In that time, there has been no official Ford statement. Service centers and Ford PRO have been completely without answers. If there are any answers you can provide, they would be greatly appreciated.

—Andrew “Peso” Pesonen, Earlysville, VA

A: Ford AdvanceTrac combines and coordinates ABS, traction control, hill start control and cruise control and provides overall stability control. It works by using small gyroscopic sensors and wheel speed sensors that are capable of taking readings of vehicle movement about 150 times per second. With these readings, the vehicle is able to detect any wheel slippage or loss of control. Once a problem is detected, the AdvanceTrac technology is activated, which will reduce power and/or apply brakes to stabilize the vehicle.

The common thread between all of these malfunctioning sub-systems is that they all depend on accurate wheel speed sensor inputs to operate. I suspect that the lack of results and success at the Ford dealer may be due to a lack of the technician’s understanding of the system and perhaps not knowing how to use special test equipment along with accessing Ford technical resources and service information. I suspect that the problem may be a faulty sensor or wiring.

There are thousands of similar chassis on the road with this system that work fine. That tells me that it is possible to fix your system and that functional wheel sensor assemblies are available. A software update may also help. You need to take it to another Ford dealer that knows how to utilize all of its available tech resources.

I had no problem finding Ford bulletin SSM51210 online: “Some 2020-2022 F53 Motorhome built on or before 06-Oct-2022 and 2021-2022 E-Series vehicles built on or before 09-Mar-2021 may exhibit a Service AdvanceTrac and Pre-Collision Assist Not Available message in the cluster with diagnostic trouble code (DTC) C0051 stored in the anti-lock brake system (ABS) module. Cruise control may also be inoperative. To correct the condition, reprogram the ABS module using the latest software level of the Integrated Diagnostic System (IDS). For claiming, use causal part number 2C219 and applicable labor times in Section 10 of the Service Labor Time Standards (SLTS) Manual.” This only applies if there is a DTC of C0051, you didn’t mention what trouble codes if any are set.

All of the warnings you get seem to have a common thread of wheel speed indication. That is, out of range wheel speed indications could trigger any of those warnings. It could be one wheel faulty sensor. Here is a link to an article that explains how this system works in layman’s terms.

Ford has the best test equipment for reading the outputs and electrical signals in their system. I would find a good dealer that works on motorhomes and have it do a full diagnostic procedure on it. They can read wheel speed sensor outputs while driving and see if they are within proper ranges. Faulty ones would show up on this test. There is a software update, it should be done if applicable. Ford Motorhome Customer Service number is 800-444-3311. Have you contacted Winnebago Technical Services (800) 537-1885? Winnebago has excellent contacts with Ford tech because it is such a large Ford customer. I have seen Winnebago solve problems like yours that seemed unsolvable.

If Ford doesn’t offer substantive help, it may be necessary to talk to a lawyer about a lawsuit, lemon laws or buyback.

Fishtailing While Towing

Q: We have a 2023 class C Quantum L26 built by Thor with a Ford F-450 chassis. We’re fi rst-time RVers and had a Blue Ox towing system installed. We plan to tow a GMC Canyon pickup 4WD. We left the lot towing the GMC and sped up to around 50 mph. The camper started fishtailing. We slowed down to 45 mph when it stopped swaying, towed the truck home and unhooked it.

The supplier of the Blue Ox towing system said they were there to help, but we’ve not been able to get together so far. What causes this fishtailing, and how to fix it please? It’s a long way to Florida from Kentucky when driving 45 mph. Thanks for your insight.

—Pem Cornell, Mt. Washington, KY

A: The F-450 chassis is known to sway and fishtail, based on the fact that the aftermarket offers various cures such as track bars (aka: trac bars) and stabilizers. Your coach has a very long rear overhang that exacerbates any fishtailing.

The 4WD Canyon is quite heavy, with a curb weight over 4600 pounds. If you carry any cargo in it, this could make it harder to control and might exceed the hitch rating. Make sure the weight being towed does not exceed the maximum rating for the tow hitch on the rear of the coach. Also don’t exceed the tow rating, based on GCWR minus fully loaded weight of motorhome. If you decide to continue trying to tow the Canyon, rear track bars should make it tolerable to tow. Take a look at SuperSteer TigerTrak Rear Trac Bar by Ultra RV Products. You could also add a Roadmaster rear anti-sway bar kit (front, too, if necessary) and a Reflex Steering Stabilizer if the rear track bar doesn’t completely solve the problem.

My recommendation would be to tow something lighter due to the rear overhang.

Automotive Window Film

Q: We live in sunny, hot Arizona where this year the temperature has reached 118°F. We own a Rockwood Mini Lite 2516S. We put 3M automotive window film on our truck to reduce glare and the heat. Can it also be installed on our travel trailer to keep the temperature down in the summer?

—Lynn Kerr, Scottsdale, AZ

A: Yes, you can install automotive tints, but you may want to use the residential mirror type reflective film instead on the trailer. It should be more effective than smoke tint in keeping some of the heat out.

Have a Question?

Looking for answers on all things RV, including systems, engines, accessories, or construction? Submit it to our expert at [email protected] and it may be selected for publication. You must include your name, city and state, phone number (will not be published), and type and model of your RV.

Ken Freund
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