Technical Tips #12
By Bob Lowe
Hot Water Tank Drain Plug: Our winter camping experience taught us the benefit of replacing the nylon water heater drain plug every four years. If you do not, it will get brittle and break leaving you with part in the tank and part in your hand. The difficulty we had in finding a replacement when needed demonstrated the wisdom of being prepared with a backup replacement. Without that little plug, you can not maintain water pressure in either the hot or cold water system.
Refrigerators and Water Heaters that do not operate properly: Check for good electrical connections both +12 Volt and the grounds. Many of the factory connections on these units are not covered or sealed and a few years of exposure to the elements introduce enough corrosion to reduce the input voltage or make a ground connection fail. Without proper clean connections and voltage these appliances will act unusual or fail completely. Disconnect the power at the factory disconnect before removing any wiring for cleaning and coat all cleaned connections with a di-electric grease to prevent further problems. I have noticed that the factory connections on the 1995 and newer Dometic refrigerators are covered with plastic to reduce this problem.
Marker, Clearance and Taillights that operate intermittently: These lamps are very sensitive to good grounding and solid connections. Many of the newer rigs have push-in bulbs without a brass base. These lamps tend to last longer; however the power must transfer through a fine wire looped at the end of the bulb that is press fitted into a socket. Remove the lens cover on the marker lamp and check to make sure that the socket connection is pinched together without the bulb in the socket, then re-insert the bulb. The fit should be snug. Fleetwood coats the wiring in silicone sealer so that the bolt connection to the socket will not rust, then they seal the lens cap to prevent water entering it. If you remove it, be sure to re-seal it with clear silicon seal. Coat the bulb connections with di-electric grease to extend the life of the bulb socket connection and the bulb.
Brake Caliper Slide Lubrication: If your Bounder is built on a Ford F53 Chassis, and was parked without moving for much of the winter, ensure that the brake calipers are sliding on the rails as designed. The indication that things are not right are any of the following: squeaking brakes, especially at slow speed, a burning smell after driving a distance at highway speeds then stopping, a wheel so hot that it is uncomfortably hot to touch, reduced brake "feel" or pulling to one side when braking. All of these situations are serious and can be prevented by annually have the brake caliper slides lubricated with a special grease designed for the job. While this can be a do-it-yourself job, proper equipment is required to support the motorhome with the wheels off and brake work is not something most do-it-yourselfers are qualified to do. If you lubricate these slides each year you will extend the life of the calipers and the brake pads and maintain the margin of safety.
Tire Rotation and Wear: At the beginning of the season make sure each tire has the specified air pressure and check each tire for unusual wear patterns. Michelin now recommends rotating the front two tires with the spare and not rotating the rear duals, unless significant wear is noticed. This seems to be at odds with some tire company's recommendations. While checking the pressure ensure that there is no visible cracking in the sidewall or tread of the tires. If the tires are seven years old, Michelin recommends replacing them, even if there still is sufficient tread left, since the ozone in the air will cause deterioration of the tire that will result in blowouts. The newer XRV tires are designed for longer RV life. Also check the valve extensions on the rear dual tires since they can shake loose or crack causing slow leaks.