Picking Up The RV At The Factory

A lot has happened since we last blogged. Our YouTube channel is quite a bit more up to date, but for anyone not following us on youtube here is what has been happening.
Our final option was to drive to Topeka, Indiana, with our stuff, our pets, and my wife. The whole family road tripped 2,300 miles across Washington, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and finally Indiana. Several things happened on the way out there. The trip was definitely not as smooth as we would have liked but it went pretty well overall. The first day we had a tire blow out, and the last night on the road, our bikes hit a hotel awning. Thankfully we’re fully insured and we gave them our information. They actually told us it happens all of the time. It didn’t really make us feel better about the situation but I’m sure it was their attempt at mitigating the situation.
When we got to the Cedar Creek Factory (where they were repairing the rig), it was almost ready. There were still a few things to work out. The inspector we hired, Robert Wilhelm, had already been with the rig for hours going over everything we had sent him and taking notes and pictures. Robert Wilhelm is a NRVIA Certified Level 2 Inspector, and his inspection did not disappoint. He found several things that the factory was able to fix quickly and it gave us the peace of mind to move forward with taking possession of the rig again.
Everything was fixed that was on our list, or at least addressed to see if it was a concern or not. There were a couple things on the list that turned out to not really be an issue at all. Some of the issues were a lot bigger than they originally thought.



We took the RV back to a campground in Indiana so that we could move our belongings back onto the rig. It turned out to be really stormy and we could only reserve a few days at that campground. So we packed everything in as quickly as possible and we headed to Kansas. While we were loading everything, we found that the cooler we used with Dry Ice to transport our refrigerated items, did not work at all. The meat had thawed. It was not in separate bags or anything, so it basically contaminated everything. Anything that was completely sealed in a glass container got bleached and the rest was thrown out. It did not feel good to waste the food but at that point it was what we could do. We will be updating more soon but this was the experience we had while at the factory!
 

Our Lemon RV 5th Wheel

If you have an RV, fifth wheel, travel trailer, or even a pop-up (from here on I’ll just refer to all of these as an RV) you know things break. If you don’t own one yet, you will likely learn this lesson soon. Sadly, for most of us we learn the hard way. We’re now two weeks shy of one year since we bought our new Cedar Creek 36CKTS. We’ve been living in it for about 10 months, and we’ve been on the road for about five months. We never thought so many things could break.
Before we bought our RV we’d seen videos of people talking about all kinds of things breaking and needing repair work. We had even read several blogs about how new owners need to expect things to break, or to not even work at all. We thought we were going into the situation with our eyes and minds open. Oh boy were we WRONG!
Remember what I said about learning the hard way? Well let me explain. We had this ridiculous notion that if we were just careful that we’d be fine. We knew that the build quality isn’t the same as a home, and that you can’t be rough on things. We never considered that no matter how careful we were that it wouldn’t matter. No amount of being careful would have prevented our kitchen slide from going out of alignment, or multiple LED lights from burning out in the first couple of months.
The purpose of this article is to help you, our readers, gain a better understanding of what to expect. I have several points of advice that could save you a lot of headache.

  1. If you’re buying an RV, DO NOT plan on moving straight into it. I don’t care if it’s custom ordered from the factory. Or if it’s your best friends and he takes perfect care of it and stores it in a big RV garage. You need a buffer, of preferably a few months, to find the kinks. I promise you that there are kinks. But people will say “It’s new and everything is under warranty……” That’s them trailing off when they realize that it can take months, MONTHS, to get parts. It’s not like cars where you can buy parts from 20 stores in town. And if it’s your friends, either there’s stuff wrong he doesn’t know about, or there’s something about to break. You need someplace else to sleep for a bit in case your new home on wheels isn’t so homey.
  2. Yes everything can, and could very well, break. But fear not if your RV is under warranty. There’s this handy device most of us have in our pockets or purses that takes pictures. These pictures are what’s going to save your wallet. With them you can prove to the manufacture that what you say is broken, is actually broken. Email them, show them what’s wrong, directly ask authorization for a mobile tech to come to you and do the repairs. This is what we do, and it’s kept us from having our house in the shop for months at a time. Oh, that authorization thing is really important. Without having that upfront they can possibly choose to not reimburse you. It’s basically the equivalent of a bad date “going to the bathroom” and leaving you to foot the bill.
  3. Options for Repairs:
    • Taking it to the dealer, and leaving it there for a good portion of the year, so your brand new home has to sit in a warehouse or worse, the lot and rot untouched while they order parts and fail to update you on the non-existant progress.
    • Find an independent shop/tech to do the work. The speed difference between independent shops vs dealers will roughly be the equivalent of a Ferrari vs a Vespa. There’s just one little snafu with getting that fast work, the independent techs want to be paid upfront and let the manufacture reimburse you months later. This is fine if you’re retired and have a cushy Roth IRA you’ve built up over 40 years. Unfortunately, for many of us that’s not the case. Repairs go on whatever credit card isn’t currently maxed out, and we hope and pray that the manufacture sends the reimbursement check before we get sent to collections. That fast work is like a bad ex. You know it’s fast and fun, but you’ll pay for it, they may even try to take your dog.
    • The third option is to have the independent tech come to you. Again, make sure they are on the approval list. Not that this means they are necessarily going to make it perfect like it never happened, more like warranty work will still be approved, and you guessed it, you’ll get reimbursed some day. Again, they expect you to pay upfront because they know the RV Warranty Reimbursement program works at snail pace. Worse, they treat the techs like health insurance saying they will only pay the tech for “X” percent of their work.
  4. Regardless of what breaks, who fixes it, or how minor the problem is, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. You need a cache of pictures and documents that would make the NSA jealous. Manufacture warranties usually last one year. If you have a problem outside of that year, and think they’re responsible, you’d better be able to prove it. Documentation saved us already. Manufactures don’t usually cover batteries, they say it’s a dealer problem. However, our manufacture changed their “we can’t be bothered with your petty problems, peasant” tune and covered our new batteries pretty quick. That’s because I was able to prove that all four of our batteries were fried, within months of buying our new RV, because of their bad power converter that had been overcharging them. They underestimated this peasant.
  5. TEST YOUR RV!!! Test it the first night you get it, and test it often. If you haven’t set foot in it for months, then just suddenly take it out, that’s when you’re going to find your problems. Periodic dry runs can save you a lot of headache, and let you enjoy your vacation. Take your RV out often and TRY TO FIND THE PROBLEMS, especially if it’s under warranty. Check everything like you’re buying it again. People buy RVs to get away. To actually enjoy life and not just stay chained to a desk. To experience something other than over-hyped tourist traps on their measly two weeks of vacation. People buy RVs to make the boring parts of life bearable. So the last thing you need is to finally get that three day weekend, escape from work a few hours early, throw the family, dog, and some firewood in your RV, then get to the campground and find out that something is broken and you get to spend your vacation trying to fix it. That’s how people get addicted to Xanax.
  6. Remember to STAY CALM. Unless an electrical short burns it down, a slide falls out, or the black tank overflows, it’s probably not a vacation killer. Build a campfire, make s’mores, drink a little too much, and schedule someone to look at it when you get home. You’re on vacation, remember?  Hopefully nothing on the above list ever happens to anyone.

If you buy an RV and expect everything to break, you’ll be happy when only a few things actually do. But the flip side is getting angry over everything that breaks. Pick your battles, and remember to have fun out there. I’m writing from experience for almost all of this. We’ve had a laundry list of problems. I won’t give you the gory details, but rest assured there’s been a battle to get our stuff fixed. Here’s a not-so-short list of what’s broken on our new RV. The video shows all of the issues, below is more information about them.

  1. LED lights-The night light under the sink never worked. Two LED ceiling lights have turned into strobe lights if they’re turned on. The closet light and one ceiling light in the kitchen have become very dim. These aren’t lights that you can get from Walmart, they’re RV specific. There was a very noticeable progression of the bath light… then the bedroom light… then the closet light all having issues. The repairmen thinks there is a wiring issue but we haven’t had it fixed yet because of all of the other problems.
  2. Slide toppers-The kitchen slide topper disconnected the spring loaded arm and unwound itself. Our Slide toppers were “Riveted” and this one just snapped. It sounded like a jackhammer was being used on the side of our RV. The opposing slide topper has started to disconnect. We’re told it’s not a simple fix, and that the entire thing has to be replaced. They said the reason it is coming off is that it wasn’t properly installed.
  3. Awning-It no longer goes out without manual assistance. What I mean is that when I push the out button it just unrolls, then I have to push the arm and shove it away from the wall, then it will finish unrolling. We were told this could be structural, or a leveling issue by the RV Repairman. He eliminated the leveling issue.
  4. Kitchen slide-The rear side of the kitchen slide is out of alignment. It won’t come in all the way and leaves a gap while the slide is in. So if we are driving and it starts to rain… this could leak.
  5. Kitchen sink-Our kitchen sink wasn’t sealed to the counter with silicone from the start, and the mounting brackets were bent. So water was able to drip through the gap under the sink (approximately 1cm wide at the top of our sink!). The mounting brackets were bent back into place and the RV Repairmen resealed the now “normal” sized gap.
  6. Roller shades-One of the large night shades will no longer lock and stay down. One of the medium night shades won’t rise faster than a snails pace.
  7. Slam-Latch Compartment Door-Even when the handle is locked the door can still be opened. it doesn’t actually latch anymore.
  8. Wavy wall-We don’t really know what the problem is yet, or how/if  it can be fixed. A tech inspected it and said that it’s not delamination, that it’s likely structural issue where the wall is peeling away from the structural support or was not bonding together properly at all. The Forest River representative said that it appears to be “Side Wall Adhesion Loss”. When you search for this term not very much of an explanation pops up. The service rep explained that they have to take the interior wall down, essentially re-bond it, and then put it back up with a brace. Here’s the thing, the RV Repairman that was out here has said he has seen this fairly often and it is usually structural. We haven’t had this verified so we will talk more about this when we know more. Wall Warping
  9. Outdoor light-It burned out, still have to get it fixed.
  10. Stereo feedback-Whenever the hot water heater turns on we get high pitched feedback through our sound system. (but only the propane side of our water heater as the electrical side does not work.
  11. Electric Water Heater– We finally figured out how to use this recently, and we turned it on, turned the propane off, and only had cold water the next day. So far, the electric water heater does not work. We had this trouble shooted April 18th and the repairmen found there is no continuity. He said the element is “burned up” even though we have never used it. So we will have to replace the element. The repairmen also said the switch on the inside panel that you use to turn it on doesn’t work.
  12. Air condition vent-These are cheap and flimsy, I don’t even know how it broke, it literally just fell apart (the little disk looking things in the ceiling). It’s possible it happened while we were traveling. We just have no idea.
  13. Power Inverter- The “Good Idea Fairy” decided it was a good idea to mount the inverter for our residential fridge under the hydraulic fluid reservoir. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well when someone overfills the hydraulic fluid while your jacks are down it will overflow when you bring them back up. All that fluid has to go somewhere, luckily there was something underneath to catch most of it (the inverter?!). We were told that 2 1/4 quarts of fluid were poured out of the inverter. After a long nightmare we finally got the $850 inverter replaced without having to pay for it because we had to gather evidence that the rv mechanic put the extra fluid in it, in the first place. This was after the Camping World service manager told me that he knew I had been the one that overfilled the reservoir – yelling at a veteran on the phone is never a good idea, by the way, fun times. You don’t even have to overfill this, the spongy/foamy cap placed on top to allow air in (to pressurize/depressurize) allows the hydraulic fluid to slosh out of the cap. Yeah, its not a sealed system.Hydraulic Fluid in the Inverter
  14. Broken dump valve- We saved the best, or worst, for last. The cable for our bathroom gray tank broke. This happened because whoever installed the dump valve cables twisted them up and installed them all at bad angles, even tied them in a knot in one area. Our other grey tank cable was about to break. It was determined that all three valves should be replaced. In order to replace them, the tech was forced to break one off of the main sewer line. There were screws attaching it that couldn’t be accessed from underneath, which of course was the only place he could access it from. So now he has to get more parts to replace that. Meanwhile we’ve spent two day with our tanks wide open, underbelly and insulation exposed, and unable to use any water in our RV. I don’t blame the tech, he just found the problem. But thanks to another “Good Idea Fairy” that thought this design was again, a good one, we’re walking down to the campground bathrooms.
    Plumbing issues

15. Our ODS (Opposite Door Side) Slide Topper is becoming detached in the rear corner. This is very similar to the front corner of the Door Side Slide Topper that has been like this since we have had the RV. As of April 14th- all three slide toppers are separating.
16. Attic Vent Cap was detached, most likely while driving to the dealership to have the RV Inspected. Luckily, we caught this before the nasty storms moved in and soaked the pipe and rooftop. This would have led to severe water damage. We will still have to have this inspected when we get to Washington.
17. Soft Spots in the basement compartment. We found a pipe that was not attached properly and did not have anything like plumbers tape, or leak tape attached to it whatsoever. This is poor craftsmanship all around. The pipes were not even screwed together securely. I don’t know why it took us this long to figure it out, but being so new to the RV World we definitely feel like this could have been checked by someone at the factory or dealership to prevent water damage over all. Very sloppy work. We have learned that we must inspect every single system because so far, none of the systems in the RV have been error proof.
18. Shower walls are cracking. The fiberglass one piece shower has cracking around the little soap dish cubby and handle bar.
19. All slide toppers are peeling off at their connections as of April 1st (so a few days after 1 year.)
20. Water pump no longer works as of April 14th. – Trouble shooted April 18th, working again.
21. Black tank valves which we already had repaired once, are leaking again so we had to buy an external valve until it can be repaired.
22. Back window on the door side (by the couch) does not shut properly and now wiggles loose when we drive. (Found April 15th).
23. Batteries are not lasting at all meaning they probably were fried by the converter. Since Forest River did not replace the batteries after finding the bad converter, we get approximately 3- 4 hours of fridge use while traveling. They claimed we should get up to 4 days of battery use while traveling.
24. The dreaded Front Cap fading was noticed April 7th, 2017. This is the second time we were waxing the front cap, attempting to follow all recommendations… The brown front cap is oxidizing like so many of the other Cedar Creeks.
25. We have a significant amount of rust underneath our RV. The framing has lines of rust like something scraped the protected coating off during manufacturing and it is rusting in those areas.  (04/07/2017)
26. Rubber chunks: pieces of rubber chunks from the slide seals are coming off, like the corners are being ripped off by the slides. (04/07/2017)
**updates!**
03/14/17

03/15/17

 
*** 03/22/2017: The Best news we could have so far!! We found a dealership in Washington that is willing to take the RV in, in June 2017 and see what they can do about all of the issues! Thank you Camping World of Burlington, WA! We are so grateful to have found someone to help us out. The factory sent us a list of every dealership in the country/service center and John and I spent 3 whole days 8am-5pm calling these locations trying to find someone who could tackle the list but the side wall was the determining factor in most people saying they couldn’t help. This is understandable considering we have it in writing from two repair facilities already saying it should only be done at the Forest River Cedar Creek Factory.

 
https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=ibw3Zfbjc1g
We have made it to Washington but our appointment is not until June 20th, 2017. We have found even more wrong with the rig. This would never have been possible if we weren’t traveling and finding these things. It is frustrating but hopefully we can help change this industry for the better? We dream big. Below is the complete list that has been updated through June 23rd, 2017:

79 Total
Outside

  1. Front cap is fading in several spots on top.
  2. The backup camera antenna has fallen off.
  3. Loss of adhesion to the side wall between the door and bedroom window.
  4. Rear D/S does not shut flush when closed.
  5. P/S dinning slide topper. Fabric is pulling away from hardware.
  6. Bedroom slide topper, fabric is pulling away from the hardware.
  7. D/S slide topper, fabric is pulling away from hardware.
  8. Tiny bubbles directly above the loss of adhesion on roof.
  9. Porch light above the entry door has the black surround coming apart and the amber cover has fallen off.
  10. Awning does not always extend on its own.
  11. Underbelly pan covering tanks keeps falling.
  12. Bedroom slide out rubber seal is ripping off in chunks.
  13. Multiple areas on the frame that are rusted.
  14. There are several areas of sealant that have cracked open. The opposing slide under the left side of the window, the main slide beneath the space between the windows, the front cap seal to the left of the hitch, and next to the door near the latch that holds it open.
  15. The weather stripping underneath the front cap on the opposing side won’t stay in.
  16. The weather stripping for the front cap leaves a gap to either side of the hitch.
  17. Supports for the wheel skirting aren’t secured on both sides,
  18. The underside of the main slide is beginning to fray near the door. (Outside)
  19. The roof near the rear AC unit appears to be molding.
  20. Steps rusting.

Storage Area

  1. Floor in the storage bay is very soft and warped, possibly from a leaking pipe.
  2. Power inverter for the refrigerator will not stay on any longer than two hours.
  3. Water pump is possibly vapor locked. It is currently working.
  4. Electric element in the water heater is burned out.
  5. Black tank valve stuck open.
  6. Galley grey tank valve difficult to open and close.
  7. Cargo door, on P/S, can be opened even if locked.

Bedroom

  1. Pancake light above the bed strobes and flickers, same as the closet and bathroom lights. Nine total LED pancake lights are now burned out or going out.
  2. Bedroom slide makes a loud popping noise and comes outwards hard, when extending.
  3. Rear panel of the storage tray under the bed fell off.
  4. Front bed frame panel is broken.
  5. Rear panels on the bedroom S/O seem to be very loose.
  6. In wall cabinet (left side of bed) is pulling away from the wall at the top.
  7. Top cover that the mattress sits on seems to be warped, causing the middle to sink in.
  8. Water dripping out of the ceiling in the bedroom.
  9. Ceiling above the closet side of the bed is soft.
  10. A/C vent above bed is broken and now not able to change direction or angle.
  11. The lower right closet door mirror is coming lose.
  12. Bedroom door jam is coming loose.
  13. The crown molding above the bedroom TV is lose.
  14. Crack in left closet door.
  15. Gap in bedroom floor near the door side foot of the bed.
  16. Pancake LED light near the TV and closet going out.
  17. Pancake LED light in the closet going out.
  18. Pancake LED light above the bed on the rear side going out.

Bathroom/Hall

  1. Bathroom ceiling around the fan is soft.
  2. Shower wall cracking inside the soap dish.
  3. Light under bathroom sink does not work.
  4. Once when opening the bathroom fan water came pouring out from around the knob.
  5. The bathroom door jam is coming lose.
  6. Two Pancake LED lights going out.
  7. GFCI outlet in bathroom “pops” whenever the unit is plugged into 15-amp power.
  8. Button on shower head sticks.
  9. The antenna crank keeps falling out of the ceiling.

Kitchen

  1. Paneling to the left side facing of the refrigerator is pulled away from the trim. The trim molding appears to have been installed crooked.
  2. Drawer underneath the oven does not latch and opens during travel.
  3. The kitchen light to the left of the microwave doesn’t turn on usually. Sometimes it will flicker on randomly.
  4. The kitchen faucet is coming apart.
  5. Fridge won’t turn on while the unit is plugged into 15-amp power, even with the converter on.
  6. There is a gap between the kitchen counter and the top of the entertainment system. It appears to have been installed crooked.
  7. Pancake LED nearest to the door is going out.
  8. Ceiling fan switch sticks.
  9. Fuse Panel short, #7 fuse.
  10. Front of refrigerator doors rusting.
  11. Door side main slide side trim separating.

Living Room

  1. When the hot water heater is run on LP there is feedback heard through the entertainment system.
  2. When the rear A/C is on there can be loud sounds in ceiling below it.
  3. Large vent in the living room, and the two smaller vents closest to the door have extra material, which possibly might be causing the noise issue.
  4. Slow rise shades, on the windows in dinning slide has the material pulling away at the bottom, where you pull it from.
  5. On the dining S/O, rear small night roller shade does not retract.
  6. Rear day roller shade will not stay down.
  7. There is an area on recliner where the cable is coming through the leather.
  8. The window to the right of the couch doesn’t shut securely. Door side rear window.
  9. Window in O/S closest to door is installed crooked, on the top it is 5 7/8″ inches from the edge of the wall, and the bottom is 6 3/8″ from the edge of the wall.
  10. Lower screen door is separating.
  11. Large day shade next to the dinette will no longer stay down.
  12. Gap in living room floor on the dinette side in front of the door side recliner.
  13. The two rear pancake LED’s are going out.
  14. O/S trim separating on rear of slide next to couch.

 
Big thank you to everyone encouraging us to keep showing this stuff. We know its not the more fun side of RVing but it is real. We really appreciate your help along the way!
John and Laura Hebard
 

How to Start Fulltime RVing

There are a million ways to accomplish moving into a life of fulltime RVing. This is a task that will vary wildly by time, budget, and willingness for anyone who wishes to partake. This was a streamlined process of how it worked for us. We will keep updating it as we get more information,

  1. How do you want to travel/what is reasonable for your lifestyle? There are quite of few things you want to be sure of before you choose this lifestyle. Here is a list of ideas to think about, but there are much more.
    • Do you like living in small spaces?
    • Do you like the outdoors? Chances are you will be spending a lot of time outside your RV.
    • Can you reasonably afford it? Realistically look at what you are spending, and what you would be spending less on, or extra on, in an RV. You may not have rent or a home payment, but you will likely have an RV payment. If you get a fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer, you will most likely need a truck (unless you are stationary, or hire someone to move it for you which can also be pretty expensive). If you are going to be traveling frequently, make sure you estimate fuel cost so you aren’t too surprised by this later. Also, food can cost a lot more in the middle of nowhere, especially meat, produce, and alcohol.
    • If you have a significant other coming with you, are they on board with the idea? This is definitely not a lifestyle to be half-hearted about, if you are cohabitating in a small space, you will want to make sure everyone is really on board.
  2. Decide what type of RV: It is important to go to shows, walk through RVs, maybe even rent one just to see what it is like. Just like buying a home or a car, you don’t really know what it will be like until you have experienced it. YouTube Videos of walk-through tours can provide a lot of help when you have started to figure out what features you want or need. Here are some of the features to consider:
    • “Bunk Houses” a floorplan which usually includes bunk beds for friends or children (typically children). Also great if you want a pets area or storage area.
    • “Island Kitchen”- a floorplan that has an island in the kitchen which is usually very helpful, but sometimes it takes up a lot of space too.
    • “Rear Living or RL” – Living room floorplan that is in the back of the RV.
    • “Front Kitchen or FK” – Kitchen is in the front of the RV
    • “Front Living or FL” – Living room is in the front of the RV
    • Outdoor Kitchen- we didn’t think we would need this, and we don’t really, but it would have been nice. Often these are located in the “bunk room” behind or under a bed.
    • It is rare that anyone but us would use our bathroom, as campgrounds and RV parks generally have them or people use their own. If someone needed to use yours, do you want your own dedicated bathroom and a half bath for guests?
    • TV Placement- this seems trivial but it deserves consideration. Many Toy Haulers do not have couches or recliners that completely face the TV forcing you to sit with your head sideways or not sitting straight. My husband and I both had experienced considerable back pain and it was important to us to be able to sit comfortably. Changing where a TV is in an RV is not always easy.
    • Does it have Washer/Dryer Prep (water connection and dryer vent), and is that important to you? We do a lot of laundry having two large dogs and with hiking, exploring a lot, were not as gentle on our clothing. Our washer and dryer have likely paid themselves off in the first 8 months of owning them. Lots of places have coin wash that is much faster then an RV washer and dryer, so that is always an option too!
    • Length- We have not had any issues with our 40ft long fifth wheel. That being said, if we stayed in campgrounds more frequently or in national parks (which we will experience more of soon), this could become a big issue. Sometimes they don’t have sites that can accomodate a 40ft rig.
    • Gas or Diesel- If you are going the Class A, B, or C route, consider wether you will need to extra power of diesel or not. Diesel is the byproduct of producing gasoline and often costs more than gasoline. The reason people usually choose a diesel is because of power. If you will be going up and down in elevation frequently this is an important consideration, especially if you are towing a vehicle behind you. In the mountains, you will likely need the extra power as you go up and the air becomes thinner. Also, diesels will not loose power at higher elevation like gassers will.
  3. Financing: It was much easier for us to get an RV and Truck Loan then it ever was to get a home loan. We ended up going to Camping World, we had tried several dealerships and they had the model we wanted. Financing took about a week total. John was a fulltime student/part time worker and I was a fulltime worker when we found the truck. The truck was a normal vehicle loan, and we got the truck first. Realistically, everything hinged on being able to get the truck or not, and we found a dually in our price range. Once we had the truck we began looking for a range of fifth wheels that meet our criteria. Once we found a good deal on one from the list we picked it up.
  4. Downsizing: The second you think rving may be a good option you need to start assessing what you use and what you don’t, and then what you could give up. For us, we dedicated a less traveled room in the house and started to moving the supplies we would need for the RV, or things we had to have in the RV period in there. Once we had the RV in our possession we began moving things one box at a time. We still moved way more than we needed, and ended up down sizing more later. The remainder of things in the house were divided into four piles:
    1. Going in the RV – weight and size play a huge roll. Make sure you are not being overly redundant but have enough. One example is cooking items, try to find things that will work for any style of cooking, you use frequently, or are small and lightweight.
    2. Storage – heirlooms, family items, photos, furniture you aren’t ready to part with. There is no shame in needing to store something until you figure it all out, and you may not figure it out. For us, we stored things that we could use if we ever moved back into a house. It would be a sparse existance but they were items that would cost too much to rebuy or had meaning. We tried to limit ourselves to only storing things that were not replaceable.
    3. Sell or donate – this pile can be painful. For many people, including ourselves, to see the extra items that we didn’t need but wanted hurt. Once everything going to the RV or storage was removed we had an estate sale and sold everything else we could. Consumerism is easy when you have a bigger space that can contain it all. Once the extra stuff was gone we felt a lot better. It did not feel good to see how wasteful we had been, or the amount of stuff that we thought we needed. Sometimes there are things in this pile that you did need in a home, but you just won’t need while traveling.
    4. Trash – This pile also didn’t feel good to make. Anything we couldn’t sell we tried to donate or trashed it.
  5. Settle into the RV: This process could take a month or longer, for us it took about three months. We were taking all of our extra time to go through things and sell what we actually didn’t need. We also took a lot of time downsizing the storage room we had rented, in order to get cost down and secure items properly. Once you get enough stuff out and reorganized, you can figure out if you need a larger or smaller storage room. This will save a lot of money in some cases. We have noticed some “shaming” happening in RV communities, being critical of those with a storage unit. Everyone is at different points in their life and have different reasons for wanting or not wanting to keep items. There is no harm in keeping a storage unit in our opinion. We left things that would help us setup a house again should we “fail” at RVing. We will likely revisit this later and figure it out.
  6. Downsize, again: The last step is one we repeat pretty much every time we move, but we are still new to RVing in general. Living in an RV breaks the habits quickly of the consumer. Buying food, supplies, clothing, or trinkets all add up to weight and space. If you want to travel fulltime, it’s a good idea to do this step a few times. Eliminate as much weight as you are comfortable with. If you buy something, get back to your RV, and realize it is not going to work or you may not actually need it, return it. This will get more money then reselling it, so long as its suitable to return.

Starting this process can seem like an uphill battle. We started by joking about RVing and not believing that it was possible. We got a lot of encouragement from other RVers and it was a great decision for our lives. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions, concerns, or things to add. We respond as quickly as we can. Thank you for checking this out!

Housewarming & Travel Gifts For RVers

  1. MiniPresso with Nespresso Pods:espresson-portableFor anyone that loves Espresso and does not want the hassle of a large expensive machine, these are wonderful. You provide the hot water and the the espresso (you can use Nespresso pods with some of them) and you can create your own espresso on the go. The small cup is provided as the lid as well. This makes the top of John’s short list of RV gadgets he loves. If you are purchasing the Nespresso version, there are also many options for sample packs of the pods that you can choose from. The MiniPresso ranges from about $50-60 on Amazon.
  2. Weber Q-1000 Propane Grill:
    weber-grill
    Weber Q1000 Propane Grill
    We bought this at the recommendation of many other RVers, and it’s reputation is completely legitimate. Not only is it super easy to clean, it is also really durable. We use the small Propane cans you can get at hardware stores or sports stores, and they last us about 2 weeks-a month depending on usage. Ways to cook outside are always on the top of the list for RVers. The grill price is usually between $150-170 on Amazon.
  3. NuWave Stove Top: Following with the food theme, this device uses induction to heat the pan. You do have to use certain pans (most of them are usable, just look on the bottom of the pan to be sure). This guy is not only safer in an RV
    nuwave-stovetop
    NuWave Induction Cooktop
    (cools down rapidly), but you are at a much less risk of burning yourself or starting a fire accidentally. It gives you more precise control over temperature in a small package. We have found that we use this much more then we will ever use our stove top in our RV (as it uses propane which often is too hot for most foods to be cooked properly). This device also has a timer to help keep you on track while cooking. The Nuwave goes for about $50-80 on Amazon.
  4. Instant Pot:
    instapot
    Instant Pot
    Often crock-pots are not really as feasible in an RV because they are large, heavy, and bulky. They usually only do one task as well. This device can function as a crock-pot, but also a steamer, a pressure cooker, and several other cooking functions. It has a vented slot on top that can open and close. The pressure cooker feature has a locking lid that must be placed properly or it will not turn on. You can also buy a normal pot lid and use it for every day cooking as well. We have used ours so many times to make chili, soup, stew, spaghetti, and used it just to cook a larger amount of meat so that it is all in one pot. The Instant Pot goes for about $60-100 on Amazon.
  5. WiFi Ranger Elite:
    wifi-ranger
    WiFi Ranger Elite
    This is an antenna used to increase your visibility to available internet. It does not create a WiFi signal that is not already there. Often times RV Parks are criticized for not putting in a good enough WiFi network even though they advertise that they have “Free WiFi.” They do usually have “Free Wi-Fi,” but it is generally not good enough for even checking email. This antenna is mounted to the top of the RV and it amplifies the WiFi Signal. Then the antenna uses an Ethernet cable to bring it inside the RV. We use it frequently and we can personally vouch for the device. It  can usually increase signal by 2-3 “bars.” It is quite a bit more expensive then the last few gifts but it should be high on any RVers wish list. This usually will cost anywhere from $400-500.
  6. GoPro Camera: goproThese cameras are not just hype we have a GoPro Hero4 Black and we have taken it scuba diving, mounted it on the RV, filmed with a gimbal, and more. It is a very versatile camera that makes it easy to capture a moment without worrying about what it will look like. We have used this a lot for our YouTube channel and it’s honestly worth it. These range from $300-400 on amazon.
  7. Two-Way Radios:
    midland-radios
    Midland 2 Way Radios
    When parking an RV it is imperative that you can communicate with another person who is spotting. They have to be able to tell the driver where the RV is going so that it doesn’t hit anyone or anything. We also use these to talk while traveling. So even if we do not have a phone connection we can still communicate. Since we still have two vehicles (hopefully that will change soon), they’re really necessary for us. There are multiple versions out there, but we happened to already have these. They work very well and also come with a weather radio alert system for inclement weather. We have the Midland 2 Way radios, and they go for about $30-40 on amazon.
  8. Weather Radio:
    accurite
    Accurite Weather Radio/Station
    We both lived in Kansas for a good chunk of our lives, and dealt with some really nasty weather. Almost every type of weather is bad for an RV. Lots of rain could lead to flooding and floating the RV down a new river, tornadoes pack heavy wind damage and sometimes hail. Hail breaks windows and damages the roof, and lightening can knock the power out. If you don’t have a surge protector, this could be even worse. Since RV Parks seem to be magnets for bad weather it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it. Also, many states don’t have sirens to warn of severe weather. We use an Accurite Weather radio/forecaster. It has actually helped us several times when our phone alerts didn’t go off but this device did. We usually watch the weather closely, but this adds extra protection. This usually costs about $80-100 on Amazon.
  9. Camping Chairs
    red-rock-canyon_zpsnmlgomtq
    Kijaro Camping Chairs
    Camping chairs or a folding table: fold-able camping chairs are a must have while RVing. Sometimes you have picnic tables at campsites, but not always. We found our folding table at Costco, it is made by Lifetime. we got the smallest table so that it would fit in our cabinet under the main cabin of our RV. If you are wanting to get chairs, I would focus on materials that don’t rust or mold. Padded chairs are very comfortable but they also mold easily.
  10. Decorating Ideas include:
    • Command Strips made by 3M- since the walls are often fragile or very thin in an RV.
    • Shower Rods for hanging wet clothing or towels in the shower.
    • Hooks for shower rods
    • Corelle type dishware- things move a lot in an RV, it’s good if they are not very fragile.
    • Velcro strips- these work well for hanging pictures and securing counter-top items.

 

RV Mods and Hacks | #2

We also have an album on our Facebook page for RV Hacks. However, we did not have the album and descriptions on our webpage. This post shows photos and descriptions of some of the very helpful hacks or tools we use in our RV currently. As always, we welcome comments and feedback!
Wall Hangings:wp-1484412290866.jpg Since the walls are so thin with RVs, we use materials like Velcro Strips, or Command Picture Hanging Strips, to hold pictures on the wall. So far we have been gentle in pulling them off and we have had no wall damage. This also works well for things in your compartments below. I would not suggest going with the Velcro Brand Industrial Strength, unless you know you want something to be permanently mounted. The Glue might be able to hold tools or gear better for you. You can still remove this, but it takes quite a bit more effort to not damage the wall. The wood plaque in this picture can be found: here
The “Bedside Table” wp-1484412290831.jpgOur RV came with bedside shelves that hold one water glass and our phones. So we went in search of something that would keep our bedside things organized and usable. We found this spice rack that pretty closely matches the wood in our RV. We used Velcro Brand Strips to hang up the bamboo spice rack and keep it in the same place. So far this has worked out really well! It continues to be one of the favorite mentioned hacks we have made to the RV.
Entry Way Shelf: wp-image-281369137jpg.jpgWe use a shelf from Ikea that is 36″ wide we purchased several years ago (Unfortunately, we could no longer find it on their website). Since RV entry ways are various sizes it would be best to measure and find a shelf that will work for you.
We leave a towel for drying off our dog’s feet, and their leashes all by the door. When traveling, these baskets will slide. So we use bungee cords to keep them from falling off of the shelf, and just leave it against the wall. The baskets on the shelf are from Amazon, made by a company called Interdesign. They can be found by clicking on the link above.
Shelving: wp-1484412290462.jpgShelving has become an important way for us to organize and store more. Since our 5th wheel did not come with the buffet table, we built this shelf to hold camera gear, office supplies, and a printer. These wire shelves rarely come in the size you will need in a 5th wheel. So our advice would be to figure out the height that you want your shelving unit and buy the shelving poles separately. Most of the poles for these shelving units are a standard size and can work together. We tested this by buying one companies poles, and a different companies shelves.  As long as they were the same color it did not make a difference for us. You can even get leg levelers since RVs are not always flat where you want the shelf to go.  The next step is to find the wire shelves that go with the poles. Again, these should be standard sizes.
Small Item Storage: wp-1484412290200.jpgFor tiny items such as spices, medicine, bathroom items, etc. we found these small rectangular shakers. They come in 6 packs with a tray to store them in. You can keep them all together for spices, or you can even divide them up like in the picture. On the top shelf with the red, white, and blue tops there are small items. On the shelf below, we took the tops off and used them for makeup storage. That way small items could sit upright and not spill out of the cabinet. They are called “6 Spice Shaker Seasoning Bottles” on Amazon.
Safety on the Stairs: wp-1484412291157.jpgThe stairs are very slick when wet. Thankfully, we have only fallen once. There are plenty of solutions from carpet squares that wrap around the step, to putting in different stairs all together. We chose to use adhesive grip tape from Slip Doctors. So far we have not had to replace it, and it has held up to us coming and going with 2 dogs. Since the dogs get walked numerous times a day, it is really tested with foot and paw traffic. Also, it does not hurt our dogs paws, which was another concern. You can actually walk on this barefoot. It is not super comfortable, but it does grip well. It comes in many sizes, but to save money we bought the 4″ wide roll and cut small strips to fit all of the slick metal we could.
Generators: wp-1484412290245.jpgThis provides a back-up emergency power source for us. Since we are normally in campgrounds or rv parks, we are not a priority to get power back on when it’s lost. It is always a good idea to have an emergency power source when RVing. Many parks and campgrounds are out in the country. This style of generator is rated for 51.5-61 decibels, which is about conversation level. When we purchased the generator in 2016, it was one of the quietest portable generators on the market. This generator also comes with the ability to parallel a second generator which we will post links for. Stats for the Yamaha EF2000ISv2: 44 pounds, “whisper quiet” (51.5-61 Decibels), has a 20amp connection (30 with a parallel cable and second generator), overall size is 2.2 cu.ft., emissions are low enough to meet California requirements, it has a smart throttle that changes to the requirement of the load, fuel tank holds 1.1 gallons, has a low oil warning light, and it comes with a dedicated 12v battery charging cable. The cables needed to add the second generator to combine and increase power are: Yamaha Parallel Cables, the Parallel generator is the Yamaha EF2000iS. We keep ours covered with the yamaha generator cover. So far we have used the generator several times while traveling, espeically to recharge batteries and provide a small amount of power when we stop for the night.
Monitoring: wp-1484412290641.jpgWhen we are gone for the day we have a few rules that help keep our pets safe. They must have a temp of 65-75, and they have to be in a safe area. We use a pet monitor called Piper NV that allows us to see them, hear them, and monitor the temperature inside. This device runs in WiFi, so you’ll a hotspot or another source of WiFi to run it. If it disconnects it attempts to reconnect itself. If it cannot reconnect, it alarms our phone through the app on our phone. This device also send alerts by our custom requests for things such as the temperature becoming too hot or cold, a sudden large amount of light, if it has become too humid, or if it’s very loud (dogs barking). You can see your pets on your phone through the app, and you can even speak to them. Maybe to stop their barking, or comfort them. Our pets mean the world to us, and we want to keep them safe and comfortable while we are away from the RV.
Weather Monitoring:wp-1484412291236.jpg Our RV came with a Jensen receiver which includes a dedicated weather band radio, that has never worked for us. It is not simple, and you have to reconnect it everywhere you go. NOAA runs on the smallest radio band available, so it can reach everyone. Our antenna usually isn’t strong enough to even pick it up. We use the AcuRite Weather Station instead. It includes a monitoring device that sits outside to give you current information. Whenever we move to a new area we have to enter the local FIPS code. The FIPS code let’s us receive local weather alerts when there is severe weather. It has a battery backup in both the base stain and the handheld, in case of needing to evacuate and find shelter You can take the radio portion along.
Towel Hooks:wp-1484412291196.jpgWe use these to hang wet items in the shower, we have a few different options. We use the Command Hooks for Bathrooms in the shower, and we also use double shower rods across the top of our bathroom. These provide ways to hang things like jeans or other others we don’t want shrinking in the dryer. They also hold wet towels so they can dry and not mildew. The triple hooks just slide on the tension rods that act as rails for them.

Stair Treads or Stair Runners:
wp-1484412290064.jpgThese cover the very slick stairs in our halway. We were having a tough time, and so were the dogs. These are called Stair Runners. You will need to measure your steps and make sure whatever you choose will fit. Also make sure the ones you like have a rubber backing so they don’t slide off as you walk. These have a rubber backing and can be machine washed.
Water purifier:

This keeps the water clean and resetting good wherever we go. The three stage water filter can be found at RV Water Filter Supply Store.

These carry out bikes on top of the tuck. We didn’t want to hang them from the RVs back ladder since we keep our folding ladder on it.

For the first RV Mods Article Go Here:
RV Mods – Round 1
For Complete Photo Album Go Here:
Photo album of RV Mods and Hacks
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RV Mods and Hacks | #1

Facebook Modifications Album:
This link will take you to pictures and descriptions that are more easily uploaded and discussed.

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LED Light Strips

LED Light Strips: These can be found on Amazon. They worked perfectly for our RV because they have an adhesive backing that isn’t strong enough to damage a wall. So no screws or nails were required to mount them. The lights come with a remote that can change the color to many different options. This is a great way to cheaply add accent lighting to your home or RV. Also, because they’re LED, they draw very little power. So if you’ve been wanting to upgrade the lights in an older RV this is a much cheaper option.

RV Water Filter Store: They carry very high quality fresh water hoses and water filtration systems for a fair price. We opted to go with a three filter system that uses a 1 micron filter, a 0.5 micron filter, and a charcoal filter. This system ensures that no matter what water source we plug into it will be potable. The Charcoal filter improves taste as well.  On another note, the people who run the company are incredibly nice and knowledgeable. We’ve called them a few times with different questions and they were great every time.
RV Lock 4.0: We changed our lock quickly after seeing the YouTube videos of how easy it is to break into RVs because they are all master keyed. The RV Lock 4.0 allows keyless entry with a key fob, keypad entry, and keyed entry. The deadbolt also seems stronger, than the original lock.
Cam Bolt Lock Replacements: We immediately swapped out the cam locks on the compartment doors since they are also master keyed. We ordered a set from Industrial Lock and Hardware. We replaced ours with circular locks instead of standard keys. The standard RV key that says “CH751” is a master key across all RVs. This means that anyone with that little silver key, including dealerships and other RVers, can unlock your compartment. It is easier for dealers but not very good for the consumer.
Fridge and Freezer Remote Thermostats:imageimage We chose a two monitor system that will wirelessly report information to the monitor.The monitor displays the current, high, and low temperatures for each sensor. The monitor also displays the temperature of wherever it’s placed. It will even allow you to set high and low alarms in case the fridge or freezer are not working properly. When we purchased our rig we had some battery issues, and to make a long story short, this alerted us to the fridge not working. It more than paid for itself by saving a few hundred dollars of food.
LED Puck Lightsimage We added push (or remote) lights to cabinets and under sinks that can easily be touched to allow us to see better. In small spaces the shadows are large. The tall ceilings also play into this. We have more lights than a five bedroom home, but still shadows in corners.
 


Induction Cook Top – We chose the NuWave single induction cook plate. When we bought it the plan was to use it while plugged in, this saves us from using propane. Most RV parks don’t charge for electric unless you’re staying for at least a month. So it made sense for us to use that free power to cook with. Now that we’ve installed a large solar system we can even use it while boondocking. Of course we have to watch our battery percentage as it has a large power draw. Either way, it has been very beneficial saving our propane.
Amazon Fire – When we moved into the RV our TV was downgraded from a Sony 4k UHD we had purchased just a few months before we decided to go full time, to a Jensen 1080p non smart TV. The Sony wouldn’t fit sadly. The quality change wasn’t a big deal, but we lost our precious Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime apps that allowed us to binge into oblivion. Now, the Fire stick allows us to watch these through our new not so smart TV. While traveling we’ve found that some RV Parks will block streaming sights. To remedy this, we just use our phones as hot spots. This does use a lot of data, but T-Mobile allows us unlimited data.
WiFi Ranger Elite– When we were younger we weren’t as reliant on the internet as we are now. However, now our work requires it. There are several groups who have researched how to obtain reliable internet while traveling. To anyone looking for information on this subject I would suggest looking for information from TechnoMadia. They have written a book, and created a web page, that explain all of the various ways that travelers can get internet. At their recommendation, and several others, we chose the WiFi Ranger Elite to capture WiFi signals. Just a note to those who think this is all free after they purchase an antenna, it should not be. It is our responsibility to make it advantageous to businesses to keep allowing the usage of these signals. If you are using a businesses WI-FI, ask for permission first.  Maybe even offer to purchase something or pay for using their bandwidth. This maintains the willingness to supply a free signal that is open for other travelers. This signal is not free for their business. If you don’t ask permission, or offer to buy something, how can you expect them to continue providing a free service?
Tire Pressure Monitoring System wp-1484412290796.jpgTire Pressure monitoring is extremely important. While you are towing large trailers you don’t necessarily feel issues with tires like you would in a car. Adding sensors to the tires ensures that we’ll know if there is a rapid loss of pressure (blowout or flat) and not drive for miles waiting on someone to flag us down after we’ve damaged our trailer. Setup and operation are both pretty simple. I had them installed and operating in a half hour. This system tracks temperature and pressure in real time numbers. We opted to purchase the TST TM-507 model because you can put air in the tires without removing the sensor and replace the batteries yourself.
 
Please Check out RV Mods #2 For More ideas 🙂