RV Q&A: Extra Fuel Payload

Q:

I had a Class A motorhome with a 75-gallon gas tank. Now I tow a trailer with a truck that has a 25-gallon gas tank. I want to know if it is safe to have a couple of full 5-gallon gas cans in the back of the truck.

John Clinton, Sacramento, California

A:

Any time you carry extra gasoline storage you incur a degree of risk, John, but you can reduce that risk when you need to haul along extra fuel. Be sure to use certified gasoline-storage containers. Install some type of container mounts or clamps that secure the storage containers tightly in place — and that doesn’t just mean a bungee cord looped through the handle.

The last thing you want is loose cans of gasoline rattling around in the back of your truck or, in the event of an accident, having those containers thrown free of the truck, which greatly increases the chances for fire. Some common sense when planning your extra fuel storage can help keep you and others safe.


 

Exhaust-Brake Experiences

Q:

I first installed a performance-chip package on my 2002 GMC diesel to up the power and torque from the factory values. I ran the truck with a setting that added about 40 horsepower and 60 lb-ft of torque. A few years later, I also installed an exhaust brake to
help with the braking when pulling my 33-foot fifth-wheel.

Last summer, when we were coming out from the Grand Canyon, the temperature gauge started going up.

All along the trip from Virginia, I had to replace water in the radiator, as the warning light kept coming on. I had noticed a low-water situation before even starting the trip but could find no leaks. This time the addition of water did not help cool the engine.

To make a long story short, the engine blew a head gasket, and the truck and trailer had to be towed to the Flagstaff GMC dealership. Due to the cost of the repair (estimated at $6,000 to $12,000), I ended up buying a new truck to get us back home. Although I have no proof (other than a blown head gasket), I am almost certain that with the large back pressure put on the engine with the per­formance package and the exhaust brake, it was just too much for the head gasket to hold.

I would caution anyone about putting an exhaust brake on without any upgrade of the head gasket. I will say that I observed some water loss before I installed the exhaust brake, so the performance package may have accelerated the failure of the head gasket.

Sherman Frye, Mineral, Virginia

Q:

I have a 2007 Chevy HD with a Dura­max diesel. Would an aftermarket exhaust brake cause any additional stress or damage to the engine? Is installing one a good idea?

Jeff Darling, Kirkman, Iowa

A:

There are several exhaust-brake systems available for your engine, Jeff, including those from Banks and BD Power. These aftermarket exhaust brakes are designed to work with your vehicle’s engine and powertrain components. Properly used and set up, they won’t damage the engine. This applies to an engine that’s in good condition, of course, and the manufacturers of these products specify that on their websites.

Sherman’s experience reflects what can happen to an engine that’s showing its age with some miles on it, as well as another modification, which was the performance package, and the extra load it induced on the engine. That extra performance load, combined with the exhaust brake, likely aggravated the eventual head-gasket failure.

For a newer engine, the exhaust brake should be fine — in fact, they’ve been offered as an option or as standard equipment on full-size diesel pickups from the factory for several years now.



Power-Center Problem

I have a 2007 Pilgrim International 28-foot travel trailer. When I run the interior trailer lights and the slideout using the battery, all is fine. When I plug into shorepower at home or at the campground, all is fine — until I unplug and want to use battery power. It doesn’t work. I then have to replace the 12-volt DC 30-amp breaker in the converter panel, which gives me battery power until I plug into shorepower the next time. I then repeat the replacement of the relay to get to battery power. I go through about eight breakers a season — they cost about $5 each, not all that expensive.

I don’t want to do anything to cause a fire or put my family in harm’s way. Can converters be repaired, or do I have to replace the entire unit? The converter is part of a WFCO power center and is one of the following: WF-8935AN-P, WF-8945AN-P or WF-8955AN-P.

Bill Cole, Franconia, New Hampshire

A:

We’re a bit puzzled by the “breaker” you describe as being replaced every now and then. The part number you sent in a subsequent email explaining exactly what you’re buying is a 15-amp fuse. If the power center indicates a 30-amp fuse is needed for that position and you replace it with a 15-amp, it’s going to blow as soon as you place a load on it, per the energy draw of a circuit that requires a 30-amp breaker.

If all the parts are correctly specified and matched, there’s likely something else wrong. There could be a partially miswired power center, or based on the age of your RV, there could be some corrosion in the wiring connections, and that could be increasing the amp draw when a load is placed on that circuit.

Inspecting all of the connections for corrosion or frayed or damaged contacts may reveal the problem. The power center could also be faulty and might need to be replaced, as a repair might cost as much as a new unit. A call to the manufacturer would help answer that concern. If you need to replace the converter and power center, this would be a good opportunity to upgrade to a converter with a multistage smart charger. This would help keep the batteries in good shape and avoid overcharging them.


 

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