RV Tech Q&A: May 2019

Graphic illustration of protable generator

Generator Selection

Red letter QWe purchased our first trailer last year, a 2016 Keystone Cougar 326RDS. We’ve used it quite a bit and absolutely love it. The only problem we had was when it was 110 degrees outside and the 50-amp circuit at the site was not working. We plugged into the 30-amp, and things powered up. The single air-conditioning unit we have was working but had trouble keeping things cool until nightfall. We also had the refrigerator running on electric. After a few hours, we opened the fridge to find that things were not cold. So we switched the fridge to propane, and it worked better.

The next day, maintenance fixed the 50-amp circuit. The fridge was switched back to electric, and things worked fine. We are now looking into getting a portable generator but are not sure which to choose. We are thinking 50-amp so everything will work properly. But we want one that is quiet enough so as not to annoy other campers or even ourselves. Do you have any recommendations for good-quality portable generators?

Tim Etner | York, Pennsylvania

Green letter A

Whatever you do, don’t buy the cheapest generator you can find. An inexpensive generator sold as a “contractor’s special” or some such will be OK on a jobsite for running a power saw, workspace lights and and similar equipment, but it may not be a good idea for delicate electronics found in today’s RVs. Ideally, an inverter-style generator is best for powering such fragile devices because it produces “clean” power, but those generators are more expensive, and one large enough to supply 50 amps of power is not going to be cheap,and probably not practical to haul around.

If you can get by with just 30 amps of power from a generator, some manufacturers have available kits to combine the output of two smaller generators. Honda sells a “piggyback” kit for its EU2000i inverter-type generator that results in 30 amps of available power. Other manufacturers offer similar products. (Check out Chris Dougherty’s “Power Couple” article in the January 2019 issue about the Energizer eZV parallel kit to connect two eZV P-series portable inverter generators.)

As for noise, each manufacturer posts sound specifications, listed as decibels or dB, for each generator. That’s what you need to look for regarding noise level; the lower the dB, the better. Check out Trailer Life’s “Portable Generators Are Power Players” for suggestions on how to choose a portable generator for RV use. Included with that article is a chart with some of the most popular generators for RVs and their decibel ratings, weights, run times and so on. It’s a good idea to research in advance what the policy is for generators for the campgrounds you’ll be visiting.


Chassis Service

Red letter QCan you provide a guide for RV suspension, axle, wheel and brake maintenance in a future issue? A mechanical system overview and important maintenance intervals, checks and tips would be appreciated.

Paul Madey | Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Green letter A

That information is readily available now, Paul, in the owner’s manuals for the components in question. You didn’t say what year, make or model of RV you own so we can’t make specific recommendations, but most new RVs are sold with a full complement of owner’s manuals that cover the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance procedures, service intervals and so on.

If you don’t have these manuals, they are readily available online by searching a manufacturer’s website or doing a broader-based online search.

I recommend you go to the Trailer Life website, then choose the Tech Q&A section. We answer this and closely related questions many times in the RV Clinic column, and perusing the past letters posted on our website can likely give you even more specific information.


Freshwater Not So Fresh

Red letter QWe have a disgusting problem with our 2013 Keystone Passport’s 43-gallon freshwater holding tank. We usually don’t travel with more than 10 gallons, and much of the time the water goes mostly unused since we frequent RV parks with hookups. The water is refreshed on every one of our many outings. Several times we have sterilized the tank by adding chlorine and letting it slosh around before dumping and refilling.

Before our last outing in the fall, I unscrewed the tank drain cap and almost nothing came out. I poked a rod up the drain pipe and out comes an off-white gooey substance, then the tank drained. I believe there is more of that goop lurking in the drain pipe or the bottom of the holding tank. What the heck could that substance be and how do I flush and truly clean the tank?

Steven Smith | Eureka, Missouri

Green letter A

It’s surprising that the usual bleach-and-rinse procedure didn’t help, Steven, and it’s hard to identify exactly that substance. That’s what we might expect to see in a fresh tank that’s been in storage a long time or has not been adequately maintained, but your service details rule out those possibilities. As a suggestion, Thetford has a new product called Fresh Water Tank Sanitizer that’s a two-part, two-step system for cleaning a freshwater tank. Give it a try and see if that helps, and be sure to run the treated water through the entire RV water system to catch any goop remaining in the lines.


Tow-Vehicle Selection

Red letter QI’m sure you get asked this all the time, but my family and I are new to RVing. We just bought our first travel trailer and are now shopping for a truck to pull it. The specs in the Trailer Life tow guides are different than what I see on the vehicle manufacturer websites, which are, of course, different than what I see on the vehicle window stickers, which are, of course, different than what I hear from the salesperson’s mouth! How do I know which is correct? Thanks for any help you can provide!

Fred Smith | Chicago, Illinois

Green letter A

You’re right, Fred, we do cover this topic on a regular basis. For starters I recommend you go to our website, www.trailerlife.com, click on the drop-down Tech menu, then choose the Tech Q&A section. We answer this and closely related questions many times in the RV Clinic column, and perusing the past letters posted on our website can likely give you even more specific information.

See Related Story:
RV Clinic FAQ:
Top 20 Tech Questions

You won’t find a vehicle’s tow rating on every vehicle’s doorjamb data label or its window sticker, unless the manufacturer has changed its window sticker information range. GM and Ram have started putting trailering information stickers on their trucks listing the gross combined weight rating (gcwr) and curb weight for that particular truck. I also doubt that any one salesperson can have every truck hardware combination and its tow rating committed to memory, and many of them may misinterpret what they read in the manufacturer’s tow-rating guide. Salespeople may also be hoping for an easy sale, and they’ve been known to stretch things a bit.

A manufacturer’s towing guide is the best source of specific tow-rating details. That guide takes into account wheelbase, body style, engine, transmission, axle ratio and all the variables that contribute to a tow rating. These details, plus the inevitable footnotes that can accompany the ratings charts, will help you focus on the tow rating for the vehicle you have in mind.

As an aside, the Trailer Life towing guides we publish each year are compiled based on information supplied by the vehicle manufacturers. Due to publishing lead times, the information we receive may change by the time the same data set reaches the dealerships. If in doubt, go by the manufacturers’ towing guide, either in print from the dealership or online at the manufacturer’s website.


Have a Tech Question?

Email [email protected] and include your full name and hometown. Selected letters will be answered in the monthly RV Clinic column, but time does not permit individual replies.


Jeff Johnston served as technical director of Trailer Life for 20 years and has been an RV enthusiast, mechanic and writer since he could hold a wrench. In his monthly RV Clinic column, Jeff replies to Trailer Life readers’ technical questions about RVs and tow vehicles. He also serves as associate producer of Rollin’ On TV, a nationally syndicated television program for RV enthusiasts.


4 COMMENTS

  1. I bought a wireless rearview camera and 7-inch monitor kit. Where do I get the power to operate the camera that is located at the rear center 2 inches below the rooof line? Thank you in advance for your answer.
    Robert Lohr, Del Rio, Texas

  2. I had a Onan 2800 generator installed in my fifth-wheel and would like to lower the exhaust noise. What type of muffler do you recommend?

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