Caring for RV Toilets When Parked
One of the biggest advantages to owning and traveling in an RV is having access to a toilet at all hours of the day and night. While the tent campers are scrambling in the dark to find shoes and a flashlight in order to walk up to the camp restroom, you can simply take a few steps into your RV bathroom and be back in bed within seconds. Certainly, more than a few campers have been sold on owning an RV simply for the presence of a toilet alone.
Of course, if you are going to enjoy the luxury of having a toilet nearby, you need to give it proper care while you are parked and enjoying a camping trip. RV toilets don’t require a lot of care to keep in good working order, but there are a few important steps that need to be taken to ensure the short and long-term health of your toilet and tanks.
Using RV-Safe Products
The toilet in your RV is not the same as the toilet in your house, and it should not be treated the same. You need to use products that are specifically designed for use in RV’s to make sure that your toilet and tanks keep working properly. Specifically, using toilet paper that is designed for use in an RV is important. This type of toilet paper breaks down easier than ‘normal’ toilet paper, making it easier to flush from the tanks and helping to prevent clogs.
Don’t Flush Anything Else
Nothing other than the ‘essentials’ (waste and toilet paper) should go down the toilet in your RV. If you get in a habit of flushing other items, you are only inviting trouble and asking for problems when the time comes to drain the black tank. Resist the temptation and dispose of all other items in the trash so that you don’t cause issues within your tank that become bigger problems later on.
Keep the Black Tank Closed
If you are going to be parked at the campsite for a considerable time, you might leave the grey water tank slightly open so that it can drain as it is used. While this can be an acceptable practice is some situations, you should not do this with your black tank. The weight of the accumulated waste helps to force everything out of the tank when it comes time to drain, so you want to keep the black tank closed while the RV is in use – until you are ready to dump it.
Dump When Tanks Are Mostly Full
Allow the black tank to fill most of the way before going ahead with dumping. Trying to dump a partially full tank can become problematic, especially if there is more solid waste than liquid. When this happens, the solid waste will tend to accumulate in the bottom of the tank and is less likely to be flushed out successfully on the first try. You will then have to do further flushing procedures to get the tank properly emptied – probably not how you want to spend your vacation.
Use Tank Cleaning Products
There are plenty of chemicals on the market to assist in controlling the odors within your black tank and you should use these on a regular basis. Not only can they help to manage smells, but also to maintain the working order of all the parts within your tank. However, some of these products can be harmful to the environment, and even the sewer that your tank is flushed into, so make sure to purchase chemicals that are environmentally safe. Each of these products will have slightly different methods for their usage, so be sure to always follow all directions provided.
One of the best things about the toilet inside your RV is that it can be mostly maintenance free for the majority of the time that you are parked and enjoying a relaxing camping trip. As long as you follow some of the basic rules of using an RV toilet, and empty your tank when it is mostly full, you should be able to avoid major problems trip after trip. As you gain more and more experience using your RV, the process of caring for your toilet and tank will become easier and easier, and you will be able to complete all of the necessary steps in a short amount of time. With the maintenance complete, you can get back to relaxing in your RV, and remembering how nice it is never to have to walk to the restroom!
Buying an RV is a large purchase – there is no doubt about that. Since deciding to buy an RV is one of the biggest expenses you will incur in your life, it is only natural to hesitate before actually signing on the dotted line. How do you know when the time is right? It’s one thing to wander the RV dealer lot and look at all the great new models that you can pick from, but it is a whole other thing to actually spend the money and take one home.
Numbers Don’t Lie
The first thing you should do when trying to decide when the time is right to buy an RV is sit down and go over your budget carefully. With an estimate of how much the monthly payment would be on an RV in hand, take a look at your current budget and decide if there is room to add an RV payment while still living comfortably. If the new payment on an RV purchase is going to put you too close to the ‘edge’ financially, you may want to wait a bit longer.
Watch for an Opportunity
Some payments that take up a chunk of your budget, such as your mortgage, likely aren’t going away anytime soon. However, there are other payments that may be due to come off the books, opening up room in your budget for an RV purchase. For example, if you own a car that you are close to having paid off, you may want to think about buying your RV shortly after the car loan has been fulfilled. If the monthly cost of your new RV is going to be similar to the car payment you just finished, there really won’t be any change to your monthly budget outlook. As long as you have the cash available for a down payment, buying an RV when another big payment goes away is a reasonable option.
Look for Sales
Just like any other purchase you make, it is smart to be patient while looking for an RV until you find a great deal that is just too good to pass up. Often, RV dealers will put the previous model year inventory on sale when the new models are set to arrive, so keep your eye out for any upcoming sale events. Also, the end of the summer season is usually a common time to see sale prices, and dealers may be more-willing to negotiate in the fall as they are heading into the quiet winter months. Since finding a sale on your RV purchase could potentially save you thousands of dollars, it is certainly worth the effort to locate a great price before making the purchase.
You don’t want to rush the purchase of an RV. While you are probably excited to get started with your first trip, buying an RV is a major financial decision that needs to be carefully considered before you jump in. Once you have done your homework and found the room in your budget for the RV purchase, you can sign on the dotted line with confidence.
If you are going to use an RV to do much of your traveling, you will probably want to have another vehicle that works well with your RV to get you where you need to go. Obviously, if you are going to pull a trailer or a fifth-wheel, you will need a truck that is capable of handling the job of towing your RV to the campground. Even if you are going to purchase a Motorhome, however, you will likely want to look into getting a small vehicle that you can tow behind the RV so you can get around with ease while you are camped. Trying to move the Motorhome each time you need to go somewhere gets old quickly, and just isn’t that practical.
As you are shopping for an RV and thinking about which option will be best for you and your family, it makes sense to consider the passenger vehicle you are going to use as well. While you might be able to afford the cost of the RV on its own, the cost of the truck or other vehicle that you will need could put it out of your price range. Only when you think about the big picture of the two together can you really understand how much it will cost you.
Below we will look at the process of picking the right vehicle for the job, either for towing your RV or for being pulled behind your Motorhome.
Finding a Truck to Pull Your RV
In most cases, you will actually end up spending more money on your truck than you will on the RV you are going to pull with it. Unless you already own a truck capable of the job, you need to think about the shopping process in two steps – the truck and the trailer/fifth wheel. It makes the most sense to shopping somewhat simultaneously so you can see what kind of models are available on both sides and then start to narrow down your choices. However, to get started, make a trip to the RV dealer first and pick out a couple trailers that you might be interested in. You don’t have to get too serious at this point – just get a general idea of the size and weight of the trailers you will be considering. From there, you can head to the truck dealer and find some models that are capable of handling the job. Once you get an idea of what you are looking at with both the truck and trailer, you can then get more specific about your search.
Of course, if you already own a vehicle that you plan to use to haul your RV, the process is much simpler. First, figure out how much your vehicle is capable of pulling comfortably, then start your RV search using that as a limit. As long as you don’t purchase an RV that is too large for your vehicle to pull, you should be in good shape.
Finding a Vehicle to Pull Behind Your Motorhome
For those who are going to purchase a Motorhome, it might be a little easier in that many people already own a passenger vehicle that can serve the purpose of the tow-behind. Generally, this just needs to be a small car or 4×4 that can seat enough people for your needs and get you around the areas where you will be traveling. If you like to go exploring into the mountains or off-road on your trips, make sure the vehicle that you designate as your tow-behind is up to the job. While you can pull a newer car along for this purpose, many people choose to use an older car that they no longer use on a daily basis as their go-to option. The choice is yours.
While owning an RV is a great opportunity to take some exciting vacations and see many new places, it is often necessary to pair one with another vehicle to maximize your experience. Depending on the type of RV you choose, you may need to buy a big truck to haul it – or a small car to pull behind it. Remember to consider this additional vehicle as part of your RV purchase and make sure that your budget works when you start to add in all of the expenses of both the passenger car and the RV itself. Once all those details are worked out, you can get down to the business of enjoying your RV vacations!
Far too many RV owners put away their vehicles for the winter season and simply forget about them until spring and summer roll around – and that is a shame. While the weather might not be quite as lovely during the winter months, there is still plenty of fun to be had if you know where to look. You probably won’t take a big, week-long vacation like you might in the summer time while the kids are out of school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a long weekend to somewhere new and take advantage of being a proud RV owner.
It is impossible for us to pick out specific places you should visit during the winter months, because that will depend greatly on where you live and what you have access to within a comfortable drive of home. However, we can provide some great tips for how to find the right places to enjoy an off-season getaway in your RV. One of the common complaints that RV owners have is that they don’t use their vehicles enough – so think outside the box, and use the tips below to help you locate some great spots to enjoy your RV all year round.
Find the Path of Least Resistance
One of the major hurdles in the way of enjoying a great RV trip during the winter months is the conditions of the roads. Where you might not worry about heading over a mountain pass in the summer, it could be a completely different proposition if the snow has started to fall at higher elevations. As you are thinking about options for a winter RV trip, take a look at the map around the area where you live and find the roads that are likely to be in good condition all year round. Most likely, those will be roads that are through higher population areas, and don’t venture up to altitudes that are too lofty. After you have charted one or two courses from your home that you would be comfortable traveling in your RV even in the winter, you can start to look along those roads for camping opportunities.
You might not be able to find a *warm* destination for your winter RV trip, but you can look for spots that will at least be more comfortable than others. Often, if you head toward the coast you can find more moderate temperatures during the colder months of the year. Camping near the coast – if that is possible based on where you live – can also be fun for those who enjoy a good storm while they are out with nature. Areas inland, and at higher elevations, are likely to be colder during the winter months, so they should probably be avoided for most people (unless snow is what you are looking for!).
Stick Closer to Home
When you plan a big summer vacation in your RV, you probably look for places that will allow you to put some miles on the RV and get a good distance away from home. That could mean you are overlooking fun places to camp that are within just an hour or two drive from home. Winter just might be the perfect time to try out these campsites that you would otherwise drive right past. Shorter drives are great for a quick weekend trip so you don’t have to spend too much of your time on the road. Also, staying close to home provides you with a better opportunity to bail out of your trip and head back home if the weather doesn’t cooperate and you end up stuck inside the RV.
Most likely, you will always use your RV more in the spring and summer than you will in the fall or winter. However, don’t rule out taking an off-season trip just because the temperatures have dropped a bit and the clouds have come back. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your RV outside of the summer, starting with the quick tips above. To find your own perfect winter camping spot, do some homework and pinpoint a few options within a short drive of your home. If you get a chance to visit them all over a period of time, you will hopefully uncover one or two hidden gems that you will choose to return to year after year.
There are a lot of features that you need to research before buying an RV if you want to make a good decision that will work out in the long run for you and your family. The length and type of RV, the number of people that it can accommodate, the kitchen and bathroom facilities, and more all have to be taken into consideration. Another element that sometimes is overlooked – but is very important – is the gas mileage that you will get from your new RV. Gas mileage is an important element in the overall cost of ownership of the RV, beyond just the purchase price and any insurance costs.
It Matters for All Kinds of RV’s
It is pretty easy to evaluate the gas mileage that a Motorhome will get, as that information should be provided for you by the manufacturer or the dealership – much like when you purchase a car. However, it can get a little bit trickier if you are buying a trailer or fifth wheel to pull behind your existing truck. You might know what kind of gas mileage your truck gets currently, when not pulling anything, but what kind of mileage will it get with the trailer hooked up? That is an important question that you need to find an answer to.
Even though the dealership selling the RV doesn’t necessarily know the specifics of your vehicle and its performance, they are still a good place to start for this information. People who work at an RV dealership will be knowledgeable in a lot of areas related to RV’s, and will have had to answer this question many times before. If you can provide information about the current gas mileage of your truck, the salesperson at the RV dealer can likely give you a good estimate of what to expect when pulling a given RV.
Add Up All Costs
The reason it is important to consider gas mileage is that you need to understand and be prepared for all costs of RV ownership, not just the purchase price. Beyond the cost of buying the RV, things like insurance, maintenance, storage, and gas mileage all should be taken into consideration. Once you have the full picture in your mind of what it will cost you to own and operate the RV, you can better decide if it is something that you can afford of if you should consider a smaller and less expensive model. This ‘number crunching’ might take a little effort upfront, but it will be well worth your time before you commit to a purchase.
Think About Where You Drive As Well
Gas mileage depends mostly on your vehicle and the RV, but it can also be influenced by where you drive most of the time. If your trips consist mostly of freeway driving on open roads, you should be able to get the possible gas mileage from your vehicle. However, if you are frequently driving up into the mountains on steep, winding roads, expect to fall well short of your mileage expectations. This isn’t necessarily a reason to completely change your RV purchase plans, but it is just another minor factor to add in to the overall equation.
Use the Internet to Your Advantage
When trying to get the information you need regarding gas mileage, the internet can be a great resource. Search for the exact vehicle/RV combination you are thinking of using and you can probably find estimates on gas mileage from people who already are using that same setup. Their real world experience can be very useful to you in finding out if the numbers you have come up with will actually be realized when you start out onto the road for your first trip.
Gas mileage might not seem like a huge factor in the grand scheme of buying an RV, but it can play a big role in how much the rig costs to operate on an ongoing basis. Those who like to take long trips across several states should be particularly concerned about gas mileage as the price of filling up the tank time after time can really add up. Try to find the best combination of reasonable fuel economy along with the model of RV that you are looking for to end up with an RV that you love.
When you finally complete the long drive to your campsite and have the RV backed into the space, all you want to do is relax, get some food cooking, and start enjoying your vacation right away. There will be plenty of time for those activities for the rest of your trip, but for now, you need to make sure to get the RV leveled so it can serve as a good home-base for the rest of the vacation. Leveling your RV is something that you will probably get better at with experience, but there are a few tips that can help you get on the right track quickly.
Once you have taken the time to get the RV leveled, you should be able to enjoy your time sleeping and relaxing inside the rig without feeling like you are living on a slant!
Have the Right Gear
I think every RV traveler, at one point or another, has used the pop-can-on-the-floor trick to figure out if the coach is sitting level or not. While this might be a handy little trick, nothing works quite as well – or as accurately – as an actual level. Make sure to have at least one level with you for the trip, and two would be even better. As soon as you back into your spot, you can set up the levels and get a good idea of just how far off you might be. From there, the adjusting can begin.
Leveling blocks are the next piece of the puzzle that you should have along for the trip. Once the levels have done their job of telling you which direction the RV needs to be tilted in order to find a level position, you can use the leveling blocks to actually make it happen. There are many different brands of leveling blocks available on the market today, and you can find them in RV stores or, of course, on the internet. Also, something called a wheel chock is another good piece of gear to have along. This is a block that gets placed behind or in front of a wheel to make sure it doesn’t roll off the leveling blocks. Place the chock on the opposite site from the leveling block so you can secure the wheel and keep it from rolling when it’s not supposed to.
A Little Trial and Error
No matter how much you practice the art of leveling your RV, there is always going to be a little trial and error involved. No two campsites are identically alike, so you will need to keep checking the level and making adjustments until you are satisfied with the position of the rig. It helps to have a good set of leveling blocks that give you some flexibility so you can make small tweaks as the process moves along. It might be frustrating to spend some of your time on vacation worrying about getting the RV level, but it will be worth it once the job is done.
Lower the Jacks
Your RV should have stabilizing jacks installed that can be lowered to give the RV a solid footing for the duration of your stay – if it doesn’t, consider having them installed. There are both electronic jacks, as well as hand-crank models available. You shouldn’t be using these jacks to level the RV as much as just to stabilize it so there isn’t much movement while you walk around inside. For this reason, try to get the leveling done right first, then put the stabilizing jacks down and settle in.
It isn’t much fun to try and sleep in an RV that isn’t level, so take the time to get the job done right before you start enjoying your trip. Just like anything else when you travel, preparation is the key. If you have the right equipment, and understand the process of leveling the RV before you ever arrive at the campground, you will be ahead of the game. If you wish, you could do a dry run at home practicing getting the RV level using your blocks and wheel chock. Even after just doing this a couple of times, you will probably find that the job is pretty simple and you should be able to get it done in a matter of minutes when you reach your vacation destination.