2023 Newmar RV Preview!

We’re excited to take you through the impressive new 2023 Newmar RVs! Angie from NIRVC takes you through a video tour of the latest models.

2023 Newmar RV Models

We have all the details on the new 2023 Newmar coaches. Click on a model below for details and pictures of the just-revealed 2023 Newmar RVs! If you have questions or want to know more, contact us!

2023 Newmar Bay Star

2023 Newmar Bay Star Sport

2023 Newmar Canyon Star

2023 Newmar Dutch Star

2023 Newmar Essex

2023 Newmar King Aire

2023 Newmar Kountry Star

2023 Newmar London Aire

2023 Newmar Mountain Aire

2023 Newmar New Aire

2023 Newmar Ventana


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RV Electricity 101 – Part 1 An RV Owner’s Guide to RV Electrical Systems

Understanding the basics of RV electrical systems is important to every RV owner. The electrical system of a motorhome can be quite complex, involving 12 volt DC battery power as well as 120 volt AC power. It’s unavoidable that issues will occur from time to time but many of these can easily be corrected by the RV owner with a basic understanding of electricity. Without this knowledge it can be a daunting task to track down and correct any electrical issues but knowledge is power (pun intended) so this tutorial will help you to better understand how your motorhome functions by teaching you the basics of electricity and how to apply that to your motorhome.

This information is a bit much to cram into one installment so this month’s article will be part one of a three part installment. This month we’ll cover the basics of electricity itself as well as how your breaker panel is wired. Some of this stuff might be a bit of a yawner but we first need to learn some of the basics before we get into how to wire the space shuttle. Next month we’ll make it more interesting as we move on to batteries, generators, transfer switches, inverters and other electrical components. The third and final installment will cover more advanced components such as solar power, surge protection and energy management systems. At the conclusion of this series you’ll have a better understanding of your motor coach’s electrical systems and be capable of handling minor repairs on your own or knowing when to take it to a service center for professional help so be sure to mark your calendar and tune in for the whole story.

What is Electricity?

In short, electricity is energy. You can’t really see it, which can make it a bit harder to understand, but you can see the effects of it in operation. Stick your finger in a lighting socket and you’ll know what I mean. It may help to think of it in the same manner as a fresh water system. Your water system has pressure, measured in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch), and volume, measured as GPM (Gallons P{er Minute). Electricity also has pressure, which is expressed as voltage, and volume, which is expressed as amperage. In order to run a sprinkler you need a certain PSI and flow rate (GPM) to make it function. In order to run an electrical component, such as a motor or lighting fixture, you need a certain voltage and amperage to allow it to operate. As the flow rate of water increases you’ll need a large diameter pipe to handle the increased water flow. As the amperage in an electrical circuit increases you’ll need a large wire gauge to handle the increased amperage so once again we can see similarities between the two systems.

To make a light bulb burn or an electrical motor work we need to pass it some electrons. As these electrons move through our device, commonly referred to as an electrical load, the energy from these electrons will cause that device to do whatever it was designed to do – light up, make toast, or motorize something. To simplify this think of an electron as giving a “high five” to the light bulb every time it passes by. Each time it does that the bulb lights up for a brief instant. Now, line up a whole bunch of electrons in a row and pass them all by the light bulb giving a series of “high fives”. Now you have a light bulb that stays lit until someone shuts off the switch and stops the parade of electrons past the light bulb. In a nutshell, this is how electricity works. It works in the same manner for light bulbs, heating elements, magnets, motors, etc. But to keep it simple I’m going to simply refer to light my bulb illustrations in this tutorial.
Now that we see that electrons passing through the bulb causes it to light up the next thing we need to understand is that this electron doesn’t die after it passes through. It still retains its energy so it can be used over and over. That’s the reason why you can string a chain of light bulbs together in a row and they’ll all light up. The electrons don’t wear out. But in order to make electrons move we need to create a path for them to follow. This can’t be a dead end. Let’s go back to the “water” analogy for a minute to help illustrate this. Let’s assume that we have a pool of water with a submersible water pump located in the middle of the pool. We attach a hose to it and turn on the pump. The water flows out the open hose and returns to the pond. We now have a fountain

But, if we cap off the hose and turn on the pump, nothing comes out. We have no water flow and our fountain no longer works. The same thing holds true for electricity. If we take a battery and connect a wire from one terminal to a switch, and then to the first terminal of a light bulb we basically have the same thing as the capped off hose. The electrons have no place to go so our light bulb doesn’t light up. When we attach another wire to the light bulb’s second terminal and connect it to the other post on the battery we now have a complete circuit because the electrons now have a complete path to follow and can comfortably parade around in a circle, causing the light bulb to remain illuminated as long as we don’t open the circuit by removing the wire or opening the switch. When a circuit is complete it is commonly referred to as a closed circuit. If we open a switch or break the loop somehow, as in a bad connection, it is considered an open circuit and nothing will be powered up.

Because electrons don’t die after passing through a device, they can be used over and over. You just have to keep them moving. In the case of the battery they simply return to the battery by following the closed circuit, or loop. But there are two kinds of electricity – Alternating Current, commonly referred to as AC, or Direct Current, commonly referred to as DC. In the above example of our battery, we were using DC current because DC current is what batteries produce. In DC, we send the electrons down a wire and then return them to the battery. They always go in the same direction – out one way and back the other which is determined by polarity.

Polarity is like a magnet, which has a north and south pole. The lines of magnetic force flow from one end to the other and always in the same direction. Technically electrons flow from negative to positive, which can be confusing because 99% of the automotive electrical systems currently (no pun intended) in use connect the power leads to the battery’s positive terminal then onto the light bulbs and accessories and then to the vehicle’s frame as a ground, which is connected to the battery’s negative terminal to complete the loop. The advantage of using the frame as a ground is that you don’t need to run dozens of ground wires back to the battery to complete the circuit. You use short jumper leads to the frame and then the vehicle’s frame carries the current back to the battery, as long as the frame is made of a conductive metal to conduct the electricity. Because the battery’s negative terminal is connected to the frame ground, the battery current actually flows to the frame first, then to the light bulb, then to the switch, then to the fuse, and finally to the battery’s positive (hot) terminal. But, it really doesn’t matter which direction the electrons flow as long as they flow. So, just to make this easy to understand we are going to talk about electricity as if it flows from positive to negative. For a quick history lesson – many of the older vehicles did have a 6 volt positive ground system until 12 volt negative ground systems replaced them in the 1950s.

AC Versus DC:

Battery powered circuits will always be DC as were the very first generators. A battery always has a steady “push” of current. If you were to look at it on an oscilloscope you would be seeing a straight line extending across the screen someplace above the center line. The actual height of this line will vary according to what the voltage is. A DC generator isn’t the same though. Because you have an armature rotating inside a housing with two field magnets you have a pulse every time the armature coil passes a field coil and a dead spot when it’s in between field coils. On an oscilloscope this looks very much like a bunch of waves on the top of the ocean with gaps in between. DC current isn’t all that efficient which is why the automotive industry dropped DC generators in the early 1960s and went with alternators to deliver more power. An alternator produces AC current and then uses diodes to rectify that into DC current. Let’s look at a waveform comparison of both AC and DC current to help understand the differences.

AC Versus DC

Waveform comparison of both AC and DC

In the above illustration we have the AC waveform on the left and the DC waveform on the right. Voltage is plotted vertically and identified as “U” on the graph so the higher the waveform, the greater the voltage. Time is plotted horizontally and identified as “R” on the graph. We can see a large gap between the two “humps” on the DC graph. That’s when the armature is in between the field coils and the generator isn’t producing any power. This is a characteristic of a DC generator. The graph on the left shows an AC waveform. In this case positive polarity is above the center line while negative polarity is below the center line. You get twice the power pulses, or “humps”, in an alternator as in a DC generator by eliminating those gaps between the humps. Adding built-in diodes to an alternator will rectify this current into DC current so that it can supply power to recharge the battery. The result is that an alternator is capable of higher outputs than a DC generator, especially at low RPMs, such as during engine idle time. In the case of 120 volt high voltage systems the devices are all designed to run on AC power so there is no need to rectify this current to DC. The only reason we still need to convert AC to DC in an automotive application is because you cannot mix AC and DC current. Automotive applications rely on a battery to provide power to crank the engine, provide extra reserve capacity when the alternator isn’t quite enough to meet temporary high demands, and to power accessories when the engine is not running.

We mentioned the word “polarity” earlier. Polarity refers to whether or not a pole is positive or negative. We learned earlier that electrons flow from negative to positive so on a DC circuit they always flow in the same direction. A true AC circuit, such as a 120 volt AC circuit, has polarity that constantly shifts, or alternates. That’s why it’s called “Alternating Current”. Remember the earlier analogy of the parade of electrons passing by and giving a series of “high fives” to the light bulb in the DC circuit? In an AC circuit the electrons are constantly changing (alternating) direction. It’s as if they take one step, turn around and come back one step, then turn around and take that same first step over again – and repeat this little dance forever as if they really can’t make up their mind, sort of like a squirrel crossing the street in front of a vehicle. However, these electrons don’t die once used so as long as an electron passes by the light bulb, it will light up. With AC current it’s the same electron, rather than a parade, but it’s just dancing back and forth underneath the same light bulb filament. All the other electrons just act as a push-pull chorus line directing the movement of that electron. Therefore polarity really doesn’t exist in an AC circuit, unlike in a DC circuit, because it’s constant changing. You still need to have a complete circuit, just as in a DC circuit, but there is no positive or negative labeling involved. In a DC circuit the positive terminal is typically referred to as “hot” while the negative is called “ground”. In an AC circuit it’s still advantageous to refer to the wires by names so these terms are replaced by “hot” and “neutral” because there is no polarity and the higher voltages present require insulated return lines rather than a frame grounding return.

Amps, Volts and Watts:

Voltage is the force or pressure exerted upon the electrons to get them moving. As the voltage increases, so does the ability to make power. Low voltage doesn’t have very much force, which is why you can touch a small 9 volt battery with your finger and not even feel it. Touch it to your tongue however and you’ll know whether or not it’s dead because the current will flow through the saliva on your tongue, completing the circuit more easily than on your dry finger. Up that voltage to 120 volts and you’ll be the one that’s dead rather than any battery. Higher voltage is necessary to overcome the resistance in the conductor. Conductors such as copper wire are a great choice for wiring due to its low resistance and is commonly used in electrical circuits.

Wire is used to conduct electricity to where it is supposed to go but in order to contain that electricity inside the wire it needs to be insulated. The insulation needs to be capable of preventing any short circuits between the inner conductor and anything that it passes nearby. As the voltage increases, the quality of the insulation also needs to increase. Automotive wire is commonly called low voltage wire because it’s good for handling 12 to 24 volts but it won’t contain a higher 120 volt current. High voltage wire, as used in residential construction, is available in two versions. The full version is rated at 600 volts while the junior version is rated at 300 volts. Either will work for a 120 to 240 volt AC circuit but the 600 volt wire has a thicker insulation capable of containing a higher level of voltage than the junior version. High voltage wire can be used in a low voltage situation but low voltage wire can never be used in a high voltage situation.

Voltmeter

Voltmeter

Voltage is measured by a voltmeter, which can be a dedicated unit mounted in a panel or a hand-held multi-meter. Voltmeters that are mounted in an RV are a single function display while the vast majority of portable test equipment is found in the form of a multi-meter, which combines voltage with other measurements, such as amperage, resistance, etc. This popular item is really something that every RV owner should have in their toolbox because it can be useful in many different situations.

Whereas voltage represents how hard the “push” is upon the flow of electrons, amperage represents the actual volume, or “quantity”, of electrons in that flow. This is measured by an ammeter that can either be mounted into an RV control panel or it may be part of a portable multi-meter. Amperage is current flow and just like water flow, it needs an adequate sized conductor or “pipe” to flow through. The larger the flow, the larger the pipe diameter needs to be. Wire is measured in Wire Gauge sizes, sometimes referred to as American Wire Gauge (AWG) when sizes are given. The wire diameter gets smaller as the number gets larger, so a #16 wire is smaller in diameter than a #12. When you get to large diameter cables, such as used for batteries or welders, you’ll eventually run out of numbers at zero. At that point you start doubling digits so a #00 cable is larger than a #0 cable but smaller than a #0000 cable. After that it gets more complex but we don’t need to go there because RVs don’t have that large of wiring and #0000 is as large as you’ll ever see.

Wire gauge size has nothing to do with voltage. All it’s concerned with is the amperage, or current flow. But, as we previously mentioned, the insulation value is voltage sensitive. This means that a #0 battery cable designed for 12 volts will not have sufficient insulation to contain a 120 or 240 volt current so it is not to be used for high voltage applications. Both a high voltage and low voltage cable of the same diameter will be able to safely pass the same amperage but not the same voltage.

Now that we know what voltage is and what amperage is we now need to see what the relationship is between them and why we just don’t have one voltage to run everything so as to keep it simple. That’s where wattage comes in. Wattage is the result of multiplying amps times volts. In other words a light bulb that consumes 5 amps at 12 volts is a 60 watt light bulb, because 5 times 12 equals 60. Wattage is considered True Power and that’s the part that is important because it’s wattage that performs the work, not amperage or voltage. Let’s look at a high voltage application as an example.

We’ll assume that there is a device, such as a shop air compressor with an electric motor that needs 3,600 watts of power to operate. If we want to plug this into a 120 volt wall outlet we will first need to find out how big of a circuit we need to run it. We know that amps times volts equal watts therefore watts divided by volts will give us amps. By dividing 3,600 watts by 120 volts we see that we will need a 30 amp circuit to run this unit. The typical duplex receptacle uses a #12 wire with a 20 amp circuit breaker so that’s not going to happen because the circuit breaker will trip whenever the compressor is turned on. We either need to supply it with a larger #10 wire outlet and 30 amp breaker or change the parameters of our equation. We can do this by changing the voltage. If this motor happens to be a dual voltage motor we can rewire the air compressor’s motor so that it runs on 240 volts, which will reduce the amperage running through the compressor. Using our formula once again we can divide 3,600 watts by 240 volts and we now see that we only need a 15 amp circuit, because 3,600 divided by 240 equals 15. By doubling the voltage we’ve effectively cut the amperage in half. Remember that the motor doesn’t need amperage to run. It needs wattage to operate.

Another benefit to increasing the voltage and reducing the amperage is that we can reduce the wire gauge size down from a #10 wire to a #14 wire because the wire gauge is not interested in voltage, only amperage. This is the reason why utility companies move huge amounts of current through 40,000 volt wires and then step it down to a more useable voltage via transformers and sub-stations. If they ran everything through at 120 volts the wire diameters would probably be the size of a freight train. Yet high voltage requires serious insulation, which is why those huge glass insulators are used on utility poles. Those just aren’t practical for wiring inside an RV so lower voltage insulated wires are used to make the system more manageable.

If you are or were a Trekkie you may recall hearing the Borg saying “Resistance is futile”. But that doesn’t apply to electrical systems because resistance in an electrical circuit plays into every situation when dealing with electricity. We can measure resistance with an ohmmeter or calculate it with a simple equation.

The most commonly used formula in basic electricity is called Ohm’s Law, which is named after the German physicist Georg Ohm. It simply states that E = I * R, or Voltage (E) equals Amperage (I) times Resistance (R). Resistance is just a measurement of how hard it is to pass electricity through something. It’s measured via an Ohmmeter or multi-meter and expressed in Ohms. A 2×4 hunk of wood has extremely high resistance so wood does not make a very good conductor of electricity. Silver is the best but for obvious reasons (cost) it doesn’t get used very often except in computer processors. Copper is the most popular conductor and the majority of the wiring out there will be copper because it has low resistance and is more affordable than silver. If we add a tungsten or nichrome wire to our circuit, it will have higher resistance but it will still conduct electricity. As current passes through a tungsten wire that resistance will cause it that wire to glow if it is kept in a vacuum or surrounded by an inert gas therefore it will make a good light bulb filament. Nichrome is commonly used as a heating element, such as in a toaster.

You will have less light or heat output as the resistance increases. For example, a 60 watt light bulb running on a 120 volt circuit consumes 0.5 amps (60 watts / 120 volts = 0.5 amps). Using Ohm’s law we see that the resistance equals voltage divided by current (amperage) so our light bulb has 240 ohms of resistance (120 volts / .5 amps = 240 ohms). If we look at a brighter 150 watt bulb we see that it needs 1.25 amps to run (150 watts / 120 volts = 1.25 amps). Using Ohm’s law we get 96 ohms as the resistance (120 volts / 1.25 amps = 96 ohms). This shows us that we get more light (wattage) out of a higher flowing filament with less resistance than with a high resistance lower flowing filament. That’s also the reason why brighter light bulbs don’t last as long as those of lower wattage. Their thin filaments that give them greater illumination aren’t as durable.

This formula can also be used for testing other components. You can use these formulas to determine if an electric heating element, such as a hot water heater, is functioning as it should. Simply find the wattage of the water heater and divide that figure by its voltage to get its amperage rating. Then take the voltage, divide it by the amperage to get what the resistance of the water heater element should be. Then test the element with an ohmmeter to see what it reads. It should be reasonably close to your calculations. If not, your element isn’t heating as it should and probably needs to be replaced.

Resistance also affects voltage. The AC components in your RV are designed to operate on 120 volts. There is some tolerance, plus or minus 10%, but if the voltage goes higher or lower than that you can damage your equipment. If you run too much current through too small of a wire or cord, the voltage drops. Using Ohm’s law we can understand why. Let’s assume we have a 100′ long #12 gauge cord which has a resistance of 6 ohms. This is capable of passing 20 amps of current at 120 volts (120 volts / 6 ohms = 20 amps). When we try to pass 30 amps of power through this cord, which is only rated for 20 amps, we get a voltage drop because the extra current cannot overcome the resistance. We would need a larger #10 gauge cord with 4 ohms of resistance in order to pass 30 amps of power. If we try to pass 30 amps through the smaller cord the voltage will drop and the amperage will rise. This will cause the cord to heat up, possibly starting a fire. For this reason circuit breakers must always be sized for the proper size wire gauge and never replace with a larger breaker than that wire can safely handle.

Are you bored yet? Now we’ll start getting into a bit more information specific to an RV.

Split Phase:

Most larger motorhomes now come with a 50 amp service while older motorhomes came with 30 amp services, as do many of the smaller towable RVs. Over the years a lot of amenities have been added to motorhomes. As washer-driers, multiple air conditioners, larger refrigerators and other large accessories are added the power requirements also increase. But not every RV park has upgraded their electric supply to accommodate today’s electrical demands. Sometimes certain areas are set aside with 50 amp service while others still have 30 while some parks have upgraded their power grid properly. Because there needs to be compatibility with all RVs a multi-outlet pedestal is usually installed that will supply a 50 amp service, a 30 amp service, and even a 20 amp duplex receptacle for the smallest power requirements. A cutaway image of a typical power pedestal is shown below.

Power Pedestal

Power Pedestal

In the above pedestal image we can see three separate outlets. From left to right they are 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp. Each receptacle has its own dedicated breaker sized for that particular outlet. This gives the RV owner the choice of choosing whichever outlet they need to best match their RV’s electrical service. But, before we delve into the available services we first need to understand what a split-phase service is.

split-phase service

When you create electrical power there is always a pair of windings in the generator that power is taken from. This is true whether it’s a small portable generator, a large diesel powered RV generator, or a huge megawatt generator at your local power utility. These two windings are connected together in series and a tap is run into their common center connection. In the above diagram we can see that the ends of these windings are identified as L1 and L2. The common center tap of these two windings is identified as N while L1 and L2 are the hot leads brought into your breaker panel at home and each is generally referred to as a “phase”. The N is the Neutral wire that goes to the neutral buss connection in your breaker panel. This is exactly the same way that your RV’s breaker panel is configured. If you put a voltmeter across lines L1 and L2 you’ll see 240 volts. But if you test L1 to N or L2 to N you’ll see 120 volts. Your breaker panel at home is wired so that every other slot is on a different phase and most RV breaker panels are wired the same way. The hot lead runs to whatever device you have on that circuit and the white neutral wire returns back to your panel’s neutral buss bar so that you have a completed 120 volt circuit. If you put a two pole breaker in you’ll be grabbing one of each phase so that 240 volts is sent to and from that device. 240 volt devices don’t require a neutral wire because the power runs from L1 to L2.

So just how does this power flow? Earlier we talked about how AC power just shuttles back and forth. Well, all of the power in this panel leaves one phase and returns to the other. This is easy to understand if it’s a 240 volt load because the power leaves L1 and goes to L2 but it’s not as readily apparent when on 120 volts because the neutral can be misleading. With 120 volt circuits the power leaves one breaker, for example the L1 pole, and travels to the load. It returns via the white neutral wire to the neutral buss bar. If this is the only thing running in that panel the current will then get drained back to the power utility via the service’s neutral wire. But, if there are loads running that reside on the other side of the breaker panel, then this is not true.

Electricity always follows the path of least resistance. In the case of an electrical service it always tries to go between L1 and L2 whenever possible. If you have a 20 amp load on a 120 volt L1 breaker and a 15 amp load on a 120 volt breaker on L2, 15 amps of power will shuttle back and forth between them, using the Neutral buss bar as a connector between them. They will be in balance and your ammeter will read 20 amps when testing on L1. When you test on L2 you’ll see 15 amps showing on your meter. If you were to clamp your meter onto the neutral wire you would see 5 amps displayed because the neutral wire only carries the imbalance between L1 and L2. If you had 20 amps running on each phase you would see zero amps on the neutral line. That’s because the AC power tries to shuttle back and forth between L1 and L2. That is what is called a balanced load. You try to achieve this when arranging your breakers in the panel because it minimizes the current flowing through the power company’s electric meter but that’s not always possible. If everything was on one side you’d be pulling 40 amps on one phase, zero on the other, 40 amps on the neutral, and 40 amps on the electric meter so you try to balance things as much as possible.

Now that we know how the breaker panels are normally set up and how the power company sends its power we need to figure out how this relates to our RV. RV’s rarely have any 240 volt items in them. Many of the larger RVs have 50 amp services, which are a 120/240 volt split phase system. But before we look at the 50 amp service let’s first look at the 30 amp service.

30 Amp Service:

A 30 amp RV service is really just a glorified 120 volt single pole outlet. Electrical outlets are labeled with a NEMA code designation and the 30 amp outlet used in RV pedestals is designated a NEMA TT-30R and the plug is a TT-30P. The TT stands for Travel Trailer and is an RV specific receptacle so you won’t be finding this outlet in any residential environment. The P and R stand for Plug and Receptacle respectively. This is a 3 prong plug that consists of a 120 volt hot wire, a neutral wire, and a safety ground wire. The 30 amp RV receptacles do not use GFCI protection. If you have an older or smaller RV you most likely have a single pole 30 amp breaker panel where everything is on one phase. There’s no need to split breakers on a 30 amp panel because there is only L1 and 120 volts present. If you need to plug in at a location where there is no 30 amp RV style outlet you can buy a 15-to-30 plug adaptor at any RV dealer that will adapt your 30 amp RV plug to a standard 15 or 20 amp duplex receptacle. This is the way that RVs were made for many years but with today’s modern amenities it has become necessary to increase the power supply to the newer coaches. Keep in mind that 30 amps times 120 volts equals 3,600 watts and that is how much “stuff” you can operate until you run out of power.

50 Amp Service:

To facilitate the larger loads placed upon the newer RVs the 50 amp service was brought to the RV world. Whereas the 30 amp service was a 120 volt service yielding 3,600 watts of power, the 50 amp service is a 120/240 split phase service. The split phase service means you have two 120 volt 50 amp poles, which gives you a total of 12,000 watts. So the perceived increase from 30 to 50 doesn’t sound like very much but the real increase from 3,600 to 12,000 puts it into a more realistic perspective. Keep in mind that this assumes that you can utilize both of the two 50 amp poles effectively by balancing your load. If all of your loads are on one side of the panel you’ll only be using one 50 amp pole, which means that you can only get 6,000 watts. So, it is important to split your loads and balance them between both phases on the breaker panel in order to get maximum capacity

Very rarely will an RV have any 240 volt loads. Some RVs may have 240 volt stackable clothes driers or an electric heating element of some sort but it’s rare. Still, the ability to split the load among two poles means that each pole can handle 50 amps. If all of the circuits were placed on a single phase, as in the 30 amp service, then you would need a 100 amp service to provide that same amount of power. That would require some massive wiring to the pedestal and also some very fat and heavy power cords to the RV. A 50 amp split-phase system lets you get that higher wattage with a smaller #6 gauge wire. But what happens when you have an RV with a 50 amp power cord but the campground only has a 30 amp service at the pedestal?

30-to-50 dogbone adaptor

30-to-50 Dogbone Adaptor

At times it becomes necessary to power an RV with a 50 amp service when there is no 50 amp NEMA 1450R receptacle available. Unlike the 30 amp NEMA TT-30R, the 50 amp outlet isn’t an RV-only receptacle so it can be found in residential and industrial applications as well and has a 4 prong outlet that has two hot wires – L1 and L2, as well as a neutral and ground wire. Any RV dealer or RV accessory store will offer an adaptor that is commonly referred to as a 30-to-50 dogbone adaptor, which is illustrated above. This adaptor will let you adapt your 50 amp plug to a 30 amp so that you can plug your 50 amp RV into a 30 amp RV receptacle if that’s all that is available. When you do this you’ll be limited to 30 amps of power though. The dogbone adaptor will connect the single 120 volt hot pole to both the L1 and L2 inputs of your RV’s 50 amp breaker panel. When you do this you will have the same phase across L1 and L2 so there will be no 240 volts available. But, seeing as how 99.9% of the RVs made don’t use anything with 240 volts that’s not a problem. In this situation all of the power will be going down the neutral wire. But, you are only sending 30 amps to the panel and your neutral wire is rated to handle 50 amps so you’ll be fine. You will have to be careful to manage your loads when running on 30 amps. If you fire up all of your air conditioners and water heater you are going to trip that 30 amp pedestal breaker real quick so you have to watch what you turn on. You can also add a second adaptor to change the 30 amp down to a 20 amp plug if you have to but then all you’re going to be able to do is keep the batteries charged and maybe run a few lights.

That’s it for this month. Be sure to check out next month’s installment that covers transfer switches, generators, batteries and chargers, and low voltage circuits. We’ll explain how they work and how to test them should something fail.

RV Road Trip: How We Survived Our First Epic 21 Day Adventure

Meet NIRVC’s new blog contributor – Sherri Caldwell!

Hello, NIRVC Family! My name is Sherri Caldwell, a full-time RVer from Oceanside, CA… and Atlanta, GA… and Seattle, WA… 

And, most recently, from Orlando, FL, currently heading toward the AIM Club Rally: California Dreamin’ in San Diego, CA.

I am super excited to be guest-blogging RV Lifestyle features for the NIRVC blog and AIM Club. I look forward to sharing RV adventures and discoveries with you, and meeting YOU out there, on the road!

My husband, Russ, and I are living, working, and traveling the U.S. full-time in our 2016 Entegra Aspire 40P Class A “Diesel Pusher” Motorhome: Charlie-The-Unicorn RV. With Starfish, our 2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, in tow.

I feel compelled to point out right here, right now: Sadly, we did not buy our Entegra from NIRVC, although we definitely will when we’re ready to upgrade. (Shh! Don’t tell Charlie! ❤️ ) Quite simply, we didn’t know about NIRVC when we found Charlie-The-Unicorn in August 2020.

We came into the NIRVC family more than a year later, through the Service Department at NIRVC Atlanta, which is a whole ‘nother story. For another time.

Suffice it to say, after our extraordinary experience with NIRVC, compared to our original dealership, we are Raving Super Fans for National Indoor RV Centers and NIRVC Atlanta.

I just want to be clear: The dealership mentioned, but not named, in the article below was not National Indoor RV Centers.


RV Road Trip: How We Survived Our First Epic 21 Day Adventure

Whether you are a seasoned RVer, a brand-new owner, or “just looking, thank you” – you know the RV industry, RV travel, RV life has changed dramatically over the last two years.

With the unprecedented surge in RV sales, interest, enthusiasm, and rampant desire to get out there, it’s a whole different scene at the dealership, on the road, in the parks, campgrounds and resorts.

There are a lot more RV newbies out there— have you noticed?

While we still have the fresh perspective of first time RV buyers, I want to share the adventure (and terror) of picking up a new or new-to-you motorhome and hitting the road on your shakedown cruise – nostalgia for some, inside peek or preview for others.

Over 21 days, we learned at least one critical lesson every single day of our adventure. Since I don’t want to overwhelm or scare anyone, I’ll summarize and preface with just three:

Top 3 Surprising Lessons Learned On Our First RV Road Trip:

  1. Your RV is not trying to kill you (or maybe it is)
  2. WalMart can be an RVers best destination???
  3. Best way to learn? Get in and GO! (With plenty of Google and YouTube research first and all along the way ;-))

Join us on our very first RV adventure, driving our new-to-us 40-foot Class A motorhome halfway across the country…

We survived — and so can you!

By August 2020, our pandemic / Working From Home / travel shutdown response to the pandemic, living downtown Seattle in a high-rise: 

We bought a big RV!!! (Basically, a 400-square-foot condo on wheels.)

A beautiful 2016 Entegra Aspire 40P Class A Motorhome.

We bought the Entegra, during the height of the pandemic, online, sight unseen (except for several video walk-thrus and independent inspection), through RV Trader, from a large, reputable dealership in Orlando, FL. 

I mentioned we lived in Seattle, Washington. 

With Covid surging nationwide at the time, the dealer offered to transport and deliver the RV to their furthest-west dealership, in Des Moines, IA.

Six weeks later, when the deal was finally done, we rented a car, packed it with all the starter RV equipment & supplies, and drove to Des Moines from Seattle. 

We took delivery, and managed to get ourselves, and the RV, back to Washington State. 

It was our very first RV road trip, our first time driving an RV, other than a brief test-drive of a 2015 Aspire at an outdoor RV Show in Tacoma, WA (which is how we discovered and fell in love with the Entegra Aspire – our unicorn RV).

This article is all about our first-ever epic RV Road Trip as complete newbies — here we go!

Day 1 – RV Buyers Remorse?

9/28/2020 – Des Moines, IA: Prairie Flower COE Campground

Text to Full-Time RV Friend – 9:30 p.m.:

OMG. We’re going to get better at this, right?! We’re in the RV, at a nice COE (Corps of Engineers) campground somewhere outside of Des Moines. It’s been a long day, with our first solo drive-away from the dealer in Des Moines, IA. They’ve been  great. We screwed up and didn’t realize this campground is electric only. No water at campsite?!

We are learning things. I’ve been good all day, but now I’m having a panic attack – WHAT DID WE DO??? And how are we going to get all the way back home to Seattle? 

Full-Time RV Friend:

Hahahaha. That’s what holding tanks & dump stations are for! You’ll be fine! Do you love it? 

10:06 p.m.:  I love it.

____

After a rough first day, we got settled very late at the COE campground. Russ learned how to back the RV into place quickly. Of course, both times he parked, he had people come up behind him on the one-way road. He did great. Fortunately, most people in an RV campground are very understanding and supportive. 

We accidentally set the RV alarm off twice, at 8:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

Leaving the dealership

We stayed at the RV dealership until about 3:00 p.m. Video walk-thru with our Florida salesman and tech. Follow-up with local tech & service department.

The people at Des Moines were great, to a point. We had a lot of questions they really worked to resolve. But didn’t. 

The biggest one was a bedroom slide-out that wouldn’t fully extend out and fall into place. It was off by only about an inch or so. They reassured us it was nothing to prevent safe travel or create any problems.

Their advice was to drive it and the slide would “probably” fall into place. It didn’t. But it got us off the lot.

RV newbie campground mistakes:

Our biggest mistake (first day): We reserved a space in a lovely Corps of Engineers campground — $22 per night – with 50amp electric service, but no water at the site! Or sewer. This could get messy.

Which made it really freaking hard (turns out: impossible) to flush, sanitize, and fill the 100-gallon fresh water tank.

We spent nearly the entire night trying to sanitize and flush the fresh water tank, which is A Process, especially with no water at the campsite. In the rain.

(Windshield wipers broke on Russ’s first drive out of the dealership to the campground. In the pouring rain. On the interstate, in fairly heavy rush-hour traffic. On his own. I was leading in the rental car, but hadn’t yet figured out how to be a good pace car. But I digress.)

At the campground, we put out the slides. Did it fix the bedroom slide? No, it did not. 

  • Leveled with auto leveler (not level).
  • Plugged into power, which we figured out by reading the owner’s manual. 
  • Settled in for an uneventful night. (Except for the accidental alarm at 1:30 a.m.)

Whew — What a day!

Day 2 – Learning to Drive

Des Moines, IA: Griff’s RV Resort

What a weird thing, to wake up at 5:30 a.m., in Iowa, in our very own RV.

Yesterday was crazy: exciting, frustrating, overwhelming, scary… by 11:00 p.m., I was ready to give in to a full-blown panic attack:

WHAT HAVE WE DONE??? (And were we crazy to do it?)

The next morning, we left the campground early for a last run to WalMart for supplies. (Who knew, by the end of our three-week adventure, WalMart would be our new best shopping destination. Trust me, there are reasons!)

After the WalMart run, it was time to return the rental car in Des Moines.

RV Killer RV
I think our RV is trying to kill us.

Even in retrospect, Day 2 was the scariest day of all. I was driving the rental car, trying to get it turned in before the deadline. I waited for Russ at the entrance of the campground, but I figured he was okay, and I went ahead. Big Mistake.

By the time I finally got to the rental agency across town (not in the best part of Des Moines, IA), I had no idea where he was in the 40-foot RV.

I walked across the street to a QuikTrip to scope out a place where he could pull over to pick me up. Plenty of room. I called his cell phone, one of the most frightening conversations of my life.

I could barely understand him over the noisy connection, but he was as near to a panic as I’ve ever heard my typically calm, laid-back hubs: 

“Something isn’t right”

He pulled up to the gas station and I got on board. It was quickly apparent that there was something seriously wrong with the RV. 

As if suddenly, there were no shock absorbers or stabilizers anywhere on the 40’ chassis.

The entire RV was literally leaping and rocking dangerously, exaggerated in slow motion: forward and back, side to side. Bunny hopping, porpoising. It was like trying to ride a bucking bronco. A really angry bronco, trying to kill you. It was terrifying.

Somehow we made it to the closest campground we could find with all of this going on. Fortunately, we were still in Des Moines, still close to the dealership. We called and told them we would be back first thing in the morning.

Safely parked for the night.

Once we were able to calm down, we were able to assess the damage and research what could have caused the chaos.

With full hook-ups at the RV park, we were finally able to finish the fresh water tank prep.

Knock on wood, we had not had a sewer disaster. Yet. (I was still kind of afraid to use the RV toilet — not sure what I could do in the RV, what I could safely use, when: water, bathroom, appliances, lights, etc.) 

We broke out the new Blackstone Griddle we’d brought all the way across country in the rental car. Grilled steaks. Yum.

We made the steak into awesome fajitas, made possible with the discovery of fresh squeeze Guacamole at the WalMart. (Who knew?!) 

After such a harrowing day, with a good dinner and adult beverages, we finally started to figure things out.

  • We went through the rig and documented all the things that were not quite right with our gently-used five-year-old motorhome.
  • We made a punch list for the dealer, under their 30-day warranty.
  • We thought maybe we’d even figured out the bucking bronco situation.

–> I’ve learned, after a lifetime with mechanical things, and humans, too: sometimes you just need to turn things off and give it a rest, to re-set.

Day 3 – Our Epic RV Road Trip Begins

Onawa, IA: On-Ur-Wa RV Park

Text to Mother-In-Law / RV Mentor – 8:12 a.m.:  

We made it! Two nights in, still in Iowa, FSO (figuring stuff out). It’s an adventure, for sure. So far, so… well, it’s a shakedown/learning cruise. We’ll try to check in soon. Love, S&R 

IOWA IS WINDY!!! 

____

FSO – Figuring Stuff Out

We took our first RV showers, before heading out early to wait for the dealership to open. 

It was an uneventful morning drive to the dealership. Our bucking bronco was under control. We hung out at the dealership for a couple of hours. Ultimately, they were not able to get us in for service. (By late September 2020, the surge had already begun.)

We were able to confirm the problem from the day before, which Russ had already researched and figured out online, having to do with air pressure and getting to ride height. Everything was okay again.

Ride Height is the setting for the air suspension on your chassis. Ride Height is very, very important.

After consulting with everyone in Des Moines, and our salesman in Florida, we were advised to head home to Seattle. Everything was safe and drive-able, in good working order.

Except for the windshield wiper. They ordered the parts for us, shipped to Seattle.

Under the 30-day warranty, they agreed to fix all of the relatively minor issues we had listed, working with a partner dealership or RV service in Washington State.

I was more than ready!

“Let’s just GO!”

We made it 176 miles to Onawa, Iowa. A small campground just off the interstate, behind a gas station/convenience store and a Dairy Queen.

We carried a bag of garbage all 176 miles because we forgot to dump it on the way out of the campground in Des Moines. (Don’t do that.)

Day 4 – RV Road Trip: Return To Start

Des Moines, IA: At the Dealership 

Text to non-RV Friend – 3:33 p.m.: 

Well… we WERE on the road. And everything was great today. It still is (finally), but dealer called and wants us back for warranty work, instead of sending us back to Seattle. Long story. All good. So we’re driving back four hours now to get it done. 

Shakedown cruise– it’s been an adventure! Stressful at times, but we love the rig and we’re going to ENJOY THE ADVENTURE!

____

Back where we started, at the dealership in Des Moines. Staying overnight inside their lot. Locked in. Nobody else around but the security guard, and us.

All good. 

Day 5 – RV Dealership Problems

Onawa, IA: On-Ur-Wa Campground (again)

Facebook post:

RV Adventure Update (Day 5): After another day in Des Moines, walking the cornfields to search out Margaritas (fab Mexican food in Iowa, who knew?!), and then discovering the horse track/casino for a couple hours to pass time… dealership didn’t fix a single issue: “Need parts.” 

All fairly minor issues (except for one). We drove away.

Gotta get out of Iowa. They’re sending parts to Seattle. We’ll figure it out. 

We shouldn’t even need that other windshield wiper, right?!

Day 6 – RV Campgrounds in South Dakota

Mitchell, SD: Dakota Campground

To RV Friend – 7:22 a.m.: 

5 days in — steep learning curve. Driving home without windshield wipers. We’re  going to stay in South Dakota Mon – Fri next week so Russ can WFH (Zoom & “green screen” (a bedsheet)). LOL. He did manage to set up great mobile internets. This is going to be interesting.

10:35 p.m.: 

We are all good. The dealer is fine. We’ll work it all out. We are having fun and very excited. Problems could be so much worse.  

Today, we banged up our $500 rear rock guard (hangs down below rear  bumper). Our fault, learning curve. That’s the biggest expense/problem so far. Meh. We’re still rolling! 

To Rapid City, SD tomorrow. For the week! Then to Spokane, WA for the next week! Home 10/18.

Day 7 – RV Resorts in South Dakota

Spearfish, SD: Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort

Text to Mother-In-Law / RV Mentor – 2:45pm:

The Adventure is exhausting & stressful at times. Watched Russ crawl under the back end and rig up our Entegra rock guard. He’s pretty amazing! 

At least 3 new “learning experiences” every day so far.  

It’s a lot like driving away from the hospital with a brand new baby. We don’t know what the heck we’re doing. A lot could go wrong. 

Mother-In-Law’s advice: 

Trust us, it will mellow out, just not for a while. But that’s where all the fun is. You weren’t hoping for a boring life were you? 

Day 8 – RV Internets & WFH – Working From Home

Spearfish, SD: Elkhorn Ridge

Monday – 7:45 a.m.:  

I woke up feeling so much better today. I spent much of yesterday with a headache, backache, and WORRYING ABOUT EVERYTHING. Second-guessing all of this. 

Today is better. 

Russ is back to work. On Zoom. 

First thing we did last night was test the internets. We seem to be doing okay (running Google Internet speed tests for download & upload speeds). A little tenuous with the upload speeds, maybe. Unfortunately, that is the most important thing for Zoom calls. 

It’s going to be fine.

We are at a lovely campground in Spearfish, SD, about half-hour past Rapid City.

NON RV-Friendly Adventures On The Way

We checked out several campgrounds between Rapid City and Spearfish, got lost on a dangerous NOT RV FRIENDLY road searching out a KOA…

Lost and dangerously off the RV friendly route…

We discovered Deadwood, South Dakota in the mountains. Very cool old gold rush town, revitalized and very active with trendy (touristy) restored buildings, shops, bars, and restaurants. The Old West, updated.  

We couldn’t stop, lost in the 40-foot beast. There was no place we could have safely pulled off to park. We can hardly wait to come back with a “toad” (tow vehicle hooked up to the back of the RV) so we can get out and explore! 

Day 9 – RV Support: Programs & Memberships

Spearfish, SD: Elkhorn Ridge

To Full-Time RV Friend – 8:45 a.m.: 

Thanks for all the info & support. Our first week was crazy & scary with what we didn’t know. The worst was riding around our 2nd day in a 40-foot bucking bronco because we hadn’t filled the air pressure to ride height. Bashed up our rear Entegra rock guard plate. Russ had to jerry-rig it up with new bolts & links at a Menard’s parking lot in Mitchell, SD. 

____

So many little things to learn with water and tanks and toilets and electrical. 

And… the washing machine doesn’t work! No power. The dryer works. We suspect there’s a blown fuse inside the washer, which is a hassle to repair or replace, apparently.

So I’m at the campground laundry today.

Thoughts on RV Programs & Memberships

  • The several Good Sam campgrounds we have stayed at have been terrific. The KOA here was more expensive than the resort we ended up at for the week. Variable by location, I know. 
  • We’ve been using RV Life for “RV-friendly” GPS & campground info. Super helpful, when we follow the GPS. We haven’t figured out their Trip Wizard trip planning & routing thing online, which is part of the membership. We will. (Next road trip!) 
  • The Entegra Owner’s Group on Facebook has been a godsend!!!

It’s all good. We have so many little things to resolve and figure out.

RVs in general seem a lot more delicate than I expected — so many things! 

Quote from my Full-Time RV Friend:

RV’s are delicate but they also survive dozens of earthquakes all day while you drive. I’m honestly surprised more doesn’t happen.  

Day 10 – Uneventful Work Day in the RV!

Spearfish, SD: Elkhorn Ridge

Incredible sunset walks around the extensive resort property. There is a trail out into the fields, bison on the horizon. The trail goes around a mile or more to the gas station / convenience store at the exit from the Interstate. Deli & wine cellar — great selection of goodies. Life is good.

Day 11 – We’re Doing This!

Spearfish, SD: Elkhorn Ridge

Early October in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is gorgeous & warm. So very peaceful.

Still FSO (Figuring Stuff Out), but we haven’t had any “special learning experiences” since Tuesday!

We’ve enjoyed staying in place for a few days. Russ’s Zoom Seattle background & internets are working out great.

I’ve been organizing, decorating, and managing life/work stuff, trying to finish two October books for Book Group(s) next week (via Zoom!).

All good… until we get home and can fix the windshield wipers… and the washer/fuse issues… and the fresh water tank/city water valve on the water thing, and… oh, the rock guard thing that hangs down below the rear bumper… yeah. Small things!

Day 12 – RV-Friendly WalMart

Buffalo, WY: Indian Campground

We checked out of Elkhorn Ridge early on Friday. Drove to a WalMart parking lot off the Interstate and set up the internets, so Russ could finish his Zoom calls for the day, without the interruption of 11:00 a.m. check-out at the campground.

That’s the great thing about WalMart (and no, I can’t believe I’m saying this): They are definitely RV-friendly, catering to traveling shoppers:

  • WalMart locations all over the country, easy access from the Interstates.
  • Enormous, well-lit and marked parking lots make it easy to navigate and park large vehicles.
  • Many WalMarts allow overnight parking for RVs, if you check with local management.
  • WalMart offers a full grocery store and everything else, including many specialty RV parts & supplies.
  • Because you’re going to be in the store spending money at some point, they don’t mind if you park for a couple of hours. Or several.

Which is what we did.

It worked out great: I shopped and stocked up on supplies for the next week, while Russ finished his calls for the day (good internet access, too!).

With our late afternoon start, we ended up at an overnight campground (not a WalMart — we’re not that brave yet!), right off the Interstate in Buffalo, WY.

Turns out, they were closing for the season the next day, so everything was pretty much shut down, which was fine for the quick overnight.

Day 13 – Our RV Road Trip Continues… & Harvest Hosts!

Bozeman, MT: Sentinel Alpaca Ranch

So… Harvest Hosts!

  • RV Camping At 2594+ Wineries, Breweries, Farms and More!
  • A membership program that invites self-contained RVers to enjoy unique overnight stays.
  • FREE* OVERNIGHT CAMPING at some of the coolest, most unique destinations you can imagine across country!

*FREE overnight camping, but you agree, as a member, to support these small businesses in exchange, by touring the property, enjoying a meal or entertainment, or buying something (a bottle of wine/beer or other products available: farm fresh eggs & produce, alpaca yarn products!) — depending on what they offer, of course.

Sentinel Ranch was our first Harvest Hosts experience. We were a little nervous:

  • The locations can be a little off the beaten path, to get to the farms, wineries, and other amazing places.
  • “Self-contained” = Boondocking. 
  • You take your garbage with you when you go.
  • Without hook-ups, the RV is basically a very complex tent.

Boondocking or “dry camping” means surviving overnight in your RV without any hook-ups (electric, water, sewer). You rely on your batteries, maybe a generator (if you have one and if it’s allowed), your own tank of fresh water, and gray & black water tanks.   

Gray water = everything that goes down the sink or shower.

Black water = everything that goes down the toilet. 

____

5:30 a.m. trip to the bathroom:

All was quiet. One bathroom accent light. And all the chargers, silently charging iPhones, watches, iPads & my Kindle, sipping away on battery power, with a little auto-boost from the generator every once in a while, when the house batteries got low. 

Day 14 – Casino Campground (NOT a Harvest Host)

Spokane, WA: Northern Quest Casino

After spending the morning with the Alpacas at Sentinel Ranch, we drove out with a huge load of Alpaca products from their gift shop (over $100 in Alpaca yarn socks, hats, dryer balls(!), and gifty things for Christmas presents).

Destination: Spokane, WA to see our daughter!

We reserved a campsite at the Northern Quest Casino — a brand-new campground area next to the enormous casino property.

Casinos, like WalMart, often have free overnight parking available, for their clientele who will be spending money in the casino or lounges. It’s generally “rough” parking (boondocking, as described above) and the casinos often require the purchase of resort credits, or enrollment in the casino club card program, in exchange for free parking.

Not being gamblers like that, we opted to stay & pay in the campground — a manicured and landscaped property, with big, paved spaces and full hook-ups. Very clean, very nice, very expensive (relatively). No gambling required.

Because the campground was so new, there were no trees or other windbreaks, on a very windy, open plain. Adding to the general turbulence, an ambulance, lights and sirens blaring, arrived in the middle of the night at the site across from us.

Russ slept through it. I did not.

Day 15 – RV Laundry Day

Spokane, WA: Northern Quest Casino

Northern Quest Casino Campground does have a brand-new laundry room: Very fancy. Very expensive.

By lunchtime, there were weather warnings of extreme winds in the area overnight and through the next day.

It was time to move somewhere else.

Day 16 – Changing Locations

Spokane, WA: Deer Park RV Resort

Thanks to Good Sam and suggestions on our Entegra Owner’s Facebook Group, we discovered Deer Park RV Resort, just north of Spokane — on a golf course!

Day 17 – LP = Liquid Propane

Spokane, WA: Deer Park RV Resort

I think our RV is trying to kill us – 2.0

It may be because I’ve been reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson for Midtown ATL Book Group (spooky!), but I think the RV may have tried to kill us last night (again!):

3:00 A.M. LP GAS ALARM!!! — for no apparent reason. (LP gas was OFF & the alarm cleared immediately when re-set.)

Russ says it was trying to protect us. I slept (eventually) with all the windows open.

Trying to get used to all of this.

Day 18 – RV Life

Spokane, WA: Deer Park RV Resort

I’m still asking my hubs dumb questions:

  • Is it okay to use the bathroom?
  • Can I flush the toilet?
  • Can I use the sink?
  • Can I open the refrigerator?
  • I don’t want to mess anything up.

Case in point: closing the bathroom door at a rest stop (trapping a fly).

I closed the mid-ship bathroom door during travel to trap a fly. The door was stuck closed for the rest of the day. (Thankfully, I wasn’t inside the bathroom, with the fly.) We had no access to the set-up panel when we parked for the night. Frantic Facebook (Entegra Owner’s Group) & Google research. We did eventually get it open.  

So much to learn. 

So much can go wrong. 

The stress of being homeless — having to find a place to park every night, preferably an hour before dark, with time to set everything up. 

Barely functional right now (me, not the RV). 

Day 19 – Harvest Hosts #2

Quincy, WA: Trinity Gardens Lavender Farm

RV Adventure Day #19 – I can’t believe we’re suddenly near the end of our epic RV Road Trip. On our way home. Two more nights.

We left Spokane & Daughter this morning. Such a great visit! She tested our guest bed — need a mattress topper on the fold-out.

“Ran a few errands” in the 40-foot RV (including WalMart!).

Today’s Special Learning Experience: “RV Friendly” GPS sending us over the RR tracks on a Dead End road.

Russ is an amazing RV driver. 

(We almost died. Again. 3rd time.)

Parked tonight at Trinity Gardens Lavender Farm in Quincy, WA on the Columbia River Gorge. Incredibly beautiful, very windy!

Day 20 – The Last Night of Our Epic RV Road Trip

Anacortes, WA: Fidalgo Bay RV Resort

We have discovered our RV Happy Place in Washington State.

We didn’t think this type of beach campground even existed in the Seattle area, after preliminary research and driving around over the last couple of months.

We found Fidalgo Bay RV Resort by mistake.

We stopped at an RV service facility in Everett (north of Seattle), to see if they could help with any of the issues and concerns on our new-to-us RV punch list. Not sure how that will all shake out, but the people there were super helpful, so we asked a lot of questions, including:

“What’s your favorite RV campground in the area?”

They highly recommended a casino campground near Anacortes, which is about 90 minutes north of Seattle.

The casino campground was FULL!

So we checked out our handy-dandy RV Life app, and it showed this campground, just four miles up the road.

We called: one space available. Yay! On the water, lovely Fidalgo Bay.

It was perfect for the last night of our epic RV Road Trip.

Day 21 – Home Again, Home Again

10/18/2020 – Snohomish, WA: Snohomish Storage

21 days. 2000 miles. 3 near-death experiences.

And we managed to back-in to our very skinny covered storage space in Snohomish, WA, 40 minutes from home.

Are we intermediate level RVers yet? (Still far from “expert,” but we’re working on it!)

Text to Full-Time RV Friend – 7:48AM: 

#1 – I don’t know if I can live like that full-time??? It feels like I would have to give up so much… stuff. It’s just stuff. Do you have a  storage unit for your stuff?

#2 – I am going to have to learn how to drive a 40′ RV. I thought: no problem! Little old ladies drive school buses. And RVs. My dad was a truck driver! But I got spooked out there. I didn’t drive it. Not at all. Russ is an excellent RV driver, and he likes it. I know I have to learn. 

I’m trying to catch up on this new life, after 23 days away, with 6 months to prepare for another major-major life change… maybe going full-time???

Yes, I’m having fun. I love it.


Sherri Caldwell is the founder of BooksAndTravelUSA.com – Full-time RV Travel Blog & Book Club/U.S. Literacy Project. With her husband, Russ, she is currently living, working, and traveling full-time in their 2016 Entegra Aspire 40P: Charlie-The-Unicorn.

DEF Head Issues? Everything RVers Should Know About DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid).

The EPA has authored numerous regulations in vehicle emissions levels in an effort to improve the quality of the air we breathe. Increased regulations on diesel engine emissions are one area that has affected owners of diesel powered motorhomes since 2003. The EPA 2007 regulations were a big change requiring ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel and the addition of a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) to the exhaust system to reduce the level of soot in the exhaust.

The next big step was the Tier IV EPA 2010 emissions standards which took effect for the most part in model year 2011 motorhomes. These regulations were a significant step in reducing pollutants from diesel engines and required some major changes in the design of diesel engine emission systems. The prevalent method of achieving this was Cummins’ implementation of Selective Catalytic Reduction technology, commonly referred to as SCR. In addition to the Diesel Particulate Filter, SCR technology adds more complexity to the emissions system but significantly lowers emissions below the EPA 2007 specifications.

The SCR aftertreatment system resides above the muffler on the exhaust manifold side of the engine.
The SCR aftertreatment system sits above the muffler on the exhaust manifold side of the engine.

The SCR system adds a decomposition reactor where Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is injected into the exhaust stream where it forms ammonia vapor. The ammonia and nitrogen oxides in the exhaust flow together and pass into the SCR Catalyst, where they react to form nitrogen and water vapor and reduce emissions to near-zero levels. SCR is aftertreatment technology so it destroys these harmful emissions after combustion, which gives the engine manufacturer the ability to fine tune their engines to produce maximum power, efficiency and fuel economy. Other than clean exhaust, the biggest impact upon coach owners is the necessity of having to maintain a supply of  DEF in the coach’s storage tank .

However, changes to the EPA requirements in 2017 have resulted in a large number of issues involving failed DEF sensors, resulting in forced engine shutdowns that have caused major downtime and cancelled trips for some owners. Before we get into the specifics of that and how to deal with it, let’s first begin with a better understanding of the components of this system and DEF itself.

Refilling a DEF tank from a 2-1/2 gallon jug.
A shot of refilling a DEF tank from a 2-1/2 gallon jug.

What Is DEF?

Diesel Exhaust Fluid, or DEF, is a product designed exclusively for use in diesel engines using SCR emissions technology. It’s basically a non-hazardous solution of 32.5% urea and 67.5% water. It’s clear and colorless and has a slight smell of ammonia. DEF isn’t something you can make yourself and engine manufacturers specify that any DEF used should by certified by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the same people who rate engine oils and other petroleum products. The API has a Diesel Exhaust Fluid Certification Program that allows DEF producers to display the API certified label on their DEF packaging.

The production of DEF is governed by the ISO 22241 standard. This ensures that DEF is produced with an exacting 32.5% urea concentration. This concentration is also designed to offer the lowest freezing temperature of DEF, 12o F. Contaminated fluid can damage SCR injectors and catalysts so the level of impurities is limited to strict tolerances and DEF quality is also monitored. Urea used in manufacture of fertilizer is not allowed and only distilled or deionized water may be used in DEF production. Even the containers are regulated by ISO 22241 because DEF is corrosive to carbon steel, copper and aluminum so these containers may not be used. If your DEF container bears the API DEF Certification Mark, you can be assured that the product meets the ISO 22241 standard and is safe to use in your vehicle.

Just how much DEF your coach will use varies with the size of the engine and how hard you are working the engine. A common statement is that DEF usage will equal 2% of your diesel fuel usage but this is just a generalization. Lighter RVs with small displacement engines that are driven more leisurely have seen figures as low as 1.5% while larger heavy coaches with the 15 liter X series engines have gone as high as 4%, depending on how hard you are working the throttle and how much weight you are towing.

Instrument panels include a DEF level indicator
Instrument panels include a DEF level indicator as well, such as this common 4 LED bar graph display built into the fuel gauge.

Handling DEF

DEF isn’t overly difficult to handle but there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Bulk DEF is available at truck stops from dedicated DEF pumps located on the driver’s side fuel island, oftentimes right next to the diesel fuel pump and located behind a rubber flap to prevent freezing in cold weather. DEF is also available in 2.5 gallon containers at auto parts stores, gas stations and most large retailers, such as Wal-Mart. As long as the container bears the API Certification Label it will meet the ISO 22241 standards so paying more for certain name brands of DEF won’t give you a better quality of DEF. It’s only ammonia water and doesn’t contain additives like a sophisticated engine oil or high tech lubricant.

DEF can evaporate if stored at high temperatures for prolonged periods because it is 67.5% water but field tests have shown that there isn’t a significant risk of evaporation from DEF tanks as long as you keep your tank or container securely closed. DEF does have a shelf life of two years but this can be reduced if the DEF is exposed to direct sunlight or if the temperature remains above 86o F for sustained periods. DEF packaging does have an expiration date so keep that in mind if you plan on stocking up on DEF. Ideally your DEF should be stored in a location where temperatures do not drop below freezing or exceed 85 degrees and will be consumed within one year of purchase.

DEF Tank
The tanks are equipped with a blue filler cap that is appropriately labeled. The filler necks are designed to prevent the larger sized diesel fuel nozzles from accidentally being used in these tanks.

DEF is always stored in its own tank and should never be put into a diesel fuel tank nor is diesel fuel ever to be put into a DEF tank. Fortunately there are a few safeguards in place to help prevent this from happening. Diesel fuel nozzles are 0.87” (22mm) in diameter while DEF nozzles are 0.75” (19mm) in diameter so this should prevent anyone from accidentally inserting a diesel fuel pump nozzle into a DEF tank. DEF tank caps are also blue in color to help identify them and separate them from diesel fuel tank caps. Diesel fuel is lighter than DEF and will float on the top of the DEF if it somehow managed to get into the tank but even a small amount of diesel fuel will damage the SCR system so do not run the engine. Instead, call a service center immediately and do not drive the vehicle until they remove the diesel fuel from the DEF tank.

On the other hand it is possible to insert the smaller DEF nozzle into a diesel fuel filler neck. If this happens, do not start the engine. DEF contains 67.5% water and this can have disastrous effects if mixed with your diesel fuel, including exploding fuel injector tips. If this happens, do not drive the vehicle and call for help to have the fuel system drained or cleaned to remove the DEF. Some bulk DEF pumps have magnetic switches built into the nozzle to help prevent this from happening. The DEF tank has a magnet placed in the filler neck that allows the DEF nozzle to open up and dispense DEF. The nozzle will not allow any flow without that magnet, such as when inserting the DEF nozzle into a fuel tank filler. However, not every DEF pump has these magnetic switches and neither do any of the 2.5 gallon jugs so you do need to pay close attention to which tank you are adding DEF to.

DEF is not hazardous to handle but it can stain clothes if you spill any on your clothing. If you do spill any DEF on your clothing just wash it away with water. If you spill a small amount on the ground just rinse it with water or wipe it up with a paper towel or rag. Once any residue dries out it will turn to crystals, which can also be rinsed away with water. As mentioned earlier, DEF can be corrosive to carbon steel, copper or aluminum so if you spill any on those metals you may want to rinse that off fairly quickly.

Pump DEF nozzles
Pump DEF nozzles are stored behind a rubber flap to help keep it from being confused with diesel fuel nozzles and to help prevent it from freezing.

DEF In Your Coach

Now that you know what DEF is let’s take a look at how it is implemented in your coach’s emissions system. It begins by storing the DEF into the typical 10 to 15 gallon polypropylene storage tank, which is required in order to prevent corrosion between the DEF and any metals. There are limits on the length of the hoses that connect the DEF tank to the engine’s emissions systems so you’ll find the tank located at the rear of the coach on a diesel pusher chassis or at the front if a front engine vehicle such as a Super C or Sprinter type chassis. Most side radiator chassis don’t have enough room to place the DEF tank on the driver’s side of the coach so the tanks will be located on the curbside. Unfortunately, pump DEF at truck stops is always on the driver’s side to accommodate the driver’s side DEF tanks on trucks so this doesn’t work well for an RV but in recent years the chassis manufacturers began to add additional driver’s side DEF fills to make it more convenient for a motorhome owner to use pump DEF when refueling. This does require moving the coach forward after pumping fuel so that the pump nozzle can reach the driver-side DEF filler at the rear but this a small inconvenience that is worthwhile because it allows you the ease of refilling your DEF tank and receiving the bulk pump price versus the higher cost of retail DEF jugs.

DEF freezes at 12o F so it needs to be kept warm enough to allow tit to flow. The engine’s cooling system passes heated engine coolant through a heating element in the DEF tank to warm the DEF enough to allow this to happen. In extremely cold temperatures the DEF will not initially flow until the heat in the engine coolant has warmed up the DEF, which happens fairly fast, and the emissions controls will allow enough time for this to happen without throwing an error code. Whenever the engine is shut down you may hear a buzzing noise coming from the rear of the coach. This is an electric purge pump that will run for approximately 60 seconds and will drain all of the DEF from the hoses and return it to the tank to prevent any freeze damage to the lines and valves should the temperature drop below freezing. DEF expands about 7% when frozen so you also need to keep a bit of air space above the DEF in the tank to allow for expansion during cold weather. The filler neck in DEF tanks is generally low enough to prevent over-filling but if your curbside tank also has a second driver’s side filler cap you will want to keep an eye on this. Don’t fill it all the way up or else the DEF won’t have room to expand and damage will occur.

DEF Tank Cap
The tanks are equipped with a blue filler cap that is appropriately labeled. The filler necks are designed to prevent the larger sized diesel fuel nozzles from accidentally being used in these tanks.

The DEF is then sent to a dosing valve. This valve is electronically controlled and sprays DEF into the decomposition chamber, which is located immediately after the Diesel Particulate Filter, and is both a filter and a catalyst that removes carbon particles from the exhaust gas and traps them into a wall flow filter. At the same time nitric oxide in the exhaust gas is then converted to nitrogen dioxide in the diesel oxidation catalyst. As the nitrogen dioxide flows through the wall-flow filter it reacts with the carbon to produce carbon dioxide. As the exhaust flows out of the DPF and into the decomposition chamber a light mist of DEF is sprayed from the dosing valve into the decomposition chamber. It then forms ammonia through a series of chemical reactions. Together, the NOx and ammonia pass from the decomposition reactor to the SCR catalyst chamber where they react to form nitrogen and water vapor. The end result is exhaust with near zero emission levels.

DEF is a critical component and without it your emissions system will not work. EPA requires that the vehicle emissions system must be fully operational at all times so certain safeguards are put in place to ensure that you cannot continue to operate the vehicle without DEF. To ensure you know how just much DEF is in your tank, a DEF gauge will be located on the instrument panel. In most cases this is a series of four LED bars built within the diesel fuel gauge. Four green bars will be displayed whenever the DEF tank is fuel. Three green bars indicate ¾ full while two green bars indicated ½ full and one green bar indicates ¼ full. Once the level of DEF in the tank reaches 10% that last green bar will turn to amber. Typically the LCD Information Center on the instrument panel will display a “LOW DEF” warning in addition to displaying a warning icon on the panel. The vehicle will continue to operate normally but if you have allowed the tank to get this low this is the point where you really need to consider how soon you can add more DEF to the tank. If you continue on without adding, the amber LED bar will turn red when the DEF level in the tank reaches 5%. The Information Center will now display “ENGINE PERFORMANCE DERATE EMMINENT”. You now have very little time left to add DEF before your engine derates. Once the level drops to 3% the display changes to “ENGINE PERFORMANCE DERATE ACTIVATED” and your engine will be derated and there will be a 25% reduction on its torque output. You’ll still be able to limp off the road at reduced power but you’ll still be burning DEF as you do so and the next step is the final step.

DEF filter location
The DEF filter is located at the rear of the DEF tank at the very bottom. Access to the DEF filter is gained by unscrewing the removable round filter cover.

Once the DEF tank gets down to 0% the red LED bar remains illuminated and the Information Center now displays “SPEED RESTRICTION ON. DEF REQUIRED”. Engine torque will now be limited to 60% and the vehicle speed will be limited to 5 MPH. That’s enough to pull off to the side of the road but you will need to fill the DEF tank to at least 10% in order to drive to a location where you can top off the tank. Carrying a 2.5 gallon jug or two of DEF as a safety precaution can be a wise choice, even if you normally refill with pump DEF at truck stops.

DEF systems aren’t high maintenance. If you store your coach over a longer periods of time or run the engine for very short and infrequent runs your DEF can get old and beyond its shelf life. In that case the best practice is to drain the DEF from the tank and replace it with fresh every year. There is a DEF filter located near the bottom of the DEF tank. This filter should be replaced every 200,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. The filter is easily removed with a 1-1/16” 12-point socket and extension. If the cap wasn’t excessively tightened you may be able to remove the DEF filter cap with a channel-lock pliers without damaging the cap. The filter is at the base of the tank so you’ll be looking up at it. Just be sure that you are off to one side when you remove it because a bit of DEF will dribble out of the filter housing. The actual Cummins DEF filter is a small cartridge filter and comes with a small tool to help yank the filter out of the housing. This filter is sometimes forgotten by owners when servicing their chassis but a plugged or restricted filter can lead to a failed DEF pump, which is a more expensive repair, so do not neglect this filter.

Cummins DEF filter and tool
The Cummins DEF filter includes a small removal tool to aide in removing the filter from the housing.

DEF Sensor Issues

The DEF head is inserted into the top of the DEF tank. The head consists of the DEF pickup tube, the engine coolant heater tube and the DEF sensor. The sensor was originally designed to sense the level of DEF in the tank but in 2016 the EPA mandated that new sensor designs were required that also detected the concentration level of DEF to ensure that owners weren’t diluting their DEF with water and rendering the emissions system ineffective. These sensors showed up mainly in the 2017 model year coaches. Unfortunately, while the original 2016 and prior year sensors were trouble-free, these new sensors began failing at a rapid rate. In particular, the sensors used in the Spartan chassis had the most failures. These sensors were made by Shaw and had issues where the electronic circuit board had failed, which was determined to be heat related due to the close proximity of the engine’s exhaust system as well as the fact that hot engine coolant was constantly circulating through the DEF head.

When the sensor failed the engine would shut down, typically displaying one of the following fault codes showing abnormal update rates:

            SPN 3364 FMI 9 (Cummins Fault Code 3868) –DEF quality

            SPN 1761 FMI 9 (Cummins Fault Code 4677) – DEF tank level

            SPN 3031 FMI 9 (Cummins Fault Code 4572) – DEF tank temperature

These codes were designed to detect weak DEF, low DEF level or DEF that had been overheated in the tank. If the sensor chip fails any one of these fault codes may appear, even though there is nothing wrong with the DEF itself. But the faulty sensor will derate and eventually shut down your engine.

The Shaw sensors were revised over time but the newer revisions still had issues and as of generation 6 there were still continuing failures and many RVs were sidelined due to a lack of replacement sensors, mainly due to the electronic chip shortage affecting the automotive industry in general in addition to the time involved in developing a new chip revision. The EPA began working with Cummins to allow an industry-wide software solution to allow vehicles with failed sensors to operate temporarily until replacement parts are available. But the EPA and Cummins haven’t yet determined how soon this software update will be available so a few RV owners simply took the initiative and developed the software to create a DEF sensor simulator.

This simulator was a small electronic piece that is used to communicate with the ECM in place of the faulty DEF sensor. You simply unplug the 4 conductor harness from the DEF sensor and connect it to the simulator. The simulator is designed to provide normal readings to the engine’s ECM so that it can continue to operate without shutting down by transmitting normal readings to the engine’s ECM. The caveat to this simulator is that you no longer have any information as to the level of DEF in the tank so you needed to physically monitor the level of DEF in the tank. However, it allowed the owner to operate the vehicle and complete the trip rather than be sidelined. The system will still meter DEF to the SCR so the pollution abatement portion of your emissions system will still operate as designed.

The simulator is a DIY home build operation if you are handy with electronics. Check out https://defsim.myervin.com/def-sensor-simulator-quick-build for instructions on how to build this if you are interested. The software is offered free of charge. You just have to buy the components you need, download the free software to its chip and build it yourself. While it is illegal to modify a vehicle’s emissions system in an effort to defeat the DEF system, this simulator does not defeat the emissions operation so is therefore not illegal. It’s strictly a temporary way to operate your vehicle until it can be properly repaired whole still retaining full emissions capability.

Shaw’s latest generation 7 sensors began to arrive around May of 2021 and as of this writing there don’t seem to be failures with these sensors so it’s quite possible that this issue is no longer a concern. However, having a simulator on hand may just be the insurance you need to keep your motorhome operating should a failure occur.

Which RV Class is Best for You?

Not all RVs are created equal. The perfect adventuring companion for one RVer might feel clunky or limited to another. A family that enjoys the practical coziness of a Class B RV might not get the same benefit out of riding in a roomy Class A RV—and vice versa!

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a weekend warrior or a regular cross-country adventurer: the RV lifestyle has something to offer you. There’s a sense of freedom and authenticity that comes from seeing America (or the world beyond). By picking the right RV type, you can ensure your trip is off to the best possible start before you’ve even left your driveway.

Read to the end for a link to a downloadable NIRVC motorhome buyer’s guide with in-depth RVing 101 videos from NIRVC’s Angie Morell.

In the meantime, here’s the best RV class for you …

… If You Mainly Do Weekend Trips

You’ve got a lot of options to choose from for weekend trips! Which RV can depend on how much time you plan on spending inside once it’s parked at a campsite. RVers who want to spend time inside, watch some TV, and do some cooking will likely benefit from a Class C RV or Super C RV—both of which offer ample space to lounge around while remaining relatively easy to maneuver in and out of campsites.

Meanwhile, Class B RVs are perfect if your adventures are mostly happening outdoors. These compact RVs are often called camper vans or sleeper vans for a reason: they offer a reliable place to sleep and little else. While many provide indoor cooking spaces and bathrooms, they’re an incredibly affordable and practical option for drivers who are planning outdoor activities.

… If You’re Planning a Cross-Country Adventure

Making long-distance trips requires a combination of space and practicality. On the one hand, having enough room to stretch out and relax is vital for recharging after long distances on the road. On the other hand, larger RVs come with trickier considerations for driving and parking, and this can be a hassle if your trip includes mountain roads.

Class C RVs are the most reliable if you’re planning to go coast-to-coast. They offer enough amenities to maintain a comfortable life on the road while their truck chassis provides an accessible, maneuverable drive.

… If You Want to Live in Your RV Full-Time

This one can also vary, both on what the terms of your living condition are and what you’re planning to get out of life in an RV.

Life on the road full-time is possible in any size of RVs, but smaller ones can start to feel cramped, fast. A Class A RV means you’ll never have to worry about space, comfort, or features, but it does mean some parts of the country can be frustrating to drive through during the winter months. Meanwhile, a Super C RV might not offer as much space, but it more than makes up with extra flexibility and maneuverability.

… If You Want to Travel Like a Rockstar

This one is easy: pick a Class A RV. No other class of RV offers the same degree of luxury and amenities as these palaces-on-wheels. Each one is a comfortable, completely self-contained living situation, meaning you’ll never have to worry about feeling cramped, bored, or restless on the road.

… If You’re Traveling for Work

From indie musicians to nature photographers, Class B RVs remain the favorite for professionals on the go. While picking one means making a few compromises in sleeping space, they’re incredibly easy to get on (and off) the road, which can make a huge difference for a professional on-the-go.

SUMMARY:

Of course, no two RVers are exactly alike. Every person gets something different out of adventures on the road, which means a different type of vehicle best suits every person. That’s why there’s no substitute for taking the time to explore the ins and outs of your prospective RV to understand the unique advantages of your vehicle. There’s also no substitute for having an RV expert on your side when you’re shopping for one.

National Indoor RV Centers would love to be your go-to resource for all things recreational vehicles. Our staff of certified RV Lifestyle Specialists will work with you to find the best possible ride. We don’t just get people on the road, we keep them there with a full suite of RV maintenance, storage, and detailing services.

Download Angie’s NIRVC Motorhome Buyer’s Guide below.

Then jump on our website and search our inventory today at NIRVC.com or call 800.250.6354 to begin the next chapter of your RV journey. See you soon!

The Dos & Don’ts of RV Campgrounds!

Visiting an RV campsite in your fancy new RV is easily the best way to camp. The awesome part about RV parks is that they offer something for everyone, meaning everyone can get their own unique adventure out of them. Some campers prefer to spend quiet evenings watching the stars while others are focused on perfecting their grilling skills. There’s no single right way to camp, meaning RV campsites offer plenty of flexibility!

That said, your neighbor’s sense of adventure might be completely different from yours, and it’s important to respect that. To that end, here are the unspoken rules of RV camping.


NIRVC PRO TIP!

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out two of the four RVing 101 videos that Angie created for tips & tricks around Setting Up and Taking Down camp at an RV campground:


Keep your campground clean.

This one should be a no-brainer, but every RVer has experienced a messy campsite at some point or another. Just follow the golden rule and leave every campsite in the same condition that you’d want to find it in. Nobody likes spending the first hour of RV camping picking up someone else’s beer cans, after all.

Don’t park RIGHT next to another camper (unless you have to).

If your campsite allows you to pick your own spaces, then consider giving your RV neighbors a little space. As a plus, you’ll be getting extra space too! In the event that a cramped campground or an inflexible reservation system requires you to park next to another camper, try and be mindful of their space by giving them plenty of activity room in front of their RV.

Do arrive (and set up) early.

Every RV camper also has a horror story of a group that kept the entire campground up by driving in late and setting up at midnight. While people are attracted to RV camping for a wide variety of reasons, they’re united in distaste for these kinds of campers. When in doubt, plan to arrive at your campsite as early as possible so that you can unpack, set up, and enjoy the rest of your day. Even though RV camping is chock full of fun detours, distractions, and delays, planning for an early setup gives you better leeway if your schedule changes.

Don’t knock on doors unless there’s an emergency.

RV campers are a notoriously friendly crowd, and there’s always bound to be something exciting going on at a campsite–be it a campfire or a pickup game of frisbee golf. However, you also want to respect other campers’ space and privacy. While it can be tempting to go door-to-door in order to make new friends (especially if they’ve bought the newest model of your favorite class A, B, or even Super C motorhome!), refrain from actually knocking on someone’s door unless there’s something URGENT that they need to know about.

Do be mindful of pets.

RVers are a diverse group, and they come with an equally diverse range of pets. As you never know how friendly an animal might be, make sure to give a respectful distance to any pets you encounter, especially if you’ve got your own pet with you. If a cute-looking dog turns out to be aggressive, you’ll likely prefer to find that out from its owner–nobody likes explaining a Chihuahua bite to the paramedics

Don’t hog the shared bathroom.

We get it, camping can get messy. Any RV campsite is going to have plenty of opportunities for muddy adventures, and that can mean having to hose off at the end of a long day. That said, remember that the campsite’s shared bathroom is just that: a SHARED bathroom. Nobody likes having to wait in line for the bathroom because another camper is doing all of their dishes in the sink.

Do maximize your RVing experience by joining AIM Club.

Short for All-Inclusive Motorhome Club, organizations like AIM Club let you maximize your RV camping experience by meeting like-minded campers. In addition to offering awesome discounts and incentives on important RV services, this club gives campers access to adventure-filled events! You can learn more about all of its awesome benefits by clicking here.

By following these best practices, you can better enjoy your time at RV campsites and keep your fellow campers happy while you do so! Remember that other RV campers are also at the campsite to go on adventures of their own, and that can look different for everyone. By being respectful of other camper’s privacy, space, and pets, you can keep things cordial–and make some new friends while you’re at it!

Happy travels!

4 RV Destinations You Don’t Want to Miss!

Florida
Best Months: Any

You don’t earn a name like “Sunshine State” accidentally. The climate is just one of the many reasons to visit Florida. These also include accessible beaches, easy-to-drive roads, and plenty of interesting tourist destinations. Did we mention that there’s plenty of sun?

Florida is known for being a super RV-friendly state, and that translates to awesome RV accommodations and friendly rates for RV camping. Some of the most popular destinations include the Florida Caverns State Park—which allows guests to hike near breathtaking rock formations—and the freshwater springs at Juniper Springs National Recreation Area.

If you venture out to Orlando, there’s always the option to check out Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, which combines RV camping with all the magic of a Disney Park visit!

South Dakota
Best Months: April-September

While most people don’t associate this state with being a trendy tourist destination, it offers a unique look at America that’s unlike any other place in the country. Combined with accessible roads, beautiful scenery, and plenty of interesting tourist stops, it can make for an easily memorable RVing experience.

There’s a certain living history to South Dakota that’s easy to pick up across long peaceful drives in your motorhome on its gentle roads. You can feel shades of America’s storied past in locations like the Badlands National Park, which offers breathtaking rock formations that have a certain rugged, fantasy magic to them.

One required destination on any South Dakota trip is the Wall Drug Store, a mom-and-pop store that’s blossomed into a full-on tourist destination. Featuring a mall, general store, and plenty of quirky merchandise, it feels like a glorious time capsule to a different era—one that is best experienced while traveling in your luxury motorhome.

Arizona
Best Months: April-June, September-November

Unless you really, really like the heat, you’ll probably want to visit Arizona during one of its cooler months. During the summer, there doesn’t feel like much to do besides sit in pools and wish that you were somewhere cooler.

Once you get past the heat, however, you’ll find that Arizona offers some of the most breathtaking desert scenery in the country. There’s still plenty of wild west spirit left along the state’s open roads, and it’s impossible not to feel it during long, scenic drives in your motorhome.

While Arizona is home to one of the most popular RV destinations in the country—the Grand Canyon—it’s also home to some lesser-known ones. The Petrified Forest National Park allows guests to wander across stone log fragments while basking in the beautiful scenery of the Painted Desert. Meanwhile Meteor Crater allows RVers to see the best-preserved meteorite impact site on earth—just miles from the historic Route 66!

Colorado
Best Months: May-October

While Colorado winters can be incredibly beautiful, they can also be a bit chilly well into May. As long as you’re willing to put up with catching a surprise blizzard for half of the year, Colorado offers breathtaking scenery and plenty of things to do while traveling in your motorhome. As many of the state’s RV destinations are within a day or so of Denver, it’s easy to fit plenty of interesting adventures into a relatively short RVing trip.

Rocky Mountain National Park is considered a national destination by mountaineers and nature photographers, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s incredibly beautiful! The western half of the state is dotted with plenty of interesting mountain towns, offering plenty of chances to absorb the state’s interesting history while venturing through its western half.

Colorado is also an incredible place for watching fall colors, as long as you’re ready to drive away when the surprise snow rolls in! There are plenty of byways around Fort Collins and Leadville that are blanketed with bright fall foliage and unparalleled views.


Once you have a destination, you’ll want to download and read our “NIRVC Buyer’s Guide” (see file below) to make sure that you’re driving the right motorhome for your adventure. Every driver is different and having an RV (recreational vehicle) that fits your unique needs goes a long way towards making your trips more memorable and enjoyable.

National Indoor RV Centers (NIRVC) employs expert technicians and RV Lifestyle Specialists at each of our locations in order to help each customer, whether you’re an RV enthusiast or a brand new RVer, find the luxury motorhome that is just right for you and your loved ones.