Best Time To Buy

Is It Time To Buy A New Motorhome?

Is it ever the perfect time to buy a new — or new-to-you — RV? 

Apparently, the answer is YES. An interactive online survey by RVTravel.com indicates more than 85% of RV owners have purchased more than one RV in their lifetime – while 50% of respondents have purchased four or more!

Screen shot of a phone showing a poll of RV owners and how many motorhomes have they owned.

As a newbie RV owner, I thought we were once and done with the purchase of Charlie-The-Unicorn RV, four years ago. We went through so much to find our 2016 Entegra Aspire, to make her our own, and get her safely back home.

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

Charlie was perfect for us, at the time, and even more so now, as we have settled into full time RV life, work & travel around the country.

But… our Entegra Coach will be 10 years old in 2026.

Some resorts, campgrounds and RV clubs enforce a “10-Year-Rule” limiting access to RVs older than 10 years. Another consideration: It can be more difficult to value, and for buyers to finance, an older RV when it is time to sell.

Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate it might be time to move on:

→ My husband’s parents, although now retired from RVing, owned 12 RVs over 40 years of active RVing, both part- and full-time. In their 80s now, they have settled full time in a lovely condo on the beach in Mexico – no wheels, no maintenance!

→ Counterpoint: NIRVC friends and RV YouTubers, Mark & Sue Chandler of Our Journey in Myles purchased their 2014 Newmar Dutch Star in 2017. Seven years later, they’re still rolling – and making great videos – in Myles, their first, and so far, only RV. However, they recently put us on the fence again with a new YouTube video questioning everything: 

→ Tommy & Bonnie Townsend, President and Treasurer of the All-Inclusive Motorhome Club are famous in our circles, not only for hosting fantastic AIM Club Rallies & Events. Since their first luxury motor coach purchase – a 2013 Entegra Anthem – they’ve moved on up to a brand-new Entegra Cornerstone almost every year. Early in 2024, they took delivery of the 2025 Entegra Cornerstone – their eighth motor coach – one of the first prototypes on the new Freightliner chassis.

Man and woman posing between two RVs.

And that is, finally, one of the incentives that could motivate us to consider making a change: Entegra Coach on a new custom-designed Freightliner chassis.

We do love our 2016 Entegra Aspire. She is truly a unicorn 40-foot Entegra diesel pusher on a Freightliner chassis. Most of the Entegra diesel motor coaches are on Spartan chassis. Mid-2015, there was a huge model year and body style transition for 2016. There were not many manufactured on the Freightliner chassis during that transition. We were lucky! Although we hear great things about Spartan chassis…

We absolutely love FREIGHTLINER:

  • We have never had a problem with our Freightliner chassis or components.
  • Annual Maintenance is super easy and convenient at our local Freightliner service facility. If we ever have a problem on the road, there are Freightliner locations all across the country.
  • In an emergency: FCCC My 24/7 DIRECT App & 1-800 # has been a lifeline, several times for us – even when it wasn’t a specific chassis issue. 
  • Freightliner Custom Chassis is a Founding Sponsor of the AIM Club. Representatives from Freightliner, including Jeff Sather, CEO & President, and other technical experts attend the AIM Club Rallies & Events. They are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

When it does come time to buy our new RV, we know we’re buying right next time, with NIRVC, Entegra Coach & Freightliner! Knowing what we know, we wouldn’t go anywhere else.

As for timing… 

Have you heard about NIRVC’s 2024 Music City Motorhome Expo??? 

This June, NIRVC will launch the very first of this kind of concierge motorhome buying experience – ever! – in Nashville, Tennessee.

In a unique mix of an exclusive AIM Club Rally experience and a private RV Show, NIRVC is bringing the best of the best luxury motor coach manufacturers and their 2025 models to Nashville, along with industry and technical experts, to show and educate and explain and answer every question to help you buy your next brand-new or new-to-you motorhome.

Hopefully, this event will be the first for a new annual tradition. The Music City Motorhome VIP Experience will definitely be the place and time to buy our next Entegra! See you there?! 😉

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Sherri Caldwell profile image

Sherri Caldwell is the founder of RVWorkLifeBalance.com — Full-time RV Travel Blog & PODCAST! With her husband, Russ, she is currently living, working, and traveling full-time in their 2016 Entegra Aspire: Charlie-The-Unicorn RV.

Lubricants for Your Motorhome

Proper maintenance is critical to keep your motorized RV in working order and prevent breakdowns. Engine oil changes are the most common service procedure but a motorhome is equipped with numerous other components, such as axles, transmissions, wheel bearings and other components that all require periodic service. Many of these components require specific lubricants so it’s important to select the proper lubricant for each specific component according to the chassis manufacturer’s specifications.

 

Lubricants are designated with a series of API or MIL category numbers that identify their suitability for various applications. Choosing the proper lubricant consists of reading the owner’s manual for your specific coach to determine which API service level you need to meet, then matching the lubricant’s viscosity and rating to your operating environment.

Ratings

There are two types of ratings that apply to any lubricant – viscosity and quality. Viscosity is another term for thickness. Viscosity also determines the flow rate or ability of the oil to flow in low temperatures. Every engine is designed to utilize a specific viscosity oil for any given set of operating conditions. For this reason oils are rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) according to a standardized numerical rating. When selecting any engine oil you should always consult your owner’s manual to determine the viscosity that should be used for your specific operating environment.

 

The quality of the oil is determined by the chemical makeup of the oil and it’s imbedded additive package. Base oils account for about 85-90% of the total formulation. The remainder consists of additives that provide full protection and include antioxidants, viscosity modifiers, dispersants, detergents, anti-wear agents, rust and corrosion inhibitors, anti-foam agents and a host of other additives. The American Petroleum Institute has established the API rating system to identify the quality of each particular oil and both the API and SAE ratings will be marked on every container. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for the minimum API rating specified for your engine. You can always exceed the API ratings and use a better grade oil but never drop below the minimum API rating specified for your particular application.

Viscosity

The SAE ratings of a lubricant identify its viscosity. The larger the number, the heavier the oil. For example, an SAE 40 oil will be heavier than an SAE 30 oil while an SAE 10 weight oil will be significantly lighter. The viscosity determines the ability of the oil to flow at a given temperature. As oil heats up it thins out, flows faster, and doesn’t provide the same level of lubrication as a thicker oil. If the oil is too thick it won’t flow fast enough to provide lubrication for the critical components that it is supposed to protect. SAE ratings reflect the ability of the oil to flow at 210 degrees Fahrenheit and can be useful for determining how that oil will perform in summer use but it doesn’t take into account the low temperature performance of the oil, which reflects winter use. A second test is taken at 0 degrees Fahrenheit to rate an oil designed for winter use and these ratings are given the “W” rating. For example, a 10W oil is thinner than a 20W oil but both are designed for winter use, although the thinner 10W oil will flow better in colder temperatures.

 

The majority of the wear and tear on any engine occurs during startup when the engine is turning over and firing but everything is cold and the pistons haven’t yet expanded to their operating tolerances. The oil begins to flow but by the time it gets pumped to all of the critical areas the engine has been running for a few seconds and it’s during those few seconds that most of the wear occurs. Using a lighter weight oil helps in that regard because the oil pressure comes up faster than a thicker oil. However, once the engine is working under a heavy load this oil becomes too thin and doesn’t provide adequate lubrication. This gives the choice of living with a heavy oil and live with the startup wear or use a lighter oil and pay the penalty when the engine is really working hard. Fortunately, multi-viscosity oils are available that eliminate that problem.

 

Multi-viscosity oils are designed to correct those shortcomings of single viscosity oils. A multi-viscosity oil has two ratings. For example, a 10W-30 oil will have the cold temperature performance of a 10W winter oil, yet retains the high temperature performance of an SAE 30 summer oil once the engine reaches its operating temperature. This gives you the best of both worlds and does a better job of protecting your engine at both startup and when under load.

Engine Oil API Ratings

The owner’s manual for your engine will detail the minimum API rating oil that should be used.

Diesel engines will have an API service classification such as CJ-4. The “C” means commercial so the API rating for every oil designed for use in heavy duty diesel engines will begin with a “C”. The following letter, which in this example is “J”, designates the latest specification. Whenever a new specification comes out the letter will increase. For example, an API CJ-4 spec will be a better quality oil than an API CI-4 and can be used wherever an API CI-4 oil is specified. You can always use a higher letter than what your engine’s specs require because your engine’s specification is a minimum requirement and it never hurts to go with a better oil. The “4” at the end merely designates that the oil is designed for a 4 stroke engine.

 

Gasoline engines have different requirements than diesels when it comes to lubricating oils. Their API service classifications begin with an “S”, followed by a second letter. The “S” stands for “Spark Ignition” while the second letter designates the service classification. Just as in oils designed for diesel engines, each letter that is higher designates a better oil so an API service classification of “SM” is better than an API service classification of “SJ”. Again, you can always exceed the required minimum service classification for your engine but never go below that specification.

 

Motorhomes using the EPA-2007 spec engines generally began showing up in the 2008 model year. The new emissions requirements required use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel due to the Diesel Particulate Filters that were added to the emissions controls, which were susceptible to fouling by any contaminants, such as sulfur. This required ULSD fuel with less than 500 PPM of sulfur. Motor oil contained levels of zinc as an anti-wear additive but unfortunately the DPF was also fouled by levels of zinc that would be present in the exhaust so a new motor oil was designed for use with these engines. This oil was the API CJ-4 specification and the zinc was removed from the oil and replaced with other anti-wear compounds that would not leave any ash content in the DPF.

Shell's Rotella Synthetic Oil

A Case for Synthetic

Conventional motor oil is pumped from the ground, basically from dead dinosaurs, and contains impurities, such as sulfur, wax and asphalt. Because conventional oil is “found”, rather than “created”, there is a fair amount of inconsistency within the size of its molecules. Synthetic oil is chemically created in controlled laboratory conditions which eliminates any impurities and also provides for molecules that are consistent in size and shape. Because synthetic oil is created from scratch it can be fine-tuned to have just about any properties that the chemist chooses to incorporate into it. Synthetics have the ability to pour at much lower temperatures than conventional oil, which greatly improves cold weather performance without diminishing the high end performance. It’s common to find a high-end synthetic oil of 5W-40 that can replace a non-synthetic 15W-40 oil for better initial startup and cold weather protection.

 

All oil will eventually boil once it gets hot enough and will vaporize and harden as carbon deposits once it hits hot spots within the engine, such as the area immediately above the top piston ring where this carbon buildup accelerates wear on the cylinder wall. Another area is the turbocharger oil galleries where oil cokes up and plugs the critical galleries that supply oil to prevent failure of the turbocharger bearings. If this continues the flow will be restricted and you will experience premature turbocharger failure. Conventional oil tends to break down at about 250 degrees but synthetics are good to 290 degrees which minimizes the chance of coking and increases the life expectancy of your turbocharger.

 

Synthetic oil manufacturers claim that you can extend your service intervals when compared to conventional oil but not every engine manufacturer allows this so you may not be able to do that without voiding your engine’s warranty. Most motorhome owners change their oil based on time rather than mileage because they don’t get driven as often so the idea of saving money by extending service intervals may or may not apply due to the increased cost of synthetic oil. However, synthetic oil will give your engine better protection. Cold starts and operation in cold weather will be easier with synthetics due to the lower pour point of the oil. The increased boiling point of a synthetic oil will also ensure that you have an edge on protection during those few times your engine is really working hard as well.

RV Engine

Automatic Transmission Fluids

Engine oil is designed to lubricate bearing surfaces that are under compression and have detergent and additive packages to help clean the engine and trap combustion deposits. Automatic transmission fluid is designed to lubricate fast turning shafts, clutch packs, to transfer power through a complex system of servos, pumps and fluid couplings and is the primary method of cooling the transmission so the lubricants that are used in them are also quite different. SAE viscosity and API ratings also do not apply so a different rating system is used.

 

If you have smaller class B or C motorhome chances are you may have a Ford or Chevy transmission in it. These transmissions utilize the Dexron or Mercon variants of automatic transmission fluid that are available at auto parts shelves almost anywhere. Coaches built on the Mercedes sprinter series of chassis most likely use the MB 236.x series of transmission fluids, such as Shell’s 134 MB236.14. Allison’s TranSynd is also rated as meeting the MB 236.91 specification.

 

Most class A coaches with diesel engines are equipped with the popular Allison automatic transmissions. Sometime during the 2004 model year, both Freightliner and Spartan began shipping their chassis pre-filled with Allison’s synthetic TranSynd fluid, which met the TES 295 specification. This replaced the Dexron non-synthetic fluid used in earlier years and greatly improved performance and extended service intervals. Recent improvements in fluid technology evolved into Allison’s TES 668 specification.

Allison’s TranSynd synthetic transmission fluid

One big question with Allison owners is whether they need to find Allison’s TranSynd synthetic transmission fluid or if another brand will suffice. Allison has done extensive testing with other synthetic fluids and has published a TES 668ä specification listing to identify which brands are compatible with Allison transmissions. Any ATF that is approved by Allison will qualify for the extended service intervals identified in any Allison service schedules. A complete listing of approved lubricants can be found at https://www.allisontransmission.com/parts-service/approved-fluids/on-highway-fluids .

Bottle of Valvoline 80w-90 gear oil
Bottle of Royal Purple Synthetic Oil

Gear Lubes

Gear lubricants are used to lubricate high load areas that receive friction during motion, such as rear axles and wheel bearings. Gear lube is heavier than motor oil and ranges between SAE 75 and SAE 140 in viscosity. It does not have to deal with the combustion requirements of an engine so its main concern is being able to do its job under high operating temperatures and loads.

 

Gear lube applications generally fall into one of two categories – standard duty or extreme duty. The majority of situations require your basic 80W-90 gear lube and is used to lubricate wheel bearings, gear cases, and rear axle ring and pinion gear sets.

 

Sometimes the load is greater or the conditions are more extreme so the manufacturer has determined that greater protection is required. In that case a heavier gear lube, such as SAE 140 will be specified. Actually, this is the perfect place for a synthetic gear lube. Many synthetic gear lubes come with an SAE 75W-140 viscosity rating. This multi-viscosity gear lube flows well in low temps with its 75W rating, yet has the rating of an SAE 140 gear lube when things get hot. A synthetic 75W-140 gear lube is the ultimate protection for any axle or gearbox, such as a cooling fan jackshaft. Synthetics are also less prone to foaming than conventional gear lubes, which allows for more efficient lubrication. The following chart illustrates typical low temperature (pour point) and high temperature (flash point) properties of these gear lubes.

 

Viscosity

Rating

Pour Point

Degrees (F)

Flash Point

Degrees (F)

80W-90 Conventional

-17

208

75W-90 Synthetic

-60

347

75W-140 Synthetic

-60

390

 

As the above chart indicates, synthetic lubricants flow much better in colder temperatures and also hold up better at high temperatures.

Bottle of Mag1 Power Fluid

Hydraulic Oil

Hydraulic oil is commonly used in diesel pushers to operate power steering units and any hydraulic fan motors that are commonly found on motorhome’s equipped with a side radiator. This motor, as well as the power steering system, is driven via a hydraulic pump that is mounted on the engine and fed by a hydraulic fluid reservoir. Hydraulic oil needs to be clean and non-foaming to provide adequate protection to the components in the hydraulic system and also to transfer power from the pump to the motor.

 

Hydraulic fluid is generally used in either AW32 or AW46 formulas. The AW stands for “anti-wear” and is used to identify hydraulic fluids. The 32 or 46 represents the weight of the fluid with higher numbers indicating a heavier fluid with AW46 being the most frequently used in a motorhome application. Keeping this fluid cool and free from moisture or dirt is critical so filter changes and fluid changes are all part of a routine service schedule.

Side by side of Shell's Gadus moly grease and Lucas Oil's Red n' Tacky.

Chassis Grease

You might think that grease is grease but there’s actually quite a bit of difference between the various formulations and their applications. Not every component has the same lubrication requirements so the ideal grease won’t be the same in every situation either. Matching the correct grease to the application will increase the longevity of those components.

 

Classification of grease is much easier than motor oils. Whereas motor oil is rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers SAE numbers, the viscosity of grease is referred to by its rating by the National Lubricating Grease Institute, or NLGI. The most popular chassis grease is an NLGI 2, which is commonly found at any auto parts store. A grease with an NLGI 1 rating is a thinner grease that will melt and flow at a lower temperature and is probably the stuff you’d want in your equipment if working the Alaska pipeline but NLGI 2 works for 90% of automotive applications. Conversely, NLGI 3 is a stiff grease and would be used in extreme conditions where extreme heat is encountered and has no real application in the RV industry.

 

Grease is a mixture of three components – lubricating fluid, performance enhancing additives and thickener. The lubricating fluid can be petroleum based oil, vegetable oil or any synthetic lubricating fluid and makes up the majority of the grease formulation while the additives make up a relatively small portion. The thickener is what separates grease from oil or other liquid lubricants and makes the product semi-solid rather than liquid.

 

Plain lithium grease works well for wheel bearings but is marginal for driveshaft universal joints and front end components because universal joints and front end parts have different needs than wheel bearings. These components don’t use rotating rollers within bearing races but rely on a thin layer of grease to separate two metal surfaces so that they don’t gall and bind. If enough force is applied to these two surfaces the grease can compress and slide away from between them, allowing metal to metal contact and increased wear. Additionally, when surfaces pull apart from each other the grease film can fall away rather than stick to the surfaces. Fortunately there are more advanced greases that improve upon the basic lithium grease. They are still lithium greases but they’ve been enhanced with additives to improve the characteristics of the grease. Naturally, they cost a bit more than your entry level lithium grease but are well worth it.

 

One of these characteristics is to improve the tackiness of the grease. If you place a small wad of lithium grease between your thumb and index finger and squeeze, much of the grease will ooze out but a small layer will remain. But when you pull your two fingers apart you’ll see that the grease breaks free and sort of leaves a slight film on your fingertips. Each time you squeeze and release you’ll lose more of the lubricant and eventually there won’t be any left. Better quality greases are available to improve on the tackiness of a basic lithium grease. If you were to place some of this between your fingers and do the same test, you’d find that the grease would tend to stick to your fingertips and it would be harder to pull them apart. When you did pull them apart, if you looked carefully, you’d notice that the grease would stretch like strings between your fingertips. One popular grease with this characteristic is Lucas Oil’s Red-n-Tacky grease. This “tacky” version of the grease will do a better job by staying in place better than a less expensive lithium grease.

 

When two surfaces are being forced together, which is typical of a ball joint or tie rod end, the grease tends to squish out from between the two surfaces. If you could keep these two surfaces from impacting each other the grease film would remain in place and your components would last longer with less wear. For this you need to go to a Moly grease, which is a grease that typically has 5% Moly content added to it. Molybdenum is technically a metal but moly particles have unique properties and are actually lubricants and won’t scratch or damage metal surfaces. When Moly is added to grease, it comes in the form of small round particles that act as miniature ball bearings. Moly’s unique characteristic is that it will not scratch the metal, yet it is very hard and it won’t crush or be destroyed when put under pressure. The Moly particles are carried in the grease and they prevent metal to metal contact and allow the grease to filter in and around the small moly particles to cool and lubricate the components. Moly grease typically has a black color to it and is messy to clean up but is an excellent grease for front end work and universal joints. The one application where Moly grease is not recommended is for wheel bearings. The Moly particles tend to force the rollers away from the races, which tightens the bearing clearance and increases heat. For wheel bearings it’s best to go with a more fibrous general purpose or tacky grease that has no Moly in it. Grease that is designed for use in wheel bearings will generally meet the NLGI GC-LB or SAE J310 specifications.

 

There are super greases available. Synthetic grease is available by many lubricant suppliers. Synthetics offer a greater temperature range than conventional greases and are great for extreme conditions but the vast majority of RV owners won’t realize the benefits of them because they don’t encounter those extremes. My personal favorite is a lithium based grease with a tacky property that also contains Moly, such as Schaeffer Oil #221 Moly Ultra, Shell’s Gadus S3 V460 D2, Mobil Centaur Moly or Valvoline Palladiumâ grease. These greases have excellent tackiness as well as Moly particles and resist water penetration, hold up well to heat, stay in place and resist shock loads. I’ve been running this type of grease for a long time in numerous vehicles and my universal joint and front end component longevity is remarkable. Note that many greases are available with improved load carrying capacity, even non-Moly greases. These greases will carry the EP label, which stands for Extreme Pressure.

Check the Manual

A proper maintenance cycle for your coach revolves around matching every component with the correct lubricant that will deliver the best lubrication. Your owner’s manual will detail the minimum specifications required but keep in mind that exceeding those specs with a higher quality lubricant will generally yield greater longevity. Always follow the recommended service schedule for that vehicle and change filters regularly. Taking proper care of your coach will save you money in the long run and deliver trouble-free service.

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Mark Quasius profile picture

RV Weight & Safety Part 3: 5 Essential Lessons in Buying the Right RV Tires

Three years into our full time RV living, working and traveling adventures, I find myself more and more involved in the technical and mechanical aspects of our life on the road… like buying RV tires for Charlie-The-Unicorn RV.

As much as I love her, I like buying “new shoes” for our 2016 Entegra Aspire motorhome as much as I always have when buying tires for our cars – although I would prefer buying new shoes for Sherri!

Nevertheless, after talking about RV weight, both on the CAT Scales and four corner weighing, it’s time to circle back and talk about RV tires and safety. 

As with most things in life, you don’t know what you don’t know until you figure it out, whether the easy way or the hard way. It feels like we’ve learned about buying and replacing RV tires the hard way over the last three years, so I’m here to share our experience and help other new and/or less technical RV owners, especially if you own or intend to buy a “new to you” (pre-owned) RV.

Here are 5 essential lessons to buying RV tires the right way:

  1. Know your weights and limits
  2. Verify your RV tire size
  3. Locate your date codes
  4. Check your load range
  5. Determine your optimal tire pressures
RV Federal Compliance Label

Lesson 1: Know your weights and limits

First things first: Find your “stickers” (Federal Compliance Labels). In a motorhome, these are generally located near the driver’s door or on the wall near the driver’s seat. 

The most important information on this label, with respect to your tires, are the GVWR and GAWR:

  • GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) – the maximum weight limit of the vehicle and everything in it, including passengers, pets, gear, provisions, furniture, accessories, fluids (fuel, propane, water, etc.) and all of your household and personal goods.
  • GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) – the maximum weight limit on each axle. It is possible to be under the GVWR and still exceed an axle rating, depending on how your RV is loaded (i.e., the weight distribution on each axle).

You’ll also find your recommended tire sizes (front and rear) next to the Gross Axle Weight Ratings.

Charlie-The-Unicorn RV

Charlie-The-Unicorn RV’s Tire History

In September 2020, we bought our new-to-us 2016 Entegra Aspire online from a dealer in Florida (Sadly, it was not NIRVC, as this was before we knew about NIRVC). It all worked out, for the most part, with an abundance of research, several video walk-throughs, a thorough independent inspection, and two complete PDI’s (pre-delivery inspections), both virtual and in-person. We knew where to look for our weights and limits.

The dealer transported the coach from Orlando, Florida to Des Moines, Iowa, where we picked her up for our first big road trip, back home to Seattle, Washington. She had less than 5,000 miles on fairly new Michelin tires. The tires all looked and performed great for the 1,800-mile adventure, which you can read about in my blog, RV Road Trip: How We Survived Our First Epic 21 Day Adventure.

RV tire

Lesson 2: Verify Your RV Tire Type & Sizes

As I mentioned in Lesson 1, it’s easy to locate your recommended tire sizes on your Federal Compliance Label. The next step is to verify those tire sizes on your motorhome by looking on the sidewalls of your tires. The numbers should match. In the example above, the tire size is: 295/80 R 22.5.

When it comes to determining accurate tire pressures, you’ll also need to know the manufacturer and type of tire you have. In the example above, it’s Michelin XZA2.

In fact, all of your important tire information can be found on the sidewall of your tires, including the tire size, date code, and load range.

This information may not be super critical when you’re taking delivery of a brand-new motorhome at a dealership, but you will eventually need to know it for weighing your RV, tire pressure management, and if/when you need to replace any of your tires.

If you are buying a pre-owned RV, whether from a dealer or a private party, I highly recommend verifying the tire sizes, dates codes, and load range on the sidewalls of all the tires. 

Charlie-The-Unicorn RV

In May 2021, we replaced the front tires before we set out to travel full time across the country. We worked with a trusted tire shop that was part of a well-known franchise in Washington (and all over the West Coast). My husband handled that – before I was fully onboard with the whole idea of full time RVing, quite honestly.

The RV had been sitting for a couple of months or more on concrete at the dealership in the Florida sun and heat. He felt safer driving the RV long distance with brand-new drive tires on the front, but decided we could wait a year to replace the rear tires. 

In July 2021, we set off across the country, from Washington State toward our first winter in Florida.

DOT Code

Lesson 3: Locate Your Date Codes

Your date codes can be located on the sidewalls of your tires. It will be a 4-digit number enclosed in a stamped oval at the end of the DOT Code (a longer series of numbers and letters that begins with DOT, as required by the Department of Transportation on all tires).

The date code on the tire above is 3 5 2 1, from our first set of rear replacement tires.

  • The first two numbers indicate the week of the year manufactured (35).
  • The last two numbers indicate the year of manufacture (2021).

So, these tires were manufactured the 35th week of 2021, which was August 30 to Sept 5, 2021. They were installed October 2021, so those were some fresh tires!

Here’s one of the first things you learn about RV tires: RV tires age out before they wear out…

…even if they look brand-new, with barely worn tread.
…even if they have incredibly low mileage on them.
…even if the RV has been in storage for months or years.
especially if the RV has been parked outdoors in the sun.

RV tires, whether they have been driven on the road or not, age out between 5 to 7 years from the date they were manufactured (Date Code).

RV pulled over

Lesson Learned

In September 2021, we were caravaning with friends, following behind them towing their 2015 Sanibel 5th Wheel on Interstate 10 WB in Florida, heading toward a fun weekend in New Orleans. While we were on the busy side of I-10, one of their rear tires exploded at full speed, ripping away much of the rear panel of their RV. Thankfully, they were able to make it over to the shoulder, and we stopped with them. It was a scary experience!

Their RV Roadside Assistance never showed up. Fortunately, Road Ranger Service Patrol, the Florida Department of Transportation’s emergency roadside assistance service, responded very quickly and helped them with their spare tire so they could move their coach to the nearest rest area.

We found a reputable local mobile truck tire service that came to the rest area and replaced all five tires on the 5th Wheel, including the spare. We all got back on the road later that evening. Instead of continuing on all the way to New Orleans, we decided to stop and enjoy our long weekend together on a beach in Pensacola, Florida.

In October 2021, after that experience, we returned to our RV property in Central Florida and immediately replaced all four rear tires on our motorhome. I was much more involved this time, doing the research and making the arrangements while my husband was working.

RV Tires & Full Time Challenges

I tried to buy tires through the FMCA Tire Buying Discount Service, but it was way too complicated. I had to call local heavy truck tire and service places in the network to find the correct tires and then arrange a time to take the RV to their shop for installation. This is a huge challenge of living full-time in an RV, especially working from home, with Hubs on video conferences all day. It is no easy task to bring your RV in for service.

load range

Lesson 4: Check Your Load Range

This is the most elusive, secret little letter you can possibly hope to find on your tire sidewall. But it’s there. And it’s super important.

Load range is a measurement of the inner strength (number of plies/inner layers) and load capacity (maximum weight and PSI) of your RV tires. For larger Class A motorhomes, it is indicated on the sidewall by a single alphabetic letter – typically G (14 ply) or H (16 ply). The higher the letter, or the number of internal plies, the stronger the tire.

RV tire

The Secret Letter

In October 2021, we ended up buying four new rear tires from MotorhomeTires.com, an AIM Club Sponsor (Again, this was before we knew anything about NIRVC or the AIM Club). They were very easy to work with. MotorhomeTires.com offers great educational information on their website. We worked with their service advisors to check our tire sizes and date codes.

MotorhomeTires.com sent a local contractor to us for tire installation, which was easy and convenient. In the end, we ordered and paid for Load Range H (16 ply) tires on the invoice, but the installer, in error, installed Load Range G (14 ply). We knew to verify the tire sizes and date codes, but we didn’t know anything about load range… until we got the rig four corner weighed at the FMCA Rally in Perry, Georgia.

When we subsequently discovered the load range error, almost 18 months later, MotorhomeTires.com arranged an immediate replacement of all four LRG tires with new LRH tires at no charge!

I would still recommend MotorhomeTires.com for their great service, convenience, responsiveness, and RV tire education.

As the RV owner, you need to know what’s important in ordering and checking your new tires before installation:

  • RV tire size
  • Date code
  • Load range

Lesson 5: Determine Your Optimal Tire Pressures

Load and Inflation Tables

Once you have your weights and tire information, it’s time to go to your tire manufacturer’s Load and Inflation Tables online to determine your optimal tire pressures (PSI) for safe driving.

The example above is the table for our front tires (Michelin XZE 295/80R22.5 H)

  1. Have your four corner weights handy.
  2. Find your Load and Inflation Tables online by searching: [Brand] RV inflation tables for your tire manufacturer.
  3. Read down the left column of the chart to Single or Dual Axle rows in LBS. For front tires (single), locate the column with the weight of your heaviest tire on the axle. Scan up from there to locate recommended PSI. For Rear Tires (dual), locate the column with the weight of your heaviest wheel position (driver or passenger side). Scan up from there to locate recommended PSI.

Note: Never exceed the wheel/rim manufacturer’s maximum air pressure limitation.

That’s it for this three-part series on RV weight and tires! I hope this information and our learning experiences will help you on your way to safe and happy travels in your RV!

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Sherri Caldwell profile image

Sherri Caldwell is the founder of BooksAndTravelUSA.com, a full-time RV travel blog and book club/U.S. literacy project. Sherri and her husband Russ are currently living, working and traveling full-time in their 2016 Entegra Aspire 40P, Charlie-The-Unicorn RV.

Tune in to NIRVC on RVTV

Take a break from your next road trip and tune into NIRVC’s three new series featured on RVTV! Hosted by Angie Morell, NIRVC Director of Sales, these shows will provide entertaining and informative content for both beginners and full-time, seasoned RVers alike.

 

NIRVC’s Three New Series:

The NIRVC Show
At NIRVC, our mission is to make RV ownership simplified. The NIRVC Show features educational sessions on a variety of RV topics, including tips to enhance your RV lifestyle, how to protect your investment, and more!

RV360
Watch some of the most popular RV tours in the industry! In our series RV360, Angie will take you through the latest luxury RV models – highlighting floorplans, appliances, exclusive features and everything in between.

RV U
Want to hear the latest industry news from those who know it the best? Don’t miss an episode of RV U, where host Angie Morell chats with forward-thinking RV industry experts, icons and influencers. Hear the latest from brands like Newmar, Entegra, Fleetwood RV and more!

We’re also proud to announce that we are the exclusive Class A sponsor of RVTV.

Tune in and view the weekly schedule.

Check your local cable listings to see where you can watch RVTV in your area. RVTV is also available on Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

 

RV Weight & Safety Part 2: RV Tire Four Corner Weighing

How Much Does Your RV Weigh?

In Part 1 of this three-part series, we talked about quickly and easily weighing your RV on the CAT Scales. There is, however, a limitation to consider, when you only know your overall weight, or even your weights per axle.

Remember, the primary concern for weighing your RV, and adjusting tire pressures accordingly, is to avoid overloading any of your individual tires. Unless you know the load/weight carried by each wheel position, you have no way to know the proper inflation of your tires. Improper inflation leads to improper wear, reduced life of the tire, and greater potential for rapid tire failure. Learn more.

RV Four Corner Weighing

So, after your preliminary weigh-in on the CAT Scales, this then becomes the Holy Grail or Level-Up Quest for the new RV owner: four corner weighing, also known as wheel position weighing.

The four corner weight is the distribution of weight on each of the four wheel positions of your RV.

We finally had our chance to weigh-in properly – all four corners, or wheel positions, of the RV – with RVSEF (RV Safety & Education Foundation) at the FMCA International Convention & RV Expo in Perry, Georgia.

RVSEF maintains a full schedule of attendance at RV rallies and manufacturer brand events all over the country. They teach tire and weight safety seminars and provide wheel position weighing at events.

When you register for an FMCA Rally, or any of the events RVSEF is attending, you’ll typically receive early notice via email about signing up for wheel position weighing. You can schedule your weigh-in before or after the event, on your way in, or when you leave. Very convenient!

RV Goals: Four Corner Weigh

We had been on the road full time for two years before we had the opportunity to finally sign up for our four corner weighing. We were fairly confident we were on top of tire safety and RV weight:

  • We replaced all six tires on Charlie-The-Unicorn RV in our first year. 
  • We rolled onto the CAT Scales several times in our travels to verify overall weight, axle weight and tire pressures. 
  • We researched, purchased and installed our TireMinder tire pressure monitoring system.
  • My husband checked the tire pressures regularly, as part of his travel day checklist. 

We rearranged our travel schedule to do the four corner weigh on our way into the FMCA Rally. I scheduled the appointment just before our assigned parking time with the AIM Club.

The wheel position weigh station is a portable setup, with big rolling scale plates the RVSEF techs position under the tires, and a computer with a printer to generate the reports in real time. This all requires a flat roadway for accurate weighing, as well as plenty of room to maneuver the large RVs coming and going. 

RVSEF typically arranges the weigh-ins at a suitable location near the actual event. In Georgia, it was at a small airport near the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter.

four corner weighing station
RVSEF weigh station setup (courtesy of Trey Selman/RVSEF)

How Do I Get My RV Weighed?

Along with the appointment date, time and location specifics, you’ll receive additional information and homework ahead of time. Be prepared!

RV tire

RV weight information needed from your RV tire sidewalls:

motorhome information card

The homework is necessary information and helpful education for the RV owner. This was the first time I really looked at the Federal Compliance Labels in our rig and got to know our motorhome tires up close and personal.

In Charlie-The-Unicorn RV, my husband tends to do most of the driving. He handles the technical and mechanical aspects of our life on the road, while I navigate and manage the logistics of travel and household management. He also works full time and is on video conferences with partners and clients all over the world all day, every weekday. I have more flexibility with my work, so I help with the details, such as filling out the homework sheet for our Wheel Position Weighing.

I got organized, did the detective work, and learned all about the RV weights from the compliance labels and information on the tires. I looked up all the terms and definitions as I went.

Little did I realize how important load range would be. (More on that later…)

Four Corner Weigh: Preparation 

 When weighing day finally rolls around, there is even more prep to be done. You’ll want to go into your RV weigh-in as heavy as you can be, to truly test your limits, even if you don’t normally travel fully loaded.

liquid weights chart

We drove our RV onto the scales with a full tank of fresh water (830 lbs!), plus full diesel and propane tanks. Our black and gray tanks were empty.

Keep in mind that the total weight of your RV includes people – and pets!

Four Corner Weight Results

After all the scheduling, homework and prep, the wheel position weighing was an easy process. We arrived at the airport and only had to wait less than five minutes for the RV ahead of us to finish. After paying, I climbed aboard and took my usual seat. Hubs rolled Charlie the Unicorn’s tires up onto the four weight scales. The RVSEF team recorded the weights and brought the results over to discuss the GVWR, GAWR and GCWR.

  • GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) – the maximum weight limit of the vehicle and everything in it, including passengers, pets, gear, provisions, furniture, accessories, fluids (fuel, propane, water, etc.) and all of your household and personal goods.
  • GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) – the maximum weight limit on each axle. It is possible to be under the GVWR and still exceed an axle rating, depending on how your RV is loaded (i.e., the weight distribution on each axle).
  • GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating) – the maximum combined weight limit of your motorhome and the attached tow vehicle, including all passengers, cargo and liquids in each vehicle.

Four Corner Weight Report

four corner weight report

Basically, WE FAILED!

We were HEAVY on the Passenger Front (my side!) by 200 lbs, according to the Axle Rating: GAWR (Front) 14700 / 2 = 7200 lbs max per tire.

But also, and in my mind, far, far worse: 1,100 lbs MORE than Driver Front. What?! I’ve actually LOST all 15 lbs of my gained RV weight. I was devastated!

Overall, we were well within our GVWR and GAWR (front and rear) – as our CAT Scale weights had shown – but the distribution of the weight between the four wheel positions was out of whack, which affects the individual wheel position tire pressure requirements for safety.

How Can Your RV Be Overweight and/or Unbalanced?

RVSEF’s suggestions for the weight variance in our RV, included several possible factors:

  • Storage in the bin below the passenger seat? My storage included an Instant Pot, camp decor (lights/tablecover, etc.) and a rope hammock: 1,100 lbs?! I think not. However, the house batteries are also up in the front. (That must be it? No.)
  • Generator in front offset? (No, the generator is centered in front.)
  • Diagonal weight variance on corners due to air suspension system?
  • Rest assured, it wasn’t me! And it didn’t indicate a broken frame (another unreasonable fear I had).
  • Our motorhome was safe to drive, but we needed to get it checked out as soon as possible.

Their recommendation was to run the tires at the highest PSI allowance (pounds per square inch), front and rear: 120 PSI. We didn’t immediately do that, because we were going directly into the FMCA Rally, which was just a few minutes away, and parking for the rest of the week. 

It’s actually a really good thing we did not increase the tire pressures at that time…

In retrospect, we’re happy we scheduled the four corner weigh-in on our way in, before we attended the FMCA Rally, so we had a chance to do more research and ask questions.

RV Unbalanced: Ride Height?

None of this made any sense to me. I had to go deeper. Research. Ask questions.

The first person I talked with was Ted Cook from Entegra Coach, AKA Entegra Ted. Ted’s business card says Regional Sales Manager, but he is much more than that, having been with Entegra Coach before they were even building motorhomes.

Ted Cook
Entegra Regional Sales Manager Ted Cook (Entegra Ted)

Jayco/Entegra Coach purchased the assets of RV manufacturer Travel Supreme in 2008. Ted came to Entegra through that acquisition. He was VP of Operations at Travel Supreme and had worked for the company since 1990.

I discovered this mention of Ted in the September 2006 issue of FMCA’s Family RVing Magazine:

No Shortcuts Allowed at Travel Supreme

…Mr. Cook, a 16-year company veteran, has played a significant role in the design and mechanics of Travel Supreme motorhomes. For instance, he was determined to build a slideout mechanism that would be flush with the floor, all the while keeping the baggage doors full-size. Thanks to some clever engineering, this was accomplished.

Entegra Ted knows pretty much everything there is to know about Entegra Coaches – and high-end motorhomes in general. As Entegra Coach’s Regional Sales Manager, he works closely with NIRVC to represent Entegra and to support dealership sales and service. He’s also a great guy, fellow AIM Club Member, and part of the NIRVC family, so we all have the pleasure of seeing him at RV events, shows and rallies.

Ted looked over our Wheel Position Weight Report and suggested we take a look at the ride height, which is the setting for the air suspension on your chassis. Ride height is very, very important.

Edward from Freightliner, Entegra Ted, Sherri Caldwell
L to R: Edward from Freightliner, Entegra Ted, Sherri Caldwell

I learned a lot about our air suspension system and ride height from Entegra Ted and our friends at Freightliner, an AIM Club founding sponsor. There was indeed a small ride height adjustment made by the end of our unbalanced adventure.

Ride height can affect the diagonal weight variance on opposite corners due to air suspension. That is something that should be checked by your chassis manufacturer or a qualified service technician, especially if you have a problem with your four corner weights.

But there was something else going on here…

RV Weight & Tire Safety Seminar

Two days later, during the FMCA Rally, I attended the RVSEF Seminar: RV Weight & Tire Safety presented by Trey Selman, Executive Director of RVSEF. It was a fascinating and comprehensive presentation, and I encourage any RV owner to attend if you have the chance.

After the seminar, I had a chance to personally ask Trey some questions about our weight problems. He reviewed our Wheel Position Weight Report and the recommendations, as well as the tire info I had recorded on the Homework Sheet.

And there it was, right on the Homework Sheet:

homework sheet

G load range and the WRONG tires!

Ultimately, we discovered that we had the wrong load range rear tires on our motorhome… for the last year and a half.

With the rear tires we had (Load range = G), the MAX pressure was 110 PSI, and the MAX weight was 5,675 lbs per tire, which was insufficient for our motorhome based on our GAWR and the weight distribution on the rear axle. Our tires all should have been Load range = H. (Wrong tires?! How did this happen?!)

But first, let’s talk about the end of the story…

RV Weight: Four Corner Weighing For Safety

When the pieces of the puzzle finally fell into place, we were able to make the arrangements and get our particular RV weight problems corrected: 

  1. Replaced all four rear tires with proper load range tires
  2. Adjusted ride height
  3. Redistributed weight in the basement storage bins
  4. Retested our four corner weights

Final results: WE PASSED!

The cost of Wheel Position Weighing with RVSEF at the FMCA Rally was $70.

It was well worth the money for the convenience of the timing and location, the overall education in RV weight and safety, the one-on-one personal assistance when we had weight problems, and our resulting confidence in the weight, distribution and safety of our motorhome on the road.

Something we learned along the way: The cost of four corner weighing with NIRVC at any of their six locations across the country = FREE. (We were RV owners for nearly three years before we learned this!) It’s important for RV owners to know their Four Corner Weights for weight distribution, proper tire pressures, and confidence in their equipment and safety.

We were able to retest our four corner weights after all the adjustments and corrections at NIRVC Las Vegas.

“We do currently have the capability of four corner weighs at all locations. This is a FREE service we offer,” explains Eddie Braley, General Manager of NIRVC Dallas. “We do request that you call ahead to schedule, as there is some setup time required. The service is offered to all RVers regardless where they bought their RV.”

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Sherri Caldwell profile image

Sherri Caldwell is the founder of BooksAndTravelUSA.com, a full-time RV travel blog and book club/U.S. literacy project. Sherri and her husband Russ are currently living, working and traveling full-time in their 2016 Entegra Aspire 40P, Charlie-The-Unicorn RV.

The Benefits of Being a Digital Wanderer

Digital nomads are popping up everywhere thanks to digital technologies making it possible to work from almost anywhere in the world. What’s a digital nomad, you ask? A digital nomad is a traveler who doesn’t have one set location. They are constantly moving from place to place, all while earning an income. This lifestyle has become increasingly popular as companies become more lenient with their remote work policies and more people leaving the traditional 9-5 office environment. 

Working from the road may seem glamorous and easy, but there are several factors to take into account to make it possible. 

The Benefits of Working from the Road vs At Home 

While your internet connection may be a little unstable as you move around, your mental health may be strengthened. One of the biggest benefits of working from the road is having the ability to earn a living in beautiful places. This means you can take a quick hike on your lunch break instead of venturing to the office community kitchen where Cheryl just heated up fish from the night before. 

Have Multiple Internet Sources 

Because having an internet connection is crucial for my job, I have utilized a company called Internet On the Go to help me stay online. This particular resource allows me to have 2 different internet sources and has saved me in a few sticky situations. 

For instance, their device called the Duo made by Pepwave is a smallish, heavy duty, metal cased router that, in my humble opinion, puts all other WiFi gadgets to shame. It comes pre-programed and pre-loaded with SIM cards for both Verizon and T-Mobile, with no tie in whatsoever to my existing cellular services.  This means I don’t have to worry about anything interfering with my current cellular plan, which I love.  The plan is a month-to-month giving me ultimate flexibility to turn service on and off as needed.  This coupled with the fact the monthly fee’s come with plenty of data, 300GB per SIM card for a total of 600GB of non-throttle-back data. I also use the app Outly at least once a week to make sure at least one of these providers will work in the area in which I will be camping. 

I usually get to my campsite early or the night before a meeting to ensure the connection is stable enough for video calls. If you aren’t able to find a stable connection with Starlink or a hotspot, an alternative option would be to work in a local coffee shop or coworking space.  

For redundancy purposes, I also utilize Starlink , which has changed the game for many people working and living full time on the road. It has opened up so many opportunities for working off the grid that weren’t available before. Starlink allowed me to work for an entire month from the beaches of Baja, Mexico, where I otherwise probably wouldn’t have had even a lick of cell service. 

The only downside to Starlink (for me, anyway) is that it uses battery power and must be set up and taken down each time you use it. I have AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries in my van, and I use a Jackery 1000 to power the Starlink. This allows it to run for quite a while, depending on what other devices the Jackery is powering. I also do not have my Starlink flat mounted, so it takes a bit to get it set up and running each time I want to use it. Thankfully, both of these annoyances have solutions: upgrading my battery system or converting my Starlink to a 12v system and flat mounting the Starlink to the roof. Both upgrades are coming soon! 

Find a Dedicated Workplace in the Van 

Finding a dedicated space to work in your RV or van is essential to establishing a routine. Just like going into an office, you should have a place in the van where you are able to set up shop with minimal distractions. The layout of my Winnebago Solis Pocket allows me to have a convenient table/desk setup at all times. This makes it easy to wake up and go right into the “office.” The outdoor table of the Pocket also provides an extra workspace for when the weather is nice. 

Plan Ahead 

Planning ahead for where you will be and what kind of service you will have in the location is important. I rely on the app iOverlander to find a spot to stay and always read the comments to see what type of cell signal other campers have had there. Once I find a spot, I check the Outly app to determine the connectivity strength in the area. Outly displays a map of each cell provider’s signal strength in the area. 

Establish a Routine 

Working on the road can be challenging, especially when you are in a different place each day and there are no coworkers around to keep you on task. Establishing a routine is important to help you stay productive and focused. Determine your daily schedule, take breaks, and make sure to prioritize your work tasks. It’s also essential to balance work and play, so make time to get out and explore or get exercise in between tasks. 

Be Flexible and Stay Organized 

Working on the road can be difficult with internet connections, different time zones, and dealing with unforeseen circumstances, so flexibility is essential. Balancing everything that comes with living on the road can be a little chaotic, so it is important to establish a system to ensure your work life stays organized. This means setting reminders, entering every detail into your calendar (including deadlines), and using project management tools like Asana or Trello. Having a flexible mindset and implementing methods to stay organized can help you navigate the challenges that come with being a digital nomad. 

Starting your life as a digital nomad requires a lot of planning, flexibility, organization, and self-discipline. Setting up reliable internet sources, having a backup plan, choosing the right location, establishing a routine, staying connected, and being flexible and organized are the keys to success. While it may take a bit more planning, working on the road is one of the most amazing experiences one can endure. It opens up so many opportunities for personal and professional growth, all while allowing you to see some of the most stunning places on earth. 

Merrisa Blog Bio

Having worked in the RV industry since 2017, Merrisa Petersen has been living and working on the road in her Winnebago Solis Pocket full-time since 2020. Her aim is to empower other women to seek adventure in order to instill confidence in their capabilities. Her travel companion is her dog, Jessa, and together they are committed to a sustainable lifestyle and leaving nature better than they found it. 

RV Weight & Safety Part 1: How Much Does an RV Weigh?

So, how much do you weigh? Kinda personal, right? But it’s a thing in the RV world… Of course, I’m talking about your RV! (Mostly. 😉)

What’s the Big Deal about RV Weight?

In a Class A motorhome, you’re not just driving a ton of weight down the road. It’s actually more like a dozen tons of weight – or much more, depending on the size of your RV (and everything in it, including you).

In a word, the big deal is SAFETY.

Overloading or improper distribution of RV weight can:

  • Affect control of your motorhome while driving or braking.
  • Add stress and wear and tear to chassis components, leading to damage and potential failure.
  • Cause catastrophic tire damage, resulting in a serious accident.

While we’re talking about tire safety and blowouts, I have to mention RettroBand® Wheel Enhancement, which is exclusively distributed by National Indoor RV Centers. NIRVC offers a limited, highly selective line of RV aftermarket products for added safety, protection and convenience, including RettroBand, which was developed to protect your RV in the event of a tire blowout.

For more information and a video of RettroBand in action with NIRVC CEO and President Brett Davis, visit rettroband.com.

RV Weight & Tire Pressure

Knowing the weight of your RV helps you determine appropriate tire pressures for safe driving, based on the actual weight and the Load and Inflation Tables for your specific tire manufacturer and type of tire.

Load Inflation Tables, often referred to as LITs, are a tool used by manufacturers, tire retailers and automotive professionals to determine the appropriate inflation pressure for tires based on the load that they will be carrying. These tables provide a reference for adjusting tire pressure to ensure optimal safety, performance and longevity of the tires.

How Much Should an RV Weigh?

The first place to start is knowing the basic limits of your RV. For instance, how much weight was it designed and built to carry? This information can be found on the “stickers” – or Federal Compliance labels – in each and every RVIA-certified motorhome.

These are generally located near the driver’s door or on the wall near the driver’s seat. Locate these stickers in your RV and make note of the critical Weight Ratings for your vehicle (See below).

Federal Compliance label
The Federal Compliance label located on the wall behind the driver’s seat in our 2016 Entegra Aspire
Federal Compliance label
The Federal Compliance label located behind our driver’s seat on the screen door

What You’re Looking For & What It Means

  • GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) – the maximum weight limit of the vehicle and everything in it, including passengers, pets, gear, provisions, furniture, accessories, fluids (fuel, propane, water, etc.) and all of your household and personal goods.
  • GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) – the maximum weight limit on each axle. It is possible to be under the GVWR and still exceed an axle rating, depending on how your RV is loaded (i.e., the weight distribution on each axle).
  • GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating) – the maximum combined weight limit of your motorhome and the attached tow vehicle, including all passengers, cargo and liquids in each vehicle.

What are the Maximum Allowable RV Weight Limits?

By examining the applicable Weight Ratings on the two stickers, we determined the maximum allowable weight limits for our motorhome, which are summarized below. This is helpful information to have on hand (perhaps in a note in your smartphone) when you’re loading and weighing your RV.

GVWR, GAWR, GCWR weights of 2016 Entegra Aspire RV

How Do You Weigh an RV?

Once you know your weight limits, it’s time to take your fully loaded RV and tow vehicle to the scales! This can be easier said than done, but we’ll start where most of us do:

At the Truck Stop

The easiest and fastest preliminary weigh-in method is on the CAT Scales at your nearest truck stop. It can be fun driving up on the CAT Scales, like the big boys and girls in the semi-trucks… if you know what you’re doing!

If you’re new to this process, here’s a quick primer:

1. Download the CAT Scale Weigh My Truck mobile app. Once you set up your account, you can do it all on your phone: 

  • Find a CAT Scale location near you
  • Pay as you weigh (Current price: $13.00)
  • Weigh your motorhome and towable
  • Get your weight report immediately
  • View the record of your weigh-ins

The Weigh My Truck app displays your weights immediately on your phone. You can also view a PDF for comprehensive information about the CAT Scales Certification & Guarantee for professional truck drivers.

2. Watch this helpful YouTube video from Mortons on the Move: Weighing the RV the easy way with the Weigh My Truck App

It’s as easy as driving your RV across the scales! The only difference in a Class A Motorhome is that you must stop with your front and rear axles of the RV on the first and second plates, and with your tow vehicle positioned on the third plate.

RV being weighed on the CAT Scales
CAT Scale ticket with RV weights

RV Weigh Results: Did We Pass?

CAT Scale weights vs sticker max weights for RV

YAY! We were under the weight limits based on axle weights and GCWR, including our tow vehicle. But hold on a minute…

RV Weight Limitations of the CAT Scales

As helpful as the CAT Scale weights are for overall weight and load on each axle, including the tow vehicle, it doesn’t tell us anything about the weight distribution, side to side, on each wheel position, on the tires. This information is extremely important when it comes to safely and accurately managing tire pressures on all tires.

Note: Unless you know the load/weight carried by each wheel position, you have no way to know the proper inflation of your tires. Improper inflation leads to improper wear, reduced life of the tire, and greater potential for rapid tire failure. Learn more.

Beyond the CAT Scales

If you just can’t find a place to get your RV weighed wheel-position-by-wheel-position, weighing on a platform scale gives you the basic starting information. Then, you can get wheel-by-wheel weighing done when you have the opportunity.

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Sherri Caldwell profile image

Sherri Caldwell is the founder of BooksAndTravelUSA.com, a full-time RV travel blog and book club/U.S. literacy project. Sherri and her husband Russ are currently living, working and traveling full-time in their 2016 Entegra Aspire 40P, Charlie-The-Unicorn RV.

NIRVC – They Can Do It All!

Robin Buck, a full-time RVer and travel blogger, shares her firsthand experience with NIRVC.

One of the things we’ve discovered about owning a motorhome is that it can be hard to find reliable places to get quality service and other work done. When you spend your hard-earned money on the perfect recreation vehicle, you want to do everything you can to take care of it and keep it in excellent condition – especially when you’re full-timers like us, and your RV is also your home.

My husband and I are so lucky to have found National Indoor RV Centers (NIRVC) six years ago. Their mission is to provide an outstanding, hassle-free motorhome ownership experience – and they deliver on that goal!

NIRVC Dallas

NIRVC simplifies motorcoach ownership with offerings including sales, service, storage, paint and body, wash and safety products. The privately held company was founded by partners who are also motorcoach enthusiasts and know and understand the RV lifestyle. You can truly feel the difference when you walk into an NIRVC dealership. You are part of a family who is invested in YOU!

There are NIRVC facilities in six metropolitan areas across the country: Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Nashville and Washington, D.C. The company has a projected expansion plan to add even more locations about 500 miles apart, so RV owners will always be within a day’s drive from an NIRVC location. We definitely feel much more comfortable knowing that we have a reliable service facility nearby as we travel across the U.S.

The Sale is Just the Beginning

NIRVC is a great place to purchase and sell your RV. While their team of knowledgeable specialists can help you find the perfect vehicle to meet your needs, their work doesn’t end with the sale. They make sure you understand everything about your new coach and even encourage staying at their on-site campground after you buy it. During our three nights at the campground, we had ample time to test things out, ask questions and get assistance with any issues.

RV Campgrounds at NIRVC

NIRVC offers great financing options, including extended service agreements. We purchased our 2019 Entegra Anthem from NIRVC, and the experience was so much better than all of our previous purchases elsewhere. Plus, nothing is as exciting as Blue Bow Day, when you finally become the official owners of your new coach!

Blue Bow Day

If you have an RV that you want to sell, NIRVC can help you out there, too. Their RV consignment program simplifies the selling process by giving you the added marketing power and sales staff of the company. As an added bonus, the Consignment Specialists handle all of the sales paperwork and make sure everything goes smoothly from start to finish. The sales price is also credited to your new purchase, which helps discount the total tax bill on the new coach.

A Dedication to Service

Everything you need can be accomplished in NIRVC’s state-of-the-art facilities: mechanical repairs, paint and body work, parts, tires, even satellite TV. Their highly skilled technicians are pros at diagnosing problems, handling factory recalls and taking care of any issue. NIRVC can do warranty and extended warranty work, as well as individual component repairs such as refrigerators, washers and dryers.

RV Service at NIRVC

At every NIRVC location, you’ll find a group of talented people. When we visited the Dallas Lifestyle Center, we had a wonderful service team working for us. Adrian, our service advisor, did an excellent job of coordinating all of our service and repairs. He was the key interface with all of the departments and kept things on track.

RV Service Team

Sean is the Paint & Body Director at the Dallas Lifestyle Center. His shop does outstanding work; the old or damaged becomes shiny and new as his team works their magic.

The key to our repairs was the service technicians who were easily able to diagnose and correct the mechanical issues with our coach. NIRVC’s recent conversion to a 7-day work week meant our service was completed even sooner.

NIRVC Paint & Body

You can either drop off your RV at the NIRVC facility and come back when the job is finished or wait in their large, comfortable waiting area while your coach is being serviced. Cold drinks and snacks are available, and leashed pets are welcome to wait with you. If you need to stay overnight, campground spots with electric and water hookups are available so you can sleep in your own bed.

Customer Service Lounge at NIRVC

Safe and Convenient Indoor Storage

When you purchase a coach, you want to make sure to protect your investment. Many neighborhoods don’t allow storing your RV at home due to size and appearance restrictions. As their name says, NIRVC offers secure indoor storage for your motorhome. By storing your RV indoors, you protect it from sun damage in the summer and frozen pipes in the winter. Garage-stored vehicles require less washing and usually have a higher resale value. To top it all off, your vehicle will be prepped and ready to go when you arrive to pick it up for a trip. Now that’s convenient!

RV Storage

Professional RV Cleaning

We’ve learned from experience that cleaning and washing a large motorhome is a lot of work to do by yourself. Luckily, NIRVC has a hard-working Wash and Detail team to take care of that for you!

The technicians use advanced, high-quality equipment and materials to handle it all – even hard to reach spots like the roof. The Bitimec machine at the Dallas location makes the job go much faster, while using less water and detergent than conventional washing methods. It’s better for the environment, and you get to start off your trip with a nice clean coach!

Wash & Detail at NIRVC

A Focus on Safety

We all want to be safe on the road. NIRVC continues to look for ways to improve the RV experience and offers several aftermarket products that provide safety, protection and convenience:

The Ultimate Customer Experience

NIRVC is not just another RV dealership. They are an innovative company with a well thought out vision they’ve stood by since they were founded. Their overall objective is to offer a concierge level of service and take the hassles out of motorcoach ownership.

RV Delivery at NIRVC

The Atlanta and Dallas NIRVC locations have recently converted to 7 days a week operations because, let’s face it, problems don’t only occur between Monday and Friday. The other locations have plans to follow suit.

Additionally, having two teams at each location provides workers with continuity and has proven to be a huge benefit for employees and their families. Offering more hours of operation is helpful for RV customers as well, since you don’t have to wait three to four weeks to get an appointment.

RV Paint & Body at NIRVC

NIRVC’s Workflow computer system tracks everything companywide – from inventory to scheduling. While it is still a work in progress, they are making continual improvements in the parts acquisition process, streamlining warranty work approvals, and managing the tasks for each repair.

Also in the works is a tool in which customers can schedule appointments, request parts and track work order status in real time. It’s nice to know the leaders of NIRVC are forward-thinking with the goal of improving not only the customer experience but revolutionizing RV industry standards.

RV Storage at NIRVC

As you can probably tell by now, I am a big fan of NIRVC! We’ve purchased a motorhome from another dealer and have had service done elsewhere, but none fully compare to NIRVC. The staff treats us like family and has our backs when we need any type of service or product. Their annual Customer Appreciation Rallies are lots of fun, and their All-Inclusive Motorhome (AIM) Club promotes opportunities for friends, food and unforgettable memories.

No RV dealer or service center is perfect, but NIRVC comes close and remains our go-to place for all of our RV needs.

Robin Buck

Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.

Welcome to RV U! Our New Podcast Hosted by Angie Morell is Live

Class is in session at RV U! Tune into the premier insider podcast brought to you by National Indoor RV Centers! Host and renowned RV pro Angie Morell sits down with industry experts, icons and influencers to chat about a variety of entertaining topics, including the latest RV trends, new and popular products, helpful tips, stories about guests’ adventures and more. Whether you’re an incoming freshman or have a PhD in RVing, there’s room for you in the classroom.

New episodes will be available every Wednesday, so be sure to subscribe to RV U on your favorite podcast platforms below.

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RV Hydronic Heating Systems

What are hydronic heating systems and how do they work in your RV?

Hydronic heating systems are rapidly becoming the heating system of choice on diesel pushers versus forced air furnaces. Hydronic heat offers even heat distribution and moist, comfortable heating. It utilizes a boiler that pumps antifreeze through a series of heat exchangers located throughout the coach. It also provides domestic hot water heating, eliminating the need for a traditional hot water heater. The two brands that are common in the RV industry are Aqua-Hot and Oasis.

RV Heat Sources

A hydronic heating system can be powered by a diesel burner as well as an electric heating element. In some cases a propane fired boiler is used in smaller RVs but for this article we’ll just stick to the diesel fired units common to most diesel pushers. Diesel fuel has more BTU per gallon than propane. Plus, the fuel tank is of greater capacity because it utilizes the coach’s diesel tank rather than a smaller LP tank mounted in the coach. Not only is this more cost efficient but it also greatly extends the run time between refueling.

Propane has a BTU rating of 91,500 BTU per gallon while #2 diesel fuel is rated at 139,200 BTU per gallon. Operating a 50,000 BTU burner on propane for 8 hours will require 4.37 gallons of propane while running that same burner on diesel fuel will only require 2.87 of fuel due to the higher BTU content of diesel fuel. If your LP fired burner is fed from a 32 gallon propane tank you can run that burner for a maximum of 58.56 hours while running a diesel burner from a 100 gallon fuel tank will allow you 278.4 hours of run time until you’ll need to refuel.

In addition to the diesel burner, hydronic heating systems also have an electrical heating element that can be used. A typical 1,650 watt heating element can deliver 5,630 BTU. This isn’t as great as a 50 KBTU diesel burner but it is capable of heating the coach when it’s cool (but not cold) out. It’s also possible to operate both the burner and the electric element at the same time for additional heating capacity.

Most units are also equipped with a Motoraide or engine assist connection. This allows the hot engine coolant to be used to add additional free heat to the boiler when driving. This engine to boiler loop can also be used as an engine preheat that uses the boiler’s heat to preheat the engine for cold start assistance if so equipped.

Aqua-Hot vs. Oasis

Both the Aqua-Hot and Oasis systems are similar in operation. They both utilize a boiler to heat up antifreeze so that it can circulate through a closed heating loop. There are heat exchangers placed in various locations in the loop to provide heat to the coach interior as well as any basement area that needs to be protected from freezing. They also provide domestic hot water but there are a number of differences in how the units are constructed to meet these needs.

The popular Aqua-Hot 450 supports a claimed 50,000 BTU burner, although the latest advertised specs state 65,000 BTU, and a 6 gallon boiler tank. It also sports a 1,650 watt electric heating element on a 20 amp breaker. Hot water temperature is always rated at a delta, which is the difference between the temperature of the incoming cold water to the outgoing heated water. The 450D is rated at a 60 degree delta at 1.5 GPM water flow. If the incoming water is frigidly cold then you’ll only be able to raise it by 60 degrees. If you exceed the 1.5 GPM flow rate you will also lose the ability to keep the antifreeze in the boiler tank from holding its heat so you’ll need to watch your water flow on those long hot showers or they will finish up as cold showers.

For more more on RV water systems, read Mark’s blog, An RVers Guide To Water

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An Aqua-Hot 450D system.

The Aqua-Hot system also will shut off the interior heat exchangers when hot water is being used so  that all available BTU can be dedicated to heating water. The interior heating will resume once the water flow stops. The Aqua-Hot claimed BTU ratings are suspect however . The burner uses a .35 GPM burner nozzle. Doing the math you can see that this is only 39,200 BTU per hour – not 50,000 BTU. 

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An Aqua-Hot 450D as installed in my Entegra Cornerstone.

An opened-up view of the Aqua-Hot system.

Oasis also makes a 50,000 BTU system called the Oasis NE, which uses a 7.5 gallon boiler tank. It utilizes a pair of 1,500 watt electric heating elements, producing up to 10,236 BTU on two 15 amp breakers. You can operate one or both at the same time. This will let you utilize the electric heat to a bit lower temperatures before needing to switch on the diesel burner. Hot water heating is also rated at a 65 degree delta at 1.5 GPM although the Oasis NE does not interrupt interior floor heat while hot water is being consumed. The burners use a .44 GPM fuel nozzle, which equates to a realistic 49,280 BTU.

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The Oasis NE system

Oasis also makes a larger Oasis NE-S version. This slightly larger version is the ultimate in hydronic heating, with a claimed 85,000 BTU burner rating and a 13.75 gallon boiler tank. It has the same dual 1,500 watt heating elements as the Oasis NE but the 60 degree delta for hot water is now increased to 3 GPM with no floor heat interruption. The burner uses a 0.79 GPM burner nozzle.

The above calculations are based upon an 80% factor in the BTU of diesel fuel. While diesel fuel does have 140,000 BTU per gallon about 20% of that is lost as heat in the exhaust, leaving 80%  to do the actual work of heating. So I used 112,000 BTU when doing the above calculations.

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An installed Oasis NE system in a Showhauler motorhome.

Operation

Your system will have a few switches to operate the boiler. These switches may be rocker switches, or in a dedicated control panel or embedded in a multiplex control panel such as a VegaTouch screen. These switches are used to turn on the diesel burner and electric heating elements. There may also be a switch for an optional engine preheat feature if so equipped. These controls supply power to operate the boiler. If they are not on you won’t get any heat. Once the boiler heats up to its designated cutout temperature it will stop. Once the boiler’s temperature drops below the cut-in temperature it will start up again to raise the heat level of the boiler antifreeze.

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The diesel burner and electrical heating element are controlled by a switch panel.

The antifreeze in the boiler is used to circulate through a couple of closed loops via circulating pumps. Interior heat exchangers are inserted into these loops at key locations to evenly distribute heat throughout the coach interior. These circulating pumps are controlled by the coach’s HVAC thermostat controls. Whenever the thermostat calls for heat, the circulating pumps will circulate hot antifreeze through the heating loop and heat exchangers. The fans on the heat exchangers will switch on to deliver the heat to the interior but only if the boiler is hot. This is to prevent blowing cold air from the heat exchangers if the antifreeze hasn’t warmed up yet. Once it is warmed up, the fans will engage and heat the coach interior. If the boiler cools down the fans will stop, allowing the boiler to regain its temperature before switching on again. When first starting up a hydronic system, you will have to wait a few minutes until the boiler warms up.

These systems have two heating loops, each powered by a circulating pump. A number of heat exchangers can be connected to these loops and these heat exchangers are connected to up to 5 heating zones. One heating zone may be used for the main cabin interior heating while a second heating zone may be used for the bedroom and rear bath heating area. A third zone may be used for basement heat while a fourth zone may be used for hydronic floor heat, in the case of  an Entegra Coach. The layout of these zones and to which circulating loop they are assigned is up to the coach manufacturer’s discretion. Each zone will have individual thermostat control with remote sensors. This can be multiple thermostats, a multi-zone thermostat or part of a VegaTouch multiplex system. In many cases, there will be a separate manually-operated thermostat in the basement to control the basement zone that protects the fresh water system from freezing. If you just want to keep minimal heat in the coach, you will still need to leave either the electric heating element or diesel burner switched on or else you won’t get any heat.

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Many coaches utilize a separate thermostat to control the basement heat.

The Motoraide loop to the engine will provide a bit of heat when driving. Typical BTU output for this is in the neighborhood of 10,000 BTU but will vary from coach to coach. It will keep the boiler hot so that you will have hot water when you stop and can give you a bit of interior heat but if it’s relatively cool out you will want to use the diesel burner as well. Still, the extra 10 KBTU is a help and will give you some free heat and save some diesel fuel. This system utilizes the engine’s water pump to circulate engine coolant through an internal heat exchanger inside the boiler via regular automotive heater hoses. You do not have to switch on any engine preheat pump for this to happen.

The optional engine preheat feature utilizes the same heater hoses but adds a circulating pump that pumps the engine antifreeze in the opposite direction. This is used to provide heat from an operating hydronic heating system boiler to a cold engine to make it easier to start. Note that this is not part of the engine block heater, which is a second preheat device supplied by the chassis manufacturer. The hydronic preheat system will actually heat up your engine faster than the block heater because it has more BTU. You can also use it when you are parked in a place where you do not have access to electricity because you can run your boiler on diesel fuel in the middle of Alaska if you need to preheat your engine. This is an optional feature so it depends on if the coach manufacturer uses it. If you stay out of cold areas it may not be of much use for you.

Hydronic systems also provide domestic hot water in addition to heat. The hot boiler antifreeze transfers heat to a coil that heats the fresh water as it passes through the coil on its way to your hot water faucets. A traditional water heater that uses a tank to store hot water will quickly run out of hot water once the tank is depleted so no long hot showers are possible. The hydronic system is a true on-demand system that will heat the water as it passes through the heating coil. The only caveat is that you have to limit the flow so that the boiler can keep up. The typical system has the ability to raise the water’s temperature 60 degrees over the temperature of the incoming water. If your water is very cold you’ll be limited in how hot you can get the water but if the incoming water is warmer you’ll be able to heat it to a higher temperature. Typically, this is rated at a 1.5 GPM flow rate. If you exceed that rate, the boiler won’t be able to keep up and as the boiler temperature begins to drop – so will the temperature of your hot water output. Using higher flow rates can work for a short time but if you really need a long hot shower, you’ll want to keep the flow rate beneath 1.5 GPM.

Maintenance

Anything mechanical will require a bit of maintenance every now and then. A hydronic heating system isn’t a high-maintenance item but when you consider that these systems have a diesel-powered flame that heats a boiler and circulating pumps that cycle antifreeze through heat exchangers, there are a few points to watch for.

A typical system requires an annual service, which pretty much centers on the diesel burner. The diesel burner pumps fuel through a small nozzle into the burner chamber and is ignited by a spark. The nozzle itself has a minute orifice that is designed for a specific flow rate and a precise conical pattern. During normal use, the diesel fuel that passes through the nozzle will wear out the orifice, resulting in excess diesel fuel flow. This excess fuel will cause fouling of the swirler flues that are designed to create the correct circular airflow inside the burner’s combustion chamber. The end result is that your hydronic heating system runs rich, causing stinky exhaust and puffs of smoke. This wear occurs from use, not time, so if you run your diesel burner quite often you might require service sooner than the arbitrary one year interval.

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The burner nozzle, electrodes and flame sensor are part of the annual service.

The combustion chamber needs to be cleaned and vacuumed as part of the service..

Nozzles cannot be cleaned but they are inexpensive and should be replaced. The annual service also entails replacing the fuel filter and a thorough inspection of the burner. It’s important to keep the burner head clean, especially the electrodes and flame sensor photocell. At the same time a good vacuuming of the combustion chamber and cleaning of the swirler to ensure the ports are clean is necessary. Finally, a quick check of the fuel pump pressure will ensure that everything is up to snuff.

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The fuel filter for the diesel burner needs to be changed annually.

Assuming that your system is functioning without any major issues, the only thing left is the antifreeze. Hydronic heating systems do not use automotive antifreeze, which includes water pump lubricants, anti-corrosion inhibitors and other additives designed for engines as well as freeze protection. A hydronic heating system uses an antifreeze that protects against freeze damage but it is designed for the best heat transfer. While most automotive antifreeze is Ethylene Glycol (EG), hydronic systems require Propylene Glycol (PG). The correct antifreeze will be available from Camco or Century and they are labeled as GRAS, which means Generally Recognized As Safe because they are not toxic, unlike EG. Your hydronic heating system will be equipped with a poly overflow tank so that you can see the level in your boiler. If it becomes discolored and smells burnt, it may be time to have your RV tech flush the system and replace the antifreeze.

While the boiler and heating loops are a sealed system, it always seems that they need a little topping off every now and then, so most owners carry a spare jug along. Pure antifreeze needs to be mixed with water about 50/50. Antifreeze is available in jugs filled with concentrated antifreeze that needs to be mixed with water or as a preformulated 50/50 mix. If you do buy the concentrated antifreeze, be sure to use distilled or deionized water when diluting it to a 50/50 mix to prevent minerals from tap water from accumulating in your hydronic system. You can dilute it a bit beyond the 50/50 mix which covers to -42F. In fact, the best heat transfer is at 60% water and 40% antifreeze. That will drop the freeze temperature a bit, but not significantly. A quick check of your antifreeze’s freeze point with a refractometer will verify your current freeze point. If the freeze point is too high, you can add a bit of concentrated antifreeze to bring the freeze protection level back to where it needs to be.

Really, with a little bit of care and understanding you’ll be able to enjoy your hydronic heat for a long time.

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Mark Quasius profile picture

Mark Quasius is the founder of RVtechMag.com, the past Midwest editor of RV Magazine, writes for numerous RV-related publications and a regular Contributor to FMCA’s Family RVing Magazine. Mark and his wife Leann travel in their 2016 Entegra Cornerstone.