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.

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


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. 


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.

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.


An installed Oasis NE system in a Showhauler motorhome.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

National Parks Have Something for Everyone

Have you ever been to a national park? They are among the most popular destinations in America with visitors numbering in the millions each year, many of whom are RVers. Before we retired and started traveling in our motorhome, neither my husband nor I had ever been to a national park. Now, though, we are on a quest to visit as many of these treasured vacation spots as we can.

Taking the obligatory sign picture at the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park

So Many Places to See

Visiting any of the 63 national parks in your RV is a great way to spend time outdoors and see the vast beauty of our country up close. The national parks are only a small part of what’s known as the National Park System, which includes 424 individual areas that span more than 85 million acres!

These areas include historic sites such as monuments and battlefields as well as seashores, scenic rivers, trails and, interestingly, the White House. Located throughout the country, each area provides a unique insight into the region and includes many environments like lakes, mountains, caves, forests and even sand dunes. There’s truly something for everyone.

Playing on the giant dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Variety is Amazing

The wide variety of things to see and do in each of these national park areas is incredible. No matter what your interests are, you can be sure to find something you will enjoy. Photographing nature and observing the scenery and wildlife is always big on my list.

Beautiful flowering cacti in Big Bend National Park
Bison herd near the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Every park we’ve visited has had numerous hiking trails for exploring the area’s diversity. We also saw many jaw-dropping geological features. If history is your thing, you will find an abundance of information and interesting facts about both the park itself and the surrounding area on-site. Plus, the dark skies in the more remote parks allow for unbeatable stargazing opportunities.

Early morning hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

My husband and I are fortunate to have experienced many exciting activities in the parks we’ve visited. We cruised around mountain lakes on a charter boat in Glacier National Park, rode on a thrilling jeep excursion in Canyonlands National Park, explored the inside of caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, soaked in a hot spring pool at Hot Springs National Park, walked (and drove!) through a redwood tree in Redwood National Park and flew in a seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park and snorkeled in the ocean, just to name a few. All kinds of unique adventures await you in our country’s parks!

Jeeping fun in Canyonlands National Park
Enjoying the view at the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Plan Your Visit

With so many options, one of the hardest things to do is deciding where you want to go first. A great way to start is by checking out NPS.gov. The National Park System website is easy to use and allows you to learn more about the parks, including visitor center operating hours, road and trail conditions, weather, safety tips, camping information and available activities. It is important to check for any active alerts or closures that might be in effect as well as restricted access areas.

Over the past few years, several parks have implemented a timed ticket entry system to manage visitation levels. This $2 ticket is in addition to park entry fees and must be purchased ahead of time at Recreation.gov (Hint: if you can’t get a ticket, you can still enter the park at off times before or after the ticket windows). The parks currently affected are Arches National Park, Glacier National Park, Haleakala National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, but some other parks are increasingly requiring reservations and permits to access some of their most popular areas, such as watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Save Money with a Park Pass

If you’re going to visit several parks in a single road trip, you can save money by purchasing a National Parks Pass. Available at the park entrance or online, a pass costs $80 for annual access to all national parks and federal recreation lands for one vehicle or up to 4 people. Given that entrance fees for some parks are $35 each, visiting 3 parks makes the cost worthwhile. There are also free lifetime passes available for seniors, veterans and those with permanent disabilities, as well as free annual passes for active duty military members and all 4th graders. View all the available passes here.

When You Arrive

Planning your trip ahead of time will allow you to make the most of your time in the park. When you arrive, I highly suggest starting at the visitor center. Here, you can watch a short film to learn the history and geography of the park. Make sure you talk to a park ranger, too. They are the experts who can answer questions, offer suggestions for activities, provide trail maps and let you know about special events like guided hikes or ranger talks.

Stopping at the visitor center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You can use all of this information to help plan the duration of your visit, including details on where to park, getting to the most popular sites and finding unique adventures you don’t want to miss! Don’t forget to stamp your National Parks Passport and browse the gift shop for a memento to commemorate your stop.

National Parks Passport book with stamps

Get Out in the Park

After checking out the visitor center, you’ll be ready to head into the park! We often start with a scenic drive so we can stop at the overlooks and take everything in. Some of the most stunning viewpoints are at these overlooks. This is a great time to have your camera handy to capture the gorgeous scenery.

Admiring the hoodoo formations at Bryce Canyon National Park

If we plan to spend several days in the park, we usually wait until day 2 to do some hiking. Since we’ve already received trail information and have likely decided on a specific hike, we can get an early start to beat the crowds — and the heat.

Always make sure you bring the necessary supplies for whatever activities you have chosen to do. For example, you will definitely want to wear good walking shoes and pack sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water and snacks that won’t melt or spoil. If the trail has a high elevation, walking sticks are extremely helpful. Don’t forget the bear spray, if required!

Hiking a trail in Capitol Reef National Park

Respect Nature

Whatever you choose to do in the national park, please remember to minimize your impact on the park’s plants, animals and ecosystem. The motto “leave no trace” encourages visitors to respect wildlife, be considerate of others, leave what you find, stay on trails and properly dispose of waste.

We are so fortunate that conservationists and leaders had the foresight to create the National Park Service back in 1916. The government agency ensures the preservation of our nation’s natural beauty and resources so they will be around for everyone to enjoy and learn from for years to come.

Have Fun and Make Memories

Traveling in your RV is the perfect way to experience a national park. You can camp within the park or at a nearby commercial campground. We often meet up with family or friends for even more fun during our stay. Whatever areas you visit or activities you choose, you are sure to create lasting memories!

Exploring the caves with friends at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
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.

RV Numbers – Ratings, Limits and Capacity

Every RV has specific ratings, limits and capacities related to weight distibution. 

We’ve all heard the saying – “It just looks like his number was up”. Well motorhomes have numbers too – lots of them in fact, which can be a bit confusing to a prospective RV buyer. It’s easy to view a spec sheet or brochure and understand how large the holding tanks are, how many gallons the fuel tank holds or how many BTUs the furnace puts out, but there is a wide array of chassis-related numbers that may take a while to grasp their meanings. Once you have narrowed down whether you want gas or diesel, a Class A or Class C and the approximate length you want, it’s important to understand the various weight ratings to ensure that the RV you are choosing is capable of operating safely within its design parameters. Following is a summary of those ratings that will help you to better understand what they mean.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR, is usually the first number that anyone pays attention to on a motorhome. It represents just how big this RV is. In actuality, it represents how heavy an RV can be within safe design parameters – so it’s really a “not to exceed” weight rating. Every motorhome is designed with a chassis frame, tires, engine, suspension, brakes, transmission and other components to operate in a given environment. A heavier vehicle will have stronger components to prevent failure at higher weight loads and deliver satisfactory performance when in operation. If you load your coach up with full cargo, occupants, full fuel and water the total weight should not exceed the GVWR. This is why it’s important to weigh your coach when fully loaded to ensure that you do not exceed the GVWR of that motorhome. Note that this is the resting weight and does not count any towed vehicles or trailers other than the amount of any tongue weight resting on the hitch. Although, if you have a motorcycle carrier or golf cart mounted on your trailer hitch that weight may be a significant amount.

Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW)

The Unloaded Vehicle Weight, or UVW, represents the actual weight of the vehicle when empty as it left the factory. You may see this listed on some manufacturer brochures or webpages but keep in mind these are generalizations and your actual will vary according to what options are chosen on your coach. Your vehicle’s actual UVW will be shown on a placard within the motorhome. The UVW includes a full tank of fuel and any chassis related fluids, such as coolant and oil, but does not include any water or propane. Once you know your RV’s GVWR and the UVW, you can calculate the CCC.

Sleeping Capacity Weight Rating (SCWR)

The Sleeping Capacity Weight Rating, or SCWR, is calculated by multiplying the number of sleeping positions by 154 pounds. Every coach will state how many sleeping positions are in the coach. The RVIA came up with 154 lbs. as an average number. The SCWR number isn’t all that important any more, as we’ll see later.

Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)

The Cargo Carrying Capacity, or CCC, represents how much stuff you can carry. It’s calculated by subtracting the UVW from the GVWR and then subtracting the SCWR, weight of the fresh water in your coach and the weight of the propane. The end result is the cargo carrying capacity.

It’s not the most useful because the SCWR is an arbitrary number at best. CCC is still used in towable RVs but is no longer used in motorhomes, being replaced by OCCC.

Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity (OCCC)

Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity, or OCCC, has been used in motorized RVs since 2008. It includes the weight of occupants, water and propane as well. If you have a pair of 250 lb. persons in their coach, a full tank of water (100 gallons equals 834 lbs.) and 100 lbs. of propane on board you’ll already have 1,434 lbs. used up and you haven’t yet loaded up any food, clothing or recreational equipment. Some motorhomes may only have a couple of  thousand pounds of cargo capacity while some of the large tag axle coaches may have over 10,000 lbs. It’s definitely something you need to consider and compare to your traveling habits when buying a motorhome.


This example shows the OCCC as well as defining the weight of water used in its calculation.

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

The Gross Axle Weight Rating, or GAWR, is a weight rating of an axle. You’ll have both a front axle GAWR as well as a rear axle GAWR. If you have a tag axle coach, you’ll also have a tag axle GAWR. Most of the time your two or three axle ratings will add up to the GVWR but that is not always the case. In some cases an axle may be rated higher but the GVWR of the coach itself will be less due to limitations of the suspension, brakes, etc.

GAWRs come into play in regard to weight distribution. You may have a coach that is loaded up to the full GVWR, but if the cargo weight isn’t distributed evenly you may have one axle overweight while the other end of the coach is lightly loaded. This can lead to excessive stress on the suspension components and tires that are overloaded. This underscores the importance of having your motorhome weighed on scales when fully loaded. Ideally, you should have a 4-corner weighing at a facility such as National Indoor RV Centers. That will show you if you have any side-to-side imbalance where you may need to shift some cargo from one side to the other. But if that’s not possible, at least have a per-axle scale reading taken at a truck stop.

As a rule of thumb, single rear axle coaches tend to have most of the weight on the rear axle. The Federal Bridge Law limited the maximum weight of any axle to 20,000 lbs. This caused issues with the larger 37-40’ diesel pushers because all of the new amenities and ceramic tile floors added too much weight to the rear axle, leaving the front axle lightly loaded. Fortunately, the NHTSA changed the rules in 2008, allowing motorhomes to have higher axle rating. Currently most of the larger single-axle diesel pushers are equipped with upgraded 24K rated axles to restore some cargo capacity. If you have a tag axle coach, just the opposite is true. The addition of the tag axle gives you greater cargo capacity so you’ll be hard pressed to overload the rear axles on a tag axle coach. But the tag axle also acts as a fulcrum, shifting more weight to the front steer axle, which can cause it to exceed its GAWR. When looking to buy a tag axle coach, pay close attention to the GAWR on the front axle.,


A typical placard, this one from a 2007 Allegro Bus, showing GVWR, GCWR, CCC and SCWR.

RV Hitch Rating

Your trailer hitch should be stamped with a pair of ratings, although you might have crawl under the hitch to find it. The first is the tongue weight and the second is the rating of how much you can pull. Tongue weights aren’t a problem if you are flat towing with a towbar because the towbar merely acts as a connector between the two vehicles and the only weight that is applied to the motorhome is part of the weight of just the towbar. If you have a trailer you will need to check  the tongue weight of that trailer when loaded to ensure that it doesn’t exceed what is stamped on the hitch. You may have to shift some of the trailer’s cargo rearward if excessive. If you utilize a hitch mounted carrier for a motorcycle lift, you’ll also need to ensure that your hitch is rated to carry that additional weight.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)

The Gross Combined Weight Rating, or GCWR, is the total weight of the combination of motorhome and anything it is towing. The GCWR will exceed the GVWR by anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 lbs. It’s not strictly an indication of how much you can tow but it is designed to prevent damage to the engine and its cooling system, the transmission and other components. If you are loaded up to the full GVWR when traveling, the difference between the GCWR and GVWR will be your maximum towing ability. If you are traveling at less than your GVWR, you can add those additional pounds to your towing rating. However, your ability to tow is limited by two factors.

First of all, the motorhome’s trailer hitch has a rating which you cannot exceed – so your towing capacity will be the least of either the hitch rating or the difference between the GCWR and GVWR. It’s like a chain where the weakest length determines how much the chain can lift. You may have a 5,000 lb. hitch with an 8,000 lb. GCWR/GVWR delta so you’ll be limited to 5,000 lbs. because the trailer hitch is the weakest point. Conversely, you may have a heavy-duty 20,000 lb. hitch on that vehicle, but you’ll still be limited to the 8,000 lb. delta between the GCWR and GVWR

Lastly, the GCWR is based upon having trailer brakes on your trailer. The brakes on the motorhome are not designed to safely bring your coach to a stop in the required distance when towing. Most RV owners prefer to tow four down with a tow bar so you will need to use a supplemental braking system with your towed vehicle.

Maximum Inflation Pressure (MIP)

Your tires have a Maximum Inflation Pressure, or MIP. The sidewall of the tire will designate the maximum inflation pressure as well how many pounds that tire is capable of supporting. Again, this is why it’s important to have your coach weighed on a four corner or per axle basis when fully loaded. Your tire manufacturer will have an inflation table for each specific size or  tire that they make. This chart will tell you what the cold inflation pressure, or CIP, should be  for that weight rating.

Once you have your coach weighed you can determine how much pressure is needed in your tires. If the tire is designed for more weight than what you will be carrying you don’t have to inflate it to the maximum inflation pressure. Reducing the pressure will give you a better ride and improve traction. It’s always good to run about 5 psi over what the chart states though to allow for any changes in the future. It also allows for a slight weight imbalance between the left and right tires. You must always use the same pressure on both tires on the same axle though, but you can have different pressures between the steer and drive axles. Always keep a minimum pressure of 85 PSI on large drive or tag axles tires to ensure the tire’s bead stays seated on the wheel rim.

By ensuring that all of these ratings are not exceeded you’ll be sure that you can safely operate your motorhome. Following is a list of links to inflation charts for RV tires from some of the major manufacturers:

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.

RV Sanitation Systems

Understanding your RV sanitation systems can prevent some foul problems

Motorhomes are self-contained with a fresh water system as well as holding tanks to handle waste water from the various plumbing fixtures. While dealing with waste water isn’t the most glamorous part of owning a motorhome, it is nonetheless an important part. Unlike a residential plumbing system like in your home, an RV has a number of things that have to be kept in mind and taken care of or else you’ll be in for a few messy and smelly problems. Fortunately, it’s not that bad if you understand how things work and pick up a few tips to help keep them working as it should. Let’s first look at how an RV’s waste water system is constructed.

Your RV Has Two Water Systems – Not One

To begin with, there are really two systems, not just one. The gray water system handles the waste water from the sink drains, shower drain and dishwasher, if equipped. The black water system handles the waste from the toilets. This method provides for two separate holding tanks, one to hold the black water and one to hold the gray. The reasoning behind this began in the early days of RV use. Drainage from sinks and showers contributed more volume than waste water from the toilets and needed to be drained more frequently. In addition, the gray water was relatively clean and could oftentimes be allowed to drain onto the ground, although many locations no longer allow that due to local public health laws. On the other hand, the black water wasn’t very sanitary and needed to be disposed of in a proper dump station or sewer connection. Having the two separate tanks made it possible to have multiple dump cycles rather than dumping all the waste at the same time. Another benefit to the two-tank system is that the gray water tank is relatively clean because it’s mostly soapy water while the human waste and toilet paper found in the black tank can cake up inside the tank walls, causing tank level sensors to foul and give errant readings.

The vast majority of motorhomes have a single sewer connection used to connect the sewer hose to the holding tanks. A pair of dump valves, one for each holding tank, connects via a wye connector to this common outlet. These valves are blade type valves to prevent clogging and can be either manually operated or electrically operated with a remote switch.


A set of remote electric dump valve switches in our Entegra Coach.

Each tank is connected to a vent stack that extends out of the roof to eliminate a vacuum from forming in the tank when draining and expansion as the tank is being used. It also allows for odors to vent from the tank. You may have a pair of vent stacks for the two holding tanks, or they may be tee’d together into one common vent stack. A hood is applied to the vent stack to prevent rainwater or debris from entering the tanks via the vent stack. These hoods can be simple rain caps or venturi style fittings that allow the wind to help ventilate the tanks.


Rooftop vents, such as this 360 Siphon, are required to ventilate the holding tanks and provide makeup air when draining the tanks.


Of course, you’d never know when you have to dump your holding tanks without some kind of indicator. Early tank designs used three sensor probes that were inserted into the tank. One was located at the one-third level, another at the two-thirds level and one at the very top of the tank. These sensors were inserted through the sidewall of the tank and would conduct electricity when wet. A wiring harness connected them to a monitor panel inside the coach to display the tank levels. If the tank was full, all four LEDs would illuminate. If the fluid level in the tank reached the two-thirds level, only three LEDs would light up. At one-third, only two would light up and if below one-third, only the bottom “empty” LED would be lit.

This system worked for years but had a few drawbacks. For one, the sensors easily fouled and gave false readings, so it was imperative to keep the tanks as clean as possible. Another concern was their accuracy. If the tank level was just below the two-thirds sensor, it would register one-third full on the display. You might think you have plenty of room left in the tank but all you had to do was add a little bit of water to the tank and it instantly jumped to two-thirds full, so you never really knew exactly how full the tank was.

The next big improvement was the SeeLevel tank measurement system. This system used external sensors that used adhesive to attach to the outside of the tank. These sensors were full length and used radio waves to determine the precise level of the tank’s contents.


The SeeLevel system uses digital sensors that are externally mounted to the tank and displays the levels in 2% increments on a digital display within the coach.

A second SeeLevel display panel can be mounted in the wet bay to monitor tank levels when draining or filling the tanks.

In addition, the external mount prevented the sensor from fouling. The only time an errant reading was displayed was if the inside tank wall was seriously caked up and needed a major cleaning. The display panel inside the coach was a digital display that reported in actual percentages, usually with 2-4% accuracy. The displays were available in multiple configurations that could cover the LP tank level if needed as well as switches for water pumps. Multiple displays meant you could have one display inside the coach with a second display in the wet bay. Eventually this sensor technology also found its way into the multiplex wiring systems, such as Firefly’s VegaTouch system, so that it could be displayed on their central touch screen panel.


Typical basement wet bay from my Allegro Bus, showing water filter, hose reel, dump valves, water pump and all valves and controls.

RV Toilets

While sinks, showers, dishwashers and laundry centers aren’t that much different than what you would find in a sticks and bricks home, the toilets used in an RV are markedly different. A residential toilet has a large water closet that acts as a storage tank for clean flush water. It also has a trap that fills with water to prevent any sewer gas from backing up into the home. When you press the flush lever the tank water runs into the bowel with a vengeance, rinsing the bowl and using gravity to flush the water down into the sewer. The tank then refills with water to be ready for the next flush. An RV needs to conserve water because both the freshwater and holding tanks are limited in size, so a different design is used. In most cases an RV toilet consists of a blade valve that is kept closed except when flushing. These gravity dump toilets are placed directly over the black water holding tank. The blade valve is either operated manually via a foot pedal or electrically via a wall mounted switch. When you activate the flush mechanism, the blade valve opens to allow the waste to fall into the tank below and a measured amount of flush water is expelled to rinses the bowl and provide some water to the holding tank to prevent the waste from drying out.


If the dump valve blades get sticky a drain valve lubricant can be added to the tank to help free it up.

In some cases, it’s not possible to locate the toilet directly over the black tank. This is especially true when your coach has a 1.5 bath floorplan with one toilet midship and another in the rear bath. In that case, a macerator toilet is used. A macerator toilet uses a motorized grinder to grind the waste up and pump it to the black tank regardless of where the tank is located. Instead of a blade valve, this style does use a small trap filled with water. When you push the flush button, the bowl fills with more water and then the macerator kicks in and pumps the waste through a smaller 1-1/4” line to the black holding tank. Then it adds some more water to the bowl. Macerators are necessary when the black tank isn’t located beneath the toilet. The only real disadvantage to them, other than cost, is that they do use more water when flushing than a direct gravity dump toilet, which can be a concern when boondocking with a limited water supply. However, the extra water used helps to keep the solids in the black tank suspended and will keep the tank walls cleaner.


Macerators use a smaller diameter 1-1/4 to 1-1/2” hose and can pump the waste uphill and for longer distances than a gravity dump 3” sewer connection.

RV Sewer Hoses and Fittings

You need to have a way to transfer the waste from the tanks to a sewer connection or dump station so that requires a sewer hose. Sewer hoses use a common 3” inside diameter hose with an industry standard bayonet connection. These “slinky” hoses are typically vinyl with a spiral wire reinforcement to prevent the hose from collapsing and come in various grades. The cheapest hoses are very thin and won’t last very long. You will develop pinhole leaks, cracks and tears quickly. Upgrading to a heavier vinyl helps but even with the extra heavy-duty hoses, you’ll still have issues. Many motorhome owners have gone with Camco’s Rhino Flex hoses, which are a step up over traditional vinyl hoses. These hoses can hold their shape more easily and are quite a bit stronger. My personal choice is Valterra’s Viper sewer hose. The Viper hose is unique in that it doesn’t uses any helical wire in the hose. The spiral wire used in typical sewer hoses keeps the hose from collapsing but it also leaves a corrugated interior to the hose, which provides restriction when dumping and lots of crannies for waste sediment to pack up inside the hose. This requires additional water to rinse the hose clean. The Viper hose has no wire and the interior is smooth so it rinses clean. You can also step on it to crush it flat and it will bounce right back, unlike a corrugated wire hose which will remain flat and kinked. It also remains flexible at down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, so it really blows all of the other hoses away.


Sewer hoses, such as this Valterra Viper are available in kits or as individual components.

A Viper 10’ extension hose.

The Viper hose has the ability to be crushed, yet return to its original shape.

Sewer hoses have a male and female bayonet connector so you can connect multiple hoses together if you need additional length. They typically are available in either 10’ or 20’ lengths. I prefer to use 10’ lengths because I can always use two to get to 20’ if I need the extra reach. Plus, I keep a third hose on hand in case I ever have a failure. Various fittings are available to connect to a sewer connection. A campground sewer connection may be as simple as a bare pipe sticking out of the ground or it can be a PVC pipe with either 3” or 4” pipe threads. The most common connector for any RV is a 90-degree elbow with a female bayonet connector to connect to your sewer hose and a long snout to insert into the sewer. Most have a slide-on threaded adaptor that is molded onto the snout. This adaptor has both 3” and 4” male pipe thread so that it can fit either size sewer pipe. If you find you are at a site with a bare unthreaded pipe, you can slide a rubber or silicone donut over the pipe. This will allow you to press the elbow into the unthreaded pipe when necessary. It’s also typically used at a dump station, where the sewer pipe is generally just a hole in the concrete pad. These elbows can also be found in clear plastic so that you can monitor the color of your waste. This is helpful when you are rinsing your black tank and want to know when it is clean. Clear pipes that can be inserted in line with the hose are also available.


A threaded sewer elbow in clear plastic allows you to see when the tank flushing process has been thoroughly cleaned.

90 degree sewer elbows are threaded for various size pipe threads and also a long snout to accept a donut for unthreaded sewer connections.

Sewer hoses do have limited use because they use gravity to dump. If your motorhome’s sewer connection is fairly low and the campground sewer sticks out of the ground quite a bit, gravity isn’t going to work very well for you on this uphill battle. If it’s not too serious, you can just walk the hose from the coach to the sewer after dumping to drain the fluid resting in the hose manually.


Macerators grind up waste and can be portable or mounted in the coach, as in this Entegra.

Macerators use a smaller diameter 1-1/4 to 1-1/2” hose and can pump the waste uphill and for longer distances than a gravity dump 3” sewer connection.

Another option is a macerator. A macerator uses a motor to grind the waste and pump it uphill, similar to a macerator toilet. While a 3” slinky hose has a limited length and cannot go uphill, a macerator uses 1-1/4” or 1-1/2” hose that can pump uphill up to 9’ vertically and 100’ horizontally. Some of these models, such as the SaniCon Turbo, are installed permanently in the RV and feature a 3” bypass port for a slinky. Other models are portable and will connect to the coach’s bayonet fitting on the dump valve wye. They are a bit slower to dump that a 3” slinky but offer the ability to overcome gravity when dumping your tanks.


Dump valves come in 3” and 1-1/2” sizes and are easy to replace. Replacement seal kits are also available.

Operation and Cleaning

Your gray water tank isn’t very fussy. As long as you scrape the heavy stuff off your dishes before washing them and keep from pouring oils and fats down the drain, your gray tank will remain pretty clean. The soapy shower water and dishwater help keep the inside of the gray water tank clean so that your sensors won’t give you any trouble. But your black water tank is a bit pickier, so you’ll need to pay attention to it to prevent any issues from appearing. The biggest problem with black tanks is that the waste can dry and cake up on the inside of the tank walls. This leads to unreliable sensor readings. The most important thing is to keep the waste fluid and don’t let it dry out. Saving water can be a disadvantage in that respect.

It’s possible to use a gravity dump toilet with very little water usage. When the toilet’s blade valve opens, the solid waste and toilet paper can just fall through the gate and lay in a lump beneath if the tank is low on water. With continued use, this “pyramid of death” builds and you’ll need a construction crew to break it up. Avoid this by using plenty of water when you flush the toilet. When you dump the black tank, be sure to add plenty of water to the tank so that you aren’t starting out with a dry tank. This water will help to keep future waste additions soluble. Some users like to keep their gray tank dump valve open, but this can lead to a tank with dry sediment caked in it over time. It also allows for certain insects to leave the sewer and enter the coach – you may wind up sharing a shower with them.

Many black tanks will have a flush mechanism installed. This is basically a spray head that sprays water around inside the tank. In some cases, this sprayer can rinse down any accumulated waste that is caked on the tank walls. In other cases, it’s limited to merely pushing any loose sediment on the floor of the tank to the dump valve. Frequent use of the sprayer whenever dumping the black tank is recommended. If you wait too long, the waste will cake up on the walls and be much harder to remove. If you find that this is the case, it’s best to mix up a solution of Pine Sol and fill the tank to about ¾ full, then drive to your next destination. The sloshing action while driving will help rinse the tank walls and put everything into suspension. Then dump immediately after arriving at your destination and finish off with the tank flushing attachment.


Electric dump valves can be located in hard to access areas, like this Entegra Coach, and can be remotely operated.

Never leave the black tank dump valve open when camping or you’ll experience severe caking and bad sensor readings. Always keep the valve closed unless dumping. It’s a best practice to always dump your gray tank after the black tank. The onrushing flow of soapy gray tank water will help flush any black tank residue from your sewer hose.

If you dump the black tank too often, you’ll never get the water level high enough to prevent waste from caking on the upper portion of the tank walls. Be sure to get the fluid level up high enough before dumping. Ideally, you can do this after a day’s drive to derive the benefit of the sloshing that has taken place. Also be sure to only put human waste and approved toilet paper into the black tank. Never put facial tissue or feminine products down the toilet. You don’t have to buy expensive “official” RV toilet paper from an RV dealer or camping supply store. You just need to use a septic safe paper that will dissolve and break up in water.

You can test your choice of paper by doing the Mason jar test. Place a wad of toilet paper into a Mason jar and fill it about ¾ full of water. Screw on the lid and shake it for about 15 seconds. The wad of paper should now be dissolved into a bunch of fluff suspended in the water. If it is – you pass the test and it’s RV safe. If it’s still a wad of paper and hasn’t broken down – don’t use it in the RV because it will plug up the system.

Chemicals and UViaLite

This brings us to chemicals. A common misconception is that you need to add RV-specific chemicals to treat your waste tank. This is not quite true. Both human waste and toilet paper will dissolve in plain water. You don’t need tank treatment chemicals to do that. If you neglect your black tank, you may need some heavy-duty tank chemicals or Pine Sol to clean it but under normal use, you won’t. One thing chemicals do is deal with odors – although that’s not all it’s cracked up to be either.

Some chemicals are nothing more than perfume. They don’t remove the odors, but they mask it by adding a more favorable scent to the tank. Other chemicals include enzymes that do react with the odors, but enzymes are organic organisms that take 5-7 days to become active. Most RV owners don’t wait that long to dump their tank, so they are basically flushing away good money every time they dump.


Liquid waste digester, such as this Pure Power Blue, will help treat solid waste to prevent clogs and prevent odors.

A great system that I am familiar with is the UViaLite system. I first noticed this system when reviewing an American Coach for a magazine article I wrote for another publication. I also noticed this system on a Thor diesel coach on another article and have since learned that other manufacturers are looking at implementing this system.


This particular bay on an American Coach shows the UViaLite waste tank ventilation system installed.

UViaLite uses proven technology that uses an ultraviolet light set to a specific frequency of 185 nanometers to react with oxygen (O2) to create ozone (O3). This unit picks up fresh air from beneath the coach and passes it through the UV module and into the top of the tank via a 1-1/4” PVC pipe. There are no moving parts because the system uses the chimney effect of natural airflow rising through the tank’s vent stack. 6 to 20 PPM of ozone are created in the unit and the thermal updraft of the vent stack draws the ozone into the holding tank at less than 1 CFM. Once powered up, the unit can remain on and only draws 0.8 amps of 12 VDC power, which is around 10 watts. The unit can remain on until the user stores the RV at the end of the travel season.


This image shows how the UV light creates O3 from O2

Shows how Ozone attacks viruses and bacteria to form oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Shows how odors are eliminated by converting the smelly hydrogen disulphide to water and sulfur that settle in the water and oxygen which vents out the stack.

Ozone is a powerful oxidizer that will kill bacteria and chemically destroy viruses in seconds. The ozone generated by the eco-friendly UViaLite attacks the molecular bonds of viruses, bacteria & mold, breaking them up into harmless water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2). UViaLite removes the stinky smell caused by hydrogen disulfide in the tank by converting it to freshwater vapor and sulfur that falls out of the air and into the tank.


This diagram shows how the air flows through a UViaLite system.

Eliminating odors rather than masking them with a perfumed scent will make a big difference whenever someone flushes the toilet, especially when the bathroom exhaust fan is on. Because it also kills any pathogens, it will prevent viruses shed from a sick person from wafting up out of the tank and possibly infecting other people in and around the coach. UViaLite does not affect anything in the liquid portion of the tank so it won’t affect any chemicals you may have in there. It only affects the air above the liquid, which is where the odor is anyway.

Keep in mind these few tips and you’ll qualify as an RV sanitation expert in no 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.

RV Electrical System Failure

RV Electrical System Failure

Sometimes these systems can fail, not that this will come as a shock to anyone. When electrical systems fail it’s time to do some testing to see where the failure is. A voltmeter is a huge help in this area although a test light can also be used to test low voltage circuits. Personally, if you are a motorhome owner you should have a multi-meter of some sort. It’s invaluable for checking high voltage circuits, campground pedestals, low voltage circuits, and continuity.

Fuse Panel

Fuse panels hold fuses for all 12-volt systems

Check for Blown Fuses 

The first thing to do is to check for blown fuses. Sometimes you can do this by removing the fuse and holding it up to the light to determine if the fusible link is blown. Sometimes it’s not so easy to see. The way many of these fuse panels are labeled, or more accurately, “not” labeled, you may have trouble figuring out which fuse does what. The common ATO fuses are blade type fuses with a plastic housing. There are bare spots on the end of the housing that can be used to test for voltage. If you have power going into the fuse, but not out of it, you’ll know you have a bad fuse. Another method is to use the ohms setting on a multimeter. Remove the fuse and check for continuity with the meter. If there is no continuity, the fuse is bad. If you have a critical circuit you can also replace those fuses with ATO style circuit breakers that plug right into place. There are also fuses with LED pilot lights that will illuminate if the fuse is blown. So, you have lots of options when it comes to fuses.


Test for Voltage 

If it’s not a fuse, then you need to look a little deeper. If the fuse does have power leaving it, test for voltage at the device that isn’t working. If you have power coming into the device, it’s either a bad device (light bulb, fan motor, water pump, etc.) or else you do not have a complete circuit. In that case, I’d check for a bad ground because an open ground won’t provide a complete circuit back to the battery. If you do not have power at the device, there is an open circuit between the fuse and the device. The first place to look would be at the switch. Test to see if there is power coming into the switch and power exiting the switch. If the power is getting to the switch but not leaving it, it’s time to replace the switch.

Wire Gauge (AWG) Wire Diameter, in Inches Current Capacity, in Amps
0000 .4600 600
000 .4096 500
00 .3648 400
0 .3249 320
1 .2893 250
2 .2576 200
4 .2043 125
5 .1819 100
6 .1620 65-80
8 .1285 40-50
10 .1019 30-33
12 .0808 20-23
14 .0641 15-17
16 .0508 7.5-10
18 .0403 5
20 .0320 3.3
24 .0201 1.3
28 .0126 0.5

This chart shows the current capacity for various wire gauge sizes