How do I Care For My Fiberglass Travel Trailer?

If you own a travel trailer with a fiberglass exterior you will need to take care of it, so that the finish stays shiny and awesome for years to come.  Just like any automotive exterior, the finish and look can deteriorate with time.  We have all seen those dingy, chalky, dry and faded fiberglass trailers sitting in someone’s yard, or in the storage lot and shuddered at the thought of our rig getting to be just as bad.  Don’t worry, maintaining your smooth glossy finish is easier than you think, but it does require a certain amount of effort on your part.

Hands-On Care

The most important thing to do to protect your RV’s finish is to wash it with a suitable trailer or car wash once a month.  Some RV exterior washes that we recommend are the B.E.S.T. Wash and Wax, or Thetford Wash and Wax.  They are formulated for your trailer or 5th wheel’s exteriors, and the wax additive helps keep the finish smooth, so that dirt is less likely to sit on it and stick, causing black streaks, and wearing down the finish.  It is also a good idea to wax your RV with a liquid or paste wax at least once per year, to help the finish keep a build-up of that glossy shine.  Personally, I use the B.E.S.T. Wax, it gives me an easy shine, without having to scrub, just wax on, wax off.

If you bought your camper used, or the fiberglass is already showing some signs of losing it’s shine, then you may need to get a little more aggressive, and use a fiberglass restorer, like this one.  It is designed to help recover some of the finish that the fiberglass had before the trouble started, although it isn’t a cure-all.

Storage

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, so make sure you take into account some of the environmental factors that can effect your trailer or 5th wheel when you aren’t using it.  Extreme sunlight, air pollutants, excessive moisture, and whether the trailer is parked under a “dirty tree” (or for that matter, under a tree that has a lot of birds in it…) can all have an impact in how the exterior of your RV will last.  The longer dirt and stains sit on the trailer, the less likely they are to be easy to remove, so think about keeping the trailer indoors (if practical), or under an RV cover when you aren’t using it.  This will help protect the finish, and keep UV rays from dulling and fading the finish prematurely.

Damage

It may come to pass that you damage the fiberglass on your trailer.  I know, I know, you are careful, but these things happen.  If it does, make sure you get it covered ASAP with plastic or duct tape, sealed at the edges well, to prevent water from getting in and making a bad situation even worse.  Next, get the damage fixed as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the more likely it becomes that water will get in there, and maybe cause delamination.  Delamination is the enemy.  Talk to your local body shop, and work with your insurance to get things sorted out as quickly as you can.

As you can see, it isn’t very hard to keep the fiberglass on your camper looking fresh and clean for years to come.  And remember, when you are looking to sell it, or trade it in, people see the exterior before anything else, and trailers that look awesome tend to sell faster, and for more money.

Protecting your Trailer From Critters

Westland Camping critter prevention

Let Westland Camping help you keep your trailer safe

Mice, squirrels, raccoons, mountain goats, and hippopotamuses can all do major damage to the inside of your trailer while you aren’t looking.  They can build nests in the confines of your furnace where you cant see them, they can chew wires, they can destroy insulation, wood, bedding, and really anything they touch (or pee on).  And the worst part?  A lot of insurance policies don’t cover the damage, leaving you holding the bag.  After years of talking to customers and working on trailers, I have heard dozens of different ways to keep mice and other critters out of your trailer, and I have heard dozens of attempts that have failed.  For every story I hear, I also hear how somebody tried it and it failed.  This is a hotly debated topic in internet forums and discussions in campgrounds, and there are a couple of things that I have found to be the best strategies to keep nature outside your home away from home.

NOTE:  THIS IS NOT A GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS.  If critters are determined, they can and will defeat any defense you put up.  This article is basically designed to help you put forth the best efforts, and outline what I have found to be the best strategies.

1) Clean it out.  Seems simple, but I am always surprised by how many people don’t give critters enough credit, and leave food, crumbs, and other tasty mouse-vittles.  Folks that camp with pets have the added responsibility of making sure they clean up all of those errant dog/cat food crumbs that seem to get everywhere, cuz those dogs and cats eat like animals…  These are things that can draw mice to your camper.  their sense of smell is incredible, and they will follow their noses to your camper if you tempt them.

2)  Use their noses against them.  There are a lot of folks who swear by the use of the original scented Bounce dryer sheets.  The smell is such that it keeps the mice away.  The added bonus is that they keep your trailer smelling very fresh; not a bad deal.  However I have seen where mice have used these to pad their nests, so it isn’t exactly bulletproof.  In the store, we have been hearing great things about Fresh Cab Mouse Pouches, which are pouches filled with pine resins and chips.  The theory behind this is that the pine smell is strong enough where it cancels out the mouse’s sense of smell, which is one of their most important defense mechanisms.  If they can’t smell danger, they don’t hang around.  And like the Bounce Dryer sheets, they have the added bonus of making the camper smell like a pine forest.

3) If they can’t get in, they won’t get in.  This is probably your first and most important line of defense from the critters.  Mice can fit into all sorts of tiny gaps and holes.  Your trailer’s underbelly or floor does have gaps and holes.  It just does.  Go around the outside of the camper especially underneath and plug any and every hole that you can find with either expanding foam, or brass wool, which mice don’t like chewing on.  Don’t use steel wool, as steel rusts, brass doesn’t, so it should last you longer.

Do you have any strategies that I didn’t cover?  If so, then let me know on our Facebook page, I would love to hear about them.

Why Are Winter Leaks The Worst?

trailer-snowWintertime in Michigan, or anywhere the snow flies for that matter, is one of the worst conditions for your trailer to sit in.  The combination of heat and cold, plus the snow and ice can create a perfect condition for a long-term leak that can cost you big.

Things contract in the cold, and with last winter setting all sorts of temperature records, they contracted even more. Between the warmer temps in the day, and the colder temps at night, the caulking on your trailer can be stretched past what it can handle.  Especially if the caulking is old, or hardened, and doesn’t have a lot of give left to begin with.  So before winter hits, make sure you check all of your seals, and don’t put off fixing it until the spring, that might be too late.  Newer caulk has more elasticity, and has a better chance to not break loose.

Now, the other thing to consider is snow.  Lots and lots of snow.

In the summertime, rain can pound your trailer’s roof for days, but mostly it runs off.  Granted, it can leak, but for the most part the water isn’t on the roof long enough to cause lasting damage unless there is a hole or other place for easy entry.  Snow, on the other hand, can sit on a roof for days, weeks, even months at a time.  And you may not notice it, but the Sun is shining, and the bottom layers of that snow is almost always melting off during the day.  This means that every seal on your trailer’s roof can be subject to a slow, constant, and potentially devastating water leak over the course of months before you notice.

Combine bad caulk breaking loose, and snow providing a steady stream of water, Winter is a scary time.

The best two strategies to avoid this problem are to…CHECK YOUR CAULK, and invest in a camper cover.  If you do these two things, you have a great chance of avoiding major leaks, and repair bills.  remember, insurance companies don’t cover repairs due to leaks from caulking.

Why Doesn’t My RV Water Heater Work?

This is the face of a suburban water heater, available at Westland Camping

This is the face of a suburban water heater, available at Westland Camping

RV water heaters are fairly simple appliances.  they are basically a large metal bucket that has a burner chamber running through it, that when the water heater is… well… heating, the lp flame jets into the chamber and the water in the tank heats up.

Fancier water heaters also run on 110v electric as well, which is nice because it doesn’t use any of your lp, and the cost of electric is already in the cost of your site. I want to discuss some common water heater problems and solutions that we see on a weekly basis, to help you get on the road faster and cheaper. Continue reading

Video: Troubleshooting Your Schwintek Slide out

Schwintek Slide Out

Schwintek Slide Out

Sometimes problems can happen.  I know, it’s a shocker.  We want to help you be prepared in the unlikely event that you have a slide out problem while using the Schwintek slide out.  Unlike the traditional slide, there is no crank handle for overriding the controls, so here is a video on some troubleshooting tips by the manufacturer of the slide out, Lippert Components.

How Do I Manually Operate My Slide Out?

manual slide out crank

manual slide out crank

Though we don’t see very many problems with today’s slide outs, occasionally problems can occur.  Situations where you have no power, or your battery is dead for example.

One of the most common questions we are asked is how to manually operate slide outs.  Here is a helpful video I found that covers this question.  Though this happens to be a Lippert slide out, most slide outs operate in approximately the same way.  Make sure you read your owners manual, or talk to your dealer or manufacturer for specifics on your RV.

Should I check My Trailer During the Winter?

roof leakIn the camping off season it is easy to forget your about your trailer.  With the holidays, winter break from schools and everything else that seems to crash at the end of the year, your trailer sits silently under the snow and ice, waiting for the chance to get out camping the next season.

You should probably make some time, however.  Here in Michigan this last two weeks, we have seen major snow falls, super-cold temperatures (thank you Polar Vortex), major thawing, and even rain.  These conditions can add up to major issues in your trailer, and checking the trailer out now, can help avoid major repair bills three months from now.

The super-cold temperatures followed by the thaw and rain can wreak havoc on your trailer’s caulking and seals around windows, doors and storage compartments.  With expansion and severe contraction happening, caulking can break loose, and invite water in to visit.  Never good.

Checking for the first sign of any water intrusion will ensure that by the time camping season rolls around, you will be able to use it when you want to, and not have your RV sitting in the service department.  When the weather breaks near the spring, RV dealer service departments get very busy, and repair times can last weeks before being repaired or even looked at extensively.  The off-season is the time to handle a lot of the service issues, considering you aren’t actually using it right now.

For more information about checking your trailer for water damage, watch this video.  Another thing you can do to help protect yourself from the elements between checks, is to cover it.  For more information on my personal opinion on covers, read this article on the subject.

Remember, this time of year can breed problems for months, and a little time now can save you a lot of time, money and aggravation later on.

How Do I Winterize My Flagstaff Travel Trailer?

This is a basic chart, not specific to Flagstaff, but pretty good.

This is a basic chart, not specific to Flagstaff, but pretty good.

Flagstaff Travel Trailers are designed for maximum ease of use for their owners.  They include all sorts of features that make life a little easier, and add more every year.

 

Some of the most useful features have to do with winterizing.  Since it is getting to be time, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to highlight how to use these features to winterize your Flagstaff Travel Trailer.

Step One: Drain The Water

Walk around the trailer, and make sure your fresh water, black water and gray water tanks are empty.  Drain your water heater if it isn’t already drained.  Look under the trailer for the Low Point Drains, which are two tubes coming out from the floor.  There will be one blue one and one red one.  Remove the caps from these low point drains, and that will drain the water from the water lines themselves. HINT: when you open the low point drains, crack open one of the faucets to release the vacuum and the lines will drain faster.

Near your water pump is your water filtration system, remove the jar and dispose of the filter.  Reinstall the filter canister.

When everything is empty, cap off all the lines and close all the faucets.  Please proceed to step two…

Step Two: Change The Flow

There are two sets of valves that you need to be aware of, the hot water bypass valves, and the winterizing valve.

The water heater bypass valves are designed to close off the water heater from the water system, and save you a lot of money in anti-freeze.  They are located behind the water heater (although sometimes they are off to the side of it a little).

There are three of them, one each on the blue and red water lines, and one for the shorter crossing hose.  Turn the two main line valves so that the valve handle runs across the hose, like it is shut off.  Then open the valve on the cross hose.  This will keep anti-freeze out of your water heater, and force the anti freeze up and around to the rest of the water system.

Next to the water filter, you should find the water pump.  There is another valve on one of the hoses that lead from the wall to the pump.  This will divert the suction of the water pump from the fresh water tank to the valve on the outside of the trailer.

Now you are in the right position to finish the job….

Step 3: The Pink Stuff…

You will need about 2 gallons of RV anti-freeze, but having a third as a spare is never a bad idea.  You will also need a 4 or 5 foot length of hose with a male hose connection on it.

Ok, on the outside of your trailer, locate the Anti-freeze siphon valve, it usually is clearly marked.  It looks like a city water connector.  When you find it, hook up the hose to it, and put the other end in a gallon of anti-freeze.  Now go into the trailer and turn on your water pump, it will suck out of the antifreeze gallon directly and build pressure in the water system.

Start at the farthest away faucet from the pump, and open the hot and cold one at a time, and run them until pink is coming out of each.

Do this to each faucet as you work closer to the pump area, don’t forget to flush the toilet until you see pink as well.  Another thing that a lot of people forget is the outside shower.

Once the anti-freeze through everything, go back to the water filter and drain the access anti-freeze out of it and reinstall.

If you have any anti-freeze left over from your second gallon, pour it down the drains to fill the p-traps, and you are done till spring.

 

Of course, another option is to just call us, and we’ll do it for you…

Simple Service Tips For Your RV

cracked tires

cracked tires

Refrigerator Guidelines

1. Plug in and pre-cool your refrigerator for at least 24 hours for a travel trailer and 12 hours for a pop-up.

2. Pre-chill everything you put in it.

3. If using the refrigerator on propane, light the stove first; if there’s air in the line, the stove will purge it out. When you see a flame, everything else should light just fine.

4. If you are using the refrigerator on electric, and it’s not working, check the ground fault outlets.

Trailer Tires

INFLATION: You should maintain maximum air pressure even if you are towing below the load range of the tires. There is no advantage to taking air out of the tires. With the tires at maximum pressure, the tire will perform and wear better, and you will get better gas mileage. Based on updated thinking, there are ultimately three keys to avoid tire trouble while towing:

1. Make sure your rig is equipped with the proper tires
2. Maintain the tires meticulously
3. Replace trailer tires every three to five years, weather they look like they’re worn out or not. Click here for more on tires.

 

Fresh Water Tips

1. Always use a high pressure white hose designated for fresh water. They are non-toxic and are “tasteless” so your water always tastes fresh. Keep the hose clean and NEVER use it for anything else.

2. Always add a pressure regulator to your hose; pressure can vary widely from one campground to another. If you attach it to the water spigot end of the hose, you protect your hose as well.

3. Always turn your water pump off before pressurizing from an outside source.

4. Carry two 25′ hoses rather than a 50′ hose; it gives you flexibility and convenience.

5. When you get home, thoroughly drain your hoses, coil them up, and screw the ends together to keep out dirt and bugs.

 

Protect Vinyl from the Sun

If you search the message boards for ideas to protect sun-exposed vinyl from cracking, the one top product that is consistently recommended by RV users on line is called “303”. Originally developed for aviation applications, it protects vinyl, rubber, plastic, fiberglass and leather surfaces from exposure to the sun. Note that this is not a cleaner – it is a UV protectant only. It isn’t cheap, but the consensus among users is that it offers better UV protection than any other product, and does not leave a slippery residue. You find “303” in our online catalog here, or you can purchase it from our parts department.

Video: Disconnecting Your Battery During Storage


Here is a video I made, hopefully the first of many, spotlighting a cool feature about the trailers I carry, or little facts or tidbits I find interested while I am working.  This one has to do with disconnecting your battery during storage.  Any time you leave your trailer, there is a draw on the battery from different things inside the trailer that threaten to kill your battery.  Leaving a dead battery to sit can destroy it, and that can become pricey.

As it happens, Westland Camping sells and installs battery switches, and the switches cost around $30 dollars.  However, Flagstaff Trailers and 5th wheels come equipped from the factory with switches, so that makes life easier right from the box.

 

 

How Long Do Trailer Tires Last?

cracked tires

cracked tires

No matter is you have a travel trailer, 5th wheel or pop up camper, spring is a really great time to go over everything on the trailer and do a thorough cleaning and checking of all the appliances.  One of the most overlooked components of your trailer are the tires.

Hardly a week goes by without somebody asking us how long trailer tires last.  Trailer tires are different from automobile tires, and to really understand the differences, think about the life these tires live.  Automobile tires tend to run every day, and have direct attention.  Trailer tires on the other hand spend 90% of their lives in one spot, sitting in mud puddles, and losing air pressure.

How Long Do They Last?

The harsh truth is, after three years, you should really start looking closely at them and checking for cracks, uneven wear in the treads, bulging, or any other abnormality.  After 5 years, go ahead and start planning the funds to replace them, even if they still look ok.  If you have gone 6-7 years, now is the time to just go ahead and replace them, again, even if they don’t look bad, you are probably living on borrowed time.  If you aren’t sure how old your tires are, know that there is a code stamped in every tire made in the last decade or so that gives an exact date.  Here is a great article I ran across that breaks down the tire code so that you can be sure.

How can I Get More Life Out Of My Tires?

As with all of the other parts of your RV, UV light can be the worst thing for your trailer tires.  Over time, the plastic parts of the trailer will yellow, or become brittle and prone to cracking.  Tires, being black, tend to absorb even more rays, which can leech life from the tires, and cause them to dry out and start cracking.

The best way to help combat this is to use a tire cover over each tire that helps keep the damaging UV rays off the tire.  This is not a sure-fire solution  but it will help minimize the damage, and prolong the life of the tire.

The other main issue is tire pressure.  You want to check your tire pressures regularly, and make sure it is sitting at the max pressure when cold.  Especially when towing.  Running the tires while low can lead to “cupping”, which means that the tire is running on it’s outer edges, leading to uneven tire wear.  The opposite is also true, over-inflating your tires will make the middle portion of the treads to wear out more quickly.

Here is a video detailing a good routine for checking your tires regularly.

Do not forget your tires, they are the only thing between your trailer and the road; and a blowout is a very good way to cost money and raise your insurance rates.

 

Water Heater Maintenance Video Tutorial

Maintaining your water heater is very important to making it last for a long time.  Water heaters should always be drained when not in use, and and cleaning it out will help keep your plumbing clean, and prevent both mechanical and health related problems.  Check out this helpful tutorial about cleaning out your water heater.

Touching Up Caulking With Dicor Video Tutorial From Rv Education 101

Touching up your caulking is a lot more common that starting fresh or peeling all of the old stuff off.  Here is a video about how to go about it, again, brought to us by RV Education 101 and Mark Polk.  I tell you, check these guys out, they have a lot of great RV tips and videos.

How Do You De-Winterize A Trailer?

2013 PALOMINO SABRE 293 RBSS AT WESTLAND CAMPING

2013 PALOMINO SABRE 293 RBSS

With the coming of the warm weather, our thoughts inevitably turn to the camping season.  With that time of year, we all need to perform the task known simply as “DE-WINTERIZING”.  This mysterious term means different things to different people.  Usually it refers to just flushing out the water system of antifreeze from the fall, but there is a whole lot more to it than that.  De-winterizing is really the best opportunity you will have to also do a major and thorough inspection and cleaning of the unit to make sure it is safe and ready to go well before your first trip.  There is nothing more frustrating than finding a problem the night before you leave chipping away at your valuable vacation time.  Here are the main areas that you should focus on:

Water System

If you properly winterized your trailer last fall, then to start de-winterizing, follow these steps to get it back to regular operation.

Locate and open the low-point drains underneath the trailer, go inside the unit and open all of the faucets to break the vacuum and allow the antifreeze in your plumbing lines to drain out.

Close the faucets and low-point drains and fill your fresh water tank with fresh water.

Make sure (if equipped) your winterizing pump diverter is set to draw water from the fresh water tank, and turn the water pump on, and wait until it builds pressure and shuts off.  Then go to each faucet and turn on hot and cold water lines one at a time and run water until all pink is gone and the water runs clear.  Don’t forget the toilet and outside shower.

Install the Anode rod or drain plug on your water heater, and open the bypass valves to allow water into your water heater, and use the pump to fill it up making sure to bleed the air out of it so it is actually full.

Let the pump sit under pressure and listen for it to be turning on and off, this can be an indicator that there is a water leak, and the pressure is not holding.  If so, trace the plumbing lines until you find it, and fix it.  Don’t let it wait; water leaks can do a lot of damage in time.

Now is also a great time to sanitize your water system, and for more about that, watch this video.

Appliances

Once you have the water system filled and sitting under pressure, use compressed air and blow out all of the appliance access areas like the fridge and water heaters.

Then go inside and fire up all of the appliances to make sure they are working correctly.  If there is a problem, now is the time to address it, not when you are counting on the furnace at the campground…

After you check all of them, go ahead and drain all your fresh water, including your water heater.  You really don’t want to let that water sit in there.

 Exterior

Wash and wax the unit (if you are a wax person), and remove any stains or black streaks on the outside.  While doing that, wash the roof and thoroughly inspect all seals, and touch up as necessary.  For more on checking for water leaks, click here.

Also make sure you check out your tires, they are a very important component to your trailer, and many times we don’t look at them until it is too late…

 Cleaning

Go over every inch of the trailer to make sure it is sparkly clean, taking time to clean off all those things you forget to clean during regular cleaning during the season.  Click here to see a video about cleaning your fantastic fan, and here is a video about how to thoroughly clean your A/C unit.

 

Now your trailer is sparkling clean and ready to use.  Remember, the work you put into your camper today, can save you a LOT of time and money tomorrow.

Travel Trailer Tire Mainenance Video

Rv Education 101 Tire Video

Rv Education 101 Tire Video

Trailer tires are an often overlooked thing.  They are also one of the most important items.  Having a blowout with a trailer tire can not only be irritating, and dangerous to change on the side of the highway, but a blowout can lead to a lot of damage and that means a lot of money in insurance claims.  Make sure you take the time to properly inspect your tires.  Here is a video from RV Education 101 (one of my favorite youtube channels) to help guide you through the inspection process.

Installation of Equal-i-zer Hitch Video Tutorial By Mark Polk

This Video is another from our good buddy Marc Polk of RV Education 101.  For those who don’t know who he is, he has been producing educational and training videos for the RV consumer for years, covering everything from winterizing your trailer, to how to tow a travel trailer, to how to hitch up a 5th wheel.  Last  year he produced a webseries called Mark’s RV Garage, where he rebuilt a vintage Yellowstone trailer from the ground up and provided a awesome look into the inner workings of RV’s and trailers.

This video actually features the Yellowstone, as Mark walks us through the installation of an Equal-i-zer weight distribution hitch.  Since this weekend, I am focusing on the Equal-i-zer it is a no brainer to share this information as well.

Rv Dump Video Tutorial…Sort of

While playing around on Youtube a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the Official Jeff Daniels Youtube Channel.  For those of you who don’t know, Jeff Daniels is a multi-talented entertainer, with Major movies such as Dumb and Dumber and RV, and has released a couple of albums (very good ones).  He is also an avid RV-er.  There are at least two entire series of videos relating to touring the greater midwest in his RV and playing his songs.  This one caught my eye as a great example of the basics of dumping your sewer system.  Although from the video I can tell you that in my experience, he is making it harder than it needs to be, and I kind of hope he cleans up after himself…  But the basics are there, and I really enjoyed watching it.  Maybe you will learn something too, if only what not to do.