Things that make you go “DUH!”

When we bought our coach I noticed an exhaust pipe sticking out just in front of the left front tire. "Well, that's for the generator," I said to myself, and I patted myself on the back for being smart enough to figure it out.

Then I saw another exhaust pipe sticking out the roadside of the coach at about the midway point, maybe a foot or two in front of the drive axle. "Hmmm, what could this one be for? Oh, I know! It must be some kind of clean emissions exhaust, like a catalytic converter for diesels. Dang, I really am smart!"

Yeah, not so fast there, buckaroo. Fast forward to week later when I was setting up the black tank hose for the first time: I connected the hose and ran it right down the side of the coach, making sure it was all tucked up nice and neat to the coach - right in front of that second exhaust pipe. It never even occurred to me that it might be a problem - it probably only gets hot when the engine is running, right?

Nope. Turns out it was the exhaust to our water heater, and it gets hot every time the water heater turns on. The heat from the exhaust melted right through the sewer hose; I’m just glad I noticed it before I dumped the tanks. Ugh, I don't even wanna think about it.

Mistakes Are the Best Teachers

Mistakes are inevitable whether you’ve been RVing for a couple of days or a couple of decades. We all make ‘em - the trick is not to get overwhelmed by them and compound the problem with more mistakes. That’s often easier said than done.

Mark and Julie of RVLove.com and the very popular RV Lovers group on RVillage.com posted a hilarious YouTube video several months ago about their misadventures with a GPS. Well, it’s hilarious to us now; I’m sure it wasn’t all that funny to them at the time. But it stands as an excellent example of experienced RVers making the mistake of trusting their GPS when they should have known better. We’ve all done it… at least once.

A couple years ago, Ray at LoveYourRV.com posted a blog about the Seven Boneheaded RVing Mistakes Made, and he’d been RVing for a few years before that! I learned a lot from that one blog and video, and I vowed never to make those mistakes. So far I’ve been successful, though I’ve come up with plenty of mistakes of my own since then.

Why doesn’t everyone (fill in the blank)?

Ever have a great idea that you just know is going to solve so many problems but no one else does it? That should’ve been my first clue when I had the awesome idea of sealing the sewer hose connections with Vaseline to get an airtight seal. I searched all of RVillage for anyone who might have already had the idea but I couldn’t find even one example, but did I let that stop me? Of course not!

I greased the gasket on the 45° elbow and connected it to the tank. Then I greased the gasket on the hose connector and connected it to the 45° elbow. Then, because it was a long stretch to the sewer, I had to connect two hoses together, greasing both connections first, of course. Last but not least, I greased the sewer adapter collar, screwed it in, then greased the sewer tap connection and snapped it in place. Ahhh... a leak-proof job well done.

The first time I pulled the grey tank valve open it all came pouring out in a very satisfying swooosh! I decided to stop it about halfway just to check the connections (and pat myself on the back) but when I closed the valve I learned a valuable lesson in hydrodynamics: That much water flowing downhill inside a 4" hose creates a lot of vacuum when all your seals are greased airtight. As soon as the valve shut tight, the vacuum inside the hose collapsed it with enough force to rip apart the connection between the two hoses and unsnap the coupler from the sewer tap. You can imagine the rest - thank goodness it was just the gray tank!

CORRECTION: Other people’s mistakes are the best teachers.

I’ve since learned that YouTube can be an invaluable source of information for RVers. Even when I think I know exactly what I’m doing, I’ll often search for it on YouTube first… just to make sure.

I’ve learned a lot from Chris and Cherie at Technomadia and Peter and John at RVGeeks. Chris and Cherie are experts in connectivity and technology while traveling on the road, and Peter and John have been RVing for so long that they’ve pretty much seen it all. Learning how to do this or fix that is great, but often the most valuable lessons are about what not to do. In either case, any information you can find gives you a better chance for success and a much lower chance for failure.

When in doubt, ASK!

When I’m really stuck on a problem, RVillage.com is where I go first. It’s such a vibrant, active community with over 63,000 RVers of every type and experience level that someone is bound to have an answer for me, or at least be able point me in the right direction.

There are so many groups on RVillage that are dedicated to RV maintenance, renovations and remodeling, technical Q&A’s, travel and road conditions, cooking and cleaning… even groups for specific RV manufacturers and models. If there isn’t a group that covers a particular topic I need help with, I’ll start one! I know it’ll quickly fill up with RVers a lot smarter than me who’ll have the answers I’m looking for.

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

The fear of doing something really stupid to these very expensive machines can cause us to doubt ourselves and prevent us from even trying, but not trying is often the biggest mistake of all.

I do a lot of my own work on the house part of our RV, but I typically take it to a professional for even the most basic mechanical service, like oil changes and such. I could save a lot of money doing my own RV maintenance but I lack the experience to be confident I’ll do the job right. I just know I’m going to forget to put the drain plug back in, or something else just as silly.

By not even trying to do it I’m not only costing us a lot of money, I’m also not learning anything. What happens if it breaks down on the open road when we’re nowhere near a mechanic that could help? It might be something simple that I could easily fix, but because I’ve never tried I don’t even know what to look for.

It’s happened, of course, and thankfully I was able to connect with my RVillage.com friends on the mobile app to get us back on the road. But we owe it to ourselves to get our hands dirty once in awhile - if only to be able to tell a mechanic what to look for.

Travel safe. Travel well. Travel often.