Category Archives: Full-Time RVing

What?! One of the leveling jacks is stuck!

We’ve been travelling with a trailer and now a fifth wheel RV for a little over 5 years now, and we’ve seen lots of little things go wrong with our RV, and a few major things.  We’ve learned that things will go wrong and the best way to deal with it is just to stay calm, analyze the situation and check the internet for ideas and solutions.

The worst situation we’ve had was when a tire delaminated and ripped through the floor causing massive damage to the bathroom and wall and a little bit in the living room.  We were a month on the road for that problem (click here to read my post and see pictures).  We also had two wheels come off and roll down the freeway (wheel, not just tire) and had to replace the axle both times (click here and here for those stories).

The little things include screws that come loose, a window where the little plastic latch broke, light fixtures that stop working, etc.  A nuisance, but not a major problem and we’ll get it all fixed when we are someplace for more than a week or two.

Jeff and I have a system for what we each do to hook up the rig, and what we each do to get unhitched and set up at each destination.  One of my tasks is to use the leveler bars to raise the RV off of the truck’s hitch and then lower all four bars so the rig is level and stable.  We have a nice automatic system with a remote, so I can stand next to the rig and push a button and it will adjust all four leveling bars so we’re level and stable.

But, when we arrived in Scottsbluff and I pressed the button to autolevel it just beeped at me.  I then checked the control panel on the side of the trailer and saw an error that one of the bars, the right rear (RR) bar wasn’t moving.

We tried a few things and finally had to adjust it manually, using a drill to get it down and in the approximately position to level the rig.  The others could be lowered down one by one using the control panel until we were somewhat level.

Once we got the slides out and could access the storage where we keep the manuals on all the trailer systems we read up on the leveling system.  We also did some searches on the internet.  This gave us some ideas of things to try.

The next morning we didn’t have any pressing sight-seeing to do, so we pulled in the slides and tried the instructions we found in the manual and online that seemed to match the situation we had.

The error message that one of the jacks was ‘stuck’ it didn’t explain.  Since we weren’t on a really level site we assumed that that right rear jack extended all the way out and in that position got stuck as that’s how we found it when we had to adjust it manually with the drill.

But, the manual and the internet searches indicated that to correct the error where the leveling system wasn’t working was to retract all four bars, then lower each one 6 inches, then do a retract of all four at the same time using the control panel.  Voila!  It worked!

The next time we hitched up everything worked as it should.

No pictures as there really isn’t much to look at for this problem, LOL

We’re pretty far north for a while to escape the heat…boy are we!

We’re currently in Columbia Falls, MT which is very close to the Glacier Natl Park and also pretty close to the Canadian border.  It’s very pretty here in early August.

Being full-time RVers, we have the freedom to go where we want, when we want. We are choosing to spend a little time this far north is to escape the very hot weather in much of Utah in August.  But, we didn’t really expect it to get down into the high 30s/low 40s at night!!  We’ve had to dig out our cold weather pjs and got sweaters and socks out for the evening and morning.  During the days it gets to the high 70s or even low 80s which is very pleasant.  We’ll spend another week or so “up north” and then will start to head south; it’ll still be pretty hot in Utah but we’ll manage.

More tire trouble!

We’ve been on the road for almost 4 years now (retired for 5, but we didn’t travel for a year to care for a family member) and have had 4 trailer tires lose their tread on the road. One with disastrous results as it caused damage to our trailer that took a month to repair while we stayed at a motel in a small town in Vermont.  Here’s a blog entry about that: click here.

We’ve purchased good new tires, never used or retread. But, they just don’t last. We’ve had one tire get a nail in it, and once we caused it by cutting a corner sorry and running over a border rock with a protrusion, but 4 times the tread has just come off.

Luckily we have always had AAA so they’ve sent a tow truck out to change our tire. A few times we’ve been out in the middle of nowhere and have had to wait hours for a tow truck. Yesterday was the 4th tread problem and we were in southern Wyoming without any cell service either!  A nice man pulled over and asked if we were ok so we were able to use his cell phone to call AAA. I told them we didn’t have a phone so don’t try to give us a status, just send someone! They actually called the highway patrol and an officer came by to tell us a truck was on the way. That was nice!  Still, we had been waiting 2 hours. The previous time when we had a nail we waited over 3 hours, in 95 degree heat with the truck facing the sun…Ugh!!

So, when on the road with your home behind your vehicle, expect some trouble, and have AAA for sure. And, make sure your coverage includes RV!



We weighed our rig using the Escapees Club “Smartweigh” system

While in Livingston TX, our “home base”, we decided to weigh our rig.  That’s always a good idea and we had put it off for two years.  We weren’t worried about being overweight, even in a light trailer like we have.

The weighmaster that weighs the rig here in the Escapees Club RV park is very knowledgeable.  She not only weighs the total rig to give us the total weight from the front bumper of the truck to the back bumper of the trailer, she weighs the load on EACH TIRE!  She weighed the truck without the trailer being hitched up, then we hitched it up and she weighed each tire of the truck again as well as each tire of the trailer.

These weight numbers give a real good picture of exactly the load that is being carried – is the front heavier than the rear, is the right side heavier than the left?  Are the tension bars at the hitch being pulled tight enough to put more weight on the front of the truck than the rear?  All these questions are answered by the Smartweigh process.

We found that we need to pull up the tension bars more, as the rear axle of the truck is carrying more weight than the front axle when we are towing.  We also found that the left front tire of the trailer is carrying more than the other three tires.  We aren’t too surprised at that as Jeff built two dinette benches to replace the four wooden chairs that came with the trailer.  The benches are thin plywood with 2×4 braces and are covered with bamboo flooring left over from our kitchen remodel.  They look nice, are comfortable with padding, and have storage inside each one.  However, they do add to the weight carried by that front left tire.  We don’t want to get rid of the dinette benches, but we did transfer most of the heavy items stored there to the back of the trailer under the bed.  We had room and this balanced the load better.

And, we learned that because we aren’t carrying the full weight that the trailer is designed to carry, we have overinflated the tires by keeping them at the highest pressure they are intended to carry.  A suggestion was given to us to reduce the pressure a bit so the tires aren’t so rounded as that will cause wear on the tires in the center of the tread.

All good suggestions!!  Here’s the webpage for the Escapees Club Smartweigh program: click here

Living together in a small space

Jeff and I, along with our doberman Laddy, have been living in our 30-ft trailer for 5 months now.  Being together all the time in a small space is something that anyone who is considering being a “full-timer” needs to think about carefully.

Being in a small space and also being away from normal routine where you see other people regularly – coworkers, neighbors, friends from church or activities etc. – is a big change.  We get to meet new folks all the time, but in a few days we leave the area and it’s just us again.

Each of you has to be considerate of the others occasional need for space, you have to be neat and keep things picked up and in their place, and you have to enjoy each other’s company.  If you aren’t already happy with the habits and company of your partner before you are living in a small space far away from family and friends, full-time travelling won’t work for very long unless both of you are able to make some changes and concessions.

We have learned that other people, whether full-timers or just on a vacation, are very friendly and helpful.  We enjoy chatting with new friends and neighbors, but realize that in a few days we’ll each go our separate way and then it’s just us again.

Jeff and I have had no trouble at all adjusting to this lifestyle.   We’re still expecting to be living this lifestyle for another 5-10 years!

A place for everything, and everything in it’s place

We decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t have a lot of “stuff” once we move into the trailer.  We had a few garage sales the last few years and really pared down our stuff.  Just before we moved into the trailer full-time we had a moving sale and everything that wasn’t going to be in the trailer with us got sold.

Once we sorted through our belongings, clothes, dishes, books, etc., and stacked it all up in the corner while we had the moving sale I was worried that it wouldn’t all fit into the trailer.  It was a pretty big stack!  But, it all fit and we even have extra room!  The difficulty we face at this point (still early days as a fulltime RV-er) is finding where we put certain items.  Especially Jeff since I’m the one that packed the trailer.

We’re trying to live by the motto “A place for everything and everything in it’s place”, but we’re not quite there yet.  Mostly we’re having to search cupboards and storage areas to find something we need that we’re sure we have somewhere, but we don’t know where it is.

The trailer came equipped with a TV mounted on the wall but we wanted to have our larger TV.  Jeff very carefully measured the space and announced that our larger TV would fit…just barely!  So, while we were in Three RIvers we bought a kit for mounting a TV to the wall and he dis-mounted the smaller TV and mounted our larger one.  Not that large – a 32″ but bigger than the 24″ that came with the trailer!

So now we have a larger TV, but where’s the remote?  I know I didn’t sell it, I would have put it with the other items to take with us into the trailer.  We looked and looked and looked again!  One day we spent two hours and went through every nook and cranny in the trailer (ha! It took only 2 hours!).  Not anywhere!  Since we need that remote to do a lot of the functions on this TV, we ordered a new one and figured we’d have to wait a few weeks for it to get shipped to Tx and then forwarded to us.

The very next day Jeff was going through the bag that contains the instructions manuals for all the devices in the trailer (stove, furnace, water heater, awning…there’s a lot of devices in here!) and lo-and-behold out fell the remote!  Dang, I’ve been into that bag over a dozen times and never felt around in the bottom of it.

Well, all’s well that ends well.  It’s a good lesson that in a small space where things must be stowed for travel, you need to REMEMBER where things  should be stored and make sure they always get put back in that exact space.  It also helps to store similar items in a similar place.  Our electronics get stored in the same place, our extra batteries are all in the same drawer.  Important papers are stored in one place, and papers we reference a lot (like those instructions for the devices of the trailer) get stored in an easy to reach place.  It’s also important to store things you use a lot in handy places to get at, while things we don’t use very much (like our winter coats while it’s in the 80s and above)  can be stored under the bed.

Living in a small space also means we have to be careful to not fill it up with new “stuff”.  We have another rule we’re trying to live by “if one thing comes in, one thing has to go out”.


Staying in RV parks that don’t have “full hookups” means limiting water use

Since we’ve left home on August 1st we’ve been at two RV parks.  The first was William Heise in Julian where we had electricity but no water except what was in our holding tanks.  We had to break camp and tow the trailer to the dumpsite a couple of times and we refilled our tanks at the same time.

Our second RV park, Sequoia RV Ranch in Three Rivers, CA, has water and electricity which is an improvement, but still no dumpsite at our camp.  So, while we aren’t limited to using what’s in our holding tanks, we are limited by what our grey and black water tanks can hold.  So, once again we are having to break camp and tow the trailer to a dumpsite to dump the grey/black tanks when they get full.  We’ve done it once and we’re trying to limit our water use so we don’t have to do it again till this Friday when we head out to our third destination.

Luckily the RV park has a bathhouse with showers (drop in two quarters and get 4 minutes of water) and every couple of days we head over to that.  We have taken a few showers in our own bathroom, but again we’re watching our water usage.

Our next couple of stops have full hookups so we won’t have to break camp to dump the tanks.  Nice, but more expensive!

The upside is we’re getting lots of experience at breaking camp (stow everything, pull in the slides, retract the awning, raise the stabilizer bars, unplug the electricity and water, hitch the trailer to the truck and drive away) and doing the reverse when we get back to our site.

All in all, it’s a small price to pay for being able to go where we want, when we want, and stay for as long as we want.