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So You Just Bought Your First RV...Now What?

According to the latest statistics, RV’s are flying off the lot with record sales this spring even with the pandemic.  And maybe it’s because of the pandemic?  After all, who wants to go to a crowded airport, sit next to a total stranger, get into a rental car that someone else just drove, and spend the night in a hotel that you have no control over who was there and how well it was sanitized!

OK, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic, but having your own rig that you know is sanitized and only used by you and your family is the next best thing to sheltering at home if you take the precautions we discussed earlier.  Campgrounds, State Parks, and National Parks are slowly opening up and you can experience the thrill of the open road whether it’s for just a weekend, several weeks, or even full-timing.  But there are a few tips and preparation items you should know about to make the time more enjoyable and less of a hassle.

Have the right tools and accessories

Before you take off on your RV adventure, take some time to review the videos and blogs on connecting to the campground.  You will want to have the appropriate connectors, meters, and dump station accessories

Shore Power

The shoreline power typically has a 15 amp, 30 amp, and sometimes a 50 amp service.  If your rig has a 50 amp power cord, but your campground only has 30 amp and 15 amp, you will need an adapter to step down to 30 amp and also need to understand power management meaning you can not run both roof air conditioners at the same time.  It’s also important to check the voltage and wiring of the campground source prior to plugging your rig in.  This can be done with a multimeter or a Surge Guard connection that is a great accessory to have as it not only protects against campground surges, but also shows the amp draw of your rig, voltage, and shuts down if the voltage drops.  Another good tool to have is a non-contact voltage tester to safely test appliance cords, extension cords, and outlets for power.  It’s also a good idea to take along an extension cord that is the same amperage as your shoreline power and no longer than 25’.

For the water system, you will want a pressure regulator and possibly an inline filter as the campground water could have higher pressure than your plumbing can handle and most will have hard water full of lime, calcium, and rust.  You will also need a lead BPA free water hose certified for drinking water.  Typically these are white, however, Valtera and others make a coil hose certified for drinking water shown in the photo.

Water System

Next is the wastewater system which is your black water tank that gets waste from the toilet and some sinks, and gray water tank which is your shower and sinks.  The black water tank needs to have the correct treatment as it will break down the waste properly and reduce sediment and build-up that can cause faulty level readings and clogs.  Bacterial treatments break down the waste and control odors just like a municipal treatment plant, however, they are less effective at high temperatures typically above 90 degrees.  Thetford, Dometic, and others have introduced enzyme-based treatments that do break down the waste, but do nothing for the odor so an additive is introduced which creates other strong scents that may be annoying.  If you are sensitive to flowery scents, I would recommend trying a few to make sure you can tolerate the scent.  Do not use household products like bleach, pine based cleaners, or others as it will cause a rotten egg odor and not break down the waste.  Some products contain formaldehyde which is very effective however very caustic and prohibited in some states.

Bathroom Materials

With the recent events of the world, toilet paper has become almost as precious as gold?  With the shelves empty at every store across the country for the first few months of the pandemic it made me wonder; “what were these people using before?”  Using the correct toilet paper in your RV is important as the typical residential brands do not break down and can clog your system.  Even brands that are considered “septic approved” are not good for your RV.  We conducted a test of several brands including RV specific and septic tank approved and the best for dissolving quickly was Thetford and Campco.  The paper needs to dissolve quickly or it will cling on the sidewall of the tank and give a false monitor panel reading, or clog the valve.

You can find more information on recommended nitrate gloves for dumping, black water flushing systems, and dumping procedures at www.rvrepairclub.com

Conduct a short “Shake Down Cruise”

Whether you bought from a dealer or private individual you more than likely got a quick walk around the unit showing how things worked buy like most of us, if you remember 10% it would be on the high side!  Too many new RVers fill their rigs up with bedding, food, and toys and expect to head out to the campground or boondocks and run things just like home.  Unfortunately most encounter something that does not work or even breaks down.  A large volume of service calls are owners that do not understand how a system works and need help.  It’s a good idea to park the unit somewhere close to home and spend some time getting the refrigerator to operate on both 120-volt power and propane.  Run all the LP appliances, entertainment systems, and make sure you know how to get the TV antenna working and a channel search if you want to use the TV and or satellite dish.

The water system can be a bit confusing as well, knowing how it works with the on-demand water pump and freshwater tank vs pressurized water from the city fill AND making sure all the drain valves are closed!  I remember taking a new unit on a training trip many years ago and filling up in Corpus Christi for a weekend on the Padre Island beach and hearing the sound of running water.  Looking under the coach you could see a half dozen streams of water pouring out.  Since it was a new prototype, there was no manual and I had to look underneath to find the stream, go inside and guess where the valve was and do this for every valve.  One valve was actually located underneath the wardrobe’s false floor that was stapled down.  That was later changed in production.

Taking the steps to get the right equipment, knowing how to connect to the campground, and how systems work will make for a much more enjoyable RVing experience.


About the author: Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club

For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide, and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.

RV Repair ClubRV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.

Learn more about RV Repair Club.


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