Technically Speaking – Q&A: July 2022
Bill, I absolutely love all the storage that I have in my big fifth wheel’s front compartment. It’s so nice to be able to carry everything that I want and, of course, there’s probably a lot of items that I don’t use but will ultimately hold on to this stuff. The problem is I can’t reach the center of the compartment very easily and I’m always having to find a stool or step on something to load and remove all that stuff. I dislike having to download a bunch of items to access the items that are not front and center. Have you got any suggestions for making this situation more tolerable?
— Lloyd Stephens
Lloyd, as an owner of a big fifth wheel with a huge storage compartment, I feel your pain. Fortunately, I’m tall enough to make it a little bit easier for me to get in there — but I still have to get on a stool once in a while to reach the center of the compartment. There are several cargo trays that are available, models that are anywhere from light to heavy duty. I suggest looking at a heavy-duty product since most owners tend to load in more poundage than expected — or willing to admit to. I think most RVers must be pack rats.
Adding a sliding tray can be an easy project or maybe require some modifications. A great source is MORryde (morryde.com), a company that offers a number of sliding trays that can be mounted with not too much difficulty. If the compartment door does not go all the way to the floor you will need to add spacers to shim up from the floor to mount the slide-out tray. Usually, a two-by-four, mounted on edge on each side, will do the trick. One of the reasons I do not have a pull-out cargo tray is because you lose valuable space inside the compartment — and if there is a lot of open space on the sides of the tray, it may be difficult to reach some of the items stored in this location. In some cases, loose items can also impede the sliding mechanism. Most people who install these trays are willing to forgo a little storage capacity in return for the utmost in convenience.
If you decide to install one of these sliding trays, I suggest using plastic bins that can be stacked neatly on the tray — keeping stored items organized. Mark the bins to identify the items inside so you can access the right ones without rummaging through each one to find what you are looking for.
Where Oh Where Did the Awning Go?
We bought a 2005 Dynamax Class B motorhome on a Ford Chassis. We love the motorhome, but we did not notice that the awning was missing at the time we purchased it. I can see that there are several holes across the top of the motorhome that are open and, of course, rain can get in through these holes. There are also two brackets on the bottom of the motorhome, one toward the front and one toward the back. I called Dynamax and its reps said that they don’t have any listings for anything older than 2012 model motorhomes when the company was purchased by Forest River. I’ve looked around on the Internet to find an awning what would fit, but came up empty. We are at a total loss now, could you please help?.
— Susan Peterson
Susan, I’m familiar with your motorhome, but you didn’t specify length. I guess that doesn’t matter at this point. Because the motorhome has a curvature at the top, there is no rail available for mounting a standard-type patio awning that’s commonly found on most RVs. You will have to get a box awning that is designed to mount permanently near the top of the motorhome. These awnings extend and retract either manually or via an electric motor. The legs come out of the box enclosure and snap into the two brackets — likely what you still have mounted at the bottom.
The original awning may no longer be available and the brackets will not fit a newer type box awning. You might consider contacting an RV surplus store. A good choice is Bontrager’s RV Surplus in White Pigeon, Michigan (bontragers.com). You will have to change the bottom brackets, which should come with the new awning. Now is also your chance to opt for a shorter or longer awning than the original.
Keep in mind that these types of awnings are more susceptible to wind than the standard patio awnings. The longer it gets, the more susceptible to wind it becomes. Because the box is rather heavy, it’s critical that it is mounted to the wall properly and reinforced to handle the leverage. At this point, you should consult with an RV technician who can demonstrate experience installing this type of awning to be sure that you’re not going to have any problems with it coming off the motorhome or functioning. Be forewarned — this will not be a cheap installation.
A Hard-to-Grab Grab Handle
Bill, I have a fairly new Grand Design Solitude fifth wheel trailer. I’m having problems grabbing the assist handle mounted on the wall beside the door. It does not extend low enough for me to get a hold of it when standing on the bottom step. Is there a grab handle that would fold down in the same position, using the same mounting holes as the current grab handle? Does someone make a bolt-on extension to the existing grab handle?
— Brett Bronkowski
Great question, Brett. There are many comments focusing on this subject found on the Internet and around the camp from people who struggle to get in and out of their RVs — especially when negotiating some of the four-rung-step models that can be higher off the ground. For those trailers and fifth wheels equipped with Lippert’s Solid Step doorway folding system, the company offers an entry assist handle that mounts to the platform (store.lci1.com/entry-assist-handrail-for-solid-step-799640). It provides quite a bit more area to grab on to and is easy to install.
Stromberg Carlson Products (strombergcarlson.com), a major supplier to the RV industry, makes a couple of handles that should fit your needs. The AC 530 provides 38 inches of drop and the AC 544 gives you 44 inches of drop. I recommend that you have either of these installed by a qualified technician; if they are installed incorrectly somebody could fall and wind up with a serious injury. Be sure to order the add-on handrail grips.
Mice on the Attack
— Robert Hamilton
I’ve seen these LED strip lights on the ground many times in campgrounds and I’m not sure there has ever been a definitive answer whether it stops mice from getting into your RV — other than the positive comments I’ve heard from owners using these lights. It doesn’t hurt to try and see if it will eliminate the intrusion of these pesky little rodents. If you go online you can buy 12-volt DC LED strip lights that can be cut to length. I couldn’t find a 100-foot length of these lights online, but I wouldn’t doubt it is available.
You need to start routing the strip lights by connecting them to the house batteries. You don’t want to run down your starting batteries while you’re sitting still. Even though LEDs draw less current, you still need to have an adequate charging source while boondocking since you’ll undoubtedly be using other accessories and appliances. For your purposes, a solar system makes the most sense.
Maybe I can hear from other readers on this topic, but it may be possible to install strip lights permanently along the frame so that you don’t have to string them on the ground every time you stop for the night. The key is learning if the lights, when mounted off the ground, will be as effective as running them on the ground. Rodents are nocturnal, so I assume any light will annoy them.
Are you stymied by a technical problem with your RV? Write to RV Enthusiast Technical Director Bill Gehr at [email protected]. Bill will answer inquiries as space permits.
Bill started his 50-year career in the RV industry when he went to work for an Airstream dealership. After the gas shortages in the 1970s, Bill decided to start his own business and opened up Bill’s RV Service in Ventura, California. After several years in business, he met Bob Livingston, and together they worked on hundreds of technical editorial projects at his shop while becoming great friends. Bill eventually joined Bob on the TV show “RVtoday,” filming a number of hands-on projects. After retiring, Bill headed out full-time in his fifth wheel and toured 39 states while writing technical articles for Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines. He now is Technical Director for RV Enthusiast.