RoadTrip America

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Operating Your Rental RV Safely, by Mark Helmlinger

During his ten years of field work for NASA, Mark Helmlinger has rented many RVs and driven them under every possible circumstance. His tips, derived from hands-on experience, are a must-read resource for anyone considering renting a recreational vehicle.

 

CHECK INSIDE THE RV


Mark Helmlinger
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Look for loose paneling, shorn screws, and missing hardware. Operate everything yourself. Does the slide-out return to its stowed position gracefully and fully? Do cabinet doors stay closed while driving? Can the drawers accommodate what you put inside? Does stuff fall out of cabinets in turns? Is there a really annoying rattle? Will the fire extinguisher stay put over bumps? Does the shower door leak? Does the thermostat work? Can you light the oven? What does the microwave or refrigerator smell like? Does the toilet foot pedal open the bowl valve all the way? (I had a cable stretch and then break, making the commode unusable.)

When the water pump is on, but all the water spigots are off, does the water pump turn on and run every few minutes? It should pressurize the system and then stay off until water is used. Nothing is more annoying than a pump that occasionally runs for a second in the middle of the night because you forgot to turn it off. Does the radio work? Does the solar panel actually charge the battery? Are the house batteries working right? Do they take and hold a charge? Can the generator handle both AC units AND the microwave? Does the dashboard AC blow dust or other allergens? The list goes ON, but these are basics that are fairly easy to check.

IF YOU'RE RVING IN THE SUMMER
Remember that heat can damage RVs. That's why most RV insurance does not cover Death
Valley. Tires are particularly vulnerable, especially on hot pavement. Drive accordingly. Don't push the unit over hills when it's hot. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge. Downshift often. Check the operation of the brakes. Excessive pedal travel? Vibration? Shaking? Skidding tag axle? When driving down long grades, DOWNSHIFT! DO NOT RIDE THE BRAKES! If you don't know how to minimize brake use or downshift an automatic transmission on a steep hill, get some advice and learn how before you pick up a RV.

Next>Drive Smart!
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Mark Helmlinger
8/1/05

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