Issue 16 • February 24, 2019
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By Mike Sokol
I’m going to begin branching out a bit from writing only about electricity. As I’ve hinted in several of my recent RV Daily Tips, my family is heavily involved in the food industry. And since I like food (and I’ll bet you do, too), I’ll pass along whatever tips and tricks they come up with. After all, my wife, Linda, is the one who suggested I write about the “Thing that does all things” (microwave silicon mat) for RVtravel.com, and I just published a Daily Tip about graters for cheese, etc. But don’t think that I’ve gone to the dark side since I’m also writing about selecting the best induction cooktop (according to my son, Kevin, the Culinary Institute trained pastry chef). Look for more of my food tech and cooking tips to come in RVelectricty.
And in this issue of RVelectricity I’ve included some of the newest things I’ve learned about safety for senior citizens. My dad will be 90 years old next month, and my mom just turned 87, so I’m working hard to upgrade their technology to help them live safer and more fulfilling lives.
For example, I didn’t realize until last week that my dad was starting up his backup car every week and letting it run for 5 minutes, just to keep the battery charged. Of course, that’s the worst way to treat a gasoline engine as the water vapor in the crankcase will turn into acid and rot out the exhaust system in short order and damage the engine bearings. So I just bought him a battery maintainer that includes a cigarette lighter adapter so he doesn’t have to open the hood, just plug it into an “always-on” 12-volt outlet in his Subaru Outback and only start up the car when he needs to take a trip into town, which will run the engine for at least 30 minutes or more.
Also in this issue I write about something called the “Vial of Life,” which is a place to store all your medical information where emergency personnel can quickly access it in case you or your better half need medical attention quickly. Chuck Woodbury has gone as far as purchasing an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) to keep in his RV in case someone in the campground has a heart attack or is severely shocked and needs a “jump start” for their heart. But I wonder how many of you have all your medical information in a place where emergency personnel can access it in seconds, including medical power of attorney and a list of all medications you’re taking. Read more about it below.
Of course I’m including more electrical topics, including how to select a digital voltmeter to test fuses and such. And that will be followed up next week with a 3-minute video on meter usage.
Finally, did you know that my last name, Sokol, is Slavic or Russian for “falcon” or “bird of prey”? (See the Sokol coat of arms on the left with the Slavonic spelling) That’s right, the cosmonauts all wear Sokol-brand space suits, and there was even a failed attempt at a flying car named the Sokol A400. But the best Sokol thing I’ve found recently is a virtual reality parachute trainer so you can practice jumping out of an airplane in a combat situation without fear of breaking any bones. No, I didn’t invent it, but it sure does look cool. Check it out in my Road Signs section at the bottom of this issue.
Yes, there will be even more of me in future issues. So if you like the type of information I’m sharing with you, please share it with a friend and subscribe to this newsletter. And also subscribe to RVtravel.com where I publish my weekly RVelectricity column about all things electrical. See you on the flip side.
P.S. And just a quick note that this newsletter is made possible by the voluntary pledges of the member-readers of RVtravel.com. We could not bring this to you without their support. If you deem what we provide to you here and at RVtravel.com to be of special value and would like to be a part of our effort, please consider pledging a voluntary subscription. More information is here. We will include you in special emails, articles and videos exclusively for our supporters. Read more about the benefits of becoming a member-reader in editor Chuck Woodbury’s essay in yesterday’s RV Travel Newsletter.
Staying safe on the road
The Vial/File of Life
I’ve been talking to one of my heart surgeon colleagues about ways to prevent death by electrocution, and the topic came up about whether or not campers carry their medical information with them in the RVs. His position on the topic was that not only is calling 911 immediately and starting compression-only CPR vitally important, but also having all of the victim’s medical information close at hand for the emergency medical team could mean the difference between life and death.
This really got my attention when I took my nearly 90-year-old father in for a checkup last month, and he was struggling to tell his doctor exactly what medications he was currently taking. Of course, I had no idea and couldn’t help at all. So after looking though all the various pieces of paper Dad had brought with him, we pieced together his rather extensive list of medications. But that took a while and I’m not sure we were 100% accurate.
Imagine if you were camping with family or friends and something happened that required a 911 call for an ambulance. Could you rattle off to the EMTs what kind of blood thinner and other medications your wife was taking? How about a list of allergies your grandchild might have?
Talking to my sister about this (she works in the medical industry) I found the Vial of Life Program. This was originally an empty prescription pill bottle that you stuffed all your information into and rubber-banded under the top shelf of your refrigerator. But there’s a more modern alternative that’s called the File of Life, which is a plastic file holder that has room for not only your list of medications, but also your medical history, medical power of attorney, resuscitation orders, and emergency contact numbers. Basically it has everything an emergency responder needs to make a quick, lifesaving decision if you’re found unresponsive for any reason. And there’s a magnet on back which lets you stick this right on The front of your refrigerator in plain sight for quick access.
Now, this is only as good as the information you include in the packet, so I would recommend at least a yearly “checkup” of your medical info, probably at the beginning of your camping season. And while you’re at it, be sure to include your adult children in your medical power of attorney directives along with their phone numbers.
My mom was in the hospital last year for a broken leg, and while I gave my dad a break from staying with Mom in the hospital room, the doctor decided she needed a transfusion pretty quickly. However, Mom was sedated and my dad was out running errands and couldn’t hear his cell phone ring. I was not listed in her medical directives, so we had to keep calling Dad until he finally picked up the phone and agreed to the transfusion. Luckily, two of the nurses in the room recognized his voice over the phone and witnessed his verbal directive, and they were able to proceed with the transfusion immediately. Yikes! Who knew this could be so complicated?
I think everyone should have one of these packets for each family member at home or on the road. Here’s a File of Life 5-pack kit to get you started.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
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New active safety features on 2019 Sprinters
Full concentration, thanks to ATTENTION ASSIST.
ATTENTION ASSIST in 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters supports the driver on long journeys. The system monitors the driving behavior using more than 70 parameters such as steering wheel movements. After 20 minutes, a driver profile is created and is constantly compared with the driving behavior. If the analysis takes patterns that might indicate fatigue or loss of concentration, the system generates an alarm and prompts the driver to stop and take a break. A display in the cockpit shows the driver’s concentration level and the driving time since the last break. ATTENTION ASSIST activates at speeds above 60 km/h (about 37 mph) and can be adapted to personal preferences and driving habits.
To read about more of the active safety features available on the latest Sprinters, including DISTRONIC (which keeps a steady distance from a vehicle you’re following), and Blind Spot Assist (which watches for cross-traffic when backing out of a space), go here. —Mike
Do you have all of your updated medical information and directives in an easily accessible place in your RV?
Last month’s survey results:
Looks like the vast majority of you (92%) already have factory-installed LED bulbs in your RV, or are changing over to them. Of course there are still a few form factor tungsten bulbs that are difficult to find in LED versions, but I think that will change as the demand for specialty replacements grows.
LEDs are now really inexpensive, and many of the newest designs have color temperatures that mimic the warm glow of a tungsten filament at 3,200 degrees Kelvin. And yes, LED bulbs really do save energy compared to their hot-wire counterparts. This is not only important for use in your RV when you’re trying to conserve battery power, it’s also a good thing in your home since you’ll not only lower your electric bill, you’ll reduce your energy requirements on the environment, and every little bit helps. So keep up the good work, LED users. —Mike
Battery maintainer with 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter
I recently discovered that my dad was starting up and idling his backup car once a week for 5 minutes just to charge the battery. Other than that, he uses it once every few months for maybe a 30-minute trip to town and back. What that does is allow a lot of unburned fuel to get into the engine oil, contaminating it. You’re also building up water vapor inside the engine and exhaust system, which can combine with the unburned hydrocarbons in the oil to form acid (IIRC Sulfuric Acid, but I need to confirm that with one of my chemistry engineering colleagues). This acid can attack your vehicle’s engine bearings as well as rust out your exhaust system prematurely.
What to do? Well if you can’t take your car (or RV) out for an hour ride to warm up the engine and boil out all the water vapor and unburned gasoline, then it’s best not to start it up at all. But you’ll still want to keep the battery fully charged (without overcharging). I recently bought this top-rated NOCO Genius battery maintainer and added the optional cigarette lighter adapter for my dad’s backup car that he keeps in the garage. Now he can simply plug the battery maintainer into an always-on 12-volt outlet through an open window in his car without having to lift the hood or remember how to hook it up. I highly recommend this unit, with or without the 12-volt adapter plug. —Mike
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
Heated hose keeps your water flowing
Camco’s Heated Water Hose provides safe drinking water in freezing temperatures by combining a drinking-water-safe hose with a self-regulating heat source encapsulated in an all-weather, PVC coating. Operates on 120VAC/1.3 AMPs. Made in the USA. Learn more or order at Amazon
Q&A’s from RVtravel
Since we’ve started a direct link to the editors on RVtravel.com, I’ve been getting a lot of interesting questions. Here’s a relatively quick one, and a second question with a rather extended answer.
From Chuck Atkinson
Q: Mike, in relation to your recent post about the possibility of traveling to (fill in the blank) to hold seminars on RV electricity, safety and troubleshooting, maybe it is time to go RVing yourself to present these seminars? I think there could be a very large demand for the seminars. Just a thought!
A: Chuck, that’s a great idea and something that I’m working on. When I was a kid, my family camped throughout 40 states and half of Canada in the Cox pop-up by the time I was 16 years old. After I got married I did take out my parents’ Hi-Lo camper a number of times, and it was a ton of fun. But once I started running sound at large concerts and teaching surround-sound and church-sound mixing seminars around the country for a living, I was already driving solo 50,000 miles a year, flying another 100,000 miles a year, and staying in hotels for up to 100 nights a year. When I was home from this grueling road schedule, the LAST thing I wanted to do was hook up an RV and drive some more.
However, now that I’m in soft retirement and have stopped teaching production classes all around the country, I should have time to do some actual RVing again, especially if I can integrate my travels with RV Electricity seminars at RV shows and rallies. However, the monetary stipend I receive for writing these articles and newsletters (thank you all for your support – seriously) wouldn’t even cover the gasoline and rubber for the RVing trips across the country which Chuck and I already have planned in 2019. So I’m seriously looking for sponsors that will allow me to hop on a plane or drive a small RV across the country to teach seminars in Washington or Texas or Florida.
Believe me, I know exactly how much time and money it costs to drive around the country because I’ve done the Maryland to Seattle to Los Angeles to Denver to Texas to Maryland round-trip, solo driving, far more times than I want to think about. But if I could get a sponsor to help defray the cost of a base RV, I have all the rest of the test gear to install on it, including generators, inverters, solar panels, batteries, refrigerators, LED lighting, etc. This could become a rolling test bed that I would use to evaluate RV products while writing about them on the road.
Up to this point in time the RV industry hasn’t taken me seriously. However, with all the extra content I’ve been writing for the last two years since I retired from touring, I may have a few sponsorship nibbles. But time will tell, so stay tuned to this bat channel for updates. —Mike
Q: Hi Mike. Please forgive me for being a newbie. I went to my local auto store and looked at digital voltmeters. I found one for $20 but the max fuse amperage is 10 amp only and my RV has up to 20 amp fuses. I asked the employees but nobody could give me a straight answer. Someone told me to go to Lowe’s and get one with a higher amperage capacity. But before I spend more money, do I need a meter with a higher amp capacity or should the $20 10-amp max meter work? Please advise me what to get for what I need to do. Thanks a lot for your help and advice. I really appreciate it very much. —Robert
A: Hey Robert. There’s a lot of confusion in your question mainly because the guys at the auto parts store have no training on how digital meters work. That’s a shame, especially since it’s something I could teach if AutoZone or Advanced Auto Parts or anyone else would come up with a budget for me to create a class for them. But more on that later.
Here’s your answer, which is going to take an extended article and a bunch more pictures to show you the details. But the main point is the 10-amp scale on a digital meter has NOTHING to do with how big of a fuse it can measure. In fact, you don’t use the ampere scale at all when testing fuses. Here’s a diagram (click on it to enlarge) I just made showing the basic functions of a manual ranging meter from Southwire which only costs around $20 from Lowe’s, and which is my favorite low-cost meter for working on RVs. To read why the amperage settings aren’t used for fuse testing, and to see how to do this correctly, read the rest of the article below. But any meter you buy that has a resistance or continuity setting (and they all do) will do the trick.
Read the rest of the article here. —Mike
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
The best book on RV electricity, hands down!
RV Travel contributor Mike Sokol is America’s leading expert on RV electricity. Mike has taken his 40+ years of experience to write this book about RV electricity that nearly anyone can understand. Covers the basics of Voltage, Amperage, Wattage and Grounding, with additional chapters on RV Hot-Skin testing, GFCI operation, portable generator hookups and troubleshooting RV electrical systems. This should be essential reading for all RVers. Learn more or order
Videos by Mike about RV Electricity
Attn: All manufacturers and potential RV Electricity sponsors
I’ve begun creating a weekly video series about RV electrical troubleshooting and technologies. These 2- to 3-minute videos will cover all aspects of RV electricity including product reviews, installation tips and troubleshooting theory. But to keep doing these on a weekly basis I need a sponsor to help defray the cost of production. See the sample video below and contact me with any questions about sponsorship: mike (at) noshockzone.org
Watch a sample video about expected RV voltage drops here.
Camco Store at Amazon.com
There isn’t much you need for your RV that Camco doesn’t have. If you think we’re kidding, then click through to the Camco store on Amazon where you’ll find some of their best-selling products — all for your RV or for you to make your RVing better. Click here and you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store.
By Mike Sokol
A rose by any other name…
OK, I’m not really a Shakespeare scholar, and I’ve never even acted in one of the Bard’s plays (although I did play Jud Fry in “Oklahoma” back in high school and remember all the words to “Surrey With the Fringe On Top”). But I know a good story when I hear one, and “Romeo and Juliet” certainly qualifies.
What I really like best about Will (Shakespeare) are the great quotes that still seem relevant today. I mean, how can you not like, “To be, or not to be, that is the question….” Or how about, “All that glitters is not gold”?
But today we’re going to talk about names, specifically my name, and the quote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet….” Basically it means that names are meaningless, and the true value (sweetness) of something is internal, not based on an external name we hang on it.
Unless, of course, the name is Sokol. That’s right … today’s column is all about me. Read more.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
Editor: Mike Sokol. RVtravel.com publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern.
Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we may occasionally get something wrong. So always double check with your own technician, electrician or other professional first before undertaking projects that could involve danger if not done properly. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com..
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