Friday, June 2, 2023


RV Electricity – No~Shock~Zone by Mike Sokol – Issue 16

Issue 16 • February 24, 2019

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Welcome …

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, 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 where I publish my weekly RVelectricity column about all things electrical. See you on the flip side.

Let’s play safe out there… 


P.S. And just a quick note that this newsletter is made possible by the voluntary pledges of the member-readers of We could not bring this to you without their support. If you deem what we provide to you here and at 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) with your questions.

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Choose Americas Mailbox! It’s the best, endorsed by which has toured its South Dakota facility and interviewed its very customer-oriented owner. Many plans available. Learn more. Or view the video interview RV Travel editor Chuck Woodbury conducted with Americas Mailbox owner Don Humes.

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

Survey Question

Do you have all of your updated medical information and directives in an easily accessible place in your RV?

Last month’s survey results:

What kind of bulbs do you use for interior RV lighting?

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

Tools and other devices

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 Posts

2019 Electricity Seminar schedule.
Important generator safety reminder!
Life-saving space heater safety reminders.
• What’s up with upside-down outlets?

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Q&A’s from RVtravel

Since we’ve started a direct link to the editors on, 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

From Robert
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) 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)

Watch a sample video about expected RV voltage drops here.

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Road Signs

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 For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.


Editor: Mike Sokol. 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

Mail us at 9792 Edmonds Way, #265, Edmonds, WA 98020.

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4 years ago

I recommend that everyone who has CPR training look into the PulsePoint Respond app. If you sign up, and there is a cardiac emergency near you, the app will notify you and provide location on a map. Many lives saved before first responders could arrive.

There is also a PulsePoint AED app that will provide the location of the nearest AED.

4 years ago

Mike, thought you might be interested to know that in the ‘90s-early 2000’s, the Opposing Force (OPFOR) at the US Army’s National Training Center in California used the callsign “Sokol” for our UH-1 Huey helicopters which replicated Russian attack helos.

4 years ago

Free app for phone, ICE – In Case of Emergency. This is what I use with fuller records on my laptop. Check it out.

4 years ago

I keep my medical information on my phone as majority of people do carry phone. Just look medical id that can store your phone that emergency responder will check your phone for information

4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Unlocking is not necessary on iPhone.

Dick H
4 years ago

Mike, thanks for making me feel better about myself! I carry, and know how to use, a common multi-meter in all of my vehicles (including the tow vehicle and 5th wheel). Use them frequently and sometimes amaze people in campgrounds who think you need to be a genius to understand RV and vehicle electrical systems sufficiently to make a valid diagnosis. Of course, I know better, because I’m not a genius and but I have never “smoke tested” a circuit or electrocuted myself or anyone else (ASE Certified Auto Master Tech)! Secondly, I wear a waterproof thumb drive on a chain around my neck and my wife has one on her keys. I call it my electronic dog tag. It contains all of my I.C.E. information: full name, DOB, emergency contacts, blood type, medical history summary, prescriptions, allergies, health care providers and insurance information, living will, medical directive. Any computer/laptop with a USB port and MS Word or Adobe can read everything. I’m willing and able to deal with the ramifications if it falls into the wrong hands. Engraved on the aluminum outer skin of the drive is “I.C.E.”

4 years ago
Reply to  Dick H

I love this idea! Exactly as you say, there’s some risk to having that info so available, but it’s critical to have such complete documents including proxies et al sometimes.

4 years ago

I had the same problem with my dad’s handicap van especially since it was parked outside during the winters in Missouri. I was able to resolve my problem with the Battery Tender 021-1163 5W solar panel. I would park the car facing south. Using a lacing cord attached to the corner mounting holes of the panel, I would hang the panel on the passenger seat by looping the cord around the front seat head rest. This allowed the sun to shine directly on the panel, keeping the battery fully charged. I could even keep the panel connected while driving.

Katalin H Heymann
4 years ago

I live in Arizona where it’s sunny most of the time. Can you reccomend a solar powered battery trickle charger? I live in a trailer and the outside outlets stopped working months ago. I’m on social security so I don’t drive my car more than once a month unless I have to. This has resulted in a dead battery a few times.

4 years ago

Battery Tender makes a great solar powered battery maintainer. I have used two for the last 4 years, from April 1st to November 1st, in central Texas. One is connected to my car’s battery; one is connected to my travel trailer’s battery. After 7 months in storage, my car starts easily and my trailer’s battery registers 3 red dots on the batttery readout inside the trailer. A 10 watt unit would be perfect for your situation. They cost $115.00 on Amazon with free shipping.

Both my car and trailer are equipped with battery disconnect devices which are used during long-term storage. You would not need one on your car unless you are storing it for many months.

Glenda Alexander
4 years ago

Regarding keeping medical information in your RV, I have a Vial of Life in my freezer and a red cross emblem on the door of the freezer. I also have a medical alert bracelet with a USB. I’ve saved documents on it, including a Word document of my medical history, medical power of attorney, list of drugs and allergies, last will and testament, etc. The USB can be plugged into the doctor’s computer and he/she can save or print the pertinent documents. Here’s the link:

RV Staff
4 years ago

Excellent tip, Glenda! Thank you very much. Have a good evening. 😀 —Diane at

Dave Telenko
4 years ago

Battery charger, Mike a strange question, sometimes I read & interpret things differently. In your article battery maintainer you mention plugging the 12 volt adapter into AN always on 12 volt outlet. Hmmm I’m assuming that you ment your Dads car. So if I understand what you said, without you actually saying it, was you were using that same vehicles 12 volt to power the battery charger & to charge that battery. Please help my confusion!

Dave Telenko
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Mike, thanks for un-confusing me, I do understand.

4 years ago
Reply to  Dave Telenko

Dave, thank you for asking exactly what I had at the tip of my tongue and thank you Mike for clarifying the wording.

4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

I exploit the reverse behavior…i carry jumper packs in all my cars, plugged into ignition switched outlets with double male cords. When I drive, the packs get charged and when I stop, the ignition switching isolates the charger pack (keeping it good if i run down the starter battery). You can’t jumpstart through the charge cord, but this setup passively keeps the packs full and ready to rev.

Yes, I know many bus RVs have similar isolators between start and house batteries. I’m talking within a car or truck.

4 years ago

It’s funny you recommended the Genius battery maintainer this week — I have G3500s and G1100s and also recommended them as my cheapest working / #2 overall brand. Just this week, one of my G1100s (which maintains my car, also a Subaru) suddenly failed, so it might move down my list. My #1 favorite charger continues to be the BatteryMinder 2012 — it has a lot more blinky lights, and I like blinky lights! Just kidding — many of those lights indicate charging status better, and actually suggest what MIGHT be wrong/fixable with the battery/connected load. The Genius has a disco “fail” indication, but doesn’t explain itself at all. Some users wouldn’t care, so whichever floats your battery, so to speak.

One category to AVOID (I know, shocking from me) is the goofy Chinese “smart” chargers. I’ve some as cheap as $8 in this category, with 22ga charging wires, open circuit a steady 19V, and little more than a transformer inside. Good for electrolysis demos, but would probably cook your battery in a day.

4 years ago

Hopefully, at some point, you can discuss how to safely test a capacitor such as those in an AC unit. Those can give you quite a jolt even with the breaker off until they are de-energized. So what would be the best way to do that?

Bill McFarlin
4 years ago
Reply to  Larry

It is interesting reading about these ideas for maintaining your batteries. I use a small wattage (>20 watts) solar panel with an inexpensive charge controller. I have this setup connected to my vehicle with a simple polarized connector that serves as a very simple hook up and will pull apart if it is forgotten before moving the vehicle.

Joe Bulger
4 years ago

Mike, my experience with the cheaper multi-meters is that the test leads are very flimsy and tend to crack open overtime, especially when cold. I hope you point out that the meter and especially the leads are carefully inspected before use during your discussions on the proper use of meters. I personally use a pair of low voltage rubber gloves with protectors any time I use my meter on any AC power source (approximately $100.00 at a credible electrical supply store). It would be interesting to know what protection is gained with a good pair of latex or dishwashing gloves with leather gloves over them will give. Too many times I have tested a pedestal while standing in water from a dripping hose bib that is mounted on the same post that supports the electrical box.

mike h
4 years ago

To save money on LED bulbs, use Amazon and Ebay. You can usually get 20 for under $20. Color temperature anywhere from 2800k to 5000k. No, they are not brand name, but they work. I have them in the RV and in our stick house for the landscape lighting and under cabinet lighting.

4 years ago
Reply to  mike h

I haven’t converted to led yet because I don’t know a good place to buy them that I can afford. The ones on Amazon seem to be of the Chinese persuasion and half of them don’t work at all, smoke, get hot, and catch on fire. I don’t need more trouble than they are worth and can’t afford to throw my money away. Any suggestions out there?

4 years ago

You called the NOCO Genius a battery tender. Battery Tender is a copyrighted name for the Deltran line of battery ‘chargers’. I looked at the link to NOCO and they call it a battery maintainer.
I have two Deltrans, one for my motorcycle and one for my TT battery that I use in the off season.
My bike is now 7 years old and the battery is still healthy. I just put it on when I know I will not be riding for a few days, and keep it on all winter.

4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

I just call it a trickle charger which isn’t entirely correct either. I’ve got a Schumacher brand maintaining the battery on my bike right now.

Ron Lapierre
4 years ago

Another interesting newsletter Mike, hope you can keep it up. One of my favorites not only for the electrical info but just your personal take on other subjects. It hits a chord with me and a connection with your train of thought.

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