Thursday, December 8, 2022


RVelectricity: Get the right tool for the job!


Dear Readers,
It’s been a fun week at the old homestead. A steam pipe buried under the cement floor in the basement of my 99-year-old house developed a significant leak. It was losing up to 100 gallons of water a day under the foundation. Yikes! I used a few interesting tools to find where the leak was located, and dig up the pipes for replacement.

While not exactly an RV problem, these types of tools and troubleshooting techniques might be helpful to you, no matter if your house is on wheels or a foundation.

FLIR cameras are great!

While I have a pretty advanced infrared camera that attaches to my iPhone, there are inexpensive versions that allow you to perform interesting checks, like looking for overheating wiring or connections in a power panel or shore power plug, or finding where you’re losing valuable heat out of a bad slide seal or other entry point in your RV.

Here’s what my FLIR infrared camera was able to see under the concrete floor. This enabled me to visualize the exact path of the pipes so I could do minimal excavation to free the 99-year-old pipes from their watery grave.

Concrete buster

Instead of renting a huge jackhammer from Ted’s Rent-it, I decided to try a large hand-held Rotary Hammer Drill from Harbor Freight. I had once used a small one when I was maybe 12 years old to help dig out a basement room at my neighbor’s house. We needed room to hide our still for a little side gig we had making moonshine, but that’s another story. Yes, that’s all true—but don’t ask for details.

The cost of buying this Rotary Hammer Drill from Harbor Freight, along with a triple-set of chisels, was less than a 3-day rental fee of a big jackhammer. And since I had several concrete-busting projects I was putting off, this seemed like a reasonable investment. So, for $200 and change, I now have a piece of demo gear that can tackle those concrete busting jobs.

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Busting concrete blocks

My son’s basement entrance was suffering from deteriorated concrete blocks, and the back wall was only dirt, so this was a source of basement water every time there was a heavy rain.

This Hammer Drill sliced through the mortar joints and blocks like butter. Here’s my contractor buddy Karl making short work of a short wall.

Pipes are back in place

I hired a local plumber to replace the pipes, since I really don’t have the tools for large-scale plumbing. But I saved a ton of money by excavating the pipes myself. Plus, I now have brand-new underground steam pipes that should last another 99 years (I hope). At least I won’t have to do that again!

What’s the lesson here?

Get the right tool for the job. It would have taken days with a hammer and chisel to remove the pipes in the floor or demo that concrete block wall. Instead, it was only hours of work with a hammer drill. And if you’re doing something RV-related like running power to a home pedestal, you’ll still want to hire a licensed electrician for the wiring. But ask them if you can punch a hole in the wall and dig a trench for the wiring yourself. Same for any plumbing jobs needed for an RV water hookup. And once you get the right tools you’ll find all kinds of other uses for them.

So don’t be afraid to invest in tools. While my FLIR camera was pretty expensive, there are now affordable thermal cameras that can help with everything on your RV—from finding a bad wheel bearing, to a tire that’s running hot, to overheating wiring.

Here’s one I just looked up on Amazon that should work nicely for those types of troubleshooting jobs.

And the Harbor Freight Rotary Hammer Drill I used is available HERE.

Let’s play (and work) safe out there….

Send your questions to me at my new RVelectricity forum here.

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ 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.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.



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Korey Jackson
1 month ago

Around our area, county libraries offer a FLIR camera checkout service. Since our local hardware stores do not have FLIR camera rentals available, I am using one of the library loaners now to find areas in my RV where better insulation may help, and to inspect wiring for hot spots.

Thomas D
1 month ago

Concrete! Not cement. You know and I know cement is the gray powder that is used in making concrete

Mike Sokol
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Ha! 😁

1 month ago

Fire departments use FLIR cameras for finding hot spots. Ask your local FD for assistance, you could get a free fire safety evaluation out of the visit also.

1 month ago

Mike you are so right. I was a tech for over 40 years. All my fellow workers always questioned how I did my job so much faster than them. The answer was having the right tools for the job. Now nearing retirement what to do with over 200K in tools. People want to pay pennies on the dollar to buy quality tools. But good article on using infrared to find hot spots and heat loss. Great for checking brake temps as well as wheel bearings and many other options. Thanks for all your articles.