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RV Daily Tips Newsletter Issue 864

Issue 864 • March 13, 2018
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RVing Tip of the Day

Watch out for those sneaky RV weight limits 
By Greg Illes
Greg Illes and wikimedia

I’ve learned to always drive my RV within its specified weight limits. How I learned this is a long and somewhat sordid tale, but I’ll touch on the highlights.

First of all, know that “stock” motorhomes do not have a reputation as load-haulers. Manufacturers seem to play a minimalist game, buying a chassis (from Ford or whoever) that will just barely hold their coach, its occupants, and a few odds and ends. Add in full water/gas/propane tanks, food and clothing, some tools and toys – it’s way too easy to bust the limits.
What are the limits? The two most important are GVW (gross vehicle weight) and GCVW (gross combined vehicle weight). There’s also the towing weight rating. GVW is the maximum allowed weight as it rolls down the road. GCVW is for motorhomes towing another vehicle, and is the combined weight of both vehicles.
My motorhome has a little gotcha (not uncommon). See if you can spot it:
  • GVW – 15,000
  • GCVW – 19,000
  • Tow limit – 5,000
Got it? Right, I can’t have my coach at gross weight and use my 5,000 tow limit because that would put me at 15+5 = 20,000, 1,000 over my GCVW.
But that one was fairly obvious from the get-go. What tripped me up was the insidious way that weights large and small sneaked into my motorhome. Oh, I know all about my 622 pounds of water, a fridge full of food, and my 50-pound kayak. But along the way, I kinda overlooked the 400-odd pounds of chassis modifications, extra tools, spare parts, tire chains, etc., etc.
I was also doing the same thing with my toad – it’s a Ranger 4×4 pickup, and I had big steel bumpers, off-road recovery gear, spares and tools and so on.
After five years of such excess, I got around to (re-) weighing the rig in late 2014 and I almost had a heart attack right there at the truck scales. I was so far over both weight limits I’m embarrassed to repeat the numbers. More than 1,000 pounds – let’s leave it at that.
I did some soul-searching, and reset my attitude about my “include everything” approach. If it was not being used, it was ejected. If it was heavy-ish, I replaced it with something equivalent but lighter. I got really aggressive about it, perhaps overly so, and pulled a LOT of weight out of both vehicles. Occasionally, I had to put something back in.
A ladder is one example (15 pounds). I had been carrying one for years and never used it. Of course, as soon as I got rid of it, I found something I couldn’t get at from the roof. So the ladder went back in.
Keeping track was both easy and difficult. I used an Excel spreadsheet to tally up the weights – that was the easy part. The hard part was keeping up the discipline to make an entry for every item that went in and out. A lousy 6-pound portable vacuum hardly makes a dent in a 15,000 pound GVW, but ten such items is sixty pounds, and three of those – well, you get the idea. It all adds up.
For food and clothing, I made some initial measurements and then created some educated guesses as to spreadsheet entries for my average loads. (I’m not crazy enough to be entering two bottles of milk and a loaf of bread in my spreadsheet.)
These days, I’m many hundreds of pounds under my limits, but I confess that it would be too easy to again bust through them. After all, while I travel, my RV is my house and I’m not used to worrying about what I keep in my house.

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at

Read yesterday’s tipAsk the RV tech: Smart to buy a damaged RV and fix it up yourself

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Heavy Duty Tire Repair Kit for RVs, other vehicles
The Boulder Tools Tire Repair Kit is the premium flat tire repair kit available on the market for repairing tubeless tire punctures including those on RVs.The easy-to-follow instructions mean anyone can plug their flat tire in minutes. Built with the strongest materials and contained in a sturdy, portable case, this is the last kit you will ever have to buy. Learn more or order.


Where to find “clean” firewood
Can’t find a good source of campfire wood? Restrictions to keep invasive bug species at bay make it even harder. Hit the “big box” lumberyard and buy cheap “utility”-grade 2x4s. Cut ’em in foot or foot-and-a-half lengths. They are easy to chop into kindling, if desired, and they light easily, don’t support bugs, and put out plenty of heat and light.

Exercise your GFCIs
With electricity expert, Mike Sokol
If you look at GFCI instructions, they say to test them once a month. Now, I don’t know anyone who tests them at all, let alone on a monthly basis, but I do think that testing all GFCIs in your RV should be on your pre-season checklist and be checked at least once a year. How to test? All GFCIs have a built-in test and reset button. So push the test button and you should hear the relay click. Push the reset button, and it should latch in. As an extra check, use a 3-light outlet tester with a GFCI button. You should see the lights on the tester go out along with a relay click when you push the test button on the outlet tester. If the GFCI doesn’t act like this, then it’s time to replace it with a new one.
Where to place the remote thermometer transmitter
Can’t find a good location for your remote reporting thermometer transmitter? Stick it out in the sun and it may report way too high. Look for a location under your rig’s steps – in the shade, but close to your inside unit, making it a sure receiver “pickup.”

What’s the fairest checkout time at an RV park?

Inexpensive inverter converts 12 volt to 110 power
There are few more handy devices for RVers than a small power inverter. Plug this into your car or RV’s cigarette lighter (12-volt plug) and then plug in your laptop, tablet, small appliance, fan, camera battery, WiFi hotspot, radio, etc. Includes USB ports, too. Take this with you in your car while away from the RV. The last we looked, this was selling for about $30 at


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Find and reserve your next campsite. Find places to camp in campgrounds, parks and on other properties. Book your stay through the website or app. Couldn’t be easier!

Find favorite recipes from the Boy Scouts. Easy camp recipes organized by meal category.

The Culture Trip
In a new place and not sure what’s around you? The Culture Trip gives you hundreds of ideas on what to do/see/explore wherever you are.

Check out the long list of great RVing-related websites from

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How to check your RV battery for power draw
From RV Four, here is a quick tutorial on how to check your RV’s deep cycle battery with an inexpensive multimeter . Use it to determine the amount of power being drawn, including from phantom loads that you may not even realize are draining it, slowly but surely.

See all of our videos on our YouTube Channel.

Summer is coming! Protect your tires
Tires are expensive. So get as much life as you can from them. One guaranteed way to shorten their life is to keep them exposed to the sun. So here’s the no-brainer advice of the day: Cover them. The price you pay for the covers will save you far more in the long run.  Learn more or order.


Keep bugs from sticking so hard to your rig
Bugs sticking to the front of your rig making you buggy? Get ’em off easily. Apply plenty of wax to the front of your rig when doing your “spiff and clean” routines. Some RVers swear by dampening dryer softener sheets with water, then wiping the front end down with the sheet – bugs practically jump off with a quick wipe down later.

Best way to park safely during strong winds
During a strong storm with high winds, try to camp with your RV pointing toward or away from the wind. The RV will be more stable than if the wind is hitting it sideways. And beware of close-by trees. If they don’t look strong and healthy, camp a distance away … just in case!
Do you have a tip? Send it to diane (at) .

AARP’s checklist for your family 
Put your life in order with this valuable new resource from AARP and the American Bar Association. Checklist for My Family guides you through the process of gathering in one place your finances, legal documents, online accounts, wishes about medical care, and more. Plus it tells you what you need, why you need it, what’s missing, and where to get it. Learn more or order.

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RV Daily Tips Staff
Editor and Publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern. Staff writer: Emily Woodbury. Contributing writers: Russ De Maris, Bob Difley, Gary Bunzer, Roger Marble, Deanna Tolliver, Mike Sokol, J.M. Montigel and Andrew Robinson. Advertising coordinator: Gail Meyring.

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Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we occasionally get something wrong. We’re just human! So don’t go spending $10,000 on something we said was good simply because we said so, or fixing something according to what we suggested (check with your own technician first). Maybe we made a mistake. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of or this newsletter.

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5 years ago

Standard sized framing lumber is just cut and squeezed. It’s just wood, so you can burn it.

TREATED lumber is green, yellow, brown, whitewashed, or otherwise painted. DO NOT burn this stuff!

Optionally, you CAN bring reasonable amounts of firewood with you provided you print out your own origin form, stating where it came from and that it’s been heat treated (which you can do yourself). If you have a wood drying kiln, great…but baking in your kitchen oven is fine. Heat above 200 (dead bugs), and stay well below 450 (wood ignition).

5 years ago

Actually, not all commercial lumber is pressure treated. Pressure treated lumber is brown or green usually, and is marked as such. If in doubt, ask someone!

Ron V
5 years ago

Dr. Laura, commercially sold lumber comes both treated and untreated. Most construction lumber is untreated.

5 years ago

Weight Considerations…..
Yes, I try to always observe the limits. When making modifications, like adding more coach batteries last summer I took my Excel spread sheet of limits and modified it accordingly., Also do not forget to try to balance the load, that can make a huge difference even if within load limits on the stickers.
One other thing came to mind. I have an older class-C that came in either Chevy or Ford chassis. Tho the total GVW’s where the same, the actual load capacities where 1k# different due to the chassis weights being different. In this example the Ford chassis was 1k# heavier than the Chevy so the usable load was 1k# less than the Chevy.

Dr. Laura
5 years ago

Howdy Chuck!

I used to go for the scrap lumber too, until my late father pointed out that pressure treated lumber (which is what all commercially sold lumber is) is treated with heavy metals and (ask any firefighter) burning it releases toxins into the air. The remaining ash contains things like lead and arsenic, which you really don’t want to handle or breath. If you then leave the ashes in your fire pit or scatter them on the ground, you’re contaminating the environment. Maybe this is outdated, in which case I’ll be delighted!

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