Wednesday, November 29, 2023


The readers write – of parts, crooks, & getting hitched

Edited by Russ and Tiña De Maris

Do-it-yourself part chasing

When Dr. RV Shrink ran into an RVer who kept getting “no” for an answer, he wrote a prescription for walking a little farther than the nearest RV part store. Our readers chimed in with some advice of their own:

Richard Davidson‘s own experience yields this comment: “We have found, over the years, that many, many ‘home’ parts work just as well and sometimes better than ‘RV’ parts from a dealer. We ALWAYS go to the hardware store or Home Depot/Lowe’s first. IF what they have won’t work, THEN we go to the RV parts place.”

Kenny Nugent also speaks from experience: “I have restored an ’89 Winnie Chieftain, and I must say that my biggest source on inspiration and instruction has come from the various RV forums [on YouTube] that I frequent. There is so much information available there it is unbelievable.”

Willie has an “alternative RV parts” suggestion: “We live in a coastal city with dozens of marine hardware stores. I always look in places like West Marine first for parts that will work in my RV. A recreational boat shares many things in common with RVs, and marine parts are usually better engineered, better built and yes, more expensive, but for a reason.”

Says Jim Becker, “You are absolutely spot on. Always, Always, Always check several sites, blogs, etc., before DIY projects for repairs. The water pump on our motorhome started pulsing when the water was turned on. I lost track of all the DIY comments I found from folks with good intentions but not the expertise and knowledge. Some folks said you had to switch from tank to park water to stop the pulsing. A bunch said you had to buy a bladder system add on. I finally found out all I needed to do was get an Allen wrench and turn a small screw on the back of the pump a quarter turn. Problem solved.”

Finally, here’s another approach from Ken Buck: “Get a good RV parts catalog. I have a Thompson RV [catalog] from Pendleton, Oregon, on my sideboard right now. It has 1104 pages of RV-related items for sale. If you want something, it’s probably there. If you want inspiration and ideas of how to put something together, just thumb thru the pages to see what someone else already makes.”

Ripping the con artists

J.J. at the English language Wikipedia

In a news story we mentioned how a couple of Utah auto repair firms had been fined for “conning” customers into buying repairs they didn’t need. Apparently the problem runs deep. 

Keith relates his own experience: “Last April we stopped at a Utah Visitor’s Center just off of I-15 and south of St. George. When we came out of the Visitor’s Center (where we were helped by a very nice and well-informed volunteer) there was a guy checking out our trailer. He claimed to have spotted a suspension problem and knew just where we should go to get it fixed. With all kinds of alarm bells sounding in my head we declined. I crawled under the trailer when we got to our campground and could find nothing wrong. So yes, beware in Utah !”

Susie responded to Keith’s experience with one of her own: “Same thing, same place in 2016. That Visitor’s Center parking lot has probably been a scammer hotbed for years. We didn’t take the bait either.”

And Marilyn brings up a historical memory: “Back in 2009 I was traveling from northern Alberta down to Tucson. Yup. Utah. Gas station. Told I needed at least one if not two tires. Here I was – a single woman with her dog, never towed before in my life – I bought into it hook, line and sinker to the tune of $1,000. Nowadays I would know differently.”

“I, too, had a similar experience in Utah, along I 15,” reports Jay. “Stopped to get a Dairy Queen, saw a guy walking to the other side of my motor home. When I came out, he stopped me and said I had a bulging tire, but could get it fixed at a tire store at the same exit. Checked the tire (on the far side of the rig, of course), looked like he had kicked it to make it bulge. Stopped at the tire store, looked at it again, wasn’t bad. Told the owner I ought to report him to the highway patrol. He looked at the tire, said he didn’t think it needed to be replaced after all. Headed down the road.”

And here’s Dick Mallery‘s story: “Had the same thing happen at Walmart in Cedar City, Utah. Found a guy laying under my motorhome as I walked out of the store. When I asked him what he was doing he told me I had issues with my shocks and I should stop over to his shop. The scam alert in my head was going off immediately.”

But lest you think you can let your guard down elsewhere, here’s Steve‘s experience: “We have a similar problem in Florida. If you take your vehicle to one of those quick oil change places they will clean you out if you let them. It is a smaller scale than a motor home but still is a crime by the greedy.”

Advice on getting hitched

Where do you hitch the end of your trailer’s breakaway cable? Plenty of thoughts on this question. 

Petro was the first to comment. “I hook my breakaway cable through the safety chain hook hole of the hitch and then back onto itself with a carabiner.”

To which Leon added, “I also hook it through the hole for the safety chain much like Petro described. I once lost a hitch pin – don’t know if it was my carelessness, some defect, or a jerk yanking the pin clip when I stopped at a lay-by. Regardless – hooking the breakaway cable to the hitch pin would have had disastrous results in that case. I now use a lockable hitch pin.”

And for the “most detailed response” the award goes to Wolfe: “1) The ONLY place to attach the brake activator (breakaway cable) is to the tow vehicle itself. This isn’t debated AFAIK [as far as I know] by any trailer vendor.

“2) Carabiner or snap-clip goes on the end, but it goes to either a free bumper ball-hole (free because you use class 3/5 instead of bumper) or most commonly right alongside one of the breakaway chains on the hitch “earlobes.” You do NOT use the cable itself directly because rattling can chew through the thin cable.

“3) A proper length cable won’t drag on the ground. If you’d be tempted to do the weave, get the right cable instead. While at it, get a coiled one, which gives extra freedom and still won’t drag.

Wolfe’s right! DON’T do it this way!

“4) I’m scared if Dave was showing his ‘correct’ [‘working end of the hitch pin’] hookup in the one photo. In that photo, the loop can pop off over the cotter pin, retract through the hole, and be totally useless. NEVER hook it that way. Please!

“5) I’m not sure of the precise level of senility to install the hitch head and forget the pin? Either way, I use a locking hitch pin, preventing forgetting/theft/tampering with one simple click.

“6) Those square pins ARE terrible falling out, but a better solution might be using cotter pins instead. I had those pins rattle out of the tip-ups while driving, so now I only use spring pins that hold themselves in rather than having a magic angle where they fall out.

“7) Petro: Use the carabiner directly. That loopback configuration will chew/cut the cable.”


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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