RV 101: The Ultimate Guide For the Beginner Class A RV Owner


To set the record straight, my wife does not camp. I have dispersed camped in a Jeep and off road camper for over 20 years, mostly alone or with friends. It is not my wife's game and that's fine. She did it grow up camping in a travel trailer but it still took a couple of years for me to convince her to give it another try...and we did!


We call it our "Covid Camper". Purchased used in 2020 I had finally gotten the blessing from the wife to look around and see what was out there. I read through a few blogs, hit a few websites, read up on brands but nothing major really; and certainly nothing to prepare me for the huge learning curve I was about to endure.


We found a 2018 Class A Thor Ace Motorcoach roughly 31' in length and weighing in at over 21,000 pounds. It sits on a Ford F53 chassis powered by a Ford Triton V10 engine. I was a tad bit intimidated. Uhmmmm....okay...I was petrified.


With the paperwork signed and vehicle prepped it was time to pick it up. The "walk thru" was a sham. "Here are your standard light switches." Huh? I wanted to know about electrical, plumbing, and other ins and outs of operating this thing but it wasn't to be had. I got the keys and me and the kid loaded up and left with the wife following, making sure I didn't wreck this thing on the first day.


If you are looking at your first RV, whether a trailer, Class A, or Class C, there is a lot going on with these things and I'm sure you're wondering what in the hell you are getting into. I certainly was. Now, I am not professing to be an expert on RV's. This post is only to share some of my insights as a newbie and what I learned to do, and not to do.


Gas or Diesel Pusher


It was interesting as I learned how to truly navigate this beast. Driving a Class A is not like driving a standard vehicle. You can't sit back and be lulled by the A/C or music. You have to be engaged in the driving and astutely aware of where you are. You have to consider height, width, length, potholes in the road, and where and when and how to execute a turn or lane change, among other factors. Ours came with side cameras embedded in the side mirrors and they helped tremendously. The side mirrors also had a lower concave mirror that showed the lower length of the RV so I could make sure there weren't any of those drivers who like to hang out in another vehicles blind spot.


Now, I've heard heavenly stories about diesel pusher RV's that sit on a commercial chassis and I'm told it is a huge driving difference. This Ford chassis we had, which is what most gasoline RV's use, rode like a bicycle rolling on its rims sans tires. On longer trips I'd arrive and simply felt beat up. It was far worse when I spent three, 10-hour days driving it back to Louisiana loaded with recovery gear and equipment. Hurricane Laura had nearly destroyed my hometown and I drove it loaded to help for two weeks. It was a brutal three days there, working, and then three days back.


Considerations

Gas or Diesel - Gas RV's are cheaper and maintenance on a pusher is expensive. Do your research.

Type of Chassis - A commercial chassis, like a Freightliner, are kings of the road.


Driver's Seat - Here you should check for mobility. It will certainly go back and forth, but does it raise and lower?

After 3 days and loaded the author made it to Lake Charles, La

post-Hurricane Laura


Ours didn't and the side where my left leg rested was just high enough that I struggled

to stay flat-footed. I ended up with a small footstool on the floor to rest my foot on.


Leveling System

Most Class A's will have a hydraulic leveling system. The control panel will be located

near the driver's console and the actuating system in a compartment underneath. For

ours, it was simply an on/off button with other indicators showing which jack(s) were

down/up or moving into place. With the push of another the system automatically

dropped the four jacks and leveled the RV. It's very impressive. For trailers or 5th

Wheel RV's, these may by deployed with a hand crank or individually via an

electronic/hydraulic lift at each jack. If yours is a hand crank get an impact

wrench to speed things up. If you find the system didn't quite get you level, you can

switch to manual mode and adjust as needed. I use an app on my phone that shows a

digital bubble level. If you get the circle inside of the bigger circle, you're set.

Sleeping Room

Seriously consider who will be travelling with you. We didn't and the lack of adult

sleeping space was missed. The master bedroom was excellent and with an A/C unit

over our heads, it was great sleeping. The problem was the overhead sleeping bunk

above the driver/front passenger area was rated for 300 pounds and two adults would

test that rating. It's great for kids or gear, but not much more. The couch was not a

pull-out sleeper sofa but instead a jack knife bed. That and the dinette bed are not

good for anything but very small children.


Gear


My wife is a self-professed RV pro. She and her family had a travel trailer many years ago and before I knew it, we were on a first-name basis with the Amazon delivery guy. She had ordered everything we needed and a few things we didn't need. Yes, she decorated the inside impeccably and the couch and our bed had more pillows than I could count. Here are a few purchases made. Some good, some not so good.


Fresh Water Connection - Every full hook-up site we visited had your water supply

within 10' and after the first outing, I was done with the 100-foot hose my wife

purchased so I got a 25'. The only time the 100 footer is used is when I fill up my fresh

water tank, but I still do not need 100'.

Fresh Water Hose Coil Spring - This device connects to the fresh water outlet on your

RV and then to the end of your hose. If you do not use this or similar, your hose will

collapse and pinch on itself, cutting off the water supply.







In-Line Water Filter - There are dozens of types out there so just do your research.

Most attach at the water source then the hose connects. Keep in mind there is a

direction for the water to flow indicated by arrows. We spent a bit more and ours is

good for roughly 3000 gallons. You can purchase single filters or for those serious

water connosieurs, multiple filters in stages to really clean the agua. The one we

purchased is here.


Portable Black Water Tank - The wife got one of these, but unless you're stationary for

an extended period of time you don't need one. These are designed to let you offload

your black/grey tanks, attach it to your vehicle if needed, and haul it to the

dumpstation...all without disconnecting your RV to drive to the dumpstation.


Black and Grey Tanks


Sewer Hose

You will need to purchase RV Septic Hose(s). Here's the one we chose. You'll want to

get two sections instead of one long one. Most of the time you'll only need one

section. The type we purchased had very sturdy rotating fittings that locked very well

together.


It also had a 90 degree sewer adaptor. Trust me on this, you WILL need to secure the

sewer hose into the septic tank outlet sticking out of the ground. They are usually

3"-4" PVC pipe. Yes, you can use a rock resting on top of the hose, but even those are

questionable. My first experience with dumping our black tank came after I simply

stuck the end of the hose in the drain, not realizing how much force was exerted when

I pulled the handle. It was just in the nick of time that I got my foot on the neck of the

hose as it was bucking under the pressure. The 90 degree adapter has tiered fittings

to screw into 3" or 4" septic. A quick twist to get the threads to bite and your safe

from, well, you know what.


Most campgrounds will require you to keep the sewer line off of the ground. This

device is a collapsible, accordion-like plastic thingy that stretches underneath your

sewer hose from the RV to the sewer line. Here's where you need a sewer hose

support. Again, there are dozens out there but the one we bought is here.


And here's a trick I learned to prevent smells and bugs from flying from the sewer line

back into the RV. After you've connected your sewer and extended the sewer hose

support under it; allow a short section of the sewer line to droop. Similar to the P-

Trap under your sink or designed into your toilet at home, this will keep water in the

line and prevent unwanted smells and bugs from paying you a visit!


Dumping

You should always dump the black first, then the grey. That way any solids are moved

through the septic hose and down the drain. Many RV's also have a black tank flush.

You can purchase water hoses for this that are shorter and colored bright orange so as

not to confuse them with any other hoses. Attach to the black tank outlet and the

end to your hose bibb and fill the black tank. You do not need to fill it up, but let it go

for 2-3 fifteen fills and flush the tank between each one. That way your black tank is

much cleaner. Leave a bit of the water in the tank and drop in one of the black tank

deoridizer tabs and you're set.


Gloves

Unless your have a weird fetish invest in a good set of rubber gloves for dumping. It

will splash and you will get "(sh)it" on your hands.


And while we're gagging on this topic, after a good black tank dump and cleaning,

leave a few gallons of clean water inside. The toilet is generally on top of the black

tank and after several um..."sessions", solids will begin to pile. Leaving some water in

the tank will help disperse this waste, get it suspended, and help it drain at your

next dump.


Power


RV's must have miles of wiring to accomodate all of the sytems. Whether it's for shore

power, generator power (aka the "genie"), powering the inverter or converter, tapping

into the house batteries or the vehicle battery...it's a lot. I will not remotely pretend

to be an electrician but I have learned a few things.


30 Amp or 50 Amp

Many smaller RV's are 30 amp. With two A/C's and other amenities ours was a 50 amp.

These are easily distuinguished by unique male/female plugs on either cord. You can't

plug one into the other. You can get a step down short cord to go from 50 amp to 30

amp, however. Our storage facility only supplied 30 amp power and this adaptor

worked great. If I was cleaning up the inside of the RV on a Phoenix summer day, I

could still run one A/C.


Considerations

If you're on shore power, do not run the genie! If you're on the genie, do not plug into

shore power. Period.


Look at your RV wiring diagram and find any plugs that are running through the

inverter. When you find them, those are the ones that will still work off of the

engine battery, i.e. if you're driving and need to charge a device. Yes, you can crank

the genie but why do so if you don't need to?


Inverter Disconnect

While getting a new inverter my RV repair guy suggested an inverter disconnect

switch. Prior to getting it, the inverter was always under load and connected to the

batteries even when parked for an extended period of time. He suggested this on/off

switch in our battery compartment. When parked we turn off, i.e. "disconnect" the

inverter from the batteries.


Battery Monitor

Believe it or not, many RV's do not have a way to monitor the house batteries. My RV

shop installed a bluetooth device that, after downloading the companion app, I have

more information about my batteries than I know what to do with. Voltage,

Amperage, Usage, History, if there is a drain, etc. It has been incredible!


Fun Stuff

The best part of this experience was buying the stuff to have fun with. Now, that's not

to say it was cheap, I mean, it's my wife, and she does not scrimp. Plus, if you've made

it this far you know by now you're not getting off cheap. The RV lifestyle isn't, so bite

the bullet unless you just plan on loitering under your awning for days on end while

sitting on the ground.


Chairs - We initially invested in several aluminum folding chairs with the fold out end

table. They were nice but not having a place to rest the feet became uncomfortable.


A few months later we bought two of the folding, recliner-type chairs. Rest your feet

on the bar, lean back, and lock it into place. Priceless.


We love to cook outside and our RV had an external propane valve. Along with a

longer propane hose, one of our first purchases was an outdoor stove/griddle. This

was had from Ace Hardware and was much cheaper than most. The legs collapse and

both griddle and BBQ attachments can be removed for easy storage. Here's the one

we've used. My fondest memory was us set up over the weekend at Lake Pleasant,

Arizona. It was a Sunday, weather was cool and it was football season. I started an

early gumbo (we're from Louisiana!) and because I'm technically challenged, got the

kid to set up the outside TV. There was nothing better that day than cooking and

watching the Saints. It doesn't get any better than that!


It's safe to say that one could go on forever about their first RV experience. Thanks to the web anyone can muddle through the vast resources out there to help them navigate that new world. So, if you're thinking about pursuing this adventure be sure and read up, watch the videos, and read the blogs. You are surely to learn a thing or two and prevent some of the mistakes I've made. Cheers ~














13 views0 comments