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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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