I have a 2005 Bounder diesel coach that I bought new. The propane sensor sounds off shrilly at various times. Hairspray or Lysol disinfectant and anything with fluorocarbons as a propellant will set it off. I can reset it and open the roof vent and turn on the fan for a short while, and that keeps it quiet for several hours.
A friend has the same situation in his Winnebago, and he disconnected the sensor. I choose not to do that. Do these sensors have a lifespan, or do they just go bad often? We found no propane leaks after checking with other testing equipment.
Haltom City, Texas
Kudos for checking the coach leak. The sensor in an LP-gas detector in an RV uses a very thin wire that’s fed voltage to make it hot. As an atmosphere passes over the wire, it can get hotter or colder, which changes the conductivity properties of the wire.
These devices are sensitive to hydrocarbons, so it makes sense that hairspray or Lysol made yours go off. Although LP-gas is the target gas for the detector, it’s cross-sensitive to methane, carbon monoxide, alcohol, cleaning solutions and moist air, which will change the temperature of the wire and potentially cause the alarm to go off.
On a recent trip, I could smell propane inside the loaner fifth wheel I was staying in. The detector did not sound an alert. I bubble tested for leaks and found the regulator was leaking badly. The regulator was not inside the living quarters of the RV, as is the gas detector, therefore it wasn’t able to pick up a sufficient concentration to cause an alarm. As a matter of fact, if the window is open and the detector is bathed with fresh air, it will not pick up an interior leak. In other words, the detector must be downwind of the leak to be effective.
Your detector was made by CCI, which has gone out of business. CCI detectors were factory set with a gas concentration of 1/5 the lower explosive limit. They are set this way by design, which is actually more sensitive than the value the UL requirement calls for. Some of the current manufacturers of RV detectors are putting a “replace by” date on the unit. If you could get spec gas at a reasonable price, you would be able to test your detector. Unfortunately, a small container of spec gas will cost you $125, which is more than the replacement cost of the detector.
You need to convince your friend that disconnecting the device is not a good idea. Although an LP-gas detector isn’t perfect, it’s still a good safety device. Your friend should also know that disconnecting the LP-gas detector could make him liable, should someone be injured as a result of a leak. Fortunately, these kinds of incidents are rare, but when they do occur they are severe. Therefore, it’s best to be on the safe side.
The monitor panel that has the lights to show the tank amounts for gray and black water never reads correctly. When the tanks are empty, the lights shows anywhere from half to full or just stay on full. I’m sure the tank sensors are blocked. I’ve tried some compounds from across the counter, but they don’t seem to do anything. What’s on the market or a home solution to put in the tanks and let it slosh around while driving and loosen the muck so it can be rinsed out?
Medical Lake, Washington
Normally, commercial cleaners will help some. You might try the old ice routine: add ice via the toilet valve and drive around for a while. Then empty the tank and use a good tank-rinsing device to make sure everything inside has been purged.
Keep in mind that many of the monitors found in RVs are notoriously inaccurate. The systems employing sensors that are welded or screwed into the side of the tank are the worst offenders. Typically, the crud from the tank builds up on the sensors, creating inaccurate readings.
If you know your monitor is in good working order, try using Horst Miracle Probes. These probes fit into the 3/8-inch diameter holes found in most holding tanks. They have Teflon tubing on the sensor that’s designed to eliminate false readings, and sludge can’t stick to the Teflon. The probes used for the black tanks also have a protective roof over the probe wire, which deflects tissue and solid waste. Kits for the black-water tank sell for $35; $29.95 for the gray-water tank (rvprobes.com
You can also consider replacing the existing monitoring system with one that has external sensor pads. External sensors are attached to the outside of the tank (using tape-type adhesive), making them impervious to content accumulation. The more common systems are the iSeries Tank Systems Monitor from Tech-Edge and the SeeLevel II from Garnet Technologies. They sell for around $225 for a kit that can be connected to at least two holding tanks and one water tank, with options to monitor LP-gas and battery voltage.
Parts for Oven
We have a 2002 Alpenlite fifth wheel and are experiencing problems with our Atwood high-output oven. The pilot will light, and the burner will ignite and operate until the set temperature is reached. It then shuts off as expected, but the pilot also shuts off, putting an end to the meal! It will manually reignite, but the process repeats itself.
A conversation with Atwood pointed out potential fixes, but I was told parts are no longer available for a unit this old. Did I get a salesperson wanting me to buy a new $600 unit rather than repair mine, or is he telling me the truth?
Older RV parts can often be difficult to find, and the easy answer is to just “buy a new appliance.” Before you acquiesce to that type of action, check out Schwalm and Associates in Chino, California (800-237-4318). This company specializes in hard-to-find RV appliance and accessory parts and probably will have the parts you need for your Atwood oven.
The company buys a bunch of discontinued parts, which it adds to its extensive inventory of new components. When an appliance provider tells you “Parts are no longer available,” that normally means it doesn’t physically stock these parts any longer. In many cases, Schwalm can come up with what you need.
You can access Schwalm on the Internet using the name Any RV Parts (anyrvparts.com
In the April-May Highways, you suggest a tire treatment that is a petroleum-distillate-free chemical. I’ve looked and looked for a treatment without petroleum-distillates and can’t find anything. Could you recommend one?
I like 303 Aerospace Protectant and have been using this product for many years. Camping World usually stocks 303, and it can also be found online at a number of commercial sites.
I bought a used 2002 Skyline Aljo Scout a year and a half ago. I found that the toilet leaked all liquids into the black tank. I just replaced the blade seal in the Thetford Aqua-Magic IV, and it still leaks past the seal. Is there anything else I can do, short of replacing the toilet, which will cost me more than $200?
It’s best to replace the blade with the seal. Water deposits that have formed on the blade can quickly scar the new seal, leaving you in the same predicament as before replacing it.
Figuring Hitch Weight
We have a 33-foot Sierra 300RL fifth wheel pulled by a one-ton Ford dually. How do you figure your tongue weight? Does it make a difference between gooseneck and saddle? Our fifth wheel shows a hitch weight of 2,650 pounds. We see many larger fifth wheels being pulled by 3/4-ton trucks.
Michael R. Tarity Jr.
Trenton, South Carolina
Pin weight is the same whether it’s held by a saddle on a conventional fifth-wheel hitch or a gooseneck connected to a ball in the bed of the truck.
Load your fifth wheel for a typical trip with water and LP-gas full. Take the rig to a public scale with a flat shoulder. Weigh the fifth wheel, hitched to the truck with the truck axles off the scale. Record that weight. Back the fifth wheel so the landing jacks are on the scale. Extend the jacks and unhitch the trailer from the truck. Drive the truck off the scale and record the weight. The difference between the two figures is your actual hitch weight.
Make sure the hitch weight is within the truck’s rear axle rating after adding in the weight of the truck and any supplies carried in the bed.
Anode for Atwood
I’ve been told over the years that the Atwood water heater needed an anode rod installed into the tank to protect it. I have used anode rods for years. This spring when I tried to drain the tank, the plug came out, leaving the old anode rod stuck in the drain, which had to be drilled out. I called the factory and was told that anode rods should not be used in Atwood water heaters.
It is not necessary to use an anode rode in an Atwood water heater. Atwood tanks are aluminum, whereas tanks that require an anode rod are steel. The aluminum is not susceptible to leaks caused by corrosive factors. As a matter of fact, most times an anode rod placed in the Atwood tank will “weld” itself to the aluminum and, as you found out, becomes difficult or impossible to remove.
Towing a Pathfinder
About three years ago, I purchased a 2001 Dutch Star motorhome. I have a 1999 Nissan Pathfinder SE. It has a five-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive. I planned to tow the vehicle, so I called Nissan and talked with a customer support rep to see if the Pathfinder can be towed. He said that he didn’t know, and I would have to call a dealer to find out. Go figure!
I called a Nissan dealership, and they indicated that it should be alright to tow the Pathfinder, but they didn’t sound that positive about their statement. So here I am writing to Highways to get a definitive answer. Can the 1999 Nissan Pathfinder SE be towed and, if yes, how should the transmission and four-wheel drive be positioned. Both in neutral, I assume?
Also, I understand that the steering wheel has to be unlocked, which makes sense. I’ve heard some people tow with bungee cords attached to the steering wheel to keep the front wheels directed forward. Is that a valid solution or not?
The 1999 Pathfinder with manual transmission is towable. Place the transmission and transfer case in neutral.
The bungee cord routine was used on vehicles that had a problem with steering during sharp turns. To prevent the front wheels from locking up in one direction and not returning to center after the motorhome completes the turn, bungee cords can be used to secure the steering wheel to a stationary location like a door handle or seat mount. The bungees allow the wheel to move sufficiently while making turns and return to center after the turn is negotiated. We don’t see too many vehicles that have that problem these days.
I towed a Pathfinder for many years and never experienced any turning problems.
Too Much for Tundra
I have a two-wheel-drive 2007 Toyota Tundra 5.7-liter long box with air bags that I installed. I’m buying a 2013 34-foot Palomino fifth wheel that weighs 14,000 pounds. I’d like to know if it’s OK to tow that fifth wheel with this truck.
It’s not OK. Your truck is rated to tow only 10,000 pounds, and after you calculate actual weight against the gross combination weight rating of the truck the actual tow rating will likely decrease. Even though I don’t have the weight figures for your particular setup, I’ll put money on the fact that the rear axle also will be overloaded once pin weight is added to the truck.
Go for a smaller fifth wheel or a higher-rated truck.
If you have a question about tire pressure, tow vehicles, fluctuating temperatures or anything else in or on your RV, send an email to [email protected]
and be sure to include your name and contact information. Whether or not your letter appears in Highways, you’ll receive a reply.