Wednesday, November 27, 2013

After Winterizing

Once you have winterized your Roadtrek, then what? You can still travel in your Roadtrek with it winterized and we will have an article about that coming soon. For some, once they have winterized they are putting their Roadtrek "away" until the seasons pass and the warm weather comes again. But can you just winterize and walk away?

The answer is no. There are things that you need to do all winter regarding your Roadtrek. This article will detail winter maintenance.

Check your propane level when you have finally decided that it is time to give the Roadtrek a rest for the rest of the winter. A full propane tank is best during the cold weather. Take it to be filled if it is not full. 

If you have a built in generator, whether gas or propane, that generator needs to be exercised every month. While Roadtrek only recommends 45 minutes of generator "exercise", the company that manufacturers and warranties the generator, Onan Cummings, says that the generator needs to be exercised for two hours a month. The total time that the generator runs from the time it is installed is recorded on the dial that appears on the wall of the Roadtrek with the generator on and off switch. These hours and minutes are reported to Onan Cummings when warranty work is required. I have been told by our service center that if the time on the meter does not equal or exceed the minimum of hours that amount to two hours a month since installation, warranty payment may be refused. So there is more than one reason to exercise the generator properly. And the most important reason is not to make the company happy, but to keep the generator operating properly. Generators work better if they are run often and not allowed to sit without use. This is why "exercising" the generator is required.

During the winter I exercise the Roadtrek generator two hours a month. It is necessary to power at least half of the generator's load capacity when exercising the generator. During the warm months I use the A/C to put this load on the generator, but what should you use when it is cold? If you generator has a 2800 watt capacity, half of that is 1500 watts. Most electric heaters are 1500 watts. I bring a household ceramic electric heater into the Roadtrek during the winter when I am exercising the generator, start the generator, plug in the electric heater and turn it up the thermostat on the heater to high. If it seems that it will get too warm or hot inside the Roadtrek I open the ceiling vent to let some of the heat out as the heater runs. After two hours, all is turned off and the heater comes back into the house until the next month.

Cold weather causes batteries to discharge more quickly. It is important to regularly check the charge level of your coach battery(ies). If the level on the batteries on the wall LED meter shows less than G, it is necessary to charge the batteries. You can do this one of two ways. Drive the Roadtrek for two hours at highway speeds OR plug the Roadtrek into "shore power" at your house for 12 hours. Both will charge both your coach and vehicle batteries. Do not leave your Battery Switch ON when you are not using your Roadtrek. This will drain the batteries in the best weather quickly.

I plug the Roadtrek into shore power for a period of 12 hours on schedule once each month throughout the year. In the winter I check weekly to make sure the batteries have not drained between scheduled charges. 

Some will leave the Roadtrek plugged in to shore power throughout the winter and this is possible as long as you have a Roadtrek with a "smart" charger component (for newer Roadtreks this is part of the 3-way inverter unit). The "smart" charger will charge the batteries until full and then drop back to a "float" charge which will monitor the battery levels and charge when the level drops. AGM maintenance free batteries used by Roadtrek since 2011 are safely charged this way, but wet cell batteries should be checked regularly if left plugged in this way to be sure that the fluid level is not evaporated or boiled away. While Roadtrek states that the engine battery - which is not an AGM battery - will charge without problem this way, if that battery has fluid levels that can be checked they should also be checked regularly. It is better safe by taking a few moments to check the fluid levels, than to be sorry later. (If you have AGM batteries DO NOT open them to check fluid levels.)

As with any motor vehicle it is best not to let it sit for long periods of time without starting the engine. Go out every one or two weeks and start the engine. If you can, take it for a drive.

If you drive the Roadtrek in the winter on roads that have been salted for ice and/or snow, the road salt will do damage to the underside of the van. If you can rinse off the under-chassis with fresh water using a hose. Sometimes, the weather just won't allow this. In that case, as soon as the weather starts to get warm enough to do this, do it. I have seen one Class B owner who places a lawn sprinkler that moves the water back and forth under the van to wash off the salt. After doing one area, he moves the sprinkler back to do the rest.

This is a good time to get to any of the little repairs or modifications that you have been thinking about inside the Roadtrek. You are not going anywhere, it is sitting out there, and you can spend some time inside and get an "RV" fix while you do those things you have been putting off inside the Roadtrek (as long as they are not water related).

How do you remember to do all of this? I do it on a schedule and that schedule is set into my computer's calendar software with reminder alarms. I have an "appointment" with my Roadtrek on the 15th of every month to charge the generator. I have an "appointment" with my Roadtrek on the 28th of every month to plug into shore power. Why the 28th? Not all months have 31 days and February only has 28 unless it is leap year. So, the 28th works for all months. On those days when I turn on the computer, an alarm goes off from the calendar that tells me its Roadtrek Day. With computer calendars easy to sync with smartphones, the reminder comes up on my phone on those days as well.

With all of this your Roadtrek will be ready for you to get going without difficulties in the Spring!

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