Saturday, November 25, 2023


 My 2011 Chevy based Roadtrek 190 Popular has the Onan Microlite 2800 KV model generator. Since this model, starting in 2012, Onan introduced a changed generator model  -  the Microlite 2800 KY generator. Since that model there have been two other model Onan Microlite 2800 generators. The most current - that was never used in a Chevy based Roadtrek - is the Onan QG 2800i. It was not used as it did not exist when RT stopped building Chevy based Roadtreks. It can be installed in a Chevy Roadtrek to replace an older model or as a new install.  I am not familiar at all with the Onan that came between the KY and the OG2800i.  All are gasoline powered generators. The only Roadtreks that have a propane generator - installed by Roadtrek - are the diesel engine Roadtreks - none of which are on a Chevy chassis.

In earlier Roadtreks the generator was installed in a cabinet on the outside of the Roadtrek with easy access.  Later, Roadtrek mounted the generator under the chassis of the Roadtrek in the rear driver's side of the van. This location is very difficult to access and requires crawling under the van with very low clearance, reaching up on your arms to open an access panel to the inside of the case, and then craning your neck up to try to see inside the generator to check the oil, change the oil, and reset a circuit breaker and replace a fuse - both of which will be covered later in this article. I have watched Onan service technicians get under the van to work on the Onan much easier by rolling under on a mechanic's creeper. This raises them up enough to better reach in and see inside a little better and not be too high to fit under. They roll in from the side behind the driver's side rear tire.

The position of the generator is rather precarious for the low ground clearance van.  A pot hole and bottoming out can hit the generator. A flooded street can submerge the generator. A steep inclined (or declined) driveway can bottom out the rear of the van and hit the generator. Of course, none of these things are good for the generator. Always be aware of the road and what you are going over when driving a Chevy based Roadtrek with the generator on the bottom. 

The differences between the Onan Microlite 2800 KV and KY models are these. The KV model has an owner accessed altitude adjustment for the motor. The owner can do this easily on their own - following the instructions in the KY manual. The KY model has an owner non-accessible altitude adjustment that -  per Onan - requires a technician to adjust and the addition of a part.  The KY model has a troubleshooting lamp system. The power light on the KY's wall switch flashes a code sequence if there is a problem with the generator. The code sequences are defined in the KY manual. There is NO troubleshooting lamp in the KV model Onan.  The KY also has a priming button to prime the generator before starting. To do this the bottom of the start button is pushed in once or twice to prime the motor with gasoline. The KV model does NOT have ANY priming function. Pushing in of the start button of the KY model only shuts the motor off if it is running.

 The new OG generator model is stated to be much quieter than previous Onan generators. It has a different motor than previous Onan models that is not supposed to require the same exercise schedule of the previous generator which was once a month for two hours of continuous runtime under half a load (the A/C in summer or a plugged in electric space heater in cold weather. The installation of the OG model using the same mounting holes under the chassis that the KY, KV used, requires an adapter plate sold by Onan to make the new case holes match up with the previous drilled  holes under the chassis.

The basics of starting the Onan are covered in our article THE GENERATOR found here. The Onan KV manual may be downloaded here.   For the KY manual, I am not finding a current link any longer for this manual. If you would like a copy of the PDF file of the KY manual that I have, please contact me using the Email Us link in the right column of this page. 

 There are maintenance items that are listed in the manual that are not to be ignored. They include changing the fuel filter, changing the oil (minimum once every year or per hour schedule in manual), changing the air filter, and changing the spark plug. On RV shop that I took my Roadtrek to for the fuel filter change would not do the job without taking the generator down off the bottom of the van. I did not have them do the job. I then took it to an authorized Onan service center that changed the fuel filter with the generator still attached under the van.  If any shop tells you that there is an oil filter - there is NO oil filter.  Some authorized Onan shops will do all of these items when they do an oil change. Can you change the oil yourself - yes. The grade oil to use depends on the area you drive the Roadtrek in the most - and there is a chart in the manual that specifies which oil for which type of environment. Changing the oil means doing this on the ground with you on your back reaching up - or on your elbows if you are on your stomach. Checking the oil means removing the oil cap which has a small dip stick on it. Take out the dipstick and wipe it off. Put it back in BUT leave it on the top - do not screw it back down. The oil is checked with the stick on the top of the oil fill rim.  To drain the oil there is a drain plug under the Onan. There is a specific torque that MUST be used when screwing this plug back in. Only use a torque wrench when doing this set to the correct torque which is in the manual.  I had a shop that did not do this and they stripped threads on the pan. The pan had to be replaced. 

When any work is done inside the Onan inevitably hands working in this tight space are going to hit the circuit breaker handle that is inside the Onan. This circuit breaker is connected to the control board and if tripped or off -  when you start the Onan it will start and run just fine bur NO POWER will come out of it into the Roadtrek. The AC outlets will not work, The air conditioner will not start. The TV will not start. The microwave will not start - in fact the microwave is a good place to see if the breaker is tripped or not. If the breaker is tripped and the generator is running the display screen that is always on when there is power to the microwave will be dark  and off!.  This can happen if you checked the oil or if you changed the oil - or any work was done inside the generator by you or a service tech. The service techs rarely check to see if the breaker is on when they finish working on the Onan.  Below is a diagram from the Onan manual of where the breaker is.  


I have made this big because this diagram should be better and it is not. There is an open space in the area the arrow is pointing at. If the breaker is on you will see a small black handle pointing to the passenger side in that  space.  If the breaker is off or tripped, you will not see anything looking up from the ground to inside this area. The handle will be hidden when pointing down. Reach in with a finger and feel for it!  Avoid the fuse which is also in this open space.  When you feel the handle. push it down and then pull it up with your fingertip.  Close up the Onan. Go in and start the Onan and check that there is power - look at the microwave display!  This is the first thing to do if your Onan is running and there is no AC power inside  the Roadtrek!

The fuse is even harder to see. It is a regular auto blade fuse - not hard to replace. You just have to find it and pull it out. There is a sticker (sometimes) on the side of this open area with an arrow pointing to the passenger side that says FUSE. If the fuse lined up with that it would be great - it doesn't. Feel for the fuse - be certain before you pull it out.   WHAT DOES THE FUSE DO?  If the fuse is BLOWN the generator DOES NOT START. It does not crank. It does nothing when you push the switch inside which does not light. IT IS DEAD!  First thing to do if this happens is check the fuse inside the Onan. If it is the fuse it saves a lot of money and trouble to get the Onan fixed or trying to fix it yourself. 

 The Onan uses one half to a third gallon of gasoline in one hour of runtime. The generator will automatically shut down if the gas tank in the van goes below 1/4 tank. This is to prevent you getting stuck with no gasoline running the generator all night.  The generator will also shut itself down if the oil level in the generator falls below full.  This prevents the generator motor burning itself out. 

If you own a Roadtrek with an Onan you already know that it is loud and it vibrates when it is running. You can feel the vibration in the floor. There is an Onan resonator that you can buy that will quiet the motor noise some.  It still vibrates.  Some have added rubber cushioning to above the Onan and where it is bolted into the bottom of the chassis and that can lower the vibration.  I have not done either.

Some may have Roadtrek's later generator system - the "underhood engine generator". This is a SECOND high power alternator installed by Roadtrek under the hood and run by a longer and different belt. The belt is not standard to the Chevy and if you have an engine generator it is advised to buy a spare belt and always have it with you in the Roadtrek.  What this does is provide generated AC power to the Roadtrek by starting and running the engine. The engine is running at idle which Chevy will tell you is not good over a span of hours but Roadtrek insisted it was not a problem. Is this quieter - only if your engine is running is quiet. There are no vibrations - that is a plus. This does use a good amount of gasoline.  Much more than the 1/2 to 2/3 gallon the Onan uses - plus there is a great deal more exhaust that will come from running the engine with more CO to come inside or drift to a neighboring RV. Roadtrek started offering the engine generator to Chevy based Roadtreks around 2015 along with some other advanced electrical system components that previously were tested and sold only on Sprinter based Roadtreks. 

Please get the manual for your Onan, print it out and keep it in the Roadtrek - or put the USB file on your phone or a USB stick to access on your computer when traveling. It goes into much more detail than I have here and it has a troubleshooting chart written out inside.


Monday, October 30, 2023


 First - THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR WINTER-LONG  WINTERIZING. Emergency winterizing is when you find out the weather is going to change dramatically and get cold to the point of freezing that night or the next day and you do not have time to completely winterize before the temperatures drop! If you have time to winterize properly then follow the directions in our article: "Winterizing: The Definitive Step by Step Guide."  

Something that is important to understand is the weather has changed considerably in the past five or more years. Areas that never got cold or saw snow  or ice or had severe storms that bring tornadoes to areas that never had any of this in the past - has been experiencing it all in recent years - and especially in this past year. Thinking that you have never had to winterize before so why start now - well there is good reason to start now.  And those who think - it can't happen to me or here -  you are betting on the cost of repairs of your Roadtrek if you take a chance.

Winterizing is necessary when the temperatures will go to 28 degrees or colder for two nights in a row with the days NOT going up to at least 40 degrees or higher.  This came to us from a Roadtrek trained RV service technician. It is a good guideline to remember and be prepared to deal with - especially when you find this out when there is little time to winterize fully. IF THE TEMPERATURES DO THIS FOR MORE THAN TWO DAYS IN A ROW OR THE TEMPERATURES DROP EVEN LOWER - AND YOU KNOW IT IS COMING - WINTERIZE FULLY!

 1) WATER PUMP OFF - Inside open the sink - hot and cold and let it drain out. Open the shower hot and cold side and with the shower nozzle in the sink, let the shower hose drain out into the sink.  Flush the toilet.  Go outside and open the hot and cold side of the outside shower - let that pour to the ground.

2) Empty your exterior fresh tank. (It is a good idea to also empty your interior fresh tank, if you have a two fresh tank system (190, 210). The reason for this is you do not want any water inside as you will not be able to use the water anyway as it must NOT go down any drain including the toilet. You could leave the interior tank full if you want.) If you leave water in the interior fresh tank (two fresh tank system) PUT THE SUMMER MODE/WINTER MODE VALVES IN WINTER MODE! OTHER WISE KEEP THEM IN SUMMER MODE or the inside tank will not drain!!!

3) Dump your black tank and your grey tank.  When done, lift the macerator hose - or the gravity dump hose up off the ground and let any water remaining in the hose to drain out.

3) Remove the anode rod from your hot water heater tank and empty the water out of the hot water heater tank. (Inside the tank is insulated in foam, but outside behind the hot water tank vent the tank is exposed to the cold so it is best to dump this tank to prevent it from freezing.) 

4) Go inside the Roadtrek. Open EVERY inside cabinet door where there is anything related to water inside - pipes, toilet, hot water tank, water pump, under the sink, and especially the interior water tank IF you have one. 

5) Turn on the propane for your Roadtrek. If it was not on before follow this article if you do not know how.

6) Turn on the furnace. This is how to turn on the furnace if you do not know how. Put the furnace on HI and AUTO on the thermostat - turn the heat up to a little more than you would find comfortable. If you are not going to be inside the Roadtrek then put the thermostat up to 85. This is going to be the source of heat from keeping the inside of your Roadtrek's pipes from freezing. 

 7) Do not open any windows or and only open the van doors briefly if you must.  The heat MUST stay inside. 


BE AWARE that this will marginally protect the water pipes and the macerator outside under the van.  Emptying the tanks will allow enough room inside the tanks that any little amount of water that remains in the tanks will have room to expand if that water freezes.  What is in the pipes  should have flowed out in the process - but there are no guarantees and Meryl and Me cannot be responsible for any damage that occurs. 

NOW WHAT? We are in our Roadtrek with no water or toilet - what are we supposed to do? This involves some prior preparation with a few things that you will need to have with you.

FIRST - TOILET -  Putting RV antifreeze to flush the toilet is not a solution as some believe. We did some experimental research to see what happens when water (even urine) and RV antifreeze mix. The result is frozen solid RV antifreeze that expands just like water.  So what to do. This is something that is  great thing to keep in every Roadtrek, especially those that have a macerator. They are called by RVer's "wag bags". They are available to buy under various brand names on line or at stores that sell camping supplies -  Rei, Cabella's, Bass Pro Shops, Camping World, Dick's Sporting Goods, (at one time Walmart but I have not seen them there in several years) - and Amazon.   Get these before you need them because when you need them, without one of these stores nearby, you will not find them.  This is the one we have bought and there are always two boxes in our Roadtrek - Reliance Double Doodie Toilet Waste Bags. These are made for camping toilets that basically are just a bucket with a seat. They fit perfectly into the open toilet bowl in a Roadtrek Open the bag, put it in the empty toilet bowl, put the excess on top over the edge of the bowl and close the seat down on top. The bag stays in place. Do whatever you have to do into the bag. The bag is two layers of Mylar each with a zip closure. Inside the bag there is a chemical that turns liquid into gel and a deodorizer.  When done close the toilet lid - for liquids there is no odor and one bag can be used several times -  it will get you through the night. . For the other you may want to put in a new bag. All you do it take the open end of the bag - close the inner bag and then close the outer bag sealing it tight with the zip lock closures. These bags are legal to dispose of in any garbage container. Throw away the old bag and put a new bag into the toilet. With those with macerators - if your macerator breaks - this is going to make your life easier in your Roadtrek until you can get it fixed. On the last day of a trip on your way home and you dumped your tanks before you started home -  these come in really handy when you need to go and don't want to have to dump your tank again when you get home!

That takes care of the toilet. Now you need water.  A gallon of bottle water in Walmart store is one dollar US. Buy a few bottles before you leave on a trip when it can possibly get cold - and if you don't there is a Walmart a few miles from just about anywhere.  BUT the water cannot go down ANY DRAIN! So what you also want to get is a small sink basin - a few dollars also in Walmart.  PUT THE BASIN IN THE SINK!  There are usually two size basins - get the smaller one.    We found a Sterilite box with a handled lid that fit perfectly in the sink -  move the faucet out of the way and it goes right in. This makes it even easier to empty as I cut a hole at one corner of the lid, take it out with the handle and the latches closing the lid on the box and carry it out of the Roadtrek and where you have to take it to empty it - a restroom sink  or on the ground outside. All water is poured over the basin or the box and never into the sink to the drain. Wash in the basin or over the box.  For thousands of years before inside running water, this was what people did! 😉


That is it! Not a big deal if you are prepared! WHEN YOU GET HOME OR AS SOON AS YOU CAN WINTERIZE FULLY.

If you have a question - email with the link in the right column.