Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Living in the Roadtrek - Hooking Up

Camping season is starting and I thought that I would give you some of the basics of hooking up a Roadtrek when you get to a campground. Pictured below is a typical campground site. This one is a site at Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster, PA. Here sites are gravel. There is a post with the 110 volt electric connections and the cable television connection. Next to that post is a pipe coming up from the ground with a fresh water spigot to connect your fresh water hose.

When you reserve a campsite what is included on that site depends upon what the campground offers and how complete a site you want. Not all campgrounds have cable television connections. Those that do may not have cable at all sites. Not all campgrounds have a sewer connection at every site. Those that don't generally have a central dump station. A basic site includes water and electricity. A full hook up site includes water, electric, and sewer. The cable television connection varies from campground to campground and may or may not be included at every site and may or may not be charged additionally for. What you pay for a site depends upon what you want at that site. If there is sewer connection at your site, there will be a closed pipe connection as shown below. You unscrew the cap, and dump into the hole. There will be a future article about dumping your tanks.

The Roadtrek has a 30 amp electric system. This means that a maximum of 3o amps of 110 volt power can be put into the Roadtrek. There is a thick electric cord with a 30 amp plug on the end. This is stored in the middle outside storage compartment, and comes out through an opening in the end of the storage compartment wall that comes out to a smaller, rear compartment that is open to the ground. You can see the storage compartments in this photo.

Below, you see the plug of the electric cord stored in the plastic liner of the opening between the two compartments.

This liner is designed to closee around the cord to prevent anything from coming into the inside of your storage compartment - like water, bugs, mice... This little hole has been dubbed the "mouse hole" by Roadtrek owners and it is often difficult to move the cord through that hole whether going in or out. You can see the other side of the mouse hole in the photo to the right. There is a cover that snaps into place when the cord is put away. When pulling the cord out, you flip this door up. When we first started we could not understand why the cord was not moving through until we got down and looked at what we thought should be the opening and discovered that there is a door there. You can also see in this photo where the water hose connects to the Roadtrek from the campground fresh water spigot. The water valve handle that you see there is part of the outdoor shower.

So, after you pull into your campground site, you are going to connect your 11o volt electricity first. You open the two compartment doors that you saw in the photo above, and pull out enough electric cord to reach the electric box at the campground site. You want to pull into the site so that the box is on the side of your electric cord. There is about 30 feet of cord. You can purchase an extension cord - specifically for 30 amp RVs that can extend this length if you need to. You should not need this at a campground. Ready to connect?


The electric boxes at campgrounds do not always work as they should. There may be a problem in the wiring or insufficient or too much voltage coming through the outlet. Any of this may seriously damage your RVs electric system if you plug into it. So what do you do? You test it before connecting. What you will need is a polarity tester which is found in most electric departments of big box stores and stores like Walmart. This is just a regular plug with led lights on it. If the LEDs light up in the correct pattern - which is shown right on the plug, you are good - and this means that the ground and the wires have been wired to the outlet correctly. To do this you will also need a 15 amp to 30 amp adapter. This test plug is a 15 amp house plug. The outlet that you want to test is a 30 amp outlet. The plug on a 30 amp outlet is much different and looks very much like the large plug that is on your household dryer. (Do not mistake these for the same plug - the one on your dryer is for a 220 volt line.) Any RV supply store including Walmart in the RV section sells an adapter. You want a 15 amp female socket to 30 amp male plug adapter. You plug your tester into the adapter and the plug of the adapter into the 30 amp outlet in the campground site electric box.

It is time to talk about what you will see when you open the door of the electric box. Most boxes will be set up for three types of amperage service - 20 amp (house type socket), 30 amp, and 50 amp. There will be three sockets inside and each will have its own circuit breaker switch. The 30 amp outlet is generally in the middle. It will have holes that match your plug and will be the same size around as your plug. The 50 amp outlet is for a much larger RV. There is a way to use that outlet for your 30 amp RV if there is no other, but I am not going to make this anymore confusing right now. The 20 amp outlet could also be used, but you will not have enough amperage in your Roadtrek to use all of the electrical appliances without tripping that circuit breaker - so for the moment - forget that too. You want the outlet that matches your Roadtrek plug. There is ONLY 110/120 volts coming out of any of these outlets - it is the amperage that changes. This is just like the current in your house, and can give you a serious shock if you are not as careful as you are plugging a plug into the wall of your house - but no more so. Before plugging anything in, make sure all circuit breakers are OFF. Even the ones you will not be using.

Now, when you are ready to test with your polarity tester, you plug into the 30 amp outlet with your tester connected through the adapter and then turn on the circuit breaker. Look at the result, and turn off the circuit breaker. If there is a problem with the reading, stop right there and go to the campground office and let them know. You need to be moved to another site or someone from the campground needs to come and fix the outlet.

The next test you will make is to check that the correct amount of voltage is coming out of the outlet. Again, you will need your adapter. You need a voltage meter. I found out that other than in RV supply stores, these are not easy to find and can be expensive. What I did was buy an item found at most big box stores called a "Kill A Watt". This is a multi-meter sold to check how much electricity different appliances use in your home. When it is plugged between an appliance and an outlet, it will show how many watts are being used by that appliance and since you pay your electric bill per watt you consume you can find out why your electric bills are so high. BUT this is not what we want this little meter for. If you plug this unit just into an outlet, one of the readings it will give you is how many volts are coming through. It has a digital readout. So I take my adapter, plug that socket into the Kill A Watt plug and then plug the 30 amp end of the adapter into the campground 30 amp outlet. Turn on the circuit breaker switch and look at the readout. The reading should be no lower than 110 and no higher than 132 - though you really do not want to be over 130. Turn off the circuit breaker and unplug the adapter from the electric box. If the reading is not correct, again, go to the campground office. Plugging into this outlet will damage your RV.

Everything OK with the tests? Then you are ready to hook up your power line. But WAIT!

Now, what? How complicated is this?, you must be thinking. You could just plug your power cable into the box, but it is a good idea to have something in your electric line that will protect your RV just in case. What you need is an RV power protection device. There are two popular makes - Surge Guard and Progressive. Both do the same job. Some prefer one over the other. There are models that can be wired permanently into your RV electric system and there are portable models that simply plug into the campground outlet and you plug your power cord into the protector outlet. These are not cheap and they are much, much more than a surge protector like what you plug your computer into at home. You can purchase these directly from the companies that make them or you can find them at RV supply stores. We chose the Surge Guard but only for convenience in ordering as it is the one that is sold at Camping World.

Above you see the Surge Guard plugged into the power outlet of the campground and the power cord of my Roadtrek. You also see that the electric box has your space number on it. You cannot mistake which box is the one you are supposed to plug into. At some campgrounds your box will be next to the box for the next space. Here there is only one box.

The power protector unit is going to monitor the voltage coming out of the box. Believe it or not, just because it tested correctly when you checked with your volt meter does not mean that conditions do not change in the voltage at the campground and the voltage go too low or too high. Also it will protect from spikes and surges due to lighting strikes. This is a must have. Repairing your RVs electric system and replacing your TV and electronics is far more expensive than the $300 plus that one of these sells for. You can buy a lock box that will prevent the theft of your portable power unit. Watch this video about the Surge Guard Power Protector.


 The Battery Disconnect Switch is on the above panel located to the right of the side Roadtrek door and it is the switch furthest to the RIGHT. When the switch is ON the red indicator light on the right of the switch lights. The switch says "Battery" and Battery Disconnect switch as it is known, is a poor name for what is does.

When you have your power cord into the protector unit and then plug that into the campground box, you turn on the circuit breaker in the campground box. With the Surge Guard on my model an LED comes on to show that it is connected. There is a two and one half minute delay until power is sent to the RV. This is a safety feature to protect your air conditioner. After the very long two and a half minute wait, a second LED lights and there is a click. There is now 110 volt power in the Roadtrek. You can now run anything in your Roadtrek from the 110 volt outlets. If you exceed 30 amps you will trip the circuit breaker - likely both inside your Roadtrek and outside in the box. Everything that you plug in takes away some of those amps. Most electric appliances have the number of amps it will use printed somewhere on it.

Now you have your AC current running from the campground. If you have cable service at the campground you next will connect your Roadtrek to the cable connection on the electric post. We have been at sites where the cable connection is split and we connect right next to where the next door RV is connected. This is fine. There is a box in the rearmost outside side compartment with a coaxial connector. You must supply your own cable and you can buy this anywhere. It is the same coax cable used for your cable TV in your home. Open the box in the Roadtrek compartment. You can see the box here on the right. Screw one end of the cable onto this connector. You can get push on adapters for these connectors and they work a lot easier but the screw on connector is more secure. Next, connect the other end of the cable to the campground connector. That is all you need to do to connect. To use the cable you must go into your Roadtrek, make sure the A/B switch that switches from rooftop antenna to cable is switched correctly, and turn on the TV. Set the settings on the TV to SOURCE: CABLE and then scan for channels. Always scan for channels. You do not need a special cable box like you do at home. The campground is converting the cable companies decoded digital signal to an analog signal that does not need a converter box at each TV. Do not be surprised when you see that the signal through the cable is Analog.
Electric and Cable all Hooked up - Campground End

Electric and Cable all Hooked up - Roadtrek End

Notice that the wires come down through the bottom opening of the compartment allowing the compartment to be closed and locked. Feed them down and through when making your connections.

Now, you have all of the electric hooked up and we when we stay at campgrounds, this is where we stop. We fill our two water tanks at home before we leave and refill them as they empty along the trip from the campground fresh water spigot. We do this because we come and go from the campground every day to sight-see. When we leave in the morning to see the sights or visit and attraction, all we need to do to unhook to leave is to unplug and put the wires away for the day. When you unplug - always click the circuit breaker in the campground box OFF before pulling the electric plug. This is just a safety precaution. If we also had the water connected it would take a lot more time to disconnect the hose, drain the water from the hose, and coil it up to put it away.

If you would like to hook up to the campground water supply the process is simple. What you need:

25 foot drinking water hose - these hoses are specially made with out lead and chemicals in the hose that can be harmful. The hoses are generally white in color with blue markings. Make sure the packaging of the hose states "Safe for drinking water". You may want one or more shorter lengths of hose also - they start at 4 feet, go to 10 feet, and go to 25 feet.

Pressure Regulator Valve - limits water pressure to no more than 40 psi so that the RV plumbing will not be damaged. Inexpensive ones can be found at all RV supply stores and Walmart. There are better valves with gauges and that can adjust different pressures. Your choice. We have been using a brass one that is found at Walmart.

In-line Hose Water Filter - optional - Available at RV supply stores and Walmart. This is a blue plastic filter that has screw on connections at each end. It comes with a reusable flex connector. You can buy packages of refills or just purchase the same kit again when the filter is dirty. You should get a year or more out of one of these filters depending on use.

The Roadtrek came with a snap on hose connector set screwed on to the City Water Fill. These are available at RV Supply stores also. You may not want to use one from a garden store, as it may not be lead free and drinking water safe. If you have one, snap off the end that connects to the hose and screw that to the end of your hose.

Connect your water connection AFTER connecting your electricity. You don't want to be standing in water puddles while you are plugging in your electric connections.

To hook up to the campground water - called "City Water" - you are going to connect from your Roadtrek City Water fill connection to the campground fresh water (or potable water) spigot. I use an additional four foot hose just to make it easier with all of the interconnections to be made. I carry two ten foot hoses, one four foot hose, and a twenty five foot hose. You will rarely, if ever, need all of these together (though at my house to reach the outside water faucet I need an additional 25 foot hose that we keep at home). You should also carry spare hose washers to keep the connections from leaking.

I connect the water filter connection to the campground water faucet. To the filter I connect the four foot hose and be sure to connect the filter with the arrows in the direction of the flow. At the end of the four foot hose I connect the pressure regulator. The pressure regulator must be connected in the right direction also and there are arrows to follow on the regulator. The ten or twenty five foot hose then goes on to the end of the pressure regulator and the other end of that hose goes on the the City Water connection of the Roadtrek which is pictured to the right. Both parts of the snap on cap are in place in this photo and you can also see a plug that is supplied with this connector by Roadtrek to plug into the end to keep road dirt out of your water supply. The connector makes this connection easier so that you do not have to reach into this tight space and screw the end of the hose to the inlet. So far this snap connector has not leaked. Once you have the hoses connected. You need to make sure that the City Water VALVE is in the correct position. That valve is pictured below in the top center of the photo and this is the correct position for the valve to be in to let water flow into your plumbing and to your sink and toilet. If this valve is in its other position it will not flow water into your plumbing but will fill your rear and eventually your front fresh water tank. I learned this the hard way on the first night we had the Roadtrek and watched as water overflowed my rear tank and shot all over the ground out of the relief valve. (There is a better way to fill your fresh water tanks - use the openings - one in the side of the driver's door frame and one in the frame of the passenger side, rear, cargo door frame. You just push a hose into the hole and let the water flow in until it comes up to the top of the opening. Shut it off quickly or stand back to not get wet.) When using a City Water connection you DO NOT turn on your water pump. If you are using water from your tanks, that is when you use the water pump.

That is it! You are completely hooked up.

Newer Roadtreks cannot and do not remain hooked up to the sewer connection at the campground site. The newer Roadtreks have a macerator which grinds up sewage and do not use a gravity feed hose to flow sewage from the tanks to the dump hole. The macerator pumps the waste out and uses a much thinner hose than a standard RV dump hose. With newer Roadtreks - post 2007, I believe - you only open the sewer hole when you are ready to dump. Older Roadtreks have a standard gravity dump system. With these you can connect your sewer hose to the dump hole, open your grey tank valve (not toilet waste but just water from the sink and shower drains) and let water flow as you use it. You do not open your black tank valve until your are ready to dump as you do not want your black tank - toilet waste tank - to ever dry out. Some caution about sewer gases coming into the RV if you connect to the sewer and leave it that way while you are using the RV. Others say there is no problem and no odor.


  1. Hi again,
    I'm not whether the Roadtrek you have is silver or gold. It looks silver in the pictures but the embroidered gift Meryl gave you and the picture at the top is gold.

    1. Our Roadtrek is Silver. The photo at the top of the site is a stock photo from Roadtrek. The embroidered ornament that Meryl made is silver. She used silver DMC embroidery floss for most of it and used a few other colors to match the trim colors on the Roadtrek.

      We picked the silver because having bought a white car and seeing how much it shows the dirt we decided anything but white. The gold package is more expensive than the silver - so silver it is!

  2. Thanks so much for this article! I just bought my 2007 170 popular. I really have not traveled much so I was overwelmed with it all. This was very helpful. Any other articles or reading materials you could suggest would be great. I live in Central Florida, so I plan on making short trips around the state this winter until I get the hang of things. My biggest worry is the slight arthritis in my hands and being able to work everything.
    Have a Happy Holiday

    1. Look at our How to - Living in the Roadtrek page to see many of our how to articles that will apply to your 2007 170. Also look in our Archives as we often talk about tips and how tos in our articles - even those about trips. If you ever have any specific questions just use the contact link at the side of this page and send us an email. We are always happy to answer specific questions. Thank you for reading!!!

  3. Omg, all I wanted to know was how do I plug into a campground power box. I can't even find the outlet on the van to plug in. Instead, I found myself wading thru the most complicated explanations of plugging I have ever seen. I learned nothing cause I glazed ovet and gave up. WAY TOO COMPLICATED FOR A RANK BEGINNER WITH MY FIRST ROADTUCK. I'LL GO TO YouTube.

    1. Well, if all you wanted to do was plug into campground power all you have to do is take the 30 amp plug on your Roadtrek power cord and plug it onto the matching outlet in the campground power box - and then turn on the circuit breaker in the campground power box for that outlet. Where your power cord is depends on the year and model Roadtrek you have - and you could have emailed me directly with the link on the side and I would have helped you find it. As to YouTube - highly unlikely it will be helpful unless there is a video with the same year and model you have that locates the power cord. Of course, you could also look in your Roadtrek's manual for where the power cord is - all manuals going back years are on Roadtrek's website for download. More recent manuals are clearer than for older model years. This article goes through every detail of hooking up all systems at a campground - and sooner or later you will discover that the fine details that are covered are quite important to protect the electrical system of your Roadtrek and I have written them for a rank beginner to avoid damage.

  4. Your articles are answering most of my questions! You are amazing .. Thanks so much!