When you purchase a used RV, it inherently comes with some baggage. The RV was a seven years old RV with only 11,000 miles on the odometer and the generator had only 550 hours on it. This means that over the past seven years, it was driving around 1600 miles per year and the generator was ran nearly 80 hours a year; neither of these numbers are large or scary.
The things that did scare me about our new RV were the tires, which were original and starting to dry-rot and the batteries which also were original. Here is a picture of one of the house batteries:
There are three batteries in the RV, there are two “house” batteries which are group 27 and one “chassis” battery which is a group 65. The chassis battery is like the battery in your car, it runs the lights, AC in the cockpit, and other basic vehicle functions. The house batteries are used to power the many electronic devices inside the RV, the slide-out system, the lights, the water pump, and the list goes on.
My research indicated you should replace the batteries every five years and I did not like the idea of a unknown quantity in the RV as our batteries were nearly seven years old. I took the first opportunity I could to visit Camping World, Napa, and O’Reilly auto parts looking at batteries before settling on:
- Two House Batteries – 27MDCST by Exide with 105 AMP/Hours from Camping World
- One Chassis Battery – 65EXTS Super Start Extreme from O’Reilly Auto Parts
First, I removed the old house batteries:
Then I enlisted some of the best technicians I could find:
Then I put the new house batteries into their tray, secured them and ensured they were connected parallel and not serially (which would have created 24v, not 12v we needed). This whole operation took around 20 minutes and with the exception of dropping a wrench on both the positive and negative poles (life lesson: don’t do this unless you like sparks), it went well.
Replacing the chassis battery is almost not worthy of note, I opened the front cover on the RV removed the old battery and put in the new battery in just around 5 minutes.
These new house batteries mean there is nearly 210 AMP/Hours of battery capacity now, meaning that a single 12 v 25 w light will now run just over 100 hours before draining all battery capacity. For instance, my laptop will run for approximately 20 hours before draining all battery capacity.
Now that I have upgraded the house batteries, I will be adding solar so that we do not have to run the generator often or rely on shore power. It is my hope we can fulfill 50% of our electricity needs via solar. Now that I have brand new batteries, I have a nice five years stretch ahead of me where I do not need to worry about the batteries.
The day after getting the RV home, the whole family spent the afternoon in the RV playing with all of the systems, testing space, opening/closing doors. While I was excited by the simple act of turning the generator on, sliding the slide-outs, and running water into the sinks there was one thing that bothered me; the blinking lights on the Auto-Leveling system.
I searched the Internet for the manual for the LCI Electronic Leveling system and was happy to find a PDF version of the manual. Luckily fixing the Auto-Leveling system was a simple operation, the system had put itself into a failsafe mode. I suspect it had been put into this situation because of low-voltage, the RV had no battery power during it’s time at the RV dealership (the dealership did this with all their RVs, disconnecting the batteries until purchased).
After a simple reset, I fired the system up and was glad to feel the RV automatically level off in front of our house. The process takes about 20-30 seconds but is one luxury I am glad we have in our RV.
The day before we were set to pick up the RV, we had just completed a 900+ mile drive from Seattle, WA to Gilroy, CA. Although I was exhausted from the 14+ hour drive, I had a fire inside me which was the excitement to pick up our RV on Monday.
Monday morning began like most, I logged into my work computer and started working including joining the normal morning status meeting. Jen was busy dropping Evelyn off at preschool and managing Leona’s toddler tendencies. Although today was normal in the morning, the afternoon was but anything then normal as we were picking up our newest family member, a 22,000 lb plastic vehicle on wheels… an RV.
We left our house in Gilroy, CA for the 80 mile journey to the RV dealership in Turlock, CA. The walkthrough was scheduled for 1:00 PM, so we left around 11:30 AM to give us sufficient time. Jen had made us lunch to eat in the car, so we pointed the family car towards Pacheco Pass and points beyond.
On the way over Pacheco Pass, I noticed the wind was very brisk. There were tumbleweeds blowing across the highway at high speeds, trucks were slowing down significantly on this highway as the gusts blew them around like Tonka trucks. I told Jen that today would be a trial-by-fire for me, as I will be driving the RV for almost 2 hours … most of it in these strong winds. As we would find out later, the wind was 25 mph with 35-40 mph gusts.
We arrived at the RV dealership to find the place empty except for a few employees (who buys a RV on Monday anyway?), we met with the technician who would walk us through the RV. After some miscommunication, we found ourselves in front of our new RV. The four of us crawled inside to see that the RV was identical to when we purchased it. The girls stayed inside, while the tech, Jen and I went out to inspect it.
The outside was as clean as you would expect from a not-so-involved RV dealership, in fact the price stickers were still on the back of the RV leading me to believe they did not detail the RV as they had promised. They had it hooked up to shore power and shore water and we found the tanks were all filled up. All of the systems were in order on the outside, everything made sense and we asked lots of questions.
Then we went inside, fired up the beastly V10 engine and continued the inside inspection. During the next hour we tried every switch, fired up all of the appliances, and tested the slide-outs thoroughly. Everything was working great as we approached the cockpit when I asked the tech to show me how the auto-leveling system worked.
The tech looked at the system and said he knows the system works, but right not it was not working as indicated by the multitude of flashing lights. Disappointed, I asked him to fix it on the spot and was greeted by a shrug. The tech indicated he wasn’t concerned about the fault but did not know how to fix it. He reminded me of our extended warranty and told me not to worry, they would cover everything. After a while of haggling I gave up, he clearly didn’t know what was wrong or how to resolve it and if he was the most senor tech at this dealership it was clear it wasn’t getting fixed here anyway.
I was faced with a choice, I could walk away or just take it as is and deal with repairing the auto-leveling system. After much debate, I decided to take the RV with the one known defect and hit the road. Jen loaded both girls into the family car and I sat in the drivers seat, about to drive 22,000 lbs of plastic onto the open highway by myself. I inched the RV out of the dealership, onto the road and onto the highway ready to drive the approximately 5 miles to the Costco Gas station to fill up the RV’s massive 75 gallon tank (it was reading less then 1/5 full when we bought it).
Navigating down the highway was very intimidating, semi trucks were passing me even though I was going the speed limit (60 mph). Each time they passed me the RV would shudder a little, something over time I would grow used to.
As I pulled off the highway and into the Costco Gas station I realized filling the RV was going to be a new challenge on its own. The Turlock Costco Gas Station has a short exit, meaning if I pulled up to the front Gas Pump I would block everyone’s exit from the station. I decided to be a good citizen and I blocked two gas pumps instead, probably pissing off the Buick behind me in line.
I started to fill my tank and after what seemed like forever, it clicked off at $100.00 which is the maximum amount a gas station will let you fill up with a credit/debit card. At this point I suspected the gas tank was still under half full, so I did what anyone with a Hummer does, I started another session re-inputting my Costco Card and my Debit Card. On the second session, it clicked off at $99.89 which seemed odd to me. I ran inside, turn the key to “on” and realized that the tank was 100% full. I went back, click in the last $0.11 cents of gas, put the gas cap on and returned to the cockpit.
I pulled out of Costco Gas, onto the highway and towards home. The next leg of the trip would be down two-lane Highway 165 towards Los Banos. Along the way the RV was bucked around by the strong winds which were running with me, gently pushing me along the highway. The highway was relatively quiet and allowed me to stretch out and use the whole highway as a proving ground. The 45 minute drive was uneventful, but the gusts of wind moved the RV around a lot. I started to think the RV was being moved around by the hand of “God” like a kid playing with his toy cars and trucks.
Once we reached Los Banos and took a 90° turn west on Highway 152 towards Gilroy things got really interesting. The wind was blowing North to South, which means now it would be hitting the RV at a sharp 90° angle. As soon as we pulled out of the town in Los Banos it became apparent this would be a white knuckle ride, the RV bounced around and it felt like the back end was a full foot out of alignment with the frontend. I was tempted to pass a semi truck who was crawling at 40 mph in a 60 mph zone, but as I started to pass him I felt a gust of wind push the RV hard to the left which scared me into thinking speed + wind was a bad idea.
I slowed down to 40 mph, following the semi truck and maintained that speed for approximately 20 miles when reaching the Pacheco Pass and the wind died down significantly. As I drove down the backside of Pacheco Pass, I was met by another foe.. gravity. The RV happily sped down the hill if I left it unattended, but I made sure to conservatively apply the brakes and keep my speed low. I did not want to ride the brakes and prematurely wear them out.
As we entered the Gilroy Valley, my white knuckles quickly filled with blood again and the remainder of the drive home was uneventful. Jen had raced ahead and asked our neighbors to move their trucks in front of our house, allowing our RV to park on the street.