Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Camping Equipment Maintenance

Just because your camping and/or recreational equipment doesn't have motors or gear boxes it doesn't mean you're off the hook for routine maintenance.

Tent campers may not have to deal with the mechanical maintenance tasks that those who choose mechanized or motorized modes of travel and recreation, but there are still some things we need to do routinely to keep our gear and equipment in top shape.  Failure to maintain gear and equipment is a sure recipe for premature failure.  A couple of good times to do routine maintenance are when you are preparing for an outing and when you return and put you stuff back in storage.

Tent maintenance.  Maintaining tents mostly consists of cleaning them and inspecting them for leaks or tears and making necessary repairs.  Keeping your tent clean is a simple but essential task.  Spilled foods or stains may attract insects or varmints that will damage the fabric.  Dirt left on the floor can grind away and weaken the fibers.  A tent that is rolled up and stored wet can mildew and rot.  Always take time to sweep out your tent before rolling it up.  You may have to roll it up wet sometimes, but if you do, unroll it and let it dry out at home before you put it back into storage.  Small tears can  usually be sewed up and sealed with seam sealer.  If caught in time making repairs will avoid catastrophic failure that would force you to buy a new tent.  Temporary repairs for small cuts and tears can be made in the field using duct tape or some kind of waterproof sealing tape.  These should be properly sewed and sealed when you get home and before your next outing.  Another important part of tent maintenance is cleaning.  You should always sweep out your tent before taking it down and brush away debris from the fabric as you roll or fold it up for transport and storage.  If it is wet or damp from rain or dew, be sure to unpack it and let it dry out before you put it back in storage.  Inspect the roof and sides for soiling from birds or tree sap and remove such deposits as soon as practical.  Avoid putting your tent into storage with soiled spots.  Bird crap can usually be removed satisfactorily with soap and water.  Sap may require a stronger solvent such as Goo Gone.  Some folks use turpentine to remove tree sap but it may damage tent fabrics so it would be wise to test it on something non-essential (like the tent peg bag) before using it on your tent.  I've even heard of using mayonaise to remove sap, but then you have to remove the mayonaise!

Sleeping bag maintenance.  Unless your sleeping bag is badly soiled or smells bad all you normally need to do is hang it out for a few hours to let it air out and dry before putting it away.  It would be a good thing if you have room to store it hanging.  It avoids compressing the fill.  Tightly rolling your sleeping bag may let you store it in a smaller space, but it will destroy the loft and it will no longer keep you warm.  If you can't or don't want to hang your sleeping bag, fold it carefully and store it in a tub or box that lets it remain loose.  If you detect a light odor you might try spraying the bag lightly with a fabric freshener such as Fabreze.  Be sure to let it dry before rolling or folding it for storage.  Badly stained or awful smelling sleeping bags should be taken to our local dry cleaners for cleaning.  It isn't cheap, but its way less than a new sleeping bag!  Some sleeping bags may indicate they can be machine washed, but I am somewhat skeptical.  I had a cold weather parka, with construction similar to a sleeping bag and with a label claiming it could be machine washed.  Just one washing virtually ruined the jacket.

Gas stove maintenance.  Gas stoves, whether white gas or propane, are usually quite reliable, even without a lot of preventive maintenance.  But that doesn't mean you can or should ignore them.  Be sure to clean up any cooking spills after each use.  Clean the burners and the bottom of the stove.  Be sure to clean the openings in the burners.  If there are places where a spill has clogged some of the openings, there won't be any flame there, creating a cold spot in your cooking surface.  Gas stoves have a pump built into the fuel tank to create the pressure needed to feed gas to the burners.  These pumps usually use a leather washer which can dry out and become ineffective.  A drop or two of oil (just about any oil, even motor oil will do) will usually restore flexibility.  If that doesn't work you may have to rebuild the pump.   Rebuild kits are available at most sporting goods stores where the stoves are sold.  If the pump is working fine and there is fuel in the tank but the stove still doesn't work, it probably has a bad generator.  This is a little brass tube through which the liquid gasoline travels and is converted to a gas before entering the burners.  Generators are fairly easy to replace and only cost around $10.

Gas lanterns.  Gas lanterns may use gasoline or propane.  Propane cylinders are pressurized.  You have to pressurize the fuel tank on gasoline lanterns using the pump built into the tank.  If the pump stops working, a drop or two of oil may soften the leather gasket and restore enough flexibility to get it working again.  If it is too badly worn it may have to be replaced.  Just as with gas stoves, there are rebuild kits.  The kits for any given brand can usually be used on both stoves and lanterns so you shouldn't have to carry multiple rebuild kits.  The most frequent maintenance chore for gas lanterns is replacing the mantles.  The mantles are little sock-like mesh bags.  You have to remove or lift the globe of the lantern to replace the mantles.  There may be one or more mantles in each lantern depending on its size.  The mantles have a string threaded through the open end.  Slip the open end over the end of the flared tube inside the globe and tie it tightly in place with the string.  Then take a match or lighter and burn the silk mesh sock.  The ash that remains is heated white-hot when the lantern is lit.  Because the mantles are made of ash, they are quite fragile.  Bumping the lantern may cause them to crack or break and then they will no longer confine the gas and burn properly.  Always carry several replacement mantles with you when you're using a gas lantern.  Another routine task is cleaning the globe.  Always do this when the globe is cool.  Cleaning a hot globe may result in  burning your fingers or breaking the globe.  If the hot globe comes in contact with cold water or a cold cloth, it may crack or even shatter.  Carefully clean both the inside and outside of the glass globe before each trip and as often as needed when using the lantern.  Cracked or broken globes should be replaced.  Most gas lanterns are  held together by a knurled nut at the top.  Make sure this nut is always snug but don't over tighten it.  Regularly check to see if the bail or handle is properly attached.  If it is loose and you try to pick it up, the lantern my slip off and fall.

Battery lanterns.  Battery lanterns are far easier to care and less fragile than gas lanterns.  But that doesn't mean they don't need some attention.   The same thing applies to flashlights.  You will want to check the condition of the batteries before each trip and either recharge the lantern or replace the batteries if the voltage is low.  Low batteries are likely to fail during extended storage, often leaking and damaging the light, so check the batteries before storing your lanterns or flashlights too.   Check the battery compartment for signs of leakages or contamination.  Carefully clean any yucky stuff out of the battery compartment paying special attention to the contacts the battery connects to.  They should always be clean and shiny.  You may need to clean the globe periodically too.  Since there is no soot or smoke inside, normally all you have to do is clean the outside.  Window cleaner, like Windex, usually works well but just to safe, check your owners' manual.  Some plastics may have special cleaning instructions.  Ordinary soap and water is usually safe for all surfaces.   Be sure not to rub too hard or too long in one place as it may scratch or burnish the surface.

Camp chairs.  Camp chairs mostly just need to be cleaned once in awhile.  Some of the old style aluminum folding chairs used screws to hold the mesh to the frame.  If you have one of these you'll want to make sure all the screws are tight before each trip.  Cloth chairs like the popular "quad" chairs can be cleaned with soap and water, rinsed with water, and let dry.  The mesh on folding aluminum chairs can also be cleaned with soap and water if badly soiled but if they're only dusty you might just blow them off with compressed air.  If you find your folding chairs are getting hard to open and close or they make squeaking sounds when you open and close them, you might want to put a little bit of lubricant on the pivot points.  Don't use a lot of oil because it will just collect dust and get on the fabric when the chair is closed up for storage.  A dry Teflon lubricant would be a good choice.  If you use a wet lubricant like WD-40, be sure to avoid spraying on too much.  You might even want to spray some in the cap and apply it with a little water color brush or Q-tip so you don't get too much in one place.  The legs on some chairs have caps or feet on the end.  These often get lost or damaged.  You may be able to purchase rubber cane tips to replace missing feet on round legs.

Knives and axes.  Inspect  your knives and axes.  Test the blades and makes sure they are clean and sharp.  Gently sand away any rust.  Coat the metal surfaces with a light oil.  Make sure handles are secure in axe heads and that the handles are smooth and in good condition.  You may sand rough wooden handles.  Rub wooden handles with linseed oil to protect them against moisture, make the comfortable to handled, and give the handle a nice "glow".  Dull tools are more dangerous and more difficult to use than sharp ones.  Sharpen blades as needed and use some kind of blade protector while the tools are in storage.

Other equipment.  Depending on what kind of recreational activities you normally participate in you may have other pieces of equipment that need your attention.  If you have an owners manual or instruction sheet, be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations.  Lacking specific guidelines, be sure to regularly clean and inspect each item and make repairs as needed.  Check the functionality of each item to make sure it is working right.  If it doesn't work right, examine it for damage.  A frequent cause of problems in anything with moving parts is contamination or lack of lubrication.  A little dry Teflon or even a modest application of WD-40 may work wonders.  Metal components of equipment may have gotten bent and you might be able to restore proper movement by straightening the bent part.  Slight bends can usually be successfully straightened but anything that has been kinked will probably have to be replaced.  Anything that gets bent more than once will be weakened and should be replaced.  Check for and tighten any loose fasteners but take care not to over tighten them.  Over tightening can damage parts and interfere with proper movement.

Keep it working!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

OHV Mechanical Maintenance

Like any other piece of machinery, an OHV is going to require a certain amount of maintenance.  Without it you will experience premature wear and equipment failure.  The last thing you want is for your dirt bike or ATV to break down when out on some remote trail miles from nowhere.  Performing regular maintenance will help minimize the chances of that happening.

Each machine is going to have its own maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer.  The maintenance schedule will be included in the owner's manual.  If you purchased a used machine and didn't get an owner's manual you may be able to find one at your local dealer or on the Internet.  In the meantime, there are many routine maintenance tasks you can perform to keep your machine in top shape.  You may have to guess about period between major tasks like changing engine or transmission oil or servicing hydraulic brakes and clutches but it wouldn't hurt (except perhaps in your pocketbook!) to do them once a year.  Engine oil should be changed more often, especially if the machine is getting lots of use.  2-stroke engines rely mostly on the oil mixed in the gas and don't have oil in the pan.  4-stroke engines do have an oil pan and pressurized lubrication systems and you need to keep an eye on the oil level (check it before every ride).  If when you check it is gritty or smells burned, it needs to be changed regardless of how recently it has been done.   Black oil is OK.  Most oils contain detergents to keep the engine clean so fresh oil can quickly become black soon after an oil change.  Other lubrication should be done as needed.  Drive chains should be lubricated before every ride and after they have been cleaned.  Wheel bearings and suspension should be lubricated several times a years, more often if your rides include water crossings.  Throttle, brake, and clutch cables should be lubricated frequently.  Because they are enclosed they probably don't need to done for every ride, but once a month would not be too often.

If you have the owner's manual, or can copy the maintenance schedule from someone who does, be sure to follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

Another significant part of routine maintenance is checking for and tightening or replacing loose or missing fasteners.  The constant vibration and sometimes jarring impacts OHVs experience causes bolts, nuts, and screws to work loose.  Using a thread locker like Loc-Tite will help keep them secure but is no substitute for checking them often (at least before every ride).

Some, but not all, OHVs have electric starters.  If yours does, it will  have a battery.  You will need to monitor the battery condition and make sure is properly charged for each ride.  Check the electrolyte level at least once a month and top it off with distilled water if it is low.  Use a "trickle charger" to keep the battery fully charged when your equipment is in storage between outings.

Brakes and clutches need regular adjustment to function properly.  Brakes that are too tight or clutches that are too loose will slip.  When that happens not only do they not function right, they will wear out quickly.  Brake pads or shoes can usually be changed by a fairly handy DIY mechanic at home.  Clutches often require special tools and techniques, but many riders learn how to do this themselves too.

Spending a little time and money doing routine maintenance will pay back many times over in avoiding expensive and inconvenient breakdowns out on the trail.  Maintenance may not be as much fun as using your OHV, but its a lot more fun than pushing it when it breaks down due to poor maintenance!

Work it!