Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, sailing, 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. The organization is pretty much by date of publication. Please use the SEARCH option below to find what you are looking for.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Resolving Purchase Problems

Eventually you're going to have some kind of problems with one or more of your camping/RV/OHV purchases.   Most reputable dealers and retailers will take care of warranty issues quickly and satisfactorily.  They usually will do their best to address other complaints as well.  They want to maintain their reputation and they want you to return to make additional purchases and to tell your friends and associates good things about them.  They know that how they handle issues is one of the main factors by which they will be judged.  Always be sure to read and understand any warranty clauses in your purchase contract or warranty policies of the store and manufacturer.  Some warranties require products to be returned to the manufacturer, not the store.   If you purchase extended warranties, makes sure you understand the terms and conditions.  They often require all repairs to be pre-approved or they can and will deny coverage.  It is a good idea to get approval in writing as phone approvals seem to be frequently challenged.   Always seek resolution from the dealer or retailer first (unless the warranty specifies return to manufacturer only) and then from the manufacturer before escalating your complaint.

Retain purchase receipts and original warranty documentation.  Without a receipt to prove the purchase date it will be difficult if not impossible to obtain any warranty service.  Some "lifetime warranties" may be honored without a receipt.  I found a broken Craftsman Phillips screwdriver in some tools I bought at a garage sale.  When I went to Sears with the intent of purchasing a replacement to complete my set, I was given one without charge under their lifetime warranty program.  However, in most cases, you will need your receipt to validate any warranty claim.   Make sure you get any guarantees in writing at the time of purchase. Z ealous salesman may make verbal promises beyond their authority, but if you have it in writing, a reputable business will back it up.   I've been on both sides of that situation.  With the promise in writing on the contract or receipt the dealers honored the promises made by their salesman.  When I had only an oral promise, I often found myself out of luck.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."   Many problems can be avoided by following good practices.   Do your due diligence when making any purchase.  Have vehicles checked by reliable mechanics and technicians.  Compare prices before you buy.   Read and understand any warranties and comply fully with all service and claims requirements.  Proof of proper maintenance is often required for warranty work and is always a good practice to make sure  your equipment functions properly and lasts as long as possible.

Don't make idle threats.   If you aren't fully prepared to follow through with legal action, don't threaten to "turn it over to my lawyer".   If you do plan legal action, simply exhaust your appeals with the dealer/manufacturer, then proceed with the lawsuit or file a complaint with your local district attorney and send a copy to the dealer/manufacturer. They'll get the message without you sounding off about it.  Threats often just undermine any sympathy and support you might have received from the agent handling your case.  You want to be seen as an actual victim of faulty materials, misrepresentation, or poor workmanship, not just a whiner.  Too many people will submit false, frivolous or fraudulent claims to recover damages or replacements for merchandise they damaged and should be responsible for or simply decided they don't want anymore.  When you have a legitimate claim you don't need to make threats or get angry.  Just document the problem, prove the validity of the warranty, and clearly state what solution(s) you seek or would accept.

Escalating your complaint.  If both the dealer and the manufacturer fail to resolve the problem, you may get help from a consumer affairs department in a your local government.  You can contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but they usually take no active role in resolving the complaint beyond notifying the business and posting the complaint on their web site for others to see.  It is a good idea to report complaints to the BBB, but don't expect miracles.  A BBB complaint may help motivate a reluctant merchant to review a case and possibly make some kind of amends, but their only response might be a denial of responsibility.  If you find other customers have filed similar complaints, your combined strength may motivate the seller to take action.   Another resource for RVers is the Hot Line service through Motorhome and Trailer Life magazines.  They investigate complaints and contact the businesses on your behalf.  On many occasions they have been able to assist people in obtaining a satisfactory results.  Sometimes they just get an extended explanation for the reasons for denial.  Don't expect miracles.   If a company believes your claim isn't valid, they have every right to deny it and no amount of pressure by publishers or consumer organizations is going to persuade them to fork out big bucks for something they are not obligated for.  Escalation does often raise awareness of an issue to a higher level of management that may be motivated and empowered to resolve the problem.  Sometimes companies will go beyond their contractual obligations in the interest of customer relations. 

Preventing warranty problems.  You may be able to prevent warranty problems by making sure you fulfill all maintenance requirements and keep good records.   Failure to meet stated maintenance requirements is a legitimate reason to deny coverage.   Performing proper maintenance and following usage instructions may prevent problems from occurring in the first place.  Make sure any claim you may have is not the result of abuse.  Abuse will also invalidate any warranties.  Don't expect the sporting goods store to replace your tent under warranty if you set it on fire, drive over it with your vehicle, or a bear rips it up.

My Grandmother used so say "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" meaning you stand a better chance of getting cooperation if you're nice and not nasty.  This definitely applies to negotiating solutions to purchase problems.   Some companies go out of their way to assist their customers but a nasty approach may cause them to become defensive  and to take a strong "stick to the contract" stance.   I've had a couple of extraordinary experiences that bear mentioning to the credit of the companies involved.  First was a clearly out-of-warranty problem I had with a Fantasic Roof Vent for my RV.  It came with a one year warranty and somewhere in the second or third year of ownership, the fan failed and I traced it to a problem in the circuit board.  I phoned the company to see if I could purchase a replacement circuit board.  I explained my situation, including the age of the unit, and was very pleasantly surprised when they voluntarily sent upgraded replacement parts to me at no cost!  Along the same lines, I purchased a Camp Chef stove on close out from Big 5 Sporting Goods, knowing that the regulator was missing.  A call to Camp Chef to purchase the right regulator resulted in them sending it to me at no cost! In each case they also covered the cost of the parts and shipping.  In return I've happily provided hundreds of recommendations to fellow campers.

Submitting your claim.  When you do have a warranty issue, you need to submit your claims properly.  Make sure you have all the required documentation (purchases receipts, warranty documents, repair receipts, forms, etc).  Be sure you are within all time constraints -- that the claim occurred within the warranty period and you are in compliance with the time frames required for notification between the event and filing the claim.  Then write a clear, concise letter describing your claim -- what happened, what you've done so far, and what you are asking for under the warranty. Failure to provide required documentation is a frequent and legitimate basis for turning down claims. Make sure you submit the claim to the right place.   Sending a manufacturer's warranty to the dealer will, at best, delay processing and could result in the claim not even being looked at.  Likewise, submitting a dealer warranty to the manufacturer is also a waste of time.

Success!  By complying with all the terms and conditions of your warranty you greatly increase your chances of success.   Failure to meet any of the terms and conditions can be legitimate grounds for your claim to be denied.  Always make sure you've done  your part before blaming the seller or the manufacturer.

Case closed!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Domestic Tips for Campers

How is housekeeping in your RV or tent any different from housekeeping at home?  Good question.   In many ways, it isn't.  You still need to make the beds, do the dishes, dust, sweep the floors, clean the bathroom, and clean the windows.  Yet each of these tasks is in some way unique in an RV.  Tent campers will find things even more varied.  One big problem is, we like to take a vacation from chores when we're on vacation.  And that is not a good idea.   Putting off routine chores will eventually waste more time catching up than it takes to keep them up to date as you go. And life will be more pleasant if you keep things neat and clean and your gear and equipment will last longer.

Establish daily and weekly routines.  Routines will help you prevent things from getting out of control.  A few minutes completing your routine each day will keep you organized and free to enjoy your planned activities.  Not all tasks need to be done every day so having a weekly schedule will help keep everything in order.  Your routine at home might serve as a starting point for building your camp schedule.  Things like making beds and doing dishes are inherently daily tasks.  Other cleaning efforts might be done less frequently but should not be ignored.  The main thing is to have some kind of routine so things don't fall through the cracks and go undone until they reach an unacceptable level of disarray and/or dirtiness.

Making the beds.  The bed in the "master bedroom" in many RVs isn't much different than the one at home -- unless it is jammed up against the wall.  If it is, you'll need to master techniques for climbing up on the bed and pulling the bedding into place.   Same holds true for the cab-over beds in campers and Class C motorhomes.   Some people like to use a stick or the awning wand to push bedding into the far corners of these corner beds but I find it is usually easier to just straighten up the sheets and blankets, then kneel on the bed and tuck the bedding neatly under the far edges, then climb off and pull the bedding tight as I go.   Other beds are usually part of a dinette or sofa.  That means you have to get out the bedding and "make the bed" each night, then remove all the bedding and put it away every morning.   Dinette cushions have to be rearranged to create the bed and restored for day time use.  Sofas have to be opened up to their sleep positions and closed again in the morning.  Making the beds when tent camping will mostly consist of hanging out the sleeping bags for a couple of hours, then either rolling them up or putting them back in place.  I prefer to leave them out so they don't lose their "loft" by being squished in a stuff sack.  Letting them hang in the fresh air is always a good idea, weather permitting.   Make up your beds every morning.

Doing the dishes.  Unless you're like my daughter, who is a fanatic about saving water and has a REALLY good dishwasher, you're probably in the habit of rinsing the crud off your dishes before washing them.  Water conservation is very important in an RV, especially when you're boondocking. Instead of pre-rinsing the dishes, wipe them off with a paper towel or a crumpled newspaper.   To avoid a lot of elbow grease to clean greasy, sticky pots and pans, do dump a little water in them while they're still warm, before the crud has time to bake on.  Notice I said "dump", not "run".  You should be saving the water while running the shower to get it warm.  Catch it in a plastic dishpan or even an old bleach jug.  The jug will be less likely to get spilled.   Then use the saved water to rinse your dishes.  Use a good quality dish soap.   Cheap brands won't cut the grease as well and you may have to change water more often , wasting water -- as well as wasting time scrubbing stubborn items.   High quality, concentrated soap will also save space since it usually comes in a smaller bottle and you don't need as much per use.   Doing the dishes while tent camping also requires conservation of water, unless there is a dishwasher station with running water in the camp ground and while you probably won't run out of water there, it is still good camping protocol to conserve water and limit how long you tie up the sink.  Wash your dishes after every meal.   If you clean up after yourself as you prepare your meals, you'll have fewer dishes to do at the end.   Clean dishes will help prevent "the runs".   One really easy way of doing dishes when camping is to use paper plates and cups and plastic utensils which can just be thrown away.

Dust is likely to blow in every time you open the door or to come through windows and roof vents, or just sneak in through cracks.  The "weep holes" at the bottom of windows may let dust in.  The massive dashboards on some big motorhomes are huge dust collectors.  Dust will settle on counters, tables, and cabinets.  I like to use a spray furniture polish on just about every hard surface but the vinyl dashboard.  If you're seriously eco-minded, use a pump rather than a pressurized can.   I use SC-1, the same detailing spray I use on my dirt bikes, on all the vinyl surfaces.  Be sure to vacuum upholstery, carpets, and beds too, since dust settles on them as easily as it does on hard surface -- it just doesn't show up as much!  Dust will soil the fabric and can cause stale odors.  You won't notice the dust in your tent as much, but it will still collect on exposed surfaces and needs to be be taken care of. Y our sleeping bags should get a thorough dusting each morning when you hang them to air out and dry.   Other gear should be dusted off at least once a week or more often in windy/dusty conditions.

Sweeping the floors isn't much different from doing it at home.   Hard surfaces can be quickly swept with a broom, carpets should be vacuumed often.  By nature, most camping areas are somewhat rustic and you'll track in a lot of dirt and sand.   Left on hard surfaces it will destroy the luster.  Left in carpet it will soil the fabric and begin to cut the threads as you walk on it.   Some big RVs have central vacuum systems.  A nice compact canister vacuum is sufficient and perhaps ideal for most RVs that don't have central vacuums.  Uprights are heavy and take up a lot of room.  I've tried using manual "carpet sweepers" and they are handy for quick cleanups but do not get the grit up out of the fibers.  With some light dome tents you can pick them up and shake them to get rid of loose dirt and debris.  For heavier tents or ones that are anchored to the ground, you'll need to sweep them out often. Keep a rug or an old burlap bag near the entrance to your tent or RV to clean your feet to reduce how much crud you track inside.  You can buy short "camp" brooms or simple cut down the handle on an old broom from home.   A bench brush, like you use on your workbench is small and is pretty good for sweeping out tents.

Cleaning the bathroom may be even more necessary in an RV than at home because of the close quarters.  Any unpleasant odors that may develop will be quickly noticeable throughout the RV.  The biggest difference between your RV fixtures and those at home is that most RV fixtures are made of plastic so you don't want to use harsh cleansers.  Choose one of the "soft scrub" cleansers or buy the special RV cleansers at the RV store.  Using a shower spray can help control mildew in the shower. So will simply squeegeeing or drying the shower after the last use each day.   Tent campers may have to deal with public bathrooms or, in remote locations, provide their own primitive latrine facilities. Maintaining a sanitary situation is critical to good health and a safe environment. 

Cleaning the windows of your RV may actually be easier than cleaning the windows at home. Because such a large percentage of the wall space is glass, dirty windows will be obvious and embarrassing.  Any good glass cleaner should w ork just fine.  I usually keep some special "no streak" glass cleaner on board for cleaning the mirrors. It is a little costlier than ordinary glass cleaner, but it saves time keeping the mirrors looking good.  Tent windows don't usually require much cleaning, but you may still need to wipe the dust off screens now and then.   If your tent is equipped with plastic windows, be careful to use only cleaners and procedures recommended by the manufacturer to avoid damaging them.  Wiping dry dust off plastic windows can cause minute scratches that will eventually "frost" the once clear plastic.  Even screened windows in tents will benefit from an occasional dusting.

Pick up and put away is always a good practice at home and even more important in your RV or tent and around camp.  The limited space in your RV means just a few things left out of place begin to impact usability as well as appearance.  And remember, clutter begets clutter, so, if you don't let the first piece of stuff lying around, you're less likely to accumulate more.  Same thing applies to tent camping.   Keep your stuff together and well organized, both in your tent and all around your camp. Follow the old adage: "A place for everything and everything in its place."  A handy trick for corralling small items in a tent is to keep them in hanging bags.  Some tents even have small storage pockets built  it.

Cleaning supplies for camping.   If you are in an RV you can stock it with cleaning supplies in your kitchen and bathroom about like you would at home.  You may need to substitute a "soft scrub" cleanser to protect your plastic or fiberglass fixtures and over time you may find specialty cleaners you like for use in your RV.   Anti-fog mirror cleaner and "Black Streak Remover" are things I've picked up.  For tent camping, most of your cleaning tasks will focus on kitchen items so you'll need dish soap, Scotchbrite, SOS pads and dish towels.   Depending on how long you are out you may also need laundry detergent.  For either RV or tent camping you can just bring along the stuff you use at home, but sometimes the "giant economy size" containers that make sense at home are not convenient in camp.  Small, unopened containers will take up less room and are less likely to spill.   Fortunately you can probably stock up on just about everything you need at your local dollar store.   Get name brands when you can, but don't be afraid to try their "house" brands.   My wife has found many of the house brands from Dollar Tree to be equal to or better than the name brands.  I suggest you do try them out before you head out on an extended outing and are dependent on them.  You don't want to be out in the boondocks when you discover someone in the family is allergic to the new laundry detergent or that the dish soap doesn't cut it.   Having inexpensive products to use may encourage you to use them while you might be a bit stingy and might have a tendency to limit using pricey products. 

If you can't get small sizes, consider getting travel size containers to use instead of filling up you RV cabinets or camp bins with big bottles of cleaning supplies.   You can often find empty travel size bottles at your local dollar store. 

Clean it up!