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.

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.  Mechanical equipment, like RVs, camping trailers, boats, and OHVs usually have rigorous maintenance schedules.  Tent camping avoids many of those time consuming and expensive processes, but there are still some routine maintenance tasks that should be performed fairly regularly on basic camping equipment to enure proper function and longevity.

Tent campers may not have to deal with the mechanical maintenance tasks that those who choose mechanized or motorized modes of travel and recreation do, 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.  Major inspection and repairs are often done when you put your stuff into storage at the end of a season and when you get it out again for the next round of fun.

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, bird droppings, sap, and 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.  That not only makes it unpleasant, but can destroy the fabric.  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 by hand and sealed with seam sealer.  If caught in time making repairs will avoid catastrophic failure that would force you to send it out for repairs or 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.  Nylon repair tape is convenient way to make both temporary and permanent repairs.  It is often self-adhesive but stitching is always more secure.  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.  Clean the screens and windows and the zippers.   You can lubricate zippers with a number of ordinary household products but I like to use a commercial produce like Zip-Ease.  Household products you can try include a graphite pencil, crayons, candle wax, Chapstick, Vaseline, WD-40 and silicone lubricants.  Aways test any lubricant on a small, hidden place if possible to make sure it won't stain the tent fabric.  When using sprays, such as WD-40 or silicone, use the tube style nozzle and apply it sparingly.   When using a Crayon, match the color to the color of the zipper.  If your tent is wet or even damp from rain or dew, be sure to unpack it and let it dry out before you put it in storage.  When using liquid or spray lubricants, use dry lube instead of oily products if possible.  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.  Reactions between the contamination and the fabric may stain, rot, or weaken the fabric.  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 mayonnaise to remove sap, but then you have to remove the mayonnaise!

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.  Mild odors might be controlled with a fabric freshener like Fabreze.  It would be a good thing if you have room to store your sleeping bags 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 your 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.  The fill was so badly bunched up there were many places where there was no fill at all, just the inner and outer layers of nylon.

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 that use liquid fuel 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 and cost from about $3.00 to $20.00.  The cheaper kits usually just replace the washer; more expensive versions often replace the many of the hard parts as well.  You might need the higher priced kit if you have lost the knob on the pump.  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.  Liquid fuel lanterns also have generators that an sometime go bad.  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 -- when the globe is cool.  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.  They usually have plastic rather than glass globes.  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.  You might want to put one of the batteries in backwards when you will be putting the lights into storage for a while to prevent battery drain.  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 and never rub them without some kind of liquid cleaner or the dust will scratch and dull the surface.  Badly scratched or cloudy globes might benefit from a multi-step plastic cleaner like those used for motorcycle windshields.  If that doesn't work you may have to replace the globe if you can find one or the entire lantern if you can't. You might check garage sales for options for replacement parts.

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.  Don't fold them up until they are 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 the webbing is badly worn you can buy replacement kits to re-web aluminum chairs.  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.  Missing caps may allow the legs to dig into the ground, letting the chair tip while you are sitting in it and damp soil trapped inside the feet may accelerate corrosion.

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.  Shovels aren't as sensitive to needing sharp blades, but keeping them clean and appropriately sharp is a good idea.   A bit of WD-40 on the steel to prevent rust and some linseed oil on wooden handles will help keep them in top shape for the next outing.

Hiking sticks usually just need to be cleaned regularly,  but collapsible models might need a bit of lubrication.  Inspect the grips and repair or replace any that are loose or damaged.  Metal models should be checked to see if they have gotten bent and, if so, try to gently straighten them.  Wooden walking sticks might benefit from a light rubbing with linseed oil or a good furniture oil.

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 or cracked will probably have to be replaced before it fails catastrophically.  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.

Camp clothing should be washed and carefully stored until the next season.  You should also inspect your camp clothing and replace any missing buttons, repair loose seams or tears, or, if it is too badly damage to be salvage, discard and replace it.  Often fixing some loose buttons or stiching up a small tear will keep things in working condition for another season or two.

Keep it working!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Boat Maintenance

Boats, like any other piece of equipment, require regular maintenance.  The maintenance required will depend on the type of boat and the type of equipment onboard.  Boat and engine manufacturers will provide required maintenance schedules in their owner's manuals.

Most boats will have some kind of motor.  Even many sailboats have an outboard or even inboard auxiliary motor for maneuvering in the marina and dealing with lack of wind.  Motors typically have fuel, air, and, unless they ares 2-strokes, oil filters that need to be changed regularly.  All controls need to be regularly inspected, cleaned, and lubricated. 2-stroke engines are prone to fouling spark plugs so the plug(s) should be inspected and cleaned or replaced as necessary.   Failure to perform required maintenance will invalidate most warranties and will likely lead to performance problems and even premature engine failure.

Canoes, kayaks, and other human powered craft don't have mechanical components but still need regular care.  They need to be regularly inspected for leaks or any signs of damage or deterioration that might lead to problems on the water.  Sometimes that includes caulking seams and repainting hulls.  It might also mean sanding and refinishing or repairing handles of oars and paddles.   Oar locks and any other moving parts may need lubrication.  It should always include a review and inspection of necessary safety equipment.  Even canoes and kayaks should carry personal flotation devices for everyone one board and are often required to have at least one throwable flotation device plus a throw rope for rescuing someone who has fallen overboard.

All boats need to have their hulls maintained.  Trailerable boats can be cleaned every time they are pulled out of the water, usually at least each winter if not after every trip.  Boats kept in the water can sometimes be cleaned by divers while the boats are still in the water but will still need to be pulled out, thoroughly cleaned, and repainted every so often.  Boat paint, especially bottom paint, is very different from house paint.  It is formulated to help prevent algae buildup and is often ablative in nature so various kinds of debris that might otherwise attach to the hull in the water will fall off.  The frequency of bottom painting depends on the type, quality, and amount of paint on the boat to start with and the water conditions to which it is exposed.  Salt water tends to be harder on bottom paint than fresh water and heavy infestations of barnacles, mollusks, and algae will shorten paint life.  Of course any physical contact with rocks or sand, such as beaching a boat, will also wear the paint faster.

There are seams and joints between sections, windows and/or accessories on many boats.  Each of these is a potential point of leaks and should be regularly inspected and resealed as necessary.  A common source of leaks on any kind of boat with a cabin is the joint between the deck and the hull.  Walking on the deck and the pounding of waves on the hull often loosens these joints.  Boats with inboard motors will have places where the drive shaft passes through the hull and these require special attention and should be repacked regularly to avoid the development of leaks.  Many boats have "sea valves" that either let water out of of into the boat for various legitimate purposes.  Any thru-the-hull device is a possible point of failure and should be regularly inspected so it closes properly and sealed so it doesn't leak when it is closed.

Many boats have a sliding companionway at the entrance to the cabin.   These sliding doors should normally be water tight.  If there are signs of leakage, look for worn or damaged seals or see if there is a way to add weatherstripping.  Companionway slides and the surfaces they ride on get worn over time, making them hard to slide.  You can sometimes repair the damage using UWMD or HDPE tape.  Put a strip  underneath the edges of the companionway where it meets the deck.  If the edges of the companionway slide itself are worn you might wrap the edges with UHMD or HDPE tape.  Sometimes just applying a good dry silicon lubricant to the mating surfaces will solve the problem.  Other times you might need to sand rough sliding surfaces and refinish them to reduce friction

All hatches and compartments should be inspected for water leaks on a regular basis.  When leaks are found the seals and weatherstripping should be repaired or replaced.  Use weatherstripping designed specifically for each hatch if possible.  If not available, you might be able to adapt some form of ordinary, adhesive household weatherstripping from your hardware store or home center.  Warped or swollen hatch boards can sometimes be straightened or planed to fit better.  Replacing wooden hatch boards with marine starboard is often a relatively inexpensive alternative to buying new and costly teak hatch boards and the starboard looks good, requires little maintenance, and is durable and waterproof.

The standing rigging and running rigging on sailboats should be inspected at least once a year.   Standing rigging includes the stays and shrouds (cables that support the mast(s) and spar(s)).  Running rigging comprises the ropes used as halyards to raise the sails, as sheets to control the sails, and as other lines and lifts including docking lines.  Worn or frayed lines should be replaced.  Of course the masts and spars should also be inspected for damage or signs of wear.  Stress cracks are one sign of a failing mast, boom, or spar.  Pulleys, clamps, and other hardware that is part of the standing and running rigging should be inspected and adjusted as necessary.  Pulleys may need a bit of waterproof lubrication occasionally.  Life lines and stanchions should be solid and without any frayed or broken lines.  Loose or damaged stanchions should be properly repaired or replaced.  Sails should be inspected and cleaned or repaired as necessary.  You probably wont be able to tell if the sails are stretched out and need to be replaced until they are hoisted and filled with air so always check your sail shape when you are sailing.  Sometimes stretched sails can be repaired by a sail maker but usually once they are stretched out they will have to be replaced to maintain good performance.  Worn sails may also be subject to failure.

Docking lines and cleats should be inspected.  Lines showing fraying or wear should be replaced.  Loose cleats should be properly anchored and sealed.  Damaged or broken cleats should be replaced.  Annual inspection might be a good time to install additional cleats if you have been thinking about doing so.  Extra cleats give you more options for securing your boat at the dock.  Bow and stern cleats are used to hold a boat centered in a slip.  Proper docking often requires the used of spring lines to keep the boat from moving forward and backward in the slip.  I've seen people using the same cleats for docking lines and spring lines.  It can be done but having separate cleats for the spring lines midships makes hooking things up much easier, is easier to adjust, and is generally more secure.

Regular scrubbing of the decks and hull above the waterline is a good way to keep a boat looking good.  It is also essential to inspecting the condition of the deck and hull.  Soft spots likely mean rot beneath the surface that should be repaired as soon as practical.  Stress fractures or cracks may be visible that may help identify structural problems so they can be repaired before they lead to a catastrophic failure.  Gelcoat on fiberglass boats can sometimes be restored using special cleaners.  If all else fails you may need to redothe Gelcoat or paint the topside.  Be sure to use non-skid paint on the portions of the deck where you will normally be walking.  You can add non-skid materials to any Topside paint to match or complement the deck paint color.  I like the idea of rubber-based anti-skid additives like Softsand.  They work well and are easier on bare feet than the coarse grit used in other non-skid additives.

Equipment in the cabins of boats will very likely depend on the type of boat, the owner's preferences, and how the boat it used.  Some common facilities include galley and head fixtures such as stoves, iceboxes, and toilets.  Many boats have radios and electronic navigation equipment that need to be regularly tested.  Stoves, iceboxes, and sanitation facilities should be thoroughly cleaned at least annually, more if so indicated in their respective owner's manuals or if they get high use.  Check your bilge pumps.  Every boat should have at least a manual bilge pump and many larger boats have electrically or battery operated pumps to expel unwanted water from inside the hull.  Many boaters keep a bucket handy for bailing out the boat as needed.

Electrical systems should be inspected to make sure there are no loose or corroded connections.  Batteries should be inspected and, if necessary, topped off with distilled water.  Corrosion is a very common problem in a marine environment, especially in salt water.  Loose or damaged connections should be promptly repaired to ensure proper operation of electrical systems and to prevent fires.  Dim or flickering lights are one obvious indicator of bad wiring.  Pay special attention to navigational lights to make sure they are properly installed and functioning correctly.  Failure of navigational lights could lead to collisions if you are out on the water after dark.

Not all boats have plumbing systems, but those that do should be inspected and any loose or damaged connections or fittings or faulty pipes, tanks, and fixtures repaired or replaced.  Pay special attention to any thru-hull fittings that can allow water to seep into the boat.

Safety equipment should be inventoried and inspected.   Safety equipment should include personal flotation devices (PFDs, i.e., life vests), throwable floation devices (cushions and life saver rings), horns, whistles, flares, and lights (signal lights and navigation lights.  Flags are also a common safety feature.  Sailboats may require "day shapes" that are used to alert other boaters the sailboat is at anchor or under mechanical power.  All safety devices should be in good condition and readily available to the crew.

Keep afloat!

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.  The last thing you want to do is have to push your OHV back to camp!  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 engine 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.  Most OHVs also have transmissions that need attention.  Check the oil level before every ride and change the oil according to the manufacturer's instructions or whenever it shows signs of deterioration.  Some common problems to look for include metal shavings on the dip stick, which indicate damage to the gears inside, and discolored or foamy oil that may indicate water contamination.  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.  Following proper procedures (and documenting it) is often required to maintain warranties and is always a good way to prevent premature wear and tear.  Even it you do not need documentation for warranty purposes, it is a good idea to maintain an accurate record of maintenance for your own benefit so you know when it needs to be done again.  Good maintenance records may also help improve resale value if/when you decide to sell your vehicle.

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.

Tires wear out from normal riding and will often loose a little air while in storage.   Check tire pressure before each ride.  Some experienced riders use a "pinch test" but using a pressure gauge is more accurate and reliable, especially for novice riders.  When tires get worn replace them.  Worn tires won't have the traction or durability to support off road riding.

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 or towing it when it breaks down due to poor maintenance!

Work it!