RV Oops 2018

MotorHome's 2019 RV Oops Awards

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done while RVing?

Once again, it’s that time of the year when we acknowledge that RVers – even smart ones like you and me – do some really dumb things. “I never do anything dumb,” or “I do lots of dumb things,” are the typical responses I get when I ask the question, “What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done while RVing?” Most often with further probing, the first group of RVers confess, “Well, there was this one thing …” and out comes a tale of woe.

Here’s the Top 10 of this year’s dumb things, rated from “Dumb” to “Dumbest,” that RVers have reported to me, some with further probing. As always, dumber mishaps are more traumatic and costly, which is why you definitely don’t want to make them yourself. So, read on, learn from the mistakes of others, and save yourself some serious grief and cash!

10Life is Not a Beach

The Oregon coast has a number of access points for driving onto beautiful, sandy beaches. Harry decided to do just that with his Class B motorhome to check out the possibility of camping for free with a view of the ocean. He drove on the beach for about 10 minutes when he noticed a little cove that might be a good spot to tuck in for the night. As he approached, he decided to stop and check it out. Unfortunately, when he got back in to move farther into the cove, his rear tires dug into the sand. The more the tires spun, the deeper he sank, until he was up to the rear axle. Without a shovel, he used a leveling board to scrape the sand away in front of the rear tires. No luck … he was firmly stuck below the high-water line, about two hours away from the ocean filling the inside of his van.

Not having a cellphone, Harry frantically ran to a nearby house to see if he could phone for a tow. The owner had a 4WD SUV and said he would pull him out. That didn’t work, so he called a friend who also had a 4WD vehicle. Together, they pulled the van onto hard sand, stopped, and disconnected the towlines. Harry offered to pay, but they said they were just happy to help. After a big “thank you,” Harry drove back to the entrance where he came onto the beach and, without stopping, continued onto the blacktop. After driving off to a nearby parking lot (free, but without an ocean view), Harry said, “I will never again look for a campsite on a sandy beach.”

It’s just as well: while it may be legal to drive and get stuck on an Oregon beach, overnight camping is prohibited, which is a good thing considering that high tides and sneaky waves could put a damper on your RV experience.

9Black-and-Blue Toad

While driving their older motorhome across Canada, Mike and Debbie stopped for fuel and topped up the oil. Four hours later, at a rest stop, Mike did a walk-around. Oops! The back of their coach and their once-blue Jeep dinghy vehicle were blanketed with oil. Opening the engine cover, he noticed that the oil-fill cap was missing. None of the local truck stops and RV dealers he phoned had a proper cap.

Being a handy kind of guy, Mike fashioned a cap by cutting an aluminum can in half and attaching it over the fill hole with a 2-inch gear strap. He then spent hours cleaning off a gallon of oil that had sprayed out of the fill hole. Unfortunately, the next leg of their trip resulted in the same outcome … another gallon of oil covering their toad and back section of the motorhome. Upon inspection, engine vibrations had worn out the aluminum can, allowing oil to again spray out of the fill hole.

Undeterred, Mike folded a plastic sandwich bag into quarters and attached it with the gear clamp. Even though the bag pulsated with the pressure, it held for the remainder of their six-week trip, when he was able to get a replacement cap. But the saga continued. On their annual trip south, Mike topped up the oil and a few hours later, another shower of oil. This time, Mike found the cap lying on the inside of the engine compartment. “I’m sure I replaced it after adding oil. On a positive note, after three baths in oil, we have a Jeep that will never rust!”

As a preventative measure, Mike drilled a hole in one of the cap handles and attached a plastic zip tie, so the cap would hang near the oil fill hole as a reminder to replace and tighten it.

Helpful hint: Always replace and securely tighten the oil-fill cap after adding oil.

8Seeing Black Spots

Fred and Marla bought a 4-year-old motorhome, which came with an outside carbon water filter that attached to the water intake hose. They often boondocked after filling their freshwater tank through the filter. One day, Fred noticed that the water pressure was quite low and thought that maybe it was time to replace the filter. He did so, but even with a new filter, the pressure remained low.

Fred dismantled the water pump and found the filter screen clogged with black carbon. Apparently, the old filter, which had been used well beyond its replacement date, had ruptured internally, allowing carbon to escape into the water. Cleaning it made some difference, but not for long, since bits of carbon in the freshwater tank continued to clog the pump screen. After repeatedly filling and emptying the tank, water pressure was back to normal, even though black spots occasionally showed up in their drinking water for weeks afterward.

Helpful hint: To ensure clean drinking water, follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for replacing water filters, at least annually, if you use the motorhome regularly.

7Bumpers are for Bumping

While touring Alaska in his motorhome, Roger missed a turnoff and continued on until he found a small gravel parking lot. It looked big enough to turn around, so he made a tight U-turn in the lot and powered up a steep incline to get back on the highway. Unfortunately, because of the small lot, he was angled slightly off to one side of the exit. Crunch! The bottom right corner of his bumper caught the gravel and broke a weld, causing the bumper to hang low on that side. Had he been able to approach the exit straight on, the bumper would have cleared the gravel. Roger said he continued on his journey for a few more weeks with the front end “looking like it was permanently scowling!”

6Mr. Sparky

Dick had stored his motorhome over the winter with the leveling jacks in the “down” position. Come spring, he and his wife were all packed and ready to hit the road for a weekend of camping. When it became time to raise the jacks, he pushed the “retract” button but nothing happened. After pushing the button about a dozen times, Dick decided to increase the fuse amperage from 15 to 30 amps. “Maybe a heavier fuse would make a better connection.” This time when he pressed the button, he saw sparks and heard a loud Zzapp! The circuit board had multiple burned components but the jacks were still down.

Instead of camping, Dick used the weekend to track down a new circuit board and talk to an RV mechanic about his jack problem. The mechanic diagnosed it as most likely “faulty solenoids.” Sure enough, replacing the jack solenoids and the new circuit board (with a 15-amp fuse) resulted in the jacks retracting.

Helpful hint: Always use the proper size fuse in appliances; oversized fuses can potentially result in blown circuit boards and electrical fires.

5Curbs, Posts and Martinis

After purchasing some groceries and gin for his favorite drink, David was maneuvering his motorhome through the parking lot and cut a corner with a raised concrete curb. His right rear wheels went over the curb and into a recession, followed by a crunch! The rear stabilizer jack, just behind the wheels, had gotten caught on the outside of the curb and was bent backward at a severe angle.

Take a moment to think about your own RVing experiences … have you never done anything dumb, or have you done lots of dumb things? either way, please share your knowledge and experiences in the Comments section below …

The story gets better … or worse, depending on your perspective. After disengaging the jack from the curb, David proceeded to a campground where I was camped in an adjacent site. While backing into his site, he hit a 12-inch-diameter wooden post, used to protect the electrical box. While showing me a broken sidelight, scraped paint and a crack in the fiberglass, his wife insisted, “I hollered for him to stop but he didn’t hear me.” David took me aside and quietly remarked, “I swear she never said a word, but two screw-ups in one day definitely justify two martinis, don’t you think?”

Helpful hints: Use extra caution when driving through parking lots, as they are typically designed for automobiles rather than large RVs. And use a walkie-talkie system (with the volume turned up!) when backing up.

4Just Don’t Back Up

Doug had just packed up his motorhome to leave the campground. After pulling out of his site, he moved over to the side of the road to hook up his dinghy vehicle. After doing so, he realized that he didn’t have enough room to make the sharp turn in front of him, so he decided to back up. When he had gone about 10 feet, he saw in his rearview camera that the front wheels of his car were turned almost sideways. However, they straightened out as he pulled forward to leave the campground.

After arriving home and disconnecting his car, he noticed a warning light “Service All-Wheel Drive” on his dashboard, which came on each time he drove the car. His local dealership found that the “Steering Wheel Position Sensor” needed to be replaced, likely a result of the front tires being turned an excessive amount when he backed up in the campground. The cost of a new sensor (more than $600) impressed on Doug an important lesson: “Never back up the motorhome when the tow car is attached, even for a short distance.” Although he did add, “If my wife had held the steering wheel while I was backing up, none of this would have happened!”

3Look Out Above!

Alex and Doris were the proud owners of a new 33-foot Class A. After driving home from the dealership, Alex parked it very carefully on their short driveway as close as possible to the garage. After examining some of its features, they decided to test the auto-level function. Alex was outside to watch, but an inquisitive neighbor distracted him as the motorhome began leveling. The back end went up … and up … and still more up, tipping the front end closer to the garage. Smash!

The front windshield had collided with a nail protruding from the roof overhang, punching a hole and fracturing an area more than a foot in diameter in the glass. Alex said, “We were devastated, so much so the damage was difficult to see through our tears!” Two weeks and $2,800 later, they were able to use their motorhome on their first trip, where the leveling system worked just fine.

Helpful hint: As we’ve seen in previous RV Oops Awards, a friendly well-meaning neighbor can distract us at exactly the wrong time. “Can we talk later? I need to pay attention here,” would be appropriate comments to make when you should be focusing on the task at hand.

2A Muddy Road Ahead

Nate and his family were traveling cross-country in their Class A with a Jeep Cherokee in tow. In North Dakota, because of road construction, they were stopped by a flag person and advised to take a detour to avoid about 25 miles of rough gravel road ahead. To do so meant an additional 50 miles to reach their destination. The flag person was allowing travel on the road, but indicated, “Neither the state nor the company would be responsible for damages.” After a quick calculation of the additional fuel and time required for the detour, Nate decided to “Go for it! How bad could it get if other cars and trucks were heading down the road?” He was about to find out.

After a few miles, the road got muddy and construction crews were spreading gravel in the slippery spots. It was definitely a white-knuckle drive, with several delays allowing for one-way traffic. Two hours later they were back on paved highway and shortly thereafter, pulled into a rest stop to check out the rig. The motorhome was a bit muddy but the Jeep looked like it had gone through a war zone. The entire front end was pock marked from stones thrown up by the rear tires of the coach. The repair bill, including a new windshield, grille and headlights, came to over $5,000. Nate’s hindsight assessment: “Taking the detour would have saved me both time and money.”

Helpful hint: Yogi Berra’s quote “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” can be paraphrased for RVers: “When you come to a detour in the road, take it.”

1One Cool Trip

Roy and his wife had recently retired and decided to pursue the RV lifestyle by purchasing a large motorhome. Their first major adventure would be to drive across Canada, beginning in May, from British Columbia to Newfoundland. A complete lack of pre-trip planning resulted in a number of problems … five to be exact.

Their first problem was not towing a dinghy vehicle. Very early in their trip, they discovered that “seeing the sights, especially within cities, meant taking long walks or busses and cabs after parking the coach some distance away.”

By mid-October, they had arrived in Ontario, where they encountered their second problem. Because of occasional below-freezing temperatures, most campgrounds had already closed for the winter, so they found themselves staying overnight in various parking lots. Fortunately, their furnace kept them reasonably warm.

Their third problem, related to the closed campgrounds, was dumping their black- and gray-water tanks and filling their freshwater tank. Instead of seeing the sights, they spent hours trying to find a dump station and freshwater outlet.

Quite unexpectedly, they encountered their fourth problem in the province of Prince Edward Island (PEI), which Roy described as “a bunch of small towns all boarded up.” Many businesses in PEI thrive on tourism and close for the winter. The same holds true for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Their fifth, and biggest, problem occurred when Roy and his wife had to fly back to British Columbia for a few weeks, putting their motorhome in temporary outdoor storage. When they returned, they discovered the freshwater tank had frozen solid and split open, and the water lines had also broken, costing more than $3,000 for repairs. Roy forked out additional money for three days in a motel while the repairs were being completed. They headed south the very next day, and also bought a dinghy vehicle at their first opportunity.

All in all, this was an expensive, frustrating and eye-opening experience for these newbie RVers … one that definitely warrants our Dumbest Award for this year.

Helpful hints: When planning an extended RV trip, do some research on your intended campgrounds and local weather conditions, especially for a cool-weather trip! And don’t forget your dinghy vehicle!

So there you have it, another year of mishaps that teach us what NOT to do while RVing. Now, take a moment to think about your own RVing experiences. Have you never done anything dumb, or have you done lots of dumb things? Either way, please share your knowledge and experiences around the virtual campfire with fellow RVers in the comments section below.

6 COMMENTS

  1. HIGH SPEED AWNING CHECK
    We had just left an RV park after an overnight stay on our trip to the west. I needed to fill the fuel tanks and stopped at a truck stop.
    The pumps were not under a cover and it was starting to rain. Having a brilliant idea I extended my awing about 2/3’s out. This covered the pumps and me while I refueled.
    Everything was accomplished. We got back on the interstate and starting traveling. I drive around 65 miles per hour and after about 20 minutes we were hearing some type of noise and feeling a vibration. Finally I pulled over and got out to check the exterior. That’s when I discovered that the awning was still out. Scared me good and I figured I was going to have to have it replaced. I hit the retract button and it actually came in. Needed a little push at the end to seat the rails. It has worked just fine since then.
    Lucky me. I have a procedure for checking the exterior of the motor home when leaving an RV park; apparently I need to amend it to include fueling stops.

  2. My dumbest RV’ing mistake…so far: Few years ago, we were in south Georgia, towing our Honda CRV toad on a car dolly, behind our 29′ Winnebago class C. I had to make a U-turn and saw a closed up bank with what looked like a driveway where their drive-up teller facility was located. So, I pulled in and soon saw that the driveway area wasn’t as big as it looked from the highway. There was a grass strip that separated the bank’s driveway system from their business neighbor’s property. It looked low enough, so, not having much of any other choice, I drove over the grassy strip. Well, buried in that grass was an unseen line of old railroad ties. As I drove over them, our dual back wheels apparently kicked one of the rr ties lose and raised it up enough that the axle of our tow dolly caught it. The rr tie jammed between the axle and the body of the dolly, immediately immobiliziing the the dolly and our entire rig. As luck would have it, it was a hot, muggy typical south Georgia day and I had no tools large enough to dislodge the rr tie. I worked on it for nearly an hour, after which I was totally soaked with sweat and dirt. I finally got the piece of rr tie separated from our tow dolly and was able to get us back on the road. So, lesson learned from this stupid mistake is don’t drive your rigs over grassy areas, even if they look safe and obstacle free.

  3. Richard and his wife along with their 3 teenage children were driving their RV from the East Coast to the Grand Canyon. Their 24 foot Tioga class C is an older 1998 model. After a long day of driving we arrived at a popular campground in New Mexico. The parking attendant was very helpful in directing us to our site and even help with the setting up. The attendant placed Richard right next to another 24 foot Tioga class C, which looked exactly like ours. As we were setting up the RV, Richard noticed the neighbor who while on her cell phone walked past our RV on her way to the showers. She never acknowledged her new neighbors as she walked right by. It was getting later in the evening and Richard was setting up the chairs outside. The neighbor coming back from the showers suddenly appeared as she rounded the front of our RV and said “Where did these chairs come from?” When she saw Richard getting something out of the back storage compartment she yelled “What are you doing!” Then she was very alarmed to see our 3 teenagers inside what she thought was her RV. She completely lost it and started yelling and screaming for Help and telling us to get away from her camper. Richard told her that we had just arrived and that her camper was the next one over. She was quite shaken up but when we pointed out that our campers were exactly alike she calmed down and realized her mistake. The attendant was not too far away and quickly came over on his golf cart to see what the problem was. We all thought the whole thing was very funny, however the woman next door was not amused.
    Helpful Hint: Be aware of your surroundings.

  4. After hooking up my Jeep for a trip to Colorado, I went over the process for towing which involves putting the Jeep transfer case in neutral and the transmission in Park. Then, of course, turning the key switch to “on”. After disconnecting the battery, towing should function properly. About 15 miles later a car pulled up beside me and frantically pointed to my jeep which appeared fine in my rear camera. I pulled over and applied the emergency flashers. I immediately noticed the front wheels were at about 10 degrees out of alignment with the rest of the rig. The left front tire was nearly bald from tracking down the highway at that angle. I found the ignition switch to be in “accessory” position rather than “on”, thus the steering wheel was locked. I felt like I had just won the “dummy of the year” award!

  5. We were on a one month road trip from missouri to northern Nevada. We were on our third day of the trip, and the sight we had stayed the night was not long enough for our 37 ft class a and our toad so we had disconnected the car and we had done numerous times. The next morning as we prepared to leave, I pulled the coach out of the site and drove up to a large parking area at the entrance. My wife followed with the toad. Once in the parking lot I started the process of hooking up the tow bar and safety cables and electric cables. Meanwhile, my wife was positioning the break unit in the toad.
    She was having trouble getting it positioned correctly so she asked for help. Once the break unit was in pka e I rated the hood and disconnected the battery. I then closed the hood and off we went. About 5 hours later, we stopped for fuel and I thought I would do a walk around to make sure everything was good.
    Much to my horror I discovered that I had not secured the saftey cables and one of the had entangled the electric cable to the toad and pulled it out of the socket. So for the 400 miles we had traveled I had been dragging the electrical cable a d safety cables on the road. Needless to say they we trashed, so we spent the next morning g looking for replacement cables before we hit the road again. The lesson to this story is to do one more walk around the coach before you hit the road. You never know what you might find.

  6. We’ve all done it. We’ve hopped into the family sedan or pickup, pulled out of the driveway and realized a block later that the driver’s door hadn’t closed all the way. We simply pull the handle, give it a push and the wind helps the door seat properly, right? Enter our 2006 Tioga Class C, best toy we’ve ever had. On our way home to Reno, Nevada from the Oregon coast we stopped to have lunch. The stretch of I-5 we were on has thousands of semis and hundreds of giant produce trucks. Though the speed limit in California for trucks is 55, one rarely finds any of them going under 75. Anyway, we take the on ramp and accelerate to merge into the heavy traffic. I realize my door is not shut all the way. I reach for the door handle and my wife (the brains of the family) asks what I’m doing. As I respond, “my door’s not closed tight” I pull the handle to free the door. Instantly the door tries to pull my fingers off, pulling out instead of pushing in as I’d planned. At this point I only had two fingers holding it. The wife tries to reach over and take the wheel so I can use two hands, but she’s too far away and buckled in. I have no choice but to pull to the side of the freeway, which was so scary as to be almost suicidal. Trucks whizzed by us so fast and furiously I thought they’d blow us over. I quickly opened and slammed the door closed and fought to get back on the road. Of course, the protruding wall of the coach is what reverses the wind at whatever speed one is driving. I wonder. If I had pushed harder to clear the coach, would the door have slammed shut? I’ll never know. I feel we dodged a bullet and I’ll never open a moving vehicle’s door again, not even on a Prius.

    Fred and Debbie Stiteler

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