It was surprising enough to see cars and trucks that could parallel park themselves. Now there’s one more tricky driving task that’s been automated: backing up a trailer.
On F-150 pickups made since model year 2016, and on the Expedition full-size SUV, Ford offers what the company calls Pro Trailer Backup Assist. It will back up a trailer without the driver having his hands on the steering wheel.
Many are thinking, “If you can’t back up a trailer, you shouldn’t own one.” Maybe, but it’s possible a driver doesn’t have the neck mobility he once had. Or maybe another driver in the family struggles with trailer backing. Either way, it’s help—and besides, it’s optional.
Like any electronic automotive capability—delayed windshield wipers, anti-theft engine immobilizers, cylinder deactivation, blind-spot monitoring, keyless start, smartphone links, hands-free lift gates—the technology is likely to proliferate. Although it hasn’t yet, it’s also likely to gravitate to smaller, cheaper tow vehicles.
Land Rover has a similar system, and Chevy dealers offer an after-maket system for some Silverados that have blind spot monitoring.
Let’s see how the Ford system operates. Three things enable automated trailer backup to work: electric power steering, a backup camera and a programmable onboard computer.
Each trailer, to be backed up by the truck’s system, must be identifiable by the system. The system will store up to 10 trailers—great if you tow an RV and, say, a boat and a snowmobile trailer. Renting a towable cement mixer? You can enter that into the system, too.
Park the truck and trailer in a straight line on level ground. To enter a trailer into the system, first place a sticker on the frame of the trailer, from 7 to 22 inches from the center of the ball. Because of this requirement, gooseneck trailers and fifth wheels won’t work. Place the sticker on either fork of a “Y” frame.
Then take four measurements, in this order, and write them down: from the license plate to the center of the ball; from the center of the ball to the center of the sticker; from the backup camera to the center of the sticker; and from the tailgate to the center of the trailer axle, or to the md-point between axles on a dual-axle trailer.
Get into the truck and enter the information into the computer. Press the “on” button for the backup control, and use the arrows on the steering wheel to choose and select commands, numbers and letters on the screen. Name the trailer, then go through the menu to select trailer type, brake type and brake effort (higher for bigger trailers). Input the measurements in order, identified as “A” through “D.”
To use the system, shift into reverse with your foot on the brake. Turn the backup assist on and twist the knob to the left or right—whichever direction you want the back of the trailer to move. Then take your foot off the brake and your hands off the wheel. The truck will steer itself. You’ll have to apply gas and brakes. If you need to go in the other direction, stop and twist the dial again.
Repeated as often as needed to get the trailer where you want it.
New RVs, whether motor homes or camper trailers, have three safety detectors every RV needs: smoke, carbon monoxide (CO) and liquefied petroleum gas (LP).
If you have an older camper, or maybe have adult offspring who are buying an older model as their first RV, the detectors may need maintenance or replacement. Some older models may lack the detectors altogether.
If your smoke alarm uses a 9-volt battery (rectangular) or any other battery, replace the battery when you change clocks for daylight savings time or standard time. (Daylight savings time arrives Sunday, March 11.) Just as important, press the test button weekly. Place the alarm on the ceiling near the sleeping area, far enough from a ceiling vent that could carry the smoke away from being detected. A hard-wired alarm is powered by the 12-volt RV electrical system and has an internal backup battery.
Here’s what you may not know: An RV needs a dual-sensor smoke alarm. A typical sensor detects ionization from a cooking fire or, say, a brake fire when the lining overheats. A second, photoelectric sensor detects smoke from an electronic fire, from an electronic appliance, such as a refrigerator or microwave oven, catches fire.
An example of a dual-sensor alarm is the Kidde Pi9010, which costs about $23, or is available in multiple packs.
Battery replacement: With semi-annual clock change; if you store for the winter, replace each spring
Test: Weekly and before each trip, by pressing a test button
Detector replacement: Every 10 years
Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible—and deadly. It first may cause dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and a headache. It’s especially dangerous at night, when you may feel no effects. The detector is best near the sleeping area, away from a ceiling vent.
An RV has multiple sources of CO: an LP-burning stove, the motorhome’s exhaust and the generator’s exhaust. The exhaust system doesn’t have to be faulty for CO to enter the RV. Carbon monoxide can work its way in if:
Test: Weekly and before every trip, by pressing a test button.
Replacement: Every five years.
Liquified Petroleum gas is liquid under pressure, with vapor at the top of the canister. When the valve is opened, the vapor—a gas made to smell—flows through the connected lines. It’s typically not a problem when tanks and lines are sound. LP gas is explosive, but it can make you sick before it reaches combustible levels. The detector alerts you well before danger levels.
Sources of LP gas are the tanks, lines to the stove, refrigerator and furnace, and the LP-fueled appliances themselves. No defect is required for an LP buildup; leaving a burner on can do it.
LP gas gravitates toward the floor. An LP detector should be mounted within 18 inches of the floor, on a wall inside the RV and near the sleeping area. It’s also the reason an LP detector is best purchased separately from a CO detector, and not as a single unit carrying both sensors, since CO is better detected on the ceiling.
An LP detector is hard-wired into the 12-volt system that runs off the battery bank.
Test: Weekly by pressing button
Replace detector: Every five years.
Remember when you were a kid and you enthusiastically told your friends, “And some day, you’ll be able to take a vacation in outer space!”
And they all laughed. Hard.
Guess what? The last laugh may be yours. The day of getting your kicks in space, if not on Jupiter and Mars, isn’t far off. You can learn a lot about private spaceflight by visiting the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, just north of Cape Canaveral and an hour east of Orlando. All U.S. government manned space flights have been launched from Cape Canaveral, including trips to the moon. If you time it right, you can even watch—just as you envisioned—private space flights being launched.
So far, private SpaceX flights are unmanned, but today’s launches and spacecraft recoveries—even the rockets will be reused—are all leading to the day when you’ll park the RV, prepare for spaceflight and take off. Boeing is partnering with SpaceX to resume human space flight launches from the Cape.
Kennedy Space Center is about a 3½ hours’ drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort, regardless of the route you choose.
Privately owned SpaceX, headed by Elon Musk, launches fights from the government facility periodically. And NASA still launches there, too, as it did March 1 by sending a weather satellite into orbit. Check online for the launch schedule. Another launch is planned for an undetermined date in March.
Private SpaceX Falcon 9 launches are scheduled for April 2 and April 16. SpaceX intends to launch a government-sponsored crewed flight to the International Space Station some time this year. It would be the first crewed spaceflight launched from the U.S. since the last Space Shuttle flight in 2011.
Even if you visit on a day with no launch planned, there’s still plenty to do and see, in
cluding interactive exhibits.
Until those private space flights arrive, astronauts are still a pretty exclusive club.
NASA schedules appearances by U.S. astronauts throughout the year. Visitors can take a tour with the astronauts, hear th
em speak and have lunch with them. To s
ee who is appearing and on what dates, check the events schedule.
The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center, enshrines the original U.S. astronauts, the Mercury 7, and more than 80 others. Among them are the late Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and the late John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. A statue of Shepard stands at the entrance.
If you’re a golfer, imagine how far you could hit a golf ball on the moon, where gravity is lower. Shepard, who was known for his mischievous sense of humor, didn’t imagine; he actually did it. That was some sand trap. Other Hall of Fame members include the late Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon, and the late Sally Ride (“Ride, Sally, ride!”), the first American woman in space.
On April 21, two more astronauts will bring total membership in the hall to 95: Dr. Thomas D. Jones and Capt. Scott D. Altman. Tickets will become available. Check the events schedule.
Admission: $50 per day/adults; $40/children age 12 and over; $46/military adult age 12 and over; $37 military child 3-11 years; $46/seniors 55 and over. One-year unlimited admission, $75/12 and over; $6
Three auto races that are among the world’s best-known will be held during the first three months of the year — all in Florida.
Two races are for sports cars, and the other for NASCAR stock cars.
RVs are welcome at all three events, with multiple days of activities available. Nearby campgrounds and RV resorts also are available online.
Here are the three events:
A twice-round-the-clock endurance race for sports cars, the Daytona 24 is part of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Drivers typically take hours-long shifts, but each car is intended go full-out for a full day, with stops for fuel, tires, driver changes and repairs. Many cars succumb to the stresses on engines, suspensions and cooling systems.
The checkered flag is waved after 24 hours, and the winner is the car that has traveled the farthest. It’s entirely possible that a car that has led for hours can fail with minutes to go because of a blown tire, a failed bearing — or an empty tank.
Date: Jan. 27-28. Location: Daytona International Speedway. RV Cost: $200 (plus race tickets) to $920 (including tickets for two). Tent camping: $40-50 per car (plus race tickets), to $400 per car (includes 2 infield race tickets).
This is the first, richest and most famous race in the annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The cars have identical purpose-built chassis covered by bodies that simulate those of street sedans. They’re powered by modified V8 engines. The 2018 Daytona 500 will be the 60th. The race culminates 10 days of events, beginning with practice. Pole qualifying will be Feb. 11, and qualifying races for the remainder of the field, Feb. 15. The 500 runs the Sunday of President’s Day Weekend. Supporting races fill the week.
Daytona racing began on the actual beach — even Henry Ford raced there. The first speedway race was in 1959. The high-banked oval is super fast.
Premium RV campsites for $2,700 and $2,915 are already sold out, but others may be available.
Date: Sunday, Feb. 18 Location: Daytona International Speedway. RV Cost: $640, $1,030, $1,250, $1,480 (all include 2 infield passes). RV Cost outside raceway: $600 or $1,600 (must have already purchased race tickets). Tent camping: $429 or $800 per car (includes two infield passes).
This is the 66th year of the 12-hour international sports car race, which began as a 6-hour event on a converted airstrip. Many improvements have been made to the facility since the early days.
Like the Daytona 24, the Sebring race is a stop for sports car manufacturers and drivers pursuing the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. It may be only half as long, but it’s no drive in the park. Last year’s winners covered more than 1,300 miles — at speed. The race starts in daylight and ends at night — 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
RV parking is much cheaper at Sebring than at the other venues, and for a good reason: There are no RV hookups. So, if you go with your RV, you’ll be dry camping. Showers are available onsite, however, and there are many food vendors. Advance reservations are recommended. Buy race tickets at the same site.
Date: March 14-17. RV Cost: $95 or $125 (add $5 if purchased at gate).
The inertia of motion is a tough competitor. Unless you play good defense, it usually wins. Items not secured in place in an RV can crash and break, or just scatter and make a mess.
Here some ways to keep things in the right place in an RV that’s constantly moving forward, turning or bouncing.
It’s easy to get drawers and doors to stay shut with friction, spring action or hook latches. Take your pick.
A simple spring-action roller catch and clip combination is cheap and effective, and probably will be for years. Catches like these have been around for about 60 years, maybe longer. This mechanism is not especially pretty, but it’s out of sight inside the cabinetry.
A brass bead catch works on much the same principle. It’s also quite effective, and it looks a lot better. It costs about twice as much.
Then there’s the designer push latch. It’s black and is designed to withstand 10 pounds of pressure. It costs about three times what the roller catch does. Whether it looks better than the brass bed catch is a matter of taste. You can compare at RV Parts Country. Price: $3 to $10.
It’s also important to keep drawer and cabinet contents from sliding around. Here’s a simple solution for dishes. Line the drawer bottom and shelves with rubber anti-slip liner. It’s cheap and comes in a choice of colors. Cut it to fit with ordinary scissors. To keep dishes from sliding, cut squares of the liner and place them between dishes. The dishes won’t slide, nor will they clatter over bumps. Keep cutoffs as jar and bottle openers. Put one in the toolbox, and one or two in the kitchen. (Small squares of this material sometimes are packaged and sold as cap grabbers, for nearly as much as a whole roll for a shelf or several drawers. Use the cutoffs!) Price: $4 to $6 per roll.
You can also use a dish holder. Dishes will stay in place and be organized. You can get vertical holders, such as the Camco Stack-A-Plate, which comes in a set of two sizes, for 9 ¼ and 7 ½-inch dishes and has a non-skid backing. Price: About $10.
A flexible solution is the Rev-A-Shelf Pegboard. It measures 39¼ inches x 21¼ inches. Cut it with a table saw or circular saw to fit a drawer — or two. The maple board has attractive pegs that hold items of different sizes and shapes, depending on where you place the pegs. Price: About $70.
Cutlery simply needs a divider, similar to what you would use at home. The Rev-A-Shelf CT-52 series comes in four sizes and three colors. Each can be trimmed easily with a utility knife for an exact fit. Price: $12 to 16.
So many bottles and tubes and jars! You can probably buy a purpose-made over-the-door caddy for these, some of them made of terrycloth and quite attractive. But over-the-door shoe storage is probably better. Shoe hangars are available in plastic — a necessity in a wet bath. And clear plastic lets you see exactly what’s in each pocket.
Assign each member of the family a row. A travel container can hold, say, a toothbrush or a razor, and that container can slip into a shoe pocket. That helps to keep things neat. Price: About $10.
Of course, there are some steps you can take that help to prevent damage. Flexible plastic kitchen utensils for cooking won’t make much noise if they’re hanging
Slide outs are a popular feature for good reason: They offer extra watertight interior space without hindering ease of travel.
But slide outs are not a feature that can be used and otherwise forgotten. Slide outs should get periodic maintenance, none of it particularly difficult or time-consuming. After all, you don’t want to get stuck at Crossing Creeks or any other camp because you can't retract your slider.
Here are maintenance steps to keep your slide out working smoothly, reliably and without leaks.
Deteriorated seals can let water enter the interior. Interior water can cause rust, staining, and mildew, which in turn can cause odors and trigger allergies.
Keeping seals pliable and free of cracks keeps out water out — air, too, when driving. The key is preventing dry rot, which means preventing damage from ultra violet rays carried in sunlight.
Rubber seal conditioners are sold by RV dealers and camping suppliers, at home centers and online. They come in liquid form, sometimes with a built-in applicator, or as towelettes, which are used as applicants. The liquid, which can also be applied with a rag or sponge, is more economical.
Apply the conditioner/protectant by following directions on the container. It’s typically just sprayed or wiped on and allowed to dry. A frequently used slide out or one that is exposed continuously to sunlight should get a fresh application monthly.
The moving mechanical parts of a slide out are no different than other automotive moving parts in that they require constant lubrication. A lubricant that is properly selected and correctly applied can do its job for up to a year.
A dry lubricant sprayed onto moving slide out parts forms a thin layer that does three things:
Preventing dirt and grime is why dry lubricants are best for slide outs. Wet lubricants attract dirt and dust. Check your owner’s manual, however. If it says to use a wet lubricant, do so to keep your warranty intact, perhaps switching to dry after the warranty expires.
Don’t forget to lubricate your manual override. If power activation fails, and you can’t find the electrical malfunction, you’ll have to resort to muscle power. Activating with a ratchet and socket, or a supplied crank, takes work, so the smoother the manual system’s operation, the easier the task.
Slider rooms usually operate off power from a 12-volt battery bank. For that reason, check your bank for proper condition. Periodically, and before long trips, check:
Wear goggles, gloves and long sleeves when working on batteries. Slow-charge a battery that’s low and leave it unconnected, then check again after two or three days to see if it holds a charge. If not, have a pro test it and, if necessary, replace it. Replacing all batteries simultaneously is best unless the batteries are fairly new.
These steps should keep your slider working for a long time.
It should. And I don’t even want to hear how old-fashioned cast iron is. It’s been around for more than a century, and it’s proven its usefulness.
Cast iron cookware comes in varying sizes and styles. It is great in an RV because it’s probably more versatile than any other cookware. Versatility translates into saving space, a major consideration. Each piece can perform multiple duties, so you need fewer pieces of cookware overall.
You’re thinking: How can a frying pan be versatile? Well, your cast iron skillet is not just a frying pan. You can fry, and you probably will for many a breakfast: bacon and eggs in one, pancakes in another. But you can also concoct a good-sized batch of really good pasta sauce, stew or homemade soup. Braise meat or fish. Heat up a quick can of soup. Grill ham-and-cheese sandwiches (and they’ll be the best you ever had). This is just on your stovetop.
Being all iron, these skillets can go in a conventional oven, not just on top of the stove. That means you can bake a cake or pie (fruit for dessert or meat for a meal), bake a deep-dish pizza, bake bread, roast meat, slow-cook pork so it’s extra moist, and heat leftovers (with far better taste than if heated by microwave).
Still not convinced? A cast iron skillet also can be used over an outdoor grill or even over a campfire. Did I mention that cooking with iron cookware increases your iron intake? It does. Really.
You’ll have to keep some good potholders or mittens handy, and hot pads for preventing burns to a counter or table. You’ll also need cooking oil to prevent sticking and to season your iron skillet.
Season the skillet? Your skillet will last, if not forever, at least for generations. Seriously. You may want to do this in your home kitchen and then move the skillets to the RV. Here’s how:
Seasoning should last for months — without food sticking. Wash between seasonings with hot water or salt/hot water, and a nylon brush and/or plastic pad, but no soap; dry on top of the stove, using heat as above. Lightly coat the inside after drying with cooking oil. If food begins to stick, do steps 1-8 again.
Is there a downside? Cast iron is heavy. It may not be a good choice for children — but you’ll be there to help.
If you’re driving your RV on the way to Cypress Trail RV Resort and your night view doesn’t seem quite what it used to be, your headlight bulbs may not be the problem. It might be that your headlight lenses have clouded over.
Philips, which manufactures headlight bulbs, says clouding can block as much as 40 percent of your headlight illumination. Don’t be alarmed. Fogging of headlight covers, which are made of plastic, is not unusual. Some headlight covers yellow more than others. The sun’s ultra violet rays are the biggest culprit, and clouding may intensify in sunny places, including Florida.
A headlight assembly includes not only the plastic headlight lens, but also the reflector. It’s the reflector, which has an opening for the headlight bulb, that forms the shape of your headlight beam and determines how far ahead your headlights illuminate the road. The lens just keeps everything dry and dirt-free.
To eliminate cloudy lenses, you can replace each headlight assembly, but that can be expensive. The most expensive replacements would be those on Class A RVs that have custom-made headlight assemblies. Replacements for Class B and Class C RVs with standard truck or van cabs would cost less but still could run into the hundreds of dollars.
A far less expensive solution is to clean the headlight covers yourself. Headlight cleaning kits typically cost less than $25. They usually provide multiple grits of sandpaper, emery paper or abrasives loaded onto pads. You must rub the lens, starting with the coarsest grit and ending with the finest. Some kits may require you to place the sandpaper on an electric drill and use the drill to clean the lens. The kits also probably have a cleaning/sealing solution to use when you’re done.
After about an hour of work, your headlights will be brighter. The treatment is likely to last a year or longer, after which you’ll have to do it again.
Here are two other do-it-yourself solutions:
There is one other way to clean headlight lenses. It’s easy, and the cost falls somewhere between replacement and DIY methods. Just have your mechanic defog your headlights. He’ll probably charge $80 to $100. Because he’ll use a professional-grade sealant, the treatment should last for years.
Would you get behind the wheel of your RV if you were legally drunk?
Not likely. Very dangerous. Extremely irresponsible.
Would you get behind the wheel of your RV if you were sleep deprived?
Maybe, and sometimes when you don’t even know it.
But is tired driving dangerous? Is it irresponsible? Maybe as much as driving drunk, according to studies by the Transport Accident Commission, a government-sponsored agency in Alberta, Canada. Research by TAC finds that fatigue plays a roll in as many as 20 percent of all traffic accidents — even more in rural areas.
Sleep-related fatigue may come even if you’ve had a full night’s sleep. Being awake for a long time before hitting the road — so you can leave after your shift ends, after soccer practice, or after traffic thins out, such as at night — can impair your alertness and reactions. Being awake for 17 hours has the same effect on a driver’s capabilities as having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent, or about three or four drinks, TAC found. And a driver who hasn’t slept for 24 hours suffers impairment similar to those with a blood alcohol content of 0.1 percent —more than enough to make a driver legally drunk.
You may or may not recognize the symptoms of fatigue. You’re likely to have difficulty maintaining speed — risky in heavy traffic. Faster, slower, faster again. That’s not good, and you know it. You may be irritable and less patient. You may find yourself slamming the brakes because you didn’t react in time, or because you over reacted. Maybe you just yawn a lot. You may cramp up or generally feel stiff. Do you remember the last mile maker or passing a familiar landmark? Did you wander partially into another lane?
OK, you figure, “Speed control will maintain my speed.” It will, even after something happens that requires you to hit the brakes. If you’re too fatigued to have noticed, you keep barreling toward disaster, just as if your foot is still on the accelertor. And chances are, if you were too fatigued to recognize that, you won’t pick up on other dangers, either.
To fight fatigue, observe these practices:
But most importantly, get a good night’s sleep before you travel. The human body can’t fight sleep forever. A buildup of chemicals in the brain will eventually win out, causing you to fall asleep. You want that to happen at a rest stop or while someone else is driving — not in the left lane at 65 miles per hour.
If your pet is part of your family and you want to make sure your RV has everything your little friend may need, you may find our top 3 tips useful.
If your RV is not a newer late-model, you may have a ventilation and excess heating problem. In order to properly ventilate the RV, you may have to think about adding a powerful exhaust vent fan to make sure your pet will not suffer too much from the heat.
Also, to make sure the temperature is always safe, you should consider a vent fan with a built in thermostat so that you don’t have to stress out if you forget to turn on the fan manually.
Everyone who lives with a pet knows the importance of having a pet first aid kit. For who of you who isn’t sure about how to create a pet kit we have you covered.
The first thing to do is to purchase a first aid kit for humans and add the following specific items from a pet store:
We also suggest talking with your vet before leaving for every trip so that he can suggest what to bring with you depending on the location.
Unfortunately, our best friends can "smell like a dog" and this may cause a problem if you're all living together in the same motor home for more than few days. One piece of advice is have only a small amount of fabric inside the RV. You can replace the pieces you can with leather or vinyl. This will help a lot since these materials don't allow scents to penetrate and stay in the material. If you really don’t want to change your RV, there are many portable steam cleaners that you can bring with you every time you go out for a trip.