Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Heavy Metal

RV Boot Camp was very keen on safety issues. Some of the more worrying ones are fire, tires and weight.
Because the rig is a recreational vehicle (RV get it?) they have less stringent standards for construction. Materials in them can be highly flammable. Add to this a big lawsuit over a major brand of RV fridge that had caused numerous fires and several deaths and there is obviously cause for concern. 
If you ever get to an RV rally try and get to see "Mac the Fire Guy's" presentation, he sells a ton of fire extinguishers after people see his demo's. We have 2 top of the line extinguishers that came with the rig that I mounted myself. One in the dining area behind the passenger seat and one in the bedroom. And we know which window in the bedroom is the emergency escape, how it opens and how we can get out of it in an emergency.
RV tires are basically truck tires because the chassis under the RV is a truck chassis, usually a Chevy or a Ford. What is surprising is that very few people ever wear out a set of RV tires, they are toast before the tread ever wears out due to UV and ozone exposure. In other words the tires rot away, and they can rot enough to be dangerous in 5 years. 
Most RV's do very little mileage/ Owners only use them for vacation, they aren't very fast so they don't cover long distances quickly and they DRINK GAS so going anywhere is expensive (About 50 cents a mile just for gas). Old rotted tires explode violently as the tire pressures are from 80psi to 120psi depending on the vehicle. Severe damage can be caused to the structure of the rig by the tire carcass. further damage can be caused when the vehicle goes out of control due to the deflated tire. A set of 6 RV tires can cost $3000.
The last one is weight. Being a truck chassis underneath it's stoutly built (IE heavy) then they add the body, furnishings, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, generator, airconditioning, heating, water heater, propane tank etc, etc. 
Along comes the new owner and adds chairs tables, clothing, food, coolers, water, beer, bicycles, towed car (the TOAD get it?).  
It can and does get out of hand. If you ever get a chance watch the old Lucille Ball, Desi Arnez movie "The Long Trailer". 
Lucy hides her rock collection in the trailer and they try driving up a steep 2 lane road. A big joke in RV circles during talks about weight is where to put the rock collection. 
Each axle on the vehicle has a weight rating and there is a Gross Vehicle Weight too. On the door jam somewhere there's a plate with the max front and rear axle weights, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), the max towing capacity and the total Combined Vehicle Weight Rating. Failure to stay within these limits will overload the tires and risk blowouts, risk damage to wheels and axles, risk poor handling due to imbalance and will overstress the brakes with obvious risks to life and limb. 
Even when within the limits for the axles poor loading of heavy items can overload a single tire.

So where do you go to keep the weight under control? 
A commercial truck scale. 
You can find them online. The one closest to us is at a moving company. They need to weigh their loads and will weigh other vehicles for a fee. 
Our rig is getting very close to being ready for us to go fulltiming. We are camping more and more and for longer periods, constantly evaluating what works and what doesn't. We have clothing etc onboard to last a couple of weeks. Gas tanks are full, propane tank full. 
Last weekend we decided to make it a 4 day weekend and that let us go by the scale on the way home with what I call our "War Load" which on a Navy ship is the maximum weight ready to go. We talked to the scale operator and told them what we wanted to do. 
We came up with the following plan.
Drive the whole rig including the toad on to the scale for a total weight. Drive it forward until the front wheels were off the scale and record that weight, drive forward until only the toad was on the scale and record that. With that and a little math we could come up with the front axle load, the rear axle load and the Combined Weight.
Here's our results
Combined Gross Weight (rig and toad) 20960 lbs
Front Axle Weight                                   6660 lbs
Rear Axle Weight                                   11660 lbs
Toad                                                          2640 lbs

The data plate says
GVWR (only the coach not with a toad) 20500 lbs
Front Axle max                                         7000 lbs
Rear Axle max                                         13500 lbs

The weighing only cost $6.50 and took 20 minutes. 
Looking at the results we are under everywhere, the front axle is close to max so if we add anything heavy it will have to be at the back of the rig. 
We didn't have the water tank full and this holds 100 gallons. Fresh water weighs about 8 lbs per gallon so if we fill the tank that will add 800 lbs to the vehicle. Luckily this tank is behind the rear wheel so all the weight will go on the rear axle and the rear will then be at 12460 lbs which is getting close to max. 
Better leave the rock collection at home.  
One last step will be to get to an Escapees RV Club facility where they have something called "Smart Weigh" in which a weight sensor pad is put under each tire and gives individual wheel weights. If I'm still within limits for each tire (which have their own max weight rating) then I'll be able to relax.

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