RV Site Setup
When you pull into the RV Park, you will either be assigned
a spot or you may choose your own. Each park has its own rules for this. I like to pick my own site. It is strange to me to hear people complain that they had to
work to find a site when the gate ranger could have picked one out for
them. This seems the penultimate in lazy to me. Of course, I
dislike any person or rule that makes decisions for me that I could have made.
If you do not like a site chosen for you, find one you do
like and return to the gate with your choice. It makes no sense to live in a place that is yours only
because someone else could care less.
It takes about 30 minutes to set up the park connections and
stuff. It takes about an hour to
set up for a long stay. This presumes you have a partner
- Appealing location, clean
- Level. National Parks sites are notoriously off level.
- Sun Direction: You may need to worry about warmth – too much or too little.
- Sun Direction: Solar panels may need a fixed RV direction.
- Wind Direction. Your awning is best on the leeward side.
- No overhanging tree limbs. Watch your roof and prepare for TV Dish setup.
- Nearby trees. Leave space for your slides and awning. Watch the rear of the site especially.
- No serious ruts
- Good picnic table
- Good hookups. Location and cleanliness. Use Line Monitor to check connection voltage.
- Mud puddle by the door.
- Noisy neighbors dogs and children may be a problem for you.
- Site must be long enough for your rig and your tow car.
This is a set of rules for the RV. 5th wheels have similar considerations but not
exactly the same.
The RV will have its park connections toward the rear on the
driver side of the RV. You want
these to be close but not too close to each other. 10 feet is just fine. Further than 20 feet is a problem. Fifth wheels often need an extended sewer hose to get to the park
Pull through sites are nice for people who either cannot
back up or do not want to. There are often not many of these sites.
If you have a toad, disconnect
it near your new site before you start to park. If you have a pull-through, you may not need to disconnect
the toad until you are parked.
Some parks require an attendant to assist you in parking
your rig. These guys usually know
exactly how to park you. You
should follow their instructions.
I suggest you get a pair of walk-a-round radios so that your
partner can guide you into difficult places. I have a rear camera and have still run into things I never
saw. Also agree on a set of hand signals before you start.
To park yourself:
- Turn on your rear monitor so that it is on when you are
not in reverse.
- Pull past the site on your left side.
- Set the electric door step
switch to manual (red light off).
- Go outside and scout the site for obstructions not
easily seen in your mirrors.
Visualize where you want to be in the site before returning
to the inside. Discuss this with your partner.
- Have your partner go outside behind the coach on the
driver’s side. A set of 2-way
radios is great here. If not,
hopefully your rear monitor has a microphone/speaker. The microphone is one-way to the driver.
- Make sure you and your partner agree on hand signals.
- Hand up, palm front always means stop.
- Hand pointing in circular direction means which way to turn the wheel.
- You can come up with your own signals but make sure you
agree or your marriage is trash.
- I have seen many frustrated couples that had little
patience left after the parking routine.
- Make sure you agree on what is right and what is left before you start.
- Always back slowly.
- I have seen an RV tow a trailer with a living room for
the sole purpose for the husband to cool off from parking exercises.
- Aim your mirrors low so you can see picnic tables and
other dangerous things.
- Start turning the wheel to the left and back into the
site. You may have to try this
multiple times. The proper start is critical: it is almost impossible to
recover from a bad start into the site.
- Line up and straighten out as you pull into the
site. There may be a pad – careful
on close but not over and front to back.
- Some places have actual laws on the forward placement
of the rig. Otherwise in general,
further back is good. The
connections are best when next to your cable storage.
- If you have slides, make sure you are far enough to the
right for them to extend. Make sure that the connection boxes are not in the way of your slides.
- Give yourself maximum room on the passenger side so
that you can use the table and extend your awning.
- When you are where you want to be, turn off the
ignition and apologize to your partner.
- Set the brake.
This presumes you have electric levelers.
Put your levelers down. You will learn the process for this. Here is a first pass:
- Leave your engine running! The levelers draw so much current that they have their own
cable from your battery. This is a
direct battery drain if you kill your engine before leveling.
- Check your bubbles. If they are close and the site is flat, skip the next step.
- Go outside and examine where your levelers will
sit. Make sure the site is clean with no rocks or holes.
- If necessary, place your leveling blocks. They either go on the low end or in the
holes as necessary.
- Turn on your levelers.
- Extend the front levelers until they touch the ground.
- Extend your rear levelers until they touch the ground.
- Extend whichever levelers you need to get the RV
level. If you have slides, let the
slide side be a little high if you are on soft soil.
- You may have to repeat this process multiple times
until you get the hang of it.
- Turn off the levelers. Unless you have slides, turn the engine off now.
The refrigerator is gas powered unless you have park power. You know how a gas fridge works: it has
a long tube that must be absolutely vertical for the fridge to work well. The
heat must rise to the top without direct heat on the sides. Most RV fridges have a disconnect if not
absolutely level. Most new fridges
are very tolerant.
I bought the orange 8x8 stackable leveling blocks (10 in a
package for $30). You should at least have some wooden blocks for your
levelers. If you park on asphalt
you need them to protect the asphalt from your onboard levelers. Sites are never level enough for
onboard levelers to be happy. If
you park in mud you need the blocks. I would suggest a half dozen 2x12x12 and as many 4x4x16.
My levelers have a hydraulic piston with a big, round disc on the bottom. These are called ‘Big
Make sure the foot sits on level ground: no rut, no
rock, no serious angle.
It is possible to break the disc off the leveler if the vehicle weight sits
off-center – you need a new leveler if you do.
Make sure that the tire does not leave the ground.
The leveler piston is strong vertically but is NOT strong laterally. If the piston is extended (it is if the
tire is off the ground), the RV is ‘balancing’ on the leveler. Any sideways force will bend or warp
- If you force the pistons to fully extend, you will
force fluid around the seal. Seals do not like this.
- See the Care section.
Extend your slides as soon as you are level – with the
engine running. If a slide
overhangs your connection compartment, you may want to hook up before extending
I like to extend my slides while still on battery power as
the extra voltage from park power can extend the slide with excessive pressure
into the outside wall. Having the
engine running at this point is also good as the slide motor drains the battery
almost as much as the levelers.
Make sure your slide seals sit properly. The long ones along the top like to
fall down and get squashed by the slide.
Make sure you are still level. The slide side is best slightly lower than the door
side. There are many reasons for
water to collect on the top of the slide.
If the slide slopes toward the chassis, when you retract the slide, this
water comes inside. You do not
want this mess. A slight front to
rear slope will also reduce this problem but not as well.
See the awning extension section for extending the awning.
Attach the outside window screens, windshield wiper covers,
and the tire covers. Some people
put tennis balls under their wiper arms to remove the pressure from the wiper
Parks are sticky on connection practices and each has its own set of rules. Make sure you
understand them and follow them.
The standard park connector is a 30-amp connector. The standard RV
has a 30-amp plug. This is a good match.
If the park has a 20-amp connector, run for the hills. You
can use your 30->20 amp adaptor but do not run your AC or you will blow
If the park has a 50-amp connector, use your 30->50 amp adaptor. It is unlikely that you have this adaptor. It is unlikely that you will run into
this connection without also finding a standard 30-amp connector.
It is possible that you need to extend your RV power cord. If so,
use your 20-foot extension. No longer. If you really need longer,
never run your AC.
- Inside the RV pull the plug on the TV Dish
Receiver. Since the receiver sends electric current through the cable,
leaving the box connected causes a short when the cable end touches the ground.
You can burn out receivers doing this.
- Turn off your generator.
Set the transfer switch to use the power cord. In my RV this means pulling the plug
out of its wall socket.
Check the park electric box to make sure the outlet
matches your plug. See the electric section for plug and adaptor compatibility.
- Turn on the power box circuit breaker.
- Plug in your line monitor to test for good electricity.
If you do not like the results, leave the site. If multiple sites have the same
problem, leave the park.
- Turn off the power box circuit breaker.
- Plug in your Autoformer if the voltage is low or marginal.
- Plug your power cord into the autoformer or power box as appropriate.
- Turn on the power box circuit breaker.
- Go inside and make sure that nothing dangerous is happening.
- Plug in the line monitor and make sure that the electricity is good.
- Turn off your battery connections. On the Fleetwoods, these are two
switches probably above the doorway.
By removing power to your batteries while on park power, your eliminate
the problem of overcharging them.
You also end up with your doorstep permanently down while in the
park. I have seen many people
continue to water their batteries as they are overcharged while they stay in
the park for an extended period. I
have also seen fried batteries for the same reason.
See Water for this process and equipment.
See the Waste Management section for this process and equipment.
- Connect the dish to the cable and the cable to the DSS receiver.
- Plug in the DSS receiver.
- Turn on the TV and the DSS receiver.
- I have my favorite DSS Dish Setup.
- Follow the DSS directions to properly aim the dish. Diatribe
Final Outside Setup
- Wash your hands when finished. I keep soap and paper towels outside for this.
- Turn on your propane -- if you travel with it off.
- Setup rugs and mats
- Setup chairs and tables.
- Setup awning room.
- Wave at your neighbors.
- Drink lots of water.
Bugs -- Outside
Be careful of bugs. If they get inside your motor home, you have a problem. When you setup look for ants, bees,
flies, etc. A little prevention goes a long way here:
Ring your wheels and levelers on the ground with chalk or cleanser. or
Carry a bottle of outdoor ant killer spray (hose attachment
– Wal-Mart) and spray under the RV before you finish your setup.
I maintain an Asian household: no shoes worn in the house. I leave my sandals on the
rug outside the door. I leave my shoes on the floor inside next to the door. Scorpions and spiders and other living things love to sit
inside your shoes and bite you. Leaving shoes outside on the rug keeps them out of the house but you must be better
than me if you always check the contents of your shoes before putting them
on. If these things are native to where you are, be careful.
Buy one of those yellow insect collector bags and hang it
nearby on a tree limb. They smell
to attract the bees and flies so you do not want it too close. The new ones do
not smell so much.
Same as for bees. or
Buy a package of the old-fashioned flypaper strips and hang
one nearby. Not on the awning
support as when they get in your hair you have a mess.
- If you have inside window sun shields, install them as
- If you have curtains, open or close them as
necessary. In an RV this generally means to close the front window curtains.
- Open the door and check your step if it is
automatic. Set it if manual. Mine has a switch I set it to always go
up when I am traveling. I set it
to remain down when I park. Remember that these automatic steps may go up and stay up if the switch
is in the permanent position (light off) and the ignition is turned on and
off. I landed on my head one night
when I forgot that the step was up. I have not figured out when the step light goes on.
- Some RVs have switches to disconnect the
batteries. Turn off these switches to save your batteries from
overcharge or drain. This is critical.
- Rearrange your furniture and throw rugs to fit your traffic pattern.
- If you use your TV antenna, follow the TV setup procedure below.
Bugs – Inside
Do not let bugs get inside. But if you have them, you have some choices. I really do not like chemicals inside
and so I have a can of Black Flag that is way beyond its expiration date.
My screen door has a double latch. It latches to the main door and opens and closes with
it. When the main door is open,
the screen door is free. Now it
latches to the door frame. I have
done two things here. First, I
have attached a Camping World torsion spring to encourage the screen to close
by itself. I have also replaced
the screen door catch with magnetic door latches. This permits me to open the door without the mechanical
latch. The advantage: I can keep
the sliding latch window closed whenever I am setup. This is a primary entry for flies and bees. When I have the standard latch, I must
open this window to reach the latch every time I go in or out. With the magnetic latch, once the main
door is open, I just push or pull the screen door and never open the latch
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Spread Bay leaves around where you see the ants
enter. Ants hate Bay leaves.
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Spray outside where you think they are entering.
- One of the flypaper strips mentioned above.
- Fly swatter.
- There are clear panels sold at Wal-Mart that stick to a
window. These are best for gnats
as big flies get off before properly stuck.
- Take a white trash bag and:
- Cut 1” strips from the bottom to just below the red
- Cut the strips at the top on one side of the bag. You now have a lot of wiggly strips
twice the bag length hanging from one side of the red band area.
- Take some clear packing tape and attach the red band to
your screen door such that the bottom of the strips is a little higher than the
bottom of the door. You may want
to cut the strips off if they are too long. I hang the bag just above the latch window.
- Make sure the strips are about an inch wide and not narrower.
You want them to wiggle
in the breeze and not fly around and get stuck in the door.
- This not only scares the bugs away but offers you some privacy from passers by.
You are on your own here. Why did you let a bee get in your house? Maybe I would use the Black Flag here
if I could not encourage the bee to fly out the window.
Electric Door Step
Interestingly enough I have found many RVers who do not know
how and when their electric step operates.
Next to the door is a switch. The switch has a manual and an automatic position. The manual is still automatic but
operates differently than the manual position. Here are the rules:
- When the chassis battery switch is off, the step does
not move up or down. Also the
engine will not start. Otherwise:
- When the key is in the ignition, the step goes up or
down as the door is closed or opened. Otherwise:
- When the step is in the automatic mode, the step goes
up or down as the door is closed or opened. Otherwise:
- When the ignition is turned off and the door is opened,
the step goes down and stays down until the key is put in the ignition and the
door is closed.
- When the ignition is off, the door is closed, and the
switch is moved to the manual position or the chassis battery switch is turned
off, the step remains up.
I find many people play with the switch thinking that they
are doing something useful. Don’t
do that. Leave it alone.
There are some considerations here:
- When traveling, I turn the switch to automatic. This leaves the step up while I am
- When I am in an RV park, I turn the switch to manual –
after the step is down. Now it
stays down until I am ready to drive away.
- When I park on the street next to the curb, I turn the
switch to manual before opening the door. This keeps the step up. Otherwise when I open the door, the step will descend onto the curb and
either stop against it or force itself onto the top making life difficult when
I want to leave. If it gets stuck
on top, close the door, turn it to automatic and jump on the floor on the
driver side of the coach. Worst
case: close the door and lower your levelers until the step releases.
There is a lamp that goes on sometimes. I have not figured out when. I have rewired it so that it goes on
whenever the door is open and off when closed. I have wired this directly to the battery so that the
battery bypass switches are ignored. This means that I have a valuable light whenever I am entering or
exiting regardless of how the vehicle is powered! Wiring it any other way makes no sense and I have landed on
my head when I went out in the dark and the steps were up.
Once while in an RV park, I turned things on and off while
cleaning. I then opened the door
to shake off the rugs. I had not
realized that I had left the step up and fell on my head. I suffered minor scrapes and bruises
and a neck problem that needed therapy a year later when it did not recover
itself. Now I look down when I go
out and have any reason at all to doubt the step is down.
A caveat: maybe your step does not work this way. That is possible even though I think it
is unlikely. To be sure, follow
the above steps and see what happens. If it works this way, stop playing with the switch. If it works another way,
email me. If you just think it works another way,
I do not want to hear about it.
There is not anything terrible here, I just felt like writing it down:
- If you have an input selector switch, set it to external antenna.
- Raise the antenna
- Turn on the amplifier (little switch activating little red LED by the antenna cable)
- Turn on the TV
- Find a channel, any working channel
- Rotate antenna to best TV signal
- Run TV setup to locate channels
- The PBS channel transmits the time of day.
Your TV Time of day AUTO feature will search for this on request.
- Set the VCR to the correct time of day and channels.
I have driven off with the antenna up too many times.
You do not want to do this. Camping World sells a little orange
square with a spring clip. I keep
this on the passenger curtain when the antenna is down. I place it on the driver chair when the
antenna is up.
This is basically the opposite of setup. It also takes about an hour.
As a matter of life-style, I refuse to get ready to go
before the day I leave a park. This means that the day I drive away is exhausting. It takes me about 8 hours to
leave. I get up at 4 am and target
noon to drive away. The 8 hours
includes breakfast, shower, watching TV for the weather, and cleaning the
RV. I do not have a partner so by
the time I drive away, I am exhausted.
- Clean up the sink
- Clear the table and counters
- Make sure nothing can fall on the floor.
- Vacuum the house.
- Rearrange the throw rugs
- Turn your battery switches on if you turned them off.
- Check your engine oil level.
- Check your windshield washer fluid
- Check your coolant level
- Check your tire pressure: pump up if necessary.
- Start the engine; let it run a minute, turn it off, remove the ignition key.
- Check your outside step.
Tear down -- put things away securely.
- Make sure your TV antenna is down.
- Make sure your levelers are up.
- Walk around looking for anything connecting you to the site or things not in place.
- Check your maps and agree with your partner your upcoming route.
- Fix a light lunch or snack to eat as you leave.
- Drive forward and check again
- Drive away
- Wave at your neighbors as you drive away.
- Stop for propane if necessary.
- Stop for gas.
Suggestions? Questions? Comments? Push Home/eMail above.
Updated: June 18, 2004
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