What’s a traveler to do when stuck at home with no place to go? Jon’s been busy tackling maintenance and renovations on the fifth wheel with dreams of hitting the road again. I’ll let Jon take over from here to tell you about his chore.
Since we are not able to travel right now (due to the pandemic) I decided to finally get rid of the carpet in the Cougar. The carpet the manufacturer installed looked like it was ten years old after only a few weeks of use, and it was one thing we always hated about the fifth wheel.
The carpeting worked like a magnet, attracting every crumb, piece of sand, pebbles from our shoes, and even Linda’s hair.
Here’s the area at the foot of the bed, which was so flattened down the vacuum would no longer perk up the carpet strands.
Thirty-seven screws held the dinette in place. Oh, joy.
We wanted to match the existing vinyl flooring as close as possible and this SmartCore Coweta Oak, available at Lowes, was pretty close.
I hoped the manufacturer had installed the original vinyl sheet flooring under the carpet. No luck on that front. The removal of the carpet revealed a bit of a ramp transition I didn’t expect. This was an issue as the vinyl plank required a flat surface.
The room slide also required something to hide the lip that hangs over inside the trailer.
The solution for both transitions was a “Hide-a-cord” strip along the transition to complete the install. I installed the plank long ways here to avoid making too many cuts, which could have caused the floor to lift.
As you can see in the photo below, it appears we gained about 18 inches of floor space by getting rid of the carpeting.
The work involved was more than I had thought it would take, but when it was all done, the time it took was worth it. The only place left with carpet in the trailer is the bed area, which is fine because there is less traffic there.
Now all we have to do is wait for the all clear, so we can venture out on the road again.
We retrieved our trailer from Happy Daze RV on June 6 and on June 8 we were back on the road pointing the GMC Denali toward the South Dakota Black Hills. We had a few stops to make before we arrived at our destination point.
With the fifth wheel and truck sporting washed and shiny exteriors, the weather and road conditions decided to pour rain and kick up muddy water as we drove across the Sierra Nevada’s on Interstate 80. Both the Truckee and the American Rivers filled their riverbanks at levels we have not seen for a number of years and we glimpsed a few waterfalls gushing from the hills. A great sight to see after more than five years of drought.
When we stopped a few miles outside of Truckee, I enjoyed breathing in the fresh clean evergreen fragrance. Besides water gushing in the rivers, we took note of the snow that capped the mountaintops and nestled under the trees like dirty white blankets. A fierce wind buffeted us when we arrived at Sparks Marina RV Park but by 11:00 p.m., it had subsided and a gentle rain pitter-pattered on the roof lulling us to sleep.
This was the view from our kitchen at the back of the fifth wheel.
Apartments will soon block the lovely view. A housing shortage, caused by the influx of workers to Google, Amazon, and Tesla, has spurred construction of apartments and new homes in the Sparks, Reno and surrounding areas.
The next morning we woke to no wind but a few drops of rain. As we headed to the Sparks Marina for a walk around the lake, Jon found a slice of mountain scenery in the city.
Sidestepping the duck and goose droppings, we stopped to watch the squirrels scurry across the sidewalk from their homes in the rock retaining walls to the grassy area next to the lake and the yellow-headed black birds flitting in and out of the shrubs and trees.
After our walk, we relaxed on the patio of Lighthouse Coffee with a cup and a scone while enjoying the view of the lake, mountains, and skyline.
Then it was time to plan our route to South Dakota and book our reservations for the next few days. We rarely make advance reservations, which sometimes doesn’t work out so well for us. Other times it works to our advantage.
The next morning we started out for Iron Horse RV Resort in Elko, Nevada, where we spent two weeks last year waiting on GMC to fix the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) system under warranty (see our posts Elko, Nevada Parts 1 – 3). We had seen enough of Elko to last us for years if not decades, but we couldn’t miss out having an early dinner at the Coffee Mug Family Restaurant, our favorite café in town.
On our way to Elko, we stopped at the Cosgrove Rest Area and encountered a cluster of unidentified insects. I tried to find them on the internet, but couldn’t locate any images that resembled these guys that did not fly. Does anyone have a guess as to what they are?
As soon as we picked up the trailer, after having the “Wet-Bolt kit” installed by Happy Daze RV in Livermore, I thought it felt more stable. However, the drive from Livermore to home is only about 15 miles so it wasn’t conclusive. Now that we loaded it for the road trip and are on our way, the trailer is indeed quite a bit more stable. The amount of chucking (sort of like bucking) has also decreased considerably. Once we got to our first destination, we realized an extra bonus after setting up in a camp space. The trailer now has much less movement when we are walking around inside. So overall, it was well worth the money to ensure our safety on the road. Especially when I saw how much wear had occurred on the O.E.M. bushings and shackles.
Time to move on to our next waypoint, Salt Lake City.
Jon here, taking over blogging duties this week for an episode on RV maintenance and upgrades.
All about Tires
Having researched the RV forums for months, I found that the frequency of separation of the original Trailer King ST225/75R-15 8 Ply tires was so great that they had earned the nickname “China Bombs.” I had planned to replace our trailer tires after our winter 2017 trip. We came up short of home by 500 miles when, as noted in the last post, one of the tires separated and damaged the trailer.
After two weeks, we picked up the trailer from Sky River RV where they repaired the damage and drove immediately to the closest Discount Tire store in Paso Robles to replace the five tires, including the spare. We didn’t want to chance another tire blowing out before we got the rig home.
I found the Carlisle brand received great reviews on the forums. So we went with the Carlisle Radial Trail HD ST225/75R15 10 Ply (instead of the 8 ply) for an increased load rating and peace of mind.
General Cleaning and Maintenance
After putting about 4500 miles on the trailer, it was time for some much-needed cleaning and maintenance. The first thing we do is tag-team the cleaning of the trailer interior. I clean the toilet, sinks, and the refrigerator. Linda vacuums, dusts, and wipes down the cabinetry. Then I come in and scrub the floors with the Swiffer wet jet. Next is the exterior. Linda climbs the ladder to scrub the roof and inspect all the seals. When she finds subpar seals, I fetch the Dicor self-leveling sealing caulk made especially for RV rubber roofs to make the necessary repairs. Once done, I wash the back, sides, and of course the bug encrusted front of the fifth-wheel as well as the awning.
The next thing on the list is to repair anything that had become inoperable. One item had driven me crazy. Whenever we hook up the trailer to the truck, we always operate the lights so that the running lights illuminate. For no apparent reason, the running lights quit. I found that a 15-amp fuse on the truck’s fuse panel had blown. I replaced the fuse and the lights worked…for about a minute. Realizing there must be a short somewhere in the running lights circuit, I left the blown fuse in and didn’t worry about the running lights. Whatever the cause, it did not affect any other lights on the trailer and I could figure it out once we got home.
I got lucky. Another round of research revealed the blown fuse was a common problem on many Cougar fifth wheels. The wire that connects the right front side marker light with the left front side marker light runs under the fiberglass skin and on top of a metal cross brace. Apparently, the wire over time smashes against the metal cross brace when the trailer is hooked to the truck, causing a short when the wire’s insulation wears through. The wire was so smashed I couldn’t pull it out. The fix was to run a new wire through the front storage and abandon the old wire. That fixed it! Ray Burr of www.loveyourrv.com figured this out. Ray has a Cougar 5th Wheel trailer too and he experienced the exact same problem. Thanks Ray!
With the coming camping season nearly upon us, I decided to research solar panels for the trailer with the goal to provide enough juice to charge the batteries when camping without electrical hookups. I found a complete solar panel kit that looked like it would be a good fit for the Cougar.
Last year I had upgraded our single 12-volt deep cycle battery that was good for about 80 amp hours to two 6 volt deep-cycle golf cart batteries. The two 6-volt batteries wired in series gives 12 volts but supplies 230 amp hours.
With the bigger battery bank already installed, I was setup to install the solar panels. I ordered through Amazon the Renogy kit that included two 100-watt monocrystalline solar panels, one charge controller, all the wires for connecting everything together, plus all the mounting hardware.
I was concerned about drilling holes for the mounting brackets in the roof of the trailer but after consulting various forums and videos, I felt confident I could do the work without causing any leaks. I created a short video of my install of the system here: YouTube Video.
I also replaced the sewer plumbing vent while completing the installation. We’ve not had problems with smells but thought I’d give the Camco Cyclone vent a try.
The final chore before our next trip was a suspension upgrade. When I learned the trailer suspensions supplied to the trailer manufacturers do not allow for greasing the shackles on the leaf springs, I was appalled. Even worse, the thicknesses of the shackles are subpar and the bushings used are made of some type of plastic. Bottom line is these items wear out in as little as 10,000 miles and we were near that range. The fix is to install a heavy-duty shackle upgrade kit by MorRyde. For more information, go here: MorRyde Shackle Upgrade Kit.
This job requires lifting the trailer and removing the wheels (one side at a time) so the suspension can be disassembled and reassembled. I just don’t have enough space beside our house to safely attempt this job. So we made an appointment six weeks ago at Happy Daze RV in Livermore, California and the work is being done as I write this.
With new tires, a clean trailer, working running lights, a new solar system, and a safer suspension, it looks like we are ready to pack up and hit the road for our summer 2017 adventure. As soon as Happy Daze calls to say the work is completed, of course.