2016 Spring Break camping spectacular

Our goal for 2016 is to make it a year we all remember and our first big adventure was Spring Break.  We knew we wanted to do a road trip, but our aversion to planning had us figuring out locations up until the week we were leaving.  Charleston was on our list of stops from the start, but everything else was pretty open.  We decided on Richmond and Charlottesville at the last-minute and lucked out with some great campgrounds and day trips.  This trip turned into 8 days, took us through 6 states, and over 1900 miles of roadway.

Being our first trip of the year in the trailer I expected a few repairs and I was in luck!  Here are the bits and pieces that needed attention during the trip:

Break 1: Snapped a chain on one of the weight distribution bars.  There was a worn link that gave way after a few tight parking lot turns.  I made a parking lot repair and replaced the chain on both bars the next morning.
Break 2: Cabinet door latch broke.  Picked up a new one at home depot.
Break 3: Trailer door latch broke.  I had a replacement in the toolbox already and replaced it.
Break 4: Car alarm left us stranded in the campground after I disconnected the truck battery.  With a Good Sam Roadside service call the tow truck driver was able to disable the alarm.  I don’t think I need an alarm in a 17 year old truck and will be removing it ASAP!

With the repairs out of the way, we had a great trip.  The kids toughed out a few long days in the truck and we visited some awesome places.  Here’s a quick rundown of what we did along the way:

Day 1: Home to Richmond, VA.  We checked into Pocahontas State Park, got settled, and hit Target & Home Depot for some things.
Day 2: Headed down to explore the Richmond waterfront.
Day 3: Rain in the forecast, so we left for Charleston a day early.  We drove all day and arrived at James Island park just before sunset.
Day 4: Headed to downtown Charleston for a carriage tour and walked the city.  Also had some great pizza.
Day 5: Trip to the Mount Pleasant Pier and Folly beach.  Dinner at The Charleston Crab House.
Day 6: Another long day of driving from Charleston to Charlottesville KOA.
Day 7: Woke up early to hit Monticello, but had some car problems (see above).  We ate lunch and spent a few hours at Monticello before going for ice cream in downtown Charlottesville. Sadly, most shops were closing up when we got there at 7pm, leaving only restaurants and bars open. Would have been nice to have a baby sitter that night.
Day 8: Left the Charlottesville KOA early and made a stop at the Grand Cavern before driving home.  Spent all day driving with the exception of a few hours at the caverns.

And checkout out the highlights of our trip below:

Up next on our list is Washington DC!

How we repaired the threads in our RV water heater

This year when de-winterizing the trailer I decided to also cleanup the threads for the anode rod in our RV water heater.  When we purchased the trailer used, the threads were mucked up pretty bad and it makes winterizing and de-winterizing a pain in the butt.  I only need to deal with it a few times each year, but it’s a problem a don’t necessarily need to deal with.

We have a Suburban water heater, so we have an anode rod.  The treads on the rod are standard 3/4″ NPT.  I would highly recommend using a thread chased to cleanup the threads, but I already had a tap on hand and used that.  If you use a tap be VERY careful since it will cut new threads.

Below are the tools and supplied we used to complete the job:

• 1 1/16″ socket with ratchet
• 3/4″ NPT thread chaser
• Tap handle
• Cutting oil – I used cooking oil since I didn’t want anything toxic in my water.  I’m sure there’s a better option, but I’m only chasing a few threads.
• Something to flush hot water tank
• Teflon tape for threads
• New anode rod

Checkout this video to see how we did it:

How To Install Electric Trailer Brakes

While getting ready for our first major trip of 2016 we decided it was time for new trailer brakes.  Last year when getting the trailer inspected we noticed that the linings were starting to crack, but no chunks have started coming off.  This year the cracks seem to have gotten worse, so I’m glad we finally replaced the brakes.

It took me about 30-45 minutes per wheel to replace the brakes which wasn’t too bad considering I was fooling around with the camera the entire time.  I also used our Andersen Rapid Jack (Amazon associate link) to lift each wheel one at a time instead of jacking and blocking each side which worked out well.

Here’s a list of tools and parts we used to complete this project:

  • Replacement brakes (Amazon associate link to the brakes we used)
  • Wheel bearing grease
  • Jacks, stands, chocks, etc.
  • Lug wrench
  • Torque wrench
  • Socket set
  • Wire cutters & strippers
  • Rags
  • Brake cleaner
  • Brake spoon
  • New cotter pins
  • Wire nuts or crimp connectors

The install was pretty straight forward.  Checkout the below video to see how we did it.


Now that we’ve scratched brakes off our maintenance list, the next major purchases for the trailer is new tires.


Trip preparation with a new 4L80E transmission filter

While preparing the trailer for its first trip of 2016 we’re also doing some maintenance on our tow vehicle.  Like our trailer, our Suburban is older and in need of love more than those new shiny trucks.  With that in mind, we decided on a little pampering before towing 1300 miles and we started with a new transmission filter and sparkling red transmission fluid.

Our 1999 Suburban K2500 has a GM 4L80-E transmission which is a 4 speed automatic used commonly in GM trucks, commercial vans and the Hummer.  This transmission can easily be identified by the 17 bolts on the pan.

To get started, you need to drain the fluid from the transmission.  I got lucky again and my pan has a drain plug, but if yours doesn’t you’ll need to strategically loosen bolts to allow it to drain from the front.  Once the pan is off the filter pulls straight out and the new one pushes right in.

Below is a list of parts and tools I used for this job:

  • Transmission filter kit (includes filter, gasket and o-ring)
  • ATF – our Suburban uses Dexron III
  • Funnel
  • 3/8″ ratchet with various extensions
  • 10mm socket
  • Rags

Checkout our video below to see how we installed the new transmission filter.


Up next for the Suburban before our next journey is an oil change and brakes.  This will get everything moving and stopping nicely.

How to replace your RV city water inlet

Over the past year we’ve been picking away at the worn and weathered parts on the outside of our travel trailer and it’s finally time to replace our city water inlet! It’s still usable, but it’s ugly, doesn’t spin well anymore, and the cap is long gone (I’ve been using a brass cap to keep muck out of there). While at Camping World a few weeks ago we picked up a replacement and wanted to get it installed before our Spring Break extravaganza.

It was nice to finally get an easy project, but like everything I do there was at least one hiccup. After I pulled the old inlet off I realized I picked up an inlet with a 1/2″ MIP female and needed male, so a trip to Home Depot was needed. It was starting to get late, so I ended up getting in and out of Home Depot with just one $5 part instead of my customary $100 haul, so that was nice.

The install was exactly what I expected and was fairly quick. I just zipped the 4 screws out, pried the old inlet off (with my favorite pocket knife), cleaned up the old sealant, and installed the new inlet. Below are the items I used for the install.

  • New City Water Inlet
  • 1/2″ MIP adapter (not needed if to buy the correct inlet)
  • Mineral Spirits & a rag
  • Butyl tape
  • 3 new hex screws
  • Benchmade Griptillian folding knife (I would recommend an actual putty knife, but I was feeling lazy)
  • Electric drill with 1/4″ nut driver
  • Channel lock pliers

Checkout our 55 second install video to see how it was done: