Featured

Installing Remote Start, Choke & Stop on your Generator for under $40.

I can think of many times while I was camping that I wished I had a remote start on my camping generator like the more expensive RVs and Generators did, but I had a Predator 3500 Generator, which was an economical choice for my needs but with very good performance. Well this article is going to cover my installation of a low cost remote control option I installed on my Predator 3500 generator, but would be same for similar generators like the PowerHouse 3500 from Northern Tool and others. The remote control allows you to operate the start, choke and shut off functions of the generator from a distance or inside the RV.

Predator 3500 Generator

Being able to remotely start and stop your generator can come in handy in many situations. A few come to mind. While boondocking (Dry camping) we may want to run the microwave or a coffee pot for a few minutes. We could remotely start the generator without having to dress and go outside in any type of inclement weather while we use the appliance and then turn the generator off when finished again without having to go out. Also when we are traveling and overnight while on the road, we can start and stop the generator while it is locked in the back of the truck as we need it once it has been plugged into the camper, again without having to leave our camper. Possibly turn on the generator in the middle of the night from the comfort of your bed to run the A/C if too warm or an electric heater if too cold, or just to charge the batteries.

The remote control system is simple and inexpensive to install. it can easily be installed for under $40, and possibly under $25 if you have some scrap material such as wire and switches laying around your shop, However, in order to install this system on your generator, it needs to already be equipped with electric start.

4 Channel Wireless Remote Control

The remote control system requires very few parts to complete the project. A full list of required parts to complete the installation, a link to our Youtube installation video and a simple wiring diagram will be provided for your educational use at the end of this article.

The operation is simple. The remote system draws very little electric power from the Generator battery, but a power switch for the remote control system is included to disconnect the power to the control board during extended storage periods of non use. The remote control transmitter has 4 channels, but only 3 channels are used on this project. That leaves you with an additional channel for a future generator project, possibly an on and off switch for the generator power receptacle for a remote light or fan. In our project, Channel A is the Start button. Channel B is the Electric Choke button, and Channel C is the Remote Shut off Switch. Typical operation is to turn the Generator selector knob to the On position. Turn the power on to the control board. There is no need to move the knob from that ON position to operate or shut off the generator remotely. You then simultaneously push A and B buttons to start the Generator. You will push Channel C button until the Generator turns off when you desire to turn it off. Range of the remote control is dependent on how you have configured or extended the coiled wire antenna and weather there is a clear line of sight between the remote control and the control board, or if there are structures or trees in between which reduces the effective distance. For our purposes, The generator is not far from our RV, so distance has not been a problem. I have used this same remote control system on other projects and have been able to operate it up to 40 yards away with a clear line of sight.

Below you will find a list of items you will need to complete this project on your Harbor Freight Predator 3500, Powerhorse 3500 or other similar electric start generator.

Materials

4 channel remote control board and 2 remotes

4 channel remote control board and 4 remotes

Single pole single throw toggle switch with rubber cap

Universal 12 volt car actuator

Inline water resistant fuse holder

Assorted electrical terminal kit

Solderless quick splice connectors, splice wires without cutting

Scotch vinyl electrical tape

18 ga multistrand wire

Predator 3500 inverter generator with electric start

Tools used

Terminal crimping tool/cutters

Titanium step drill bits

Bauer lithium cordless drill

Titanium Drill Bits

Basic Wiring Diagram

Basic Generator Remote Start Wiring Diagram
Youtube installation video

Happy “Remote” Camping! Leave us a comment and let us know how it worked out for you!

Featured

RV Trip to Lake Casa Blanca International State Park and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

It was a week before Easter 2019, weather seemed to be pretty nice and we decided it was time to take a little shake down trip to work the bugs out of the RV before we headed out on our extended trip we had planned in a couple of months to the West.
We loaded up the pups (Maggie and Zöe), hitched up the truck and headed west to San Antonio and then south on I-35 to Laredo, Texas.
I had just installed an RDS 40 gallon auxiliary fuel tank in the bed of my truck that I could refill my truck tank with on extended trips. I like the fact that you cannot easily tell it is a fuel box, and the fuel filler is protected with in the locking lid, and also has a locking fuel cap. There is no pump or fill nozzle visible from the exterior.

RDS Auxilary Fuel Tool Box
RDS 40 Gal Auxiliary Fuel/Tool Box

The auxiliary tank supplemented my 26 gallon factory truck tank and extended my tow driving range from 250 miles to 650 miles. That would easily provide me with a full day of driving without having to stop at a busy fuel station and also allow me to choose where to stop for the cheapest diesel prices. I have easily seen diesel prices vary as much as 70 cents a gallon while on a trip. (We use a free phone app called Gasbuddy to find the cheapest fuel in the area or on our route).
Naturally, We cannot go 650 miles without a break, and I chose not to plumb my auxiliary tank directly into my truck for fear of voiding my expensive extended warranty I purchased. So for now, we pull into a roadside rest area or other parking spot and stretch our legs, let the pups do their business, maybe grab lunch or a snack from the RV and fuel up at the same time.

Fueling up at a rest stop

There is never a wait so our stops are short, sweet and efficient. I pump fuel into my truck using a portable fuel transfer kit that I modified specifically for my purpose. It will pump fuel into my truck at a rate of 10 gpm (gallons per minute) so my truck tank will fill in about 2 1/2 minutes. I am very pleased with that rate and actually think it is faster than most fuel station pumps.

On the way there we encountered some thunderstorms, and it was a good test for driving in inclement weather with the 37 foot 5th wheel. We had left a day early with plans to pull over at a rest area and dry camp overnight , so we pulled over in the early afternoon at a rest area South of San Antonio on I-35 in Medina, Texas. It was a single road rest area and we pulled into a designated RV space near the vending machines. The rest area had a good green space, covered picnic areas, Restroom facility and vending machines. There was also a dump station and water.

Overnight stop at Medina Rest Area
Overnight stop at Medina Rest Area

Normally, as a courtesy, you do not open your slides when you overnight park, but in our situation, I like to open the passenger slide about a foot as it provides protection to the extended aluminum entry stairs which may not be visible to a vehicle pulling along side of us. 

Zöe & Maggie
Zöe & Maggie relaxing on their bed in the RV

We also like to open the slide a bit to allow access for the pups to get to their bed in rear of the RV. We prepared a simple dinner in the RV, and went to bed to spend our first overnight in a rest stop. There was Truck and vehicle traffic all night long as to be expected in a rest area, as well as the nearby traffic of the highway, but we still were able to get a decent night sleep with windows open for ventilation.

2013 37' Heartland Sundance 3270RES
2013 37′ Heartland Sundance 3270RES

One of the great features of our 2013 37′ Heartland Sundance 3270RES 5th wheel is the ability to access the kitchen, bathroom and the bedroom without having to open the slides, which makes it very convenient for roadside overnight stops and breaks during travel. The following morning, we were in no hurry to leave early as we had a 2 pm check in time and we were only a few hours away, so we had a good breakfast in the RV and hit the highway before noon.

In Laredo, Texas

The drive to Laredo Texas was pleasant with an overcast sky and mild weather. Traffic was light and the GPS provided clear directions to reach the State Park. Even with our large Rig, there was plenty of space to maneuver. Check in was straight forward the ranger provided good information and instructions with directions to the campsite. While we were there, we purchased the Yearly State Park Pass for $70, which eliminates the $4 per person daily entrance fee, which would have been $24 for the planned 3 day reservation, which we extended another 3 days afterward, which would have been a total of $48 dollars without the purchase of the yearly pass. The campsite was $21 dollars per night with full hookups which included water, sewer and 50 amp service. The campsite was not lakeside, but only a short walk across the street to the lake access. There was plenty of wildlife to be experienced with deer and raccoons noted near our campsite on our visit. Each campsite also has a covered picnic area and BBQ grill. We felt the price of the campsite was an excellent value, especially with downtown Laredo and the International Bridge only a couple of miles away. You can even make arrangements to stay up to 90 days, which is great for Winter Texans.

Nuevo Laredo entry building

The following day, we decided to take a day trip across the International Bridge into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico for some shopping and dinner. We did not want to take our vehicle across and preferred to walk. So we drove our vehicle to a shopping center parking lot, and took an Uber to the International bridge for a few dollars. There is a 50 cent toll to walk across the bridge into Mexico and change is available at the window near the gate. There is no ID required to go into Mexico and remain locally, but you will need a valid Passport and state issued identification to get back into the USA. I have used my credit card when making large purchases for medication at the pharmacies. Be aware if you charge on your card, there will be an additional charge for the exchange from pesos to dollars. This could be a substantial charge that you want to be aware of in advance.  I try to estimate my expenditures and carry a little more cash than I think I will need for all other purchases in shops and restaurants to be on the safe side. There is really no need to worry about changing your dollars into pesos unless you wish to do so, as all of the shops will take dollars.

We decided to walk in several blocks while we did our shopping. We stopped off for some refreshments, and to hear a little live entertainment at our table from a Trio. That is one of my favorite things about being in Mexico, is the abundance of talented local entertainers that come to your table and perform. Tips for the musicians are very reasonable as well.

After an afternoon of shopping and walking, we had worked up an appetite. I was in the mood for cabrito (kid goat) and on recommendation of a local, we went to EL Rancho Restaurant on the main road.

A Plate of Cabrito from El Rancho Restaurant
A Plate of Cabrito from El Rancho Restaurant

It was a well established restaurant having been there any years, with beautiful statues near the front door, and detailed wood work on the spacious interior. There was also a talented Trio playing live on stage. Service was good, dinner and drinks did not disappoint, and the music was entertaining. After dinner we walked the several blocks back to the International bridge. I believe the Bridge toll was only 25 cents to go back across. The line was longer going back to the USA which is typical for pedestrians as well as driving traffic. The line seemed to move rather quickly and we were in line approximately 30 to 40 minutes. We had to show our passports and answer the typical questions of reason for visit, and now long we were there and we were on our way back in downtown Laredo where we called Uber to pick us up and take us to our vehicle awaiting us in the shopping center.

There was some bad weather with high winds and thunderstorms, and we decided to extend our trip for a few more days to avoid it. Lake Casa Blanca International State Park was a nice and peaceful park during our stay during the weekdays, which livens up on the weekends with families with children coming into camp and enjoy the facilities. There is Air traffic noise as the park is located across the road from the Laredo Airport, but it is not too disturbing, and no late night traffic.

We enjoyed our stay at Casa Blanca International State Park, and look forward to our next visit there.

You can click the photo to view a video of our trip to Lake Casa Blanca International State Park as well. There is a great South Texas Breakfast being made at the end of the video too!

Lake Casa Blanca International State Park Video
Lake Casa Blanca International State Park Video

Featured

Short bed 5th Wheel Towing – How I saved over 200 lbs in Payload Capacity and saved over $1000!!

If you have been thinking of getting a 5th wheel tow vehicle, especially a short bed, a 5th wheel hitch, or a new 5th wheel RV (Recreational Vehicle), this important information is for you!

The biggest question that comes to mind when considering any of these purchases is ” Do I need a slide hitch”? If you frequent any of the online RV forums, This question is asked over and over, and I always see the same answers. “If you have a short bed truck you need to have a slide hitch or you will hit the cab when you turn”. I myself was given the same reply with the many others that I researched online. Well, I was already invested in my tow vehicle at this point. I had a 2016 F-250 short bed Crew Cab with a 6.7 liter diesel with the FX4 package, that part of the deal was sealed already. That led me to determine which 5th wheel was right for me and the family, and which hitch to pull it with.

I travel often for work, and would usually be alone to transport, park, hitch and unhitch the RV by myself, so I wanted a system that was middle aged, overweight person friendly, and I also wanted the bed of my truck clear when I was not hauling the RV. So, I started to do my research on RVs.

I was working in Austin, Texas at the time and staying in our 17 year old 28′ bumper pull travel trailer and decided to hit the local RV show to take a look at the different models, floor plans of the 5th wheels and what they had to offer. As soon as I stepped into the building of the RV show, I could see there were hundreds of recreational vehicles of all sizes and styles.

Van Leigh – Beacon
VL Beacon Interior

The first one nearest the door was a Van Leigh – Beacon. A large and beautifully painted 40′ 5th wheel. What a great place to start! (so I thought) That 5th wheel had every bell and whistle on it and was huge, and had a beautiful interior and amenities, but I was not biting at $130k! We saw many other 5th wheels that day, but none of them measured up to the first one, The Van Leigh – Beacon. I did get a good idea of what I liked and required in the floor plans. I was worried as I left though, as I found I had $100k taste! But while I was there, I also looked at the 5th wheel hitches, and just like the RV forums, all of the representatives were directing me to the slider hitches. They were definitely bigger than what I was wanting. Here are the hitches I was looking at, all of them very well known with great reputations.

B&W Companion 20k Sliding hitch. This hitch was very robustly built. It also looks like it would be pretty big in the bed of a truck. This hitch weighed 287 lbs. That was a disappointment for me as it was too heavy for me to handle by myself without a lift. Pricing was in the $1,600 range.

The next hitch was Curt 20k sliding hitch. Also a very well known brand, with the same issue. 278 lbs and in the $1,300 range.

Next was Reese 20k sliding hitch. This hitch appeared a little better suited at 160 lbs and it was in the $1,500 range. We were improving!

Then I saw the Pullrite Booth. They also have a well known Super Glide slider hitch, BUT, I saw another interesting hitch that I had never seen before while there.

It was a newer product, the Pullrite Superlite 20k hitch. It was simple, it was light at 52 lbs, and it could easily be hitched or unhitched, and installed and removed from the truck easily when not in use. The feature that I really liked also, is I did not need the 4 point attach system installed in my truck most hitches use as they had a single point attachment model as well. It could directly attach to my B&W Gooseneck ball. After I saw that hitch, I knew that was going to be the hitch I wanted to use. That ended up being a very informational and productive trip to the RV show.

About a month later while scanning RV classifieds, I accidentally stumbled upon a 5th wheel for sale within an hour of Austin. I was not actually shopping yet, but this one caught my attention in price and condition. It was a 2013 37 foot Heartland Sundance 3270RES. It seemed to have all of the features in a 5th wheel I was looking for, Accessible bedroom, bathroom and kitchen with slide outs closed for traveling. It had a full size residential tub ( which I had never seen in a 5th wheel) with an ample bath area, king size bed and the icing on the cake was that it color matched my truck paint! and the price was right! (no where near the $100k+ taste I had feared! ) I arranged a viewing of the RV for the following weekend, I took a friend of mine that was more experienced in RVs than I was and could possibly spot problems better than I, and other than a few minor things noted needing repair, it turned out to be the one that I purchased. The most important feature that I did not mention is what allowed my truck, hitch, RV system to work so well together. It was the specially designed Front Cap of the RV that was designed to be towed by a short bed truck and allowed up to 88 degree turns without contacting the truck cab. This was an outstanding feature and sealed the decision for me.

Specifically designed for Extended Cab Short Bed Truck Towing

So the most important factor to decide if you will need a slider hitch or not is the shape of the front of the 5th wheel. It the 5th wheel cap is “squared off with corners”,

5th Wheel that will most likely require a slide hitch on a short bed truck due to corners contacting cab.

those are the areas that will contact the short bed truck cab on a turn, and will most likely require a slider hitch, where as if you have the 5th wheel with the rounded front cap, Those are more “tow friendly” to short bed trucks without a slider hitch.

Heartland Sundance with Special designed front cap for short bed extended cab truck towing

Naturally, There are a multitude of combinations and factors for each RV / Tow Rig combination. Each will be different and will need to be evaluated based on their own merits and circumstances.

In closing, I am very satisfied with my Truck/RV and hitch combination. Being new to 5th Wheel RVs, there was a lot of potential to “go with the flow” and just buy the slider hitch, But having always been a rebel, and the desire to go against the flow, worked for me this time, and luck had a fair play in it as well. Good Luck on your endeavor to find that perfect set up for your travels.

My 2016 F250 and 2013 Heartland Sundance 5th Wheel
with a Pullrite Superlite 20k (non slider) hitch.

Be sure to take a peek at our You Tube Video Also!



Featured

Upgrade your Back-splash with Tic Tac Press & Seal Tiles

We installed a Kitchen back-splash upgrade to our RV and it was easy and looks great! We are going to show you how you can do it too! Below is a video we released (sorry for the shaky video work, we are still learning, but we promise to get better!) of our Tic Tac Tile vinyl tile installation to our Kitchen back-splash and a few of the tips and tricks we used to get the job done.

The basic installation of the back-splash is quick and easy! We did ours in a few hours.

Materials (Online links at the bottom of the page)

  • Tic Tac peel and stick tiles (Measure your project to determine the square footage you need) 12”x12” tiles yield about 5.5 sq feet when applied as they overlap/ interlock each other.
  • Cleaner and Degreaser and lint free cleaning towels to wipe down the work area and insure a good adhesion of the tiles.
  • Optional – We used a can of spray adhesive to coat the edges of the tiles as a little insurance against lifting. We had read some reviews on line where the tiles were beginning to lift on the edges. We believe it was due to an oily surface or insufficient preparation, but we used the adhesive just as an additional measure of insurance.

Recommended Tools (Online links at the bottom of this page)

Tape Measure

Carpenters square or a straight edge

Box cutter or razor knife / scissors

Nitrile Gloves

wall paper roller (to press the tiles for good adhesion)

Optional – contour gauge if you have compound or difficult cuts.

Installation

Installation is simple and easy!

  1. Clean and prepare the area that tiles are to be installed on. (A good test is to stick a piece of Scotch tape to the cleaned wall, and remove it to see if there is any lint or residue on the tape)
  2. Measure your project area to confirm how much tile will be needed. (12”x12” tile renders 5.5 sq ft of finished area)
  3. Trim the first tile along the straight edge of the wall to start and give a uniform appearance.
  4. Carefully plan the tile placements before removing the adhesive protective layer for application.
  5. Double check your measurements before you cut your tile. Measure twice, Cut once!
  6. If you have any compound or difficult cuts, you may want to consider the use of the contour tool to ensure nice accurate cuts and a clean job.
  7. After you have applied tiles, be sure to press the tiles with the rollers to ensure good adhesion and the edges as well with your finger tip or a blunt object.
  8. You may need to finish corners or edges with a bead of caulking or trim depending on your project needs.
  9. Step back and enjoy your achievement and new beautiful back-splash!

Tiles and Tools for your Project

The following images of products are affiliate links which Loving RV Life has arranged for your convenience locating the materials you need for the items we have used and approve of. By clicking on the image, it will take you to the item details page. If you purchase through this link, it does not cost you any additional money, but provides a small commission which helps Loving RV life continue to bring you additional content and information, not to mention it helps us keep the RV lights on. We are not sponsored on this material, and paid for the materials and work on our own. Thank you for supporting us at LovingRV.Life.

**The first tile image in the list is the “Como Mare” and is what we chose for our installation in the video and the page photo above.

Tools

Quick travel meal – Mini Nacho Tostadas

I have always believed that a trip was about the journey, and not just the destination. Since I was a young boy,  I have always enjoyed stopping at a scenic roadside rest area, taking a break from the many road miles we have traveled, and yet to travel, and enjoying a nice picnic lunch. Many of my fond memories of are these family shared meals on the side of the busy highway. These Mini Nacho Tostadas are a great travel meal and easy to make with a little advance preparation. Nachos and Tostadas are some of my favorite fun foods and a regular item on our menu. There are many variations to the items, and I show you how I made them this time. You can vary the size to your preference. There are full size Tostadas available in package at the supermarket, of you can fry your own from corn tortillas. There are Mini Tostadas, which I use the small “Street Taco” size corn Tortillas to make the mini Tostadas as we did on this occassion, and then you can make “Nacho” size tostadas using Nacho chips, round or triangular. The basic ingredient in all of my Nachos and Tostadas will be refried beans, cheese, and jalapenos. Naturally, these ingredients can be varied according to your taste and only limited by your imagination! I will sometimes use homemade refried beans as well as canned refried beans and my other ingredients will be based on what I have in the refrigerator at the time. Cheddar cheese, mozarrella cheese, queso fresco, ground meat, avocado, guacamole, shredded chicken, left over steak, sausage, and the list goes on and on! I believe you get the picture!

This is what I used to make Mini Nacho Tostadas this time. 

Ingredients:

Street taco size corn tortillas

3 table spoons of cooking oil (add if needed to maintain oil level while cooking)

Refried beans

Stewed shredded chicken

Diced tomatoes

Sliced onion

Shredded mild cheddar cheese

Salsa Herdez (or your favorite salsa)

Sour cream

Be sure the ingredients are drained and relatively dry so as not to make the crispy tortilla soft and soggy when applied. I did not put any amounts needed on the ingredients as they are going to be to your taste. Some people may like alot of onion, and others may eliminate it. Estimate for the number of Tostadas you plan to make. I also advise you store the ingredients separately in plastic bags or containers and you build them as you eat them, so they are fresh and crispy. 

Tostada/tortilla preparation. Heat cooking oil to medium heat (not hot enough that the oil smokes, only sizzles when the tortillas are placed in them. (Approximately 325 degrees) in a heavy pan ( I use cast iron) and fry corn tortillas until crispy, turning to insure both sides are toasted. Place on a draining screen or paper towel to absorb excess oil. (optional) sprinkle a little salt on the tostada.

Refried Beans: It is OK to use the beans heated straight out of the can. I prefer to add a few ingredients to mine. I will add a little pickled jalapeno juice, a little corn stock or water so they are easy to spread, and a dab of bacon grease. This gives them a flavor similar to a jalapeno bean dip. The beans can be applied to the tostadas cool or at room temperature when ready to eat.

Toppings: First I apply a nice even layer of refried beans to the fried corn tortilla (tostada), then I will start to layer the toppings on that starting with my meat (if any), then cheese, lettuce, onions, diced tomatoes, sour cream and the salsa last on top. I try not to make the toppings too heavy for the tostada to support. 

I understand, these seem a little complicated for “road food”, but really no more complicated than putting a sandwich together.  If you had them for dinner the previous evening, or even premade the toppings before hitting the road, they can be prepared cold and still very good and fun to eat while at a rest stop or taking a break, and it sure beats the heck out of fast food! Enjoy!