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October Monthly Articles

Quiet and Deadly! - The Hazards of Carbon Monoxide
October, 1 2007

RV Safety
By Randy DeVaul, M.A., RSHEP

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels ' gas, kerosene, oil, coal, and wood. It is a colorless, odorless and tasteless. It weighs about the same as air, so the gas can saturate and mix with air easily while displacing the oxygen in the air.

Carbon Monoxide cannot be seen and, without a CO detector, is not easily detected. In some respects, CO mirrors oxygen. For example, oxygen attaches to hemoglobin inside the red blood cells so it can be transported throughout the body and 'feed' all of the body's living cells. When CO is introduced into the body, it attaches to the hemoglobin 40 times faster than the slower oxygen, causing the oxygen to be pushed out and displaced from the red blood cells.

Once the carbon monoxide is attached, it (not the oxygen) is transported to all the cells in the body and causes the cells to starve. In addition to this, the molecule is released from the cells much more slowly than oxygen.

So, an over-exposed person can receive 100% oxygen in a rescue situation and still die from being oxygen-deprived! The CO molecule simply will not let go.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States, killing nearly 200 people every year and more than 10,000 people annually being hospitalized from exposure.

Sources of CO in an RV can be from an improperly operating furnace, water heater, oven, generator, or any other fossil-fuel burning device.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, followed by death.

Protection from this hazard is through properly placed and working carbon monoxide detectors. New RVs have these already installed but there are a couple major issues to understand.

1. CO detectors have a 'shelf life' and need replacing every five years.

2. CO detectors for RVs are NOT the same as those for your home so are generally more costly to replace.

3. CO detectors are NOT smoke detectors nor are substitutes for smoke detectors as they detect different hazards and both are required.

If you need to replace a detector in your RV, be sure to check on the type of detector that is currently installed. A 'hard-wired' detector connects to the RV wiring. A battery-operated detector uses batteries. The two are not interchangeable.

Where is a good place to locate the CO detector? Based on its properties, CO gas may rise slightly in heated air but since it is not significantly lighter than air, the detector should be placed about five feet above floor level and directly away from fuel-burning equipment as normal use of this equipment may affect the detector if it is positioned too closely to it.

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Whether high concentrations at short intervals or small concentrations with prolonged or repeated exposure, CO will compromise and adversely affect your health. Knowing the hazards can help, but only preventing the exposure will protect a person from harm.

Disaster Number Two: The RV Repair Process
October, 1 2007

RV Having Fun?
By Jayne Freeman

A couple of months ago I wrote about three accidents we had with our motorhome that caused external damage. Both our windshields needed replacement, our steps were twisted like pretzels, a locker door was bashed in, and the rear engine compartment covers were damaged. As I write this, our motorhome has been in the shop at Top O Hill RV in Aurora, Oregon, for a month, and only one item, the bashed locker door, has been replaced.

Let me try to explain. It's a cautionary tale; we have learned a lot about repairing RVs, and something about selecting a repair facility.

Our first step was to contact our insurance companies. Two were involved, as some damage occurred in Mexico and more in the U.S. Each sent an adjuster out to the RV park where we were staying, to view the damage and write up an estimate of the cost of repairs. Each company then sent us checks in the amount of the estimated repairs minus our deductibles.

A note with each check said that if further repairs not listed in the estimate were needed, the repair shop could contact the insurance adjusters.

Meanwhile, we had brought the coach on July 17 to Top O Hill RV for an estimate. We hadn't just selected Top O Hill out of the yellow pages. One of the appraisers recommended them. Also, my husband Dan was familiar with the company because he had watched their facility grow over many years of passing by their site. Our daughter Susan had repairs done there and was pleased with the work. Top O Hill is a busy facility with 17 repair bays, and they agreed to repair our coach.

If you are a fulltimer, leaving your coach somewhere for extensive repairs is something of a nightmare. Unless the repair company is going to keep your RV plugged in, you must empty your refrigerator. We were fortunate enough to have family members in the area with spare refrigerators, so we did not have to simply throw everything away. We also removed our valuable items, medication, and a couple of weeks' worth of clothing. Naively we assumed the repairs would probably take a couple of weeks and that parts had been ordered and would be quickly received, since Top O Hill knew we were coming. Not so!

Dan brought the RV to Top O Hill on Monday August 13. Friday of that week he drove back to check on what progress had been made, and discovered that nothing had been done. No parts had even been ordered. When he asked why, Linda Piland, parts manager would only say that she could tell him nothing until after Monday August 20 at 8:00 a.m. Later we learned that Top O Hill had a scheduled meeting with our American insurance appraiser at that date and time. As far as we can tell from the cryptic information we were given, that meeting was to obtain approval for additional needed repairs not covered in the original estimate, and also, according to owner Bill Workman, to obtain a payment commitment for the whole job, something the appraiser was not even in a position to give as two companies were involved. 'As soon as someone commits to pay for parts and/or labor, we begin ordering both,' he wrote in a letter to us dated August 21. 'In this case, the begin date was August 20, 2007.' We thought, and still think, that our bringing the coach in on August 13 constituted that commitment, although no one asked Dan to sign a work order or other written commitment to pay for repairs. Linda, the parts manager, began emailing us a weekly 'parts update,' a nice gesture to improve communication, as we were clearly upset about the delay in ordering parts.

The update listed what parts had been ordered, but as time passed it began also to document Linda's frustration with Monaco, our manufacturer, from whose Indiana facility she was ordering the parts. She reported that Monaco was hard to reach on the phone, and often did not return calls. By September 5, her parts update had not indicated that any parts had arrived or that work had started. Her update included the comment, 'I wish I could give you details on arrival dates, but it is not an easy task with Monaco. They take my order and my money and either ship or back order without notice.'

In his August 21 letter, Bill Workman had given us an estimated repair date. 'We will be alternating between 4 and 5 other jobs in the same situation,' he said. 'The best estimate for completion'is September 26. It will be two weeks for the major parts to arrive.' Actually, it has been much longer than that. We realized that we would need a place to stay for more than a month. We had moved in for what we expected to be a short stay with our son and daughter-in-law, Rob and Jen, who have a spare bedroom, but we hated to make that a long commitment. Who wants their parents to come and stay indefinitely?

I asked Bill if we could stay in the motorhome while it was being repaired. He discouraged that idea, saying, 'If you would like to come and pick up your motorhome until all parts arrive, which is approximately 11 shipments, please feel free to do so. As the parts come in there is a 70% chance they will fit. This is just the typical body-work average. If the unit is not here to compare parts with, it will slow down the completion date.' As for staying in the coach on site, he told us that when they were working on our motorhome, all power must be disconnected for safety. We would not be able to use our appliances. He added that staying in our motorhome would change the anticipated completion date to October 3. We opted not to try it. I was extremely skeptical about his 70% comment, but as it turned out, he was right. To give our kids a break, we rented a trailer for a week at Thousand Trails in Pacific City, Oregon. After another two weeks with Rob and Jen, we rented a yurt at Thousand Trails in Florence, Oregon for a week, and then returned to the Portland area to stay with a different family, that of our daughter Therese.

As I write, mid-September, we are still there. Linda's reports continued to detail disaster. Parts arrived that were wrong and had to be sent back. She resorted to photographing the parts that needed replacement instead of ordering by part number, after so many arrived in error. By September 13, one month after we left the coach with Top O Hill, only one part, the locker door had arrived and been installed.

This has been a less-than-pleasant learning experience. If I had it to do over, I would take the motorhome to several repair shops before committing to one. As a fulltimer, I would be highly interested in their estimates of time required, as well as how many other jobs they anticipated having at the same time. This is a kind of decision-making dilemma. A busy shop with lots of customers probably does good work, but has less time for any individual customer. A shop that is not busy might do the job quicker, but would they do it as well? While interviewing potential repairers, I would also ask for names of customers whom we could contact for references. Repairing a fulltimer's RV is not the same as repairing a weekender's.

A fulltimer is essentially homeless during the repair process. We have never needed multiple repairs before, so I have no basis for comparison as far as the time required. Bill and Linda lay the problem to non-receipt of parts, and say that this is not typical. At this point, we know that we simply need to be patient, but it's hard to do that after so much time. I miss my home!

Happy travels!

Sumas Border Crossing Hazardous to Motorhomes
October, 1 2007

Letter To The Editor
Submitted by Chuck & Sharon Brewer
Maple Valley, Washington

It had been a wonderful three days at Chilliwack! The bluegrass music was great, the Canadians as nice as they could be, and now we were on our way back into the States for a week's vacation and on to another bluegrass festival the following weekend.

We arrived at the border at the Sumas crossing and it looked even more ominous coming back into the States than it did going into Canada. Our passports were in order so we weren't concerned about crossing back to home, but we knew that RV's aren't allowed to use the commercial vehicle lane so as we sat in line we silently checked out the situation with the concrete bulkheads and we knew it would be a tight fit.

When going through the border crossing the co-pilot is not allowed out of the RV to guide the driver through and the U.S. customs agents certainly do not offer this service either.

We followed the rest of the vehicles in our line as we slowly but surely crawled towards the pathway where the customs agent stood at the little booth. Looking out the passenger window we were hoping there was space to turn at the angle of the line and saw that we had about 8-10 inches of clearance on the passenger side. Chuck slowly turned the wheel as he had to in order to approach the booth, and then we heard it!

There is an automatic sick feeling in the bottom of one's stomach when the sound of metal meeting concrete becomes evident! The customs agent kept motioning us forward and would not allow us to stop and assess backing, stopping or doing anything but continuing forward. As we crept forward, listening to our bays become scrap metal, another customs agent came out and watched then motioned another agent and they both stood there as the entire right side of our 'house' (we are full-time RVers) bent to the solid concrete bulkhead.

When we arrived at the booth Chuck asked the agent if our damage was bad and he replied, 'Yes, very bad' then continued checking our passports. When asked if we could get out and look at the damage we were told, 'NO, get through the line and find a place in town to look at it because we are very busy with returnees.'

How sad a statement is this for those who try hard to adhere to the rules and regulations put before them? There is no consideration for citizens (or non-citizens) and they just 'roll them through' even though it may amount to extensive damage and high insurance payments (like the $20,000+ our insurance company will be paying to fix our RV damage).

When we arrived in Lynden at the RV Park, the woman at the desk informed us that this was not unusual and that they had just had a brand new motorhome in there just a few weeks ago with the same type of damage after coming through the Sumas border crossing.

There was never a sign that informed us to stay to the right in order to be in the lane large enough for a wide body vehicle or motorhome. We had been sitting in the slow-moving line for approximately an hour and a half so if we were going to have a problem making the turns through the crossing one of the customs agents could have simply guided us to the appropriate lane. Before 9-11 and the days of 'Homeland Security' RVers simply used the same lane as the big rigs (commerical vehicles).

We are informing our fellow RVers of our horrible experience so that they will know what we did not. Do Not! use any other lane than the Right Hand Lane when crossing from Canada to Washington at the Sumas crossing. We implore the Washington and Canadian Department of Transportation to put up signs informing RVers to stay in the right hand lane and to consider once again allowing RVers to use the same lane as the commercial vehicles.

Seneca TX By Jayco Big on Comfort, Tops Among Heavy-Duty Class C Motorhomes
October, 1 2007

The big on comfort Seneca motorhome by Jayco', America's Most Liveable RVs, offers the luxury and liveability of a Class A motorhome with the price tag and maneuverability of a Class C motorhome. Ranging in size from an over 34-foot single slide to an almost 37-foot triple slide, the Seneca HD is available in several floorplan designs. The Seneca ZX toy hauler motorhome (shown above) model is over 35 1/2 feet in length with a single slide with 120-inch x 97-inch interior cargo dimensions and with 91-1/4-inch x 72'-inch cargo door dimensions.

All Seneca models are constructed on a 22,000-pound Chevy' Kodiak' chassis for maximum cargo carrying capacity. It sports a Duramax' V8 turbo diesel engine with 5-speed Allison' 1000 Series transmission with overdrive, 150-amp alternator and 1000-watt engine block heater, along with a 53-degree turning radius to provide easy driveability.

The interior affords a high level of luxury and comfort.

Halloween Tricks For Safer Treats
October, 1 2007

Trick or treat, smell my feet; give me something safe to eat. If you don't, I could choke; so check my stuff so I won't croak." Mr. No-No the #1 Proactive Child Safety Character in America has a couple of great safety tips that can help you have a fun and safe Halloween.

When picking out a costume:
' Never wear a costume you or your little ones can't easily get out of.
' Unique bright colored costumes are recommended. If you wear black add a splash of neon color to your costume. (It looks really cool at night and is easy to recognize among the other goblins).
' Less is more; don't get all the accessories for your child. Ex. Wands, swords, pistols' (Other kids get hurt and you end up carrying them anyway).

When Trick-or-Treating:
' Tell your little ones," If you can't see me, I can't see you' and that is dangerous."
' Everyone should have a flashlight or a Glowstick on them at all times.
' Nothing should be in your child's hands except for their basket' if that.

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