Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Organize your RV information for quick and easy access.


It really doesn't matter if you have a Pop-Up Camper or a Motor Home, or whether it is shiny new, or one of the great old units on the road, you must put together a plan to organize all of the information on your unit. Please understand, THINGS WILL BREAK or STOP RUNNING! It is just a matter of time!

You can be prepared, or you can be that guy on the side of the road performing repairs, or even worse, you can be the guy in the campground begging tools to patch up his/her unit while their family and friends are all having a blast at the pool or whatever.

With a new unit, the manufacturer have provided the sales people with a package including all of the RV documentation in a bundle (large portfolio, or box, etc), and they hand it to you at the time of the sale. The better ones will walk you through the documents quickly, but remember, many RV sales people do not have an RV, nor do they have a clue what all of the documents mean so they are often of little real help if you have questions.

I purchased my last RV in Florida, from on of the largest RV dealers in the country. They have people that work for them, who come to you after your purchase, and walk you through the RV, and explain how to operate pretty much everything on and in your RV.

If I could do it over, I would have filmed everything he said and kept it for later reference. He spent a little over an hour, spewing invaluable information about my RV, and my memory retention level is not good enough to remember everything he said. And I already had 2 other RV;s before this last one!

When you get time later to open and go through the package, I guarantee you will be intimidated by the number of different reference documents on all of the appliances, accessories and gadgets included in your RV.

With a used unit, be sure to ask for this same package, as it is going to be invaluable to you. But, it is sad to say, many previous owners end up not having the package of documents when they trade or sell their unit.

If this is the case, you must go on a campaign to get copies of this documentation. Every piece of paper is valuable for your future reference. TRUST ME!

I suggest that you try the following methods: First, try to intimidate the dealer to; 1-find you a package for your year model, 2-copy someone elses document package for you, or 3- copy one from a similar model but from a different year.

Second, If the dealer is of no real help, get the manufacturers technical support or customer service phone number and contact them for any documents they can give you, or at least ideas on where you might find them. The next step that I suggest is to go to eBay, Yahoo, CraigsList, or any other web sales site and search for someone smart enough to realize they can get a few bucks for such documents.

Finally, the last two desperation ideas are; 1-whenever you go camping, hope to find someone in the campground with a similar model to your own, and introduce yourself and ask if you can copy whatever documents he/she might have, and/or 2-join the manufacturers club (almost all manufacturer has a club magazine or web site), and advertise tghere for a copy of the documents you need.

The real and final desperation move, is to write down the Model and Serial numbers on everything that you can find in the RV, and start web searching the appliance and accessory manufacturers, then request any manuals or documens they might have available. Some have good sites and are very supportive, and some have nothing but a phone number and expressions of sympathy.

Set up your own little Library Reference System:
Once you accept the fact that you might need the documented information, you should start looking for a way to manage it all for fast and efficient reference wen needed.

You will soon note that you have a lot of;
  1. important company names, address', and phone numbers
  2. web site address' with logins and Passwords
  3. Service schedules and part numbers
  4. and a pile of different sized appliance, engine, chassis, etc. documents
  5. many, many hand-written notes you have taken when talking with others that you need.

Now ..... I have met a lot of campers, many are older and set in their ways, and resist change, and especially technology, like Computers. Even if they are new to camping, they generally have their own ideas on how to do things, and more power to them.

I, myself am too old to tilt against windmills and change a world of stubborn old farts.
BUT ................... I strongly suggest the following procedures for the most efficient way to keep reference information stored and easily at hand. Take it and "Prosper" as Spock used to say, or do your own thing, or the scariest of all .... Do nothing!

Personal Computer:

I have a PC and I use it often. While at my home, or on the road, I pay my bills, I communicate with family and friends, I research information, I keep up with the news, I edit my photographs, and I have my own web site for my photography.

I can use spreadsheets, so I do have several spreadsheets that I use to;
  1. organize special web site address', phone numbers, passwords, etc. for quick reference,
  2. track my fuel consumption and mileage,
  3. record preventive maintenance schedules and parts and materials on everything,
  4. store photos that I have taken of my RV; behind every service door, the Engine compartment, the Generator, and all appliances for reference,
  5. and in addition I have scanned copies of many of the large and small appliance service documents.

Yes, I said I scanned documents.
With the price of today's printer/scanners, I even have a separate one in my RV, and a good rainy day project is to scan your documents on appliances and other RV equipment, and keep them stored on my hard drive in an organized folder. Of course,I keep the old documents, but I can add notes and pictures to my scanned documents that help me tremendously.

This Library System really helps me by having a quick digital reference when on the road, for almost everything I need when traveling.

Also, another advantage is that I can quickly print a paper copy of anything I have scanned/stored, and; take it with me to stores when; looking for parts, looking for help in a Campground, or to just lie beside me when I am working on something myself.