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Old 08-29-2012, 11:14 AM   #1
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Red face Brand-new, first-time campers - help!

Hello-
We just purchased the A-frame A122bh on Sunday (8/26), got a hitch installed on our new Chevy Equinox and are going to try a close-by camping trip this weekend! We are very excited, but very nervous We have watched the dvd that came with our camper and are reading all of the manuals, but never having owned a camper before, we aren't quite sure about things like the water system, furnace, A/C, propane system, hitch/braking, camper leveling, etc. If anyone has any first-timer tips for us, we would LOVE to hear from you. We did hook our camper up for the first time last night and took it for a test drive, brake adjustment and back-up practice. It went pretty well, although we weren't sure wherer the "break-away switch" was or what we were supposed to do with that.
I look forward to hearing ANYTHING you can tell us so we aren't too much the laughing-stock of the campground this weekend!
Thanks-
Jenn & Mike
Fairport, NY
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:17 AM   #2
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Oh - we do have a specific-type question. Since we just got the camper a few days before Labor Day weekend, the pickings were slim for a campground! We were not able to get a site with electric hook-up. Will we be able to use the refrigerator or A/C unit if we cannot hook-up to electric?
Thanks!
Jenn & Mike
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:19 AM   #3
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Didn't your dealer give you a pdi ?


You'll have to run your fridge on propane.
A/c will not work unless you have a generator.
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:41 AM   #4
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What is a "pdi?" We had to purchase from out-of-state so a driver just delivered it and left.
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:45 AM   #5
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Pre-Delivery Inspection...
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:48 AM   #6
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Very exciting time for you. Have a great time this weekend.

Although I do not have an A-Frame, here are my thoughts for you...

Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholjl View Post
Hello-
We just purchased the A-frame A122bh on Sunday (8/26), got a hitch installed on our new Chevy Equinox and are going to try a close-by camping trip this weekend! We are very excited, but very nervous We have watched the dvd that came with our camper and are reading all of the manuals, Good. The appliance, water heater, A/C and furnace manuals will help.

but never having owned a camper before, we aren't quite sure about things like the water system, furnace, A/C, propane system, hitch/braking, camper leveling, etc. There is a lot that could be covered. Do you have any specific issues or questions?

If anyone has any first-timer tips for us, we would LOVE to hear from you. We did hook our camper up for the first time last night and took it for a test drive, brake adjustment and back-up practice. Excellent. I have always practiced with any trailer new to me. They all can tow a little different.

It went pretty well, although we weren't sure wherer the "break-away switch" was or what we were supposed to do with that. There is a steel wire running from your breakaway switch that you need to connect to your receiver whenever you tow. You need to do this to be a lawful and safe driver.

I look forward to hearing ANYTHING you can tell us so we aren't too much the laughing-stock of the campground this weekend! Don't worry about that. All campers have been where you are now and they will help you out if asked. They'll help you out if not asked, too. You'll see what I mean. Generally, campers are very friendly.

Thanks-
Jenn & Mike
Fairport, NY
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholjl View Post
Oh - we do have a specific-type question. Since we just got the camper a few days before Labor Day weekend, the pickings were slim for a campground! We were not able to get a site with electric hook-up. Will we be able to use the refrigerator or A/C unit if we cannot hook-up to electric? No to the A/C and yes to the fridge. The A/C will only work on 110volts. Same thing with a microwave if you have one and any receptacles. The fridge is probably a two-way that can work off propane or AC. If propane, you will also need some power from your battery. I assume your dealer installed one for you.

As for dry camping - what we call camping without electric - you will need to be very power conscious. A standard group 24 camper battery doesn't have many amp-hours and can be run down very quickly. A couple of days usually. Besides the DC component to the fridge, you have draws from the water pump, CO detector, lights, radio, power jack and power awning if you have these things. Try to limit your usage
Thanks!
Jenn & Mike
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:51 AM   #7
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If I were you, knowing nothing, I would stay real close by, like the driveway. Sure, you will get help from other campers in the campground, but I would set up in the driveway, and go through everything first, and make sure I had the basics down. The DVD may be more helpful than this site, as you have video, we can only post pics. You also have internet at home, don't know about the campground.

Not trying to discourage, just need some time to learn, we all went through it. Also, every system needs testing in that camper before it gets used. Hate for you to get set up, then find there isn't any propane in the tanks to run the water heater, or furnace, or cook.
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Old 08-29-2012, 11:58 AM   #8
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Being first time everything you really missed out in finding the ins and outs of a pdi . For starters that's the time to inspect the camper for things that were wrong or not correct in your unit .
As you've already stated you know nothing on how to work the unit and may make your first outing a mess.
We encourage newbies to driveway camp to get to "know " your unit before leaving home.
I assume you bought from a wholesaler which is why a driver just "dropped" it off .
Im sure you'll figure it all out and have a GREAT TIME this holiday weekend !
If you have internet access feel free to pop in this weekend iffy your having troubles we''ll get you squared away.

If you have children you may have issues keeping your battery charged for the whole weekend as stated before . Can you atleast borrow a generater ?
Without atleast a 2500 watt you WON'T be able to run the a/c.

Good luck and enjoy your new camper.

Ron
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:02 PM   #9
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Break away switch causes the trailer brakes to engage if the trailer were to come loose from your vehicle. It's a very important safety device!

It's a long thin metal cord with a loop on the end of it coming from under the trailer in the front where you hitch it. The cord attaches to a little plastic 'key' looking thing that inserts into a housing under the trailer. When that plastic key is pulled out of it's housing, that engages the brakes using the battery in the travel trailer. DO NOT leave the key out of the camper - always leave it pushed in well. (It is OK to pull it out for the time it takes to loop it through to attach it to your TV if you need to, and then just reinsert the key into the housing, just don't leave it out as it will lock down the brakes on the trailer)

You need to connect that wire through the hitch either by pulling out that platic key, looping the wire through where you put your chains on your tow bar and then reinserting that plastic key back into it's slot, OR get a STURDY chain-link with a screw/caribiner to link that loop to the place on your TV where the chains go.

Just make sure the break away wire is not tangled up with anything else - your chains, wrapped around the hitch, etc. It needs to be well connected to your TV so if your trailer totally came lose, the key would be pulled out of it's housing and the trailer brakes would engage, keeping your trailer from rolling off into oblivion and also helping minimize any collision w/ other vehicles, etc.

There's a pic on this website that shows the break off switch:

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Old 08-29-2012, 12:04 PM   #10
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In all cases it's illegal to not use it .
And remember if your batteries dead it won't work .
In reference to the break away.
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:30 PM   #11
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My advice is... GO for it. With no hook ups, carry a cooler just in case. As long as you know how to properly park it and set it up safely, everything else is just cake. I have helped MANY newbies and have been helped. You will find plenty of help as well. If you have never been camping, you will be surprised at what a helpful bunch we are. I have been loaned a car by the camper next to me when I had a problem with my motorhome and needed to go to town for parts... Just remember that something always goes wrong on a camping trip. Its how you handle it that determines whether your trip is ruined or you have a funny story to tell the rest of us.
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:33 PM   #12
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The A-Frames are fairly good when it comes to dry-camping power consumption, so don't be too nervous about not having electricity.
- We removed the top bulb from both the front and rear ceiling lights. This cuts the draw on the battery in half and there is still LOTS of light.
- We run our fridge on propane when dry camping (If you use it on 12volt it will drain your battery quickly)
- We bring extra blankets for cool nights as the propane furnace draws a lot of battery power. We rarely use it and it will stink the first few times you use it - be warned. Like most things that get hot they take a few 'cycles' to burn off.
- We read a lot at night, using LED headlamps - the ceiling lights aren't positioned for reading anyways
- We use the propane hot water heater which does use a little battery juice, but it is soooo convenient.
- We can easily go 2 nights and usually 3 nights with the battery staying well up

The driveway camping can't be stressed enough, and if you have kids they will love it. If you have never towed a trailer before you should try to reach out to someone who has. The hitch, chains, break-away switch etc are all areas that you do NOT want to learn the hard way. Everything else can come in time.

Have fun, enjoy it and dont let it overwhelm. Take small bites at first, learn each appliance well, then move on to the next one.

Randy
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Old 08-29-2012, 06:00 PM   #13
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I did my first trip with an A128S last week and loved it. Looking forward for more trips. Checkout the questions and answers I got here in "A128S Converted from ALINER Ranger".
I drive a Pontiac Torrent which is similar to your SUV, did you get 6cyl?
The max tongue weight is 350 pds, without adding anything to the trailer it was over 400 pds, watch out for that too. Do not put any heavy stuff in the front storage.

Good luck and have fun!
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:02 PM   #14
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That's good to hear, maybe we won't do so bad Yeah, we did get the 6 cylinder, AWD - we specifically bought that earlier this summer in preparation for buying the camper.
So we went tonight over to the camper (storing it in my parent's barn) to try out things and what-not and couldn't seem to figure out a few key things. So in the barn it's not hooked up to the vehicle or any electric. Can you run the microwave that way? We couldn't figure out how to power it so we thought maybe we had to have it hooked up to electric to use that. As for the refrigerator - is there a power button? Or a switch to tell it to use the electric or the propane? And we weren't sure if there was a pilot light or not. We found some sort of panel on the non-door side, near the front, but had no idea what that was and none of the manuals seem that clear.
Ok, I'll stop with the endless questions for now We're still planning on going this weekend, but figure we'll mostly use the camper for sleeping in until we can get a better handle on the water system and then next time get a site with electric!
Thanks for all of your helpful (and patient) suggestions!
Jenn & Mike
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:14 PM   #15
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When you get to the campground let them know you would really like a site with electricity so if they have a cancelation with one to let you know. Also sometimes on holidays weekends we see people moving out on sunday
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:23 PM   #16
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The Microwave runs on the shore power so you have to be plugged in for that to work. Basically when running off the battery you'll have lights and enough power to fire up the fridge to run on propane and water heater (if you have one). You won't have any plug in outlets, microwave, Air Conditioning, etc.

Hopefully someone else can help on the fridge. There should have been a separate manual for the fridge in the packet of manuals you got. If not, posting a picture of what it looks like may help get you a quick answer.

A couple of general tips on the fridge - be sure the camper is reasonably level or it won't run efficiently. Run the fridge on propane when camping w/out electric hookup because the battery will go down pretty quick trying to run the fridge. Run on battery/12V when you are plugged in on shore power and/or towing with the engine running. Some folks will leave it on propane when towing - that's a topic with a lot of opinions which I will leave for another thread Many RV fridges have an 'auto' selection where it will run propane unless you are on shore power and switch back and forth automatically.

If possible, turn on the fridge a day or two ahead of time. Plug your camper in to a 110 outlet (you can get a converter for the 30amp plug if you don't have a 30amp camper plug at your house). You can't run the A/C when using a regular 15/20amp outlet, but you will have enough power to trickle charge the battery and run the fridge.

The camper fridge doesn't work on a compressor like your home fridge and is very slow to cool down.

If you don't have time to cool it down ahead of time, you can turn on the fridge and just put several gallon sized freezer bags with ice in them in the fridge when you left the house and turned on the unit. The ice works as a heat sink and will get the fridge cooled down pretty quickly. You can even go ahead and put stuff in there and it will stay cold until the fridge reaches it's operating temp. Just be sure to use the freezer type bags with the extra good seal so you don't have melt water leaking

Hope this helps! There's a lot to learn at first, but that's 1/2 the fun!
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:30 PM   #17
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Wow the PDI you missed would have answered all your questions. I just had it 2 weeks ago so it is still fresh in my memory. I should have a check list for all this stuff.

The appliances requires electric hookup. Battery is for lights inside and outside, fridge, water pump, fan, radio and electric brakes. I believe the outlet near the furnace is active via the battery, you could use this for your computer or to recharge your phone. The fuse box is for battery connected devices protection.

The switch for the fridge is located outside, driver side, looks like a grill cover. The top is to choose between electric or battery, choose one only or turn them off for propane. The bottom grill cover is for propane power. Turn it on while holding down the on button press/click the red button to fire up the pilot light. You could hear the fire going if it is quiet. The knob with numbers is the level of cold, I use the high number when hooked up to electric.

I had problem with the fresh water pump because they had it in bypass, in the cabinet under the sink the is a red and blue pipe, make sure the lever switch is parallel to the pipe. Test this by filling the tank full and then turn on the water pump, turn on the hot water faucet and the water is flowing good, this means it is safe to turn on the hot water furnace. You could test the cold water too. The water pump should be pumping when water is flowing and should be quiet when the faucets are close.

Make sure to use a 12 or lower gauge extension cord for 15A hook up, the breaker was triggered when I was using the electric heat pump. To be safe use a 30a extension cord, then you could use the AC/Heater and Microwave at the same time otherwise boom/breaker gets hit.

Hope you understand my tips.

Good luck.
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Old 08-29-2012, 09:11 PM   #18
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BTW do you know how to remove the panel outside?
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Old 08-29-2012, 09:23 PM   #19
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Nicholjl

The fridge is probably the one thing you will need most and it can be a bit tricky to get going on propane. As Ko777 mentioned the operating controls for the fridge are on the outside wall, behind the fridge (drivers side). there are two removable white plastic panels, one above the other (the metal panel closer to the front of the trailer is the rear of the hot-water heater). The top fridge panel has the 'electrical' controls - 12volt & 110volt. When on propane these both should be off. The bottom fridge panel has the propane controls. I should first mention, these white panels have little black 'locks' that hold them in place. To open the panel turn the black button vertical with a dime and then pull the bottom of the panel out. It will swing up & off.
You should see three 'buttons' on the little control panel once you open the bottom panel. A red starter button, and temp setting 1-5 and the On/Off control.
To start the fridge first make sure the valve on the propane tank at the front of the trailer is turned on. then set the temp setting to 5. Next turn the On/Off control to 'On' and then press and hold the On/Off button down and keep it held down. This starts the flow of propane. While holding the on/off button down press the red starter button to ignite the propane. It may take more than once. You may hear a small 'pop' when the propane pilot ignites - keep pressing the red igniter every few seconds until you no longer hear the 'pop' noise, this means the propane has stayed lit. Continue to keep the On/Off button pressed down for a few more seconds to ensure the pilot is fully lit. Then release the On/Off button. You should be fully lit now. Set the temp control to the desired setting (I generally set mine at 5). I usually leave the white plastic cover off for a while and come back after about 30mins to make sure the propane has stayed lit (the chrome colored stack will be hot to the touch). If the stack is hot then the fridge is working and I button up the white plastic cover. When it is time to leave the cg all you need to do is turn the On/Off control to off and then turn off the propane tank. (Dont forget to lock the little black fasteners - horizontal position).

Hope this helps

Randy
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Old 08-29-2012, 09:23 PM   #20
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No....what panel?!
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