Top 4 RV Upgrades You Should Do Immediately
Are you looking for RV Upgrades before you take the plunge into full time living in your RV?
Trying to find that list of stuff you should do before you sell everything and hit the road? Hell, even if you aren’t going to be full timing and you’re just a weekender, these upgrades are something you should consider doing.
I know when I started to scour the blogs and forums every single list seemed like a carbon copy of the last three blog posts that I had seen with a minor tweak here and there.
As I’m laying on my couch and pulled my phone out to turn off the AC because I couldn’t hear my TV it hit me. I’ve done a few modifications to ours that I would absolutely recommend to everyone who has an RV, not just the Full Timers.
(At the time of this writing, NONE of these recommended items is a sponsor of this website. These are honest recommendations not financially backed ones, just good ole fashioned neighborly advice.)
The first three upgrades on this list are actually for our dog. Now I know just reading that sentence you may be ready to hit the back button and find another carbon copy list, but bear with me for a few minutes and I promise you it will make sense.
1 – MicroAir Easy Touch Thermostat
So like I said, I was laying on the couch and pulled out my phone to turn off the AC instead of getting up and walking all the way to the kitchen to adjust the thermostat, ya know, cause that 15 foot walk would have been too exhausting.
Now this upgrade didn’t make the list because I’m that lazy, it’s just happens to have an app that you can adjust your thermostat from your phone, from anywhere you have cell phone service. The main reason I was sold on the easy touch thermostat was because with the app you can set up temperature alerts on your phone, and get notified if your AC isn’t keeping up.
So lets say you are camping in the summer and the forecast temperature for the day is over 90. It won’t take long for the temperature inside your RV to climb to dangerous levels if the AC cuts out or the power goes out in the RV park. If you have a pet in the camper while you are at a day trip to the local attractions in the area, your poor dog could literally be cooking to death inside your RV and you would never know to head back and come to their rescue.
Now this feature does require wifi so your thermostat can send you the alert, which is one of the reasons I also recommend having your own wifi setup in your rig, not just using the campground wifi. (More on wifi later)
The MicroAir Easy Touch Thermostat has all the familiar features of your home thermostat like being able to be programmed to change temperatures according to a schedule as well as others. There is a setting that is nice in the spring and fall season where you can set the thermostat, and tell it to allow a 5 degree difference.
Lets say you have it set to 70 degrees with a 2 degree variable. During the day when the sun is up and the camper is taking in the sunshine, if it gets up to 72 it will turn on the AC until it cools to 70. On the flip side, when you go to bed and the outside temp drops to 50, when the camper gets down to 68 it will turn the heat on until it comes back up to 70.
With the app you can also control the thermostat in your RV from anywhere that you have cell phone signal. I have used this feature a few times for a couple reasons. The first time was when we first started using the AC before we hit the road. I had the alerts set up, and one day while I was at work on one of those severe heat wave days the AC unit had a freeze lockout and turned off because it had been running for hours on end in 90 percent humidity.
I got the alert on my phone that my camper had gotten up to 80 degrees, so I opened the app and turned the ac off and back on again from work. In the time it took for it to warm up to 80, the ice build up had melted, and I was able to flip it back on from 50 miles away and come back to a nice cool camper.
Another reason it comes in handy is on those same heat wave days, there tend to be those real nasty lightning storms that cause power surges and fry electronics. We were away from the camper and lightning you could feel started booming all around us. On the mad dash back to the truck I opened the app and turned off the AC units on the RV so we didn’t have to worry about them being fried because they were on during a lightning storm.
Price? Ok, yeah it is pricey. They run about $250 each, we have 2 thermostats in our camper and I still replaced both stock thermostats with the easy touch. I will admit I only did 1 at first because I was thinking the same thing you are, That’s ridiculous, there’s no way this thing is worth it. But… We do have to leave the dog in the camper at times when we aren’t around it, so the alert feature is what sold me on the first one. Then I liked it so much I happily bought the second one to replace the second thermostat.
Difficulty? Easy, only thing you need that you may not have is a really small flathead screwdriver.
2 – Energy Command Generator Auto Start – (Onan EC-30)
Our RV has a built in generator, it was one of my Must Haves when we were shopping for it. It isn’t the “smart” control panel, just the push button start and stop in the kitchen. So this upgrade is also tied into Lagerthas well being while we are traveling the country. You can set the new control panel to Manual or Auto and start it like you used to with the push button, or have it auto start when certain conditions are met.
If we happen to be away from the RV and the park power goes out on one of those heat wave days, the generator will start itself so the AC can keep running and prevent her from having a heat stroke. Once the park power comes back on the generator will shut itself down and your camper will go back to running on the park power.
Another nice feature of it is that it has a battery monitor. Have you even been boondocking and forgot to check your batteries and they got so low the heat wouldn’t come on? With the battery monitor on and mode in auto start, if your batteries get low, the generator will fire itself up, charge your batteries, then shut itself back down.
Price? $200-400 depending on which website you find it on.
Difficulty? Pretty difficult if you’re doing it yourself. There are a lot of wires to run and there is no “wiring diagram” because every camper is different. The directions do tell you which wire on the wiring harness needs to get connected to what “item” on your camper, but its up to you to figure out how and where. It does require messing with the high voltage wiring system on your rig, so if electrical is not your thing its best to have it professional installed.
3 – RV-Lock keyless entry
Another upgrade I would call a must have is the RV-Lock keyless entry system. This was actually the first of the three upgrades that I installed in ours. Its a direct fit keypad code lock that takes the place of your stock keyed lock. On the normal day to day things, stuff happens. Keys get dropped and bent or even just misplaced. If that happens, you can just type in your code and unlock your camper and not be locked out 1000 miles from home.
If you make friends with your neighbors where you are staying, or you are camping with your normal group, and god forbid something like a fire starts while you are not at the camper, someone can get in the save your pup. Most of the time it just comes in handy when we are camping with our normal group. Most of our group brings our pups camping with us, and if one of us heads back to the camp sites ahead of the rest of the group we will walk each others dogs.
Price? It runs about $250 and comes with a remote for your keychain.
Difficulty? Pretty easy actually. It only took me about 10 minutes and all you need is a screw driver
4 – Additional Reverse Lights
If you are anything like us pulling into the campground while the sun is shining just simply isn’t going to happen. It’s always raining or hours later than we planned on getting there due to traffic or because my wife HAD to take 400 pictures of the baby buffalo she saw…
At some point reverse lights went from being a useful light that helped you see while backing up to the smallest light possible the manufacturers could put on a vehicle and still meet DOT specifications. Then they started putting big screen tv’s in the dashboard of every car and truck that is so bright the glare inside your own vehicle makes it impossible to see your side mirrors.
I added nice bright LED reverse lights on our Class A when we had that, and now that we have our 5th wheel, the back of my camper is 50 feet away from my side mirrors and only a dim white blub so I added LED replacement bulbs to the back, as well as two sets of LEDs on each side of the camper.
I added one surface mount just behind the rear tire on each side, which serves two purposes. It shines out at a 45 degree angle from the camper so it lights up where your trailer is to where you’re backing it in, as well as serves as a visual marker as to where your back tire is to help with getting the right angle that you want when you’re turning.
I also added one just behind the forward landing gear shining our from underneath the camper on a 45 degree angle. The purpose for these is so that when you are backing in, and you have your truck and trailer in that L shape, your reverse lights on your truck are shining away from the side of the camper you are watching. Being underneath the trailer keeps the light from blinding you while also lighting up the ground between your truck and the trailer tires.
Price? Roughly $75
Difficulty? Moderate, Only because its a pain in the ass to run new wires on RV’s and I set ours up to run off the RV batteries triggered by a relay when the stock reverse lights come on so we could run brighter lights without blowing fuses.
Now I know a few of these upgrades are a bit on the higher side, but think of it this way, how much did you spend on your last trip to the camping store or wally world to go get that one $30 item you needed? Exactly. We all do it, go for the one thing we need and come home with 200 bucks worth of crap that we now have to find room for and we didn’t even really need it to begin with.
Personally I think spending a few dollars on these upgrades makes a lot more sense, especially if you travel with pets, than getting the giant size bags of smores supplies every trip. Get the smaller bags of smores stuff and the kids won’t have a sugar high at the end of the night, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing your trips will be more stress free, and everyone will sleep better.