13′ Casita – How-to Introduction

I pickup Conchita the 13′ Casita this Friday, September 16, 2016, but last Monday the seller, Shirley, agreed to give me a run down on the different systems comprising the Casita.  She was very thorough (as a former engineer would be ;-))

This is a long entry, and somewhat rambling, but I thought it might be useful for someone else in understanding their Casita, with some useful advice from Shirley, who had a ton of experience in RVing, both at RV campgrounds as well as boondocking on BLM land.

We started with a checklist of items for hooking up, as well as parking and disconnecting.

Before Hooking up:

  • Windows closed and locked
  • Stove off
  • Fan cover down
  • Refrigerator closed and secured
  • Propane off
  • Stabilizers up
  • Electric Unplugged
  • Any high items secured on floor
  • Cabinet drawers secured

 

Hookup:

  1. Wheel chocks in place
  2. Trailer tongue jack raised high enough to clear ball on TV
  3. Trailer ball latch released
  4. Back TV into position
  5. Slowly lower trailer onto ball
  6. Activate ball latch – if latch will not latch, move TV forward ~ ¼”. Latch ball latch.

    Double check:
  7. Look under & see if latch looks good.
  8. Lower tongue jack – it should raise car too. If so – good hitch – raise tongue jack back up after testing.
  9. Put hitch lock through hole and lock
  10. Attach safety chains – remember to cross.
  11. Attach brake safety cable
  12. Remove chocks

One more note on Hooking up:

  • Check brake and turn lights.
    • In order to check the trailer lights in one fell swoop,  you can just turn on your emergency blinkers. That way you can check all bulbs in one action (rather than use one turn signal, then the other…)

Method to level trailer –

  • Check level (there are bubble levels on the front and side of the Casita)
  • Add blocks to low areas, and roll on top
  • Recheck level
  • Add blocks if necessary to bring low sides up.
  • Add wheel chocks when level.

 

More on Levelling Trailer:

  1. Level side to side
  2. Level front to back
  3. After level: Lower tongue jack 7 turns
  4. Rear legs: Push bar in rear legs – falls down
  5. Rear legs: Push lever down – feet tight to surface
  6. Raise Tongue Jack 7 turns

=================

One thing I noticed is that I need to get a higher trailer hitch ball. Measuring from the ground to the top of the ball is approximately 18.5″. My ball was about an inch short, so I needed to get a ball with a 4″ rise

Hitch height no bueno.

Hitch height no bueno.

Something like this:

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Once parked, need to place wheel chucks. I got mine at Camping World, but you could also get one here:

Remember to get 2 sets: a set of 2 for the 2 wheels on the axle.

Shirley also went over securing my Casita. She recommended a lock for the hitch latch, and a lock for the trailer ball:

A secure ball hitch is a happy ball hitch

A secure ball hitch is a happy ball hitch

Ball lock:

I thought that the cover for the back window was to prevent light from coming in, and it can be used for that, but Shirley told me it’s actually a rock guard for the back window:

Guard against rock! Rock Guard! Yow!

Guard against rock! Rock Guard! Yow!

She suggested using a battery tender to keep the battery charged. Since I used to ride motorcycles, I was familiar with those, and I happen to have an extra one: 

I noticed that unlike the other RVs I looked at, this Casita had 2 Propane bottles. She had this set up with a switch to go from one tank to another when one was empty. She did say with her usage the tanks ran for quite a long time – she actually travelled through 5 or 6 states before having to switch tanks:

propane-tanks

 

There’s anther cover just behind the propane tanks. Undo latch to use AC in front:

If you need to vent, just uncover this would ya'?

If you need to vent, just uncover this would ya’?

 

Some other notes:

  • Hookup chains crossed underneath and hook. They’ll (hopefully) support the trailer if it becomes unhooked from the ball hitch.
  • There is an Emergency brake that is hooked to same loop as the chains. It has a red wire.
  • Level trailer. The trailer has to be level to run refrigerator.
  • Refrigerator runs on either propane or 12 volt dc. 

 

Some directions on using the Refrigerator:

  1. Turn propane on.
  2. Go inside and light stove – then you’ll  know that the gas is on.
  3. Turn stove off
  4. Press dial as you turn on, click red button (igniter) 10x and keep button held in. Thermocoupler is inside, so need to keep pressed in. 2 min. Pipe on right (silver pipe) will warmup.
  5. When ready to travel, shut gas off turn 12 volt – if on road. Some places have laws on using propane vs. 12v. (she always used propane)
  6. Don’t cover side vents.

Energy Panel
Here’s a look at the energy panel. This is where you select your main source of power. For example, this would apply to #4 above when running on propane:

Scotty, we need more power!

Scotty, we need more power!

There are also electric outlets on the side. These only work when plugged into shore power:

Captain, she's giving you all that she's got!

Captain, I’m givin’ ya all that she’s got!

 

Air Conditioner
Only works with shore power! Connect to shore power through this panel:

Con Air? No, Air conditioning panel

ConAir? No, Air conditioning panel!

A/C cord

A/C cord

When in use, put foam in the surrounding hole to keep animals out:

My A/C panel is foaming at the mouth

My A/C panel is foaming at the mouth

Remember, the Casita uses a 30 amp connector. 15 amps is household power. Shirley told me I could get an adaptor for home use.

Campgrounds also have 50amp, but that is for large RVs. She said I could probably get a 50 amp adaptor in addition to a 30 amp, but she never felt the need – was always able to get 30 amp.

She recommended getting a surge guard to use when on shore power if I was running a laptop or other sensitive electrical appliances. She’s heard stories of electrical surges at RV campgrounds, although she’d never experienced that herself. There’s a special one for 30 amps, and I got something like this:


On the opposite side of the A/C panel is the grey water spigot:

grey water spigot. I got nuthin'

Grey water spigot…Yeah, I got nuthin’

The sink just empties out here. Shirley just used a bucket, or otherwise just didn’t use the sink. She said she typically just cooked and cleaned her dishes outside.

Some more notes on the Refrigerator

  • Runs on propane.
  • 2 Days before leaving on your trip, turn on and leave the refrigerator on in order to get cold.
  • While it can use 120V electric, Shirley only uses Propane since it works so well.

Gas Range

  • Gas Only
  • Need lighter
  • Make sure propane is selected at the energy control panel, turn on and light.

Thermostat

  • Controls both the A/C, as well as the furnace.
  • When set at low the furnace is not completely off when dialed all the way – need to remove fuse in order to not drain the battery. It’s not sufficient to just crank the dial. So:
    • Take fuse out of furnace, but:
    • Fuse is necessary in order to function, so put it in when in use, but take it out if you are not using it.  

Shirley told me she never used the furnace – too loud. Just used either a propane or an electric ceramic heater. I asked her why she had both a propane and an electric heater, and she said it was useful if she only had access to one kind of power source. Things to think about…

Small appliances that Shirley keeps:

  • Rice cooker
  • Crockpot
  • Little Buddy Heater – propane (In case no shore power for electric heat)
  • Electric ceramic heater (In case the other heater fails)

MaxxAir Fan at top of trailer:

  • Knob for top fan – you should keep open when parked or even stored. Keeps the air flowing, and will not leak.
  • Can bring fresh air in, or vent inside air out. Useful when cooking inside, although she never cooked inside.

She also had silver window covers for the inside of the windows. I thought it was to block out interior light, say when parking at night at a WalMart. She told me it can be used that way, but it’s main purpose was for insulation.

Dining area...or bedroom? You decide!

Dining area…or bedroom? You decide!

Bench seating, a.k.a "living room".

Bench seating, a.k.a “living room”.

My iPhone ran out of power at this point, so no more pics, but will add them at a later date.

Shirley told me she actually just kept the dining area as a full time bed. She included a thick tempurpedic style mattress she had cut to fit the space. I laid on top of it, and could have sworn it was more comfortable than my bed at home. 

Porta-Potty
Her porta-potty had a container at top that could be filled for flushing, but Shirley only used a jug on an as-needed basis.

The reason was that if she didn’t need to use the potty then she would have all this extra water in the top of the potty that was never used, and just added unnecessary weight. More things only experience tells you about…

I asked her about composting toilets, and she said a chemical toilet was easy – just carry the bottom container to a toilet and dump. Composting toilets also need a tube to dry and vent the contents out. Another thing to consider…

She showed me an extra front wheel that attached to the bottom of the trailer hitch. She explained that you could then maneuver the trailer by hand, say if it was in your garage on a hard and level surface.

Some other recommendations:

Allstays – app for phone for finding campgrounds.

Hitchin’ Poles for backing car to trailer. These poles have a magnetic bottom that you place on top of the hitch and one on the trailer ball. You just line the poles up, and the hitch will make the poles fall once bumped. I was confused – won’t that dent the hitch? Then I realized that the hitch will be cranked higher than the ball so that they wouldn’t touch, but the hitch would hit the pole and it would fall over. Get one here:

Some other items to get:

Levelling blocks:

  • Get a pack of 10
  • They stack together – if not level, back off, add a level to the low side, back onto it and check level again.

The body of the Casita is a fiberglass hull which is connected with rivets. Shirley recommended getting a selection of rivets with a rivet gun:

 

About rivets:

  • Get Aluminum rivets. Aluminum bends. Need metal that “gives” since trailer moves.
  • Use Silicone sealant for rivets.
  • Use a #2 Robertson drive (bit) to screw in rivets.

She also recommended to not use wax, but to use Poli Glow sealant – it’s a fiberglass sealant that last a year. This is better than having to wax with a wax every 2 weeks.

More on Security
The rear of the Casita had a 2″ trailer hitch and a spare tire carrier.. She used the hitch for a cargo carrier, so it was something I could use for either that, or a bike hitch. Some thoughts on securing that:

  • Spare tire  carrier locks to guard against tire theft.
  • If getting a Cargo carrier – need a hitch lock for that as well!
  • She recommended either a cargo carrier or bike rack – not both! This is due to weighting considerations. 

I was thinking of having both, actually. The weight of the trailer was only 1,200 lbs, and my hitch limit was 2,000 lbs. And while I don’t plan on overweighting my trailer hitch it might be nice to have the option of both a bike hitch and use the rear trailer hitch for a cargo carrier. Curt Manufacturing makes a bike hitch that clamps on top of the trailer hitch, leaving the opening for the cargo carrier:


Maintenance:

Window Weep holes

  • 1x per year – use weed eater plastic wire to clean holes out – prevents leaks. Allows windows to drain. She told me that’s the reason other Casita owners possibly had leakage problems – because they didn’t clean out the windows once per year.

Check spare tire

  • 55psi
  • 65psi is max rating – only would fill to this when trailer was completely weighted
  • Wheels need bearing grease 1x/year 

 

Stove usage:

  • Open vent first on the outside
    • Push latches up to open – fan will keep fluttering it open

Metal domes on side:

  • Vent for furnace – domes keep wasps and insects out.

Winterizing

  • Fresh water tank – empty out
    • Shirley never used it – 12 gallons, so need to clean out if I intended to use it.
  • Back left spigot underneath trailer is drain for fresh water.

Water runs by electric. The switch inside is taped over so as not to drain battery.

==========

I asked her if she were in my place, where would she  suggest I go as a 1st time RVer?

Kelly Dahl in Nederland:

  • Nederland, CO
  • 20 reservable spots
  • 1st come first serve
  • Friday after lunch it will probably be filled, so:
    • Get a spot Wednesday or Thursday
  • $18/day
  • Nearby grocery and hardware store
  • Drive around and pick a spot & park.
  • Walk back and pay.

That, or:

The RV season is when there is good weather – May to September. Of course you could also travel south during Winter.

=======

 

Useful Websites:

 

Tool list:

  • Rivets: Aluminum
  • #2 Robertson
  • Rivet caps
  • Polyglo sealant

Misc:

  • Wheel chocks
  • Levelling blocks
  • Ball lock
  • Hitch lock
  • Spare tire carrier lock
  • Cargo carrier lock
  • Hitch buddies “hitchin rods”
  • Bungy Cords – always useful

Anyway – whew, that’s it! One of the reasons I wrote this is to remind me what I need to do, and also a place I can look up information. While ‘trial and error’ is a valid way to learn, there’s no replacement for experience. Some of the most useful advice were things you might not think about at first, like having two types types of heaters – electric and propane, in case you were not at an RV campground then you wouldn’t be able to use the electric one, right? I hadn’t thought of that. Also, just hearing her perspective on what she used, and didn’t use.

For example, she never used the freshwater tank – always brought jugs. Never used the furnace. Always used propane for the refrigerator – very efficient. Never filled the top of the porta-potty, just poured water from a jug when necessary – stuff like that. Makes sense after you hear it.

I’m sure I’ll do some things differently. For example, I’m thinking of adding 120 watt solar panels – sufficient to cover all appliances (except for A/C), and I’m thinking of actually using the freshwater – but also get a rollable tank for the greywater.

Anyway, talking with her was really useful, and this blog basically outlines the way we discussed the trailer – sort of rambling, and I apologize for that, but we would go over a system, then move to something else – but then I’d have a question regarding a system she had went over.

Anyway, hopefully you find this useful. Let me know if the comment section below.

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