Maintenance happens whether you have a home, a vehicle or an RV. If you have ever owned either a home or a vehicle, you know that there are standard and routine actions that need to be taken as preventative measures to avoid breakdowns or extensive repairs.
The good news is that the psychology of RV maintenance shares a lot of the same requirements as those of vehicle ownership; you only need to adjust the variables to accommodate the extras that you have in your RV. The type and timing of the maintenance is dependent upon the class of your RV and you will need to set up a schedule that matches the needs.
The most important lesson is, once you create your schedule, stick to it! Keep a notebook with a checklist and date so that you know when each maintenance item was done. This is especially important for those annual checks and changes such as checking your sewer vent. You will also want to have a special storage area for some of the easy replacement items such as light bulbs.
Annual RV Maintenance and Spring Cleaning
Class A and C motorhomes should be thought of in the same way that you would your family vehicle. They require tire checks and rotations, oil and filter changes, and confirmation of fluid levels every 3,000 miles. The manufacturer of your motorhome will include a guideline and the information may differ based on whether you have a gas or diesel engine. If you are on the road a lot, the miles will add up quickly, but if you are a weekend or vacation warrior it may take time to reach that 3,000 mile mark. In the case of the latter, you will need to start up your RV and take it out just to keep things operating and parts moving. Various engine parts require use to extend their lifespan. If you have a generator you need to run it every month if you don’t use it that often and check the manufacturer’s specs to make sure that you change the oil and filter as required.
Most RV’s have two completely separate battery systems: one for the “house” and one for the “engine”. Batteries that are used should maintain their charge and last the duration that the manufacturers indicate. However, batteries that aren’t used can quickly lose their charge and in some cases, you will be required to buy new ones. Get an inexpensive multimeter to check your main voltages. The rule of thumb is: between 12.4 volts and 12.8 volts for main coach batteries when not in a charging condition. A suggestion that can save you a lot of time and headaches is to get an EMS (electrical management system) for monitoring and provides needed protection.
Seams and Seals
If you don’t have an engine to worry about by having a trailer or fifth wheel, there are still a number of areas to focus on for optimum efficiency and maintenance. Water damage is one of the main problems and can cost a lot to repair. Check all of the seams and seals every month. This is especially important if your trailer or fifth wheel sits for a while. Weather can wreak havoc on seams and seals.
DIY Oil and Tire Changes and Checks
If you are experienced at changing the oil, re-pressurizing your tires and even checking your brakes on your family vehicles, you may be able to do the same thing with your RV. There are some major differences and considerations so before you jump into these activities, check out some of the online instruction videos that can save you hassle, time and doing it incorrectly.
A topic that is often ignored is the roof of your RV, trailer or fifth wheel. The roof gets a lot of beatings with weather and to avoid major problems it is advised that you either park them in a covered port area or have appropriately sized covers for them. For RV’s and motorhomes the same goes for the tires so that they don’t get the full effect of weather conditions. If you are on the road on a consistent basis, spend the extra time getting the roof cleaned. This helps to avoid those horrid “black streaks” that can appear.
Another tip for those that have their RV, trailer or fifth wheel sitting is to open up all of the vents to promote air flow during the hottest seasons. When they are constantly closed, the heat will build up inside and that contributes to the breakdown of many of the internal materials. However, with that said, consistently check to make sure the exterior vents are covered properly. This will avoid allowing water to leak in and cause extensive damage.
If you have any slide-out areas you will absolutely want to make sure that they are well-lubricated. As soon as you begin to hear that annoying “squeaking” sound you will know that it’s time to get one of the popular products for lubrication. Professionals recommend that you apply the lubricants a minimum of once or twice per year, to avoid hearing that squeaking at all.
Tighten Everything Up
No matter what type of mobile unit that you have, you will want to make sure that everything is tightened up properly. A simple tool box has everything that you need and you can use the screw driver and wrench to go around and make sure that all are re-tightened. The RV, trailer or fifth wheel receives a lot of bumps and jarring so pay extra attention to some of those areas such as ladder rungs that often go overlooked.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Keeping your vehicle clean is another easy accomplishment. Dirt and grime takes its toll on everything, especially moving parts. Once washed, used a good RV wax that has high quality UV protectants. The concept of “clean” also includes sanitizing your tanks. Depending upon how often you use your motorhome, you may want to run a solution of bleach or just combine Calgon water softener and Borax as a cleansing and deodorizing treatment. You can also buy some of the products that are specifically designed for cleaning your tanks. This is a priority so that you don’t find yourself on the road with dreaded tank problems and backups.
Remember to look under your Unit
Just like the roof, the underbelly of your unit can take a beating. You need to crawl under and take a good hard look to see if there is any corrosion or items that are broken. The last thing that you want is to have a major problem when you are on the road. If you travel a lot, check under the unit on a monthly basis or after any long extended trip.
Check Smoke Alarms, Carbon Monoxide and Propane
Making sure that the sensors on your smoke, propane and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly is a high priority. Many are hardwired into your system although some may be battery operated. If the latter, change out the batteries so that you know that they are good.
RV Towing Electrical Connection
While this goes along with checking all electrical connections, this particular connection sometimes goes with little or no attention. Check the connection on an absolute regular basis, whether it is on the road a lot or just sitting.
In addition to the standard maintenance, diesels take just a bit of extra attention. Check the SCAs (supplement cooling additives) count on an annual basis to ensure engine coolant. This helps to avoid those ugly corrosive bubbles that form on the engine walls.
Most diesel engine air filter cartridges last around three years, but you should check the air filter as part of a regular routine so that weather issues don’t cause them to have problems.
Check with your manufacturers recommendations regarding the spark arresters. These typically need to be cleaned every 250 operating hours or so. If you don’t do it, you can get exhaust smoke or a potential fire due to the hot carbon deposits.
Wet hub oil filled areas on the front axle need to be checked to ensure the oil level as well as potential leaks. This should be done every month. Don’t forget to look on the inside of the tires for any oil traces.
Giving your RV, motorhome, trailer or fifth wheel the extra TLC can save time as well as expensive repair bills. These are the responsibilities you have as an owner and can make your trips the very best possible.
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