Tips for Maintaining an RV

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Introduction

Maintaining your RV in peak shape will increase your resale value, cost savings, and safety on the road. When it comes to your RV, wash, inspect, flush, clean, and remember the adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as coined by founding father, philosopher, and inventor Benjamin Franklin. RV maintenance is a significant chore whether you travel in a motorized RV or a towable but neglecting basic maintenance and cleaning your RV both inside and out may result in serious problems and expensive repairs. To maintain your RV in peak shape, create a daily cleaning schedule and a year-round checklist.

The RV is one of the most popular types of vehicles today, as they can serve as a temporary home for people that are taking on a long road trip or as a permanent home for those that do not like to stay in one location and want to explore other areas in their country. While RVs are very popular today, there are still a lot of RV owners that do not know how to properly maintain the different aspects of their recreational vehicles. If you have recently bought an RV and are curious about how to take care of it for the vehicle to last longer, here are some tips for maintaining an RV.

Regular Maintenance Tasks

an-old-RV

Checking and changing the oil and other fluids

Change your RV’s oil

An RV tends to sit more than a vehicle, which needs maintenance every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. You should do seasonal oil changes to make sure that everything is well-lubricated and operating at peak efficiency. For RVs, it is advised to replace the oil every year (spring is an excellent time to do this). If you do not replace the oil, your RV’s engine may suffer from excessive wear and tear, which might cost you money in repairs or possibly force you to buy a new engine.

Replace the air, fuel, coolant, and hydraulic filters in your RV.

Similar to changing your RV’s oils, you need to change the air, fuel, coolant, and hydraulic filters in your RV on a seasonal basis. At every oil change, we typically advise checking the air filter, fuel filter, coolant filter, and hydraulic filter. Similar to not replacing the oil, your RV’s engine, and drive system may experience excessive wear and tear.

Inspecting tires for wear and proper inflation

Tighten your RV’s wheel lug nuts and check tire pressure

To protect your safety on the road, tighten your RV’s wheel lug nuts and check the tire pressure before each journey. Verify the lug nuts on the wheels of the car to make sure they did not get loose while it was in storage or on a prior trip. It is risky to drive with loose lug nuts because you risk losing a wheel on the highway. Additionally, it is crucial to check the tire pressure on your RV because underinflated tires could explode, endangering your vehicle and possibly resulting in an accident. Underinflated tires are particularly risky because they impair steering and provide higher road resistance, which reduces gas mileage. Tire pressure varies with temperature, so if your RV has been sitting all winter, it will have severely lost pressure, making for a dangerous and inefficient trip.

Cleaning and maintaining the exterior and interior of the RV

Interior Maintenance

While you are at the campground or park, it is simple to get caught up in the “vacation haze,” but maintaining an RV requires daily work. Carpets and upholstery may either give the appearance that an RV has been lovingly maintained, or they might reveal slack maintenance. Vacuum or sweep daily: The grit carried in from the great outdoors will stain and eventually wear out carpet and floor coverings. To prevent outdoor shoes from tracking dirt inside the RV, think about placing a shoe bin or rack just outside the entry or right inside.

If you have had a fun day at the beach or on the trails, put a towel or blanket across the couch or chair before you sit down to shield the upholstery from oil and grime that is difficult to remove. Use the attachment to grab crumbs and dirt from between the cushions and in the crevices of upholstered and leather furniture while you quickly vacuum.

Before putting your RV away for the year, make sure the carpets are free of any lingering stains or moist areas that might get worse when the RV is closed. Every year, plan a thorough cleaning of all the floors. While using your RV, wipe down surfaces, appliance basins, and bowls with a mild cleaner. If grime and soap are allowed to accumulate, a stronger cleaner that is not suitable for RV materials will likely be needed, which could lead to discolored or pitted bowls and basins.

Plan a comprehensive cleaning once a year that includes washing down and drying the walls, trim, and ceiling, cleaning, and degreasing in and around the kitchen, and treating woodwork with wood cleaner. Before and after each trip, check drawers and cabinets for spills and messes; once a year, empty all of the RV’s drawers and cabinets and vacuum clean any crumbs, dust, and spills. To keep drawer glides operating smoothly and seeming brand-new, carefully clean them.

Exterior Maintenance

When not in use, store your RV under cover to prolong the life of the exterior.  Even the most meticulously stored RV has to be bathed regularly as well as deep cleaned and waxed twice a year from top to bottom to stay in peak shape. While maintaining your RV is a big job, the consequences for improperly storing, washing, and waxing your RV come at a steep price: A faded, oxidized finish will be difficult, maybe impossible, and surely expensive to restore to near-factory showroom shine. Starting at the top, wash your large load. Start by cleaning the roof, rinsing dirt down as you go. Additionally, extend and clean the awning. Use a towel or chamois as necessary to complete the awning and RV’s drying process. Check the seals around the windows, doors, and storage compartments while you are waiting for the RV to dry. Apply a wax made especially for RVs using a buffer. Do not hurry the process when working on a large RV, even if it can feel like you are excavating your way out of prison with a teaspoon. Apply the wax in two-foot portions, let it become hazy before wiping it off, then repeat. Your RV’s finish is shielded by wax, which acts as a sunscreen to stop cracking and fading. The tires should next be treated with soap and a degreaser before receiving a water-based tire dressing. Take advantage of the chance to examine the tire pressure and wear on the RV. Check the tires for dry rot or cracks if the RV has been left outside for an extended period. Use a spray lubricant on hinges, locks, and exposed metal to prevent corrosion and keep parts moving easily.

Checking and replacing filters

Check the levels and check the oil for debris. In line with the instructions in your motorhome’s user handbook, drain and replace it if necessary. When you do, be careful to change the oil filter to guarantee that the new oil is clean. Check the rest of the fluids and filters on the checklist as well, including the air filter, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant, and even windshield wiper fluid. 

Seasonal Maintenance Tasks

using-an-RV-during-the-summer

Preparing the RV for winter use

1. Fill Your Fresh Water Tank and/or Use a Heated Water Hose

Water turns to ice as the temperature drops below freezing, which is crucial for several reasons. And as a result of this expansion, hoses, and plumbing may burst or become damaged. Because of this, if you want to go camping in the winter, you should place water at the top of your list of priorities. If you are just going to be winter camping for a short time (say, a week or less), you may just fill your freshwater tank with water and use it for drinking, cooking, washing, and other uses. You may attach your freshwater line and fill your freshwater tank as necessary if you are parked close to a city water source of any type. By using this method, the problem of your freshwater hose freezing is completely avoided. However, if you intend to go winter camping in an area where the average temperature is likely to drop below freezing frequently, you might want to consider getting a heated water hose. You may create your heated water hose, as we have done, or purchase one, as mentioned in the preceding link. In either case, it is crucial to make sure that during periods of winter RV living, the water entering your RV from your municipal water supply cannot freeze.

2. Fill Propane or Connect to an External Propane Tank

Be careful to fill up your propane tank(s) or purchase the tools you need to connect to an external propane tank as we demonstrate in this YouTube video before leaving on a winter camping trip (or before setting up at a long-term winter location). Prepare ahead of time if you will need propane for cooking, heating your vehicle and water, and other uses so that you do not run out (if you’ll be camping in below-freezing temperatures, we recommend having a few different options for heating your vehicle because you can’t take the chance of losing all of your heat sources).

3. Keep Sewer Hose Off the Ground and Flowing Downward

Keep your sewer hose off the ground and sloping downward if you plan to be connected to a sewer inlet throughout your period of winter RV living. It is simple to accomplish both of these objectives by using a Slunky sewer hose support, as we have done. The Slunky elevates and supports your sewer hose (off the frozen ground) and provides the slope you need for proper drainage. The Slunky is a 20-foot support that has a height of 7″ at the RV end and a height of 4.5″ at the sewage end.

4. Keep Gate Valves Closed and Insulated During Winter RV Living

You should always leave your black valve closed! You should also use a sloping sewer hose support and close your gray and black water gate valves except when you need to empty your holding tanks. Gray water will only sometimes flow out via the hose when it is left open. That little flow can congeal as it passes through, steadily accumulating (like the layers of a pearl) until the hose becomes clogged. Additionally, if you will be spending more than a few days camping in subfreezing temperatures, you might want to think about insulating your gate valves, so they will open when you need to empty those tanks. A full holding tank and frozen gate valves are a bad combination.

5. Seal Off Sewer Hose Entry(ies)

Sealing up the sewer hose entry is another strategy to maintain the warmth of the water compartment or basement when living in an RV in the winter. If your sewer line is attached, you are most likely feeding it via a hole in the bay’s bottom. Because of that opening, the water compartment can get chilly and perhaps home to rats, offsetting the warmth the light bulb was intended to offer.

Preparing the RV for summer use

1. Flush the Water System

To prevent the pump line from freezing, you may have winterized your water tank with antifreeze before putting it away. If so, you will need to fully flush it to get rid of the chemical residue. Pouring one cup of bleach into a gallon of water and filling the empty tank can quickly and effectively clean it. Activate every faucet and let it run until you detect the scent of bleach. After letting the water system rest for a whole day, drain it and replace it with new water. Restart the faucets and let the water flow until the scent of bleach is gone. A few water tanks may be required for this. 

2. Begin With a Good Exterior Cleaning

Start by giving the outside a good wash to get rid of all the winter dirt. Use a brush with an extended handle and a wash and wax mixture. Working from the top down to the tires, thoroughly rinse everything out with a hose. It is a good idea to examine the roof and repair any missing or damaged caulking around the vents and seals once the outside is clean and dry. Make sure the slide-out seals are working correctly and examine them as well. Once the water system and water heater are full, you can plug into shore power. They should be full and functioning to prevent the water heater’s electric mode from being accidentally activated. As a result, the element will burn out and may catch fire. The refrigerator will enter electric mode and begin chilling when the automatic setting is selected. Flush the exterior shower hose as well if you have one. Additionally, this is a good time to replace your water filter if you have one. Finally, get a flashlight, start the pump, and look for leaks all around the water sources. Before your first journey, fix any leaks. Recently, we experienced a water heater leak, which was challenging to locate. We were fortunate to discover it before departing for a weekend getaway!

3. Examine the RV toilet

When the family is traveling, RV toilets are more than convenient, so you know how important it is that they function properly! First, make sure you have a water source for the toilet, such as a campsite hookup or your freshwater tank. Make sure the toilet seal has not dried out and hardened by inspecting it. If this is the case, a leak might develop and let out odors from the black water tank. A grease from a plumber might be used to repair the seal. To increase the lifespan of your system, use deodorizers and tank treatments for RVs. These medications are available as liquids or drop-ins. Always use toilet paper designed for RVs. RVers frequently receive an inaccurate holding tank reading. The residue that adheres to the sensor might cause this. Put several trays of ice cubes in the toilet bowl for a fast remedy. In a few hours, the cubes will melt, hopefully dissolving the residue. By pressing the bottom pedal down and allowing the bowl to fill halfway before using, you may ensure that the toilet is half-filled with water. 

4. Check the Tires

Your RV’s tires are a crucial component. Some RV manufacturers recommend changing the tires every five years, while others suggest doing so every ten. Either way, examine your freshly washed tires for cracks. Perhaps look into ways to avoid them altogether! Check the tires and fill them to the required pressure because tires lose some air throughout the winter. This is described in your manual. Apply a good tire protection spray to retain moisture and prevent dry rot. To guarantee a safe journey, tighten the lug nuts. 

5. Inspect the RV Battery

Did you know that when batteries are not in use, they lose around 10% of their energy each month? resulting in full death over extended periods. The battery may be removed by certain RV owners and stored. Ensure that they are properly reconnected if this is the case. As it can be dangerous, you might want to hire a service technician to do this. Make sure the batteries are completely charged and have the appropriate water levels before heading out on the road. That details can be found in the battery’s manual.

Electrical System Maintenance

RVs-with-lights

Checking and replacing batteries

Check the fuses and batteries

Although electrical systems in cars are fairly complex, those in RVs can be even more intricate. In most RVs, electrical systems are at least present for lights, outlets, stoves, pumps, air conditioners, and sometimes water heaters. Even for a professional, it might be difficult to inspect every component of an electrical system, but there are certain things you can check fairly quickly, such as your batteries and fuses. You should be able to discover information about the fuse box’s location and the appropriate fuses in your owner’s handbook. Make sure to check them annually or at least before each trip. 

You may have a battery or many batteries; one to power the motor and at least one for the electrical systems, depending on your RV and whether it is a motorhome or not. Although these batteries are probably of different types, maintenance is generally the same. It is crucial to maintain the batteries charged first and foremost. Long periods of inactivity can still lead them to deplete and eventually expire, much like a vehicle battery. Although some RVs have solar panels to maintain a constant charge, you might need to occasionally hook up yours to do so. Checking the electrolyte levels in your batteries is also essential (yes, batteries contain fluid as well). Most batteries include a little flap that you may remove to reveal multiple holes underneath. If the fluid level is low, just add a little purified water; it is crucial that you only use distilled water. The fluid level should be above the metal plates within. 

Checking and maintaining the RV’s electrical system

Verify the wiring

The electrical system of your RV may experience decreased performance or even failure as a result of deteriorating or old wiring over time. When inspecting the wiring, keep an eye out for signs of harm or deterioration. The wiring must be repaired or replaced if there is any damage for it to function properly.

Examine the breakers and fuses

Fuse and circuit breakers in the electrical system of your RV prevent overheating. The fuses and breakers should be regularly checked, and any that are damaged or have blown should be replaced.

Check out the outlets

The electrical outlets in your RV provide electricity for your devices and appliances. To ensure that the outlets are functioning correctly and discharging the necessary voltage, you should often inspect them.

Look at the battery

We cannot emphasize enough the critical role that your RV’s battery plays in providing electricity while you are not connected to a power source. Regularly check the battery and replace it if necessary. Additionally, check the battery connections to make sure they are clean and secure.

Plumbing System Maintenance

inside-an-RV

Regularly flushing and cleaning the holding tanks

Empty your black water tank first

Draining the black water tank should always come first. Consider adding fresh water to your tank if it is not already full before you dump it. The solids are appropriately flushed with enough liquid as a result.

Flush the toilets several times

Fill the black tank with some clear water. This will only fill the black water tank partly.

Drain the black tank a second time

It is time to dispose of the effluent at this point. Open the valves and allow the water to flow if the unit is connected to a sewage connection. When boondocking, you must locate a suitable dump station.

It is time to flush the tanks with fresh water after they have been emptied. This will assist in getting rid of leftover trash and stop smells from developing. When the water in the black tank of your RV is clear, connect it to a water supply and run a hose into it.

Checking and maintaining the water heater

General Maintenance

To avoid degradation brought on by build-up, the majority of RV water heaters need some kind of general maintenance. Before doing any repair, you must always refer to your handbook and make sure the electricity to your water heater is turned off by flicking the breaker. The water heater needs to be turned off and allowed to cool down before removing the drain stopper, and anode rod, or trying to empty it. The water must also be turned off. A pressure-release valve is typically present on water heaters and must also be opened. Take your RV to a technician for routine tune-ups if you do not feel confident doing this upkeep. 

Remove the anode rod (if applicable)

Anode rods are purposefully used in suburban water heaters to stop rust and corrosion from damaging the tank. They instead go after the anode rod. Depending on how frequently the tank is used, they need to be updated every one to three years. Your anode rod is safeguarding your pricey tank if you check it and see that it is severely corroded. With the proper size socket, the majority of anode rods may be removed. It may be necessary to use a torque wrench with an extension to assist break the seal if you have never removed one before or if yours is particularly corroded. 

Flush it out twice a year minimum

It is crucial to flush out the water heater in your RV to get rid of any calcium buildup. It is advised to cleanse your tank roughly four times a year if you use your RV often. You may complete this procedure before winterizing your RV if you store it for the winter.

You must first remove the anode rod or drain stopper from your water heater tank before flushing it. Wait until the water in your tank has cooled before doing this. Then, flush any loose debris in your tank using a water heater rinser or city water. Reinstall your anode rod or drain stopper once all the water and small debris have been removed from the system.

Check the electric heater element

Read your handbook and make sure you are not nullifying the warranty before trying this step. It takes a bit more effort to inspect the electric heater element than the anode rod. To access it, you must take off some wiring and the LP gas burner tubing. For advice on how to use your particular model, think about watching a YouTube video. Consider routinely inspecting this component for rust if doing so will not affect your warranty. Most RVers attempt to do this stage once or twice a year. 

Check the vents regularly

Depending on how frequently the RV is used, this is a minor issue that you may check on a weekly or monthly basis. Look for venting around your water heater. Clean it off and look for any accumulation of debris. 

Checking for and repairing leaks in the plumbing system

Check The Water System

The water system in most RVs is divided into three sections: freshwater, greywater, and blackwater tanks. Needless to say, some upkeep is necessary to prevent messes throughout your upcoming road trip. If the freshwater system is not used, bacteria and other pathogens might accumulate over time. Simply fill it halfway with bleach and use that to clean it. Driving about a little bit might aid in getting a more thorough cleaning, if feasible. After that, let the solution drain completely by opening the taps. Maintain a closed system so that the solution may sterilize your greywater as well. Finally, perform this procedure a few more times using fresh water to remove any remaining bleach solution. You should use special cleaning agents while cleaning the blackwater tank. Several gallons of water can be used to flush these chemicals down the toilet. Once the system is connected to the proper sewer connection, drain it. 

Conclusion

An RV has to be maintained regularly to preserve its durability and security. Regular inspections, appropriate cleaning, and upkeep of the tires, batteries, and appliances are a few ways to maintain your RV in good shape. The RV must also be stored correctly while not in use, and repairs must be done as soon as possible. You can make sure that your RV is always prepared for your next vacation by following the above-mentioned tips.

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