Owners Guide To Interior and Exterior RV Maintenance

How to Keep Your RV Running Smoothly For Years

Today's the day! You're ready to go on a long-awaited camping trip. You, your spouse and your kids have all been looking forward to this since you booked it two months ago. All of you are looking forward to the thrill of being in the middle of a campground surrounded by nature's beauty while having all the comforts of home readily available. Whether your living quarters is an RV (also known as a recreational vehicle or motorhome) that also acts as your vehicle, or a Travel Trailer that needs to be towed, you can get the best of both home and camping life simultaneously. 

However, as you're getting ready, you notice a flat tire. After thinking that it's not that big a deal, you fix it and head out an hour later than planned. On your way there, though, you notice the roof is leaking, which has already caused some water damage, your rooms are a mess, and some mosquitos have hitchhiked and made themselves at home. After arriving, you can't start the generator, and your water supply barely works. You wonder if the getaway wasn't all it's cracked up to be. While having all the comforts of a house can make camping feel more like home, they come with some work to keep running. 

As it turns out, routine maintenance and simple RV or Travel Trailer repairs would have prevented this. Even a new RV can deteriorate quickly without preventative maintenance. An RV maintenance checklist and maintenance schedule can help you avoid a costly repair. Being able to fix any deteriorating windows or doors could keep out unwanted pests. The leak in the roof could have been prevented by checking it out a couple of times per year and doing the needed small repairs as they came up. Simply a brief inspection could have let you know you had a flat that you could have replaced earlier, and checking out your rooms briefly, and cleaning up after yourself would have prevented the mess. 

As an RV owner, you'll notice that RV maintenance is less expensive and less disruptive than RV repair. Below are a few things you can do in advance to ensure you get the most out of your next trip. Keep in mind that even after you follow all of this advice, it's impossible to mitigate all risks, so buying RV Insurance or Travel Trailer Insurance, depending on which you require, is also recommended.

Outside RV Maintenance

Keeping the outside of your RV well maintained is an essential part of RV maintenance, as not only does it make the RV easy on the eyes, it keeps it functional. Many steps are similar to keeping a car running, so they should be familiar to you.

Maintain the Roof

Maintaining your RV roof is one of the most important aspects of RV maintenance. Remember, a damaged RV roof gives all the downsides of a damaged vehicle roof and a damaged home roof, so a lack of care on the roof can dampen your experience, literally.

As with the rest of your RV, keeping the roof clean is one of the best ways to keep it in good shape. In addition to cleaning it at least two times a year, it's also a good idea to keep your roof safe from any possible wear and tear in the first place. Avoid parking your RV under sappy trees or other objects that could lead to making a mess.

When cleaning, ensure that you take all the safety procedures needed for the type of roof material your RV has. Some roofs allow you to walk on them safely, while others recommend standing on a ladder and never walking on the roof. Always ensure that you follow any safety instructions as directed by the RV owner's manual, and follow all safety warnings.

Either way, when doing a roof inspection, you'll want to brush off all debris and do what you can to patch cracks and roof leaks.

Keep the Motor, Brakes and Batteries Running

Without a motor or battery, you're not going anywhere. Without brakes, you're not stopping, or at least not stopping when you want to. Like any other vehicle, an RV needs regular maintenance to remain functional.

Luckily, the RV maintenance tasks to keep your vehicle running are the same as on most other vehicles. These include oil changes every 5,000 kilometers or so, although the exact number will change based on your vehicle's needs. Be sure to check your owner's manual to confirm the exact numbers for your model.

Keeping your RV battery in working order is a balancing act. On the one hand, overcharging your battery can do damage to it. However, on the other hand, if your battery discharges too much, it can freeze up during the winter, which can cause damage. Also, not charging it at all will likely mean they will start the year flat. Keeping it at around 80% is recommended. If possible, you should take it out of your RV and store them inside during the winter. Your battery may also need replacing eventually, so keep that in mind.

Again, like with a car, you can increase the lifespan of your brakes by not slamming on them very often, making sure you break more steadily. However, note that when it comes to more detailed and specific maintenance, different types of breaks require different maintenance.

Disc brakes, for example, require you to replace the brake pads every few months, while drum brakes need the drums to get either regrouped, turned or entirely replaced. The brake fluid in hydraulic brakes also needs to be replaced every few years, as do filters in air brake systems.

Keep the Outside Clean

As much as dirt and grime can be unappealing, that's far from the worst thing that can happen to the outside of your trailer. Stains, corrosion and more are all possible results of the outside being exposed to too much gunk. Luckily, washing the exterior is one of the easiest part of RV maintenance.

Cleaning an RV should begin by spraying it with water and adding mild soap all over the RV. Next, scrub the entire vehicle with a sponge or similar cleaning tool to remove unwanted gunk. Lastly, rinse with water again to finalize the removal of all chemicals used and wash away the grime. Please keep the nozzle a safe distance from the RV to ensure you don't accidentally damage the outside with too much water pressure.

Inspect and Cover Sealed Areas

This part of RV maintenance includes your windows and doors. For windows, it is important to ensure that they are properly sealed to prevent uninvited guests from flying in, and also to stop dirt or dust from blowing inside. Your window seals should be snugly fastened around the entire window and never be loose, cracked or otherwise damaged. It's also best to clean up any dust or similar substance that could prevent your windows from sliding correctly. Annual maintenance is recommended for windows.

If a door needs any attention, such as a seal or screen replacement, you should do so immediately, as replacing a door entirely can be very expensive.

Keep the Tires Ready to Go

Like with vehicle maintenance, part of RV maintenance is ensuring that your tires are kept in usable condition. It's always best to keep tires properly inflated, as tire pressure is tricky. Overinflated tires can cause you to lose a lot of traction, and underinflated tires can cause you to lose control of your RV and put stress on other parts of the vehicle, including the wheels. Ensure that the air pressure within your tires is stable, and replace your tires once every few years. If a worst case scenario does happen, carrying a spare RV tire is a great way to be prepared for a possible emergency.

Inside RV Maintenance

Remember the inside of the RV as well. It would help if you kept it as nice of a place to live as your home is. After all, for a little while, it will be your home. The following RV maintenance activities will ensure your mobile home is as lovely as your regular home.

Ensure the Right Equipment is on Board

An overlooked aspect of RV maintenance is ensuring you have all the little things on board. The following list is a great place to get started:

  • Spares of any critical component, including a spare tire
  • Any tools needed to replace or repair doors and windows.
  • Bug spray and traps for pests
  • Sun protection, such as sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Snacks and fresh water
  • Spare fuel for both the RV and the generator
  • Maintenance sealant
  • Mild detergent
  • Spare clothes

Ensure the Rooms are Clean

As it turns out, your mom was right when she said to keep your place clean. It's best to make sure you mop, sweep and dust each room now and again, especially before you go. Not only does a bit of RV maintenance keep the inside looking nice, but it will also stop unwanted pests from coming by and helping themselves to your leftovers. Also, remember to take out the garbage and other essential things.

Maintaining the Electrical and Plumbing Systems

It can be comforting to have electricity and plumbing for yourself, while other campers are stuck without electronics while they also deal with the public washrooms. However, these handy little devices don’t magically maintain themselves. It's up to you to maintain and use them properly.

For example, your electric supply will always have limits. This means that you will not be able to run all of your electrical devices at once, so it is advised for you to turn off any devices you're not using. Also, remember that things like your RV furnace, air conditioning, washing machine and most kitchen appliances use plenty of electricity, so make sure you use only a few at once.

The nitty-gritty of RV plumbing works differently than at home. Your holding tank fits all of your clean water, so you must fill this up before you leave. You don't want to shower in dirty water, which would defeat the purpose. Even worse, you want to avoid drinking contaminated water. Some campgrounds have places where you can fill up your fresh water tank, but others don't, so if you go to the latter, ensure you refill before leaving. Make sure to know the areas where you can fill your holding tank, both near your home and around the campsite.

A water filter is also required since you never know if any bacteria or other infection vector is lurking inside. It would be best if you either looked this up or asked someone in advance. Knowing how to maintain and replace your water heater and water pump is also advised.

Maintaining the Generator and Other Emergency Equipment

One of the essential things to remember with an RV is the generator, as there's nothing better than a camping adventure where you still have electricity. Some RV's come with a generator already equipped. Others require you to buy one. Either way, your generator will require maintenance on its own.

If you have a gas generator, you must change the oil when required. Times vary from generator to generator, but once every 150 hours of use is a safe option. If, however, you keep your generator use to a minimum, changing the oil at least once a year is still needed. Changing the spark plugs (every 450 hours) and the fuel filters (every 500 hours) is also best. An air filter should also be replaced once every 150 hours of use.

Although diesel generators don't require you to change spark plugs, they do require the other above steps, plus flushing the cooling system and draining condensation. The cooling system should be washed once every five years or 1000 hours of use, with water drained annually or every 100 hours.

First aid kits, carbon monoxide detectors, fire detectors, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, and other emergency devices are all also recommended. If any of these require a power source, such as batteries, it is recommended that you keep spares with you just in case.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Maintaining your RV isn’t something that comes easily to everyone, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. If you have a friend, family member or neighbour who’s experienced with RV’s, they can be a tremendous resource. If the campground you go to has any employees who specialize in helping guests with their RV’s don’t hesitate to ask them any questions you may have. If however, none of these wonderful resources are available to you, or you just want some extra information, there are some great resources out there online, as many sites, including blogs, are dedicated entirely to helping people like you ensure their RV’s are well maintained.

Love Your RV

As much as keeping your RV well maintained isn’t easy, you wouldn’t be doing it if you didn’t love the vehicle. An RV offers certain opportunities that no other vehicle does, and your RV is as unique as you make it. Maintaining your RV will ensure that the vehicle that you craft and make yours in your own little ways will last for years and that you get the most use out of it that you can.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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