Similar to a boat, an RV is a bit of a complicated piece of equipment. Unless your parents or grandparents had a motorhome when you were growing up that they used frequently, it is unlikely that you know much about them when you get your first one. With an engine along with the rest of the power plant, a generator, an electrical system that includes a battery bank and an inverter/converter, mechanical parts, plumbing, slide-outs, a heating and cooling system and vents, as well as all of the electrical and moving elements typically found in an apartment or house, there is a lot to learn about.
If you bought — or are buying — a new RV, you likely received an introductory tour, an informational DVD, in addition to the vehicle’s owner’s manual. If, however, you bought a previously owned model, you may not be as lucky. Your introduction may have been brief and included an early “trial and error” sort of experience. When we bought ours, for example, the manual was clearly missing. Fortunately, along with data found on the Internet, there were many ways to become and remain informed about our RV including, but not limited to, these, in no particular order. Hopefully, you find them helpful, too.
1. Download Manuals Online
After a weather-based calamity, Gulf Stream made the decision to stop producing coaches, and to focus on making travel trailers. That said, finding parts and receiving customer support for one of their motorhomes can be a challenge. Having the owner’s manual is exceptionally helpful, especially if you don’t want to be running it to a repair shop for every glitch.
Being able to locate your breakers and inverter/converter switches to properly engage the slide-outs and jacks, as well as to understand what the various blinking lights in the control panels mean, are just a few of the important pieces of information and sets of instructions that the manual provides. Additionally, it lists the model numbers of all of the replaceable elements, such as the lights, water filters, oil filters, and air filters, as well as parts like the water pump and even the toilet seats so you can replace them with factory duplicates.
Although our rig didn’t come with the manual, we were able to find one online. If you are interested in having a physical copy, eBay is a great place to look for a cheap replacement.
2. Stay on the Manufacturer’s Mailing List
Staying on the mailing list of the manufacturer that produced your rig and the dealership that sold it to you ensures that you will be updated about any news regarding your motorhome. For example, if any of your RV’s parts are recalled or there is additional maintenance required for your rig, you would want to know about it. They can also keep you informed about new models and products that they offer that you may be interested in purchasing.
3. Join RV Clubs
These clubs maintain websites, forums, and newsletters to keep their members up to date about the latest regulations, trends, and financial deals. They also promote interaction among RVers, which is great for networking and learning from the actions of others. There is little more informative and inspirational than getting advice by way of someone’s personal “disaster” story.
In addition to information, joining RV and camping clubs like Passport America provides numerous services. For a yearly fee, you are entitled to reduced rates at certain, specified campgrounds. Additionally, you may receive discounts at some repair shops, camping supply stores, and fueling stations. Some clubs provide their members with RV and automotive insurance for a special rate, as well.
4. Subscribe to RV Newsletters
Many RV websites, such as Changingears.com and RVtravel.com, RV clubs like the Escapees RV Club and Passport America, as well as national campgrounds like KOA, offer newsletters to keep travelers informed. They often include travel and RV hacks, camping tips, and motorhome maintenance advice, along with the recipes and coupons.
5. Visit RV Service and Parts Providers
Any time you stop at an RV service or supply store, you should bring a list of all of the questions you have had regarding parts, potential and existing problems, reasonably priced local or traveling repairmen, etc. Many repairmen are happy to talk to you and answer questions as they service your motorhome. For example, Jonathan learned how to change the fuel filter for the generator and learned some helpful hints on slowing a leak in the RV’s radiator.
Another option is to go to the counter of an RV or camping supply store when business is slow and the customer service providers are bored. Since they often work on a commission, they are usually happy to discuss their products. We have spoken to many of these associates and learned which parts were most likely to fail — and when — and how to replace them, which lights were the most energy efficient, and which brands of products were overpriced for what they offered. In fact, we have gotten hours worth of “free” advice doing this. Of course, we made sure to buy something from the store in turn; that’s just good manners.
6. Check Out RV Forums and Online Discussion Groups
Generally speaking, online forums provide a venue for people to meet and discuss topics that they find mutually beneficial. RV forums allow owners to seek information and share their knowledge and experiences with each other.
Most established RV and camping websites have one. The ones I listed are some of the most comprehensive, but there are many more and they become more inclusive every day.
RV Dreams has forums separated into the following categories: Classifieds, Forum Member Websites, Introductions, Living the RV Dreams, Rally Information, and Questions for Howard and Linda, the site’s administrators. Along with the typical subjects, the “Living the RV Dream” category features forums, such as “Buying an RV,” “RV Maintenance and Technical Tips,” “Technology on the Road,” and “RV Accessories.” Each of these has thousands to tens of thousands of posts.
The many forum categories available on RV Network include one for feedback and requests regarding the “Site and Forum Operation.” The others include titles like “the RV Marketplace,” “RV Types,” “Beginning RVing”, and “Others”. The “Others” category features — among other things — forums for campsite cooking and one for veterans. The RV types, however, feature forums for everything from Class A motorhomes to bus conversions. Each of these provides a great source for information, as well as “Q and A.”
RV U.S.A. features categories like General and Beginning RVing, “RVing in Class,” “Trailer-ing,” and “Talk to RVusa.” “RVing in Class” provides information on motorhomes from Class As to “classics” and “Trailer-ing” focuses on towable trailers for horses, cargo, and vehicles, as well as the various aspects that they involve.
7. Network With the Other RVers
Nobody knows RVs as well as other RVers. People typically like to be the expert in any conversation. So, while other people may be apprehensive to appear uneducated, we are absolutely fine advertising our RV ignorance. It is a great way to let someone else show off while they provide us with lots of free information and often become our friend. By sharing contact information for Skype, email, and phone, you can access their knowledge as needed for years to come.
Join Social Media Groups
Consider joining a social media site like Facebook to stay in contact with your new RVing friends, as well as expand your network (This is also a great way to keep in touch with your existing friends and family), then join a relevant RV group. Many of these are listed under the manufacturer’s name, the RV’s class, or the niche. This allows you to post questions and answers to the group, like on a forum, but it also lets you see when your contacts are available, so you can send a private message and get an instantaneous, real time answer. This is often very helpful. For example, we are members of a group that focuses on solar power for motorhomes, which provides a lot of information about different types of panels and companion batteries. It enables us to benefit from the research efforts of others.
If You Can’t Find One, Start One
When we got our Gulfstream Tourmaster, one of the first things we did was start a group on Facebook to share stories, tips, repair advice, schematics, and photos of travel locations, modifications, and repairs with other Tourmaster owners throughout the United States. We now have a multitude of members, many of whom are quite active and have been very helpful.
Although the owner’s manual can be helpful, there have been several questions that we have had that the manual didn’t address. Of course, it obviously isn’t intended to cover every possible issue; and, that’s why the group is helpful. The first question we posted was after a cold, 8-degree night when our engine wouldn’t start. The answer was quick and the solution was easy (as most have been).
We reached out when our water pump didn’t work, when we were looking for replacement gutter trim, and when we were searching for the breaker that controlled the lights of the trailer that we tow. We’ve also learned more about the inverter, the mysterious workings located under the bed, the air compressor, RV weight limits, insulation and ways to improve it, RV parks in different locations, as well as where to order certain replacement parts from. And that doesn’t even cover the information that we’ve passed on to others.
The methods for becoming and remaining informed and up-to-date about your motorhome are almost limitless. In fact, with new websites and social media groups launching every day, it seems as though that isn’t likely to end any time soon. Keep up with contemporary news regarding your home by subscribing to the manufacturer’s newsletter. Learn tips and do-it-yourself advice on club websites or forums. Network with your neighbors or join groups to get answers to your “real time” questions. Owning an RV doesn’t have to cause more trouble than it’s worth; rather, it can be a source of unending education and adventure. Please share with friends and family on a social media site like Facebook and let’s build the community.