◾ If you are new to RVing, there is one question every owner is afraid to ask: “How do I hook this thing up?” There is something innate inside us that makes us want to nod our head and act like we know exactly what to do. We are RVers now. We’ve got this!
Truth is, everyone has to start at the beginning and learn how to connect their RV to full hook ups. This article is going to walk you through the process from start to finish.
If you are new to the RV world, you may want to start by reading my RV 101 series. Here are the articles you may have missed:
Rving 101- How To Choose The Perfect RV
Rving 101- Types of RV’s
Rving 101- The Great Debates (5er vs Motorhome, Gas vs Diesel, New Vs. Used)
Rving 101- Tips for Buying Your First RV
Rving 101- Tips for Buying A Used RV
RVing 101 - The Ultimate Checklist For Buying An RV
It’s natural to feel intimidated the first time you hook up your rig. We’ve all watched the sewer scene in the RV movie and silently cringed. So let’s start with the basics.
Step #1 - Parking Your Rig
The best place to learn to test your RV hookups is in a modern RV park that has everything you need. In the future, you may have to adapt and make things work. In the beginning, it’s best to practice in a safe place.
A quality RV campground will provide you with someone to direct your camper into your space. They will help you make sure you get a good spot and that you line up correctly with your power and sewer. Always ask before making your reservation if they offer FULL HOOKUP SERVICE at the site.
◾ Before you park your rig, look at the space. Make sure there are no overhead issues like low tree limbs. Watch for any obstacle you might not see from your camper.
Once you are parked, take time to walk around the RV. If you have slides, leave them in. You don’t want to bang your head every time you stand up.
Step #2 - Level Your RV
Once you are parked, you will want to level your RV. Most modern parks are relatively level, but you may have some minor adjustments. If your RV has an automatic system, push the button and let it level. If you need to adjust the level yourself, pull out your leveling blocks and begin the process. Need help learning to level your rig? CLICK HERE https://youtu.be/0uij_QTGSNE. In some cases, you may want to “chock” the wheels for stabilization, which is done when it is windy or if your camper is lightweight.
Step #3 - Make The Connection
Ok, it’s time to connect. Let’s walk through the basic process. Remember, it’s going to be different on each unit. This article will walk you through the general steps that can be applied to your specific rig.
Here’s a few of the things you will need to get started:
Caterpillar or RV Sewer Support
Surge Protector/Dog Bone/Electric Hook Up:
1. Locate the electricity for your space. When you open the cabinet, you should see a variety of plug sizes. In many cases, you will see a 50 amp, 30 amp and a 20 amp. Each uses a particular type of plug. You should know the type of amp’s your camper requires prior to arriving at your space. If you don't know, check your manual or ask for help at the RV park.
2. If your RV does not have a built-in surge protector, use an external model to protect your rig. They are bulky and a pain, but you can save your entire electrical system in a surge or a storm.
3. Connect your surge protector or your electrical cord to the matching plug receptacle. If your RV plug is not a natural fix, you will need to use a dogbone adapter. These help your rig adjust to the electric provided.
4. Turn on the circuit breaker in the outside electrical cabinet.
5. Go inside and check your RV to make sure the electricity is running. In some cases, you may have to flip a switch inside.
6. If you own a fridge that uses both propane and electricity, turn the power to electric.
Water Regulator/Water Hose/ Water Softener/ Water Hookup:
Water pressure varies from city to city and park to park. The safest way to connect outside water to your RV is to use a water pressure regulator. These simple units keep the water pressure at a constant psi. If you keep your incoming water at 60 or under psi, you should be safe in any rig. DO NOT go without.
1. Spray the outside water faucet with Lysol before using. The last person to connect with the faucet probably used it to clean out their sewer hose. Cover the faucet with disinfectant and wait a few seconds.
2. Connect your water regulator to the faucet and if you are using an external water filter (which I highly recommend), connect it to the regulator.
3. Many areas of the US need softened water. If you plan to use a portable water softener, connect it at this stage. Minerals in water can build up within the pipes and shower head of your rig. If you are in an area that has hard water - particularly in the southwest, you may want to invest in this option.
4. Connect a high quality water hose to the external water filter. Water hoses are made to provide safe drinking water. DO NOT use other forms of hoses. Water hoses come in a variety of price ranges. Search around and find the kind you are most comfortable with. Make sure you are connected to the potable water! (safe to drink)
5. Attach the other end of your water hose to the city water connection on your RV.
6. Check for water leaks. Look at all the connections between all the devices and your water intake on the camper. If there are no leaks, you are good to go. There is no need to use your 12 V water pump when you are hooked up to city water. You only use the pump when you are drawing water directly from your tank storage. Make sure to turn your water pumps off, which is done inside or outside the RV depending on the unit.
Many RV parks offer free cable. If this is the case, you will want to connect your outside coaxial cable from the park hook up to your outside hookup. In many cases this is in the same area as your water and sewer connections in the storage section of your RV. If you are buying a cable, 25-50 feet is plenty long.
Ok, this is where those disposable rubber gloves come in handy! It’s time to put them on! In most cases, the factory sewer hose is a waste of time. It’s too short to really be of any use. Instead, look for a longer hose that is at least 15 feet long. You will also want the sewer hose extension kits, which include a hose elbow and a sewer hose support. Shop for the hose first, then choose items that work directly with that product. A back-up hose is also an important purchase; it's good to have options should an emergency arise!
1. Connect the sewer hose to your RV hookup and feed it down into the dump hole at your space. You may need to remove the dump plug. In some states, you are required to lift the hose off the ground using a sewer hose support or a caterpillar. A support can also be handy if you need a better angle from your connection to the dump.
2. At the dump location, connect a sewer donut or a sewer connection; this is the adapter that will make sure your hose stays in the dump hole without leaks. Always carry a spare just in case something cracks!
3. Once it’s connected, lightly turn or pull open the gray water tank. This will begin the process of dumping sink water from your rig. This is the best time to check for leaks. Only release a small test amount.
4. Now, turn or pull the black tank handle and let the entire tank drain. Depending on the size of your RV, this can take a while.
5. Once your black tank is empty and the water has stopped moving, you will want to do a flush. Connect your sewer specific host to the black tank flush valve. Turn on the water and spray out any leftover waste in your tank. Allow up to five minutes or until the water is relatively clear.
6. Next, dump your grey tank so that the empty water also flushes out your sewer hose.
7. With the gray tank empty, make sure both tank handles or valves are closed. Cap the sewer connector to avoid drips!
8. Rinse the sewer hose with water after disconnecting from the RV. Spray disinfectant on the ends to kill all bacteria. Spray everything in the storage bay, including handles, floor, line and spigot!
9. Change your gloves and store the items back in your specific storage bins. Toss your second pair of gloves!
10. If you want to add chemicals or enzymes to your tank, this is the time to do it. You can drop them into your toilet following the manufacturer’s instructions. There are also chemicals for gray tanks, but they aren’t used as often. Be sure to follow the directions on the individual package.
Note: Never leave your black tank valve fully open except when dumping your tank. Dumping the black tank continually can cause problems. You can, however, leave your gray water tank valve slightly open so your sink and shower water drain into the sewer each day.
Final Hook Up Steps
If you are using propane, turn it on.
If you are heating water tanks for an evening shower, now is the time to turn it on.
If you have slides, you can now deploy them following your manufacturer's directions.
Set up your outside area and let the “camping begin!”
I know this sounds like a huge process, but like anything, practice makes perfect. I suggest you stay in a full service park your first few times to get the hang of things. In the future, you may stay in campgrounds where the hookups consist of power only, water only or water and power with a public dump station (this is where each RV has to move to a defined sewer area and dump their tank).
If you are Boondocking using solar, you can locate public dump stations around North America by visiting
Sani Dumps also offers an app to help you locate dumps on the road. This is incredibly helpful if you need to know how big the dump station is BEFORE you pull up.
If you liked this article, please do me a favor and share it with your social-loving friends. It’s so exciting to see these posted on Facebook, Forums, Linked In, Pinterest and Twitter. Thanks so much for all your help!