Are you an RV Owner? Do you need to save time and money, but you feel like dealers are conspiring against you and sabotaging your success? (I just spoke to an RV owner who came in for a simple maintenance routine and ended up waiting for three months in line!)
If so, I completely understand. One of the biggest learning curves we experienced as full-time RVers was the need to maintain our rolling beast. The truth is, keeping your recreational vehicle in tip top condition is something you just can't avoid. It's time to rearrange your priorities because your home on wheels called and it needs attention. This sad little joke brings me to the point of this article.
If you have questions about RV Maintenance or need some tools to help, you are in the right place. Look no further because this article will give you the tools, tips, secrets, resources and even steps you need to keep your home on wheels rolling down the road. Best of all, these six goodies will put you on the fast-track to RV Maintenance success right now.
Tips #1: Maintain Your Tires.
Why start by talking about tires? Simply put, your ability to move your home relies on the health of your tires. RV tires are expensive (we just shelled out $5,000 for new ones), and you want to keep them usable for as long as you can.
These tips are necessary because given regular care, new RV tires can last up to seven years. Without care, you could ruin your tires in a hurry and be out some big bucks.
Remember, RV's travel far fewer miles than a car. It's possible to have plenty of tread left on your tires when the rubber is rotted. Tire rubber that is compromised can lead to a serious accident on the road. Avoid blowouts at all costs.
Here's what the tire experts suggest:
- Always inspect your tires for damage before, during and after a trip. Roads are hazardous, and it's easy to pick up a nail or a puncture. A simple way to avoid disaster is to plan your fuel-ups at large truck stations. These locations provide all the tools you need to check your tires and if necessary, have them repaired.
- Keep your tires inflated at the proper PSI and check this as you travel. RV tire size will vary. Be sure to know the optimal air pressure for your rig. Be sure to check this after storing, on long trips or if you have been in one location for a while. Air pressure can be affected by the weather, so be sure to adjust your air accordingly.
- Make sure the Gross Vehicle Weight does not exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is super important! Read your RV manual and know your weight restrictions. To check your overall gross tonnage, visit your local weight station. (It's free!)
- Make sure the weight on the tires is evenly distributed.
- Have your tires, wheels, alignment and balance checked regularly. Catching an imbalance or alignment issue can save you from buying new tires sooner than necessary. If you are towing or your RV is being pulled, you may experience unusual wear patterns. Routine tire inspections are an important way to keep your RV safe.
If you'd like to know more about RV tire care, you can read this free guide from Goodyear, which will provide everything you need and more.
Here are a few RV Tire Products I can't help but recommend:
Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems are available at Camping World and on Amazon.com A TPMS system will monitor your tires while you travel, helping you to recognize issues before they get out of hand. This simple tool can save you a ton of headaches. Personally, we have a coach with a built in dash monitor. If you are lucky enough to own this feature, you will not need a separate TPMS. Just make sure you have an easy way to check your PSI.
Aerospace 303 Protectant is the perfect spray on treatment for your rubber tires. Be sure to wash your tires on a regular basis. Oils from the road can deteriorate the rubber. A gentle wash and this spray on treatment can protect your rubber tires and keep them in tip top condition. If you have a lot of tires or BIG TIRES (like us), you may want to purchase this stuff by the gallon. No problem. It's available online through both Amazon and Walmart.
Tire covers are available in every shape and size, and keep the UV rays from destroying rubber tires while you sit. Most RVers feel this is an important investment. (And if you have eight semi tires like ours, it can be expensive!) You can purchase premade ones or, if you feel crafty, you can also make your own. Here's a quick video on how to do just that!
A final word about tires: Unfortunately, many RVs are factory installed with inexpensive Chinese tires. Be aware that there are numerous accounts of immediate blowouts on the first road trip. Don't let this happen to you. It's better to invest in great tires from the beginning than to find yourself on the side of the road. This cannot be overstated. A blowout can endanger your rig and your life. Don't take the chance!
Tip #2: Keep The Riff Raff Out.
Rodent infestations can be dangerous and costly since they tend to chew everything in site. It is not uncommon to hear people talking about squirrel or mice nests in the engine compartment, resulting in thousands of dollars of repairs. Obviously, this is something you want to avoid. Believe it or not, rodents love trucks too! If you own a 5th Wheel or a travel trailer, your rig and your pickup should be protected.
(My father left his motorhome in storage only to find a squirrel nest in two areas of the RV. He had to have it towed to a repair shop and was unable to use it during the season due to the complexity of the repairs.)
These tips and tricks are critical to your success because rodent damage can be hard to detect.
Here's how to avoid the problem.
Spray foam comes in a can and will fill cracks and tiny holes around your rig. Pay attention to the underside and the storage compartments. Your four-legged visitors love plumbing feeds and holes.
Steel wool can be added to the spray foam mix to deter mice from chewing. Evidently they aren't a big fan of steel fiber and many RVers swear by this method of keeping them out.
Power cords can be mouse holes. If your rig doesn't have a fixed receptacle, you will want to install one. Here are some directions for the process.
These tricks will also help keep those little buggers from visiting your home on wheels:
Keep pet food in sealed containers in your outside compartments.
Keep the lights on! Rodents don't like night time lights. Add a rope light around the base of your rig. It not only looks "trendy," but it will keep rodents from exploring the underside of your RV.
Fresh Cab and Mouse Free are commercial mouse deterrents. Fresh Cab comes in pouches that are placed around the RV. Mouse Free is a spray that you can use on the base of your rig.
Dryer sheets, Irish Spring soap, Moth balls and peppermint oil are all natural rodent deterrents. We have used moth balls with great success, but you have to refresh them every few weeks, and they are toxic if kids or pets eat them. Since we don't have outside animals or children, we have never had a problem.
Not concerned about mice? How about ants, termites, snakes or spiders? Yep. These animals also love RV's. Your best bet is to regularly inspect your rig even if it is in storage. Moth balls tossed around your rig will keep most bugs at bay. Ants are a different story.
A simple ant remedy is to keep Borax soap on hand. Sprinkle Borax around the edge of your RV and all around your cords, tubes and hoses. Borax will keep ants from your home, and they will take it back to their hole and share it with the neighbors!
Finally, bees can ruin a camping adventure. Be sure to keep Dawn liquid soap in your rig. Dawn can be used for a million and one things, but when mixed with water, it can be sprayed on bees for an all natural "extermination!"
Tip #3: Let's Take A Bath.
Giving your RV a bath is an important part of maintenance. A wash and wax can keep your paint from fading and help you avoid other damages. The problem lies in actually WASHING IT. If your rig is big, having a professional come into your park and scrub your RV can cost $500 or more. (I kid you not!) If that's not enough, many parks won't allow an RV owner to use the water necessary to clean their rig. So what should you do?
These tips and tricks will help you because there's an easy, water-free way to keep your RV looking new. The secret comes from technology used to clean aircraft all over the world.
Aero Cosmetics makes a waterless RV cleaner that can be purchased by the gallon and used straight on your rig. This same product keeps Air Force One (the President's private plane) clean, so it should do a pretty great job for you, as well.
Personally, we have purchased the entire set of cleaning products, and it makes our home on wheels shine. The set is available on Amazon, and you can pick and choose from a spray, gallon mix, mini mops and other suggested tools. Go here to pick some up for yourself. With a waterless wash, you can keep your rig looking fresh and clean.
Another tip for keeping your windshield bug free is to use steel wool that is 0000. Use the combination of invisible glass spray, 0000 steel wool, Rainex and some clean rags. Believe it or not, the 0000 steel wool is not as hard on glass and will not scratch it. It's cheap and works wonders when polishing off those bug guts.
Rainex will keep moisture rolling off your window, plus it makes bugs slide right off! No, it won't fix the problem forever, but this cleaning ritual will have your windshield looking its best.
If you have trouble with bugs on the front of your rig, try this trick. Use a Bounce dryer sheet and a little water to scrub off dried bugs. This will work wonders especially if you keep your RV washed and waxed on a regular basis.
If you need your rig washed and you don't have the time to do it yourself, google "Truck Wash." Semi-trucks get pretty grimy and there are drive through wash garages made especially for big rigs. RV's are almost always welcome, but remember a touchless wash is always best. Truck washes that use brushes can transfer fine dirt onto your rig, which will scratch your paint job. Beware.
Tip #4: Keep Your System Running.
A battery or generator that won't start can ruin your entire trip. These tips and tricks will keep your system running smoothly.
If you have a lead-based, acid battery typical in many fifth wheels, it's important to maintain them. I say them because most boondocking rigs carry four or more batteries, and each is subject to corrosion. Here are a few things to test out:
Check the physical appearance and see if anything is cracking or bulging out of the plastic. If so, skip all the other steps and get a new battery because something has gone wrong. If everything looks ok, use a mix of baking soda and water with a wire brush to clean your battery posts and cable connections. A product called Fluid Film sold in auto stores can also help stop air from reaching the metal, keeping the connections clean.
Now be sure to check the fluid levels and make sure only to top it off with mineral-free distilled water. A turkey baster works great when it's time to refill the battery holes. You should also test your battery with a digital voltmeter to make sure it is charging. Finally, don't forget to wear protective gloves. New rigs may use a Lithium or Gel-based battery. Be sure to read the individual manual for proper care.
Generators are the lifeblood of any recreational vehicle. You wouldn't last long without these portable engines, so it's important to give them a bit of TLC.
Start by exercising the generator engine at least once a month. Launch the unit and let it self-lubricate to prevent carbon buildup. While the generator runs, it will eliminate moisture buildup, which will also extend its life and keep it reliable. At a minimum, run your unit for at least two hours every month, even if you aren't using it on a regular basis.
A generator is designed to help when you need it most. Don't wait till an emergency to discover it doesn't work. Care for it now. In many cases, there are fuel additives that should be used to keep the engine running at it's best. Check your manual for suggestions.
The most popular generator found in most recreational vehicles is the Onan. Each Onan has a number that indicates the size of the generator and the power it puts out. Onan manuals are available online. Simply Google your generator number and read the instructions on maintaining it.
Tip #5: Powder Your Slide Outs.
These tips and tricks come next because the number one most repaired item on an RV is the slide outs. The reason? In many cases, it is the lack of maintenance. Remember, the extra little rooms are exposed to just as much weather as the other parts of your rig, but they aren't nearly as sturdy. The most important thing you can do is maintain the slide seals. These gaskets keep the weather out, and each slide has an inner and an outer seal.
If a seal is cared for properly, you can more easily move it in and out. If you hear a sticking noise when adjusting the pop out, it means you need to coat the gasket. The RV Geeks recommend using baby powder for this process, and you can grab the details here. Not a baby powder fan? Another tip is to pick up some Thetford Slide Out Lubricant from Amazon or Camping World. This spray helps prevent rust, stop squeaks and displace moisture.
So now you're probably asking, "When do I take action on this?" Well, this kicks in whenever you have been sitting for any period of time. I recommend checking your slides every month even if the rig is in storage. You can't be too careful. While managing an RV resort, I saw slide issues on a regular basis. Guests would enter the park and settle into their site. When it was time to leave, they were unable to get their slide back into their rig. This was not a one-time occurrence; in fact, I saw it repeatedly. Here's the worst part: if a slide has to be repaired, you can find yourself displaced. Often a slide must be completely removed from the rig and remounted. Don't let this happen to you!
Tip #6: Tanks and Water Heaters
Don't neglect this last tip - your tanks are the lifeblood of your RV. First, let's talk about sanitizing your RV water system. Why you ask? Safe water is essential in your traveling home and if your rig has been sitting a while, your water storage will not only be stale, it will likely have grown bacteria. To remove this issue, you will need to sanitize your tanks.
It's not hard to sanitize your holding tanks, but you will need some time! Be sure to allow a 10-hour window for the process. You will also need every RV owners friend, Clorox Bleach. I use bleach for lots of things and carry it in both liquid and tablet form. Chlorine is an important water purification chemical, and it is the same thing used in water treatment plants.
Here's what you do with it! If your tank is 40 gallons, you will need 1 cup of bleach and 4 gallons of water. If your tank is 100 gallons, you will need 2 cups of bleach and 8 gallons of water. For detailed instructions and a tank size chart, visit sanidumps.com.
- Drain your water out of the water system and bleed the lines.
- Add bleach mixture (with the water) into your tank. (NOT STRAIGHT BLEACH).
- Add fresh water on top.
- Run the water pump so the water gets through all of the lines and that swimming pool-like smell fills the air!
- Add more fresh water to your tank.
- Let sit overnight if possible or at least four hours.
- Drain and rinse the water tank and water lines a few times.
- Water will be safe to drink, but odds are it will take a while to get it all out of the system. In our rig, it takes a few weeks. If you don't want to wait, add a mixture of 1/2 cup of baking soda to a gallon of fresh water, place it back into the water tank and repeat the flush out. This will neutralize the chlorine taste.
Care for your water heater is also a necessity. I suggest you carry the Camco Water Heater Tank Rinser. ( a must-have RV tool!) This flushing wand is hooked directly to your fresh water hose and can be used to wash all the "gunk" out from your RV hot water tank. Remember, as you have traveled, your tanks have been exposed to a variety of water styles, unlike a home unit. Take the time to care for your water heater element, as well as cleaning off the anode rod. Need detailed instructions? Check out this article.
Finally, here are a few of my favorite RV maintenance products that were not mentioned in the tips above:
Protect All - Wipe-On/Wipe-Off Wax - This easy to use wax and UV protectant will keep your RV looking it's best. Your rig is exposed to a variety of climates, and a good wax job will help it for years to come.
Eternabond Roof Repair Tape- There's nothing worse than a roof leak, so don't be caught without this fantastic, roof repair product. In a pinch, it will not only seal your hole, but it will also fix your problem.
Gorilla Tape and Gorilla Glue - We are fans of both products, which hold fast no matter what you throw at them. In an RV, there are lots of things that need to be kept together in a hurry (like when you are traveling down the road) and Gorilla products to the job. When you arrive at your destination, you can fix things as needed; until then, Gorilla tape should get you through!
Windex Multi-Surface - I use this for everything - from cleaning floors to windows, countertops and cabinets! Spray and leave for 10 seconds, and it sanitizes the surface, as well!
Lexel Specialty Caulk - This is my husband's number one favorite repair tool. It seals anything but rubber! It can even be used on wet surfaces and in the rain.
Nylac Carpet Spray - An elderly woman shared this secret for keeping my carpets light and bright. Nylak is an easy to spray cleaner that is odorless and allows you to clean without a big machine. This product is also environmentally-friendly and has been around forever!
Spot Bot - If you have kids or pets, this will be your best friend. This portable cleaning machine is easy to use and works on carpets, upholstery - even your car. I have owned mine for ten years and would never travel without it.
Once you understand the facts about RV Maintenance, you can move forward with confidence - and going through these six tips is a great start for any RV Owner!