Just like your stick built house there are regular RV maintenance and repairs that will need to be done. Getting these done and keeping a record will help to prevent major breakdowns in the future. Your RV Extended Warranty company will want to see your maintenance records in order to validate a claim. About every five to seven years you will need new tires on the motor home. 5th wheels and travel trailers seem to need tires a lot. If you have a diesel engine the yearly oil change and lube can cost as much as $500.00.These are big expenses; plan to put aside a small amount monthly so you are ready. Consider buying an extended warranty (such as Good Sam Extended Warranty); we have this, and it has come in handy several times.
Let’s face it, you have made a major investment in your rig, and you will want it to give you many years of fun. Routine preventive RV maintenance will help to ensure that. Since Kathy and I full-time, we are doing maintenance constantly. Some of you may have to store your rig for a season and I’ll touch a little on that. The first maintenance thing I did when we bought the rig was to purchase a Maintenance Log. It was a general purpose book for all types of rigs, but all the pertinent stuff for our diesel pusher motor home was there. I lined out the stuff that didn’t fit.
I compared all the RV maintenance entries with the information in all the service manuals that came with the rig. If you do not have these, you can obtain them from the manufacturers of all the various appliances and other items that are in your rig. I got quite a few from websites with downloadable documents. The rig manual can be obtained from the rig manufacturer. Also make sure you have engine and transmission maintenance data from those manufacturers. If your manufacturer is no longer in business, try the Forum section on http://www.irv2.com/forums/ or http://www.rv.net .
Next, I set up my RV maintenance log in accordance with the information I found in the manuals. Then I had to decide what preventive maintenance steps I could accomplish myself and what needed to be done by professionals. Anything having to do with engine, transmission, and brakes was left to either Freightliner, the chassis maker, or Cummins Engine, the engine maker. Fortunately, there are service centers across the country that can handle maintenance on almost every make of RV.
We change engine oil every five thousand miles or yearly, whatever comes first. Included with that service is a thorough chassis lubrication and replacement of oil and fuel filters. Make sure whoever does your work will follow exactly the manufacturer’s guidelines. You don’t want them to skip any steps. Explain what you want and get them to put it in writing on the service ticket. We usually have the generator’s oil and filter changed at that time as well.
On diesel rigs with air brakes, there are replaceable air dryer filters that must be replaced periodically. Allison automatic transmissions are on most diesel rigs, and they need filters and transmission fluid changed periodically. Although I could probably do the generator maintenance myself, it’s just too easy to let the professionals do it along with the engine maintenance.
Such obvious things as; oil changes, fuel filter changes, lubrication requirements, tire air checks, fridge service checks, furnace checks, AC checks, battery checks, water heater checks, are RV maintenance items you must be on top of.
Any of these items listed above can cause you a lot of heartache while traveling if they stop working properly, so you really need to do your preventive RV maintenance to see that they are in good shape before your trip.
If you store your rig for a season and then plan to use it for a long trip, schedule all the preventive RV maintenance at least a few weeks before you want to depart. Problems can appear and parts will have to be ordered. I believe you should give the drive train and brake system first priority, along with tire checking and battery charging. Those are the things that get you there. Next, complete the maintenance steps for your appliances and other systems. Plan ahead and you will depart on time with peace of mind that your rig has all maintenance done.
These are the other things that will need periodic preventive RV maintenance. Get it done before a big trip so you won’t have to scramble for a repair shop in an unfamiliar town.
There are some RV maintenance items that might be better left to a qualified mechanic. These are mostly propane fired appliances. Now you are looking at the possibility of a fire. Some of the maintenance steps can be done by a handy RV owner, but doing other required steps to determine LP gas pressure and leaks require expensive, specialized equipment. Those steps should not be skipped. These appliances include the following:
The owner’s manual has a simple list of items that the owner can do, but there are others that should be done by a certified technician.
You don't want it to stop working in the middle of a freak cold snap because all the proper steps of the maintenance were not done. Leave this maintenance to the pros.
I have spent more than a few hours working on our hot water heater. I have cleaned the tank of calcium crystal growth from heating hard water. I have replaced the electric heating element twice. I’ve replaced the inlet and outlet hoses because the original ones had cheap plastic connectors that broke and caused floods in the bedroom. What fun that was in the middle of the night. I leave anything having to do with the gas system to the pros.
The primary user maintenance for RV air conditioners is to keep the filter clean. These can be removed and washed with warm water. This should be done every two weeks during the AC season. If you are comfortable up on your roof, remove the shroud or large fiberglas cover and check the pan for moisture. If there is standing water, clear the drain holes. Also check the 4 mounting bolts for correct tightness, usually 50-70 foot pounds. They can loosen with the vibration of an RV. Check between the cooling fins and the fan for leaves and other debris. This should be removed with compressed air. Clean the evaporator coils with a soft brush. Inspect, clean, and straighten any bent condenser fins on the unit. Use a knife or any other thin and sturdy metal edge. The cooling system is sealed. Leave that to the pros!
Proper RV maintenance of the battery system is key. Battery cables should be intact, and the connectors kept tight at all times. Always use insulated tools to avoid shorting battery terminals. Clean the terminals and cable end connectors with a water and baking soda solution. Use a stiff brush and clean until shiny and the green is gone. Make sure the entire top of the battery is clean and free of dirt and corrosion. Always use distilled water to replenish batteries. Check batteries at least monthly, more often in the hot summer. You may find that it is difficult to open the battery covers because of all the heavy wiring on top of the batteries. We use a battery watering system called “Pro-Fil” we found at Camping World. It consists of new cell top covers that form a water manifold that will water all your house batteries at one time. A small bulb siphon pump brings the distilled water from its container and into the manifold. When the bulb is too hard to squeeze, all cells are at the proper level. We have all four of our six volt house batteries hooked up with this system. This is also available for twelve volt batteries. Too easy!
Operate the wipers often. Wash them off with windshield washer fluid. If there are constant streaks, replace them with new units of the same length. Also exercise the windshield washers. Replace the hoses if needed. The openings can be cleared with a needle.
Check the window and slide-out gaskets and seals. They should be lubricated with a silicone based spray twice a year to assure that they remain pliable and do not dry out and crack.
Check your owner’s manual for maintenance steps for your slides. Ours has a rack and matching gear at each end and is powered by a 12 volt DC motor. Both the rack and the gear should be lubricated according to the manufacturer’s specifications. While you’re at it, check the manual slide in and out system for proper operation. You will need it at the worst possible time like at night and or in the rain. I’m just sayin’, do your RV maintenance.
Like the slide system, the jacks must be lubricated in accordance with the maker’s specifications. Ours are hydraulic, and have grease fittings on each jack. The shiny part of the cylinder should be sprayed with a silicone based spray as well. I also check the hydraulic fluid level in the tank every two months. Some other systems are electric and have different requirements.
Let’s face it, the roof is what keeps you dry when it rains. Proper RV maintenance here now will save you much grief later. Older rigs may have a metal, or aluminum roof. Later model rigs will have a roof covering made of either fiberglass or rubber, also known as EPDM (you don’t want to know what this is short for). Primary maintenance for all is to keep them clean and inspect the seals and gaskets of the roof mounted stuff like air conditioners, vents, antennas, and sewer vents. We clean our roof four times a year and more often if we have been parked under trees dripping sap and other nasty stuff. Pay special attention to the area where the front and rear fiberglass caps are joined. If you find cracking or deterioration in the seals, clean the area and add sealant material on and around the area.
EPDM roofs require some special care. Never clean them with a petroleum or citrus based cleaner as it will harm the EPDM material. There are many cleaners on the market specifically designed for rubber roofs. The chalking or streaking you see is a normal part of the aging process for this material. Look carefully for cuts or tears in the rubber membrane that will cause leaking. Repair with special EPDM repair material available in RV supply stores like Camping World.
Every RV has an emergency exit besides the main door. Exercise this at least monthly, and lubricate it as needed to ensure it will open smoothly when you really need it. If it is a window like ours, cut and notch a piece of wood to hold it open. Otherwise, it will slam on your hand or fingers to add to the stress of going out of your window during an emergency. This little bit of RV maintenance can save your life!
A key part of RV maintenance is inspection of your tires, the sidewalls in particular. Unfortunately, you should look at the inside surfaces too. This is not fun on rear dual tires, but an inspection mirror and a flashlight will help. Check for cracks and cuts. A cut on the open road can lead to a blowout. Cracks in the sidewall are a sign of dry rot. If you find signs of dry rot, plan on replacing all the rig’s tires.
Next, you must check air pressure in all the tires, both rig and towed vehicle, or truck and trailer. Get a good quality air gauge that can handle the pressure required in your tires. It is best to check pressure in the cool of the morning. Never let air out of a hot tire. The proper level of air in your tires is all there is between you and the road surface. This is a good place to suggest a tire pressure monitoring system. It works all the time and can also monitor tire temperature. It will warn when any tire falls below a preset pressure or temperature so you can stop before you have a blow-out. There are many different systems on the market. I suggest you consider a system with replaceable sensor batteries. This is so you won’t have to buy new ones when the batteries die.