Owning an RV opens up a whole new world of gadgets and gizmos that most people aren’t accustomed to having in their home or vehicle. Living in in a brick and mortar home, you may be used to more durable appliances and even structure. Almost every part of an RV is made cheaply of lightweight materials. Even the highest quality rigs will need more attention and effort put into maintenance. This is an unavoidable aspect of the lifestyle. It’s an awesome lifestyle, but it does have it’s drawbacks. This is one of them. But hey, every lifestyle comes with drawbacks, right?
Your rig is a huge investment. Taking care of that investment will ensure that it serves you well for years to come. One thing you may want to consider is an RV maintenance log book to help keep track of tasks and scheduling. Keeping an up to date log book will actually increase the value of your rig should you decide to sell it. The next owner will feel much more comfortable buying your used rig if you kept meticulous records. If the buyer is satisfied that they are purchasing a well cared-for rig, you are much more likely to recover the maximum amount of your initial investment.
Motorhomes will bring a whole new set of concerns that won’t be fully covered in this article. Things like engine, transmission, and brake maintenance are similar (although more intense) to other vehicles you own. These things along with other items your chassis may be equipped with such as air brakes and generator may be covered in a future article. For now, lets concentrate on the items every RV has and needs maintenance on.
I’ll simply go through my list in alphabetical order. That means starting with air conditioners. RV air conditioners don’t have changeable filters. They have cheap foam filters that will have to be washed frequently. This is a simple process that can be done outside with a water hose. If you are using the system regularly, this should be done at least every two weeks.
Every month or so, you should be climbing on top of your roof and checking things out. You should have a list of things to do once you get up there. One of the things on that list should be to check the air conditioners. Lift up the cover and check the drainage tray. Ensure it’s able to drain freely and is not clogged. Check the condenser coil to ensure it’s free of any leaves or other debris. You can clean the evaporator coil fins with a soft brush and straighten any bent fins with a coil fin comb.
Batteries should be checked for loose connections terminal corrosion monthly. If corrosion is found, it can be cleaned with a solution of baking soda and water. Sometimes a wire brush may be needed to get all the green gunk off. If your batteries need a fluid top-off, always used distilled water. If your batteries are difficult to reach on a regular basis to fill, you may want to invest in a battery filling system that easily makes sure all batteries are at the proper level.
You don’t want your emergency exit windows to be stuck and require a sledgehammer to open during an emergency. To prevent the seals from getting stuck in this way, you’ll need to open it periodically. While you’re at it, you may want to cut a piece of wood the proper length to hold the window open while you escape. The last thing you want is a window slamming into you while you’re trying to get away from a life-threatening situation! Keep the piece of wood close by the window, maybe hidden behind a mattress or other such nearby object. Ensure everyone is aware of this location.
Many people don’t even think about what maintenance the furnace may need. While it’s something we RVers will LITERALLY go “out of our way” to avoid using (see what I did there?), it never fails that it will be needed at some point. It’s critical that when that day comes, it works safely and reliably. For this job, it is worth calling in an expert. A certified RV tech will be needed to ensure the system is safely reinstalled. Some of the work that needs to be performed on an annual basis is a thorough cleaning of the burner orifices (to remove carbon deposits), correct gap spacing of the electrode assembly, and complete testing of the pressure regulator and the entire piping system. I will remind you that working with gas lines is not work for an amateur to take lightly. Call a pro.
Roof and Seals
While some RVs do have aluminum or fiberglass roofs, most have an EDPM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) construction, more commonly called the “rubber roof.” These roofs need to be cleaned every 2-3 months depending on where you’ve been parking. If you’ve been parking under nasty things like sappy trees, it could be more often. Never use petroleum or citrus-based products. Special cleaners are available specifically for rubber roofs, and there are even entire roof care systems that work well, (although they may leave some streaking down the exterior of your rig for a while).
While you’re up there, you need to inspect the seals around all of your roof fixtures. That is, anything that sticks up through your roof. Inspect them well for cracking or deterioration. If you find any rips or tears in your EDPM you will need to patch immediately using a patch kit. They are fairly simple to use and long lasting. Many people recommend an annual reseal of the roof. While they very well could be correct in their recommendations, that’s simply not what I do. I will go around looking for gaps while up there for cleaning and hit any gaps I see with Dicor. Instead of a big annual sealing, my roof gets lots of little spot-sealings.
Slides, Jacks, and other options
Each RV will have different options you’ll need to check that have needs specific to the equipment used on each rig. Slides and jack stands are two examples of those options. Every one is different, but every one needs some sort of maintenance. While I’m not going to go through every type of these systems here, it’s worth stating that each one will require some sort of lubrication, adjusting, or other maintenance. Check your owners manual for the type of system you have and the maintenance required.
While this list of maintenance items is a good overview, it’s only the beginning of what systems will be found on RVs. Every RV is different, even if the same make and model. You have three very good friends on this subject: your owners manual, the RV Repair & Maintenance Manual by Bob Livingston, and of course YouTube. Just be careful who you listen to on YouTube. Don’t follow instructions you find on YouTube unless the source is either a verifiable expert, or a VERY large number of people recommend the same procedure.
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