In order to keep your RV running properly you need to perform routine maintenance. Just like in your home and on your vehicle, there are things in your RV that need to be changed as well as cleaned. It can be easy to overlook or forget what needs to be done to keep your RV in tip top shape. Follow this basic RV maintenance checklist to make sure nothing gets overlooked or forgotten.
The refrigerator in an RV is not like the one you have at home. Since it runs on LP at times, there are burners that may need attention! The burner tube can get dust in it or become corroded or rusty. To find out if your burner is working properly you want to physically examine it while the flame is lit. To do this, just remove the access door on the outside of the RV behind the refrigerator. If the flame is orange or yellow, the tube is dirty and needs to be cleaned out. You can clean out the tube by simply blowing gently with a straw into the tube. Make sure to turn the fridge off before you do this!
Fire and Leak Prevention
Make sure you test your alarms and extinguishers often! To test your fire, carbon monoxide, and LP leak alarms, simply push the test button. If they don’t go off, be sure to replace the batteries immediately. To test the fire extinguishers, start by checking the pressure on the gauge. You want to be sure the needle is in the green. Give the needle a little tap to ensure it’s actually where it needs to be and isn’t just stuck. Next check your lever, handle, and pull pin to ensure they move easily and aren’t bent or bound up at all. Turn the fire extinguisher upside down and tap on it gently to loosen up the powder in it. Lastly, remove the hose or nozzle and make sure there is nothing in it. Blow through it to remove any dust or other debris that may be in there. Once you reassemble it, initial and date the back of the tag. This is something you should do once a month to ensure they’re working properly. If the needle is not on the green, replace the fire extinguisher or have it refilled. Remember to always have them refilled if you use them.
AC & Heating
Don't forget about maintaining your RV's A/C and heating units. The air conditioner has filters that need to be cleaned or replaced. Take them out and look them over. If you can't get them clean, or if they have rips or tears in them, replace them right away. Cleaning the coils of your AC will also help it run better which uses less fuel and will help to extend the life of the unit.
Just like at home, your RV's heater also has a filter that needs to be changed. While you’re changing it, use a vacuum and air compressor to clean in and around the it and then blow it out with compressed air. You want to get as much dust out as possible. The dust that settles on the fans can weight them down and cause them not to provide the proper amount of airflow. The harder the heater has to work, the more it costs, and the shorter its lifespan will be. Try and get as much out of the vents and ducts as well. The more the airflow is restricted, the harder it is on the heater.
Your tires are what are between you and the road, so don't ignore them. Check them over to be sure you are not at risk for a blowout or fire. Having your tires at optimum performance can also save you gas money when towing your rig!
Having the correct amount of pressure in each tire is important! Not only will it ensure that your tread wears evenly, but you'll also avoid drag when towing. Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for the correct tire pressure for each tire. If the pressure is too high, it will wear out the middle of the tread quickly. If it’s too low, the outside of the tread will wear out too quickly. When you check and adjust your tire pressure, also look for cracks in the sides of the tires. If they’re cracking, they'll need to be replaced so you don't experience a blowout. For information about when and where you should get your motorhome tires rotated, click here.
Your slide outs are a pretty intricate system and they need help to keep working properly. Your seals are there to keep temperature in and bugs out! Keep them conditioned so they don't crack or dry out. Just like tires, the seals can experience dry rot and that lessens their ability to perform. Simply spraying your slide out seals with a conditioner will help maintain them and keep them working as they did when you bought the RV!
When you put your slides out, you’ll possibly see a metal track on the bottom of the sides of them. This is the track for the gears that move the slides in and out. To keep both the gears and the track in working order, spray the track with lithium grease. If there aren’t tracks on the sides, look under it and spray the track under there. This will lube up the track, which will in turn lube the gears when you retract the slide. If you have hydraulics that move the slides in and out, ensure you check the fluid level and keep it full as well.
In order for your slides to seal properly and keep the gears where they should be, you need to ensure that your slide outs are centered. With repeated use and travel, they can get tilted and end up out of whack which can cause damage to the gears and seals. There are adjustment bolts that you can use to center them, but check your owner’s manual to be sure of the proper way to do this before you start.
Extend your awning and inspect it, especially if it's been in storage for a while. Look for rips, tears, and mildew. If you find mildew, give your awning a good, deep cleaning to remove it. A good way to prevent mildew build up is to make sure it's 100% dry when you retract it. Once you check the fabric, check your poles over to ensure they’re not dented or damaged. Ensure that you lubricate all the joints and the track on a regular basis as well. This will help keep it from getting bound up. If you notice dirt in any of these areas, clean it well. Dirt can cause damage to the gears and track that retract and extend the awning and then you can end up with an awning that won't move in or out. Be sure to read over the manual that came with the awning and keep it in the RV. If your awning becomes stuck, it will have information in it on how to manually retract it so that you can get moving again.
Don't forget about the jacks underneath your RV! Jacks with hand cranks need to be lubricated often to keep them from rusting or binding. Clean them well and often to keep the dirt out of them. Just like the awning and slide outs, if dirt gets into the gears of the cranks, it can cause damage and jamming. When you move your rig, always put the cranks all the way up. This will help keep them safe from dirt and debris while you drive.
If you have hydraulic jacks, you don’t have to lubricate them, but it doesn’t hurt to do so. The main things you want to keep an eye on are the pistons and the fluid levels. Ensure that you keep the pistons clean. Dirt can jam them up and can cause enough damage that you might have to replace them. These jacks need the fluid to move, so if there isn’t enough in there, they’re not going to fully extend.
A generator needs preventative maintenance in order to keep it in good working condition. On each trip, inspect it for leaks! Check the gas, oil, and the exhaust. Keep in mind that the exhaust is poison, so make sure that it vents in an area that it’s not going to be pushed back into the RV!
The generator has an air filter as well as a fuel filter. The air filters are going to be more likely to need to be cleaned or changed. Check them often and change them if they aren’t coming clean by blowing them out with compressed air. If you know you have had old or bad gas in it, or if it’s sputtering, you will want to change out the fuel filter as well. Regular oil changes will keep it lubricated and cleaned on the inside of the engine. Before you leave for your trip, figure out the altitude of where you are compared to where you’re going. Many generators have an adjustment for different altitudes and ensuring it’s adjusted properly will put less strain on it.
If you don't use your generator, it still needs to be run occasionally. Just like a car motor, it can seize up if it's not used for a long time. You want to run it for a little while once a month. This gives it the chance to cycle the oil and blow out built-up carbon. If you’re planning to put the RV in storage, make sure you add a fuel stabilizer to help protect it. For more specific RV generator maintenance, click here.
You may not realize it but there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the hitch, especially for a fifth wheel. A ball and hitch are mostly lubricated to help the two pieces slide together and keep friction down. The fifth wheel hitch has its own moving parts and a lever that can become a huge problem if it gets stuck! To lubricate the 5th wheel hitch, you want to take it out of the back of the truck so you can get to the under side of it. Clean and lubricate all of the moving parts. You want to get a lubricant that dries afterward. If it remains wet and greasy, then dirt and dust will stick to it, which is counterproductive. Make sure to lube up the jaws of the hitch as well.
Your roof can be one of three types: rubber, aluminum, or fiberglass. The aluminum and fiberglass are cared for in the same way, but the rubber roof is a little different. Inspect your roof at least yearly and look for cracks in any seams or seals. If you have a rubber roof, look for rips in the rubber. To fix them you want to get either butyl tape or a self-leveling lap sealant. Don’t use silicone. It doesn’t stick well to rubber and you will end up having to do it all over again. If you have a fiberglass roof, you want to use a product like Silaprene, and for aluminum, use a thermoplastic rubber caulk. While the thermoplastic is a rubber caulk, it is not meant for rubber roofs.
If you have a motorhome, you have a lot more to take a look at once the rest of the maintenance is done. Your engine needs just as much, if not more, maintenance than a regular vehicle since it's pulling a small house around with it.
Check the fluid levels regularly. Just like with a car or truck, check the oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, break fluid, and windshield washer fluid. If they are low, make sure to top them off. If you find that any of these fluids other than the windshield washer fluid are consistently low, get it checked for leaks or burning!
You need to check your coolant as well, but it’s not enough to just check the level. You want to get a coolant tester so you can make sure you have the proper mixture of coolant and water. Too much water can cause serious freezing in the winter and too much coolant can actually cause it to overheat! Make sure your engine is cool before opening the cap to the radiator. Because this liquid is under pressure, opening it while hot can cause the coolant to spray out, potentially hitting you in the face or getting in your eyes or mouth.
While you’re under there, make sure to check over all your hoses and belts. Look for holes in the hoses and ensure all the clamps are in working order and in the correct spot. If a clamp has slipped, put it back in place and tighten it down to ensure the hose doesn’t slip off. When you check your belts, you’re looking for two things. The first thing you want to look for is to make sure the belts are still tight. Sometimes, as they wear, the belts can begin to stretch and become loose. Next, check the belts over for cracks or unusual wear. Any of these can cause the belt to either fall off or break and that will bring your trip to a halt pretty quickly. If it happens to be the timing belt, you can do a lot of damage to the valves in the engine.
The last thing you want to check out while you’re under the hood is your battery. Check the water level and charge in it. If the battery is not receiving a full charge you could be looking at acid stratification. This means that the acid mostly ends up on the bottom and the top, which can cause corrosion and reduce the performance of the battery.
Once you have the engine area all set, check your wiper blades and lights. Look the blades over for any damage and make sure they’re still in place. You don’t want to find out that they’re not working when you’re trekking down the highway in a rainstorm. Get another set of eyes to help check your brake lights, taillights, blinkers, headlights, and high beams. Replace any bulbs that are burned out. To learn about common issues with motorhome headlights, read this!
Performing a basic RV maintenance check on your RV can prolong the life of it and save you money in the long run. It also makes for a much more enjoyable trip when everything is in working order. Most of this you can do yourself, but if you can’t or just don’t feel like it, you should be able to contact an RV service center in the area that would be willing to do it for you!