Fall is my favorite time of year for camping trips. Summer gives way to cooler days and nights, and eventually the autumn leaves fill the landscape with brilliant colors. If you are like me, your last camping trip was probably during the hot summer months. Prior to venturing out on a fall camping excursion here are some tips to help get your RV ready for the cooler weather.
One LP gas appliance that gets overlooked during warm weather camping trips is the RV furnace. Most of the service requirements for the furnace need to be accomplished by a reputable RV service center, but there are a few things we, as owners can do to prepare the RV furnace for cold-weather operation.
Inspect all of the furnace ducting that is above floor level for any damage, like crushed ducting. Repair or replace any damaged ducts prior to using the furnace. Inspect all furnace vents for obstructions that could affect the operation of the furnace. Keep the furnace vents clean. Make sure the furnace air return is not blocked or restricted. Test the operation of the furnace before you actually need it when you are camping.
Now it’s time to give the batteries a good once-over inspection. The RV battery plays an important role in the proper operation of the furnace. Keeping lead-acid batteries watered and fully charged will prevent lots of furnace-related problems. Wearing gloves and eye protection, check the electrolyte level in each cell and add distilled water as needed. To add the proper amount of water, look closely in one of the battery cells and you will see plastic skirting extending down about one inch into the cell. This is the fill or vent well. You only fill a battery cell to 1/8 inch below the vent well in the cell. Over-filling battery cells can cause battery acid to overflow and cause corrosion.
Tip: Distilled water should only be added after the battery is fully charged, unless the water level is already below the plates. The plates need to be covered at all times.
Next, inspect the battery cables and connectors for any damage, and for secure connections. Look for any signs of corrosion. Corrosion is evident by the appearance of a bluish green material on the connectors or cables. Corroded battery terminals and/or battery cables severely reduce a battery’s performance. Clean any dirty battery terminals and connectors using a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and warm water. Inspect the ends of the battery cables for corrosion. Corrosion in the cable ends is difficult to remove, so I recommend replacing any corroded battery cables with new ones.
Note: If you are not comfortable working on or around batteries have a reputable RV service center perform the battery maintenance for you.
A discharged or partially-charged battery can interrupt your camping trip. Test the battery state-of-charge and charge any battery that is at or below an 80 percent charge. Use a digital voltmeter to measure the voltage for a quick picture of the batteries’ depth of discharge.
Tip: A 12-volt battery that is fully charged should read 12.7 volts. Readings less than 12.5 indicate the battery state of charge is below 80 percent and the battery needs charged. A fully charged 6-volt battery should read 6.37 volts. Readings below 6.25 indicate the battery state of charge is below 80 percent and the battery needs charged.
Now that the batteries and furnace are ready to go, let’s turn our attention to the safety devices in the RV. Always remember carbon monoxide is deadly. It is called the silent killer, because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Test the CO detector, LP-gas leak detector and smoke alarm for proper operation prior to using your RV. Instruct other campers on symptoms, and what to do if they are exposed to carbon monoxide, or if they hear the LP-gas leak detector alarm. Make sure you have a fully charged fire extinguisher on hand and that you and other adults know how to use it.
Tip: Safety devices like CO and LP gas detectors have expiration dates. Find the expiration date and write it down on the cover of the device with a Sharpie. It is easy to see, and a constant reminder of when to replace the devices.
If you don’t plan to use your RV over the fall and winter months, winterize the plumbing system to prevent freezing, and prepare all of the other systems for short or long-term storage.
There are other checks you could make, but this is a good start to prepare your RV for some cold weather camping. If you plan to winterize and store your RV as opposed to using it this fall and winter check out our RV Winterizing and Storing Online Course.
KOA’s resident RV expert, Mark Polk, and his wife Dawn started RV Education 101 in 1999. Since that time RV Education 101 has helped educate millions of RV owners and RV enthusiasts on how to properly and safely use and maintain their RV. Mark’s favorite past times are RVing in their 35-foot Type A motorhome, and restoring vintage RVs, classic cars and trucks. For more information on how to learn about RVs the easy way, visit RV Education 101. Be sure to check out their RV Online Training Site too!