This comprehensive checklist is just what you need to make sure your first spring RV trip is a great one.
The other day an RV owner asked me what I considered to be the most important spring travel checks to prepare an RV for camping season. My response was that there are lots of checks that need to be performed on the RV for a safe and worry free camping season, but some are more important than others.
Here are eleven important checks I wouldn’t leave out:
- RV Batteries: Let’s start our spring checks with the battery(s) since it’s possible you removed them for winter storage. The condition of the battery(s) is dependent on how well they were cared for over the winter. Batteries in storage will lose a percentage of current through internal leakage. It’s not uncommon for a battery to discharge up to 10% a month when it is in storage. If you checked and recharged the battery(s) periodically while in storage they should be ready to go. If not, the first step is to fully charge the battery(s). Water should only be added to lead acid battery(s) after fully charging the battery, unless the water level is already below the plates. The plates need to be covered at all times. After the battery is fully charged, check and add distilled water as required. If the battery(s) was removed for storage, reinstall it making absolutely sure it is connected properly. If you don’t feel comfortable performing this work, have it done by a qualified service facility.
- RV Water System: After sitting in storage the water system needs to be de-winterized, checked for leaks and sanitized. If your unit was winterized using non-toxic RV antifreeze you need to run fresh water through the entire system until all traces of the antifreeze are removed. Hopefully no antifreeze was added to the fresh water holding tank. If it was, the first step is to drain any remnants from the fresh water tank. Add potable water to the fresh water holding tank, turn the water pump on and open all of the water faucets. When the water is running clear through the system turn the pump off and close the faucets. Take the water heater out of the by-pass mode (if applicable). If the water heater wasn’t bypassed before winterizing the unit, the antifreeze needs to be drained from the water heater tank. Replace any water filter cartridges you removed for storage.
- Plumbing: This is a good time to check the plumbing for leaks. With water in the fresh water holding tank turn the 12-volt water pump on and pressurize the water system until the pump shuts off. If the water pump cycles back on, even for a short period of time, there is a leak somewhere. Locate the leak and repair it or take it to an authorized RV service facility to be repaired.
- Water Pump: Every spring I like to sanitize the water system. Make sure all of the drains are closed and drain plugs are installed. Take a quarter-cup of household bleach for every fifteen gallons of water your fresh water tank holds. Mix the bleach with water into a one-gallon container and pour the solution into to the fresh water tank fill. Now fill the fresh water holding tank with potable water. Turn the water pump on and run water through all hot and cold faucets until you smell the bleach. Close the faucets and let it sit for twelve hours. Drain all of the water and re-fill the tank with potable water. Turn the water pump on and open all faucets, running the water until you no longer smell any bleach. It may be necessary to repeat this process to eliminate all signs of bleach.
- Appliances: If the LP gas cylinders or tank has any LP gas remaining, open the gas supply and check the operation of all LP gas fired appliances. Make sure the water heater tank is full of water before testing the water heater. If an LP gas appliance is not operating properly, have it inspected by an authorized RV service facility. Insects are attracted to the odorant added to LP gas and they build nests that can affect the appliance from operating properly. Note: The LP gas system should have a leak test and LP gas operating pressure test preformed annually. These tests should be performed by an authorized RV repair facility.
- LP Gas System: If all the LP gas appliances work properly, plug the unit in and test 120-volt appliances and accessories for proper operation. Note: Make sure you have an adequate electrical source (30-50 amps) depending on your unit, before testing items like the microwave and roof air conditioner(s). After checking the refrigerator in the LP gas mode, turn it off and with the doors open allow sufficient time for it to return to room temperature before checking it in the electric mode.
- Tires: Just like a battery looses a percentage of its charge in storage, tires lose a percentage of air pressure. Your RV tires can lose 2-3 psi a month while sitting in storage. This means they could be dangerously low on air pressure. Check the tire pressure in all tires with a quality tire inflation gauge and adjust the inflation pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation based on the load. Don’t forget the spare! Remember, failing to maintain correct tire pressure, based on the load, can result in fast tread wear, uneven wear, poor handling, and excessive heat build-up which can lead to tire failure. Tire manufacturers publish load and inflation tables that should be followed for proper inflation pressure.
- Power Train & Generator: Whether you have a motorhome or a tow vehicle, the power train needs to be checked out. Start by checking all fluid levels. Check the transmission, power steering, engine coolant, engine oil, windshield washer and brake fluid. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for proper levels. If a fluid level is low, try to determine why and correct the problem. Service the engine and engine fluid levels according to specified intervals found in the vehicle owner’s manual. Start the engine and check for proper readings on all gauges. Check the operation of all lights. Make sure the vehicle emissions / inspection sticker is up to date.
- Oil Level: Check the oil level in the generator. Service the generator according to specified intervals found in the owner’s manual. Inspect the generator exhaust system for any damage prior to starting. Never run a generator with a damaged exhaust system. If you didn’t exercise the generator during storage, start and run it for about two hours with at least a half-rated load. Check your generator owner’s manual for load ratings. If you didn’t use a fuel stabilizer and the generator won’t start or continues to surge after starting, have it checked out and repaired by an authorized service facility.
- Seams & Sealants: If you didn’t inspect the seams and sealants for potential leaks prior to storage, or if the RV was stored outdoors, this is a good time to do it. I recommend inspecting and resealing seams and sealants at least twice a year and possibly more depending on conditions. Inspect all roof and body seams and around any openings cut into the RV for signs of cracking or damage. Reseal any seams or sealants that show signs of cracking or separation. It’s important you consult your RV owner’s manual or RV dealer for sealants compatible with different types of materials you are attempting to seal. If you don’t feel comfortable performing the inspections or repairing seams and sealants, have the maintenance performed by an authorized service facility. Note: Be extremely careful working on the RV roof. A fall can cause serious injury or death.
- Safety Stuff: Re-install any dry-cell batteries or fuses that were removed for storage. If batteries were not removed from safety devices replace them with new batteries now. Test the operation of the carbon monoxide detector, LP gas leak detector and smoke alarm. Inspect all fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged. If you have dry powder fire extinguishers, shake and tap them on the bottom to release any settled powder. Review how to properly use a fire extinguisher in the event you need to use it. Make sure everybody understands what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are and what to do if you are exposed to it.
These are what I would consider to be seven of the most important checks to prep your RV for spring travel. You can add to this list to tailor it to your specific needs, but most importantly, be safe and have a great camping season.
By: Mark Polk