by Steve Froese
Whether you’re a seasoned RV owner or have recently invested in a new (or new to you) RV, it’s important to understand the responsibilities that come with ownership. There are several things you should commit to doing after your purchase. Besides the obligation to your family to get out and use the RV, the most important duty is to perform regular inspection and maintenance on your unit. Too many people neglect proper maintenance, and this can be a very costly mistake!
Whether you have an inexpensive tent trailer or top-of-the-line Diesel pusher motorhome, they are all susceptible to water damage if the seals are left unchecked. Water damage is the single most costly repair to an RV, and it is completely avoidable with thorough RV inspection. This should be performed at least annually by yourself or a professional RV repair center. Aside from safety and mechanical inspections, which should be performed only by professionals, the most important parts of your annual RV inspection are the seams, joints, and other areas requiring sealant. Carefully go up on the roof and thoroughly examine all the sealed joints and components. Look for cracks and voids in the sealant and any other breaches or areas where water may be able to penetrate. Be sure to use only the manufacturer recommended cleaner and sealant to repair the problem areas. Note that different areas of the RV may require different sealants. For instance, on a rubber roof, you should use only sealants designed specifically for that material.
Once you are finished on the roof, do the same with the sidewalls, paying particular attention to windows, lights, trim strips, and anything else that is attached to the wall with screws or allows access to the interior or framework of the RV. Never use silicone-based sealant on the exterior of the RV. Always use acrylic-based materials. It is important to carefully inspect every inch of the RV. It is time-consuming, but failure to do so could be catastrophic in terms of repair time and money.
You should also inspect the tires. RV tires tend to “age” out before they wear out. Look for tread wear cracks, abrasion, or other damage to the tires, and if you find any, visit a reputable tire dealer in your area for assistance. Also, take note of the manufacturing date stamped on the sidewall. Look for the letters “DOT”, followed by a series of numbers. The last 4 numbers represent the week and year of manufacture. RV tires should be replaced within 7-10 years of this date, regardless of the condition of the tires. If you are in doubt about the age or condition of your RV tires, visit your tire dealership.
It is also important to have your propane system inspected annually by a professional RV repair facility. This is not something you can do yourself. They will check the system for leaks, operating pressure, and condition, including the appliances. Do not cut corners when it comes to propane system inspections, as a malfunctioning system can be dangerous, or even fatal.
Whether you have a motorized unit or trailer, keep up with your mechanical inspections. For trailers, it’s important to inspect the brake and chassis components annually. For motorhomes, belts, hoses, filters, fluids, brake components, etc. In either case, you may be capable of doing this yourself, or you may choose to find a good mechanic or RV shop familiar with your type of unit.
If you live in a cold climate, be sure to prepare your unit by winterizing it before the sub-zero weather sets in. If you will be storing your unit, charge the battery, remove it from the coach, and store it in a cool, dry location. You can stave off the onset of mildew by placing a Dehumidifier in the RV. Also, make sure all water/sewage is drained and not stored in any tanks or hoses during the winter months. This will ensure no cracks and subsequent leaks due to freezing fluids.
Following these simple, yet important, steps will prolong the life of your RV and it’s components, and prevent costly damage.