RV Camping

Protecting and Maintaining Your RV

RV tips to help you protect and maintain your RV

Grand Teton MountainsWe had just finished a pleasant walk along the Florida beach, enjoying the fresh ocean breezes when we noticed water cascading from the rear of our RV. This was about two or three weeks into our RV lifestyle and was the impetus for us to learn that a water-pressure regulator had been invented quite some time ago and that installing one would have prevented our interior water line from bursting.

I’ll try to give you a few tips below to help your RV’ing experience to go a little smoother than ours did before we figured out these things on our own. Unfortunately, we learned most of these things the hard way.

You may find this tidbit useful: attach your water-pressure regulator to the RV park’s water faucet, then attach your water hose. Not only does this protect your interior plumbing from pressure spikes, but it extends the life of your exterior water hose by exposing it to a more constant, reasonable pressure. At a campground in Missouri, pressure spikes ruined three of our water-pressure regulators in the space of a month. Thanks to the pressure regulator, none of our interior plumbing was damaged.

We learned the hard way that tossing all your toilet paper down the toilet is the fastest way to get intimately acquainted with the functioning and cleaning of your black-water system. If you blow your nose, wipe up a spill, or simply use your toilet paper for minor cleaning, dispose of it in a trash can, not in your toilet.

Toilet paper breaks down slowly in your holding tank, so the less you put in there the better. Use single-ply toilet paper in your black-water tank. We have used Scott single-ply now for years without any blockage problems. There are also specialty papers available that are advertised to decompose quickly.

Keep a can of WD-40 handy and periodically coat all exposed moving parts to lubricate and prevent rust. Spray your trailer hitch often to keep it in working order. If you have a padlock on your hitch (you should if you don’t want to come back to an empty RV site) spray your padlock to keep it from rusting solid inside. Spray the gear beneath your trailer that raises and lowers your leveling jacks. Put a few drops on window latches. Practically anything that moves should be lubricated on a regular basis.

Yellowstone Elk

This picnic table is not available. Will is by that tree, fearlessly videoing this splendid wild Elk.

Learn how to get on your roof and remove the cover from your air conditioning unit. Remove the sheet metal protecting the metal cooling fins. Take a water hose and spray the fins to clear out accumulated dirt and leaves. Just be sure your unit is not plugged in and running, otherwise, it could be a shocking experience for you. You should do this every year before you start using your air conditioning system for the hot season. If you are living in the south most of the year, you need to think about doing this twice a year. Not only will you greatly extend the life of your AC unit, but you will also save money on electrical costs. This is a simple task after you have done it once so there is no need to pay an RV technician to do this for you.

If your black-water tank does not have a built-in cleaning system, buy a wand that you can hook to a water hose (not your fresh-water hose) and insert into the tank through your toilet. Use the wand frequently if you are parked for months at a time to keep sludge from building up on the bottom of your holding tank. If you are moving frequently, you can add a small amount of water to your holding tanks so it can slosh around and help clean your tanks.

Unless you are getting ready to boondock, there is no reason to tow a full tank of fresh water. If you are staying overnight at RV parks, just keep a third or fourth of a tank available for temporary stops. This allows you to cut several hundred pounds from the load you are towing. It costs money to tow water you do not need and reduces wear and tear on your RV and tow vehicle.

Don’t assume that the electrical outlet at the RV park is wired correctly. That sizzling, popping sound and funny smell from behind your refrigerator are because the polarity and grounding at the electrical outlet are incorrect. Be forewarned that reverse-wired electrical receptacles are a very common problem in RV parks. You can destroy expensive equipment in your trailer, and many campgrounds will deny responsibility, even though it is their faulty wiring. If your trailer is equipped with an outside sensor light, keep an eye on it and unplug immediately if it comes on. Buy a 120-volt circuit polarity tester and test any new outlet you plug into. The tester has a lighting system built into it that will let you know if you have a bad receptacle at the RV park.

If at all possible, do not park next to the dumpster, regardless of how convenient it may seem. Of course, if you enjoy the smell, flies, and noise, go right ahead.

When the site you have chosen is grassy, always walk it and make sure the ground is not soft and wet. Neither you nor the campground owner will be happy with the mess after your trailer sinks and bogs down.

Watch for low-hanging limbs when you back into your space. Not all RV parks maintain their sites regularly. You can tear off your antenna, destroy the cover on your air conditioner and scratch up your RV. Don’t expect the campground to reimburse you for repairs because you’ll be told that you should have looked for hazards before you parked.

At least 90% or greater of the damage to your RV will occur while it is parked at an RV park. Some of this you can do absolutely nothing about because you’ll not be aware when it happened. Maintenance people will ram your RV with riding lawn mowers, hurl projectile rocks from mowers that damage finishes and crack windows, and trim tree limbs that scratch the finish on your trailer. About all you can do is be alert and present while work is being done. This at least makes the maintenance people more cautious.

A really neat way to damage your RV is to make your awning perfectly level. That way when it rains, the water will form a massive pool and collapse the metal supports with the possible bonus of ripping away part of the outer skin of the RV. If you want to keep your awning longer than the first hard rain, let one side be a couple of notches lower than the other so excess water can drain away. Likewise, if you are going to be further away than quick access to the RV, it is a good practice to retract and secure your awning so that the 50 mph wind burst no one expected doesn’t use your awning as a kite. After you travel awhile you’ll get used to seeing damaged awnings on a regular basis. Replacing an awning is not a cheap proposition so, protect yours.

If you choose to use a catalytic heater, never, ever, under any circumstances run it without some type of outside ventilation. Many people have died using catalytic heating without adequate ventilation.

Next Chapter – Must-know tips about RV departure.

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