Your house-on-wheels sat in storage for several months this winter and now it’s time for another camping season. What do you check to make sure the RV is safe and ready to use when you head out on your first RV trip of the season? There are lots of preventive maintenance checks you can perform, but here are some checks I consider essential.
Start your post-winter check-up with the batteries since it’s possible you removed them for winter storage. The condition of the batteries is dependent on how well they were cared for over the cold winter months. 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 while in storage. If you checked and recharged the batteries periodically while in storage they should be ready to go. If not, the first step is to fully charge the batteries.
Note: Water should only be added to lead acid batteries 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 if fully charged check and add distilled water as required. If the batteries were removed for storage reinstall them making absolutely sure they are connected properly. If you are not comfortable working with batteries have the work completed by a qualified RV service center.
RV Water System: De-winterize / Leaks / Sanitize
Depending on how the unit was winterized it needs to be de-winterized. If you used non-toxic RV antifreeze to protect the water system 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 tank. Add potable water to the fresh water holding tank, turn the 12-volt on-demand water pump on and open all of the water faucets. When clear water is running 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 the antifreeze needs to be drained from the water heater tank.
At this point 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 the fresh water holding tank. Fill the fresh water holding tank completely full of 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. Reinstall any water filters that were removed during storage.
Open the LP gas supply valve 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 nests can affect the appliance from operating properly.
Note: The LP gas system should have a leak test and gas operating pressure test performed annually. These tests should be done by an authorized RV repair facility.
Plug the unit into a reliable source of electricity and test the 120-volt appliances and accessories for proper operation.
Note: Make sure you have an adequate electrical source (30-50 amps) depending on your unit, prior to 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.
Just like a battery looses a percentage of charge in storage, tires lose a percentage of air pressure. Your tires can lose 2-3 psi a month while sitting in storage. Check the tire pressure with a quality tire inflation gauge and adjust the inflation pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation based on the load. 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.
RV or Tow Vehicle Engine: Check 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 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 or state inspection is up to date.
If you have a generator, check the oil level in the generator. Service the generator according to specified intervals found in the generator owner’s manual. Inspect the generator exhaust system for any damage prior to starting it. Never run a generator with a damaged exhaust system. If you didn’t run 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, exposed to the elements, this is a good time to do it. I recommend inspecting and resealing seams and sealants at least twice a year and possibly more often, depending on conditions. Inspect all roof and body seams and sealants 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 local RV dealer for sealants compatible with the 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.
Caution: Be extremely careful working on the RV roof. A fall can result in serious injury or death.
RV Safety Checks
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. Check the expiration dates on all detectors and replace detectors as required. Inspect all fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged.
These are what I consider essential post-winter checks so your RV is ready to roll when you are. You can add to this list and tailor it to your specific needs. For more information on maintaining your RV check out our RV Care & maintenance DVD.