Essential Camper and RV Maintenance Tips
Roy’s RV Supercenter – Elkins, WV
Your camper and all of the work you put into it represents a significant investment of time and money. With regular maintenance, your travel trailer, fifth wheel, camper, or motor home can provide a lifetime of memories. Most of these tasks are pretty simple and merely involve checking and repairing minor issues as they occur, but they can help you avoid serious (and costly) repairs in the future. Small damages or leaks can rapidly become huge problems for your home-on-wheels. This guide will tell you what to look for.
Important: Your RV cover is your first line of defense. If you notice any tears or cracks, plan to have it replaced before the end of the season.
Before you begin, allow yourself plenty of time or plan to do these maintenance tasks in stages. Read the section ahead of time and have all materials available before you begin. Be sure there are no open flames near your work area. If you notice any problems that you’re not confident fixing yourself, don’t hesitate to bring your coach into Roy’s RV Supercenter in Elkins, West Virginia for professional service.
Detection, Prevention & Repair
Leaks can seem like a small thing at first, but they can quickly become a devastating nightmare capable of causing the worst camper damage you can imagine. These small blemishes are so difficult to keep on top of because they can pretty much arise from anywhere, whether that be in a seam on your roof or a broken window sill. If you let it go, a leak will allow water to infiltrate your travel trailer or fifth wheel, which will lead to unsightly and dangerous mold, mildew, wood rot, and, ultimately, destruction of your camper. A water-damaged camper is unlivable, so you must be vigilant about detecting leaks.
Check for leaks frequently and patch them up as needed. Clear debris from the roof and awnings and inspect every square inch of the exterior surfaces visually and by feeling for irregularities. Be sure the AC unit is firmly seated on its foam gasket. Pay special attention to roof rafters and wall framing attachment points. Your owner’s manual includes information about how to fix leaks, but generally speaking, you must dry the leaking area thoroughly and then apply a significant amount of sealant to stop the leak. For larger leaks or more complicated issues (such as torn slide outs), call our mobile repair team or consider bringing your camper in to our service department for repair.
If your RV’s appliances aren’t in working order, they aren’t going to be of any use. In fact, they can actually be dangerous if a fuel leak develops, so be sure to keep these in good shape, too! You can avoid most major repairs by regularly inspecting your appliances and testing their performance.
If you can smell ammonia or if you witness a greenish-yellow material near the fridge, you likely have a cooling system failure.
Plug in the RV or ensure it has a fresh battery properly connected and test the voltage to ensure that 120v AC power is available at the receptacle where the fridge plugs in. Ensure that the battery is properly connected (positive to positive and negative to negative) and that 12v DC power is provided to the terminal blocks and/or circuit board. You MUST use a volt-ohm-meter (VOM) available at most hardware stores (12v test lights are notoriously unreliable). Be sure to also check the in-line fuse to be sure it hasn’t blown.
Clean & Test for Leaks
Mix a bowl of soapy water and use this solution to check for leaks involving your propane tanks, hoses, and fittings (a leak will bubble). Ensure there is propane in the tank and turn it on. Apply the solution to all areas. Two wrenches should be used to close and loosen fittings. Clean the refrigerator burner and all burners that accept propane with a shop-vac (you may need to unscrew a ¼” screw to access the burner on some models). Do NOT use liquids or compressed air inside of this area as you can cause critical system damage.
Turn your fridge setting to Automatic (“A”). Default is 120v AC power. Ensure the unit is plugged in to a 120v power source and allow the unit to run with the door closed for four hours. If sufficient cooling is achieved, leave the door open to allow the fridge to warm again. Be sure your LP gas tank has fuel and is properly connected. Switch your fridge setting to Manual and select LP (Propane) Gas. The fridge must warm enough to engage the system. If the LP does not ignite, keep the door open, wait a bit, and try again. Success is indicated by a bright, sharp blue burner flame located in the back right side of your fridge.
AC & Furnace
Visually inspect the fins of your AC unit. If any are bent, run a stiff plastic comb along them to straighten them out. Your AC system requires a minimum of 30 amps (some require more). Do not use a 15-amp reducer plug! Remove the plastic or metal shroud from the interior side of your AC and furnace units and vacuum thoroughly (including any ductwork you can reach). Locate your foam filter and wash it with mild soapy water, allow to dry thoroughly, and replace.
If your air conditioner isn’t keeping you cool, or the furnace doesn’t warm it up like it used to, bring the unit in for repair service. Keep a special eye on propane appliances with exposed flames! If the fire flickers or doesn’t produce a full flame, there could be a serious issue affecting your propane system. LP Appliances – All propane-operated appliances are sophisticated systems. It can be dangerous to work on them if you don’t have the proper training. LP gas systems must be adjusted and repaired by a certified RV repair technician. If you are experiencing a problem, bring it in to Roy’s RV Supercenter.
Your water heater cannot be adjusted and it does not need to be turned off when not in use; however, you MUST disconnect the power before performing maintenance tasks (unplug all cords, turn off power switch, and water heater breaker). Ensure the water has cooled before proceeding and open the release valve (at the top). Inspect the tank for any visible damage or leaks, as well as corroded parts. Pull out the anode rod and inspect. Place a bucket below the drain and allow the dirty water to pour out. Hook up a freshwater hose to a flushing wand and flush the tank until the water runs clear. Replace the anode rod (or a fresh one if necessary), replace the drain cap, refill the system (let the hot water taps run to clear the air from the system), and close the pressure release valve. You can now restore power and test for functionality. Heating should occur within 20 minutes. Monitor for leaks over the next week or so.
SLIDE OUT MAINTENANCE
You’ve probably grown to depend on extra floor space in your RV, and it would be terribly inconvenient if one of those slide outs got stuck during your vacation. Before and after every trip, you should lubricate all of the slide rails with a dry lubricant, such as dry silicone spray. If you have left your camper in storage for a long time, those rails could be sticking a little bit, so the lubricant will keep them sliding properly.
Even if you keep leaks patched up and do everything you can to block moisture, poor air circulation can still cause serious damage to the interior of your camper, travel trailer, or fifth wheel. Throughout the year, ventilate your RV as often as possible. This is especially important after vacations and rain storms when there tends to be a lot of excess humidity trapped inside the unit. While in storage, you should run a few fans in your RV, travel trailer, or motor home every few months to ward off damp, musty smells. Consider using a product like DampRid for long term storage, as well.
Check the roof vents, bottom sidewall vent (to the rear of the fridge) and exterior areas for signs of bird nests, screens, plastic wrap, duct tape, or any other material that could restrict air flow. While doing this, watch for frayed/chewed wires. Remove any debris found and vacuum thoroughly. If wires are damaged, bring the unit in for repair.
We know how much you treasure your RV and want to help you enjoy it for many years of great vacations and family memories. Completing simple maintenance tasks on a regular basis is what makes the difference between a camper in excellent condition that can be useful for generations and a worn-down trailer that just sits on your lawn. When you take care of your motorhome, travel trailer, or fifth wheel, it will take care of you! Stop in to Roy’s RV Supercenter if you need any assistance with any maintenance and repair-related issues – or call us and we will come to you!