RV 101® – Avoid these 5 Common Mistakes RV Owners Make

There are lots of things to remember when it comes to owning, operating and maintaining your RV and sometimes we learn things the hard way. In an effort to help prevent some of these common and expensive mistakes RVers make from happening to you I want to offer what I consider are the top 5 mistakes RVers make and how you can avoid them.

1) Leaving the steps out or the TV antenna up while traveling

You have probably seen an RV traveling down the road with the TV antenna up or the steps out just waiting to hit something, resulting in expensive repair bills. The easiest way to avoid this from happening is to follow a pre-trip checklist prior to moving the RV. In addition to using a checklist I always make one final walk-around of the RV just before pulling out; you might be surprised at what you overlooked or forgot.

2) Not knowing or monitoring the height of your RV

Damage to the top area of RVs is one of the top five RV insurance claims filed. Your RV has what is referred to as soft and hard clearances. An example of a soft clearance would be a radio antenna.  An example of a hard clearance would be the air conditioner.  You could hit the radio antenna and do little to no damage to the RV, but if you hit the air conditioner chances are there will be lots of damage. The way to avoid this kind of damage to your RV is to know and monitor the height of your RV. Park the RV on a level surface and measure the height from the ground to the tallest hard clearance item on the RV. Record the measurement and post it where it will serve as a constant reminder. When you are at the campground have a spotter watch for low hanging tree branches and other obstacles that might damage the RV.

3) Backing the RV into a site or parking spot at home without a spotter

If you back the RV without a spotter I can almost guarantee eventually you will hit something. An easy way to avoid this from happening is to always use a spotter.  Establish hand signals you both understand and always keep the spotter in view when backing the RV. If you can’t see the spotter stop the backing maneuver. Caution: Always watch for children and pets, especially when backing at the campground. When in doubt of what’s behind you stop, get out and look.

4) Not properly matching the tow vehicle to the trailer

This is a big one! It’s extremely important that you understand weight ratings and how much your tow vehicle can safely tow. A simple rule I always apply is the tow vehicle’s towing capacity should be equal to or greater than the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the trailer you are towing. This way, even if the trailer is loaded to full capacity, the tow vehicle is still rated to tow the weight. Towing with a mismatched tow vehicle and trailer combination can be deadly.

5) Neglecting RV batteries and battery maintenance

Neglecting battery maintenance results in dead RV batteries when you least expect it. It’s easy to forget to use the battery disconnect switch and drain a battery, or forget to charge a discharged battery in a timely manner. Battery maintenance is an integral part of using and owning an RV. If you get in a habit of using the disconnect switches, checking water levels in lead acid batteries and testing and re-charging discharged batteries you can extend the life of your batteries and avoid dead batteries from ruining your next camping trip.

I know I said this is my top 5 list, but I would be remiss in not mentioning RV and tow vehicle tires. Traveling on over or under-inflated tires is dangerous. Tires can lose a percentage of air pressure while sitting in storage, and can be dangerously under inflated if you don’t check and adjust inflation pressure. Tire inflation needs to adjusted according to the load placed on the tires. The only way to know what the loads are is to have the RV weighed. There are load and inflation tables published on the Internet for different brands and sizes of tires.

Fortunately these mistakes are easily avoidable if we know what to look for and what to do.

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Happy & Safe Camping,

RV Education 101

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