After sitting in storage for a couple months or longer, your RV needs some preventive maintenance so it is safe and ready for travel.
Here are my top 7 RV Preventive Maintenance Checks after Storage
1) RV Battery – Let’s start our preventive maintenance checks with the battery. I always say, the condition of the batteries is dependent on how well they were cared for during storage. Batteries in storage will lose a percentage of current through internal leakage. It’s not uncommon for a battery to discharge up to 10 percent a month when it is 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 battery. Tip: Water should only be added to a lead-acid battery 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 is fully charged, check and add distilled water as required. If the batteries were removed for storage, reinstall the battery making absolutely sure they are connected properly.
2) RV Water System (de-winterize/check for 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. Next, add potable water to the fresh water holding tank, turn the 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.
Tip: This is a good time to replace any water filter cartridges you removed for storage.
After the RV is de-winterized, I like to check the plumbing system for leaks. With water in the fresh water holding tank, turn the 12-volt water pump on and pressurize the water system until the pump shuts off. If the water pump continues to cycle back on, even for a short period of time, it’s possible there is a leak somewhere in the system. Try to locate the leak and repair it, or take it to your local RV dealer to be checked and repaired.
Tip: Major water leaks are easy to find, but smaller water leaks can be difficult to find. Take a dry paper towel and run it along all of the plumbing lines you have access to. If there is a leak, the paper towel will absorb the water, letting you know where the leak is.
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 it in to 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.
3) Appliance Check Up: Open the LP gas valve at the cylinder or tank, and check the operation of all of the LP gas fired If the water heater was bypassed, take it out of the bypass mode. Make sure the water heater tank is full of water before testing it. 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. If you see a nest, or remnants of a nest try to remove it, or have the appliance serviced by an authorized repair facility. Tip: 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.
If all of the LP gas appliances check out, plug the unit in 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.
4) RV Tire Check Up: Just like a battery loses a percentage of its 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 using 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 which can lead to tire failure. Inspect the tires for any obvious wear patterns, and for any cracking in the tires sidewalls. If any of these conditions exist, have the tires inspected by a professional before using the RV.
Tip: Tire manufacturers publish load and inflation tables that should be followed for proper inflation pressure.
5) Vehicle Engine & Generator: Check all fluid levels. This applies to motorized RVs and tow vehicles. 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 / inspection sticker is up to date.
Check the oil level in the generator. Service the generator according to specified intervals found in the owner’s manual. Inspect the generator exhaust system for any damage prior to starting it. Caution: 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 it continues to surge after starting, have it checked out and repaired by an authorized service facility.
6) RV Seams & Sealants: If you didn’t inspect the seams and sealants for potential leaks prior to storage, or if the RV was stored outdoors, this is a good time to do your inspections. I recommend inspecting and resealing seams and sealants at least twice a year, and possibly more depending on conditions. Inspect all roof and body seams, and 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 RV dealer for sealants compatible with different 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 cause serious injury or death.
7) 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. Inspect all fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged. If you have dry-powder fire extinguishers shake and tap on the bottom to release the powder from the bottom.
These do-it-yourself RV preventive maintenance checks are what I consider essential checks, that you can accomplish on a nice weekend. When you are finished, the RV will be ready to roll when you are. You can add to this list, and tailor it to your specific needs.
Stay Safe & Happy Camping,
Mark J. Polk
RV Education 101®