Let me start by saying, be careful where you get your RV information from on the Internet. If after reading this guide, you want to learn more, we offer vetted, reliable and affordable RV online training covering nearly every RV topic imaginable.
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What is RV Preventive Maintenance?
RV Preventive Maintenance is maintenance you can perform on your RV before a problem exists. These checks are designed to prevent or identify potential problems that could lead to mechanical breakdown, malfunction or failure of a component or system on your RV. Preventive maintenance consists of cleaning, inspecting, lubricating, adjusting and servicing your RV. If you identify a problem early, you can save money on repair bills and avoid untimely breakdowns.
*Note: Always follow your vehicle’s owner manual for routine and scheduled maintenance intervals. Service your vehicle as recommended by the manufacturer.
–Follow the checks in this RV preventive maintenance checklist that apply to your RV–
RV Chassis Preventive Maintenance Checks
Check all fluid levels:
Check the engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid. Adjust fluid levels as required. Change fluid and filters “In Accordance With” (IAW) your vehicle owner’s manual recommended intervals. When checking the transmission fluid consult your owner’s manual for proper instructions.
Any low fluid level indicates a leak or potential problem, and must be investigated further. If the transmission fluid has a burnt smell it needs to be replaced. Follow your owner’s manual for the proper types of fluids to use when adding or changing fluids.
Check the air filter:
A clean air filter helps your engine perform better, and improves fuel economy. Replace the air filter IAW scheduled maintenance intervals, or whenever you see it is dirty.
Check for any leaks:
Look under the RV and/or the tow vehicle for any indications of leaks. Locate the source of the leak and have it repaired. Transmission fluid leaks contacting hot surfaces like exhaust system components contribute to vehicle fires.
Have the chassis lubricated IAW the manufacturer’s recommended intervals.
Check radiator coolant:
Check the level, condition and concentration of the anti-freeze. Automotive antifreeze not only protects the engine in cold temperatures, it helps the engine run cooler in hot temperatures too. For best results, coolant should be flushed and replaced IAW your owner’s manual guidelines. Do not drain or flush coolant directly on the ground. Caution: never remove a radiator cap when the engine is hot and/or under pressure.
Check radiator hoses & clamps:
Look for worn, cracked, brittle or soft spots in the radiator hoses. These are early indications of hose failure. Check for any leaks. Replace hoses and clamps as required.
Check heater hoses & clamps:
Look for worn, cracked, brittle or soft spots in the heater hoses. These are early indications of hose failure. Check for any leaks. Replace hoses and clamps as required.
Check all belts:
Look for signs of wear and for any cracking on the inside or outside surface of the belts. Check the belts for proper tension. It’s a good idea to take spare belts with you on extended RV trips.
Check all lights:
Check all of the lights on the RV and the tow vehicle for proper operation prior to leaving on a trip.
Check the wiper blades:
Check your wiper blades for wear and/or poor operation. It’s too late after it starts raining. Periodically clean the wiper blades using windshield washer fluid on a clean rag or towel.
Check the starting battery:
Check the RV or tow vehicle starting battery state of charge, water level, cables and connections. If you’re not familiar working around lead-acid batteries have the batteries checked by a qualified service center. Whenever you work around batteries remove any jewelry and wear gloves and safety glasses.
RV 101 Tip:
To learn more about testing, maintaining and using lead-acid batteries, check out our RV Battery Care and Maintenance e-book course.
Check the condition of your tires:
Look for uneven wear, cuts, poor tread depth and cracking on the tire sidewalls. Do not operate the RV if the tires reveal any of these conditions, until they are inspected by a tire professional. (see video)
Check tire inflation:
Check all tires for proper tire inflation pressure using a quality tire inflation pressure gauge. Check the tire pressure before traveling each day and always check the tire pressure when the tires are cold, before traveling more than one mile. Adjust inflation pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation based on loads.
Start the engine and allow it to warm up:
Check all of the gauges for proper operation. Monitor your gauges while driving. If a gauge reads out of the normal range pull over as soon as it is safe and call for assistance.
Check the dash air for proper operation:
Note: When you are towing a trailer or driving a motor home it helps if you can avoid using the dash air when the engine is under a strain, like ascending a steep grade.
Check your emergency roadside kit:
At a minimum it should include a flashlight, extra batteries, jumper cables, a first aid kit, basic hand tools and warning devices.
RV 101 Tip:
In addition to the above chassis preventive maintenance checks, if you have a pop-up, travel trailer or 5th wheel trailer, the wheel bearings and brakes should be inspected by a professional annually.
RV Coach Preventive Maintenance Checks
Exterior of the RV:
Maintaining the exterior of your RV contributes to extending the life of the RV, and protecting your investment. If you let your RV go, without cleaning it for periods of time, it can be very difficult to get that new look back again. Wash and clean the exterior of your RV on a regular basis. I wash our RV after every RV trip. Wax the RV to restore the shine and protect your RV’s exterior. Use a wax compatible with the exterior surface of your RV. Use a black streak remover to remove those miserable black streaks and other road grime. Follow the black streak cleaner instructions for best results.
Use bug-off to remove dead bugs from your windshield, grill or anywhere else. It really makes removing bugs easier. Use a cleaning product designed to protect all of the leather, vinyl, plastic, and rubber components on your RV. This includes interior items too, like the dashboard and upholstery, and exterior items like awnings and trim pieces.
RV 101 Tip:
If you store your RV outdoors, exposed to the elements an RV cover can help protect and extend the life of your RV.
To eliminate odors caused by pets, smoke, cooking and chemicals use a good odor eliminator like Febreze.
Carpet and Upholstery:
To remove stubborn stains from the carpet and upholstery, use a good quality carpet and upholstery cleaner.
Inspect the RV roof and body seams & sealants:
Every seam on your RV, and anywhere the manufacturer cut a hole in your RV has the potential to allow water to get in. Inspect your RV roof and all of the seams and sealants on a regular basis for potential water leaks. Consult with your RV dealer for sealants compatible with different types of materials on the RV. If you are not comfortable working on the RV roof, have the inspections and maintenance done by an authorized RV repair facility.
Test the roof air conditioner(s):
Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters. Clean filters help the AC unit work more efficiently. You can use a small handheld vacuum cleaner to clean the air conditioner filters. It’s a good idea to keep replacement filters on-hand.
Test the refrigerator:
Check the operation of the refrigerator in both the 120-volt AC and LP gas modes. Do not over-pack the refrigerator, allow room so air can circulate. Installing a thermostatically controlled refrigerator vent fan can help improve the refrigerators efficiency.
Check the coach/auxiliary battery(s):
Check the auxiliary battery state of charge, water level, cables and connections. If you’re not familiar with lead-acid batteries have them checked by a qualified service center. If the RV is equipped with battery disconnect switches make sure they are in the off position when you’re not using your RV, to help prevent battery drain from parasitic loads.
Check the operation of the generator under load:
Check the generator engine oil & all filters. Always inspect the generator exhaust system prior to operation. A faulty exhaust system can lead to Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Service the generator as recommended by the manufacturer. Exercise the generator monthly with at least a half-rated load. Consult the generator owner’s manual for load ratings.
RV 101 Tip:
In addition to RV generator preventive maintenance, the generator needs to be exercised too. Watch the video to see why and how you do it.
Check all appliances for proper operation:
Check all of the AC, DC and LP gas appliances for proper operation. It’s a good idea to have your LP gas system checked by your authorized RV service facility annually.
RV Holding tanks:
Thoroughly flush the holding tanks every time you empty them. Use RV toilet paper, and enzyme holding tank treatments to help extend the life of your RV holding tanks.
12-volt appliances and accessories:
Check all the 12-volt appliances and accessories for proper operation.
Check all 12-volt & 120-volt interior lights:
Check the interior lights for proper operation.
Check & test all safety devices:
Check the fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide and LP gas leak detector before each trip. Replace batteries as required.
Important RV 101 Tip:
Check the expiration dates on all safety devices and replace the unit with a device designed for use in RVs. I write the expiration date on the cover so I know in a glace when it needs replaced.
Check the operation of the awning:
Inspect the awning fabric for any damage and for cleanliness. Inspect the awning for proper operation. If it’s a manual awning and you have the awning extended when it is raining, lower one end to allow the rain to run-off and prevent water from pooling on the fabric, which can cause extensive damage.
Check the operation of all slide-outs:
Make sure nothing is in the path of the slide-out and check all slide-outs for proper operation. Lubricate the slide-out mechanism following the manufacturer instructions.
The RV water system:
When you return home from a camping trip (and do not have another trip planned for two or more months) drain the water out of the water system. Locate and open the low point water drains, drain the fresh water holding tank and the water heater tank. Periodically sanitize the RV water system. I do it every spring and anytime I notice an odor in the water system.
Never drain the water heater when the water is hot or under pressure. Turn the water supply off, open a hot water faucet to relieve pressure and allow sufficient time for it to cool down before draining.
12-volt RV water pump:
With potable water in the fresh water holding tank, check the operation of the water pump.
RV water heater:
I recommend draining the water heater after every trip, unless you have another trip planned in the near future. If you have a Suburban water heater inspect the anode rod every time you drain the water heater, and replace it when it is 75% consumed. Periodically flush the water heater, to clean the tank and remove any loose debris.
RV 101 Tip:
In addition to inspecting the anode rod, it’s also a good idea to periodically flush the water heater tank. (see video)
This RV preventive maintenance checklist is not all-inclusive, but it is a good start. You can add to this list or modify it to suit your particular needs. Most of the items in this guide are common sense items, but inevitably we will forget something. This will help serve as a reminder of the items to inspect on your RV.
RV Education 101 is a North Carolina based company, founded in 1999. RV Education 101 produces professional RV training videos, e-books and books on how to use and maintain your RV. Our goal is to make all of your RV experiences safe, fun and stress free.
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Mark J. Polk
RV Education 101
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Our goal at RV Education 101 is simple, we want to be your one stop vetted RV education source. No matter what type RV you own, if you are renting an RV, or what RV topic you want to learn about, RV Education 101 has you covered.
It is important you are careful where you get your RV education from. The other day, an online towing course was brought to my attention so I took a closer look. The first thing I noticed in the advertisement is, the online towing course has vetted information. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary vetted means: having been subjected to evaluation or appraisal: critically reviewed and evaluated for official approval or acceptance. This tells me when I view the videos all the information is accurate, quality, professional content the viewer can depend on.
I want to give you an example of vetting information. When I was in the military, stationed in the 82nd Airborne Division, myself and some other maintenance warrant officers were tasked with vetting a new automated maintenance program called Unit Level Logistics System or ULLS. For weeks we collectively scoured the entire program to ensure everything was correct and accurate, so it could be implemented throughout the division maintenance units. After the program was vetted, we spent several more weeks teaching the new maintenance system to unit motor pool personnel. That is how you vet information and content.
I watched the videos in the online towing course and afterwards the only question I had is who vetted the information. I can tell when an individual is not well-versed about the topic they are teaching. They tend to gloss over the material, leaving much of the important technical information out of the conversation. It is usually because they do not know or understand the technical or mechanical content involved in the topic they are attempting to teach. The instruction is vague and they leave the most important information out of the instruction. People who view these towing videos will learn some very basic information, but they will not learn everything they need to know to safely and properly tow a 2, 4,or 6 ton trailer down the highway.
I have been used as an expert witness in several cases involving trailer towing incidents. I do not advertise this service, but if I review a case and see there is gross negligence on the part of somebody, I provide my assistance. In some of these cases people died as a result of misinformation or lack of proper equipment while towing a trailer. I take this training very seriously.
Our RV Online Training courses are vetted by me. My military training, years of training and working in the RV industry, and over 25 years of hands on RV experience provides our students with accurate, quality, professional content they can depend on. If there is an RV topic you want to learn more about, I encourage you to visit RV Online Training and review the selection of video and e-book training courses we offer. We offer complete and comprehensive RV online training, and it’s affordable for everybody.