Spring has sprung and if you’re a seasonal RVer you’re likely itching to hit the road. Slow your roll, though. Before you head for the nearest campground, spend some time with your RV and make sure it’s prepped for the travel season ahead. This includes taking steps to dewinterize the plumbing system and so forth. It’s also a great time to perform general maintenance tasks including a close inspection of the exterior and a check of all on-board systems.
Here’s to a fun-filled spring RV season!
What better way to shake off winter than to enjoy a family RV trip? And what better time than now? Spring is upon us which means it is a good time to take the RV out of storage. Even if you have been using your RV over the winter, these spring shakedown tips should provide some good reminders.
If the batteries were in storage, install them in the RV. Make sure to properly connect all wires. Seek assistance if necessary, as it is important not to mix up the wiring. Make sure the batteries and connections are clean, tight, and dry, and check the fluid (electrolyte) level. Plug the coach in to shore power or connect a battery charger to make sure the batteries are fully charged.
If you live in a cold climate, the first step in spring is to dewinterize the coach. Locate the low-point drains and close them if they are open. These low-point drains may be hidden behind a cabinet or panel but they should be labeled. The outside shower may also act as a low-point drain.
If you’re unable to locate all the low-point drains are, look for water pouring out from under the RV when the city water is turned on in the next step. The drains may have valves or threaded caps. Close the fresh water tank drain valve or install the drain plug. If your RV has a water pump winterization bypass, make sure to close the bypass valve (set it to normal operation).
Close all faucets in the RV, and turn off all plumbed appliances such as water heaters, on-demand systems, dishwashers, and washing machines.
Connect and turn on the city water. Go inside the RV and turn on each hot and cold faucet one at a time until there is no aeration or pink antifreeze flowing out. Don’t forget the outside shower. If the RV has a dishwasher, flush the system by running it through a complete cycle with no dishes. For a washing machine, run it through one warm wash and spin/drain cycle.
Turn off the city water and fill the fresh tank. Turn on the water pump and open all faucets one more time to purge the pump and hoses. Leave the taps open until all air and antifreeze is out of the lines. Take note of any cycling of the pump after the faucets are turned off especially during the camping season. If this persists after all the air is purged (which can take a long time), it can also be an indication of plumbing leaks. Keep an eye out for wet areas and/or loose plumbing fittings.
Install the water heater drain plug/anode rod (if the anode rod is more than ¾ worn, it should be replaced) and close the water heater bypass valves. These are either on a plumbing panel or at the back of the water heater. There are one, two, or three valves, so make sure you set all of them to the correct positions. The water pump cycles while the water heater fills. Once the pump stops, open the hot water faucets slowly and carefully as the air space created in the water heater often causes an initial high-pressure air release at the faucets. Do this for all hot water faucets until the air dissipates. If the RV has a water filter, release the water pressure and install a new filter in the bowl.
If you didn’t do so last season, it is important to have a propane system inspection performed by a licensed RV dealership. The professional technician inspects the LP system to make sure no leaks exist, the appliances are in good shape, and the operating pressure is correct. An annual inspection helps to keep the propane system and appliances working properly and safely.
Turn on the propane and test-fire the appliances. It is a good idea to light a stove burner first, as this allows you to observe when the propane displaces the air. Make sure the furnace and water heater light, reach the correct air or water temperature, and then go out. Ensure the furnace repeats its cycle. Light the fridge, but note that it may take a few tries to light due to air in the lines.
Test the air conditioner and fridge 120-volt functions as well as other appliances such as the washer/dryer, dishwasher, fireplace, etc. Test the 12-volt lights and fixtures looking for proper operation and burned-out bulbs. If the RV has a 120-volt energy source for the water heater, start with the electric element before firing it on propane. Make sure it starts to get warm on 120 volts and then flash it up on propane.
Look for any signs of moisture, mold, or mildew inside the unit. If you find any, clean and dry the area, and ascertain whether it is condensation or a water leak that needs to be addressed. If you are not sure, you can have an RV service center inspect it or see whether it recurs during your travels. Clean and dust the inside of the unit, make the beds, and repack anything you removed during storage.
If you have a generator and didn’t do so in the fall, change the oil and filter. Unplug the shore power, start the generator, and make sure it runs properly and supplies power to the RV.
Test the awning for proper operation. Perform a visual check of the sealants on the outside of the RV that may have opened during or before storage.
Related: Prep Your RV for Summer Travel
Inspect the tires for cracks, abnormal wear, or other damage. Since RV tires generally age out before they wear out, they should be replaced within about seven years of ownership. Note that tire manufacturers recommend not running on tires more than 10 years old regardless of how good they look and recommend professional inspections on a regular basis. A tire shop can give you the best advice on this.
The manufacturing date is embossed on all tires in a four-digit format with week and year of manufacture. Don’t take chances with old or damaged tires on your RV. For more on tire safety, click here.
Check the outside lights and make sure the emergency breakaway switch plunger operates properly and is undamaged. Inspect the seven-way trailer plug on your truck and trailer and make sure the pins and sockets are clean, dry, and undamaged. Have the trailer brakes and bearings inspected and repacked annually.
Test the slideouts for proper operation including topper awnings. If possible and safe to do so, carefully mount the roof of the RV to inspect the sealants and roof components. Going up on the roof generally is best left to a professional for safety reasons.
If you have a motorhome, check all engine fluids, belts, etc., and get a service if necessary. Start the engine to ensure it is running properly and is charging both battery banks.
Note that not all of the above may apply to your RV depending on type of RV, age of the RV, and options the manufacturer included.
Make note of any deficiencies you encounter. This allows you to either investigate them yourself or provide a detailed list to your RV service provider and/or vehicle mechanic.
If you have other items on your spring shakedown checklist, add these to my suggestions. Following these tips should bring you better peace of mind for your spring and summer travels.
You don’t need to have all the answers. What you need to do is be curious and open-minded enough to learn.
—David Fialkow, co-founder of General Catalyst