Parking an RV can be daunting. Oftentimes, drivers may be so focused on perfect parking placement that they aren’t sure what to do next. There are a few simple steps to follow once you’re in a place to ensure your rig and its contents are safe and secure. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Leveling and Stabilizing
RV leveling is critical for more than comfort. It ensures appliances like the fridge work and slide-out sections can move freely.
Like many newer models, your rig may have a self-leveling system, requiring the push of a button to make sure everything is even. Some have manual leveling options. You can change the levels for up to two tires at once to get the evenest setup.
You may need to relevel your RV if the ground shifts under the weight of the rig.
RVs without this auto-level feature including many travel and fifth-wheel trailers and older motorhomes will require more work. You can purchase heavy-duty plastic leveling blocks that interlock to help raise or lower your RV. These options increase RV safety by preventing the blocks from separating when you need more than one.
First, place a bubble level in the center of the floor in the RV interior parallel with the front bumper. Your rig may have a center level and levels that align with the axles to make this process easy. The center reading will help you tell whether to add blocks to the left or right tires. Drive the rig onto the blocks after placing them in front of or behind the wheels on the RV’s lower side. Repeatedly check your level until it is even.
If the ground is very uneven, create a ramp with blocks by placing one in the direction you’ll drive. Then, add two stacked blocks butting up to the first. Add a three-stack in front of that if needed. Check your level between each block addition.
Safety tip: The wheels must be perfectly centered on the blocks to prevent the motorhome from rolling and ensure it is level.
Once the RV is even, get out the chocks. These safety accessories are often made of plastic or rubber and prevent the RV from moving forward or backward. Place chocks in front of and behind the tires that did not require blocks.
RV slides conveniently add square footage to your living space. Some RVs have electric slide outs that extend in minutes. If your rig has this feature, make sure it’s level and push the button or flip the switch to extend the slide out.
Pull out the parking brake knob in the cab. It should be yellow. Always engage the parking brakes once the rig is parked, level, and chocked.
RV awnings offer sun and rain protection. They can also make your RV more energy efficient by limiting how much sun enters through the window. If your awning opens automatically, make sure you are connected to shore power or a generator. If using an inverter, your batteries must be charged to power the awning motor.
Open your motorized awning by flipping the switch inside the cab or on the remote. If the awning doesn’t open, you may need a new remote battery. Ensure you are plugged into a power source and the parking brake is set. If the brake is not engaged, the awnings may not open.
For manual awnings, undo travel locks on the arms. These safety devices may be part of the RV or as simple as velcro or string. Loosen the rafter knobs on the back of the arms to allow the awning to open. Use an awning rod to reverse the locking level into the “roll down” setting.
Reach for the awning loop and slowly pull the awning backward away from the RV. Avoid adjusting the awning on windy days as you could damage your rig or harm yourself. Once extended, lock the rafter arms by sliding them into place on the RV exterior. Tighten the bolts on the rafter arms to spread out the awning material and make it taught, avoiding flapping in the wind.
Extend the awning arms to allow for a slope with the part of the awning furthest from the RV a little lower than the part that connects to the rig. This slight decline will encourage rain to flow away from the RV and prevent it from collecting and collapsing.
RV Electrical Hookup
When you pull into your campground site, it’s tempting to plug right in and turn everything on. However, you want to keep safety in mind, especially when dealing with electricity. First, it’s a good idea to test the hook up with a polarity tester to make sure the campground’s wiring is in good shape. If it’s not, your polarity tester will tell you before you fry any or all of the components of your RV electrical system.
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Or better yet invest in an electric management system. This electric detection device will protect you from four electrical issues an RVer can encounter while traveling: power surges, miswired pedestals, high/low voltage, and wiring issues inside the RV.
Find your RV fresh water drinking hose in your RV storage. Add a water pressure regulator before attaching the loose end of the hose to the potable campground water spigot. Make sure you are using the potable water spigot as it is safe to drink.
Do not turn on the water pump if you are connecting to a city water connection as it is already pressurized. Only use the pump if you are pulling water from tanks inside the RV when you cannot hook up to an outside water source. Once attached to the spigot, slowly turn it and have someone in the RV turn on a sink. Once the water runs into the RV, you know the connection is correct.
Emptying Grey and Black Water Tanks
First, a quick clarification for anyone new to RVing. When you run an RV faucet, the water goes into built-in grey water holding tank. Anything flushed down the toilet flows into a black water tank.
Most large rigs will come with 60-80 gallons of grey water capacity and 40-60 gallons of black water capacity. That means these tanks can go a few days to a couple of weeks before needing to be emptied depending on the usage.
Many resorts offer full hookups which include a sewer connection on the RV lot which allows the tanks to be dumped as needed without needing to leave the camping site. The alternative is driving the RV to a dump station in the campground. Full hookup sites come with the obvious benefit of avoiding the need to move the RV and relevel and stabilize after each dump.
Wear disposable plastic gloves when dealing with sewage to prevent stomach bugs or other sewage-related illnesses. Make sure the RV gray and black water sewer valves are securely closed before opening the cap.
Connect one end of the sewer hose to the RV sewer valve and the other end to the park sewer dumping station inlet. Slowly open the black water discharge valves to drain the system. When empty, close the valve.
Next, follow this process with the grey water. This order of operations will wash the sewage out of the hose, preventing an unsanitary mess. Once done, close the grey water valve. Disconnect the hoses and attach the caps to the RV valves.
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If you are staying long-term at an RV park you will leave the sewer hose attached.
Throw away your disposable gloves before thoroughly washing your hands.
Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!