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RV Preventive Maintenance 101 by: Mark J. Polk

It doesn't matter whether you own a pop-up or a diesel pusher, when you made the decision to purchase an RV it was a major investment. Like any other major investment there are certain things we must do to protect our investment so we can enjoy it. Your RV needs to be maintained just like your house and automobiles need to be maintained. There are three basic types of maintenance for your RV, preventive maintenance, scheduled maintenance and emergency maintenance.

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  • Preventive Maintenance is maintenance you 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.

  • Scheduled Maintenance or routine maintenance is performed in intervals normally based on time, mileage or hours. Scheduled maintenance is designed to keep your RV in top operating condition and prevent untimely breakdowns and repairs. It is absolutely essential that you read your owner's manual and warranty information in regards to who is responsible for what when it comes to scheduled maintenance. Scheduled maintenance that is required by the manufacturer and not performed can void your warranty.

  • Emergency Maintenance - Maintenance and / or repairs required when you least expect it due to component, system or mechanical failure.

The lack of preventive maintenance and / or scheduled maintenance will eventually result in emergency maintenance. If you don't check the air pressure in your tires (preventive maintenance) the under-inflated tire over heats and prematurely fails resulting in emergency maintenance.

Preventive maintenance is really nothing more than common sense maintenance. If you're going to take a thousand mile trip in your automobile common sense tells us at a minimum to check all of the fluid levels, tires and lights. Too often we assume that all of the fluid levels are fine, that there are no leaks and when you look at the tires they look like they are inflated properly. In many cases this is why we have an unexpected break down, because we failed to do a little preventive maintenance.

Now consider an RV. It's larger and heavier than your automobile and its not just the chassis you need to be concerned about, it's your entire house sitting on top of the chassis. The bottom line is an RV requires more preventive maintenance than an automobile. The good news is the average RV owner can perform the required preventive maintenance and prevent untimely break downs and costly repairs (emergency maintenance).

Before you take your next trip put some time aside to perform some preventive maintenance. It could be the difference between a safe and enjoyable trip and a costly disastrous one. How does the old saying go, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! To help make the chore of checking out your RV a little easier I am including a short checklist. Start your preventive maintenance program with these checks and over time add some of your own checks and without even realizing it you will be identifying and preventing potential problems before they exist.

Vehicle Chassis Checklist:

  • Always check your owner's manual for routine and scheduled maintenance intervals. Service your vehicle as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Check all fluid levels: engine oil, transmission, power steering, brakes and windshield washer fluid.

  • Check the air filter. A clean air filter helps your engine perform better and improves fuel economy.

  • Check for any leaks: Look under the RV and or tow vehicle for any indications of leaks. Locate the source of the leak and have it repaired. Transmission fluid leaks contribute to vehicle fires.

  • Check radiator coolant: Check the level, condition & concentration of anti-freeze. Antifreeze not only protects the engine in cold temperatures, it helps the engine run cooler in hot temperatures. NEVER CHECK WHEN HOT!!

  • Check radiator hoses & clamps: Look for worn, cracked, brittle or soft spots in the hoses. Replace as required.

  • Check heater hoses & clamps: Look for worn, cracked, or soft spots in the hoses.

  • Check all belts: Look for signs of wear and for any cracks in the belt. Check the belts for proper tension. It's a good idea to take spare belts with you on your trip.

    Check all lights.

  • Check wiper blades for wear and poor operation. It's too late once it starts raining.

  • Check the starting battery state of charge, water level, cables and connections. If you're not familiar with working around lead acid batteries have them checked at a qualified service center.

  • Check the condition of your tires: Look for uneven wear, tread depth and check for proper tire inflation. Check the tire pressure when the tires are cold, before traveling more than one mile.

  • Start the engine and allow it to warm up. Check all gauges for proper operation. Monitor your gauges while driving. If a guage is out of the normal range pull over as soon as it is safe and call for assistance.

  • Check the dash air for proper operation. Whether you're pulling a pop up a travel trailer or driving a motor home try to avoid using the dash air when the engine is under a strain, such as on an upgrade.

  • Check your emergency kit for a flashlight, extra batteries, jumper cables, first aid kit, basic hand tools, and warning devices.

  • In addition to this if you have a pop up or travel trailer the wheel bearings and brakes (if equipped) should be inspected at least once annually. Inspect any canvas for dry rot and tears; inspect all hitch work and the coupler for damage. Inspect the breakaway switch and pigtail for proper operation.

    Coach Checklist:

  • Test the roof air conditioner(s). Clean or replace A/C filters. Clean filters will help the A/C work more efficiently.

  • Test the refrigerator in A/C & LP gas mode. Install a thermostatically controlled refrigerator vent fan.

  • In hot weather strategically park your RV to take advantage of shade. This can

  • Make the refrigerator and roof A/C more efficient.

  • Install Maxx Air vent covers over roof vents to allow ventilation.

  • Check the auxiliary battery(s) state of charge, water level, cables and connections. If you're not familiar with lead acid batteries have them checked by an authorized service center.

  • Check operation of the generator under load. Check generator engine oil & all filters. Service the generator as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Check all appliances, electric and gas, for proper operation.

  • Thoroughly flush out the holding tanks every time you dump them.

  • Check all 12-volt interior lights and accessories

  • Check fire extinguishers, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide and LP gas leak detector.

  • Inspect the operation of the awning and check the awning fabric.

  • Check the campground electric for proper voltage and polarity before plugging the RV in.

  • Drain the water out of the water system when you're not using the RV.

    Now that you performed your preventive maintenance checks go and have a good time and enjoy the fact that there is much less chance of encountering the need for any emergency maintenance during your trip.

    Happy Camping,


    Copyright by Mark J. Polk owner of RV Education 101

    RV Expert Mark Polk, seen on TV, is the producer & host of America's most highly regarded series of DVD's, videos, books, and e-books.http://www.rveducation101.com/

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