7 Spring RV Checks Not to Skip

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This comprehensive checklist is just what you need to make sure your first spring RV trip is a great one.

The other day an RV owner asked me what I considered to be the most important spring travel checks to prepare an RV for camping season. My response was that there are lots of checks that need to be performed on the RV for a safe and worry free camping season, but some are more important than others.

Here are seven important checks I wouldn’t leave out:

RV Batteries
Let’s start our spring checks with the battery(s) since it’s possible you removed them for winter storage. The condition of the battery(s) is dependent on how well they were cared for over the winter. Batteries in storage will lose a percentage of current through internal leakage. It’s not uncommon for a battery to discharge up to 10% a month when it is in storage. If you checked and recharged the battery(s) periodically while in storage they should be ready to go. If not, the first step is to fully charge the battery(s). Water should only be added to lead acid battery(s) 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 battery(s) was removed for storage, reinstall it making absolutely sure it is connected properly. If you don’t feel comfortable performing this work, have it done by a qualified service facility.

RV Water System
After sitting in storage the water system needs to be de-winterized, checked for leaks and sanitized. If your unit was winterized using non-toxic RV antifreeze 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 fresh water tank. Add potable water to the fresh water holding tank, turn the water pump on and open all of the water faucets. When the water is running clear 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 before winterizing the unit, the antifreeze needs to be drained from the water heater tank. Replace any water filter cartridges you removed for storage.

This is a good time to check the plumbing 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 cycles back on, even for a short period of time, there is a leak somewhere. Locate the leak and repair it or take it to an authorized RV service facility to be repaired.

Every spring 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 the solution into to the fresh water tank fill. Now fill the fresh water holding tank with potable 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.

Appliances
If the LP gas cylinders or tank has any LP gas remaining, open the gas supply and check the operation of all LP gas fired appliances. Make sure the water heater tank is full of water before testing the water heater. 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 they build nests that can affect the appliance from operating properly. Note: The LP gas system should have a leak test and LP gas operating pressure test preformed annually. These tests should be performed by an authorized RV repair facility.

If all the LP gas appliances work properly, plug the unit in and test 120-volt appliances and accessories for proper operation. Note: Make sure you have an adequate electrical source (30-50 amps) depending on your unit, before 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.

Tires
Just like a battery looses a percentage of its charge in storage, tires lose a percentage of air pressure. Your RV tires can lose 2-3 psi a month while sitting in storage. This means they could be dangerously low on air pressure. Check the tire pressure in all tires with a quality tire inflation gauge and adjust the inflation pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation based on the load. Don’t forget the spare! Remember, failing to maintain correct tire pressure, based on the load, can result in fast tread wear, uneven wear, poor handling, and excessive heat build-up which can lead to tire failure. Tire manufacturers publish load and inflation tables that should be followed for proper inflation pressure.

Power Train & Generator
Whether you have a motorhome or a tow vehicle, the power train needs to be checked out. Start by checking all fluid levels. 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 vehicle 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. Never run a generator with a damaged exhaust system. If you didn’t exercise 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 continues to surge after starting, have it checked out and repaired by an authorized service facility.

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 it. 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. Note: Be extremely careful working on the RV roof. A fall can cause serious injury or death.

Safety Stuff
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 them on the bottom to release any settled powder. Review how to properly use a fire extinguisher in the event you need to use it. Make sure everybody understands what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are and what to do if you are exposed to it.

These are what I would consider to be seven of the most important checks to prep your RV for spring travel. You can add to this list to tailor it to your specific needs, but most importantly, be safe and have a great camping season.

For a more in-depth look at getting your RV ready to roll check out our instant download e-book titled Checklists for RVers.

Mark Polk

  • Richard Kuhwarth

    Good advice, but you missed a couple. For trailers, pack the wheel bearings and adjust the brakes.

  • Wayne Nicholson

    Don’t forget to check windshield wipers where applicable. Look for dry rot, missing sections (varmint chews) and if they are below the cowl ensure no bird or mice built a nest there.

    • HOA Guy

      A cool trick with windshield wipers that I recently learned, is that you can “recondition” windshield wipers if they are leaving streaks, with an organic-based cleaner or solvent. One suggestion was rubbing alchohol, applied with a cotton ball; I actually used Rain-X and a paper towel to clean mine. They work as good as new! It removes grime from the wiper that keeps it from working properly.

  • Darrel Dolen

    Very good checklist

  • robert kuehl

    7 rv checks was a great idea, but i could not print the information. are we supose to memorize this info?

    • Jackie

      You might not be aple to print, from this screen, but you can copy and paste the information into a word document, and print from there.

      • Kevin

        Thanks so much for the printing tip Jackie. Just like Robert, I too sometimes get upset when there is no “Print” button. And if you do a print screen you get all the ads in the sidebars. I can’t believe I never thought of something so simple as copying to Word! It looks so neat and clean, and now I can save it to my hard drive as well. Thanks again!!

    • tpeddler

      Cut and Paste the article and then copy to Word.

    • Patti J.

      You can also highlight the text of the article, choose the Print command from your browser, and choose “Print Selection”. That will keep you from getting all the advertisements around the edges of the pages.

  • Phil rumpel

    Thanks for the details on sanitizing my water system. I have not heard that process before.

  • Tom Chatman

    Very good. I made up my own list and put done or not done after each item. My list includes also grease spring shackles; lube slide seals; lube slides;check roof; put items back in taken out; and wash and wax unit to the ones already listed.

  • Jeff Babiuk

    I agree with Richard, dont neglect the bearings, but I also recommend inspecting your springs while you have the wheels off. Spring sag/breakage is often overlooked.

    On the subject of sanitizing water tanks, although it is more expensive, I use non-chlorine sanitizer that is used for commercial food equipment 1 tablet per gallon/ a 1 minute soak kills everything. In food preparation equipment the 1 minute soak is followed by just letting the equipment dry. For Rv use I rinse 1 time,.

    Brand name of product is Sani-Tabs. No chlorine odor, no bleaching your clothes, no repeat rinsing to alleviate odors very easy to use.

  • GEORGE

    - Change batteries in all smoke and Co detectors.
    - Roll out and clean all awnings
    - Apply a couple of drops of lubricant to the TV antenna cranking mechanism

  • Evets

    A timely list. I can say all those items are completed now…. plus a lot more, including the new seal for the toilet! Now to stock the supplies and hit the road… once the rains stop.

    Thanks for the great advice over the years.

  • Jackie

    Thanks for the info all….I think my husband uses the sani tabs too.

  • Laura Moncur

    The benefit of having a simple trailer like a teardrop is that you don’t have to worry about any of these things except the tire pressure. All the things that prevented me from buying a trailer (like black water tanks) aren’t in a teardrop, so my life is easier.

    Pump up the tires and JUST RV IT!!!

    • Bill

      Well aren’t you special. I think this info is for us that do have a travel trailer, with elbow room inside.

      • Sylvie Lien

        Yeah Bill!!! I’m with you 100%!

  • Fritz

    I copied the article into a Word Document, but all your comments refused to copy, so I added them by hand to the word document. (There has to be an easier way to save these important suggestions). However, I now have a very good spring check list.

  • Cindi

    Great check list. As for all the comments, if you copy the text of the comment only it will paste to a word doc.

  • Sue

    Wash the inside of the refrigerator with white vinegar

  • John from LiquiFix

    Great tips, especially the safety info. Also, check all the motorized moving parts like awnings, steps and back pull out section, to see that they haven’t gotten stuck. They need to be lubricated. Happy trails!

  • cindy

    i have a travler trailer and i dont know what to use to clean the bathroom sinks and the toliet . could anyone help me out. this is our first trailer and i dont want to use too strong of cleaner on it.
    thanks

    • Tracey

      Vinegar can be used for all your cleaning and when you rinse it down the drain it will also get rid of the stale tank odour. A box of baking soda for the fridge and freezer are a good idea too.

      • bILL

        IF YOU HAVE A BAD SMELL IN THE REFRIG., YOU CAN PUT USED COFFEE GROUNDS IN THE REFRIG., IN A PAPER FILTER AND IT WILL OBSORB THE SMELL. WORKS GREAT AND GIVES THE BOX A GOOD SMELL. DOES NOT COST ANYTHING AS YOU WILL BE USING SOMETHING YOU HAVE ALREADY GOT THE USE OUT OF.

  • william coryell

    Enjoyed this very much even though laysdays does all the work i have to check on them

  • Bob Lobenstein

    For all trailers it is important to do a thorough axel inspection including re-packing all bearings with a good quality – high temperature grease. (follow the manufacturer requirements)
    In addition, while the wheel and brake drum are off, check brake linings and brake actuators to ensure safe stopping during all trips.
    It is a dirty job but when done, the peace of mind while driving is assured.
    Bob (Loby) Lobenstein WA2AXZ

  • Randyl Johnson

    Ok Guys – don’t laugh at this – I’m a female – does anyone know if you never use your generator, do you have to have it serviced (oil changed) as often as the motor home engine oil? I’m on my own with this since my husband passed away last year and it just seems like an awfully long check list! Also I appreciate everyone’s tips above.

    • Tom

      As time passes, oil viscosity breaks down therefore not protecting your engine as well as when its new. Even if I don’t use my generator, I change my oil, plugs and run it for a couple hours at the beginning of the season just to put some fresh gas through the fuel system. This way, when you need your generator, it should usually run whenever its called upon. If your not familiar with doing all this, I would suggest taking it to a pro for servicing.
      Happy Camping!!!

    • Bob Lobenstein

      Condolences on the passing of your husband.
      I am a retired Power System Operator and Emergency as well as Normal lighting generators have been a specialty of our operations systems.
      Depending on the manufacturer, each generator engine has oil change requirements anywhere from 25 to 100 hrs of continuous service. If you havent done service to your generator in a long time, you had better get it to the RV center or your local garage. Have them check on the internet for the requirements of your engine.. and do what is necessary for trouble free operation. Oil changes are cheap compared to the costly engine replacement due to neglected oil.
      If you plan on keeping this RV, YES… Take the time to make a check list and if you can find some of the original instruction books, add the maintenance schedules to this list.
      You have a great resource on these KOA pages…and a great number of camping friends that are sure to help out.
      Be Well and be safe with your motorhome.
      Bob Lobenstein-WA2AXZ

  • Bob Jr

    Hello, dont forget to check your spare tire and jack, also hitch and safty chains. Happy 2012 camping season everyone!!!!!!

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