By Mark Polk
RV Education 101
When I was in the military, we used checklists to make sure we covered all the bases on the particular task at hand. It seems like everybody has a top 5 list or a top 10 list, but the number 7 has always been lucky for me. So for FMCA.com, I've decided to do Polk’s Top 7.
Normally when you plan a trip in your motorhome, you conduct some pre trip checks to make sure the RV is properly prepared for travel. But what happens when you find that perfect campground or RV park and stay put for extended periods of time? Do you conduct routine maintenance checks on the RV to make sure it is in safe and operable condition while it’s parked? Most likely you do. But if not, here’s my Top 7 Extended-Stay Maintenance Checks.
1. Inflate the tires to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Tires can lose as much as 2 to 3 psi a month. If you stay in one spot for three or six months the tire pressure could be dangerously low. If the unit is not being moved, check and adjust the tire pressure on a monthly basis. Ozone in the air, and UV rays from the sun, shorten the life of your RV tires. Ozone causes tires to dry rot and deteriorate, and UV rays make it happen quicker.
This deterioration is especially true of a tire’s sidewall. Inspect your tires periodically for cracks in the sidewalls. If you notice any damage, have the tires inspected by a professional before using the RV. Tire failure on an RV can be extremely dangerous and can cause costly damage to the RV. Keep the tires covered with covers that block out the sunlight when the RV is sitting in one spot or not in use.
2. Place some type of RV leveling blocks between the ground and the tires. Be sure that whatever you use is larger than the footprint of the tire. No portion of the tire should hang over the edge of the tire block. This can cause internal damage to the tire.
There are actually several reasons for blocking tires. First is to make sure the RV is as level as possible so more weight isn't on one tire than the others. Second, storage surface areas can cause your tires to age prematurely. You don't want to leave the tires in contact with any heat-producing material or petroleum-based material, such as asphalt, for long periods of time. You also don't want your tires exposed to constant cold or moisture, like when the RV is sitting on the frozen ground. The wood or blocking acts as a barrier between the tires and the ground surface they are being stored on.
3. Fill the motorhome’s fuel tank prior to parking it for a long stay, and add a fuel stabilizer. Run the engine and the generator long enough for the fuel stabilizer to get through the fuel system. If you are not using the generator, you should exercise it monthly with a minimum of a ½-rated load on it. Consult your generator set owner’s manual for rated loads.
4. Check and fill the water levels in all batteries and make sure the batteries stay fully charged. The electrolyte levels in batteries will be depleted through long-term use. Check the water levels bi-weekly, at a minimum. Many RV converter chargers provide a constant charge of about 13.5 volts, which is too high for fully charged batteries, and the electrolyte is boiled off, resulting in an early death for the batteries.
You can use a digital voltmeter to measure voltage and get a quick picture of the batteries’ depth of discharge. A fully charged battery should read about 12.7 volts. Don’t check the voltage when the RV is plugged in, because you will get a false reading. For a true reading of the batteries, they should be tested after resting for 12 hours. Resting means the battery is disconnected from any charger or any load for at least 12 hours.
5. Change the oil and oil filter on the engine and the generator prior to long stays or long-term storage. Acids accumulate in used oil and can corrode engine bearings.
6. Routinely test the operation of the carbon monoxide detector, LP-gas leak detector and smoke alarm. Check the fire extinguisher monthly to make sure it is fully charged. Clean or replace air conditioner filters as required.
7. Before moving the RV after extended stays or storage, check all fluid levels in the transmission, power steering, engine coolant, engine oil, windshield washer and brakes. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for proper levels. Start the engine and check for proper readings on all gauges. Check the condition of windshield wiper blades and replace them if necessary. Check the operation of all chassis lights. Make sure the vehicle emissions/inspection sticker is up-to-date. Complete all pre-trip checks.
I realize there are many other items that could be added to this list, but I am committed to keeping with my Top 7 List. Use this as a starting point and tailor it to your own personal needs.
|RV expert Mark Polk owns RV Education 101, a North Carolina-based company that produces and sells educational videos, DVDs and E-books on how to use RVs. Mark has more than 30 years of experience in RV maintenance. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1996 as a Chief Warrant Officer Three, specializing in wheeled and track vehicle fleet maintenance operations. He and his wife, Dawn, started RV Education 101 in 1999. They travel with their two boys in a 35-foot Type A motorhome.