youtubeRVs are made with imperfect materials, by imperfect people in an imperfect world. Don’t assume that just because everything worked last time you went camping in your RV, everything will be functioning correctly when you head out on your next camping trip. While it would take substantial time to check every feature on your RV before each camping trip, here are some ways to quickly assure the key items are ready to go.

• Verify your house batteries are turned on and have a charge. The easiest way to verify your house batteries are turned on and have a charge is to disconnect your RV from shore power, turn on a ceiling light or two while completing the operational checks listed below. If the ceiling lights stay brightly lit while you perform the checks, your house batteries are likely ready for the outing.

• Start your RV gas / electric absorption refrigerator on LP gas to make sure it lights. Once you have verified the flame is on* let it continue to cool down for 24 hours on gas or electric. By starting it on LP gas rather than electric you can confirm the refrigerator is ready to operate on LP gas. This is very important if you will be dry camping (no utilities) at your intended campsite. Even if you will be camping at a full hookup RV park it is good to know your refrigerator is ready to work via LP gas if somebody knocks your shore power cord loose or there is a power outage during your stay. By letting your refrigerator cool for 24 hours, you are confirming proper operation of the cooling unit.

*You can verify the flame is on by either listening for the sound of the flame (soft roar) outside of the lower exterior refrigerator vent or confirming the cooling process has begun by placing your hand on the freezer plate a couple of hours after turning the refrigerator on. Note: The refrigerator gas “check” light is not a 100% reliable indicator of the flame being lit.

• Start your water heater on gas to make sure it will light. You should be able to readily hear the roar of the flame once ignited. Once you know it will light, turn it back off. As in the example above, even if you will be camping in a full hook up RV park and running the water heater on electric, you know it will operate via gas if you run into problems.


Turn on the Water Heater and Listen for Ignition

• Unless you will be camping in July in eastern Washington, you should verify your furnace is ready to operate. Turn on the heat setting and turn the thermostat up to initiate a heating cycle. The quickest way to verify it has lit is to go outside and place your hand near (not touching, as it can burn you) the exhaust port of the furnace. You will feel heat being emitted from the vent within seconds of it starting rather than waiting minutes for heat to come from the heat registers inside the RV. Shut the furnace off once you confirm ignition. Another good reason for checking the furnace operation regularly, is if something is wrong you will have time to schedule it into the RV shop for repair before fall / winter when you will need it to be working. Note: For safety reasons, most RV furnace repairs should not be attempted by the RV owner.


Feel for Heat from the Furnace Exhaust Port

• With water in the onboard freshwater tank, turn on the water pump and let it pressurize the plumbing system. If the pump won’t shut off, you either have a large water leak in the system or a bad water pump. If the pump does shut off, leave it turned on for 5-10 minutes while you perform the other operation checks listed. If you hear it “zip” come on, then off, you may have a small leak in the plumbing system which requires further investigation. Start by checking all faucets are tightly closed.

• While the plumbing system is charged, it is a good idea to check the operation of the toilet. A quick step on the pedal will verify proper operation (flush and rinse). After all, what good will it be if your plumbing, heating, and refrigeration is working properly, but you have nowhere to go to the bathroom?

• Tire pressure: Everything already listed deals with the creature comforts of RVing, but proper tire pressure involves getting you and your family safely to and from the campsite. It is a “must check” before every trip, don’t neglect checking your tire pressure. A visual check of the tires for bulging, side wall checking, tread separation and wear are a good idea too.


Check the tire pressure

• Finally, check fluid levels: 1) Potable water: Even if you will be heading to a full hookup RV park it is good to have a small amount of water in the tank to flush the toilet, wash your hands, use for engine coolant, etc. 2) Propane (yes, propane is a liquid when stored under pressure in the cylinder(s) on your RV): Having plenty of propane is essential if you will be dry camping to run the furnace, water heater and absorption refrigerator. Even if you will be camping in a full hook up RV space, having some propane onboard will keep your absorption refrigerator, furnace and gas water heater operating in the event of a power failure. 3) Generator fuel: Most will need to run their generator when dry camping, if not, it is still nice to know you have some fuel to run the generator in the event of a power failure while in a full hookup RV space. Remember the Boy Scouts motto: Be prepared.

While checking the items listed a day or two before leaving on a trip won’t likely provide you time to take your RV to the repair shop if your find something wrong, it will give you time to come up with alternative plans thus saving the camping trip.

Question, Comments? Please leave your comments below.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. With over 40 years experience in the industry and a lifetime of RVing, Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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