youtubeWhether you own a motorized or towable RV, arguably the most important aspect of ownership is maintenance of the unit. This month I will discuss some of the most important aspects of maintenance by RV type. It is important to note this list is not exhaustive, but I will touch on the most important areas.

Motorhomes:

Motorhomes require chassis, mechanical, and “house” system maintenance, and it’s important not to neglect any of these. While some maintenance work should be done by your local RV dealership, most RV service centers do not perform mechanical maintenance or repairs on chassis or mechanical systems on motorhomes. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, it is very important to find both a reputable RV service center as well as a mechanic capable of working on your unit. If you have a large diesel RV, your best bet may be a Cummins, Freightliner, or Spartan dealership. In terms of coach work, I often recommend sticking with your selling dealer, at least as long as your warranty is in place. Your dealership will have access to the required parts, experience, and training needed to work on your brand of RV.

As with any vehicle, annual maintenance is important on your motorized RV. You may choose to do some of this work yourself, especially if you own a Class B or smaller Class C.

The following chassis work is recommended at a minimum. Your coach may have additional maintenance requirements:

Oil & Lube – oil change at the intervals recommended in your owner’s manual. This includes filter change. Be sure you understand the extend of the lube work. Some dealerships only grease the front-end fittings, but you should make sure all the grease points are serviced. This is also something you may be able to do yourself, but make sure you know where all the grease fittings (zerks) are.

Fluids – checking and/or replacing the engine fluids should be part of a full service, and may even be part of Oil & Lube service. Other than engine oil, this would include transmission fluid, coolant, differential, and windshield fluid. Your mechanic should advise you on which fluids were low and which, if any, need to be replaced.

Engine Belts – make sure you or your mechanic check the condition of the engine belts. Replacing worn belts helps avoid a potential breakdown on the road.

Engine Battery – make sure the battery is always full of electrolyte. Use distilled water to top-up the fluid. Batteries should last between five and seven years on average.

Note: many of the above steps also apply to generators as well

Keep an eye on other components such as the exhaust system, springs, shocks, etc., looking for signs of damage or wear.

Towables:

While trailers lack the engine maintenance requirements and some of the chassis service that motorhomes are subject to, the maintenance needs are no less important. Specific to trailers are the hitch and related components, including A-frame or 5th wheel systems. Regularly check the trailer breakaway switch for proper operation. Make sure both ends of your 7-way trailer connector are clean, dry, and operational for all functions.

Common Components:

The following service items are common to both trailers and motorhomes:

Sealant – ensure all exterior sealants are in good condition. Any cracking, voids, or other damage should be cap sealed (re-sealed over top of the old sealant) to ensure no water intrusion. Don’t forget to check around lights, vents, and other body features. Clean the old sealant with any de-natured alcohol compound prior to resealing. In extreme cases, the old sealant may need to be scraped off, the surface cleaned, and new sealant applied. Make sure to use the correct sealant as recommended by your manufacturer for the area you are sealing. Silicone based sealant is never recommended on the exterior of an RV. Seals are the most important coach maintenance issue on RVs, as failure to maintain the exterior sealants can result in water intrusion, which is among the most damaging and expensive repairs.

Tires and BrakesRV tires usually “age” out before they wear out. In other words, the tires will tend to pass their “best before” date before they start showing signs of wear. Motorhome tires should be replaced every 10-12 years or so, and trailer tires tend to last 5-7 years (These are rough averages), so be sure to have your local tire shop, RV service center, or mechanic check the condition of your tires as they age. Tires are expensive, so resist the temptation to run your tires longer than you should. Cracking of the sidewalls is a main indication that tires should be replaced.

Exterior Lights – do not neglect the importance of working lights

Propane (LP) system – the importance of this annual inspection cannot be overstated. Make sure you have your LP system professionally inspected annually or whenever you suspect there might be an issue with your propane system or gas appliances.

Coach Batteries – maintain the electrolyte level and keep the batteries and connections clean, tight, and dry. A mix of baking soda and water makes a great corrosion cleaner. Always wear gloves and eye-protection when working around RV batteries.

 

As this list is not exhaustive, there are other maintenance items I have not mentioned here, and you may have your own service rituals. Always follow the guidance of your mechanic or RV service shop related to RV maintenance and repair.

Many RV owners, especially new ones, tend to neglect RV maintenance. Dealerships and private sellers aren’t always forthcoming on the importance of maintaining your coach. You can’t purchase an RV and not expect to spend time and money keeping it maintained. Hopefully you wouldn’t do this as a homeowner, so please don’t do it as an RV owner either.

Following these important maintenance guidelines will help keep your rig rolling safely and reliably down the road.

Questions? Comments? Please leave your thoughts below.

Steve Froese
Author: Steve FroeseEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Steve Froese is a Licensed Professional Engineer in British Columbia, as well as an Interprovincial Red Seal RV Technician, which is equivalent to a Master Certified RV Technician in the USA. Steve was a personal friend and colleague of the late Gary Bunzer (“the RV Doctor”), and works closely with FMCA as the monthly “Tech Talk” columnist, as well as being a member of the Technical Advisory and Education Committees. Steve and his family are lifelong and avid RVers, mostly in the Pacific Northwest.

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