Before packing up and leaving a campsite, you want to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Running through this departure checklist is called an RV walk-around. Learning how to do an RV walk-around is essential before you hit the road. This includes checking for patio furniture or outdoor decor left outside and making sure your awnings and TV antenna are retracted.
Leaving belongings behind on your camping trip, or leaving compartments unlocked can ruin a perfectly good trip and cause unnecessary delays because you have to retrace your steps. Many experienced RVers have made these mistakes at least once. But having an RV checklist will prevent it from becoming a nasty habit.
Here are a few things to avoid before setting off so that your journey is just as fun as your destination:
Not Bringing in the Awning Before Moving
This may seem crazy, but it happens. Awnings are not rigid structures. Running into objects when your awning isn’t 100% retracted will result in costly damage to your RV’s exterior and, of course, the awning itself. Make sure you’re awning is in it’s locked position. Even if the awning is slightly out of lock, the vibration of the road can damage the awning system and lead to repairs.
Bringing in your awning can prevent snafus from happening while on the road. It’s not only safer for you and the awning itself, but also for other travelers on the road. Maintaining your awning is an important part of being a responsible RV owner.
Leaving the Steps Out
Here’s a true story. One time my father irritated a lot of construction workers along the Kansas City turnpike when he accidentally left the steps out on our motorhome. He must have knocked down at least 50 cones as we drove by, oblivious to the frustration we were causing.
Learn from his mistake and avoid annoying those in your path by making sure your steps are in their stored position before hitting the road. Listen for them to retract and double-check using your RV’s side-view mirrors. The Kansas City turnpike construction workers, among others, will be thankful for your close attention to detail.
Leaving the Antenna Up
This is much more common than you might think and, let’s face it, the antenna or your dish is not something that is easy to spot from your point of view on the ground. Make a physical note and tape it to your steering wheel to remind you to retract your antenna before putting your RV in gear.
It may seem silly, but it won’t be when you see the cost of replacing an antenna or a satellite dish. And hitting something with an extended antenna can cause further damage to your RV’s entire roof, not to mention what might happen if your antenna or satellite dish becomes a projectile endangering other vehicles on the road behind you.
Forgetting to Disconnect from Utilities
Your RV’s freshwater hose, electrical hardware, and sewer connection all need to be disconnected at the end of your campground visit. Make a point to check and disconnect each of these connections during your walkaround.
Remember, errors are costly and we’re confident that you’d rather spend money on visiting some amazing places rather than on unnecessary, avoidable repairs. Perform your first utility connections check before you think about moving and double-check on your final walkaround. Forgetting to disconnect can be quite a costly (and messy) mistake to make.
Leaving the Jacks Down
What type of RV jacks are you using? Are the jacks up or down? You’ll find out faster than you like if you try to pull out with your jacks still extended. Leveling and stabilizing your RV are super-important for a comfortable camping experience, but attempting to drive away with extended leveling jacks still touching the ground is an expensive and stressful error.
Bonus Tip: If your jacks are hydraulic, that’s great, but it’s worth it to take a look at them before you attempt to motor them up. Make sure the jacks aren’t buried in the muck and therefore straining the motor as they attempt to retract. Clearing the area for easier retraction will reduce wear and tear on your motor.
Not Knowing or Monitoring the Height of Your RV
Do you know the height of your RV off the top of your head? Including the air conditioning unit? You should. Not all of us have teardrop campers after all. It’s best to have your RV’s maximum height memorized in order to avoid low-hanging branches and bridges with low clearance.
That height must include your tallest roof-mounted accessory, which is either your AC unit or satellite antenna on most RVs. Not knowing if your RV can fit under upcoming obstacles could mean the difference between ripping your AC unit off or having it cool down your RV’s interior living space once you arrive at your destination.
Backing Up Without a Spotter
Whether you’re traveling with your whole family or you’re on a solo tour, check around for someone in the campground who can be your spotter when backing up. All vehicles have blind spots, but RVs and travel trailers can have especially large blind spots compared to passenger vehicles. Obstacles don’t just pop out of nowhere, but they can seem like that if you’re not careful.
A preliminary walkaround will also help you assess the potential hazards to look out for as well as determine the best path to take once in reverse. Asking someone to spot you gives you another set of eyes to help prevent any scrapes, swipes, or dents that could happen otherwise.
For more advice when it comes to successfully backing up your RV, check out the posts below:
- Tips for Backing Your Towable RV into Your Campsite
- Ask an Expert: Essential RV Safety for Every Road Trip
Having No Knowledge of Your RV’s Weight
Every vehicle has multiple weight ratings, but the most important weight to consider for the purposes of conducting an RV walkaround is your gross vehicle weight (GVW). This is the maximum potential weight your RV can weigh once it is fully loaded.
Chances are you’re not going RVing without bringing camping gear and other accessories along with you. And while you shouldn’t haul a trailer with the holding tanks completely full – water does weigh 8.334 pounds per gallon – it’s wise to keep some water in your freshwater tank while traveling.
All campgrounds are not the same. You may end up in a spot where you need extra torque from your tow vehicle’s engine to get motoring. Understanding the weight rating of your RV is crucial when it comes to a successful adventure. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not an important detail.
If you do a quick and efficient walkaround and heed the tips we’ve listed here, you should have very few issues when the time comes to pull out for your next RV trip.
Have anything you think should be added? Tell us in the comments below!