After more than a decade of living the RV Lifestyle, you’d think I’d be the RV maintenance king. In truth, I am a very unhandy handyman and I used to be very intimidated by any RV maintenance or repairs.
Thankfully, I conducted an interview a few years back that boosted my confidence and made me realize that some of the most common mishaps are actually easy to prevent.
I interviewed Sean Heintz, who at the time was a service and warranty coordinator for an RV company affiliated with Thor Industries. I learned so much in that short interview about how easy it is to do preventative maintenance that would save me both time and money.
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Preventative Maintenance Every RVer Should Do
It was a video interview back in 2018 (shown above) but realized it’d be nice to have a blog outlining all of the key timeless points as well. So, here’s that blog!
These easy preventative maintenance tips cover tires, plumbing, battery, and other common yet preventative issues.
We all know that we should check tire pressure and some of our coaches even come with tire pressure sensors. Checking tire pressure is especially important after taking your RV out of storage.
But what you may not know is that there’s another common tire maintenance task you need to do. And that’s torquing the lug nuts on the wheels!
It’s good to torque the wheels whenever you take the RV out of storage, but it’s also important to do it after you get your tires rotated or a new tire put on. Torquing the lug nuts on a regular basis can save your wheel from popping off your RV. Yes, this happens!
Even if your wheel doesn’t pop off, improperly tightened lug nuts can cause more wear and tear on your tires.
Anytime you take a wheel off and back on, expansion and contraction will occur as soon as you hit the road. So, Sean suggests you pull over after 100 miles of driving, and torque to your specs.
The thing is, you can’t just torque it as tight as you can. You need to use a click torque wrench to torque the lug nuts that will “click” when you’ve met your inputted specs.
I’m thinking I need to add it to my list of Top Tools Every RVer Needs to Carry.
Next comes the dreaded preventative maintenance for plumbing, but it’s actually much easier than I thought. Here’s how to prevent some of the most common plumbing problems.
Bad Odor from Drains
Preventing bad odors from your drains is as simple as running water down them. Let me explain why.
Under your plumbing fixtures (sinks, toilets, shower), there’s P-shaped piping fittingly called a P trap. When using your RV, water stays in your P trap, which creates a nice barrier from anything smelly further down the pipe.
The problem is, when your RV sits for a while (i.e. in storage), this water barrier eventually evaporates. The bad odors that are normal are then abnormally free to escape out your drains.
So, once a month, you need to flush water down all of your drains (when you’re not using your RV). You can use a garden hose or use your RV’s water system. Easy peasy.
Any experienced RVer knows that tank sensors are famously unreliable. Why is that?
Very little can go wrong with the actual sensors, but they read voltage that depends on liquid touching it. What happens is these sensors can get coated over time, especially with any papers that are flushed into the system.
Sean recommended a simple, very easy method to ensure your sensors are kept free of debris. This is what you do:
- Fill the tank to about ⅔ to ¾ full
- Pour a bag of ice cubes 2.5-5lb and a scoop of powdered dish soap, like Calgon, down the toilet.
- Drive around for a few blocks, making frequent turns, to swirl the ice cubes and soap around. This should clean off any sensors.
If you do this on a fairly regular basis (i.e. Spring and Fall), you should be fine. If it’s been sitting for a long time, then let the filled tank soak overnight and then do the following steps.
Mike and Jennifer’s RV Lifestyle hat collection
Who needs a hat? You do! Dad hats aren’t just for dads. This one’s got a low profile with an adjustable strap and curved visor. Just the thing to wear on your next RV Lifestyle adventure.
Keep Drain Hose Closed
I’ve seen coaches that don’t have waste macerators set up at campsites with drain hoses connected to the dumpsite and left open. I learned from Sean that this is not a good idea.
When you leave the gate valve open, all of the liquid flows out of your tank but the solids remain. This leads to a build-up of solids, accompanied by a very bad odor.
The best practice is to let your tank get about ⅔ to ¾ full, then open the gate valve and flush it out altogether. And use PLENTY of water.
Weak water pressure is also a common problem in RVs. Sean explained there are two main reasons for this.
First is if you’re using a water pump but the strainer prior to the water pump is dirty. The strainer is right on the side of the water pump, and all you need to do is regularly unscrew, rinse it out, and replace it.
The second most common culprit is the aerator or strainer on the faucet itself. That’s the little circular piece right where the water comes out that you can unscrew. Hard water can build up on this too.
It’s good to unscrew and clean this faucet strainer at least once a year, or more often if a lot of hard water goes through your RV.
When it comes to maintaining your propane system, it’s a battle against mother nature… in the form of spiders.
Spiders love the smell of propane and will build a nest wherever they smell it. Thus, the propane regulator is a favorite spider nesting spot. When they build nests on the diaphragm of the regulator, it prevents it from seeing atmospheric pressure and it can’t function properly any longer.
You’ll see things like a very yellow flame or high flame, and it will cause all kinds of problems. For propane regulators, you need to clean them every Spring at the very least. It’s also a good idea to wrap them if you can.
Spiders also build nests in places like your heating vents and the propane fire section for your hot water tank. Sean recommends putting steel wool in any of these areas that are accessible.
Dead batteries are also a common nuisance for RVers. It’s especially frustrating when you have everything unplugged and turned off yet the battery still depletes.
Why does this happen?!
It’s called parasitic drain, and it’s when seemingly dormant components still use some power to maintain themselves. Parasitic drain in today’s chassis is evident in the technology we use.
Every vehicle has 3 components: auto transmission, body control module, and engine control module. In order to maintain their memory features, some energy has to be drawn at all times. Even radio presets require energy to maintain!
If sitting long enough, even seemingly negligible parasitic drains will deplete your RV battery. So, you need to disconnect your battery whenever you’re storing your RV for more than 2-4 weeks.
Your owner’s manual should tell you about battery disconnect for your coach: where it’s located, how to engage or disengage it, and when to do it.
By the way, a common parasitic drain is your antenna booster. It’s the highest draw of 12v power in your coach and, if left on, will drain your batteries at a quicker rate. Unfortunately, it often accidentally gets turned on or forgotten about.
Read Your User Manual & Take a Hands-On Approach
Sean estimated that over 50% of service calls that come into his shop could be avoided with preventative maintenance and being familiar with your user manual. He also advocates for a hands-on approach to caring for your vehicle.
Reading and occasionally rescanning your user manual will help you get ahead of any problems before they become costly repairs.
Plus, taking a hands-on approach to cleaning and maintaining your rig will help you identify any issues before they become stuck-on-the-side-of-the-road problems.
I hope these preventative maintenance tips have helped! If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments below.
New ebook from Mike and Jennifer Wendland – the Natchez Trace
The Natchez Trace Parkway will capture your imagination, soothe your jangled travel nerves, open your mind and inspire you with the history that unfolded along its 444 miles.
Each of the 7 Days of the ebook has:
- Suggested Mileposts to explore
- Places to Eat in each area of the 7 sections
- Campground descriptions and links
- Links to all the special places and information
- Links to videos that show more in detail
- and a lot of highlighted information for each section
PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a printed, hard copy guide.
Whether you want to follow the footsteps of explorers, discover natural beauty, or visit historic sites, the Trace has something to grab your attention and leave you eager to see what’s at the next milepost.
You can see why this is one of our favorite US routes to explore. We’ve traveled it a half dozen times!