Getting Ready to Roll: RV Travel Prep

April 1, 2010
Filed under Tech Tips

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Depending on your local weather and how you store your motorhome each winter, getting it
ready for spring could be as big a chore as storing it each year. Not only has it been
sitting for several months, but it has also been exposed to some wide temperature swings.
These environmental swings may cause some unexpected problems and it’s better to find them
while parked at home rather than on the road. If you follow our program it should make your
first trip of the season a lot easier.

 

The first thing you should do is a visual inspection
of the exterior of the coach. Walk around and look for obvious issues such as cracked
joints or missing caulk. Look high and low on the sides and pay particular attention to the
windows and doors to find potential leaks, both inside and out.

 

Tech Features Getting Ready to Roll Check Roof VentsIf you are able to climb on
the roof, you also need to look it over as well. The roof can be dangerous so tread lightly
and carefully to prevent damage to you or the coach. The roof is covered with potential
problem areas such as openings for vents, skylights, etc. Carefully inspect them all while
looking for cracks or other defects that could lead to a leak.

 

Next, you will need to
address your water system. It has been unused all winter so a complete disinfecting is
required. If you bypassed your water heater in the fall, don’t forget to reverse it back to
normal flow. If you have your water lines filled with RV antifreeze, it is a good idea to
flush them first using fresh water, then fill the tank with water and add 1 cup of bleach
per 60 gallons of water. Run enough water through each fixture (check your fixtures while
you are doing this) to ensure the lines are all full of the bleach mixture. Allow this to
stand at least four hours, but longer is OK too. Then completely drain everything.

 

Tech Features Getting Ready to Roll Add Bleach to Water LinesIf you
want to remove the bleach odor you can repeat with a fresh tank of water along with one
gallon of water with half a cup of baking soda mixed in. Allow it to run completely through
the entire water system and it will be as fresh as the spring air. You can leave the baking
soda water in the system or drain the fresh tank and refill it from the fresh water source
of your choice.

 

While you are filling and draining the waterlines take note of the fresh
water tank drain as well as the black and gray tank drain valves. If they are stiff and
difficult to operate, replace the drain valve seals.

 

Tech Features Getting Ready to Roll Water Heater Anode RodYou should also drain the hot water
tank and inspect any anode rod. Replacing one is easy and inexpensive so we suggest you
replace it if it has lost more than around 75 percent of its original diameter/weight.
While you are looking at the water heater you should also inspect the burner to ensure no
foreign visitors have made their home there over the winter, and also inspect it for rust
or other damage.

 

While you are outside, check the tire pressure and inspect the tires for
sidewall cracks. If you performed fall maintenance before storing the coach and everything
looked good (oil, other fluids), you should be fine. A coach is best stored with fresh oil
in the engine, because that oil doesn’t contain the combustion contaminants that are
present in used oil. If you haven’t completed a proper chassis service, better late than
never. At least look under the coach for obvious leaks or signs of problems.

 

Tech Features Getting Ready to Roll Check Battery ElectrolytesAfter you
perform a visual inspection and are sure the coach oil/coolant levels are OK, you should
then start the chassis engine and allow it to warm up. This gives you an opportunity to
ensure the battery bank and engine are working as they should. While the engine is running,
check all exterior and interior lights using a partner to relay information on the status
of brake lights, blinkers, etc. After the engine reaches operating temperature, shut it
down. If your coach and generator batteries have been on a maintenance charger all winter
all you will need is to check their electrolyte level (remember to wear eye protection). If
your batteries have not been on a charger all winter, connect them to a good-quality
multi-stage charger before heading out on the road. If you notice corrosion on the battery
posts, clean and protect them with a battery corrosion preventative spray.

 

After checking
the oil/coolant in the generator, start it up. The generator should run at least one hour
under a load. This gives you time to turn on all the major appliances inside the coach
using generator power only. In order to ensure everything is working inside, start at the
front or back and turn each AC-operated device on to test its operation. Then shut it off
and move to the next device. Of course, be mindful of your total electrical draw to keep
from tripping a circuit breaker. Turn on each AC unit, exhaust fans, TVs, radios, etc.
Check your remote controls (and other battery-operated devices) and replace the batteries
if needed. Hopefully you removed these batteries before winter storage.

 

Next, check the
microwave by heating some water. Test the proper operation of the refrigerator as well as
any washer and dryer. If you disconnected the water line for an ice maker, don’t forget to
reconnect it.

 

Another very important step is to check or replace the batteries and
operation of all on-board detectors. This includes smoke, fire, LP-gas and carbon monoxide.

 

Check the location and condition of your fire extinguishers. You should have at least one
inside and one outside the coach. Another important safety item is your first-aid kit.
Before heading out for the first trip of the year ensure your kit contains everything you
or your family might need. This includes common medications as well as anything specific
required such as an EpiPen for allergies to insects or bee stings.

 

While you’re inside the
motorhome open every cabinet and storage area to inspect for spoiled food or signs of
insect/rodent damage. Your unused coach makes a great winter home for unwanted critters so
look around in every possible area for their presence. If you utilize traps or insect bait,
replace them with new ones to start the year off right. You should also take this
opportunity to perform a good cleanup inside the coach. Even if you cleaned it in the fall,
it is probably dusty and in need of a good spring cleaning. This includes the floors, walls
and cabinets as well as plumbing fixtures and cockpit area.

 

The LP-gas tank is another
important aspect of your coach and one that is critical. First you need to inspect the tank
to ensure that it looks safe for operation and that no obvious damage has occurred. If all
is well turn on the gas and inspect the area for characteristic gas odor. Then make your
way into the motorhome and test the gas by lighting the stove top.

 

It could take a few
tries to purge the air out of the lines. After all the burners light, you can turn them off
and move to the next LP-gas appliance. Before lighting the LP-gas refrigerator go outside
the coach and uncover the back of the refrigerator (if it is equipped with an LP-gas
model). Check the burner for rust or other damage or foreign matter. Clean out any debris
with a vacuum cleaner and low-pressure air, if needed; if all looks well proceed to
lighting the gas mode on your fridge. It, too, may take several attempts to light, so be
patient.

 

If you are sure the hot water tank is full of water then you should also light the
water heater in gas mode to test its operation. Usually you can hear the burner ignite or
your motorhome may have a light to indicate it is working. It’s best to allow it to run
long enough to produce hot water to completely test its operation.

 

Tech Features Getting Ready to Roll Clean windshieldIf weather permits you
can also use this time to open all of the windows and turn on the exhaust fans to
completely circulate the stale air inside the coach. You might also want to use an air
freshener or air sanitizer at this time. Don’t forget to open your slides and awnings.
Lubricate them if needed, including the rubber seals and slide track.

 

After completing
these tasks you should be well on your way to a good first trip in your motorhome. Every
coach is slightly different, and you may need to modify our list to fit your specific
model, but this should serve as a good overview to get you started on your first trip of
the year.

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