Looking Back at my RV Preventive Maintenance
On the Road!
My Preventive Maintenance Plan, Off Season
The Wife and I are Most-Timers, and we live in South Carolina. And we tend to use our RV over the Winter months to get away from the cold and enjoy the warmer climates of the deep south.
Because of this, we don't actually Winterize our RV, rather we Summerize ours. Our home is in a community which, like so many today do not allow the storage of RV's, Boats, or any kind of trailers at your home. That is a subject of it's own, so I won't go there today.
So, I have to store my RV somewhere else. Luckily, there is a Repo business a couple of miles from my home, and the owner has a very secure storage area, and he has a reasonable rent for RVer that want to store their Rigs there.
In the past, each year, just before we planned to leave for the winter, I would go down and frantically work on all kinds of little things that needed fixing, and at the same time I would schedule those other maintenance things like oil changes, etc with local garages.
Somehow, I would get everything done just in time for us to hit the road.
Well, this year, when we pulled back into my storage site in April, I made a commitment to myself that I would keep our Rig in top shape and be confident enough to pull out at the drop of a hat, so to speak.
Putting together a plan that works
The first thing I had to do was figure out what actually had to be done on my Rig. So, I was driven to pull out my owners manual and read it. And, I did, from cover to cover, taking copious notes.
When I put the book down, and looked at the notes I had taken, I realized that this new Rig had a lot more STUFF to look after than my older and smaller Rigs, of the past.
Let me mention this, here. We had traded our RV for a 2007 Monaco Camelot, with only 15K miles, in January, while in Florida for the winter. And other than a couple of bugs, the dealer had fixed everything for us, and we had not had any problems as we came home in April.
So, taking my notes and the manual with me, I went down to my RV, and laid my paperwork out on the dining table, and then I spend several hours, alternately thumbing through the book, and my notes, and then opening storage doors and access panels, and performing a pretty good process of learning my RV, probably for the first time ever.
Of course, the previous owner had not left any service records or receipts in the RV, or else the dealer threw them away, so I decided to assume the worst. The previous owner was even lazier than I am, and probably had not maintained his rig well, at all.
I decided that I had to split my plan into two major plans.
1- Get all of the appropriate and necessary standard PM done that might be required before making a long trip in the RV, across the US, and
2-Put together my own PM plans; one for during storage periods and one that is the regular ongoing PM recommended by the manufacturers of the Rig and the other Coach stuff.
Checking on the state of the regular PM is relatively easy.
Essentially, you collect or look up the following data items, in order to start a list of what has to be done:
- Actual RV Mileage
- Actual RV Generator Hours of Operation
- Existing records of past maintenance performed.
Once you have pulled this information together, you need to make a list of any items that you know need to be repaired, upgraded, or just serviced, that you know of.
You then take your owners manual, and look up the standard maintenance items that are recommended by the Coach as well as the Chassis-Drive-train manufacturers.
Such obvious things as; Oil changes, Fuel Filter changes, Lubrication requirements, Tire Air Checks, Fridge Service Checks, Furnace Checks, AC Checks, Battery Checks, Water Heater checks, and on and on.
Any of these items, listed above, can cause you a lot of heartache while traveling, if they stop working properly, so you really need to see that they are in good shape before your trip.
Now, this is very important.
You now need to pull together all of this data into a realistic list of items to be taken care of, in some logical and chronological order, relative to your projected date to pull out on your trip.
You should allow time for problems to occur if you run into serious problems. It is much better to get every thing necessary done a couple of weeks or months ahead of your start date than to end up departing days or weeks late due to complications.
I know, I was originally supposed to pull out for my west-coast winter trip in August, and I noticed that my Fridge wasn't cooling properly.
I took it to a certified Dometic service center, and it turned out that my whole Cooling Unit needed replacement. It was a back-ordered part, and one was delivered 2-months later.
I ended up changing a lot of reservations, several times, and our leisurely trip across the country turned into a marathon crossing.
Not a Lot of Fun!
So, make a prioritized chronological list, and get everything done, and done properly, in a timely manner.
Oil Change and Lubrication
My Rig has a Cummins drive train and I wanted an Oil Change and Chassis Lubrication before I spent 7+ months on the road..
I didn't need one yet, but when it comes to Engine Oil, I would rather be overly cautious, than frugal.
First I got out my owners manual, and copied the pages that listed and illustrated the points that needed lubrication.
Then I dropped down to a local Garage that said that they could do the job.
When I got there, I asked the Manager, for a quote, and he threw a pretty competitive price at me.
So, I then asked him what they lubricated, and he stated, simply; "Everything!"
i didn't feel very comfortable with his quick answer, so I told him;
:Hey Man, I know I am being a pain, but could you get your mechanic that is going to do the job in here? I have these documents on my rig, and I want to confirm that he is going to hit all of the Lube spots required. OK?"
Well, he grumbled, but he went out and came back in a couple of minutes and the actual mechanic returned with him.
I showed him my documents, and I asked;
I assume that you are going to lubricate all of the spots shown here?"
He pursed his lips, looked at the document for another minute or so, and said'
"Well, Not Exactly!"
I said: "Not exactly?"
The Manager rolled his eyes and frowned, and the mechanic went on with;
"Yeah, Let me explain!"
"First, On these big Rigs, I hit every lubrication point that I can get to while rolling around under the rig on my dolly.
"Second. Most of these other lube points, that I can't get to, don't really need lubrication as often as the others. That's why they put them in out of the way places, I figure!"
I thought that the manager would choke at that moment.
He brusquely told the mechanic to go back to work, and then turned to me, as he left.
He began apologizing, and offering to look at the job again, if I wanted, but I could see that he had no interest in the job now that he had all of this egg on his face, so I thanked him and I left.
I then went to the local CW, and asked them the same thing.
At least they knew what they were talking about and gave me a quote.
But, they only change Oil and Oil filters, and not Fuel Filters, so I had to take care of that with someone else. And, they were familiar with all of the required lubrication points, and lubricated them all.
My point here? If you don't have a certified service center to work on your Rig, take the time to double check on wht they plan to do versus what they are supposed to do.
The Other Stuff
Yeah, The Other Stuff!
You have to do them!
They will not go away!
And, They can bite you in the Butt on the Road!
Your job is to go through this list of boring, mundane, and tiresome little tasks, and get each and every one of them done.
The following is a copy of my list, that I eventually took care of:
- FRIDGE-The owners manual has a simple list of items that the owner can do, but I do suggest that you move the complete Fridge check to an RV service center, to make sure it is really ready for a long trip.
- Hot Water Heater- What goes wrong? Bad Heating Elements, Bad Propane system, loose water connectors, and LEAKS! I suggest a qualified service center for this one also.
- Furnace- Don't! Just Don't! Unless you are qualified to mess with your Propane Furnace System, take it to someone that knows what they are doing. You don't want it to stop working due to something you did, and you really don't want a fire, that you caused.
- Batteries- Check how old they are, and honestly evaluate whether they need replacement. Then, if everything is OK, I do the following; check the water levels in the batteries, and fill as necessary with distilled water only. Then, clean and tighten all cable contacts.
- Wiper Blades- When I checked, one of them came apart in my hands. It took me two-weeks and three phone calls before I found someone that manufactured and sold the ones that fit on my Class-A Rig. Be aware, that these can be hard to find.
- Window & Slide Seals & Gaskets- Do a slow walk around, and look at all of those Window and Slide gaskets and seals. They should be lubricated with the appropriate spray chemicals (usually Silicone) twice a year to assure that they remain supple and do not dry out and crack.
- TIRE Condition- Please take a good look at your tires, specifically the sidewalls. You need to look on the outside, and yes, on the inside walls for cuts. A cut, on the open road can lead to a blowout. And, I don't know of anyone who ever had a blowout in a convenient place. If you have a cut, take the Rig to a tire guy right away and have it examined by a professional. And the second thing you need to check is dry rot. Your sidewalls should be smooth and even, without any of the cracks or the look of a road-map. This is a sure sign that your tires are in need of replacement right away.
- TIRE AIR Pressure- Next, you need to have a good air gauge for regular checks of your tire pressure levels. I know it is a nuisance, but running on an improperly inflated tire, can be as dangerous as driving on cut or dry-rotted tires. So check your tires regularly.
- Spare Filters- This one is a pet peeve of mine. I have a diesel Rig, and it has a number of accessories and appliances that use different types of filters. I try to keep a spare of the ones that are the hardest to get. No one wants to be on the road, and unexpectedly end up sitting in a roadside campground, or even worse, dry-camping behind a garage while a filter or other replaceable part is ordered and shipped to you before you can continue your trip. Look them up, and order them before you go on that long trip.
- Spare Bulbs- This one is more of a nuisance thing to me. My Rig uses over a dozen different 12-volt bulbs. Pull them and make a list of the bulb type and the number on the bulb. And, when you go down to the local auto parts store, pick up a couple of each.
- Other- Yes, there is always the "Other" factor. There are so many different RV's on the road today, both the new and the old, that I will not even try to list all of the potential other parts you need to check. This list covers the most obvious, but you are the one who needs to; open all of those access doors, tug on all of those cables and connectors, shine that flashlight into those dark places, and read your manuals, to find those things that can be a problem when you are on the road.
One of my favorite tools when it comes to my RV, is the Search Engines on the Web, such as Google Search. I spend a lot of time researching the parts in and on my RV. And, I keep a spreadsheet on what I find.
I try to store the following information on everything that I research; Product Name, Company Name, Co. Address, Co. Phone number, Part Details on their site, and pricing where I can find it.
This way, I have an easy reference that I can readily check even on the side of the road.
My secondary source of information, is the RV manufacturers Service phone number.
And for those of you whose RIG manufacturer is no longer in business, I go to my favorite site for unique information on almost anything to do with RV's, and that is the FORUM section of the site called RV.NET.
This site will have the most in depth information on your Rig and it's parts, and if what you need to know is not available, just post a question to the millions of members, and you will get numerous responses and suggestions. I love this site. Use it.
And, I suggest that you check out my Blog on RV Information, that is listed here.
In Summary, Preventive Maintenance is called that because you want to PREVENT maintenance on the side of the road.
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