Nothing is more exciting than hitting the road for that epic RV adventure you have been planning for months. But dealing with RV maintenance issues or road side troubles during a trip is a real bummer, so make sure you check and double check your RV systems and route plans before leaving home.
In other words, your grandmother was right…an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Here are our eight ounces of prevention, or things you should always do before a trip, to avoid the most common RV travel hiccups.
1. Give those tires a complete check up
Tire trouble is the number one cause of trouble for RV travels, and this is simply because most owners do not practice routine tire maintenance. Inspect your RV tires before every trip, looking for cracks or bubbles in the sidewalls. If the tires don’t look like they are wearing evenly, have them inspected by a professional.
Also use the information printed on the tire to determine age. Most experts would argue that your RV tires should be replaced every 3-5 years, regardless of how many miles you have traveled.
Lastly, check your tire pressure when the tires are cold on each and every traveling day. Over-inflated or under-inflated tires are the primary reasons for blowouts, and this can be easily avoided by taking this simple precaution before hitting the road.
2. Check all the basic systems in the RV and perform all routine maintenance
No one wants to head out for a beach camping trip only to find that the air conditioning is not working properly. Before taking a longer RV trip, you should check every RV system and perform all routine annual maintenance.
Walk the entire outside of your RV, including the roof, and look for any signs of cracking or stress. This is the perfect time to caulk seams and make sure your antennas and satellite dishes are firmly connected. Check the entire plumbing system, filling up your holding tanks to make sure there are no leaks and running all the faucets and showers. Turn on the propane and test your hot water. Clean the air conditioning filter and scrub those coils with a toothbrush to make sure you stay cool even in hot summer temperatures.
All of this should be done well in advance of an RV vacation, so that you have time to schedule any needed repairs.
3. Treat your tow vehicle to a tune up
We have a standing appointment with our mechanic in the spring season before we leave for any extended summer travel. In addition to the basic oil change and fluid top offs, he double-checks our mileage and any upcoming scheduled maintenance. He also carefully examines our belts, filters, and battery.
The bottom line is that we would rather replace the timing belt according to an expert’s advice than have it snap on the side of the road, hundreds of miles from our reliable mechanic. Developing a relationship with a qualified service professional has made our time on the road relatively trouble free, even though we drive thousands of miles from home each year.
4. Know your true rig height and weight
At some point on your journey, you are bound to come across a height or weight restriction. Be prepared in advance, and never, ever make a wild guess about whether you can fit under a bridge. You shouldn’t even rely on rig specs, since some might not take into account your air conditioning unit or antennae.
With help from a buddy, use a measuring tape to calculate the height from the ground to the tallest part of your RV. Then also measure the width of the unit, making sure to notice any protruding pieces on the stairs or awning. Write your measurements down and store them in your vehicle. We also keep them in a notes app on our smartphone.
5. Double check that you have insurance and registration documents, as well as the appropriate coverage
It’s not easy to admit, but we have discovered missing vehicle registration and insurance documents at inopportune times. Papers get lost…it happens. Just make sure to double-check everything at least one week before departing on your trip. That way, you have plenty of time to track down a new copy if necessary.
We also review our roadside assistance and personal effects coverage in order to make sure we are protected in the event of an emergency.
6. Create a basic tool kit to override any automated systems on your RV
Automated tongue jacks, stability jacks, and slide-outs are super convenient. However, anything that is motorized could stop working at any moment. You don’t want to be stuck hundreds of miles from home and not be able to pull your slide in for departure.
Make sure that you know what tools you need to override any of the automated systems on your RV. Practice in advance so you feel confident in manually operating all of the features.
7. Research routes in advance, check any restrictions, and download or print out maps
We are a bit spoiled these days by GPS and smartphones, so sometimes we head out on the road less prepared than we ought to be. When traveling with an RV, you really need to research routes in advance to find out about height, weight, and propane restrictions. There are some highways that restrict recreational vehicles altogether, and some bridges and tunnels do not allow propane tanks. Discovering this information in advance is crucial.
It is also important to download or print out directions in advance, since you can loose satellite or cell connectivity in many remote locations. Having a good old-fashioned atlas on hand is not a bad idea at all. Just make sure you remember how to use it…
8. Prepare your Sticks and Bricks abode for your absence
In all the hustle and bustle of preparing for an RV adventure, it can be easy to forget about your sticks and bricks home. Make arrangements so that your home does not look too empty and quiet while you are away on vacation. Pause newspaper delivery and hold your mail at the post office. Set some lights on timers, and arrange for a couple of neighbors or friends to stop by and check on the property.
You might also check out some of the new smart technology that allows you to control lights and temperature, or even respond to the doorbell, right from your phone no matter where you are in the country.
Big adventures can always bring some bumps in the road, but when you take the proper safety precautions, you increase the likelihood of a smooth, stress-free RV trip.