RV Maintenance Schedules for new and used RVs

 

 

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Care and Concern for your RV Dream Machine  

 

     Whether you are a new, or a seasoned RVer, you can’t wait to enjoy exciting getaways this summer. Or maybe you just signed the papers and your new RV finally belongs to you. The excitement of upcoming trips occupies every waking moment. Oh, if only you could get out right now to enjoy life on the move.

      What makes your purchase great is new RV’s (and pre-owned units for a limited time) come with a warranty period during break-in where everything or almost everything is taken care of by the dealer.  But wait, you will probably still have this unit several years down the road when the warranty period is over - then you have to pay all the bills. By setting-up a simple maintenance schedule - appointments for service will be spaced over the year and no one maintenance appointment should become an expensive surprise. Besides this when you implement a regular schedule of preventive maintenance, your RV remains in tip-top shape. Planning for service instead of dealing with it when it happens is much less costly and stressful.

     RV’s are designed to provide years of fun and enjoyment, and although maintenance is required on a regular basis, the good days far outnumber the bad. By following the suggestions in this article and the details in your manuals you should have many years of trouble free RVing ahead of you.

     Just for info, tires have a life of four to five years - even if the tread is good and you have taken care of them, the sidewalls begin to crack at that age. John regularly cleans our battery connections with a baking soda/water solution and tops them up with distilled water each month but as we found out this summer batteries too need replacing in a similar four to five year time period.

      Setting up a regular maintenance schedule for engine care is generally covered in most owner manuals. But, don’t forget to include all portions of your RV house in your preventive maintenance schedule as well. It may sit on wheels but it still develops problems just like your home on a foundation does.

      No matter how long John and I have been RVing it seems our learning continues. I have always recommended that every RVer set up an Emergency Fund of about $5,000.00 to cover unexpected breakdowns on the road. John believes in extensive preventive maintenance so we never expect to use this fund and since we didn’t want to tie up non-invested cash, our ‘fund’ is a zero-balanced credit card. This way we can pay for problems and make minimum payments until we return home each summer to rearrange funds to cover the incident.  However recently we discovered there is also value in setting-up a separate contingency fund to have money available to cover periodic expensive maintenance and upgrades. By adding an amount of a few hundred to an account each month, cash will be available for upgrades, new amenities and expensive repairs down the road - it will also be there for major component replacements as your RV matures.

      Most years, our maintenance expenses for both vehicles is under the $3500.00 we budget, but every few years this amount doubles and then some.  2003 was been one of those high maintenance timeframes. Our tires and batteries had to be replaced plus appliances like the furnace, check valve on the water heater, the water pump and two florescent lights quit working plus the generator needed routine yet extensive maintenance plus a regular class B service on our diesel engine along with a few other minor expenses added to the overall amount. We also upgraded our tow-car this spring - the baseplate, new lighting and rewiring the motorhome added yet another costly outlay. If we had not set up our contingency fund a year ago this summer would have been devastating to say the least.

      The following listings of routine maintenance on each vehicle may help you set up a planning schedule, but be sure to refer to your RV and vehicle maintenance manuals for more pertinent details. Your tow vehicle or the engine portion of a motorhome also needs preventive maintenance or repair. By planning for these expenses none will appear as a surprise. For the most part when RV’s break down during a set period, the dealer usually repairs the problem but regular maintenance still must become part of the equation. 

      All motorized units require an annual mechanical check-up (some reference books say every 5000 miles (8000 km) but we have always done this on an annual basis each spring). One thing non-fulltimers may not understand is each year John and I usually make only one trip. (Our annual average is less than 10,000 miles 16000 km). We do not go and return home several times a year.  As a result most fulltimers do not clock up extensive miles. John takes care of maintenance each spring and we usually travel trouble free most winters.

      The tune-up of our diesel pusher consists of Class B service that includes changing the oil and filter, all fuel filters, coolant filter if needed, a complete visual check of all systems including belts and a complete lubrication.  This takes several hours and runs approximately $4-500.00 Cdn.  We have recently found a service centre that follows a specific RV Inspection ‘check-list’ during our 'Class B' service. The tech examines all moving parts of the chassis, including brakes, to look for leaks or signs of wear.  There was a slight charge for this extra service but we know all hoses, connections and fittings are sound when he is finished. 

      Two years ago we switched to synthetic transmission fluid and we now only have to change that fluid every 150,000 miles (242.000 km).  Without the change to synthetic it would be necessary to flush the transmission every two years.  Look for a Truck Service Center that specializes in the system you have on your present RV. (Cummins, Cat, Allison Transmission, Freightliner and Spartan chassis etc.). For tire rotation and replacement, look for a Michelin, Toya or a Goodyear dealer etc. 

      For repairs on the home portion of our RV we contact a local RV Dealer in the vicinity we are in, or we call in park service if we’re on the move. In a place new to us, we ask others where they go for service. Personal recommendations are important. When it was time to replace our tired carpet with vinyl planking several years ago, on the recommendations of others we found a flooring expert to complete the job.

      Maintenance expenses will increase as RV’s age, the higher the purchase price the more upkeep it will cost to maintain your unit. ‘After-purchase’ service policies are available to pay for unexpected maintenance but they are quite expensive.  Whether it is wise to acquire one of these policies is a judgment call. The maintenance that your RV needs may and may not qualify under the policy.  Just for info, none of the costly repairs we’ve dealt with this summer would have been covered under an extended warrantee policy.

     In ALL cases follow the maintenance advice of your chassis manufacturer and your RV dealer. Each manufacturer will supply an owner’s manual, which should include a maintenance schedule. Since we have never travelled in a towable unit, we asked friends to share their maintenance schedule. I gathered additional suggestions for various maintenance schedules on the Internet.  A recap of mechanical service follows.

 

Motorhomes  (gas/diesel)

All batteries need to be topped up with water

ALL fuel filters   

Brake fluid – check  (gas)

Check all fluids, (oil, brake, power steering)

Differential fluid

Propane leak test

Tire rotation

Air filter  

Air dryer (diesel)

Brakes and air system (diesel)

Coolant flush

Spark plugs   (gas)

Transmission fluid and filter (gas)

Transmission fluid and filters (diesel)

Spark plug cables (gas)

Oil change and filter and lubrication (gas)

Oil change and filter and lubrication (diesel)

Check tire pressure and thread wear

Alternator, starter etc

Check radiator hoses

Monthly

Annual

Annual

Annual

Annual

Annual

Annual or Mfgr suggestions

One to two years

18 months

Two years

Two years

Two years

Two years

Two years (synthetic150,000 miles)

Four years

10,000 km

20,000 km

Before each trip

As needed

Firm to the touch – after 10 minutes of engine operation.

 

Tow vehicles (gas - diesel) or Car (towed) – gas powered vehicle require very little maintenance

Battery(s) clean terminals/top-up with water  

Oil and filter change

Check tire pressure and thread wear

Check all fluids and air filters

Check for cracked hoses/leaks

Check brakes

Fuel filters

Rotate tires

Clean, lubricate (car) tow-bar or trailer hitch

Check radiator hoses

Monthly

Three months (5000 km)

Before each trip

Three to six months

Part of Oil change

One to two years

One to two years

One to two years

Periodically

Firm to the touch – after 10 minutes of engine operation

 

Towable RV  – I asked a friend with a fiver for their maintenance schedule

Battery(s) clean terminals/top-up with water

Look underneath for leaks

Wheel bearings – check and repack if reg’d

Check brakes

Inspect hitch system for cracks

Check all bolts/loose hardware

Check connections, seals and hoses.

Check tire pressure and thread wear

Monthly

6 months

Annual

Annual

Annual

Annual

Annual

Before each trip

      Don’t forget to check vehicle lights, clean the vents/burner/flue on fridge, and clear intake vents and the exhaust of your furnace, make sure all door hinges and handles, locks are secure inside and out, check to see all appliances are in place. Test your CO monitor, propane monitor and change the batteries in your smoke alarms.

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Maintenance south of the border

     If it is necessary to complete maintenance south of the border, be sure to keep your receipts. Emergency repairs are usually exempt from duty but you are expected to declare it. Although one blown tire may be considered emergency – four new tires would probably not be covered.

     If you practice preventive maintenance you will stay on top of potential problems and your time on the road will be much more enjoyable. In all cases the recommendations from your chassis manufacturer and your dealer are your primary source in determining your timetable. Set up a schedule to suit you and enjoy your on the road adventures

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Side Bar to this story

 

Comprehensive websites that were a big help 

to writing this article are listed below.

www.americanrvrentals.com/manual.htm

www.parkviewrv.com/mypage.html?pg=BuyingAnRV

www.motorhome101.com

new-used-rvs-for-sale.com/Maintenance.html  

www.liquididaho.com/Motorhomes/motmain/body_motmain.html

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Routine Care

  • Monthly, top up your batteries with distilled water, remove any corrosion on the connections with a stiff brush and a baking soda/water solution.  Maintenance free batteries still must be cleaned monthly. House batteries consist of either a series of two to four 6-volt (golf-cart style) batteries or one to two 12-volt deep-cycle marine style.

  • Inverters, converters and generators make it easy to live without hook-ups in our homes on wheels.  These components allow the battery(s) to power most appliances.  

  • Don’t forget to check tire pressure regularly and if you have dual tires - add stainless steel valve extenders to the inside tires.

 

Outside Care

  • Wash and wax your unit on a regular basis.  If it begins to look chalky use products designed to remove oxidation. Occasionally you may need extensive detailing to restore the surface to its original lustre.

  • Do not forget to periodically clean the roof with gentle soap and water to eliminate the oxidization on that surface. Check closely for rips or tears; seek the help of your dealer if required. Add a light layer of protective wax.

  • Inspect all seals on the roof, windows and around vents and roof mounted lights.

  • Remove black streaks regularly with specially designed products or keep your RV highly polished so these unsightly marks are easily rubbed off.

  • Polish all hardware, door locks, vents and windows with silicone-based spray. Never use harsh products to clean your unit, especially your awning.

  • To clean awnings, wet the top and bottom with a gentle soapy solution– dawn works well - roll the awning up and five minutes later unroll it - rinse off with a hose, repeat if necessary.

  • Periodically flush and purge all your holding tanks. Commercial drinking water additives keep the water in your fresh water tanks tasty and only use bacteria/enzyme solution in your black and grey holding tanks. Apply silicone based spray to all caps and valves to prevent sticking.

 

Inside Care  (periodic intervals)

  • Vacuum and clean the walls and ceiling with gentle detergents.  Wash vinyl floors.

  • If you have a carpeted ceiling white shoe polish will cover small stains.

  • Use vinegar, or mild detergent or add shampoo to a sponge to clean the shower, avoid abrasives. If you have problems contact the manufacturer of whoever supplied the part. Basically look after the inside of your home the same way you would the inside of your stationary home. Enjoy your experience.

  • Take Care Travel Safe.

 

 

RV WebLinks  Updated May 2014: Meet Your Hosts;   Getting Started;  Articles;  Destinations-(Canada, Mexico, USA);      Many Recent Updates - Advice and How To;  Book Nook;  (As of Oct 10) RV Shows;   Travel to Canada:  Travel to USA; (Oct 10);    Q&A;   Contact UsSite ContentsGallery

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