It’s time to get ready for the road. Maybe you have just purchased an RV or yours has been in storage for the winter. Regardless, there are preparations and testing that require attention to lessen surprises once your trip or vacation begins.
As with any travel adventure, there are always preparations before you leave whether you are hitting the road in your car or RV or flying to an exotic destination.
Preparations for RV traveling is especially important. It’s no fun to begin your trip and realize a system or appliance doesn’t work causing inconvenience or worse.
Depending on the type of RV, a truck camper, travel trailer, 5th wheel trailer, a small motor home or diesel pusher, preparations could be simple or involved. If your rig has been sitting for a period of time here are some things that should be looked at.
Where to start? There is probably no critical order, here are some suggestions.
Fresh Water System
If your rig has been in storage for the winter or parked for more than a week or two, the fresh water system will need attention. The system may have been winterized, full of anti-freeze or you have just purchased your rig. The fresh water system should be sanitized and flushed.
Fill the fresh water tank about 1/4, add 1 cup of non-scented chlorine bleach per 50 gals. of fresh water, fill the fresh water tank. Pressurize the system and purge the air from the lines. Let stand pressurized for 8 hrs, check throughout for leaks, under sinks and outside under your rig. Drain and refill, flush tank and lines, repeat flushing at least twice. Fill with fresh water.
If your fresh water holding tank will not be circulated (used) for more than a few days add 1/4 cup of non-scented chlorine bleach per 50 gals. fresh water to eliminate bacteria growth. Chlorine bleach is non-toxic to humans. Chlorine is added to most public water systems to sanitize the water.
Fill propane tanks, are they outdated? Check the date stamp usually located on the upper cowling near the valve, ten year limit before re-certification. If your RV is approaching ten years of age you may want to check the dates on your tanks; they can be reconditioned or replaced.
Propane detectors are located close to the floor, propane is heavier than air, check owners manual for testing, usually pushing a button is all that is required. Some rigs are equipped with an automatic propane sensor switch that requires 12-volt battery power for propane flow. Replace detector batteries?
Remember to turn off propane while traveling to prevent fire, while traveling you may notice a scored area on the side of the highway. This mark is from vehicle fires, mainly RVs who did not turn off the propane while traveling or let their engine run too hot.
The fridge will keep the contents cold all day while traveling.
Check to determine your propane sensor is operating before opening the propane tank valve. Light the stove to bring propane through the system. Turn off the stove then do a sniff test, propane smells like rotten eggs and is heavier than air so sniff along the floor starting below appliances, stove, fridge, hot water heater, etc.
If you smell propane leave your RV immediately, turn off propane tank valves, leave your door open for ventilation and do not cause any sparks or flame.
While camping, I had a discussion about propane leaks with another RVer. When preparing for the season he turned on the propane tank and got distracted. After an hour or so he opened the door on the RV, a white mist began to flow out the door – it was propane. Lucky no flames or sparks happened, otherwise, an explosion would have been the result.
Propane leaks are generally found at connections. Use a spray bottle with soapy water to spray connections, the soapy water will bubble at the leak. If you discover a leak turn off the propane at the bottle, wait for the propane to dissipate before attempting to tighten the connection, a spark may cause and issue. If you are not comfortable repairing the leak get a pro to take care of it.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas usually the result of faulty combustion. Carbon monoxide can cause severe injury or death. The detector is usually located on the wall in sleeping areas. Test is similar to propane detector, press a button. Replace detector batteries?
RV batteries are required to run lights and some appliances such as water pump, fridge, and furnace.
Clean corroded terminals. Prevent sparks, battery gasses are explosive. Check acid level, fill with distilled water only after batteries are fully charged to prevent boiling over.
While your rig is in storage a battery tender is a great idea. A battery tender cycles the batteries to maintain a full charge and extend battery life. Left unattended batteries will discharge. A battery tender will pay for itself many times over by extending the life of your RV batteries.
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Grey and black water tanks, deodorize and or sanitize. If you suspect your black water tank is not emptying entirely or has residue build up, add tank cleaner and follow manufacturer’s directions. If the problem still exists fill the tank with water and add a bag of ice cubes through the toilet, take a drive to cause the ice cubes to bang around in the tank loosening the solids.
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Check plugs, lights, water pump, stove fan, if you find an issue check fuses for 12-volt appliances and breakers for 110-volt appliances. To reduce battery drain from 12-volt lights replace your existing bulbs with LED lights. This will reduce battery drain by up to 90%.
Open outside access cover and check exhaust flue for bird or insect nests, this can cause a fire or high levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Check operation propane and electricity.
Hot water tank
Check outside access hatch for nests, check bypass valves are in correct position. Fill and pressurize water system. Check propane and electric operation? If your RV doesn’t have a bypass valve consider adding one. A bypass system allows for less use of anti-freeze.
Furnace & Air Conditioner
Maybe a combined unit or separate, clean filters (owner’s manual) check for quiet operation.
Stove & Oven
After opening the propane tank valve it may take a few minutes for the propane to reach the stove. Check for proper operation, the flame should be bright blue; yellow or orange flame indicates poor burn, indicating production of carbon monoxide. Turn off propane, have appliance serviced.
These are a few of the more common RV systems that need to be checked before you head out, there could be many more.
A Last Thought
Of course, before hitting the road there are the mechanical components that may need maintenance or testing to prevent breakdowns. I will deal with this subject in subsequent articles.
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