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Ask Bob Livingston: Getting the RV Ready for the Road

Ask Bob Livingston: Getting the RV Ready for the Road

March 7, 2019

Author: Lisa Crockett/Thursday, March 7, 2019/Categories: Travel News, Newsletters


Now that spring is fast approaching, those who store their RVs for the winter will be thinking about bringing their rigs out of mothballs for the upcoming travel season. If certain service protocol was followed prior to hanging up the keys, getting an RV ready for safe travel is less difficult.

In too many cases, RVs are put in storage without enough forethought to limit the harshness of idle time and performing a spring checkup and maintenance may take more time. Considering the difficulty in securing appointments at most service facilities these days, owners need to plan much more in advance, especially if firm travel dates are scheduled. There’s nothing worse than having to postpone or cancel a trip, especially one that is paid for in advance.

RV systems are complex, and non-use can create service issues and too many surprises. How you tackle the job is personal, but the RV must be made travel worthy and the systems checked for proper operation.

Since tires keep our RVs on the road, they should be checked first. Make sure they have not aged out; trailer tires, in particular, can be problematic if they have been motionless for long periods of time and have developed cracks. If they are seven years or older, or in marginal shape, they might not even survive the trip home for loading. Before moving, carefully inspect the manufacturing dates, treads and sidewalls and make sure they are inflated to the values that represent loading specifications and/or actual weight.

Trailer owners must inspect the suspension shackles for adverse wear and confirm that the bearings have been packed along manufacturer guidelines, which usually means every year or 12,000 miles. Brake function can be checked once the trailer gets rolling.

After the trailer chassis or motorhome drivetrain has been deemed roadworthy, it’s time to check out the systems. If batteries have not been conditioned properly, they will likely be in bad shape. Unfortunately, this applies to the majority of owners, who are usually not aware that batteries left unconditioned for more than three weeks will start to sulfate. Once this happens, the batteries become incapable of providing their rated capacity. It’s best to use a high-quality multi-stage charger to ensure that the batteries are conditioned properly. This may be difficult for those without power in their storage facilities and/or prefer not to remove the batteries. A good solar system can circumvent this problem, depending on the weather. Lithium batteries are better suited for long periods of storage, and their prices are becoming more affordable, making them practical in RV environments.

If the RV has been winterized, the water system must be returned to normal working conditions. RV anti-freeze is purged (for those who use this method), and the system should be flushed thoroughly. If water was left in the freshwater tank during storage, the insides are likely pretty yucky, and/or subject to hard-water deposits. It’s best to flush the tank and sanitize, if necessary. Commercial products or bleach/water/baking soda can be used for this process. Formulas for sanitizing tanks can be found online. Once the tank is flushed, faucet/showerhead aerators should be cleaned.

Water system flushing includes the water heater service, which should have been drained before putting the RV in storage. Now is a good time to check the condition of the anode rod, if so equipped. It’s also a good time to inspect any water filters that are used in the system.

Conventional wisdom among RV service experts suggests that a pressure drop test be performed for the LP-gas system annually. This allows the technician to discover leaks in the system and confirm that the pressure meets specs. If the system passes muster, it’s time to run all the appliances for proper operation. Make sure the air conditioner and range hood filters are clean and vacuum the screens in the roof vents to allow air to flow without restriction.

One place normally overlooked is the motor and blower assembly in the electric fireplace. Dust can rapidly collect in this area, affecting performance and, possibly safety. The fireplace is actually not difficult to remove, but the cleaning process should be taken outdoors. Blowing away the dust can be messy.

For most people, there’s not much that can be done to check the holding tanks before getting to a place with a dump station. Inspect the integrity of the sewer hose and fittings before hooking up and make sure the valves are operating freely. Valves controlled by cables might be binding, so it’s always prudent to check this operation when hooked up to confirm they are closing fully. At the beginning of the trip, when convenient, clean the holding tanks with Thetford’s Tank Blaster to help rid the insides of buildup and remove crud from the monitor sensors. If the seal in the toilet is not holding water, you can try a commercial lubricant, like the one from Thetford, before taking additional action to rectify the problem.

Hopefully, few, if any, issues will be discovered before heading out on a journey; again, advance planning is always the key, especially if you need to get in the cue at a service center.

It’s been a long winter and the road ahead to warmer climes is looking better all the time. Happy travels.



Bob Livingston recently retired as the group publisher and senior VP for GS Media and Events, publishers of Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines and their respective websites. Bob has written technical and lifestyle articles and books for 45 years, and penned the popular technical question and answer monthly column, Tech Topics, in Highways magazine, the 1.5-million-member Good Sam Club’s official publication, for more than 20 years.

He created and appeared on the weekly television show, RVtoday, and directed the programing and production during its five-year run on cable TV. Bob was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in 2014. He keeps his hand in the RV industry as a consultant to a number of companies working on product development and marketing projects. Bob and his wife, Lynne, live full time in their fifth wheel.


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