If you’re a year-round road-tripper headed out in your RV, scheduled maintenance will sneak up on you fast. If you’re a summer traveler, you may have trouble avoiding stormy weather. Emergencies can come in many forms, and it’s best to be prepared.
There’s a lot to think about whether you’re heading out for a week or two, or on the road permanently, so here are a few quick ideas on how to prepare your RV.
Safety Begins With Proper RV Maintenance
Before you leave on your trip, make sure your RV is serviced.
First, focus on the biggest safety factors:
- Be sure to have the brakes checked to ensure you don’t need new pads
- Regularly inspect the tires for any sign of balding, bulging, or uneven wear. Stick a penny upside-down into the tread; if Lincoln’s head shows, then it’s time for new tires.
- Rotate the tires; change the filters and fluids; and even if you’re not quite due for an oil change, get one anyway, especially if you plan to be out on the road for weeks or months. It’ll be due for maintenance again before you know it. And, it’s better to get it serviced at a shop you trust rather than someplace on the road.
Finally, take a look at the RV in the dark. Turn it on and let it run. Drive it around and have a friend follow. You’ll want to be looking for lights that aren’t working. For larger RVs, ensure every running light is functioning. Replace any lights that are blown. Take a look at the visibility of the interior as well. You may need new shades. Or, maybe you’ll want to install some window protectors to keep out prying eyes and unwanted sunshine.
Keep Up With RV Care
Before you set out, you’ll need to be sure that your RV is road-ready. Start with some common maintenance and upkeep tasks to ensure that you’re ready to travel.
First, give the exterior a good cleaning. Removing dust and dirt can reveal damage, gaps, or areas that need attention. Plus, the build-up can lead to corrosion and poor functioning.
Be sure to give extra care to the roof. It will be exposed to sun, rain, and other elements, and it can be prone to standing water. Watch for and spray against oxidation if the roof contains fiberglass. You’ll also want to look for cracks, rips, or other forms of wear.
Also, do regular checks on the roof seals around vents, your air conditioner, and skylights. Make sure there aren’t any gaps that might let water in. Have a sealant on hand to deal with them. A leaky roof in an RV can result in thousands of dollars worth of damage, which is a financial emergency that can keep you from enjoying the road.
After it’s clean, apply some UV protection. That’s right, sunblock for your RV. Just as it can damage our skin, the sun can dry out rubbers and fabrics, leading to tears and damage. And the sun will eventually damage paint until cracks and chipping form.
These UV-protecting solutions are found at auto stores, and they are easy to use:
- Clean the surface (specially made to remove road grime)
- Mop or rag on the protectant (the roof will take the brunt of the sun)
- Let it dry for a few minutes
That’s it! Protectants will give up to 3 months of protection. If you only travel during the summer, one application should be enough. However, year-round RVers should add this to their regular maintenance schedule.
If you haven’t driven your RV in a while, then use a voltmeter to check the battery and be sure it’s got a charge. If you’re towing your RV, check to ensure that the electrical connection between your tow vehicle and trailer is functioning properly. You don’t want to have your battery die on you in the middle of nowhere. That can certainly constitute an emergency.
Be Prepared for Emergencies in Your RV
If something does go wrong, then any old car emergency kit isn’t enough. Take along an RV-specific emergency kit in case you break down on the road.
When it comes to changing tires, make sure that your jack is heavy-duty enough for your rig. You’ll probably want a floor jack instead of the typical scissors jack. Another option is a tire-changing ramp, which is designed for heavier vehicles, such as RVs.
Other emergency items you’ll want to consider taking with you include:
- Cones or flares
- Tow strap
- Gas can
- Extra antifreeze
- A digital tire gauge
- Jumper cables
- Set of wrenches
- Electrical tape
Don’t forget extra portable chargers and a cell booster for your smartphone so you can stay connected. Think about a good old-fashioned CB radio, too. Being able to stay in contact in the event something happens is an important part of emergency preparedness.
It’s also not a bad idea to have roadside assistance, which you can purchase through your insurance company or RV club. That’s an extra level of emergency preparedness in case something pops up that you can’t handle.
Then there’s the really simple stuff, like staying buckled up. RVs can be especially dangerous because of their weight, large turning radius, and high center of gravity. But the importance of using a seat belt is the same as with any other vehicle. Recent seat belt statistics show that buckling up saved the lives of 14,955 people ages five and older in 2017.
Think About Backup Power for Your RV
Losing power on the road is a different kind of emergency. If you were living in a brick-and-mortar home on a foundation, then you’d want to have a backup power source. The same goes for full-time RVers living on the road.
One great solution is a carb-compliant generator, which you can take along with you to keep the power on no matter what. That way, you won’t miss a digital assignment if you’re away from hookups or the power is out at your chosen campground. Plus, carb-compliance is good for the environment, and if you worry about burning through gasoline in your big RV, then here’s a way you can do your part.
Keeping your generator in working order is essential. Developing a regular maintenance schedule will help ensure you’re never stranded without power. Maintenance is usually judged based on how many hours the generator has run. As well, most generators have hour indicators that show this information. Depending on how many hours have passed, the following tasks should be completed:
Every 100 to 150 hours (or monthly):
Drain condensation from the exhaust and fuel system. Change filters (especially in dusty environments). And, change the oil. While doing this, top off the coolant as well. When replacing fluids, always use the same type previously used.
You’ll also want to check the battery connections. Look for corrosion, and clean off any that you find with water and baking soda. Remember to wear protection, though. Run your generator once a month to make sure all connections are working, and to ensure the generator is properly lubricated and maintained.
Every 400 to 500 hours (or bi-annually):
Change any fuel filters, and look for fuel in the carburetor, especially after long storage. Replace all spark plugs. If you haven’t already done so, replace the oil and air filters at this point. Finally, inspect fuel lines and replace any that have damage.
Beyond this, maintenance will depend on how much the vehicle is used. Daily use throughout the year will require stricter maintenance, as will long periods of storage. Get in the habit of keeping your generator clean of dust. Give it a quick inspection every day, and understand how it sounds when it is operating properly.
Before taking your RV out, it’s important to be prepared for problems that might occur on the road.
Stay on top of all maintenance. And before you head out, ready your RV for travel. Clean it, add protections, and address any potential issue that might arise on the road. Ensure your emergency kits are ready for the unforeseen, and make certain that your generator is ready to keep you powered up at all of your stops.
These tips should give you a good start in staying safe and enjoying your trip, whether it’s for a weeklong getaway or a permanent vacation.
Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad, exploring and working remotely in different cities in the US. She and her boyfriend Jacob created the website Digital Nomad Life to share their journey and help others to pursue a nomadic lifestyle.
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