From Woodall’s — Getting Ready to RV
After each period of non-use, regardless if the RV was winterized, stored in the backyard or kept in a closed garage, each coach must be given a thorough once-over to get it ready for that next trip or for the upcoming camping season. Differing circumstances abound for different RVers and RVs, but by and large, every owner must at some point in time go through the yearly ritual of what is termed the spring shakedown.
Keep in mind these procedures can be performed at any time. It is not necessarily tied to spring. Simply stated, it is that time of year we clear out the cobwebs, dust off the road maps, pack some groceries, fill up with fuel and hit the road.
When the spring shakedown is viewed from a systematic approach; inspecting each major component, system by system, there is assurance that nothing will fall through the cracks. The goal is to be back on the road safely enjoying the finer points of RVing. Ready to go?
Just as it was done prior to storage, the first step in preparing for each new camping season is to thoroughly wash the RV. A clean coach puts everything in a fresh light.
Remove any window or windshield covering that may have been installed during the winterizing process and open all the windows fully. This will help air out the coach as you go through the process of checking the rest of the systems and components. An air freshener may help get rid of that stale air that has accumulated during the closed-up period.
If discrepancies are found during the exterior inspection, be sure to take care of them immediately. Items put off are likely to be forgotten. The last thing you want to encounter is a crisis repair on your first trip of the season!
Windows, Doors and Compartment Bays
Check the operation of all windows, doors and storage compartments, including locking doors for the fuel fill and generator if so equipped. Lubricate all moving parts and locking mechanisms. Check the sealant around all windows and doors. During storage, it’s not uncommon to find that some sealants have dried out or become distorted. This is especially true in warmer climates.
Now is the time to fully extend each awning and lubricate all the moving parts. While each awning is extended, search for any pinholes that may have developed. You’ll want to repair them now, before you take off on that first excursion. Awning repair kits are available at any well stocked RV accessory store or on-line. You’ll need to know exactly what type of material the canopy is made of, however.
12-Volt DC System
Reinstall the batteries if they were removed for the winter. Make sure all the contacts and terminals are tight, clean and dry. After the batteries are in place and secured, check the electrolyte level. It is quite possible the fluid has diminished during the storage period. Add water if necessary and charge the batteries fully. Go through the entire RV and turn on the various
12-volt components to ensure the batteries are indeed powering the RV and that everything works so far. Don’t forget to reinstall the dry cell batteries in the smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, etc. Now is the perfect time to verify that all the safety items in the RV are operating properly. Check the charge level of all fire extinguishers.
120-Volt AC System
Remove the shoreline cord from the plastic baggie and inspect the prongs for oxidation. Brighten the prongs with fine sandpaper or steel wool. Before plugging in, it’s a good idea to measure the voltage and check the polarity at the receptacle you’ll be using. Plug the shoreline cord into an appropriate service receptacle only if the volt- true as you begin your travels; always verify the campground voltage and polarity at all sites before plugging in. Now go through the RV and plug in all the components and appliances that were unplugged last fall. Turn on all the circuit breakers. An audible click may be heard as the relay in the converter closes. If you have a charging converter, (most are), measure the DC voltage at the battery bank to verify the voltage increases when the converter is powered up.
Test the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) located at or near the lavatory sink or at the panel board distribution box. Make sure it trips and fully resets. Even though it may click, snap or make some audible noise that in itself is no guarantee the GFCI is making and breaking the electrical contact. To be absolutely sure, plug the polarity tester into the bathroom receptacle and the exterior receptacle while performing the GFCI tests. The exterior and bathroom receptacles are two that must be protected by the GFCI. If the circuit is not broken when the GFCI test button is pushed, there is no GFCI protection and a replacement or at least further troubleshooting is necessary.
Fresh Water System
If you employed the dry method of winterizing, begin by adding a few gallons of fresh water to the water tank. If you used the wet method, start by draining the anti-freeze in the tank and throughout the system. RV anti-freeze can be captured and used again, so it may be prudent to collect it at the tank drain as well as at the hot and cold low point drains. Add fresh water to the tank then drain and refill it until all remnants of RV anti-freeze are gone.
Fill and flush with fresh water until you are satisfied with the smell and taste of the fresh water.
Next, clean or replace any filter or strainer installed in the fresh water system. Some may be connected to the water pump (see arrow in Fig. 22-9) or installed anywhere in-line between the tank and the pump. After the water tank has been filled, remove the water heater from by-pass so that fresh water can be pumped through all the hot and cold faucets. Then turn on the water pump, open all the faucets and begin pumping fresh water throughout the system.
At the water heater, open the P&T relief valve to aid in filling. Once water begins gushing from the relief valve, close the lever. When water is flowing swiftly from every faucet, close them all. It may take a few minutes of running the water to rid the entire piping system of the anti-freeze and to fill the water heater. Be sure to flush the toilet a couple of times as well.
If the RV is equipped with exterior faucets or a showerhead, don’t forget to run fresh water through them as well. The same for icemakers and the washer/dryer combination. Every component in the fresh water system should be checked for proper operation.
Now, connect the fresh water hose to the city water connection and turn off the water pump. With city pressure applied, inspect in, under and around all water piping in the RV. Look for any leaks that may have developed during the off season. If no leaks are evident, disconnect the city water pressure.
Open the water heater P&T relief valve one last time and leave it open until water stops dripping, then close it. This ensures there is expansion space on top of the water inside the tank. The final step is to chlorinate the fresh water system.
Waste Water System
Drain the fresh water from each holding tank that has accumulated during the preliminary check of the fresh system. Now is the time to check the operation of the termination or dump valves. Most can be removed, disassembled and lubed if necessary. If lubed during the winterizing procedures, they will probably be just fine now. Plug each sink and fill with water, then remove the drain plugs to ensure the vent piping is in good order. If either sink drains slowly, further troubleshooting of the venting system may be needed. Verify the toilet operates properly.
Next, treat the holding tanks for odor control and waste degradation. In the past, formaldehyde-based chemicals used as a deodo
rant seemed to work best. However, as technology has progressed and the environmental dangers of formaldehyde came to be understood, other options became a reality. In fact, formaldehyde and other alcohol-based chemicals are no longer recommended for use in either holding tank. Most RV campgrounds and state parks now prohibit the dumping of formaldehyde-laced holding tanks into their waste systems.
The safest way to treat the holding tanks and to eliminate odors is to use a non-chemical, enzyme-based product that contains live bacteria. The live bacteria actually digest the odor causing molecules, which helps to eliminate the odor and break down the solid waste. Add four or five ounces of a product called RM Tank Care, produced by Tri Synergy (www.trisyn.com), along with enough fresh water to cover just the bottom of each tank. After subsequent evacuations of each tank during the RVing season, add another four or five ounces. This will ensure the tanks will remain fresh and free of odors, and that you are doing your part to protect the environment.
Inspect the sewer hose and check for pinhole leaks. Also, check all the seals on the hose adapters and sewer cap. Start the season right by not having messy sewer leaks.
Liquid Propane System
Carefully inspect the DOT cylinders or the permanently mounted horizontal ASME tank. If any scratches or nicks are noticed that have developed into rust, use a wire brush and some touch-up paint now to eliminate potential problems. If a cap or plug was previously installed, remove it from the service valve now. If one was not used, quickly open and close the service valve allowing the burst of LP pressure to blow away any contaminates that may have accumulated in the throat of the unprotected service valve.
Now connect the regulator to the system, open the service valve and leak test the POL or ACME fitting. Many RV accessory stores carry a leak detector solution that can be brushed onto any LP fitting. However, a solution can be mixed using common liquid soap detergent and water and stored in a spray bottle for those hard-to-get-to fittings in and under the coach (avoid using detergents containing ammonia or chlorine products). A child’s bubble blowing solution works well also.
Before moving on to the individual appliances, remove the tape or foil previously applied to the furnace intake and exhaust vents as well as the cardboard pieces at the water heater and refrigerator access doors/vent.
Inspect and clean each of the four LP burning appliances as needed. An important step prior to lighting the appliances is to rid the system of air. Light a stove burner and simply let it burn while the other appliances are lit. Prior to lighting the other three appliances, however, three things to verify are:
• Foil or tape is removed from the furnace vents
• Cardboard is removed from refrigerator and
the refrigerator is comfortably level
• Cardboard is removed from water heater, and
water heater is filled with water
Now light the remaining three appliances. After cycling each appliance through its sequence of operation, turn them all off and verify that the LP pressure is set correctly. Refer to the details for properly setting the LP regulator operating line pressure in Chapter 8. The RV must be taken to a service facility at least once a camping system to have this step performed if a manometer is not in your tool kit. Finally, activate the LP leak detection device.
Roof Air Conditioner
Remove the cover and inspect the condenser fins for any damage that may have incurred during storage. Clean or replace the return air filters. Refer to the owner’s manual for your particular brand and model of air conditioner. Most filters are accessible from inside the RV. Cycle each air conditioner through a cooling cycle. Check for unusual noises or vibrations.
If the RV is equipped with a generator, change the oil according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Replace all appropriate filters such as:
• Oil filter
• Air filter element
• Fuel filter
Clean and lube the throttle linkage at all the pivot points. Manually move the governor arm to ensure there is no binding. Log the hours on the hour meter. Check it against the maintenance chart for other periodic maintenance that may be due.
Clean and reinstall the spark plugs. Remove the tape from the exhaust pipe. Wipe the entire unit down with a damp rag. Make sure the generator compartment is clean.
Test fire the unit. Remember, it may be a little rusty from sitting so long. Once the generator has started and is running smoothly, allow it to power the coach. This happens normally in one of three ways:
• Manually plug the shoreline into a
30-amp receptacle inside the RV
• Manually throw a switch or manipulate
• An automatic switching device makes
Once connected, turn on a roof air conditioner (or both if so equipped) to put a larger load on the generator. Let it run for a minimum of 30 minutes. Turn off the air conditioners before shutting down the generator. Always remove all loads before starting and stopping any RV generator.
Enable all the individual slideout rooms; extend and carefully inspect each one. Look for damaged seals or weather-stripping. Run each room in and out and observe the full travel of movement. Be sure each room operates properly. If hydraulically powered, verify the proper fluid level in the reservoir after all rooms have been retracted. If equipped with a topper awning, be sure it is operating correctly and the canopy is clean and dry.
Finally, lubricate each slide mechanism; be sure to use a dry lube.
Hopefully the vehicle is in a location that is suitable for crawling underneath and inspecting the undercarriage. If the coach was stored in a grassy or wooded area, be on the lookout for insects or other choice critters that love to hide and maybe hibernate under the cozy confines of a dormant RV.
While under the coach, look for any obvious signs of damage or discrepancy. Loose wires, twigs, rocks, etc. are items that may need to be addressed prior to moving the RV. Take a close look.
Check all the fluid levels on the motorhome chassis. Those that are typical to most gasoline powered chassis include:
• Engine oil
• Transmission fluid
• Rear axle differential oil
• Power steering fluid
• Brake fluid
• Radiator coolant
• Battery electrolyte
• Windshield washer fluid
• Fuel tanks
• Leveling system reservoir
(Diesel coach owners, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in the owner’s manual for your particular chassis.)
Check the air cleaner element and test-fire the engine. Check the mileage to see if it is time for a tune-up or a brake inspection. Next, check the operation of all running lamps, turn signals, headlamps, etc., as well as antennas, entry steps and all other accessories. Inspect and test the automatic levelers if so equipped. Be sure the automatic setting for the leveling system conforms to the needs of the refrigerator.
Finally, take the motorhome on a short road test; be aware of strange noises, vibrations and issues with steering and handling. Be sure the chassis is ready to go in every aspect.
Travel Trailer Considerations
Inspect the electric brakes. It is recommended that one side of an axle and the opposite side of another axle be inspected at least annually. The spring shakedown is just as good a time as any for this inspection. In the case of a triple axle trailer (as pictured above), inspect at least one brake assembly on each axle.
Verify all running lamps are operable as well as all mechanical accessories like TV antennas, entry steps, roof vents, stabilizers, etc.
If all the above checks out, next clean and inspect all hitch components. Lubricate the hitch ball and connect the RV to the tow vehicle. Test and adjust the brake controller per the manufacturer’s specification. Note: it will be necessary to readjust the controller once the trailer is fully loaded for travel.
Hitch up and take the trailer on a short test run and be alert to any noises, vibrations or sway issues that need to be addressed. Now’s the time to take care of them!
If a small car is towed behind a motorhome, be sure to check the electrical wiring between those two units and that the auxiliary braking system is set up correctly.