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De-winterizing your RV

by Steve Pally

With the arrival of spring comes the anticipation of days spent enjoying the outdoors and basking in the sun. Vacation plans are taking shape, and for a growing number of RVers that means heeding the call of the open road.

But first, it’s time to bring your RV out of hibernation and prepare it for spring travel, free of untimely breakdowns due to neglect. Regular RV cleaning and maintenance makes more than good sense — it is also critical to minimizing potential problems and maintaining the value of your RV.

Almost all RVs require an annual mechanical checkup — most experts suggest having your RV serviced every 5,000 miles. And while some may think this is too often, it is far easier to keep up with minor repairs than to ignore them until a breakdown forces you to deal with them. A spring checkup by a certified RV service technician can save you time and money, and ensure a carefree camping season. So as you begin planning your RV adventures, don’t forget to schedule a visit to an RV dealership or fully certified service center. By having an RV serviced regularly, ther eis less chance of an expensive surprise.

While a trip to a certified RV service technician is recommended, there are several spring maintenance chores that can be accomplished by the RV owner, regardless of their mechanical ability or knowledge. Follow these tips to guarantee that your first trip starts out on the right note: Dewinterize your water system. If you live in the colder climates where annual winterizing with RV water system antifreeze is required, you must flush the system thoroughly before use to get rid of the antifreeze. While this kind of antifreeze is nontoxic, it will still make your water taste really bad.
  • Take a good look at the roof. Check all seals and joints for weathering, cracking and shrinking. To repair joint seals, use self-leveling sealant.
  • Check the RV tires. Inflate the tires to the proper pressure and inspect them closely for small cracks. Check the tread for uneven wear and for other irregularities in the wear pattern. Tires should be replaced if the tread is worn down to 1/16 inch or if the sidewall is cracked. Make sure the lug nuts are tight on both the inner and outer wheels. Tires should be replaced after 5 to 7 years regardless of wear due to ultraviolet degradation.
  • Take extra care when inspecting your gas appliances. Remove the furnace cover and check for insect nests or lint accumulation. Open the main LP-gas valve and check the gas system for leaks. You can do this by putting soapy water on every gas line connection and watching for bubbles. If you find leaks, take your RV to a service center for repairs; don’t try to fix them yourself.
  • Tune up your generator for spring. Replace any wires or components that appear worn, frayed or may have been chewed on by rodents. Wipe down, clean and lightly oil or paint any rusted parts.
  • Inspect the battery. If you have neglected your battery over the winter months, it may be damaged. Look for any signs of corrosion or discharge, and charge the battery completely with a trickle charger for several days. Tighten the connections between the battery, coach chassis and generator. Batteries that sweat or have accumulation of powder around terminals should be replaced because of age.
  • Check or install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. An RV is a home away from home, so treat it like you would your house by checking the batteries and expiration date of your smoke and CO detectors. Newly manufactured RVs are required to have these detectors installed but if your RV does not have them, they can be purchased at just about any local retailer and are very easy to install. Be sure to buy a detector made for use in an RV.