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RV 101® - RV Spring Preparation Checks

by Mark Polk
Some of our RV camping seasons extend well into the winter months and others end sooner.  Regardless of when we put the RV in storage I always look forward to the next camping season arriving. This winter has been extremely harsh throughout the country, but in Eastern North Carolina early spring is usually a safe time of year to prepare the RV for another exciting camping season.  The reason I say “safe” is because the RV plumbing system was winterized using non-toxic RV antifreeze and after you de-winterize the system you don’t want it exposed to more freezing temperatures.

With that said, and temperatures expected to hit the 60's, I head to the garage to perform my annual RV spring preparation ritual. I could write an entire book on preparing an RV for the upcoming camping season, but since that isn’t feasible I will limit it to a few RV spring checks I consider to be absolutely essential.

When we prepared the RV for cold weather storage we took measures to protect things like the RV plumbing system, the batteries and the interior and exterior of the RV. So it only makes sense that preparing the RV for use involves undoing some of those cold weather storage steps. Let’s get started.

1) RV Batteries: I like to start with the batteries since we need them to make some of our other checks. The condition of the batteries is dependent on how well they were cared for when they were in storage. Batteries in storage will lose a percentage of current through internal leakage. It’s not uncommon for a battery to discharge up to 10% a month when it is in storage. If you checked and recharged the batteries periodically they should be ready to go. If not the first step is to fully charge the batteries. If they are flooded lead-acid batteries water should only be added after the battery is fully charged unless the water level is already below the plates. The plates need to be covered at all times. After the battery if fully charged check and add distilled water as required. If the batteries were removed for storage reinstall them making absolutely sure they are connected properly. Caution: Working on or around batteries can be dangerous. If you are not comfortable working with batteries let a qualified service facility perform this maintenance for you.

 2) RV Water System: Chances are your RV plumbing system was winterized. What we want to concentrate on now is de-winterizing the plumbing system, checking it for leaks and sanitizing the system so it is safe and ready to use. Depending on how the unit was winterized it needs to be de-winterized. If you used non-toxic RV antifreeze to protect the water system you need to run fresh water through the entire water system until all traces of the antifreeze are removed. Hook a drinking water hose up to the city water inlet on the RV and run water through the entire system until it is running clear. Don’t forget the outside shower if applicable. Hopefully no antifreeze was added to the fresh water holding tank. If it was the first step is to drain any remnants from the tank.  Add potable water to the fresh water holding tank, turn the water pump on and open all of the water faucets. When clear water is running through the lines turn the pump off and close the faucets. Take the water heater out of the by-pass mode (if applicable). Fill the water heater tank with potable water and run water through the hot water taps to get any remnants of antifreeze from the system.  If the water heater wasn’t bypassed the antifreeze needs to be drained from the water heater tank. When the water system is completely flushed out you can replace any water filter cartridges you removed for storage.

This is a good time to check the plumbing system for leaks. With water in the fresh water holding tank turn the 12-volt water pump on and pressurize the water system until the pump shuts off. If the water pump cycles back on, even for a short period of time, there could be a leak somewhere in the system. Locate the leak and repair it or take it to an RV service facility to be checked out and repaired.

At this point I like to sanitize the water system. It is not difficult to do and will give you piece of mind knowing the water system is safe to use. Make sure all of the drains are closed and drain plugs are installed. Take a quarter-cup of household bleach for every fifteen gallons of water your fresh water tank holds. Mix the bleach with water in a one-gallon container and pour the solution in the fresh water holding tank. Fill the fresh water holding tank completely full of water. Turn the water pump on and run water through all hot and cold faucets until you smell the bleach. Close the faucets and let it sit for twelve hours. Drain all of the water and re-fill the tank with potable water. Turn the water pump on and open all faucets, running water until you no longer smell any bleach. It may be necessary to repeat this process to eliminate all signs of bleach.

3)  RV Appliance Checks: If there is LP gas in the cylinders or tank, open the LP gas valve and check the operation of all LP gas fired appliances. Make sure the water heater tank is full of water before testing the water heater. If an LP gas appliance is not operating properly have it inspected by an authorized RV service facility.  Insects are attracted to the odorant added to LP gas and nests can affect the appliance from operating properly. Note: The LP gas system should have a leak test and gas operating pressure test performed annually. These tests should be performed by an authorized RV repair facility.

Next plug the unit in and test the 120-volt appliances and accessories for proper operation. Note: Make sure you have an adequate electrical source (30-50 amps) depending on your unit, before testing items like the microwave and roof air conditioner(s). After checking the refrigerator in the LP gas mode turn it off and with the doors open allow sufficient time for it to return to room temperature before checking it in the electric mode.

4)  RV Tires: Just like a battery looses a percentage of its charge in storage, tires lose a percentage of air pressure in storage. Your tires can lose 2-3 psi a month while sitting in storage. Check the tire pressure with a quality tire inflation gauge and adjust the inflation pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation based on the load.  Remember failing to maintain correct tire pressure, based on the load,  can result in fast tread wear, uneven wear, poor handling, and excessive heat build-up which can lead to tire failure. Tire manufacturers publish load and inflation tables that should be followed for proper inflation pressure. Inspect the tires for tread wear and any cracking on the tire sidewalls. If you notice any damage have the tires inspected by a professional before using the RV.

5)  Vehicle Engine & Generator: These checks apply to motorized RVs and any vehicle you use to tow a trailer. Check all fluid levels. Check the transmission, power steering, engine coolant, engine oil, windshield washer and brake fluid. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for proper fluid types and levels. If a fluid level is low try to determine why and correct the problem. Service the engine and engine fluid levels according to specified intervals found in the owner’s manual. Start the engine and check for proper readings on all gauges. Check the operation of all lights. Make sure the vehicle emissions / inspection sticker is up to date.

Check the oil level in the generator if applicable. Service the generator according to specified intervals found in the owner’s manual. Inspect the generator exhaust system for any damage prior to starting. Never run a generator with a damaged exhaust system. If you didn’t run the generator during storage start and run it for a couple hours with at least a half-rated load. Check your generator owner’s manual for load ratings. If you didn’t use a fuel stabilizer in the fuel system and the generator won’t start, or continues to surge after starting, have it checked out and repaired by an authorized service facility.

6)      RV Seams & Sealants: If you didn’t inspect the seams and sealants for potential leaks prior to storage or if the RV was stored outdoors this is a good time to do it. I recommend inspecting and resealing seams and sealants at least twice a year and possibly more depending on conditions. Inspect all roof and body seams and around any openings cut into the RV for signs of cracking or damage. Reseal any seams or sealants that show signs of cracking or separation. It’s important you consult your RV owner’s manual, or RV dealer for sealants compatible with different types of materials you are attempting to seal. If you don’t feel comfortable performing the inspections or repairing seams and sealants have the maintenance performed by an authorized service facility. Note: Be extremely careful working on the RV roof. A fall can cause serious injury or death.

7)  RV Safety Checks: Re-install any dry-cell batteries or fuses that were removed for storage. If batteries were not removed from safety devices replace them with new batteries now. Test the operation of the carbon monoxide detector, LP gas leak detector and smoke alarm. Inspect all fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged. If you have dry powder fire extinguishers shake and tap on the bottom to release powder that settled on the bottom.

These checks are what I consider to be essential post-winter checks so your RV is ready to roll when you are. For a more in-depth look at getting your RV ready to roll check out our instant download e-book titled Checklists for RVers.

Have a great camping season,

Mark Polk
RV Education 101

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