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Getting Ready to Roll: RV Travel Prep

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Depending on your local weather and how you store your motorhome each winter, getting it ready for spring could be as big a chore as storing it each year. Not only has it been
sitting for several months, but it has also been exposed to some wide temperature swings.
These environmental swings may cause some unexpected problems and it’s better to find them while parked at home rather than on the road. If you follow our program it should make your first trip of the season a lot easier.

The first thing you should do is a visual inspection of the exterior of the coach. Walk around and look for obvious issues such as cracked joints or missing caulk. Look high and low on the sides and pay particular attention to the windows and doors to find potential leaks, both inside and out.

If you are able to climb on the roof, you also need to look it over as well. The roof can be dangerous so tread lightly and carefully to prevent damage to you or the coach. The roof is covered with potential problem areas such as openings for vents, skylights, etc. Carefully inspect them all while looking for cracks or other defects that could lead to a leak.

Next, you will need to address your water system. It has been unused all winter so a complete disinfecting is required. If you bypassed your water heater in the fall, don’t forget to reverse it back to normal flow. If you have your water lines filled with RV antifreeze, it is a good idea to flush them first using fresh water, then fill the tank with water and add 1 cup of bleach per 60 gallons of water. Run enough water through each fixture (check your fixtures while you are doing this) to ensure the lines are all full of the bleach mixture. Allow this to stand at least four hours, but longer is OK too. Then completely drain everything.

If you want to remove the bleach odor you can repeat with a fresh tank of water along with 1 gallon of water with half a cup of baking soda mixed in. Allow it to run completely through the entire water system and it will be as fresh as the spring air. You can leave the baking soda water in the system or drain the fresh tank and refill it from the fresh water source of your choice.

While you are filling and draining the waterlines take note of the freshwater tank drain as well as the black and gray tank drain valves. If they are stiff and difficult to operate, replace the drain valve seals.

You should also drain the hot water tank and inspect any anode rod. Replacing one is easy and inexpensive so we suggest you replace it if it has lost more than around 75 percent of its original diameter/weight. While you are looking at the water heater you should also inspect the burner to ensure no foreign visitors have made their home there over the winter, and also inspect it for rust or other damage.

While you are outside, check the tire pressure and inspect the tires for sidewall cracks. If you performed fall maintenance before storing the coach and everything looked good (oil, other fluids), you should be fine. A coach is best stored with fresh oil in the engine, because that oil doesn’t contain the combustion contaminants that are present in used oil. If you haven’t completed a proper chassis service, better late than never. At least look under the coach for obvious leaks or signs of problems.

After you perform a visual inspection and are sure the coach oil/coolant levels are OK, you should then start the chassis engine and allow it to warm up. This gives you an opportunity to ensure the battery bank and engine are working as they should. While the engine is running, check all exterior and interior lights using a partner to relay information on the status of brakelights, blinkers, etc. After the engine reaches operating temperature, shut it
down. If your coach and generator batteries have been on a maintenance charger all winter
all you will need is to check their electrolyte level (remember to wear eye protection). If
your batteries have not been on a charger all winter, connect them to a good-quality
multi-stage charger before heading out on the road. If you notice corrosion on the battery
posts, clean and protect them with a battery corrosion preventative spray.

After checking the oil/coolant in the generator, start it up. The generator should run at least one hour under a load. This gives you time to turn on all the major appliances inside the coach using generator power only. In order to ensure everything is working inside, start at the front or back and turn each AC-operated device on to test its operation. Then shut it off and move to the next device. Of course, be mindful of your total electrical draw to keep from tripping a circuit breaker. Turn on each AC unit, exhaust fans, TVs, radios, etc. Check your remote controls (and other battery-operated devices) and replace the batteries if needed. Hopefully you removed these batteries before winter storage.

Next, check the microwave by heating some water. Test the proper operation of the refrigerator as well as any washer and dryer. If you disconnected the water line for an ice maker, don’t forget to reconnect it.

Another very important step is to check or replace the batteries and operation of all on-board detectors. This includes smoke, fire, LP-gas and carbon monoxide.

Check the location and condition of your fire extinguishers. You should have at least one
inside and one outside the coach. Another important safety item is your first-aid kit.
Before heading out for the first trip of the year ensure your kit contains everything you
or your family might need. This includes common medications as well as anything specific
required such as an EpiPen for allergies to insects or bee stings.

While you’re inside the motorhome open every cabinet and storage area to inspect for spoiled food or signs of insect/rodent damage. Your unused coach makes a great winter home for unwanted critters so look around in every possible area for their presence. If you utilize traps or insect bait, replace them with new ones to start the year off right. You should also take this opportunity to perform a good cleanup inside the coach. Even if you cleaned it in the fall, it is probably dusty and in need of a good spring cleaning. This includes the floors, walls and cabinets as well as plumbing fixtures and cockpit area.

The LP-gas tank is another important aspect of your coach and one that is critical. First you need to inspect the tank to ensure that it looks safe for operation and that no obvious damage has occurred. If all is well turn on the gas and inspect the area for characteristic gas odor. Then make your way into the motorhome and test the gas by lighting the stove top.

It could take a few tries to purge the air out of the lines. After all the burners light, you can turn them off and move to the next LP-gas appliance. Before lighting the LP-gas refrigerator go outside the coach and uncover the back of the refrigerator (if it is equipped with an LP-gas model). Check the burner for rust or other damage or foreign matter. Clean out any debris with a vacuum cleaner and low-pressure air, if needed; if all looks well proceed to lighting the gas mode on your fridge. It, too, may take several attempts to light, so be patient.

If you are sure the hot water tank is full of water then you should also light the water heater in gas mode to test its operation. Usually you can hear the burner ignite or
your motorhome may have a light to indicate it is working. It’s best to allow it to run
long enough to produce hot water to completely test its operation.

If weather permits you can also use this time to open all of the windows and turn on the exhaust fans to completely circulate the stale air inside the coach. You might also want to use an air freshener or air sanitizer at this time. Don’t forget to open your slides and awnings. Lubricate them if needed, including the rubber seals and slide track.

After completing these tasks you should be well on your way to a good first trip in your motorhome. Every coach is slightly different, and you may need to modify our list to fit your specific model, but this should serve as a good overview to get you started on your first trip of the year.

Spring Prep

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