RV living has its special challenges and privileges of use and ownership. You will come to appreciate the energy and water required to operate and RV and how the basic systems work.

Below is a summary of the most important tips and common mistakes to avoid that result in costly repairs. This can be incorporated into an agreement between the RV OWNER and RV BORROWER if desired. RVMatchMaker.ORG isn’t a party to that agreement, so please use whatever you believe relates to your situation.

Below are key areas to consider for RV care and maintenance

Fresh Water

  • DO NOT use an external water source connected to the RV without a water pressure regulator.
  • Turn off the water pump before pressurizing the water system with an external water source.
  • Use 2 hoses and mark one for potable water use ONLY. When hoses are not in use, coil the ends and screw together.
  • Always taste the water from an unfamiliar source before filling tanks with it. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t put it in the tank.
  • Using water filters and cleaning tanks regularly are recommended.

Water Heater

  • Never turn a water heater on when the tank is empty because it could explode.
  • Hot water is generally produced quickly, so you don’t need to keep it on all the time. In fact, hot water that is mineralized will eventually eat your hot water tank.

Propane

  • If at any time propane is detected inside the coach, other than lighting the stove, exit the vehicle, ventilate the interior, and turn off the propane until the source of the leak is detected.
  • When cooking on the stove top ALWAYS turn on the ventilation fan.
  • Cold weather operations require a great deal of propane for heating. Otherwise, you will have very little need for propane in the summer if the fridge can run on 120v electricity.
  • Unless you use the oven a lot, do not turn on the pilot light. This wastes propane.

Waste Water

  • Do NOT leave black water connection open if hooked up to the sewer. Wait until at least half full before opening the valve so that solids and paper products can be more easily flushed from the tank.
  • Do not put water treatment products in holding tanks you would not want in septic that could destroy bio-degrading ability
  • Always empty black water first, then open the grey valve, wait a moment, then close black valve and allow grey water to flush out the hose.
  • Minimize paper products flushed in the toilet, use toilet paper designed for RVs and NEVER put feminine hygiene products in the toilet.

Gasoline

  • Run the RV engine and generator once a month, if possible.  (This helps keep the gaskets from drying out.)
  • If using a generator, let it warm up first before putting a big electrical load on it.

Electrical

  • Test for polarity before hooking up RV to any untested connection.
  • The typical RV connection will be a 30 or 50 amp connection. Sometimes it will be 110v which can only run AC. Never run microwave and AC at the same time.
  • When plugged into 15-20 amp power, do NOT use the A/C on shore power (use with generator only. If voltage is less than 110v at the electrical box with A/C running TURN A/C OFF! It will damage power lines and the A/C compressor motor.)
  • Turn off the generator FIRST, before connecting to shore power, otherwise you will damage the relay.
  • Use the shortest cord possible or valuable voltage is lost. Carry 10 or 12 gauge extension cords in 25 foot segments. (The lower the number the better, never smaller than 14 gauge.) Longer than 50 foot connections should never use more than 20 amps.
  • Power cables should never feel hot to the touch (If it is, you don’t have enough voltage and are at risk for a fire.)
  • Keep extra fuses near electrical panel, if needed. Occasionally you will trip the breakers.
  • Run only one heavy load at a time (ie only micro or A/C, not both.)
  • Check batteries once a month. Add distilled water only. (Minerals in water can damage.)
  • If a refrigerator panel is exposed to extreme midday temperatures, a fan inside the cabinet will help it run more efficiently.

Tires

  • Check the tire pressure and cover the tires, especially in the summer to avoid UV damage.
  • Jack the unit off of the ground, if possible.
  • Leveling is absolutely required for proper operation of doors and windows. If using leveling blocks, be sure that both rear dually tires are completely set on the blocks.

Roof

  • Do not walk on it, ever, unless you own it. (Improper walking on it can result in thousands of dollars in damage.)
  • Your RV roof will leak. Expect it!  This happens to even the BEST rigs.  Do not become frustrated when it happens. When the rains hit, look at the windows, walls, and ceiling. Depending on which side faces the weather front and any tilt the RV may have can result in leaks in different places.
  • Know what kind of roof you have.  Fiberglass gets hairline cracks and leads to slow leaks that warp the roof.  Anywhere you get pooling of water accelerates damage.  Try to avoid that.  Aluminum and rubber roofs also have special care requirements.  As an RV owner, this MUST be your top priority to avoid destroying your RV.

Awning

  • Never leave an awning open while not present. Sudden winds can rip an awning off the side of an RV resulting in thousands of dollars in damage. (Sometimes not covered by insurance.)
  • Keeping the RV cool can be a challenge if no shade is available, putting a canopy over the RV that allows for a little airflow, and possibly blocking the sun on the south facing side will help keep the RV cooler and require less A/C usage.

Carpets and General Cleanliness

  • Living in a tiny space, clutter and dirt become quickly apparent. On the exterior of the RV using a paved surface, gravel or pallets are needed to reduce the amount of dirt brought in.  Also never wear shoes inside the RV. Some people leave a rubber bin outside their entry door. Using a small vacuum cleaner every couple days helps keep the space fresh and clean.

Plumbing

  • External water hoses will freeze, if left pressurized.
  • Holding tanks can freeze, particularly in sub-zero weather.
  • Dumping valves will freeze and become unusable until thawed.
  • Internal plumbing is usually protected, if the interior is heated. If in doubt, leave the cabinet open.
  • In very severe weather, drain the entire system, including the water heater and toilet lines.
  • Leave the water heater on and the furnace on at night.

Propane and Batteries

  • Batteries charge slower and discharge quicker in cold weather. Furnace blowers require a great deal of battery energy and as a result dry camping is not recommended beyond 3 days at best.
  • Check your batteries every month or two. Fill with DISTILLED water.
  • Plan on getting a propane Extend-a-Stay kit to add and remove propane tanks for refill as needed. It will be much easier than driving for refills.

Excess Moisture

  • During the winter, it is typical for moisture to accumulate on windows and result in a bit of mold growth. This can be avoided by using a dehumidifier.
  • If the water pump comes on when not in use, or leaks are seen anywhere, fix it immediately to avoid expensive repairs later.

Carpets and Exterior Conditions

  • Put gravel down around your parking pad or put your RV on or next to a cement pad. When it’s super wet outside, you will be grateful you did this. One could use wooden pallets as a possible solution. Also some people like using a bin to keep shoes outside.

Temperature Control

  • Heat loss in the winter is fairly significant. You can plan for this by putting insulation on windows, putting a skirt around the bottom of the RV, and using a dehumidifier to cut down on excess interior moisture, which is common.
  • Heat gain in the summer can be fairly significant. You will need a canopy over the top of the RV and the south side to provide a sun break and a good functioning A/C unit or a swamp cooler is necessary.
  • It is important for you to realize that cold weather operation and/or storage requires greater care to avoid expensive damage.

Air Conditioner

  • It will not be unusual during the hottest part of the day for the A/C to stop working.  This occurs when ice blocks form around the A/C, which results in a gradual decline in performance.  Turn the A/C to the fan mode for half an hour so the ice can melt.  That will probably cure it.
  • Also, you will want to look at the roof periodically.  Water from the A/C can pool on the roof.  With fiberglass this can result in slow leaks that will warp the roof and result in pools of water sitting on the roof.  When water pools, significant roof damage will happen and that often goes undetected until it is too late.  In that case, the whole roof has to be removed and redone, which is very expensive.  Other types of roof leaks are generally easier to cure.

Checklist of Items Desired for RV

□ If not on a concrete parking pad, use pallets or gravel around door area
□ Water pressure regulator for exterior water hookups
□ Black tank washer
□ 2 garden hoses (1 black water and 1 potable, marked)
□ Vacuum cleaner
□ Set of keys for doors and storage compartments
□ Gravel, pallets, fake grass/mats or other exterior means to keep dirt out of living space.
□ Equipment to increase comfort: Dehumidifier (winter)
□ Equipment to increase comfort: shade structure  (summer)
□ Propane tank “extend-a-stay” and portable propane tanks (especially in winter)