You did it.
You took the plunge and became the proud, new parent of an RV of your very own. Congratulations! Your new rig is sure to bring you hours and miles of joy, exploration, and bonding with your family.
But as wonderful as the world of RV camping is, you’ve doubtless already learned that it comes at a cost. Obviously, these large and powerful vehicles cost thousands of dollars up front, but that’s only the beginning. Campers quickly discover they have lots of other costs to contend with, from registration to campground fees to paying for storage when the rig isn’t in use.
And, of course, there’s the cost of maintenance — or worse, the repair costs if you let your regular RV maintenance fall by the wayside.
But fortunately, RV maintenance and repair are amongst the easiest costs of RV ownership to defray. By making sure to perform minor checks and fixes on a regular basis, you can usually avoid having to fork over a hefty repair bill when something goes wildly out of whack. Obviously, every rule has its exception… but for the most part, all of your RV’s systems will have longer lives and stay in better proper, working order if you just put in a little bit of preventative effort.
But what goes into a comprehensive motorhome maintenance schedule? How do you maintain a camper, whether it’s a travel trailer or a Class A diesel pusher?
We put together this RV maintenance guide to help provide some simple maintenance tips and tricks to keep your rig spic, span, and road-ready for years to come.
Basic RV Maintenance
Fortunately, a lot of routine RV maintenance is probably totally familiar to you if you’ve ever owned any kind of road vehicle.
Just like cars, trucks, and SUVs, self-powered motorcoaches — like Class A and Class C motorhomes — require regular oil and filter changes, as well as tire checks and rotations. Just think of the chassis of your RV as any other automobile you’ve owned. You need to ensure you check all the fluid levels at least once every 3,000 miles or so. The exact number will be provided by your manufacturer, and will depend in part on whether you’ve got a diesel vs gas RV engine.
Keep in mind, however, that since you’re unlikely to drive as far as quickly in your rig as you do in your day-to-day vehicle, that those 3,000 miles might take a while to add up. If that’s the case, go ahead and give all the basics a look-see at least once every six months.
If your RV goes for long periods without moving, it’s also a good idea to just get in there and start it up every now and again, and maybe even to drive it around a bit. Moving parts — like axles and engines — don’t like to be cooped up for months at a time, so giving them a little bit of exercise can help extend their lifetime.
But beyond basic motor function and checking out your tires, what are the specifics when it comes to RVs? What do you need to know about how to service a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or other camper that doesn’t have an engine at all?
Regular RV Maintenance
Even if you don’t have an engine to maintain, there are lots of systems and mechanics on your RV that require regular maintenance.
For instance, if your RV has a generator, it’s important to change the oil and filter in it per the manufacturer’s specifications. If you don’t, it could quit working unexpectedly… which would mean not just an uncomfortably hot night of camping, but also a repair or replacement bill that could be literally thousands of dollars.
You also want to regularly make sure that all of your RV’s seams and seals are snug and waterproof. Water damage is one of the biggests risks to RVs, and in the end, it claims more of them than we’d might like. Stay on top of any potential water damage by checking your rig thoroughly for leaks at least monthly.
Finally, most RVs have two separate battery systems — one for the engine and one for the “house.” Both of these batteries require care & maintenance. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to use them regularly. Batteries that are left untouched for months can lose their charge… sometimes forever!
DIY RV Maintenance
If you’re thinking about those $70 oil changes you get done on your car — and all the upcharges you end up shrugging and taking when they suggest eight more things you didn’t even know were wrong with the vehicle — you may start wondering, worriedly, about average RV maintenance costs.
But luckily, you can perform many regular RV maintenance items yourself. Not only can this save you tons of money, but it also helps you get more familiar with your rig’s inner workings — which can be a godsend in the rare and unfortunate occasion that something does go really wrong and require a more major repair.
Although we don’t have time to get into specifics about how to perform different types of RV maintenance, there are plenty of resources online to help you get started. Whether it’s learning to change your oil, check your brakes, or re-pressurize your tires, chances are some helpful RV owner has made a tutorial video or blog post that’s perfect for you.
RV Care and Maintenance
One very important part of performing maintenance on your RV we haven’t touched on yet: keeping an RV maintenance record! If you don’t write down what systems you checked and when — and any repairs you might have performed — you won’t know when those checks are due again.
That’s why it’s important to create and stick to an RV maintenance schedule. Different systems will need to be checked at different rates. For instance, you may only need to check your sewer vent on an annual basis… but your fluid levels and tires require much more constant attention!
It’s helpful to keep a notebook or spreadsheet to help you organize all your RV maintenance information, and even to set reminders so you don’t accidentally let an important maintenance issue fall by the wayside.
By vigilantly maintaining your RV’s systems, you’ll ensure your motorhome is ready to whisk you away to your favorite destinations for many more years. So hop to those checks… and keep on trucking!