The Importance of Regular RV Maintenance (+ Some Handy Checklists)

RV Owners

When it comes to RV maintenance, there are some things you can do yourself. Others, you may want to hand over to an RV specialist. We’ve learned that having a full-time job and renting out our RV continuously keeps us busy. Anything we can delegate to the RV specialist without leaving it for weeks at a time, we do. Regular maintenance saves you a lot of money and hassle in the long run, not to mention makes for a much smoother rental business.

Shrimp Anyone?

Wow, that smell!  What died in the RV?  After opening the refrigerator and the freezer, there was no resemblance to the shrimp scampi box that we had taken on our last vacation. 

I made my husband remove the soggy cardboard box. A few letters still visible on parts of the box proved that Shrimp Scampi once occupied the overhead freezer. Those sweltering 115-degree temperatures thawed, cooked, and disintegrated the little shrimpies over the summer months. I was too short to see over it and never put my hands in to swipe blindly for items left behind at the end of our trip.  

I guess that will never happen again with my new checks. 

  • Check for food hidden anywhere in the RV including the freezer and refrigerator.

Our refrigerator catastrophe took about 2 years to remedy.  A time where I was reluctant to use it and didn’t even consider renting it. During that period we never opened the right-sided freezer except to insert coffee grounds, apply baking soda to the inner walls of the freezer, or burn candles and wash with lemon juice.  Afraid the smell would permeate the fabric and walls of the coach, we left a sticky note on the outside panel saying, “If you open this you will be sorry.”

….Maybe a new refrigerator was the answer. But estimates of $5000 after parts, labor, and removing the back window for installation didn’t sound like a great idea either. In the end, professional ozone treatment and good ol’ time was the remedy.

My Checklist Guidelines

Feeling overwhelmed with your RV maintenance? This is the checklist we use, but review your owner manual to confirm if you have recommended times per manufacturer to perform service.

Our checklist is broken down into: 

  1. After every rental
  2. Monthly
  3. Quarterly
  4. Every 6 months 
  5. Annual checkup

Even though ours is a Class A, you can always make some adjustments to fit your travel trailer, 5th Wheel, or Class C. I also follow RVshare’s maintenance checklist.

1. Maintenance After Every Rental

RVshare has an online arrival form you fill out when renters come back home.  Explore every inch of your RV.  Figure out what’s working, what renters should be responsible for, and what you need to fix before the next rental. You have 72 hours to respond with issues, although you do have more time to get an estimate. Submit your form. Occasionally things pop up that I missed so it’s important to have a checklist to inspect bodywork and the inside of your RV.

Upon one inspection I noticed the outside RV slide panel was cracked. Although small, it’s not how the renter received it. Another time I noticed the RV awning wasn’t sitting flush against the RV body. Again RVshare was able to recoup the slight damages and the RV repair company realigned the awning.  

Things Most Important to Check

  • Awnings extend and retract flush to the RV
  • Sewer hoses are present
  • TV and radios work
  • Cracks or chips in the windshield
  • Windshield wipers don’t smear 
  • Slides retract and extend
  • Tires wearing & pressure
  • Check for perishables & food in every cabinet
  • Flush gray and black tank
  • Fill propane
  • Clean pots/pans/bedding
  • Check for roof damage
  • Clean refrigerator

2. Monthly Maintenance Checklist

My monthly maintenance is done if the RV is sitting idle or if we are getting ready for the next adventure.

  • Run generator

Sometimes it takes 2X for our generator to prime.  We let our renters know that’s normal for our coach. This also charges the batteries even though we keep our RV plugged in at the storage facility. We put a load on the RV generator to test it.

  • Flush Tanks

I used to think our renters didn’t empty the gray and black tanks even when they told me they did. Keith used special cleansing agents and forceful spraying mechanisms when draining but the gauge still read FULL. Finally, we took it in, and $$$ later we needed a new sensor for the tanks. Now we know it’s really empty.

  • Stabilize & Check Tire Pressure

Stabilizing tire pressure can be tricky.  Cold weather and driving can drop tire pressure.   We find it necessary to lower the tire psi to accommodate getting stuck at the sand dunes. We added a tire valve extension to reach both inner and outer tires which eliminates taking it to a service advisor to check pressures.  

  • Check the RV voltage and the GFCI outlet

When we run the generator we check that our GFCI outlet hasn’t tripped. Sometimes the outlet trips when you switch between the generator to battery or 120V.

  • Check light bulbs for all the interior and exterior lights

We turn on our lights in the RV and make sure they haven’t burnt out.  It’s easier to get them replaced on our routine maintenance rather than rushing for pre-delivery.

  • Check slides are working and not getting stuck from the heat

Sometimes the heat can make the slides stick. This also helps to see if any bolts have come unscrewed. Just before a rental, we noticed a metal object sitting on the floor…a bolt to the slide. My husband had to disembody the couch to see behind it and screw the bolt back on for the slide to work properly.

  • Tighten screws throughout the RV inside

As the RV shakes, rattles, and rolls I seem to find a new screw that protrudes on each trip. Recently I noticed an irritating squeaking sound, one that would drive anyone crazy…but I was alone. Have you ever tried to drive the RV at the same time and investigate where the squeak was coming from? It doesn’t work. On the last maintenance with the RV specialist, he had to tighten the screws that mounted the microwave and, voila, the noise is gone. 

  • Oil changes

I schedule oil changes under the monthly maintenance because I review my handy calendar that shows how often it’s scheduled to go out with renters. I figure out their average mileage based on the destination they’ve told me and plan for downtime with a service specialist every 4,000- to 6,000 miles.  

  • Keep RV under storage 

We keep our RV undercover to avoid sun damage, although being in Phoenix is hard to do with the harsh temperatures. Our RV storage facility offers electrical hookups. This way we can keep it hooked up to the electricity and manage our batteries.

3. Quarterly Maintenance Checklist

  • Filter changes

This includes any water filtration system we have. We typically have the RV specialist clean and change any AC filters and oil filters.

  • Battery Checks

We check our battery and fluids quarterly, but also know that they have been looked at by the specialist during our oil changes. If there is any hint of a battery issue or something not holding a charge we immediately replace it. The hot sun can do a job on vehicle batteries.

  • Check roof for damage

Every quarter we have the RV specialist review our roof for leaks, cracked molding around the AC units, vents, and fans.  Without a ladder to the roof, we depend on the specialist to help with this.  After a rental return, any questions about roof damage and I run the RV in for a quick roof inspection.

  • Tire Review

Although we check our tire pressure frequently, we check the tread on the tires at least quarterly. This way we can budget when we might be needing new tires all over. We cringed when the RV was at the repair shop for 7 months without tire covers.  It wasn’t possible to keep them covered as they moved the RV around within their facility.

4. Every 6 Months Maintenance

  • Slide-out Seals

Although we open and close our slides monthly, we have the specialist lubricate the slides semi-annually. Heat tends to dry things up so we have to maintain lubrication.

  • Rotate tires

To keep the tires in the best shape possible, we rotate our tires. Should there be excess miles, we do this earlier than every six months. If we get a flat, there is no jacking up the chassis to change a tire. That’s like jacking up a semi-truck.

5. Annual Checkup

Every year we have our AC units serviced, everything flushed and sealed. Living in Arizona you don’t want to have even one of the AC’s go out. The RV maintenance and repair offers a full 100 point inspection. It can be a hefty bill, but there’s no perfect time for a major engine or RV problem.

Some key points included in the inspection:

  • Plumbing and appliances
  • Signs of leaks and exterior inspections
  • Axels and welds
  • Electrical wiring and generator

Since the new year is upon us it might be a good idea to go through this task list and figure out a maintenance plan that works for you and your rental schedule. You can arrange it based on pre-trip, quarterly, every six months, yearly, and post-rental. 

Some routine pre-trip maintenance might include going through your RV with a fine-tooth comb.  

No Need to Cringe Over Your RV Maintenance

Remember the importance of using a reputable RV specialist if you aren’t going to do the repairs and maintenance yourself. Also, check to see how long they will keep your RV for maintenance and if you have an extended warranty.

  • Take your RV to a reputable RV specialist

In 2020 Covid meant lots of parts were on backorder. Even now it’s hard to get quick turnaround times with their schedule.

We found out the hard way that when you take it in you want to tell them that everything is working great…(Only if it is). You only need a flush and regular service. Somehow when we got the RV keys 2 weeks later it wouldn’t shift into second gear as Keith drove out the shop driveway. The RV specialist tried to tell us that we informed them the transmission wasn’t shifting correctly when we brought it in for routine maintenance. A circle around the block, 7 months of waiting for a transmission part for our RV with 11,000 miles, and then a decision for a new $7,000 transmission finally got us back into the rental income-earning business.  

RV maintenance doesn’t need to make you cringe if you have a plan in place. Make sure you have a specialist lined up for repairs and maintenance you don’t want to do yourself, and keep up on the maintenance so that you don’t end up with RV maintenance problems.   . 

How do you maintain your RV for your renters? We’d love to hear.