When you own an RV, you can go wherever the road leads. The entire country is open to you, and opportunities arise that are simply not available to others. However, owning an RV is also a learning experience, with its own unique challenges. RV maintenance will help keep your RV looking it’s best and operating at its best!
This section provides general information and tips that can help you make safe decisions when purchasing and driving a motorcoach, not to mention advice on using a motorcoach to haul trailers.
This information is NOT a substitute for the technical information found in vehicle owner’s manuals. Its purpose is to give you some basic information about factors to consider and equipment you will need to ensure your safety and that of your passengers, as well as the safety of other people on the road.
Going out RVing is a vacation and an adventure rolled into one. Before going out, perform some pre-trip maintenance. Not only will it help your trip go smoothly, it will keep your adventure from spiraling out of control.
Your first step in RV Maintenance is to make sure the engine is running smoothly. Check the oil, brake fluid and transmission fluid to make sure they are filled. Once you’ve established that the fluid levels are fine, check the motorcoach’s electrical system. Make sure your headlights, tail lights and dashboard lights are all functioning. While you’re at it, check your horn and windshield wipers as well.
Inspecting your emergency equipment is a must before taking off on a long trip. Make sure you have a fully-stocked first aid kit, a functioning fire extinguisher and an emergency kit that should at least include a tire pump, spare fuses, flashlight, multipurpose tool, pocket knife, road flares and some canvas work gloves. Be sure to inspect is your spare tire and vehicle jack.
Finally, get your motorcoach inspected by a mechanic. Ask them to do a maintenance check on it. This usually includes tire rotation, an oil change if necessary and an overall inspection of the vehicle for potential problems.
Driving Your Motorcoach
While driving a motorcoach is easy to learn, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Remember that an RV is much bigger than a car and handles differently as a result.
The two most important differences come when turning and braking. Before taking your motorcoach on the road, go to a large empty parking lot and practice your turns. Remember that your motorcoach will need a wider turn radius than a car, so when making a turn pull out further into the intersection before beginning your turn. Motorcoaches also need more room to slow down, so when driving on the highways always follow the speed limit and keep a good distance between yourself and the vehicles in front of you. When coming to an off ramp, slow down well before reaching it to avoid having to decelerate suddenly.
Going slow will also help when you run into bad weather. High winds will affect your motorcoach more than it will a car. Keep a strong grip on your steering wheel and you should be okay. For rain or snow, you should decrees your speed. A vehicle like a motorcoach is less prone to skidding than a car because of its lower center of gravity, but at the same time it is much harder to control if it goes into a skid.
Low bridges are another hazard of which you should be aware. Most bridges have their heights displayed to the drivers passing underneath them, so know the height of your motorcoach before you get on the road.
Getting To Know Your LP System
The LP system on your motorcoach is one of the most important systems onboard. While race season is primarily in the warm months and the furnace may not get much use, the LP system may also fuel the refrigerator, the range, the oven and the water heater. In fact, some of these appliances operate on both electricity and LP gas, allowing you to switch back and forth.
LP stands for liquefied petroleum gas and is also known as propane. The gas is sold in liquid form and kept in a storage tank beneath the coach is a special compartment. A panel, usually beneath the slide out, gives you full access to the tank. You coach may be equipped with a 60-lb./14-gallon tank. One pound of propane produces 36 cubic feet of gas. You can expect to use a couple of gallons of LP a week in warm weather and more if it’s cold and the furnace is operating. Keep track of the gauge to know when you are running low.
To refill the tank, simply drive your coach to any LP fuel site. Most gas stations have LP refilling stations; some departments stores may have LP tanks as well. A certified service representative must fill the tank. The tank is located outside the coach because the vapors are dangerous, if there is a leak. Never bring the LP containers inside the coach and do not store them in an unventilated area.
The appliances in your coach are equipped with electric ignitions. Generally, appliances that operate on both LP and electricity should be switched to electrical mode when traveling. This reduces the chances for an LP leak. Several of the appliances, automatically shift to the electrical mode when traveling.
All appliances in your coach are fully functional when you are traveling.3
Winterizing Your Motorcoach
When winter time comes around and camping season is over, what do you do with the motorcoach? Just park it, right? Not so fast. You have some chores to do if you want to use your coach again in the spring. Exposing your coach to freezing weather without preparation can damage a number of systems, such as water lines, tanks and water heaters. And even if you live where cold temperatures are rare, your motorcoach still needs attention. We recommend you follow these procedures for maintaining your motorcoach.
• Begin by removing all food and beverages. This includes everything in the cabinets and the refrigerator — even that small jar of mustard in the back corner of the refrigerator. Anything you leave in the motorcoach is subject to freezing or spoiling. Cleaning up an exploded can of Pepsi first thing in spring is not fun. And, food left in the coach can attract rodents and insects, giving you an even bigger headache when you open the coach for spring.
• This is also a good time to give the coach a complete cleaning inside and out. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Think of it this way: just as your engine needs regular maintenance, your coach needs regular cleaning.
• Drain thoroughly all water tanks, holding tanks, lines and pumps to prevent damage to the RV’s water system. Don’t drain the tanks onto your front lawn. It’s messy and unhealthy. Most campgrounds have dump stations you can use for a small fee. Also remember to drain the water heater and the toilet.
• Use a non-toxic RV anti-freeze to keep any remaining water from freezing in the system. You can find the anti-freeze at your RV supply store. Also, put some RV anti-freeze in each drain.
• Charge wet cell storage batteries to full electrical charge. This should protect them from freezing temperatures. A discharged battery can freeze and be damaged.
• Tape up all vents and openings, including vents for the furnace and range hood. This will keep mice and other little critters from gaining access to the unit.
• Cover the regulator on the propane cylinder and extinguish all pilot lights.
• You should keep your coach road-ready by running the engine for about 30 minutes each month. Driving the vehicle at highway speed once a month for at least 10 miles keeps the coach in good working order and protects the tires from non-use damage.
• Prepare your generator for winter storage by performing regular maintenance as recommended in your owner’s manual. Also, check the anti-freeze in the generator. As with the motorcoach itself, you should exercise the generator on a regular basis by running it for 30 minutes to an hour each month.
Also, don’t overlook the other elements in your coach, such as the appliances. These also have special storage instructions covered by their own service manuals.
All your tires should be the same type, size, and construction—do not mix bias-belted and radial tires. In selecting tires, buy the size, type, and load range found on your RV’s certification label or in the owner’s manual. Keep in mind that tires have a load rating that indicates the amount of weight they can carry safely. Always maintain proper tire pressure and replace worn tires. If your tires are over five years old, have a professional tire inspector examine them and determine whether they are still fit to be on the road. Remember that your RV may be parked for several weeks before going out on the road again, so always pre-check your tires before starting out.
Pay Close Attention to Loading Your Trailer
Your trailer is designed to haul all of your cars and gear, but you need to pay special attention to how you load it.
Generally, you should locate 70 percent of the cargo weight in front of the axle center line. This ensures there is sufficient weight on the trailer hitch and that the tow vehicle shares in carrying the cargo weight. If you have too much of the weight in the rear of the trailer, it can cause the trailer to fishtail when driving at highway speeds.
Your trailer is designed so that when you load your cars, you place them correctly in the trailer. However, other equipment and parts you add can change the weight distribution. Make sure you stow heavier items toward the front of the trailer.
Also, make sure you tie down all equipment and vehicles, and don’t spare the money when investing in tie down straps. Use a strap that is rated at three times the weight of the item it secures. In a lock-up situation with the brakes, a car or anything else in the trailer can triple in weight.
Additionally, you need to stow all cargo or tie it down to prevent it from shifting during the trip. Evenly distribute all materials from side to side. Again, this prevents the trailer from fishtailing.
Some customers even install cameras inside the trailer so they can monitor the load, especially their vehicles, while they are driving.
If your trailer does begin to fishtail as you accelerate to highway speed, the best reaction is to take you foot off the accelerator and allow the vehicle to reduce speed. This should stop the fishtailing. If the oscillation resumes as you increase speed, pull off the road and stop. You need to check your load for balance.
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Roof: Inspect your roof at least once a year. Clean off any loose material.
Frame: Normal road use will eventually chip away at the factory-protected underside of your trailer frame. Check the underside of your frame at least once a year and repair any chips with an automotive undercoating or matching paint. This protection helps prevent rust and deterioration of the trailer frame. An auto supply store is a good source for the undercoating.
Floor: To protect your plywood floor, promote long life and make cleaning easier, it is recommended that you paint it with an oil-based enamel paint.
Exterior skin: Treat your trailer with the same care as you do your car. Use a mild, non-detergent soap, such as an auto wash, and protect with an automotive-type wax. An auto supply store can provide the appropriate products. Don’t use dish washing soap. These products can remove some of the wax protection on your trailer.
Aluminum rims: Your aluminum rims are clear-coated for lasting protection. Use only gentle cleaning agents on your rims. Never use a cleaner that is lye or acid-based. These will damage the finish. An auto supply store can guide you to the right products.
Brakes: Your trailer brakes should be inspected and serviced annually or more often if you make substantial use of the trailer.
Ramp door: You should lubricate ramp door hinges with Lithium grease. Also periodically lubricate the ramp door extension.
Huck bolts: Check the huck bolts periodically. If you detect a loose huck bolt fastener, do not tow the trailer. Call your dealer for instructions. Huck bolts are not end user serviceable.
Maintenance for Frequent Trailer Haulers
Tow vehicles such as motorcoaches often have more frequent maintenance requirements, including changes of engine and transmission oils and filters, lubrication of components, and cooling system checks. Check your owner’s manual for information on scheduled maintenance of your motorcoach if you frequently use it to haul a trailer. Here are some maintenance suggestions.
Periodic inspection and maintenance of motorcoach and trailer tires and wheels are essential to towing safety, including spare tires. Proper tire pressure affects vehicle handling and the safety of your tires. You can find the correct tire pressure for your motorcoach in the owner’s manual or on the tire information placard.
• Under inflation reduces the load-carrying capacity of your motorcoach or trailer, may cause sway and control problems and may result in overheating, causing blowouts or other tire failure.
• Over inflation causes premature tire wear and affects the handling characteristics of the tow vehicle or trailer.
On a regular basis, have the brakes on the motorcoach and the trailer inspected. Be sure that necessary adjustments are made and any damaged or worn parts are replaced.
Check the nuts, bolts, and other fasteners to ensure that the hitch remains secured to the motorcoach and the coupler remains secured to the trailer. The connection point may require periodic lubrication to permit free movement of the coupler to the hitch ball.
Make sure connector-plug prongs and receptacles, light bulb sockets, wire splices, and ground connections are clean and shielded from moisture. Lightly coat all electrical terminal connections with non conducting (dielectric), light waterproof grease.
Clean the prongs with very fine sandpaper, being careful not to damage the contact area.
Clean the surface deposits in the connector holes. (Make sure the lights are off to prevent blowing a fuse.) Try to clean off only the deposits and lubricate lightly with dielectric, light waterproof grease.
These are some basic tips to help insure a safe experience with your motorcoach. We recommend you consult with your dealer or owner’s manual for your motorcoach for further information. Our Service Advisors at Golden Gait Trailers are here to help you as well. Give us a call at 800-895-3276 or visit us online at www.GoldenGait.com