You need to prepare your RV for the first use of the season.
Here is a list of 11 important items and systems to inspect and test.
1. Outside: One of the biggest problems we see with RV’s is water leaks. Look at all caulking to be sure it is not cracked or missing. This includes caulking around windows, doors, all roof vents and seams. Even the smallest crack will allow water to intrude.
2. Tires: Visually inspect tires for sidewall cracks and cracks between treads. Any cracks should be considered a danger and tires should be replaced. Check tire pressure. Refer to the manufacturers recommended tire pressure. There should be a decal inside of a cabinet with recommended tire pressures.
3. Cleaning Appliances: Remove the outside access covers for the water heater and refrigerator. Inspect the burner assembly for any foreign debris such as spider webs and nests. LIGHT air pressure from a compressor can be used to clean the burner area. Be sure not to blow high pressure up the refrigerator chimney. If in doubt, let a professional do it.
4. Batteries: (Safety glasses and latex gloves on. Shore power disconnected. All items in RV off or main cut off in off position.) Check and clean corroded terminals, connections, and battery trays. Hot water and baking soda work well. Check battery fluid levels if possible. (Some battery caps are not removable) In many cases, you will need to pull batteries out or even remove them to check the fluid level. Be careful with wiring if removing. Many times positive and negative wires are not marked or color coded. Take the time to mark each and every wire. I use masking tape and a sharpie. I also draw a picture of exactly how each battery is installed. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to straighten out someone’s mess from improper battery connections. (usually causes catastrophic component failure) It is important to check batteries for fluid. Many times the RV has been connected to shore power for extended amounts of time. This can cause the batteries to overheat and boil the fluid out. Top fluid levels off with distilled water. Be careful not to overfill. Keep the level below the upper case fill ring.
This is a good time to test the batteries. You will need to have a professional perform a load test. Be sure the batteries are fully charged before the test. Low charge will cause a battery to fail the load test. Many times the person testing the battery does not check the state of charge. This is improper. If they don’t check the state of charge, go elsewhere. They may just be trying to sell you new batteries.
When replacing batteries, always replace multiple battery banks together. Don’t add an old battery to a new battery. (Coach Batteries and chassis batteries are banked separate)
5. L.P.: Be sure all L.P. items are turned off first. No smoking, flames, or sparks! Turn the leak detector inside the RV on FIRST. Open the valve on the tank all the way. Smell around the area for leaks. A soapy water solution can be used to check for leaks around the valve and regulator. I use a combination of an electronic leak detector and soapy water in a spray bottle. If you suspect a leak, turn the L.P. valve off immediately. Have a professional inspect and repair the leak. (Some times seals dry out over the winter causing new leaks that weren’t there before storage)
6. Water: Before filling with water, check the hot water heater bypass valve. It needs to be in the “normal” position and all faucets need to be closed. It’s best to do the initial season fill with the “city water” connection. This will use the faucets water pressure to fill the empty lines and water heater. (It can also be done with the fresh water tank and pump) Open a hot and cold water faucet during filling to let the air escape until the water flows steady. Inspect faucets for leaks. Inspect the water heater over pressure safety valve for leaks. Inspect the water heater drain plug outside the RV for leaks. After the water runs steady, turn off the city water. Add fresh water to the onboard tank. Relieve the line pressure by opening a hot and cold faucet until water flow stops. Close the faucets. Switch the fresh water pump on. After the pump stops running, allow about 20-30 minutes to hear if the pump cycles on again. (The pump cycling on indicates a pressure drop or leak). If the pump does not cycle on, the system should be ready to use. Run enough water through each faucet to be sure all RV antifreeze is removed. If the unit was winterized properly, there shouldn’t be much in it.
7. Test fire appliances: Once the L.P. and water systems are up and running, it is time to test fire appliances. For the first use of the season, start by lighting a stove top burner. Be certain the L.P. gas leak detector is on. Lighting a stove top burner will fill the L.P. lines. This is the easiest flame to see, so you will know when it ignites and the air in the lines is purged. Next you can light the other L.P. fired items. Be certain the water heater is full before igniting.
8. Generator: Gasoline and L.P. powered generators are very similar. Typically, lack of fuel will make them hard starting after sitting for an extended time. Some newer generators have a “prime” function to run the fuel pump prior to starting. Late model Onan Microquiet and Microlite generators have this feature built in to the start switch, but in some cases are not marked. To operate the prime feature, simply hold the start/stop switch in the stop position. After a few seconds the light in the switch will illuminate indicating fuel pump operation. Run the pump for about 20 seconds to deliver fuel to the carburetor. The generator will start much quicker. If your generator does not have a prime feature, you will have to crank it until it starts. Let the starter rest to cool after about 15 seconds of cranking. Cycle the starter until it runs. Let it run for a short while, then check the oil level. Check the air filter to be certain there are no nests from storage.
9. Dump Hoses: Inspect your sewage dump hose. Dump hoses have a limited lifespan. Be certain the hose is in good condition with no tears or holes prior to use.
10. Waste tank valves: While connected to a dump station, carefully operate the waste tank valves the first time of the season. Valve seals can dry out causing them to stick and make the valves hard to operate. Carefully working the handle in and out in short increments may save replacing the valves. There are additives for valve lubrication that can be added to the tanks.
11. Awnings: Simply operate awnings and inspect fabric. If the effort to extend is difficult, the spring tension may need adjusted. (Take to a professional) Spring adjustment is very dangerous. I have the scars to prove it.
That’s the basics. Clean it up and have fun.