Congratulations! You’ve got a brand new (or new to you) camper or RV, and you’re ready to adopt the camper lifestyle. You may have dreamed of this day for years, mentally getting ready for a life on the road, but if you want that dream to be a reality, you’ve got some work to do. Your new home away from home has cost you thousands of dollars, but that’s just the beginning. From campground fees to fuel and storage, you’ll constantly be finding costs where you least expect them.
One way you can keep these costs to a minimum is through a regular schedule of camper maintenance. Repairs can be expensive on these rigs, not to mention the inconvenience of your home being in for repairs while you’re in the middle of nowhere. By creating a regular system of checks and maintenance tasks, you can avoid all but the most random of repair problems. Your RV’s systems will last much longer and work much more smoothly, while you’ll save money by avoiding the repair shop.
The Vehicle Itself
At heart, unless your camper is a pull-behind model or fifth wheel, you’ve got a large vehicle with a comfortable back area. Maintenance on your RV’s engine is virtually the same as that you’d do on a car or truck. You won’t be putting as many miles on your RV as you do on other vehicles, so the time between oil changes and tire rotations may be longer, but you should still check on the condition and level of all fluids every 3,000 miles or so.
If you stay in one spot for more than a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to get behind the wheel and start the engine, letting it run for five or ten minutes. It’s also a good idea to drive your rig around for a little while, if possible, which will allow the moving parts to lubricate themselves.
Whether or not you have a motor, there is still a lot of maintenance that needs to be done on your camper home. The best way to make sure you don’t miss any crucial checks that result in emergency RV surgery is to create a schedule on your computer, a notebook or even a pack of file cards. Check with your home’s manufacturer’s website to find out how often common systems need to be maintained.
For instance, most campers have some sort of a generator to provide electrical power inside and out. You’ll need to change the oil and the filter on a regular basis, to keep it running smoothly. Missing out on this could mean spending some uncomfortable time without electricity and some very expensive repair bills.
While you’re on the road, your camper is your home, and you want it to be snug and secure. Do a regular check of all the seals and seams to make sure everything is waterproof. Don’t forget to go on the roof and check the seal around the air vent, air conditioner, satellite dish or any other add-ons you may have up there.
Maintaining the batteries is crucial, and if you’ve got an engine in your rig, there will be two batteries to worry about. The easiest way to keep them in good working order is to use them frequently. Batteries that sit around tend to lose power and die. Your batteries will typically be of the lead-acid type, so be sure their electrolyte level is up to snuff.
DIY Your Maintenance
Unless you’ve got unlimited cash, you won’t want to pay someone to do all the maintenance needed for your camper home. Even if you’re not the most mechanically inclined person, it’s easy to learn to do most of the needed jobs. You can find dozens of clear videos showing how to take care of your rolling home on YouTube, virtually enough to create a college course in RV maintenance.
Once you start doing the work, begin a maintenance log to record all the work you’ve done. It’s a great tool for referring back to, when you can’t remember when you changed the oil or waterproofed the seal around the A/C unit. Highly detailed records, along with a logical schedule, is the key to keeping your home on the road and out of the repair shop.