When it comes time to properly store your unit in preparation for a long cold winter or when you will not be using it for a season, some RV owners begin to wonder about the best methods of caring for their investments and how to maintain its spiffy, shiny finish. The question they usually have is: should I invest in an RV cover?
RV cover manufacturers tout their products as 24-hour protection against winter’s elements or (in more southern climates) damaging UV-radiation, dust, dirt, and even bird droppings. However, there are other benefits. When winter wraps up or when it’s time to use your RV after a long rest, an RV cover is said to keep a stored rig cooler. Additionally, since RV covers are less expensive than renting a storage space, cost is often a factor for those who choose to use an RV dedicated storage cover.
“…Simply using an ol’ “blue tarp” is a recipe for disaster….they don’t breathe and cause accumulated moisture in your RV that can lead to serious damage…”
How can you sort out the facts from the fluff? It’s certainly true that a good RV cover will protect wind-blown dust from the finish and some covers will keep rain out while still allowing moisture from the inside to make its way out. If you’re in a climate with high, constant UV radiation, not having the sun beating down on your rig constantly will keep the exterior finish looking nice, longer. Need some evidence? Check out some of the rigs for sale in Arizona. You’ll easily spot the ones that haven’t been under a cover. They are the models with the peeling decals, faded paint, and the “old before your time” presentation.
On the other hand, there are RVers I know of who have bought and used RV covers who now wish they never had. A common complaint is the difficulty involved in putting a cover on an RV. Typically, you’ll need to climb up on the roof to put the cover on. Getting on an RV roof without damaging the rig (or hurting yourself) can be difficult. The problem is compounded once the cover is over the roof and the installer has to carefully waltz around over the cover to adjust it. Not being able to see what you’re stepping on can lead to broken roof vents, broken limbs, or worse.
Some users have reported putting blocking under the cover to keep water from creating puddles. While that may not be a problem for some, if you want to use the rig and take it out of storage during a freeze, you may find that the cover has been frozen to the roof. To remove it without damaging it, you’ll then need to figure out how to get hot water up to the roof to thaw the cover loose. It’s a given that if you want to remove an RV cover that’s wet it will be a hassle as any RV cover is heavy, but a wet one multiplies the weight greatly.
“…RV cover manufacturers tout their products as 24-hour protection against winter’s elements or UV-radiation, dust, dirt, and even bird droppings…”
Some RVs complain that with the cover in place, the inside of the RV is like a dark cave. With the cover on, you won’t be able to open roof vents to relieve inside humidity and rig sweating (condensation) can be an issue. Others say some covers don’t breathe well, creating an environment for mold and mildew to develop. Some warn that rig attachments like antennas or mounting brackets can poke holes in expensive covers.
It is worth mentioning, however, that properly made covers do breathe well and that’s important. Simply slinging up the conventional “blue tarp” is a recipe for disaster. Blue tarps, and other plastic tarps, don’t breathe and accumulated moisture in your RV can lead to serious damage. We know – from personal experience – that a literal crop of mushrooms growing on your rig’s carpet is a major headache to remove.
So what can you do? If you want an RV cover, most recommend paying the added cost of a custom-designed cover for your rig. This way, you are assured the cover will not block access to the door, so you’ll be able to get into (and out of) the rig without pulling the cover loose. Be sure to tighten the cover carefully and make checks over the storage area. If a cover gets loose from wind, it will easily chaff the finish and can even rub the paint off.
Additionally, before any type of storage, we recommend a good washing and wax. While there are many great solutions and RV covers on the market to protect your rig – ranging from inexpensive to expensive – some simply bite the bullet and pay for inside storage from a suitable facility.
Russ and Tiña De Maris are authors of RV Boondocking Basics—A Guide to Living Without Hookups, which covers a full range of dry camping topics. Visit www.icanrv.com for more information. This column is a reprint from the March 2011 issue of RV Life.