“Now,” I said with great confidence, “I just reach up here, turn up the thermostat to demand heat, and in a few seconds, you’ll have gobs of heat to chase away the cold and damp!” And after a few minutes, no roaring flame, no gobs of heat, just a run down to Wally-World to purchase an electric safety heater, which after about 36 hours of run time, chased away the cold and damp.
After our return from shopping, I ventured outside to fire up the old water heater. A few seconds of heat to the appropriate location and I had a good standing pilot light. “Lemme see here, I’ll just hold this button down for a good 60 seconds and…” Immediately after releasing the button, voila!—the case of the disappearing pilot light. Repeated attempts to get that infernal and not-so-eternal flame to stay lit met with dismal failure. Strike two!
Meanwhile, back inside the RV, the wife was busily attempting to put things right. As she stepped into the bathroom, dismay etched her characteristically beautiful facial lines. There was a puddle of water in front of the pot, and a fair amount on the lid. Suspecting our “crystal dehumidifiers” had overflowed onto the floor, a bit of mopping up ensued. Surely that took care of that problem. It did—until the rains returned later in the day and a bit of a drop appeared as a harbinger of doom, precipitating down from the area of the roof vent. This wasn’t just a simple case of sweating condensation—we had a leak here.
Instead of packing up and moving into a motel, we battled it out. Stovetop pans provided sufficient hot water to wash up with. The electric space heater finally took over warming things up, and that vent leak? Well, tomorrow with a borrowed ladder I vow to make repairs.
Nevertheless, I mused to myself, there is a story here for my readers.
Yep, here it is: If your RV is tucked away for a winter’s nap, it may be time for you to briefly awaken the beast and check things out—just to prevent yourself from having a few surprises when it’s time to travel.
There are several good things you can do to check up on your slumbering RV. It might actually prove to be kind of fun to do. At least it’s a break from the football games.
Electrical: Assuming your shore power is disconnected, it’s a good time to check on your battery status. Using your digital voltmeter, take a quick check of your battery voltage. A “full” battery will read no less than 12.6 volts; if it’s down to 12.25, it’s a good time to stick the charger on. If it’s way down—to say less than 12 volts, and it’s cold out, MAKE SURE THE BATTERY ISN’T FROZEN before you try charging it. Pull the caps and look close.
Heat It Up: With the shore power hooked up and propane valves open, fire up the heat. This will not only test furnace operation, it’ll also provide you some personal comfort, and you can always explain to skeptics that you’re driving out moisture.
Leaks? A water leak that is ignored will lead to certain disaster. Examine your rig closely, everywhere. Step through the rig and open ceiling-mounted cabinets. Water leakage from near the sidewalls often hides out here. Examine carefully around roof vents. And don’t forget to look down as well—trim and marker lights that “let loose” can allow water to intrude.
Work your way throughout the coach, don’t let any area go unchecked. You’ll do well to open any basement storage or other outside compartments to make sure that compartment door seals haven’t been compromised.
Engines, Mr. Scott? If your RV is motorized, pop the hood and check fluid levels. If all is well, then proceed to fire up the engine. It certainly won’t hurt to run it up to operating temp, and ensure there aren’t any unusual noises or smoke where it ought not to be. While you’re on it, if you’re equipped with “dashboard air conditioning,” be sure to run that for a few minutes as well. This will help keep the seals conditioned—keeping your coolant in the correct places, and regular exercising of the compressor is always a good idea.
On the Level: If your rig is equipped with hydraulic levelers, consider running them in and out. Look for any unusual events, noises, jerking, anything that’s not normal.
A New Generation? If your coach has an onboard generator, be sure to fire it up and run it for a few minutes. In fact, it’s wise to put a load on it. Here might be a good time to run the coach air-conditioning unit as the load, killing two birds as they say.
Plumbing: Since you’ve most likely winterized your plumbing system, there’s little to be done here.
Chilling Out: While you won’t be able to do a complete refrigerator test, provided your rig is level, fire the reefer up. Stick your hand inside on the freeze plate in the freezer compartment to get a feel for just how cold it is. After an hour it should be noticeably colder—if not, you may well have a refrigerator problem to handle before your next expedition.
Intruder Alert: As you walk through the rig, check out cabinets for any signs of unwelcome visitors. Winter is a time that wee little rodents look for a dry place to hole up, and RVs are not an uncommon mouse hotel. If you evict them before they do much damage, you’ll thank yourself later.
Moisture Matters: In some winter climates—particularly in the Northwest—moisture infiltration can be a real menace. If your rig feels clammy or you find evidence of moisture, especially a mildew odor, take corrective action quickly. Dehumidification is important, and not necessarily expensive. RV supply stores carry crystal dehumidifier kits; several placed throughout the rig can help wipe out moisture. But be careful they don’t overflow. If not emptied on time, the water collection bowls will spill their contents where they stand. You might be wise to leave them standing in a plastic dish tub. Just leaving a crystal dehumidifier loose in a sink or tub can create problems of their own, as we’ve had the crystal substances stain metal.
Electric dehumidifiers are a more pricey option, but could be just what you need. Be sure to follow instructions carefully, especially with regard to drainage of collected water.
With a little effort, applied a few times throughout the slumber season, you can help maintain your rig. And if you find something is amiss, you’ll have time to get the problem resolved before spring breaks forth and your heart turns to the fancy of the road.
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. They also provide great resources in their book, Camp Hosting USA—Your Guide to State Park Volunteering. Visit www.icanrv.com for more information