The Best RV Mechanics Tips for Savvy RVers
Here are the most common items that RV owners have problems with, resulting in repair by RV mechanics. The accompanying tips will help avoid these repairs.
1. Water heaters
Having hot water for showering and dishwashing makes RV life much more enjoyable. Your water heater is a basic system but can cause major problems.
Tip: Depending on usage, drain and flush your hot water heater at least once a year. A flush wand is an easy way to fully flush your water heater. This also gives you a chance to check the anode rod and electric heating element and replace them if necessary.
Your RV may just have one battery or it may have six. Either way, the battery is the heartbeat of your RV and so must be maintained properly. RV batteries can be very expensive to replace.
Tip: Store your RV battery indoors if not in use during winter. If your battery needs water, make sure to top it off. RVs often sit for months not being used and in some places through very cold weather. Keeping your RV battery in a charged state out of the cold will extend the life.
Having a furnace in your RV can extend your camping season. The RV furnace is something many people are afraid to tackle themselves. RV furnaces attract small animals due to the heat they produce. The blower motor also attracts lots of dust, pet hair, and other debris.
Tip: Yearly cleaning of the furnace can prevent untimely repairs. Blow out the exhaust area and around the blower motor, fan, and circuit board. Look for any signs of mice or small rodents.
Changing a tire on the side of the highway or on a back road can be dangerous and difficult. It’s often an impossible task for Class A owners, that typically do not even have a spare. RV tires fail when not properly maintained and inflated correctly. The cost of the tire is often minor compared to the additional damages a blown tire can cause to your RV.
Tip: First, ensure you have tires rated for the weight of your RV. Continually check the tire pressure on travel days. A tire pressure monitoring system makes this painless. While sitting or in storage, it is also important that you don’t allow the tire pressure to drop. Proper tire pressure is essential to the life of a tire.
Slides can double the living area of your RV. It is now commonplace for RVs to have multiple slides. Showing up at a campsite and not being able to get your slides out can end a weekend pretty quick. Improperly maintained or aligned slides can be a nightmare for RV mechanics.
Tip: Clean and lubricate the slide racks and gears. There are several excellent dry lube options for slideout cleaning and lubricating. On hydraulic slides, be sure and check the fluid reservoir regularly.
6. Wheel bearings
RV wheel bearings often get overlooked until it’s too late. They are generally a cheap part to buy when it comes time to replace. However, it is often on the side of a busy highway or remote area where they do fail.
Tip: Service at least yearly depending on mileage. Perform an easy check to ensure they are not loose and are adequately packed with grease. Many modern RVs have easy lube bearings making this a quick task. RV mechanics will usually include a wheel bearing check as part of a full chassis service.
7. Suspension components
RVs aren’t known for cruising smoothly down the road. We often take back roads to get our favorite spots. This can take its toll on RV suspension components. A suspension failure can leave you stranded.
Tip: Before travel, check the suspension for wear or loose components. If your RV allows, grease suspension components regularly. Also know and follow your RV’s weight carrying specifications. Overloaded suspension components will fail prematurely.
Mice and other small rodents can cause a wide range of issues in your RV. Chewed up electrical, nests in furnaces, removal of insulation, and holes allowing water to enter are just a few.
Tip: Seal up your RV, particularly the underneath. Spray foam all openings if not done by the manufacturer. Keep in mind spray foam does dry out over time and can vibrate loose from travel. Before storing your RV for the season do a thorough check for any openings.
See also: The Secret To Keeping Mice Out Of Your RV
9. Roof issues
Because they are out of sight, RV roofs often get overlooked. A leak can go unnoticed and cause major damage and mold. It’s not only rainy days you have to be aware of, the sun causes most roof issues by drying out seals and coatings.
Tip: Yearly roof inspections are key. Catch roof issues before they become leaks. Check the seals around all the roof-mounted accessories and vents. Inspect the roof coating for peeling and dried out areas. Not all RVs have walkable roofs so take caution.
10. AC units
Air conditioning, although a luxury, is something we have come to rely on in our RVs. AC repairs can be costly as can running an inefficient AC system. Most AC units are roof-mounted and therefore it is easy to miss what can be an obvious problem.
Tip: Clean your filters and condenser and evaporator coils. The filters in the AC unit often collect dust very quickly by drawing air from the RV into the unit. The area you are in will determine how often they need to be cleaned. The small fins on the evaporator and condenser coils can collect dirt and debris while traveling or parked near trees or in windy areas. Cleaning them out and straightening them using a fin comb will help your AC system run efficiently.
RV mechanics know your RV best. They see and deal with all the most common RV issues on a daily basis. Following these tips will reduce your chances of costly repairs.
Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents and receipts in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due and potentially avoid a costly repair or serious accident.
Do you have any maintenance tips for readers? Comment below, on our Facebook page, or share them with the RV community on iRV2 Forums.
Kendall lives with his wife and their two cocker spaniels full-time in their RV currently in Mexico. He is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the co-founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers.
These are very good things to read and learn how to do.
I’ve had a battery issue, water heater issue, (flush twice a year)
It’s needs it, really does.
Clean and treat roof twice a year.
Wash and wax, keep tires all the correct psi.
It’s worth all the things I do, it saves money, I know it’s done correctly. With all I can do, its very rewarding. Don’t be afraid, it’s so worth it.
Kendall Jennings says
Hi Bill, thanks for your comment!
Connie Phillips says
How often should you change the oil in a Class C?
anthony mcpheeters says
A 60vdc battery setup – what does that have to do with RVs?
Eli Richardson says
I’m glad you mentioned it’s important to keep an eye on RV’s roof problems to prevent damage. My dad just purchased an RV, and he can’t wait to travel on it. He got it from a second-hand shop, and he mentioned there are some issues he needs to fix before heading to the road. I think that this information could help my dad with future references. I appreciate you helping me learn about common RV problems and how to fix them.
Kendall Jennings says
Hi Eli, thanks for your comment – let me know if there is anything he needs help with, or check out some of the great iRV2 forums!
George McElvy says
Great tips for the RV public. We’re on our 21st year and paying attention to the above tips will save you dollars in the long hall. I would suggest, when it comes to tire inflation, have each axle weighted when fully loaded. You can then get the proper psi for you tire. You don’t always have to inflate to the maximum as indicated on the side wall of the tire, making for a smoother ride. In the case of my tires we were able to lower the maximum psi 15 lbs. The manufacturer of your tires can assist with this. Happy trails.
Kendall Jennings says
Hi George, thanks for your comment. Great point about the tire pressure!
Mel Kraft says
Good Morning Kendall:
Good article. I have a question and wonder if I am missing something. You show a picture of five batteries wired in series. Is this the correct wiring for an RV. Are they 12 volt or 6 volt and it seems to me either way it would be the wrong wiring set up for either especially with five batteries. Let me know if my thinking is correct.
All the best,
Claire Masters says
Thanks for mentioning that I should be wary of rodents since they may end up chewing the electrical wires in my RV. My uncle is selling me his family’s RV because they don’t use it anymore so I’m thinking about taking it off of his hands. I’ll keep these tips in mind once I finally get the RV before I have it checked by an RV repair shop for any damages.
Martin Grishaber says
Be careful with EZ-Lube system for wheel bearings. If you are not careful, you can overload them and excess grease can get on your brake pads. I have had them since I bought my 5th wheel in 2009. Never used them.
Rich Olson says
Quick comment on batteries . Keeping batteries charged up in cold climates yes, taking batteries into the house or warm , not necessary. I keep 10 lead acid batteries charged up out in the cold and have never had a problem.