“Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush” — Doug Larson
What a winter! The Northeast buried under snow, the Northwest sopping up water by the bucketsful, isn’t it about time for spring to have sprung? Time to blow the dust off the road atlas, to drag the campground directory out of the drawer. It’s time to hit the road!
But hang on! It’s also time to wake up that sleeper in the backyard-your RV needs to be brought back to life. Here are system-by-system tips for readying your rig for road running.
Liven up the ‘lectrics
If you took the batteries out for off-rig storage, it’s time to put them back in place. Make sure the posts and battery cable clamps are clean and free of crud. Check and charge those little volt-boxes.
Take a good look at the shore power plug: Are those prongs bright and shiny, or do they need a touching up with a bit of steel wool? Ready? Plug in the shore power. Now take a test monitor (get one at your neighborhood hardware store) to ensure that your outlets are “hot” and show the correct polarity. While you’re at it, use the test button on the GFI circuit to ensure it’s working properly.
Check all your lights and appliances for operation.
Got a generator? Check the oil level (and if you need to, change the oil). Fire up the generator and run it for an hour with a load on—think air conditioner, you want a good, heavy load.
Poke at the Plumbing
If you used RV antifreeze to keep your pipes from freezing, time to clear it out. Hook up your fresh water hose to “city water” and run all taps (including the shower) until all the “pink” is gone.
If you’re concerned about your fresh water tank’s freshness, pump it full, adding a 1?4-cup of household bleach for each 15 gal- lons of capacity (not as the last thought, but perhaps in the middle of the process so the bleach mixes well). Turn off the city water, turn on the pump, and run more water until you smell bleach at all taps. Wait a couple of hours; drain the tank. Refill the tank with fresh water, then run the taps until you smell bleach no more. While you’re at this, check all plumbing connections for leaks.
Did you set the bypass on the water heater? Change it back, close the drain plug, and fill it with fresh water, too.
Scrutinize the Safeties
Install fresh batteries in all safety alarms—smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detector, and (if equipped with batteries) LP leak detectors. Use the test button to check all of them out. Since carbon monoxide detectors are “perishable,” look at the expiration date and REPLACE it if required.
Check to make sure you can unlatch and open emergency exit windows.
Check all fire extinguishers. If you have the dry powder type, take them off their brackets, turn them upside down, and give them several good thumps on the bottom with something like a screwdriver handle. You should be able to hear the powder move around inside the unit as you turn it over. If not, have it serviced or replaced.
Get on with the Gas
Top off the LP tanks, and open the tank (or cylinder) valves as needed. Use soapy water solution (or an electronic equivalent) to check for leaks throughout the system. Please don’t do what my friend John does—the old check each connection with a lit match. Some day I’ll be attending his memorial over this approach.
No leaks found? NOW you can safely light the stove burners and oven to test operation. Follow up by testing any other gas users, including the furnace, water heater and refrigerator. The flame on the stove should be blue, with only a slight yellow tipping, and burn steady.
Monkey with the Miscellaneous
It’s also a good time to handle other minor items that can become irritating if they don’t work right on the road. Crank open and close the windows and roof vents. Give a shot of the appropriate lubricant to cabinet and door hinges, and door hardware. How’s the system’s monitoring panel working? Does the TV antenna raise and lower correctly—without an annoying hitch or jam?
It’s also a good time to check for weather-tightness. Open all the cabinets and inspect for any signs of inappropriate moisture. This means upper ones that could show a roof leak, and lower ones that could show signs of seal leakage. Check around windows, too.
Roll the slides in and out—do they bind, or operate smoothly? How about the steps?
Challenge the Chassis
Got lots of gumption? Does the rig need an overall wash and wax? Pull out the ladder and do a thorough roof inspection. Make sure the seams are all sealed and no caulk is cracking or loosening.
Roll out the awning—is the hardware working smoothly? Is the awning clean and in good repair?
Check the tires: This includes proper inflation, a good eyeballing for any sign of damage or cracking, and a look at the date codes. If the tires are older than seven years, many tire professionals recommend that dreadful word—replacement. Good time to drag out the torque wrench and verify lug nut security.
Working on a motorhome? Check all engine liquid levels before firing the engine. Take a look at the air cleaner. With the engine running, how are the automatic levelers working?
With your bases covered, and any required repair work accomplished, you’re ready to roll—just as soon as the snow plows come through or the salmon stop swimming across the road!