Maintain Your Ride

By Diane Schlindwein

February 6, 2009 5 min read

MAINTAIN YOUR RIDE

Like any vehicle, your home away from home needs loving care

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

Just as home and car owners care for their houses and vehicles, recreational vehicle enthusiasts should provide special upkeep of their homes on wheels.

"An RV is like any other vehicle. It requires regular checkups and periodic maintenance to operate at its peak," said Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications at the National RV Dealers Association (RVDA). "The best way to ensure safe, trouble-free travel is to thoroughly check your RV before each trip."

Ingrassia recommended taking the following steps each time you head out on a journey:

* Make sure that all electrical and plumbing systems are ready for use

* Check fluids and brakes

* Adjust all mirrors

* Check hitches and coupling systems on trailers.

Regular full-fledged maintenance checks are important. "On motor homes, follow manufacturer recommendations. Many dealers will have a service menu posted in the service department at the dealership," Ingrassia said. "It includes procedures listed in the owner's manual and proper periodic maintenance.

"An RV owner's manual will provide basic information, but like a car, more complicated technical problems need to be addressed at the dealership by service professionals."

Breaking down on the road can be both frustrating and dangerous. Flat tires are an all-too-common occurrence. Depending on the size of the unit and where the problem arises, consumers can change RV tires -- but only if they have the proper equipment and spare tires, Ingrassia said.

Of course, in a roadside RV emergency, it is best to call for professional help. "RVDA recommends Coach-Net, which provides emergency roadside and technical assistance solutions to RV dealers and their customers throughout the United States and Canada [as well as] for many RV and chassis manufacturers and RV clubs and customer membership groups," said Ingrassia.

"Coach-Net provides service using over 150 employees with advanced technology tools with an extensive database of more than 40,000 service providers," he added.

Even when they aren't being used, RVs should be well maintained. Those that are going to be stored during cold weather need to be winterized, Ingrassia said. "For instance, water should be drained from the system to prevent frozen and ruptured lines." Batteries should be prepared for winter storage as well.

Spring is a good time to do additional checks, said Kim Hopper Spangenberg, whose family owns Hopper RV Inc. in Illinois. "If they have been sitting somewhere all winter, sometimes tires get bad spots," she said. "Every area of the country is a little different and has a different set of issues with the climate. In some spots, the tires have been continually exposed to the sun.

"At our dealership, we have a basic process that we do where we check the water, electrical and LP [liquid propane] systems. We check the appliances and do visual inspections. It usually takes a couple of hours."

Spangenberg also advised a yearly visual check of the roof. "If you scrape a limb or something, you may have damaged the roof.

"It is also important to check the window seals, the corner moldings, the screws and the staples. Almost all the units have slide-outs now, so you have to make sure that works correctly and everything is fine with those," she said. "You should also check your battery every year."

Yet RVs can -- and do -- experience different problems at any time of the year, said Gary Bunzer. Known as the "RV Doctor," Bunzer has been advising people on RV care for 30 years. He just completed writing the newest edition of "The RV Owner's Handbook" (Woodall Publishing) and has written hundreds of columns for both Family Motor Coaching Magazine and RV View Magazine.

"It literally took me a book to detail all the information RV owners must consider, and I did not address any of the chassis-related items like engines and transmissions," Bunzer said. His book covers basic internal and external care and repairs; electrical, plumbing, waste and liquid propane systems; ranges; refrigerators; hitches; roofing; winterizing and spring check-ups.

"You basically have to remember [that] these things are going to be traveling down the road in the rain and all kinds weather," Spangenberg said. "You want to develop a relationship with someone to service your RV, much like you would have with a regular mechanic. Then, you want them to be sealed tightly and you want them to be safe. It's not rocket science -- it is as simple as that."

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