By Walter Cannon
Well it’s that time of year again RVers! Spring has sprung! The time of year when we, who have hibernated over the course of a long winter, stick our heads outside and are bitten once again by the camping bug. But before we get out there and go RVing there are a few things we need to do to make sure we have a safe and fun time in our recreational vehicles.
Several RVers in those cold portions of the country have winterized their units and need to de-winterize them now. First, we need to remove any covers placed on our unit, be it placing cardboard over the refrigerator, water heater or furnace compartment openings or full coach covers over our units.
But let’s start with the electrical system. If you removed the batteries, reinstall them and make sure they are fully charged and the terminals are clean. Check the water level (flooded batteries) and test each battery with a hydrometer. For sealed top batteries, you’ll have to rely on voltage measurements to determine the state of charge. Moving to the 120-volt AC system, inspect the power cord and plug for fraying and cracks. Should you find any damage to the cord or plug, replace them immediately. Also be sure to check any extension cords you may use and make sure they are rated for the proper amperage. Check the GFCI for proper operation as well as all the receptacles. Should you find a problem, either replace them or have them replaced by a certified RV service technician.
The propane system needs to be visually inspected as well. Check all rubber connectors for any damage that might have occurred from rodents. Look for kinked copper tubing at each appliance. Clean the exterior and interior vents of the furnace. On the water heater, be sure to clean the burner area with air or vacuum away any debris. Flush the inner tank and return the water heater to normal operational settings. Be sure it is filled with water before igniting the burner or activating the electrical heating element. Check all the vents, exterior and interior, of all the appliances to make sure they are free of debris and spider webs. Don’t forget the refrigerator vent mounted on the roof. Be sure to have all the appliances serviced and in good working order. Now, at the start of the season is when I have a timed pressure drop test performed by a qualified technician on my propane system. It is recommended to have this test done at least once a year and what better time then just prior to the start of the season? Be sure to change the dry cell batteries in the propane and carbon monoxide detectors as well as in the smoke alarm.
Don’t forget to sanitize and flush the fresh water system, including all hoses and filters. You will also want to check the tanks, valves and hose of your waste water system to make sure there are no leaks.
Let’s now move to the tires and chassis. Inspect both sides of all tires, checking for cracking and discoloration. Check for weather checking on each tire and valve stem. Check the tread depth and the air pressure. Remember to set the air pressure based on the heaviest load on a tire across the axle. Also be sure to check and torque the lug nuts prior to the first excursion.
Check the brakes and inspect all wiring connections under the unit. Look for hanging wires that may need to be strapped up out of the way. If you have a travel trailer or 5th wheel, this would also be a good time to repack the bearings and check the brake controller for proper adjustment and operation. If you have air brakes, be sure to perform the three important tests of the air brake system.
1) Air Leak Test
2) Emergency & Recovery System Test
3) Parking & Service Brake Test
By the way, these three tests should also be performed at the start of each driving day. Some municipalities may even request you perform these tests on the spot.
Check and change out the windshield wipers. They take a lot of abuse from the varying weather patterns. Check the headlights, backup lights, running lights and brake lights. Replace any broken lenses and burned out bulbs. Check all fuses and be sure to have extras of each size on hand. The same for spare bulbs or LEDs.
Proper preparation prior to the start of the RVing season will get you on your way quicker and safer. However, you must still be diligent as you travel throughout the season. Never compromise the safety factor!
Walter Cannon is the Executive Director of the RV Safety & Education Foundation, headquartered in Merritt Island, FL. He is a popular speaker at many RV shows and conferences. For more RV safety information.