The best advice I can give you on RV maintenance is to do it. Any recreational vehicle is a sizeable investment and repairs can be costly, so it makes excellent sense to take good care of it. Preventive maintenance will save you money in the long run.
I bought my 2002 Sightseer used in 2007. In three and a half years, I spent about $7,800 on repairs and rv maintenance – this included such items as: new motor for propane furnace, new awning, new slideout motor, replace backup camera, six new tires, new ignition switch, new air bags, replace broken side-view mirror, new coach steps, and assorted small items. That works out to about $186/month – that sounds like a lot to me - owning an RV does cost money! But, so did owning a house.
The rv maintenance items mentioned above required professionals at an
RV service company. I also spent a little over $2,000 on improvements –
most of that was installing a solar panel and inverter. If you are really handy, there are kits for do-it-yourself solar systems that would save quite a bit on the cost.
Create an RV Maintenance Checklist for your motor home as you go through the owner's manual. Some things will be done daily, some weekly, monthly, or yearly. Set up a system that will work for you and keep you on track. There are lots of “systems” in an RV, both inside and out – all the things you find in a typical stick-built house as well as all the things you find in a vehicle - you don’t want them to fail due to neglect.
Check the water levels in your battery on a regular basis and add more - distilled water - if needed.
We all have a tendency to accumulate stuff, so here's another important item to put on your rv maintenance checklist: at least once a year you should weigh your RV to make sure the load is balanced and that you haven't exceeded the gross vehicle weight rating. This will save both your transmission and your tires.
Go through your basements and other storage areas a couple of times a year; if there are things you haven't used, ask yourself if you really need them.
A blown tire can result in massive damage to your motorhome or fifth wheel, so don't neglect them! Improper inflation is the biggest cause of tire failure. Tire dealers recommend that you inflate to the maximum pressure listed on the tires, but you have to take weather and altitude into account. Both higher elevations and warmer temperatures will increase tire pressure, so make allowance for them. Check your tire pressure before setting out on a trip and every day before you take off again - when they are "cold." You might want to invest in a tire pressure monitor - there are several on the market.
RV tires are rated for speed as well; driving too fast will increase the likelihood of a blowout, so check the rating on yours.
How long is the warranty on your tires? It's a good idea to replace them within that time period. Some RVers replace them every five years no matter what. On the side of the tire, you'll find a DOT code. The last four digits of the code are the week and year of manufacture. (Which may not have anything to do with the date you bought the tires, I discovered.)
And, on the subject of tires, when you're parked in the same spot for several days, cover them; rv tires tend to get more damage from the sun than from driving.
Protect your appliances and your computer with a surge protector. You can buy one at Amazon (you can find almost anything you need there) or an RV store to use at the electrical connection in the rv park; it's also a good idea to have an AC voltage monitor that checks polarity at the utility pole - this will help to avoid damage from voltage that is too low or too high.
I’ll be the first to admit that I leave a great deal of the rv
maintenance requirements to the RV service guys. But, I have gotten into
the habit of keeping my eyes open for problems, and I try to get to
each area of the RV at least once during the year (more is better) for a
thorough cleaning & inspection.
Don't forget that good rv maintenance includes taking care of the equipment you have. Here are some good tips on maintaining the refrigerator in your motorhome. Some of this you can do yourself; other things are best left to the service people.
Always be on the lookout for evidence of leaks and ANY possible entrance points for mice or other vermin (1/4 inch is all they need). This is one of the most important things you can do for good rv maintenance.
In 2010, I budgeted $175/month for fuel, and that turned out to be just slightly lower than my actual fuel costs. We did very little driving until May and heavy traveling (almost 6,000 miles) for the next five months.
I average anywhere from 6.5 to 9.5 miles per gallon; it depends which way the wind is blowing and how much I might be carrying in the fresh water tank. I run the generator (which uses gas) some when boondocking. Everyone's experience will be different, of course, and it’s no fun to see the numbers whiz by when you’re filling a 40-gallon tank.
Keep your speed down - driving at 55mph, you will get more miles per gallon.
My plan for the foreseeable future is to drastically curtail traveling. I’ll stay put for a good portion of the year, and concentrate my traveling in just one or two states during the summer, so fuel costs won't be so bad.
Get a gas company credit card - many will give you a rebate if you fill up at their stations. Check it out - every little bit helps. If you're a member of the Good Sam Club, there are discounts on fuel at some major stations.
Is your gas money being wasted? The price of gas is on everyone’s mind these days, and that is especially true for those of us driving a motorhome or towing a trailer. Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of every dollar you spend at the pump.
Tips on filling up from someone who has worked in the petroleum business for 31 years:
• Fill your tank in the early morning when the ground is still cold. The
colder the ground, the denser the gasoline; the fuel expands as it gets
warmer so, if you buy later in the day, your gallon is not quite a
gallon. A one-degree rise in temperature is great for the gas business.
• When you fill up, don’t squeeze the nozzle trigger to the fast setting.
You should pump on the lowest setting, thus minimizing the vapors
created while pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return, so
while you’re pumping at the fast rate, some of the liquid going into
your tank becomes vapor, which is sucked up and returned to the
underground storage tank. When that happens, you get less for your
• Fill up when your gas tank is half full! The more gas in
your tank, the less air can occupy the empty space. Gasoline evaporates
faster than you might think. Gasoline storage tanks have a floating
roof which serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere,
thus minimizing evaporation.
• If there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tank when you stop to get gas, DO NOT fill up. The gas is most likely being stirred up during the delivery and you might pick up some dirt that would normally be settled on the bottom.
Tips to keep in mind while driving:
• Keep wind drag to a minimum by maintaining the lowest cruising speed you can tolerate.
• Avoid downshifting whenever possible – wait until you have to give it a lot of gas to sustain your preferred minimum speed.
• Accelerate gradually.
• Use your cruise control to maintain a constant speed – if you vary your speed, you’ll waste fuel.
If you will follow the above tips when you fill up and while driving, your gas money should go further - and that is good for all of us!
Do you have any questions? Any comments? This is your chance to let me know what you're thinking, so please do. I really enjoy hearing from you.
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Here's a network of people around the world who are willing to offer
free parking to RVers for a night or two on their own property. This is a wonderful idea for all those who love boondocking. It costs $24.95/year to become a member so you can use the services – discounted to $19.95/year if you can offer free parking on your property in return.