In addition to keeping your RV running and functioning properly, it’s also important to keep it looking good. Washing and waxing an RV takes more effort than detailing an automobile, but the payback is worth it for more than appearance.
It’s important to clean and inspect your RV roof at least once per year. Always use extreme caution when work on the roof. It’s good to always use shoes with good gripping soles. If you don’t have a ladder on your RV, use a step-ladder of adequate height such that you don’t need to step on the topmost rung to access the roof and use a spotter if possible. Always make use of the “3-point” rule when climbing a ladder. This means that you should always make sure at least 3 of your 4 hands and feet are in contact with the ladder at all times. Once on the roof, stay away from the edges as much as possible. If you are not comfortable getting on the roof of your RV, hire somebody to do it for you.
To clean the roof, use a mixture of dish detergent and hot water, along with a soft bristled brush on an extension pole (Use an extension that is long enough to wash the sides of the RV from the ground later). Wash a small area at a time. For really stubborn stains or dirt, you can use special chemical formulations for your roof type, such as rubber roof cleaner. Clean the gutters and inspect seals for cracks and deterioration. Repair damaged and open seals with only the sealant type recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Using the incorrect sealant may void your warranty or damage the roof.
The Sides and Back
Use the brush and standard automotive washing soap to wash the sides and back of the RV. You may choose to place a wash mitt over the brush for a softer touch. Pay particular attention to seams and interfaces such as lights, fixtures, trim, moldings, etc., as these are areas where dirt tends to accumulate. Scrub hard enough to get the dirt off, but not hard enough to damage the silicone sealant. Don’t use high-pressure water or cleansers containing solvents for washing or rinsing, as this can damage graphics, gel coats, and seals. Avoid spraying water directly at the fridge, water heater, or furnace vents.
The front of the RV requires a little extra care, as it takes a lot of abuse from road debris, insects, etc. The best way to protect the front is to keep it thoroughly waxed. Wash the front of the RV as described above and apply a layer of quality automotive wax. Debris that accumulates on the front can then generally be easily removed using a dampened soft cloth or dryer sheet. If you need to clean higher up on the front, attach the cloth or sheet to the brush.
The undercarriage, wheels, suspension, etc., can be cleaned using a pressure washer and/or stiff brush. You can use a wire brush and touch-up paint on rusted areas. Finish with an application of dry lubricant, especially on the slide-out and step mechanisms. Tires can be treated with a UV protectant and mags with metal polish. Clean the glass and condition window, door, and slide-out seals with a seal lubricant.
The final step is to wax the entire unit. This is a big job, but resist the temptation to use an electric buffer, as it could damage fiberglass sidewalls and other features.
Now step back and admire your ride.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.