RV Shows are back on this spring and attendance is record-breaking! I conduct seminars at RV shows around the country and what I have experienced is the excitement of RVers of all types wanting to get out and use their rigs. Some are looking to buy for the first time while others are seasoned veterans and itching to pull the covers off their sleeping beauties!
There have been several articles written about the steps to bring your RV out of storage and de-winterizing them. However, it is always a good idea to refresh your memory to make sure you look at all aspects of the rig and a few new tips on some of the new materials and appliances being used in RVs today.
Let’s start with the 120-volt/LP water heater. Hopefully, you drained all the water out last fall before putting it to bed. If so, you must fill the tank with water before turning the unit on, or it will burn out the heating element and ruin the water heater. BUT…before you fill it with water, now is a good time to do a thorough cleaning. If you look at the drain plug on your water heater, you will see it is not at the very bottom of the tank, rather an inch or more up the side which means you probably did not get all the water out. The small amount of water will not do any damage as it freezes, however, it is probably getting very “murky” and full of lime and calcium. Most owners do not realize this and every year the sediment gets thicker and thicker until it gets so thick it insulates the water from the heating element and does not run efficiently. It is a good idea to flush out all the sediment with a flush tool such as this one available on Amazon here.
Check All Sealants And Condition The Roof
The drastic temperature changes throughout the winter and spring can be rough on sealants and materials that are a vital part of keeping moisture out of your rig. Your roof material is most likely either a rubber component or fiberglass. Rubber material such as EPDM and TPO needs to be cleaned periodically and conditioned. Cleaning can be done with mild dish soap such as Dawn (Blue) and water with a soft bristle brush or broom. I would not recommend a pressure washer and you can literally peel the membrane away from sealants or openings. Conditioning depends on the type of material however DiCor has conditioners that are recommended by most membrane manufacturers. Alpha Systems recommends just cleaning with Murphy Soap and the new PVC-type membranes just recommend cleaning and no conditioning.
It is also important to visually inspect all sealants from top to bottom. Most manufacturers use a self-leveling sealant at the roof to front cap joint, sidewall to the roof, and around anything mounted to the roof. As the temperature changes, the materials expand and contract which means the sealants will do the same. If they get brittle due to exposure to the sun and elements, they will crack and must either have additional sealant added or remove the old sealant and reseal. Keep in mind you must use a sealant that is designed for your type of roof material or hard-front fiberglass cap! Standard residential silicone typically will not adhere to this type of material and will not seal. Check with your manufacturer or Dicor to get the correct product.
Another seal that is often overlooked is the rubber bulb and flap seal of slide rooms. The longer this is exposed to the sun and elements, the dryer the material gets and less chance of sealing.
There are several products that claim to be slide seal lubricants, however, I like 303 Protectant or ProtectAll All-purpose conditioners as they have UV protection built-in and actually condition the rubber material.
While you are conditioning the seals, inspect the top to make sure the seal has not been damaged by retracting the room with debris on the top? And check underneath to make sure the rollers are in good working order.
Sometimes the room can get out of alignment and not seal properly. Check the inside to make sure no moisture was able to penetrate at the corners which would lead to a soft floor and eventual expensive repairs.
A few years ago one of our local owners uncovered his rig for the spring, plugged it in, went inside to turn on the roof AC and it started “snowing”! A squirrel had worked its way under the cover and made a nest in the white insulation of the fan housing. After chewing most of the beaded insulation, it blew through the ductwork and created quite a mess. We were able to replace the insulation but it took a long time to clean out all the ductwork. What a mess, so make sure you inspect everything for “critters”. This is the unit before we uncovered the damage.
Tires are the most vulnerable component on an RV and typically the most neglected. It’s not uncommon for tires to lose pressure when just sitting and especially sitting for several months without being checked. Check the pressure and the sidewall for weather checking to help reduce tire failure further down the road. Spring is also a good time to have the bearings repacked and brakes checked on trailers. Most axle manufacturers recommend once a year. Even bearings with easy grease applications recommend inspection and repacking every year. Check with your axle manufacturer which is typically Dexter or Lippert.
I like to check the LP system in the spring when I bring my unit out of storage. This can be done with a water column test which is a little technical or with a simple tool available on Amazon. I use this tester at all the appliances to verify there are no leaks. You can also use an LP leak test solution but it takes much longer to test every connection. Do not use soap and water as the soap can damage components in the connections.
When opening the LP container valve, do it slowly as there is an excess flow valve that will shut down the flow if opened rapidly. This can take several minutes to reset as the backflow needs to bring the pressure down.
Another maintenance item I perform during de-winterization is the cleaning and inspecting the back of the absorption refrigerator. Remove the exterior vent and you will see the LP supply line, spark ignitor, burner tube, and cooling unit. Use an air compressor and blow off all the dust and clean the soot that forms in the burner assembly and flue. Make sure you have safety glasses as this can be a mess!
If your rig has a refrigerator vent on the roof, remove the cap and make sure the rectangular vent with a screen covering it is clean so it does not restrict the hot air from venting out.
Then I use a dollar bill and place it between the refrigerator door and cabinet, close the door and see what type of resistance I get. If the dollar pulls out easily, your door is not getting a good seal and warm moist air can get inside and cause excessive frosting or insufficient cooling. It’s not uncommon for the door to settle while banging it down the road and might need to be adjusted or shimmed.
Make a checklist
Just like your pre-departure checklist, it is a good idea to customize one for your rig to bring it out in the spring and not leave anything to memory. Conducting a thorough inspection and proper maintenance can help reduce failures and deterioration of materials down the road.
About the author: Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles authored an RV handbook reference guide, and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
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