Read these 49 Maintenance and Repairs Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about RV tips and hundreds of other topics.
Your RV dealer will be glad to sell you RV/Marine type toilet paper 'specially' made for your waste tanks. Usually this is more expensive than regular toilet paper and may not be needed. To check if your TP is OK to use in your RV, put one square of it in a glass of water. It should begin to dissolve quickly. If it does it is OK. Look for toilet paper in the store that says it is OK for all septic systems. Usually the cheapy TP is the best.
If your black tank has solid deposits in the bottom, it diminshes the total capacity of the tank (and smells even worse than usual!) Before going to the RV specialist to have the tank removed and cleaned, try this:
Dump a 5 lb bag of CRUSHED ice down the toilet. Add a little bit of water and go for a drive. The ice will act as an abrasive and may save you a costly tank removal!
Do you get a REALLY bad sewer smell after the RV sits for a time? It may be possible that the toilet valve doesn't seal completely letting sewer gasses escape the tank. To test for this problem, fill the bowl with water and let it sit. If the water drains out the valve is not sealing completely. One way to solve this problem is to put a light coating of waterproof grease or Vaseline on the seal.
If you will be Boondocking for an extended time and are worried about needing to recharge your batteries, invest in an automotive battery charger. Trying to recharge your battery from the generator or RV motor is slow and possibly harmful to your batteries. The generator (if it is wired to charge the battery) is very slow. They usually do not have any means to stop charging one the battery is full and can boil a battery dry rendering it useless. Using the RV motor is not very efficient. The best way is to run the generator and plug your battery charger into an RV electrical outlet. The charger is designed to bring a battery up to full charge and then trickle charge to top off the battery but not boil it dry.
To keep your fresh water hose clean you can do the following:
First shut off the fresh water. Next loosen the hose at the fresh water spigot. Now remove the hose from the RV and coil it up, being careful not to let the end hit the ground. As you coil it, keep the hose above the fresh water spigot end and any water remaining should drain out. This will leave the hose mostly free of water. Finally, screw both ends of the hose together to keep debris from entering you drinking water.
What basic tools should you bring in your RV?
Complete socket set - get 6 point if possible.
Get these in Standard as most RVs will be, but do be prepared for Metric
Slot and Phillips screw drivers
Adjustable (Crescent) Wrench
Water pump pliers (also know as slip-joint)
BFH (Big Friggen' Hammer)
Lug Wrench (you'd be suprised!)
To clean out the fresh water system follow these steps:
1. Fill the water tanks 1/2 full.
2. Add a solution of 1/4 cup bleach and 1 gallon water for every 15 gallons tank capacity
3. Open all the faucets until the all air has been removed from the system and the solution has filled the water system.
4. Let the unit sit for 3-5 hours.
5. Drain the water system and refill with fresh water.
6. Run the fresh water through all faucets and drain the system again.
Leave the system empty and drain to prevent the build-up of microorganisms. This will also prevent pipes bursting if the weather freezes.
If you will not be using your RV for any length of time, disconnect the battery. Your RV has many systems that draw a small amount of current all the time. Things like your propane leak detector, tank monitors or digital clocks will draw enough current to drain you house batteries if you are not pluged in.
One of the most dangerous things that can happen while you are traveling is to have your gas tank spring a leak. Sometimes this can happen if road debris hit the tank or, more often, the RV gets bottomed out and a small hole is scraped into the tank. Not only do you have a mess on your hands, but you also have a flammable liquid dripping from your RV.
One quick way to fix such a minor leak is to take a bar of hand soap and rub it over the hole. The soap will react with the gasoline and form a kind of cement. Of course this is a temporary fix, but it should help you get to a service station.
To prevent damage to your RV water system from freezing weather, completely drain the system. You can do this by turning off the water pump and opening ALL the water faucets, hot and cold. Next, open the low point drain valves. Leave the faucets and valves open to allow all the water to drain.
Occasionally the coolant lines on your automatic transmission will leak. This is usually caused by the metal lines coming loose and rubbing against something. To fix a leak on these lines you can quickly and easily cut the line to remove the damaged area and splice the pieces together with rubber tubing (you do carry it in your emergency supplies, right?) and hose clamps.
If your water heater starts 'leaking' from the pressure relief valve you try two things to stop it. A. Very carefully lift the manual lever on the valve and let it sit back. This may reseat the gasket (USE CAUTION - THE WATER IS HOT!!).
B. You may also need to restore the air gap in the water heater.
To do this the unit MUST be off and cool.
1. Turn off the water pump or city water supply and open hot faucet in the RV.
2. Next open the drain on the water heater and let all the water drain out.
3. Close the faucet and with the pressure relief valve OPEN, turn on the water pump. Let the water heater fill until water just starts coming out of the valve. 4. Close the valve and restart the water heater.
I found this interesting...
Posted on a news group was a question of why an air conditioner was leaking on the INSIDE of the RV. Several of us replied that the unit must have a bad seal since the condensation should drain onto the roof. As it turns out, someone had run a bead of caulking around the outside of the AC unit to prevent water from dripping onto the roof. In the process, they blocked the drain holes and the water had nowhere to go but in.
So remember, your roof AC unit should drain water onto the roof. Don't try and seal it there or you defeat the design of the unit.
When adding chemicals to your waste tanks, be careful not to use any product that has formaldehyde. In order for your tanks to work properly they need to have bacteria in them to help dissolve the waste. Formaldehyde kills these beneficial bacteria. It is also detrimental to the septic systems that you dump your tanks into. If a park septic tank is contaminated with too much formaldehyde due to campers dumping their tanks the park owners may be forced to have the tank pumped and cleaned; a very expensive operation.
When draining the waste tanks, always drain the black (toilet) tank first. When it is done close the valve and drain the gray (sink and shower) tank. This will clean out the black water from the hose. You will still need to rinse the hose with fresh water, but you won't be dealing with the black water!!
I looked under my RV the other day and was surprised to see how flimsy the hold-downs from my waste tanks were. Running under the length of the tanks were 3/4" square tubing. This tubing was attached to the RV chassis with just a thin metal strap. It occurred to me that it wouldn't take much for this to come apart. My solution was to get some 'plumbers tape' (this is the thin metal with holes in it that is in a roll) to store for use in emergencies. If needed, this could be used to reattach a tank strap that has come loose. It could also be used for other repairs as well. It would probably work to re-secure a muffler that has come loose. It is strong and can easily be doubled over for more thickness.
Buy an electrical system tester for use in your RV. Any RV/Marine supply store will carry them. These are small devices that plug into an electric outlet. They verify correct wiring and grounding of the outlet. Before you plug in your RV, check the site outlet. Then leave the device plugged into one of the RV outlets where you can see it.
Your RV carries a lot of weight! The tires are made to handle this weight, provided it doesn't exceed manufacturer specs. The pressure on the side wall of the tire is the MAX that should ever be put in the tire. The correct pressure will be in the owner's manual or on a plate on a door jamb or somewhere in the RV. Make sure to inflate tires to the correct pressure based on the weight the RV is carrying. Pay attention to the front and back pressure as they are often different.
What spare parts should I bring with me?
Spare Fan Belts
Spare Upper/Lower Radiator Hose
2-3 Feet of Heater Hose
Spark Plug wires (at least one)
Distributor Cap and Rotor
Oil (Enough to do a complete change) and Oil Filter
Make sure the fluid level in your RV coach and house batteries is correct. You should check it at least once a week during usage and monthly during storage. The proper level is just above the metal plates in side. If the level gets to low, the plates react with the air and corrosion begins. If the level is low, add just enough distilled water to bring the level above the plates.
Your RV generator requires maintenance just like any engine. One of the tasks you must perform is to change the oil. You should refer to your owner's manual for exact procedures, but general you can follow these steps:
1. Run the generator to bring it to operating temperature.
2. Locate the oil fill cap and remove it.
3. Locate the oil drain/valve and remove/open it. Make sure to collect the oil in a suitable container and dispose of it properly.
4. After the oil is done draining, reinstall the oil drain/valve and reinstall/close it.
5. Locate the oil filter and remove it. (Remember to put a container or some disposable rags down to catch any drips. Dispose of the oil filter properly.)
6. Put a light film of oil on the new oil filter gasket and install it. Usually turning the filter and additional 1/2 turn after the gasket touches the base is sufficient, but check you owner's manual for exact specs.
7. Add oil to the full level on the dipstick. Start the generator and check for leaks.
The rear end gears of your RV take a lot of abuse. In order to keep them running properly the fluid must be maintained. Refer to your owner's manual for exact procedures but generally you can check the fluid with the following steps:
1. Level the RV, put the trans in park and block the wheels.
2. Locate the differential check plug. On Fords and Chevys it is usually a 3/8" square plug on the front side of the housing.
3. Remove the plug and verify the level is correct- (refer to the owner's manual) usually about 1/4" below the bottom of the check hole.
4. Top off the fluid as needed with the correct type.
5. REINSTALL THE CHECK PLUG!!
A ruptured radiator hose can certainly bring your trip to a halt. Most auto parts stores will carry an emergency repair kit that consists of a plastic splice and two hose clamps. To use this kit just cut the hose at the rupture, insert the splice and secure with the hose clamps. Refill the radiator and head to a shop to get a new hose!
If you notice coolant dripping in the cab of the RV, usually on the passenger side, you probably have a heater core leak. The heater core is like a small radiator. Engine coolant is circulated through it and the heat is used to warm the cab. To stop the leak until the heater core can be repaired, follow these steps:
1. Disconnect the battery and let the engine cool.
2. Locate the heater hoses. These are usually 3/4" rubber hoses passing through the firewall and ending at the engine block or water heater. (DO NOT CONFUSE THESE WITH THE STIFFER AIR CONDITIONING HOSES THAT GO TO THE AC COMPRESSOR!!!)
3. Locate the engine sides of both hoses and disconnect.
4. Using one of the hoses, by pass the heater core by connecting from one outlet on the engine to the other directly.
5. Refill the coolant and check for leaks
By doing this you have simply by passed the heater core and the coolant goes out of the engine and then right back in. You will have no cab heat, but you will be able to get to a shop for repairs.
You paid for it. USE IT. Your generator is made to be used. In fact, it NEEDS to be used to keep it working at it best. At least once a month you need to run it and let it get to full operating temperature.
When you run your generator be aware of the following:
1. Never start the generator with a load on it (make sure all appliances are turned off).
2. Let the generator run for 5-10 minutes before applying a load.
3. Even if you only start it to run the microwave for a minute or two, let the generator run for 15-20 minutes so that the engine gets warm.
To drain your fresh water tank, locate the drain valve. This is usually located outside the rig near the water tank. Open this valve and let the tank drain until empty (you can remove the fill cap to let air enter and speed things up a bit). If the tank has no drain valve you will need to empty it by running the water out of a faucet. If you do this make sure that you do not let the water pump run dry. Make sure to close the tank drain valve when done so that no foreign objects can enter the water system.
If your coach does not have a battery disconnect switch you should install one. These switches go on the house battery and disconnect it from all the house accessories. You can buy them at any RV store and most auto parts stores. Get a good high quality switch that can handle the max current draw of your RV. When you are not using the RV use the switch to disconnect the battery and prevent it from being drained.
If you notice a decrease in gas mileage there are several things you can do. The first is to check is the air filter. This is probably the easiest thing and can give dramatic results. Each coach has a different design so I won't go into to how to change it. But remember, your rig operates under the Severe Service category of your operator's manual, so maintenance should be done accordingly. Also, you cannot tell the condition of the air filter by holding it up to a light. This used to work OK on the old circular filters, but with the new panel type it doesn't. Do not 'blow out' the air cleaner in an attempt to extend its life. This can tear tiny holes in the filter material rendering it useless. Try tapping it squarely or dropping straight down to get loose material off. This does nothing to remove the embedded particles, but will help some.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) is a safety feature that should be installed in your RV and checked regularly. You can tell if you have a GFCI system in your RV by the special A/C outlet that is used. Between the two plugs on the outlet will be two buttons; one marked RESET and one marked TEST. GFCI outlets work by sensing the large current draw that would result from an electrical short to ground and tripping the built-in breaker. You should test the system at least monthly by pressing the TEST button. If the system is functioning the RESET button will immediately pop out. If it does, press it back in and feel safe. If it does not, stop using the electrical system until you have a qualified electrician look at it.
Did you know that every 10-degree rise in transmission temperature above 200 degrees cuts transmission fluid life in half?
To combat high temps make sure the fluid level is always correct. You should refer to your owner's manual for exact procedures, but generally check the fluid level when it is hot. Run the transmission through all gears and set it in Park. Check the level with the motor on. It should be between the low and high marks. Do not over-fill.
Secondly, if you don't have a transmission cooler install one!
OK, so you have a break down. The very first thing you need to do is get the vehicle off the road to a safe place and RELAX. Have a cold drink out of the fridge; take a nap if you need. Next is diagnosing the problem. Think about what happened; did the motor just quit? Will the engine crank? Did any warning lights come on first? Was it a noise that caused you to stop? Is the noise there if the RV is not moving?
Now look at the RV. If you had a noise that is only there when you are moving, check the drive line; look at the drive shaft, u-joints and tires. If the motor quit, check the oil and coolant level. Look for loose spark plug or battery wires. Remember, a motor only need fuel, spark and timing to run. Trouble shoot these three sections to find the problem. If you can't get it fixed, remember that you will at least be comfortable till help arrives.
But most of all: DON'T PANIC!
Do you know what a PCV valve is?
PCV, or Positive Crankcase Ventalation, valve controls the pressure that builds up in your engine. If it clogs, you can get leaks. If it wears out, you get excess crankcase vapors (oil vapors, blow-by) mixed in with the air and fuel in the intake system.
The PCV valve sits on the valve cover on a Chevy V-8 and ususally on the back of the intake manifold on a Ford. Changing one is very easy, once you find it. Simply pull the valve out of its socket, disconnect it from the vacuum line and install the new one.
Most manufacturers recommend this be changed evey year or 12-15 thousand miles.
One old trick for fixing a small radiator leak is to drop a couple whole peppercorns into the radiator. The pepper will expand in the hot coolant and may be drawn to the leak by the pressure of fluid leaking out and my seal the hole. This doesn't always help but it is worth a shot so you don't get stranded somewhere.
In order to tow a Honda vehicle with an automatic transmission, Honda recommends some very specific steps. In order to tow this vehicle, the transmission must be put in Neutral. However, what is omitted from some instructions is the fact that the vehicle must be running and the lever moved from a forward gear into neutral and then the engine shut off. Failure to do this may cause the transmission to be starved for lubrication and thus fail!