Getting Ready for Spring
Copyright - 1998 - Les Doll - All rights
From the Top Down
Roof inspection & maintenance tips (metal and
Spring is the time to get
out the step ladder and take a good look at the roof condition. The membrane
on a rubber roof is made of a very tough and durable material but it is
fairly thin and can be punctured by a sharp object. Yes, you can carefully
walk on the surface, however first check your shoes for embedded stones and
such, that could do damage to the roof covering before stomping around up
there. Underlying the rubber covering is usually a 3/16th to 1/2 inch plywood
or particle board sheeting that evenly supports your weight. If your roof is
metal, especially if it is the seamed type, (has crosswise seams every 48" or
so), then lay a plywood strip or some wide boards (lengthwise) to walk on.
This way the boards span the roof rafters and distribute your weight evenly
on several supports.
Closely inspect the roof
coat condition on every protruding fixture, any cracks or thin spots can be
touched up with the appropriate material. If the roof coat is peeling or
flaking in any way, then the old coating must be removed by scraping it off.
On metal roofs I use a 1" wide scraper with a firm blade, like the ones used
by auto technicians for scraping off old gaskets. For rubber roofs I made a
plastic scraper that won't cut the membrane. If you heat the old coating with
a hot air gun, it will come off fairly easily.
For metal roofs, use the
aluminum roof coat, available in gray or white, and brush it on about 1/8"
thick. Stir very thoroughly and apply on a warm day for the best results. For
rubber, use elastomeric roof coating that is safe for rubber roofs or the
special self leveling sealant sold at RV supply stores for this purpose.
Never use a petroleum based product on a rubber roof as damage to the rubber
membrane will result. Also, while silicone chalking has a place in the RV, it
has no place on the roof. Silicone will not stick well and may damage the
rubber, and on a metal roof it will adhere to some places and not others
causing pockets that will trap water.
Tires, wheel bearing, suspension &
Spring is the time to
examine the RV tires closely, looking for cuts or other visible damage on
both sides of the sidewall. Inflate the tire to the proper pressure and
inspect closely for sun-checking damage. This refers to the small cracks that
occur due to constant exposure to the sun and other weathering agents. Check
the tread for uneven wear on one side or the other and for other
irregularities in the wear pattern that would indicate a possible alignment
or wheel balance problem.
You can check for excess
wheel bearing play by first jacking the wheel off the ground, then, facing
the wheel, grasp it from both sides and check for in and out
It's normal for the wheel
to move slightly, maybe up to 1/8" or so, but more than that is excessive.
Because of the intermittent use and long periods of storage, wheel bearings
on a trailer should be inspected and repacked with grease on a yearly basis.
You can check the brakes on this wheel for operation by pulling the breakaway
pin on the hitch (you must have a charged battery hooked up). The brakes
should apply firmly and you will not be able to rotate the wheel by hand once
the brakes engage. The condition of the brake linings and the brake magnet
should also be checked on a yearly basis for wear and heat damage. As this
involves pulling the wheel bearings, unless you are a mechanical type, this
job is better left to the professionals.
Visually inspect the
suspension components for looseness, bent or broken parts and other obvious
problems. The suspension system utilizes nylon bushing in all the joints that
will wear out over the miles and should be replaced periodically. Any leakage
from the shock absorbers, if so equipped, indicates that they are due for
From The Inside Out
Propane system owner maintenance and leak
The propane system is the
most important and potentially deadly system in your RV. Propane is a very
safe and convenient fuel if all safety considerations are followed and many
regulations are in effect to enforce these safety measures. A simple leak
test can be preformed in a few minutes by a qualified RV Gasfitter, and the
cost is minimal. An effective "home" test can be done using an ordinary spray
bottle with a squirt or two of dish washing detergent mixed with water. Spray
this solution on each and every connection of your propane system, including
all the connections under the coach, all the connections to every appliance
and all the connections to your supply tanks and cylinders. ANY bubbles (of
any size) indicate that a leak is present and the system should be shut down
immediately. Propane is heavier than air .... that means that it will settle
to the lowest point that it can find ... and will collect there if a constant
leak is present. A mixture of 5 to 10 per cent, propane to air, needs only an
ignition source to explode with violent results. I must stress the point that
NO propane leak is tolerable.
The Water System
If you live in the colder
climes, where annual winterizing with RV antifreeze is required, you must
flush the system thoroughly before use to get rid of the antifreeze. While
this antifreeze is non-toxic it tastes really bad. Flush the water system by
following the steps below:
1. Fill your on board water tank 3/4 full and add one or two
capfuls (not cupfuls) of household bleach. Take the unit around the block to
slosh the mixture to all parts of the tank.
2. Turn on the water pump and open all taps one by one to
allow this solution to fill every water line and flush out the antifreeze.
Once this is done, let it sit overnight.
3. Connect to your city water and flush every outlet for at
least 5 mins. Now switch the water heater bypass to allow the water heater to
fill. This procedure will prevent the antifreeze from entering the hot water
system. While this is not a health problem, as such, the antifreeze will
produce a foaming condition that can persist for several days.
4. Drain your fresh water storage tank and refill with fresh
water. You can add a capful of bleach every time you fill the water tank to
keep it fresh and sanitary. However, due to the unknown quality of campground
water supplies, and the fact that the water in your tank may stand for
several days or weeks in the hot sun, it is recommended that you use bottled
water for drinking supplies.
5. Now is a good time to check the operation of your dump
valves. The slide mechanism should operate smoothly with no sticking and
should seal completely. Change any suspect valve before a problem develops.
There are not many things worse that encountering a stuck or broken sewage
dump valve, when the tanks are completely full.
From the Outside In
Clearance Light Fix-it's
One spring chore that
inevitably crops up, especially on aging RV's, is the clearance light
shuffle. You repair one light and then shuffle your ladder, tools and other
paraphernalia to the next one. The most common problem with clearance lights
is the corrosion that builds up over time on the electrical connections. Pop
off or unscrew the lenses, and clean up the connections on the bulbs and
their contacts with fine sandpaper. A good tool for this job is an emery
coated fingernail file. Sometimes the ground connection (the return path for
the electrical current) is supplied by the skin of the RV through the
clearance light mounting screw. If this screw is corroded or rusty, replace
it with a new one. If the screw is loose and cannot be tightened then
substitute a slightly larger one. Remember that the screws are usually just
penetrating the aluminum skin with no backing behind them so overtightening
them will strip out the hole. If this happens you can move the screws
slightly up or down to a fresh area as long as the light will still cover the
old holes. Once you have the light operational, spray all the connections
with WD40 or a similar product to help prevent future corrosion. Snap on the
lens and put a bead of silicone on the top and sides of the lens-to-mount
joint to prevent water penetration. Don't silicone the bottom joint as this
will plug up the drain holes and seal in moisture, turning the light fixture
into a mini-greenhouse.
Hitch and Wire Inspection
Check all mounting bolts
for tightness and lubricate any parts that require it. Spray the wiring plug
on the trailer and the socket on the tow vehicle with a product like WD-40 -
this will help clean out any build up of corrosion and will help prevent
further corrosion from happening.
Exterior (care and feeding)
The exterior can be washed
with any automotive type car wash detergent or with a few squirts of
dishwashing liquid in a five gallon bucket. Also the siding can be waxed with
a non-abrasive auto polish to brighten up the surface.
Battery Woes and Worries
If you have neglected your
battery through the winter months then the chances are that it is in a
severely discharged condition and therefore possibly damaged. A battery will
discharge slowly even when not being used and should be given a top up charge
about once a month when in storage. Bring the battery back up to a fully
charged state with a trickle charger on it for several days. When being
charged, a lead acid battery will emit hydrogen gas which is explosive, so
only charge in a well ventilated area and well away from any ignition source.
When unhooking the battery charger, first unplug the charger and then
disconnect the battery to prevent any disconnect sparking. Most battery
stores and RV service shops will be able to do a load test to determine the
battery capacity but the battery needs to be fully charged for this. Check
the water level in all cells and top up with distilled water only. Clean the
terminals with a wire brush and wipe off the case.
The awning is one of those
have-to-have accessories that at 3 am, with a howling wind , you wish you
didn't have. Who can remember the dozen or so steps required to lower the
thing under these conditions ? Have you ever awakened after that midsummer
overnight thunderstorm and your awning is sagging alarmingly. Have you ever
tried to empty the hundred or so gallons of water that has collected in that
sagging awning ? Trust me when I say that you don't need to go through that
"joy" of camping. The awning is designed as a sunshade, period. If, perhaps,
it starts to sprinkle a bit and also kicks up a mild breeze - don't worry -
your awning can handle that. But if those dark clouds are building on the
horizon and the birds are seeking shelter, then you really should consider
rolling up. And you really should consider rolling up,
NOW.Operating Your Awning Awning roll-out
- Release the travel locks on both awning arms.
- Switch the ratchet mechanism to roll out position with the
- Hook the pull strap with the awning rod and roll out the
- Slide the rafters up into position on the awning
- Tighten the rafter knobs on both rafters.
- Raise the awning to the desired height.
- Lower the awning arms to the rest position.
- Loosen the rafters knobs and release the rafter catches.
- Slide the rafters down to the rest position.
- Grasp the awning to prevent it from rolling up by itself.
- Switch the ratchet mechanism to the roll-up position
- Control the roll-up with the pull strap and awning rod.
- Secure the travel locks and snug up the rafter knobs.
Practice rolling up your
awning on a calm day until you have the procedure memorized. Then do the same
thing while blindfolded, with someone spraying a hose in your face. This will
simulate a typical emergency storm take-down. Except for the wind, of course.
For this simulation you will need three fairly burly guys, all yanking the
awning in a different direction at the same time. Once you have gone through
the preceding exercise, you will understand why the experienced camper will
take down the awning at the first sign of trouble.
After being rolled up and
possibly damp for several months your awning will appreciate a good airing
out and a bath with warm water and a mild detergent. Use a car wash type
brush to scrub the surface of both the top and the underside. A little WD-40
on the moving parts helps to free up and protect these components. Dry it
thoroughly before re-rolling it.
Lower one end of your open
awning to allow rainwater to drain off. Peg down the awning feet when the
awning is free standing so that a gust of wind will not flip over the awning.
Also, the awning may be straped down with the special awning straps available
at your local RV store. If you suspect a strong wind or storm is coming the
safest thing to do is roll up the awning.
Gizmo's & Gadgets
The new season is finally
here and the call of the open road is strong. It's time to head down to the
RV place to see what new goodies are on display. Solar panels are becoming
more and more popular for boondocking power needs and the new products are
becoming more affordable and efficient. Don't forget to pickup your black
water treatment chemicals and the RV toilet paper. Oh, also, remember those
burnt out light bulbs ? Replace them with the recommended bulbs to avoid
discoloring the plastic lenses. Check out some of the RV shows and try not to
drool too much.
Above all, enjoy the
season and happy camping !