RV Maintenance Tips
When we first moved into our RV, we did our best to figure out how to care for it and keep it in good shape. But the truth is we originally had no idea what we were doing! After nearly 3 years on the road, we’ve finally started to figure out this beast. We are by no means the RVing experts, but we have learned a few lessons about taking care of our RV.
Here’s a few things we’ve learned in our 3 years RVing full-time:
1. Wash when you can
Living in an RV full-time can really be a pain when trying to keep up with maintenance because most RV parks won’t allow you to wash your RV. Whether it’s for water usage or for maintaining their sites, a lot of times it will be right there on the welcome brochure: no washing RVs.
Since moving back into our Silver Lake last summer, we have had very little luck with finding RV wash-friendly parks. And our poor RV had been through numerous rainstorms and even a dust storm since its last wash! So we knew that we needed to make sure we got the RV washed and cleaned again while we had the opportunity. Thanks to Tyler’s hard work (and long reach) our RV is shiny and clean again!
We have yet to try an RV detailing service – this is something we would like to try in the future, but when we have tried so far, our appointments have been canceled. There are also pull-through RV washes that may be good to try, but we haven’t found one on a travel day where we feel like adding an RV wash onto an already long day!
2. Change that dang anode rod
This is one of the maintenance tips we learned the hard way. Somehow this little piece of maintenance got past us and we didn’t change our anode rod in our hot water tank for way too long! We finally changed it and discovered that the rod was nearly completely disintegrated and there was a ton of scale buildup just sitting at the bottom of the tank.
We gave our hot water tank some extra love with a vinegar soak and a manual cleaning of the bottom of the tank, but we are still struggling to get rid of that typical RV hot water tank sulfur smell. So take it from us, change that anode rod early! Especially when you first move into your RV – that anode rod from the manufacturer is likely not going to last very long, particularly for a full-timer.
3. Get a dehumidifier
We took a little while to get on board with the whole dehumidifier thing – I mean who wants to buy and hold onto a dehumidifier in an already tiny living space? But from what we’ve heard, the main cause of RV deaths is humidity. And when you spend spring and summer in the midwest like we tend to, it gets VERY humid.
Since getting our dehumidifier, we are able to dry our RV’s interior out thoroughly during those rainy spells, and when we look at how much water goes into the dehumidifier’s holding tank instead of into the walls and floor of the RV, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not beneficial!
4. Get on the roof
Getting on the roof is definitely easier said than done, especially in an RV like ours without a walkable roof or attached ladder. However, over the past few months we have discovered just how important it is! All kinds of things can happen up on the roof without us even knowing it – mainly a massive accumulation of sticks and leaves, which can get stuck in the slide seals and cause problems. A few months ago, we noticed that from time to time we would have a leak when it was raining, and always under the slides.
Eventually Tyler decided to get his way up onto the roof (involving some acrobatics and careful walking once he was up there), and he discovered that our slide seals were sometimes getting folded in areas instead of flipping all the way out. By getting up on the roof and sweeping the debris away from the tops of the slides, Tyler has been able to help our slide seals go through their full range of motion, and because of that, we have been able to protect our RV against leaks in the rain.
5. Do the little things often (especially when you move)
Some maintenance tasks are quick and easy, and it can still be difficult to do as often as we should. However, the more often we can do these small tasks, the less likely we will have bigger problems we have to fix later. This is not a new concept, so I won’t go into too much detail. But here are the things we try to do often (especially when we move):
- Rustoleum: Rust is an inevitable part of owning and living in an RV, the battle is all about fighting back to slow the progress. The more often we can slow the oxidation process, the better!
- Slide maintenance: every few months, we will use slide treatment on the rubber seals and clean and grease the slide gears. Moving parts are always the most fragile, so we try to take really good care of our slides.
- Tires: Another surprisingly difficult part of RV maintenance is keeping the air in the tires topped off. Finding an RV site where we have the room to get the truck close enough to the RV tires to use the tire pressure filler is what makes it difficult! Similar to washing the RV, we just try to do this whenever we have the opportunity
- Clean Filters: Inside the RV needs maintenance, too! Aside from the basics of keeping sinks and counters clean, sweeping, etc., filters are the thing that we try to clean every month. We’ve noticed that especially the AC filter can start to smell stale if we let it go too long, so we have made a habit of cleaning the AC filter, stove top filter, dehumidifier filter, and the filter to our portable heater every month. Just a little soap and warm water seems to do the trick! (And we will replace the AC filter every few months to a year)
6. Do it yourself
When you live in an RV, things will break. And it’s also likely that things will not be installed quite right even when you buy a brand new RV. It’s definitely a pain to have to find and fix these problems, but we have started to see them as an opportunity to get to know our RV better. Lately, we have changed the anode rod & cleaned our hot water tank. This first time, we felt a little unsure and had to learn a bit as we went, but now we can easily perform that task as routine maintenance every few months. We’ve also changed our door latch when that broke (much cheaper and cost effective than finding somebody to fix it for us), and now that it’s starting to get a little sticky again, we know we can handle exactly what needs to happen if we need to replace it again.
The best example of getting to know our RV better was when we had to fix an issue with our fresh water tank fill. We had no idea what was wrong, but our fresh water tank was only holding about half of its capacity. We had to remove panels and even the underbelly of our RV to find the root of the problem: a kink in the vent hose. We got to not only replace the vent hose and get our fresh tank working properly, we also got to see the inner workings of our RV. So now we know not only exactly how the fresh water system works, but we could also see a little bit into some of the other workings of the RV. The better we get to know our RV, the better we can understand and diagnose future issues.
7. Sh*t happens
We’ve taken relatively good care of our RV (okay, we’re not perfect and we learned a lot along the way), but still there are things that go wrong. There are stains on the outside, and we’ve got a couple nicks in the floor, which is the most frustrating imperfection because we have diligently swept the floors every time we put the slides in. Nothing will keep your RV in perfect condition. RVs are built to be light and towable over being solid and heavy, and that towing and full-time living in it will take its toll. However, our RV is still going strong even if it has a few dings on it, and I like to think that we helped it stay in that good shape.
Tyler & Andrea
We travel the country full-time in our RV, making documentaries and podcasts about our life. We are the ultimate adult beginners. From RVing full-time to cooking to some of our newer interests like bow hunting and jiu-jitsu, nearly everything we do we discovered as adults. Being an adult beginner is surprisingly challenging, and at times we really do feel like we don’t know anything! But if there’s one thing we know in the Hixson household, it’s that we want our lives to be wild, free, and lived intentionally. If something looks difficult or intimidating, it’s probably worth doing. And there’s no better time to start than now.
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