RV Roof Care & Maintenance

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One of the most neglected areas on your RV is the roof, out of site out of mind. The problem is if you don’t keep the roof clean and inspect the roof seams on a regular basis you could end up with, expensive to repair, water damage. Most RVs built today use a rubber roofing material. If you want to get a long life out of your RV roof here are some things you can do.

Safety first! Be extremely careful whenever you are working on your RV roof. You can be seriously injured from a fall. You have to get on the roof of your RV to properly clean and inspect it for any damage or potential water leaks. The first step is the ladder you use to get up on the roof. If your RV does not have a ladder on the back to access the roof it is probably not designed to be walked on. In this situation, it may be necessary to use a couple pieces of plywood or particleboard to help distribute your weight. Many RV manufacturers have an option called roof rack and ladder ready. If the RV dealer orders this option the roof is built with a heavier roof decking. Even so, you need to walk lightly when you’re on the roof and be careful.

Rubber roofing on an RV is a great product, but like everything else without routine preventive maintenance it will not last as long as it could. First of all there are different types of rubber roofs. Different manufacturers provide different instructions with their product. What we want to concentrate on today is what applies to all rubber roofs used on RVs.

Caution: There are other types of RV roofing material used like fiberglass, aluminum and vinyl. READ your roof manufacturers instructions for proper cleaning and sealing techniques to prevent damage to your roof and possibly void your warranty.

Rubber roofs should be cleaned three to four times a year and depending on where you park or store your RV it may need to be cleaned more often. Regardless of the type of rubber roof you have, NEVER use any cleaners or conditioners that contain petroleum solvents, harsh abrasives, or citrus ingredients. These types of cleaners can cause permanent damage to any rubber or vinyl surface. Most manufacturers of rubber roofs recommend you use a medium bristle brush and a non-abrasive cleaner. For light cleaning you can use warm water and a mild detergent like Dawn dish washing liquid. To clean, condition and protect the roof I use B.E.S.T Rubber Roof cleaner and protectant. Hard to clean areas like stubborn stains caused by leaves, sap, mold or mildew may require a second treatment. Use caution to prevent the cleaners from getting on the sides of the RV. ALWAYS rinse the sides, front and back of your RV before rinsing the roof to prevent streaking or damage to the finish on your RV.

Cleaning the roof is only part of maintaining it. Every time you clean the roof you need to inspect the sealants around all of the openings and the seams on the roof. Water will take the path of least resistance and if there is the smallest opening it will find it. You need to thoroughly inspect the roof sealants for potential leaks and reseal any areas of the roof seams and around openings where you suspect a leak. Caution: Check with your RV dealer for sealants that are compatible with your roofing material.

Cleaning, inspecting and sealing your RV roof can add years to the life of the roof and help prevent costly repairs caused by water damage.

Happy Camping!

Follow routine maintenance

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For the engine compartment, periodically check stud nuts around the carburetor and on the manifold for tightness. Make sure the carburetor is clean and the linkage pivot points are lubricated and free moving. Check all bolts and screws around the fuel pump and its lines for tightness. Drive belts on the fan and alternator, air conditioning and power steering must have the proper tension and not be damaged. Keep the air cleaner and fuel filter clean. Oil level and condition is critical on RV engines, so change it and the oil filter regularly. Watch for leaks around filter, oil pan and rocker arm covers.

The cooling system ranks with the oil in importance. To keep rust and scale from building up, thoroughly flush and drain the system at least every two years, refilling it with a good glycol-base coolant with a rust inhibitor. The radiator, radiator hoses and water pump must be checked for leaks and loose connections. Make sure hoses are firm; soft or cracked ones may blow under pressure.

A clean battery with tight connections, good electrolyte level and no corrosion will be dependable. Dust and caked-on dirt can harm the alternator, generator or even the distributor, so they must be thoroughly cleaned. All engine wiring must be in a position where jouncing from rough terrain or engine movement won’t cause chafing. Also, engine heat can melt insulation on electrical wiring, so make sure wiring is out of the way.

The fluid level in automatic transmissions is critical. Check it regularly. Automatic transmission fluid is usually red; when it looks brownish, it needs changing because it’s either dirty or has been burned through overheating. Inspect shift linkage for security, too.

Off-road driving is rough on chassis parts; shock absorbers, even heavy-duty ones, won’t last as long. Check their condition more frequently than you would on a car. Proper wheel alignment is necessary for good handling but is hard to maintain if you drive on rough roads. Check for bent tie rods and links. Front and rear wheel bearings should be inspected if the vehicle is used off road or the wheels are frequently submerged in water. Inspect for rust and corrosion on brake linings, too.

Tires and wheels are your only contact with the road when you’re under way, so they demand attention for safety as well as handling. Check rims for dents, lug nuts for tightness and tires for uneven tread wear, abrasions and proper inflation pressures. All wiring for external lights should get a complete checkup for tightness of connections, breaks and other potential malfunctions.

When you check over the engine compartment and chassis of your recreational vehicle, remember the two major troublemakers: dirt and vibration. Dust collected on back roads combines with moisture and packs the smallest crevice. Jolts from bumps and potholes are transmitted throughout the chassis and engine, gradually loosening everything that can turn. Routine maintenance should include cleaning and tightening.

Check life-support systems

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Recreational vehicles usually contain one or more life-supporting systems, such as water, gas and waste disposal. Check these regularly, too. Water systems need only to be drained periodically and flushed with fresh water. You can remove stale taste in the system by adding a mild baking soda solution to the flush. All you need do for the disposal system is to drain as required; for any complications, call a plumber. Propane gas systems for heat and cooking are usually maintenance free; just keep burner heads clean. All three of these systems do require occasional tightening of fittings. Check propane gas lines for leaks at connections by brushing on a mild soap solution and noting the location of bubbles. Never check with a lighted match!

Most motor homes have a 12-volt auxiliary lighting system that draws power from a second battery. Give it the attention you give your engine electrical system battery and you shouldn’t have any trouble. If your unit also has a 11 a-volt alternating current system for appliances, it will draw power from a separate generator that runs on gasoline from the main fuel system. Service this small engine regularly, too.

How to Put Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) in a Truck

In many dry camping campgrounds where there are water spigots available but no water hookups at the campsites, the water spigots don’t have threads. We’ve found a water bandit makes it possible to thread our water hose onto the spigot so we can fill up with water easily.

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In cases where we get water hookups and leave the water hose connected to the trailer, we screw a 90 degree elbow onto the trailer so the hose can hang straight down rather than come out of the our city water connection horizontally and then droop down towards the ground, putting pressure on the connection and potentially causing drips. We discovered this nifty little elbow when we lived on our boat in a marina before our cruise.

In addition, a water pressure regulator keeps the water pressure down to a level inside the rig that prevents any unexpected damage or leaks. A quick release makes it easy to connect and disconnect the fresh water hose. Mark also keeps a Y valve in his water hose arsenal. This is handy if the rig is connected to city water and we want to fill pails with water for washing the truck, or if an RV dump station has only one water spigot and we want to fill our fresh water tanks and run the black water flush at the same time.

Lots of folks like to attach a water filter as well. We used various filters at first, but no longer use any, although we periodically add a cap full of bleach to the fresh water tank. When we got a new fresh water tank, we were surprised that there was no sludge of any kind inside the old tank, even after 7 years of use.

RV Patio Mats

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A beautiful patio mat extends your living space and defines your outdoor area in an elegant way, and we love ours.

But they can be pricey if you’re just getting started with weekend RVing. An alternative is to get some green indoor/outdoor carpeting. We had this with our popup tent trailer, and it fit the bill perfectly (and our friends who now own our popup still use it!).

Cleaning the RV

No matter where we park, the slide roofs need attention before we bring them in. Either they are dusty, in the desert, or they are covered with twigs and leaves, in the woods, or they are wet from rain. Slide toppers might help with this, although I have heard that they tend to make noise in high winds, sag over time, and sometimes end up with leaves and twigs trapped underneath.

Mark has a long handled squeegee he uses to get the water off, a broom for the leaves and branches, and a California Duster and/or broom for the dust. Getting up on the roof is also useful for checking out all the rooftop items like hatches, TV antenna, solar panels and wiring. His favorite cleaning tool for all this is a telescoping scrub brush that we used for cleaning our boat.

He just loves this soft bristled brush. Murphy’s Oil Soap mixed with water is a good solution to wash the roof. To get rid of black scuff marks on the outside of the rig, he uses Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges.

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Cordless Drill for Easy Jack Setup

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We don’t have electric stabilizer jacks on our fifth wheel trailer (nor did we on our travel trailer). However, we use an 18 volt cordless drill, and it’s very easy.

We use the following setup to crank the scissor jacks:

  • 18 volt cordless drill and battery pack
  • 1/4″ Hex to 3/8″ Socket Adapter
  • 8″ socket extension
  • 3/4″ socket with 3/8″ drive

We keep the 1/4″ Hex to 3/8″ Socket Adapter in the drill. Mark glued the extension and 3/4″ socket together with JB Weld, making it ultra easy to grab the extension, jam it in the drill and go.

This setup worked on both the four stab-jacks on our travel trailer and the two rear scissor jacks on our fifth wheel. We keep the drill right inside a basement hatch door so it’s easy to find during both setup and breakdown of the trailer.

Camco makes a special Leveling Scissors Jack Socket that replaces those three pieces, but there is no 8″ extension. Personally, I like the long extension because you don’t have to crawl in so far to make contact with the scissor jacks.

Last year we bought a Rigid drill kit which includes a regular 18 volt drill, an impact driver (awesome for the lug nuts when changing a tire) and a radio as well as two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and a charger.

After going through three different 18 volt drills during our years of RVing and sailing, we’ve been really impressed with this Rigid kit. The Lithium-Ion battery charges up in about 15-20 minutes and it’s good for a really long time.

The kit comes with two batteries, so we use one for the drill and one for the radio. And what a hoot it is to have a portable radio. In this day and age of slick electronics, we’ve gotten such a kick out of this thing…

What Is Level and How Do You Know?

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Determining what constitutes “level” inside an imperfectly constructed RV is an interesting trick. We used a carpenter’s level on our kitchen floor, in several directions, and on our table, and on the bedroom floor. Of course, none agreed! But we found a good compromise and then mounted some RV levels on the outside of the rig to give us a reasonable guess when we’re setting up.

There are two different types of levels: Bubble Levels that have an air bubble that floats to the high side, and Ball Levels that have a ball that drops to the low side. Bubble levels are more responsive (the bubble moves more quickly as the RV moves). Ball levels take a few seconds to react. If you use both types, you can get confused because they move in opposite directions.

We have a large Level Master level on the fifth wheel pin box that is easy to see from inside the truck. We also have two small bubble levels on the trailer on the corner by the landing jack power button, one facing forward (for left to right leveling) and one facing sideways (for front to back leveling).

Our pin box mounted Level Master, a ball level, is easy to see from inside the truck. When the trailer is higher on one side than the other, the Level Master ball falls to the low side.

Our smaller levels on the front corner of the fifth wheel are bubble levels, so the one on the front of the rig showing the side-to-side level has a bubble that rises to the high side. This is the opposite of the ball level on the pin box, and sometimes, when we are struggling with white line fever from hours on the road, this messes us up.

I’d recommend sticking to either ball levels or bubble levels and not mixing and matching like we did! A good solution might be to mount a ball level like this on both the pin box and on the front of the trailer near the landing jack power button.

Why do you need two side-to-side levels? When I’m running around placing the boards in line with the wheels for Mark to drive onto, I want to see a level on the fiver easily myself, and the front of the pin box is impossible to see from the side of the truck when we’re hitched up.

However, lots of folks rely on a single pin box mounted level that has both side-to-side and forward-back levels in it. There are a few from Camco and Hopkins that are very popular.

Outdoor Recreational Vehicle Furniture

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Don’t forget outdoor recreational furniture when you’re stocking your RV for your first trip. Many RVers spend as much time outdoors relaxing as they do inside their RV, and you’ll need comfortable and durable outdoor recreational vehicle furniture if you want to be relaxed and in style outdoors. You can find a variety of comfortable and fun styles as well as a range of colors of outdoor recreational furniture.

As you shop for outdoor recreational furniture, you’ll find that your choices aren’t just limited to plastic chairs and tables. You’ll discover outdoor recliners, folding picnic sets, adjustable height tables, grill tables, and much more. Since you spend so much time outdoors when you travel in your RV, it pays to shop for the most comfortable and versatile outdoor recreational vehicle furniture you can find.