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!

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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Leveling the Trailer

There are many methods for getting a trailer level, and hydraulic leveling is a blessing that takes all the excitement out of it. For those without hydraulic leveling, we found in our early years that with two 5′ lengths of 2″x8″ board and one 5′ length of 1″x8″ board we could always find a combination that worked to get the trailer level from side to side. A 5′ board is relatively easy to drive onto and provides a solid platform for the trailer’s wheels.

We store the boards in the bed of the pickup. When using two boards, we stagger them a few inches so the trailer is driven first onto one level and then up a step to the next. We have to remember to back up when coming off stacked boards or the upper one will tip up and hit the bottom of the trailer while driving off it (think of a sailor walking the plank).

If you don’t like the idea of hauling long boards around in your truck, there are nifty plastic leveling board kits (here’s another type) that are very popular.

We also use plastic wheel chocks whenever we park on a steep incline to prevent the trailer from rolling, especially while unhitching and hitching up.

Our friend Ken introduced us to using a sliced up horse stall mat rather than pine boards. We cut a 4’x6′ sheet of horse stall mat into five 1×5 strips and four 1×1 squares, and those have worked really well for us. They hold up to the elements really well and they roll along with the contour of whatever crazy surface we might park on. It is also possible to drive off of them either forwards or backwards because they don’t slap the underside of the trailer.

The only disadvantage is that they are much heavier than pine boards, but we can drag them around and they don’t disintegrate. We use the 1’x1′ squares under the landing legs and scissor jacks for cushioning.

We also have four large blocks made of three 1′ lengths of 2″x8″ boards screwed together. We put handles on the ends to make them easy to lug around. In a really unlevel site in the Smoky Mountains we had to stack them on top of each other AND extend the jack legs all the way!

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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…

Hitching and Unhitching a Fifth Wheel Trailer

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Some folks drive their RVs solo, and although I can’t say much about hitching and unhitching a motorhome and car combo, our good friend Bob has found a great way to hitch and unhitch a fifth wheel trailer solo. He marked the front landing leg that’s near the extend/retract button at regular intervals all the way up and down the leg.

Then he numbered each hash mark. He keeps a pad and pen in the hatch near the landing legs button. When unhitching, once he’s raised the trailer to where he can drive the truck out from under it, he jots down the hash mark number that is visible on the leg. Then he drives out, parks, and returns to the trailer and raises or lowers the landing legs as necessary to get the trailer level.

When he hitches up again to leave, he adjusts the trailer height to the exact position where he unhitched. That way, when he gets in the truck to hitch up, he knows the trailer will be at the correct height as he backs the truck up into the hitch pin (and he doesn’t have to get in and out of the truck several times to check and adjust the height of the trailer).

We marked our landing legs at 1.5″ intervals and have not numbered them. There are only 6 hash marks, and I make a mental note of what mark we were at when we unhitched. Frequently, by the time we leave, I’ve forgotten where we were at before we leveled the trailer, but I’ve developed a good eye for knowing how much to raise or lower the rig as Mark backs the truck towards the trailer.

We also marked the centerline of the fifth wheel pin box and pin plate so it is easy for Mark to line up the hitch with the pin box and king pin when he is backing the truck into the trailer.

Tire Repair Or Replacement

Even the most cautious drivers can accidentally drive over a nail, screw or glass. If a tire loses all or most of its air pressure, you should take your vehicle to a Camping World Service Center. Punctures don’t just affect the
surface of the tire, they affect the inside as well. That’s why only trained technicians using industry-approved methods and materials should inspect and repair, or replace a tire.

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Mixing Tire Types
When you mix tires of different constructions, sizes and stage of treadwear, it can affect handling and performance. Goodyear recommends using the same size and type of tire on the same axle.

Wheels And Ratings
It’s important that tire and wheel ratings are compatible. For example, a tire rated at 3,000 pounds should never be mounted on a wheel rated at 2,000 pounds. Your Camping World Service Center can help you match tires and wheels for enhanced protection and performance.