In addition to checking your water systems, propane system, and electrical systems for safety and proper operation, the mechanical parts and structures should be checked not only after your RV has been in storage for a while, but periodically when in use, as well. Your RV manual should indicate how often these inspections and maintenance should be carried out. From your manual you can make an RV checklist tailored to your RV's mechanical safety requirements.
RV Mechanical Systems in General
If you have a motorhome, you'll have to inspect the mechanics of both your engine and your generator (if you have one) in addition to all the mechanical parts common to trailers or fifth wheels.
Our Airstream manual specifies both a frequency as well as a mileage range for each of several categories of mechanical systems. While the specifications may be different for your RV, the list of items to check should be similar. Our list includes testing the following:
RV Safety Checks-Mechanical
- Escape window: Open it and make sure the latches and upper hinge function properly.
- Tires: Check for cracks in the tread or sidewalls, tread peeling away from the tire, missing chunks of tread, and depth of the tread. Also check to be sure your RV tire ratings meet or exceed the recommended rating for your RV. Finally, check the tire pressure in each. Check tire pressure when tires are cold. Rotate your tires per manufacturer recommendations.
- Spare tire: Check to be sure it is safe, inflated, proper size, and rating. Check the tire storage and lubricate moving parts.
- Hitch: Check your hitch thoroughly. Raise and lower it using both RV battery and tow vehicle power to be sure both work. If it's rusting, sand it down and paint it. Check your chains, emergency brake wire, power cord, pins and bolts. Are your blocks/foot intact? Is anything bent?
- Hitch ball latch: Check trailer hitch balls for damage and lubricate with non-detergent motor oil.
- Hitch ball: Check for damage. Apply lubricant.
- Tow plug: Clean using electrical contact cleaner.
- Levels: Check the condition of your levels and replace if cracked or broken. Most RV refrigerators won't work properly if the RV isn't just about level, so you will need functioning levels during your trip. Besides, you don't want anyone rolling out of bed.
- Trim: Check the trim, badges, plates, or other decorative elements around your RV. You don't want these things falling off or tearing off when you're traveling down the road.
- Awnings, steps, door latches, window latches: Make sure each secures snugly and won't open or come loose while you're traveling down the road. Lubricate hinges and moving parts.
- Door and hinge locks: Check to be sure you have enough keys and know which go to what. Lubricate locks with dry graphite if necessary.
- Hinges: Doors and storage hinges can be lubricated with light oil. Make sure they're intact, and that they latch securely.
- Propane (LPG) tanks and regulator: Be sure they are mounted securely, and that the regulator vent is unobstructed.
- Wheel lug bolts: Check that they are torqued to the ft. lbs. recommended in your RV manual.
- Brakes: Check brake pads and function. Replace worn pads, damaged drums, or parts.
- Wheel bearings: Check these or take them to a reputable RV repair shop to check for you.
- Window and door seals: These will deteriorate with age, weather, temperature changes, wear, and tear. Clean them and coat them with protectant.
- TV antenna: Clean and apply silicone lubricant to moving parts.
- Exterior surface: Check the entire exterior siding, roof, seams, windows, vents, seals around fans and air conditioner, and under carriage for loose fittings, broken seals, cracks, chips, bulges or other damage. Repair as soon as possible. A good bath and wax job will help preserve the exterior.
- Generator: Test your generator, its function, and pressures per your RV manual guidelines.
- Dump valves: Do they open and close completely? Lubricate if necessary. Replace if they aren't working right.
- Exterior lights, license plate: Replace bulbs, screws, cracked covers.
- Hoses: Check for cracks or breaks, leaks, and length appropriate to where you are staying. Hoses should be stored dry. If wet, they can grow mold while in storage. Some molds are deadly. It's better to replace hoses that might have mold growing in them.
- Fittings: Check the threads on your hose fittings and connectors on everything. If threads are stripped, or fittings are cracked or bent, have them replaced. This isn't something you want to discover when you arrive at your destination.
Make sure you have enough RV insurance for liability, injury, medical care, and road service. Some RVing destinations are very remote. Make sure you have a towing service that will not only tow you as far as you need to go, but will tow your car AND trailer or fifth wheel. Try to get insurance that will cover a rental vehicle. If your RV is a motorhome, try to get road service that will cover your motel costs while your motorhome is in for repairs.
Don't forget to check your fire extinguisher, sensors, detectors, and alarms.