When my wife and I first started RV’ing fulltime, it was hard to downsize from a 2400 square foot home to a 400 square foot RV. You find yourself trying to downsize but at the same time making sure you carry with you the things you require to live comfortably but not over weight yourself. Weight is one of the most important factors in travels.
Our greatest challenge was how to travel with our 350 DVD collection (Which is growing daily). When we first moved in we found that we were taking up almost the entire shelving in the living room space for nothing but the DVD’s and there cases. It looked impressive but was not very practical.
After much shopping around and looking at different products we found that you can go to any office supply store or Walmart and purchase a CD case holder. These are the one’s they sell for transporting and organizing music CD’s. They are perfect for holding DVD’s and you can put over 300 of them in a space of 1 foot by 1 foot. You do have to throw away all your cases but then again what good are the cases anyway. Keep maybe one or two of them for when you want to share your DVD’s with other campers to protect them.
The cases fit very comfortably in the cabinets and you now will have a lot more space to hold the other things that are important to you in your camping lifestyle.
After purchasing two different RV’s in the past couple years, one being a 5th wheel and one being a Class “A” Motorhome, I can tell you the most important thing you do before you sign the bottom line is your Pre Delivery Inspection (PDI). This is where you spend time with your dealer going over every inch of the rig looking for issues to have fixed before you take it off the lot. I can tell you this, our first one we didn’t do this properly and ended up spending most of the first few months going back and forth to the dealer getting things fixed under warrantee. The second one we spent a few hours inspecting everything and got them fixed before we left the lot, thus allowing us to enjoy the RV more.
Below is a list of things you should look for during this inspection with the dealership. You also will need to bring a few tools with you to do this properly. Don’t expect the dealership to have any of the tools you will want to bring. The Dealer though should provide you with full propane tanks, full water tanks, and fully charged batteries.
Tools you should bring:
Screw Driver with three Bits. Flat / Phillips / Square
Notebook and Pen
Digital Camera or Video Camera
Things to Inspect:
1) Start with the top of the roof and crawl across it on your hands and knees. Inspect each seem completely and look for caulking either missing or coming off. Also look for any bubbles in the roofing material itself. Make sure to check everything, including around vents and air conditioners.
2) Check around all windows for proper fit and for proper sealing. Make sure they open and close properly.
3) Make sure all storage compartment doors open and close smoothly and that all keys work.
4) In the docking station make sure all hose connections are tight and that they don’t leak. Make sure you understand how each valve works and when to open and close each one.
5) If equipped with propane tanks, make sure you understand how to turn them on and off. Also how to remove the tank if possible to have it filled. Open the valve and smell around for gas checking for leaks.
6) Find the battery compartment. Check how to use the by-pass switch if need be. Also look and see if they are maintenance free and if not ask how to do the maintenance on them.
7) Open the awning if equipped. Check for smooth operation and if there are any holes or tears in it. Make sure all seams are tight. Make sure all mounting hardware is tight and not missing any.
8) Make sure all slides open and close smoothly and completely. Also make sure you understand how to use them and if you can open them manually if the motor fails. Make sure there are no caps with closed that will allow water in when driving down the road.
Time to move inside the rig.
1) First check all cabinet doors for proper opening and closing. Make sure the doors are tight and that inside there are no loose shelves. Pull out each drawer and check its operation also. Also check each closet door the same way.
2) Next look at all molding throughout the rig. Get down on your hands and knees and follow it completely around.
3) Operate each light switch and check that all lights do come on and off properly. Check you 12 volt system at this time since most lights in a RV run off the batteries and not shore power.
4) Make sure each and every blind open and closes properly on each window. If it has Day/Night shades make sure they operate properly all the way up and down.
5) Make sure there are no holes in any of the furniture and that they don’t appear to be worn if this is a brand new unit. Check construction of each piece for sturdiness.
6) Check the operation of each water faucet and look for leaks around the base or under the counters.
7) Open and close each window and make sure they are smooth in operation.
8) Remove each and every vent cover. Look inside for sawdust and other construction debris. It is common to have sawdust in these from the manufacturer. Make the dealer vacuum them out for you if you see the sawdust.
You should now be about 1 to 2 hours into the inspection. Now you need to test each and every piece of equipment for operation. Ask your dealer if they have somewhere on location that you can just spend the night so you can run each piece of equipment. If they don’t or refuse to let you stay the night then tell them that it will be at least another hour of inspection time before you are done. Below is a list of things you should test completely, your dealer will show you how to operate each device.
1) Shore Power. Test each outlet
2) Converts and Inverters
3) City Water system
4) Sewage tanks both Grey and Black
5) Water Pump
6) Water heater both on AC and LP
7) Furnace or Heat Pump on Air Conditioner
8) All safety devices such as Smoke Detectors, LP Detectors and Carbon monoxide Detectors. The dealer should have something that can test and set off each of these devices.
9) Refrigerator. Make sure it cools on both AC and LP and that it switches automatically between them if need be.
10) Propane stove. Make sure all burners ignite
12) Clothes Washer and Dryer if installed
13) All TV’s and the antenna booster switch
Keep in mind none of this list is inclusive. You may have more or less equipment on your particular rig, so the list may need to be modified. The purpose of the Camera or Video is so that you can actually document how to use everything as the dealer goes over it with you. No matter how good of a memory you have you will forget something that could be important.
Have the dealer repair all items on your list. Only after everything is repaired are you ready to sign for your new RV. Now the enjoyment of owning a new RV will begin with you and your family.
Before my wife and I started traveling the United States in our new motorhome, we spent many of hours at the local RV store and even traveled hundreds of miles to big RV Showrooms to make sure we had all the facts before making a purchase. What we found was there are 4 different types of recreation vehicles on the market for use depending on what your camping needs are. No matter what kind of camping you plan to do or how many people in your family, there is a recreational vehicle out there to meet your needs.
Let’s spend a few moments discussing some of the pros and cons to each of the four groups. This info will help you decide what is best for you and you camping family.
Pop up Trailer
The Pop up Trailer is the first level of Recreational Vehicles above just old fashion tent camping. It gives you almost all the freedoms you have with a tent, except the hiking to remote places. It does however add a level of comfort that a tent doesn’t offer. You have Beds and a place to stay warm and dry from the rain without being on the ground. They come with basic toilet, a sink, sometimes a heater as an option and a small propane stove. They are actually perfect for the weekend getaway if you and your family are small in numbers. They also can be towed by almost any vehicle you already own without having to upgrade. Costs also are not that high and you can usually get a good used one for even less. I have even met one couple that full time in one, not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but you must have a very good relationship with your partner to attempt this.
This is the first level on recreational vehicles that are designed and built for travel and longer stays of more than a week. They come in all different lengths and you start getting some of your home amenities built into them. These also will work better for the larger family or ones that have older kids that need a little more room and privacy. Depending on the length you go with you can still get into many of the remote locations to camp and enjoy the great outdoors. The price here is just starting to climb a little based on what your needs truly are. One major drawback to these though is that they are just big enough to be effected by truckers on the road or any kind of wind gusts. Even with Sway Bars they have a tendency to move back and forth a little. You may find you need a bigger car to tow them but almost any truck on the market can handle even some of the larger ones.
Once you move up to the 5th wheel you start getting into some more of the serious type of camping with longer type stays or even permanently living in it. You can get full size fridges and electric fireplaces. They will have lots of storage underneath and designed more for the serious camper. These however, start having some major draw backs that require you to decide on what your real plans are for using it. They are usually larger than a trailer and thus are not as easily taken into remote locations. They also most of the time require a larger vehicle to tow them due to their weight. My wife and I actually started full timing in one and eventually traded up to the next category due to some issues we found with them. Once we found that having a larger truck sure hurt us on the gas mileage when just running around town not towing. Also the amount of time to hook up to your truck and set up at various campgrounds made it more cumbersome. They also are not really designed for stopping for quick over nights stays. You can do that but it just wasn’t for us. If you are going to be at one location for a very long time then it’s probably ideal but if you are going to want to move every week or two then we found it was just not right for us.
This is the last of the categories. These are really designed for the serious person planning to live or travel most of the year in it. Due to their size they will not fit at a lot of campgrounds and many state parks don’t allow them if they are over a certain size. We moved up from a 5th wheel to one though because they are easy to set up and take down when traveling. They also are perfect for stopping at rest stops or parking lots for overnight stays during your travels. They have everything you could find in a home. You do however need to have a smaller vehicle to use when driving around town when you are at your final destination. These are priced anywhere from the low $100K to over a million based on manufacturer and how many amenities you really need or want. You can get a good used one almost anywhere including E-Bay.
In closing, the most important factor for you when deciding on which recreational vehicle, is to first decide what kind of camping you plan to do and where you want to be able to take it. Cost is always very important but first decide on what you want then find one that fits your price range. If you purchase the wrong one these do not increase in value. Like a car they lose a lot of value the day you purchase it so make the right decision the first time or you will not enjoy it to the fullest.
If you are anything like my wife and I, when we purchased our new Motorhome to travel the US in it became our one and only major investment. This is our home and our lifestyle, so it is important to keep everything running like new so it will last. There are many things that can go wrong with your motorhome but with some standard checks monthly you can minimize them from becoming major repairs.
Sewage System: (Weekly) This includes both the Grey and the Black tanks. The Blank tanks is where your actual sewage from the toilet is held. The grey tank holds the waste from your sinks, shower, Washer and Dryer if you have one. You should always make sure you have water in your grey tank so when you are done dumping your black tank you have something to use to flush out your hose to prevent the sewage from sitting in it and destroying your hose. If you have a newer motorhome like my wife and I then you also will have a Flush system on the black tank that you can run a hoe to after dumping and it will run water through a sprayer that is installed in the black tank to clean it out. You should do this after each flushing if you have one.
Transmission: (Before each travel) You will need to check all your fluid levels. This includes all transmission fluids and oil. Also you should try and have close to a full tank of gas when you are parking your motorhome at a campground to prevent moisture from building in the tank. You also should run your engine for15 to 30 minutes monthly if you have not travels to keep the engine caskets lubricated.
Batteries and Charging System: (Monthly) The first thing you need to do is make sure that the water levels in the batteries are topped off at all times. Only add Distilled water as the irons in normal water can damage the plates in the battery. Also check that the Charger is properly charging the batteries and we actually will run the rig on the batteries for about 30 minutes if we have not done any dry camping during the month. At Camping World you can purchase a battery watering system that will make it much more convenient to check the levels on the batteries and not have to take the covers off of them all the time. Some Motorhomes, the batteries are not that easy to get to all the time and remove the covers to see inside.
Tires: (Before each travel) Always make sure they are properly inflated before you hit the road for any length of trip. Also make sure you load your motorhome equally as to not put too much weight over one tire. When cleaning your tire try and find a tire cleaner that doesn’t include alcohol. This will speed up the process of drying out the tire and weakening them. Also if you are going to be staying at one location for more than a month you should put the tires up on blocks of some kind to prevent them from sitting in water when it rains. Another good thing to do is to cover the tires to prevent the sun from damaging them.
Generator: (Monthly) Like your transmission if during the month you have not used if for any reason you should start it for about 15 minutes. During this time put it on load by allowing it to transfer power to the motor home. This will allow the caskets to stay well lubricated. Also keep the oil changed as the owner manual states and it should last you a long time.
Air Conditioners: (Monthly) These are actually the easiest to keep running like new. All you need to do is keep the filters cleaned and get on your roof and make sure there is no debris that has gotten inside the outside unit. If you have a heat pump and furnace you will want to run them for a few minutes monthly to make sure everything is operating properly during the off season. Run Furnace and Heat pump on both electric and gas to make sure both are operating properly.
Outside and Roof: (Monthly and Quarterly) You should monthly get out and hose you motorhome off. This includes the sides and the roof and make sure no debris is building up. Also clean you front end after each travel to remove any bugs. Quarterly you should completely was your unit to keep the sun damage to a minimum. Also check all your seems for the condition of the Caulking. If any of them seem warn you should remove and replace it. Many parks do not allow you to wash your motorhome anymore due to water conservation so my wife and I will actually go out when it starts raining with a rag and just wipe down the outside with the rain water. The Waxing is one of the most physical parts of owning a motorhome, I find it’s much easier if you get one of your camping neighbors to help you out and then you assist him afterwards doing his. At the campground I spend the winter at in Florida it’s a group thing and we do about 4 or 5 of them in about 2 days with all of us assisting each other.
In closing, by doing some very basic maintenance to your investment, you can have a nice looking and well operating motorhome. With the exception of the waxing, on a quarterly basis the entire maintenance schedule can be accomplished in a couple hours a week by spreading it all out throughout the month. Always check your various owner manuals that came with the appliances to see if there are additional maintenance that is recommended. Always follow the recommended maintenance schedule, as if you don’t, it can and most likely will void your warrantee.