Editor’s Note: Robin North is a member of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.
A new RV is a marvelous thing and we have thoroughly enjoyed our Unity MB. It is our roving hotel, taking us to the beach, mountains, desert, and all points in between. But, RVing is a lot like regular life – things can and do go wrong. The longer you have your unit, the more likely you’ll notice items that need attention which is why regular maintenance is such a key factor in keeping your RV in good condition. We make a point of looking after the RV. Jim’s dad was a mechanic so he is pretty familiar with handling the basic maintenance and doing small repairs. But in an LTV, maintenance goes beyond the just engine. The appliances also require regular inspection and cleaning as do the locks, hinges, slide mechanism, and automatic steps. In all reality, if it moves or has to do with water or electricity, it needs some sort of regular maintenance!
We never considered any type of maintenance on a door lock, but learned with all of the vibrations from driving and the constant slamming of the door, it can come loose. Our unit has a simple, mechanical lock and over the course of a long trip, we noticed it started to become more difficult to close then almost at the same time, the automatic steps stopped retracting.
Thinking we needed to replace the parts for both the lock and the stairs, we bought both. It turns out that there was nothing actually wrong with the lock or the step motor because a simple tightening of the screws on the door lock resolved both issues. Once Jim closed the door to test the lock, the steps came to life! It turns out these two parts are linked by a sensor in the door jam which alerts the steps to retract when the door is closed. With the door latch being loose, the door couldn’t close properly which was causing the sensors to not line up and that’s why the stairs wouldn’t retract. Needless to say, we added checking the door lock screws to our monthly maintenance checklist!
Some things, like the door lock, are easy to fix. But some require the help of a professional. Like on one trip when the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. There was nothing apparently wrong, the vehicle seemed fine, but we couldn’t ignore those warning lights! It took a few phone calls to find a Mercedes dealer who could take a look at it. Turns out it was a bad wheel sensor. They made the replacement (covered under warranty) and we were back on the road within a couple of hours.
Operator error haunted us for several trips as we learned about the RV. From figuring out why our electricity wouldn’t work (a tripped breaker on the inverter), to remembering to uncap the macerator hose when dumping the tanks, the RV learning curve was steep for us. After-market equipment can be the source of problems too. When we replaced our Becker navigation system with an upgraded system, the local installer didn’t properly secure the wires so we ended up with a gear shift that wouldn’t shift because it was bound up in the stereo wire!
After almost seven years on the road, we continue to have our share of mishaps. Some, like the wheel sensor, are caused by a faulty part while other problems are caused by operator error, lack of proper maintenance, or the carelessness of after-market installers and repair technicians. Troubleshooting on the road isn’t much fun, but you’ll experience less downtime if you can figure out if the problem is a simple fix or if you’ll need to call for professional help. I often had to resolve software and computer issues in my work, so I followed an escalating scale of problem-solving starting with the most simplistic fix and then, step-by-step, escalating to more involved tinkering. This kind of process also works with the RV. The first step is to get familiar with your RV, read the owner’s manual, investigate how the systems work, and make a maintenance checklist to stay on top of service. Be sure to do all of this at home and not when you are traveling in the midst of a problem!
Sometimes there are noises or operational issues before the warning lights come on. Be sure to take note of those noises or operational issues so you can re-create the situation with your technician. You may also notice problems with adjoining systems or parts at the same time you discover a problem – as we did with the door lock and step. Make sure to give these some thought as to how they may be related. When you are working with the electrical or plumbing system, review the function of each component in the chain of parts sometimes that review can narrow down the problem and help identify a loose, clogged, or broken part. Has an appliance been causing problems? Look up the appliance manufacturer’s website and check the documentation and support line to ask questions about a troubleshooting process. If you are working with the engine, follow a similar component review if your expertise allows. But, if you are not experienced with mechanics; then give your technician all the information you can about what happened and when it happened.
If you are handy with mechanical things you almost expect to be able to fix anything. However, an RV is quite a complex mix of parts and systems that run the gamut including a diesel engine to plumbing. None of us are good at everything so don’t be embarrassed to call for help if the repair is not in your normal “wheelhouse”.
Take the time to review any documentation you have on the part or system that is malfunctioning. If none is available, check online for documentation and check for user forums to see if others have encountered similar problems and what they discovered in their troubleshooting process.
Use what you find from the manuals, other users’ suggestions, and your own technical experience to outline a troubleshooting process. Begin with the simple fixes:
You’d be surprised at how some of the most seemingly inconsequential things can lead to the solution. After you go through the troubleshooting steps, you’ll eventually either fix the problem or come to the end of your expertise.
If you have experience in the area of mechanics, plumbing, and electricity, most problems you run into with an RV can be resolved without outside help. Other RVers in forums can also offer some support by sharing their own repair experiences and may be able to provide additional information. But, if you don’t have any repair experience, then a good RV mechanic can be a valuable partner. Give your mechanic all the information you can about the circumstances around the problem and any related issues you have discovered. This information can help them troubleshoot more effectively, reducing the time the RV has to be in the shop.
The engine and chassis are the most specialized parts of the RV and as long as your unit is under warranty, you can take it to a reputable dealer for repairs. Even when your unit is out of warranty, it makes sense to use the chassis brand manufacturer as your preferred repair shop. Though it may seem more expensive up front, their familiarity with their own product can make them more effective at troubleshooting and repairs. Plus, if there are any recalls or service alerts, they can attend to those issues right away.
For appliances, you may find the manufacturer has a support line or documentation on their website. It is worth checking there before contacting an appliance repair technician.
Here’s hoping your travels are unencumbered by problems but if you encounter them, take heart in that there is always help available. You can find it through your roadside assistance program, the RV’s manuals, user forums online, the RV manufacturer, a good RV mechanic, or just maybe, at the end of your own arm!
The time to hit the highway is here, and while you’re excited to point your RV towards parts unknown, our team here at Leisure Travel Vans is reminding you to take time to do a quick maintenance check on your unit to make sure it’s in tip-top travel shape.
We took some time to talk to our very own Darrell Heide, Warranty Advisor for Leisure Travel Vans. Darrell has some tips and reminders for you to take note of before you start on your next journey. Proper maintenance and care can be the difference between a great trip and a frustrating experience, and here at LTV, we don’t want anyone to have a lousy time on the road or at their campsite.
Important: If you have any questions or concerns about your LTV, please consult your owner’s manual or a certified Leisure Travel Vans dealer.
The water filter should be changed at least once a year. Bacteria can accumulate over a long period of storage, and swapping in a new filter ensures that your fresh drinking and washing water will be as clean as possible.
After you’ve installed your new water filter, fill up your RV with clean potable water and run your water system. Turn on your taps, your shower, flush your toilet and make sure all water lines are flowing smoothly.
Take a good look over your RV’s water system for any leaks. Check the faucets, the back of the water heater, any water joints, and most importantly, the toilet and the shower.
It’s a good idea to take your unit to a qualified service center for a complete drivetrain service at the beginning of every season. However, at the very least, check your fluid levels such as engine oil, DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) if applicable, and coolant. Check all tire pressures and make sure your windshield washer fluid is topped up. Also, don’t forget to check the oil in your generator.
Now that your fluids are looking good, it’s time to make sure all your appliances function the way they are supposed to. Check your water heater and make sure you have hot water, check the microwave, check all lighting and your television, and finally, don’t forget to make sure your refrigerator is cooling on all power sources – no one wants to fill their fridge full of groceries only to find out it’s not cooling!
Your window, vent and door seals are made from rubber, and after time (especially in the sunlight) rubber can deteriorate. Give your RV a gentle spray with your garden hose and head inside to check for leaks around those seals. It’s also a good idea to do a seal check after a good, hard rain when you’re out on the road.
Finally, like any good pilot does before liftoff, take a good, slow walk around your RV. Look for anything that may seem out of the ordinary. Inspect your roof, your undercarriage, work compartments and external accessories. It’s always a good plan to go the extra mile now to avoid headaches down the road.
These seven simple steps should be a part of your annual tradition. We want you to get the most out of your Leisure Travel Van, and taking the time and care at the beginning of your travel season to perform routine checks is a great way to ensure you will make the most of your time on the road. Happy RVing!
Photo Credit: Annie Champagne
The list looks daunting, but I rotate the tasks throughout the year to help balance the work and the budget.
Every January or February, I have an annual engine maintenance done with oil change, filters and entire check of the engine. For an engine check, go to a dealer that works on your specific chassis. For example, you may have a Mercedes Benz Chassis or a Ford Chassis, so go to that type of dealer to have your engine worked on, then go to the RV dealer or a mobile tech to have RV specific things like slides, jacks, refrigerators, and water heaters worked on.
I have found it helpful to develop a professional relationship with a good mobile tech because they often are used to dealing with multiple systems and multiple problems and are good at troubleshooting. My mobile tech is based out of my home town, has performed work on the coach for over four years—knows it well, and I can watch him work. I save a list for him so the mobile charge isn’t hard to bear, and it beats waiting at the dealership. He meets me where I store the RV or at an area RV park if I am camping locally.
The list that follows is a general overview of anticipated maintenance for our coaches. Equally helpful might be to find a mechanic you trust to give you advice and keep an eye on your coach.
First, read your entire owner’s manual and follow the recommendations for periodic maintenance. Then consider the following maintenance schedule, modified according to your manufacturer’s recommendations:
At least twice each year, you should be changing engine oil and filters.
At least once a year, service your slides and leveling systems and generator.
About every two years, flush the brake fluid and bleed the system.
About every four years change the engine coolant and inspect belts and hoses, service your automatic transmission, and power clean the grey and black tanks.
About every five to six years, take a good look at your tires. Replace them more often if you put a lot of miles on them or if they get a lot of sun.
In addition, develop a plan for the following annual checks:
Roof inspection with instructions to ask the tech to re-caulk as necessary.
LPG leak test—be sure the technician takes a look at the gas pressure, checks for gas leaks, cleans the flue tube and burner jet and checks the LP gas safety shutoff. Ask that every appliance with a gas igniter be checked. Be sure to have a certified LP technician complete this work. Igniters on water heaters and refrigerators are easy to access. Furnaces are tough to access and technicians may not service them until they fail.)
Water heater anode rods—check yours annually if it is a Suburban model and replace the anode rod if necessary. You can skip this check if you have an Atwood water heater.
Use a voltage monitor (plugs into outlet and costs about $8) and watch this monitor when plugging into a park pedestal to be sure voltage is adequate to run appliances such as air conditioner and microwave at same time. Watch for power fluctuations when parks fill up or multiple air conditioners begin drawing power. The monitor shows a safe range display. If you are at low end of safe, turn off as many electrical appliances as possible. For even better safety, consider purchasing a surge protector to protect your electrical systems from sudden power surges which can burn out components.
Learn how to lubricate entry steps and do so a couple of times a year. Use a dry lube (not WD40 or oil because it will draw dirt.)
Run your generator every month for two hours under load (run the air conditioner or furnace and make something in the microwave).
Do a battery check before each trip. Check the water level. If you have a maintenance-free, sealed battery, you can skip this task. Also ask a technician to check the batteries annually. The technician should look at the battery terminals, electrolyte level and amount of charge. A normal operating voltage is 10.5 to 13.5 volts DC.
Also ask the technician to check the condition of the battery cables. You may need to replace cables before replacing batteries. Batteries are the heart of the RV. Replacing them on a regular schedule can give you increased safety and peace of mind. You will need to replace all batteries at once because a bank of batteries is only as good as its weakest link. An easier way to do this is to replace house batteries one year and engine batteries another year. Repeat every three to four years for safety.
Clean excess battery corrosion with one-half teaspoon baking soda in one cup water. Spray in a mister until bubbling stops on top of batteries, then wipe clean. Do this every month or so, and always wear safety glasses.
Add distilled water to the batteries every one to four weeks. Fill to one-quarter inch below top of cells. Use only distilled water.
Keep your air conditioner filters clean inside by removing and washing with mild soap and water. Do so every month or so in dusty parts of the country. If you are driving or camping in areas with leaves, have a technician go up on the roof, remove the outer shroud once a year and blow out any debris. Many air conditioner problems are due to dirty filters. When camping in hot weather, start the air conditioner early in the morning with drapes closed and sun screens in place.