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After spending hard-earned money on a new RV, every full-time RVer wants to protect their investment and avoid causing unwanted damage to their home-on-wheels. In this article, we’ll share common RV mishaps and tell you how you can avoid making the same expensive RV mistakes.
The tires on your rig take a beating as you travel on all sorts of terrain. It’s very important to protect them and monitor their condition. After all, you won’t be getting anywhere if your tires let you down. Not monitoring tire temperature, pressure, and wear are big tire mistakes!
When tires are in use, they naturally build up heat and pressure—the leading cause of blow-outs on the road. To avoid being stranded and paying for expensive tire repairs, follow these helpful tips:
- Always check tire pressure on all tires before traveling. You can use a simple tire pressure gauge for this. The optimal tire pressure will be listed on the sidewall of the most tires. Also, check for a sticker on the inside of your truck/motorhome door.
- Have your own air compressor. It’s super handy to have your own air compressor onsite so you have the ability to add or release pressure right at your campsite without having to drive to a service station.
- Use a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). They can be pricey to install, but a TPMS gives you peace of mind in knowing exactly how your tires are doing in real time as you are traveling down the road. Connect sensors to each tire and you’ll be able to monitor temperature and pressure right from the driver’s seat!
- Don’t overinflate. Especially on hot days, avoid overinflating tires. They will build heat and pressure as you’re traveling, which results in elevated PSI, which could cause a blow-out. For example, if your trailer tires require 50 PSI, you might consider deflating to 45 PSI when traveling on hot days.
- Have roadside assistance. Tire issues can happen to anyone, anytime. We can take measures to avoid them, but for those days when mishaps happen, having RV roadside assistance provides peace of mind.
- Don’t forget regular maintenance. Visit the mechanic shop for rotation, balancing and inspection every 4–6 months. This will extend the life of your tires. Plus, spotting a problem early is a good way to avoid more expensive tire repairs down the road.
Bike Rack Mistakes
Most new full-time RV families want to bring their bikes along for the ride. One very common newbie mistake is transporting bikes on a hitch bike rack attached to the RV’s back bumper via a hitch rack receiver or mounting plate. The mounting plate is attached to the bumper and the hitch bike rack inserts into it. Sounds simple enough, but here are the problems with this method:
- The back of a travel trailer experiences the most movement and force while in transit.
- Adding a large bike rack weighed down with bikes creates a strong bouncing motion.
- Trailer bumpers are usually not reinforced and cannot withstand the force created from a bouncing bike rack.
- The bumper welds will break. You could lose your bikes, your rack, and even your bumper on the road!
- New bumpers, welding services, and potential highway accidents are dangerous and costly!
To avoid this RV mistake, here are some ideas:
- Haul your bikes IN the truck bed.
- Secure your bikes INSIDE the RV. Just be sure to secure them well and pad them with something soft. They will still be jostled around some during travel.
- Secure the bikes ABOVE the trailer tongue using a product like a Jack-It bike rack.
- Hire a welder to install a stronger, reinforced bumper that can withstand the weight of the loaded bike rack on the back bumper.
Getting used to the RV tank system is often a big learning curve for new RVers. Long gone are the days of “flush and forget it” when you live in an RV. There are several common mistakes that new RVers make that can lead to major headaches, or a lot of time and money wasted. Let’s take a look at those mistakes and learn how to avoid them:
- Leaving the black tank open: The black tank should remain CLOSED until time to dump it, even if you’re hooked up to sewer. Why? If the tank is left open, no liquids will remain in the tank. Thus, solid waste matter will not break down. It will harden and accumulate in the tank, creating what RVers refer to as a “poop pyramid” inside your black tank. This is a terrible problem to have! To avoid accumulation and clogs, always leave the back tank CLOSED until time to dump, and be sure to use plenty of water when flushing.
- Leaving the toilet full during transit: RVs move and bounce around a lot on the road. Leaving water in the toilet bowl can lead to nasty spills, sloshes, and even water damage on your bathroom floors.
- Leaving the tanks full during transit: If at all possible, dump the gray and black tanks before traveling. First, these tanks hold gallons and gallons of liquid. That’s a LOT of unnecessary weight to carry around. Second, the tanks may start sloshing and can intensify trailer sway.
Check out this beginner’s guide to the RV septic system to learn more about keeping your RVs tanks in good working condition.
Water is the root cause of most damage, rot, and mold in an RV. Here are some ways you can avoid expensive water damage in your RV:
- Use a water pressure regulator. Some campgrounds have extremely high-pressure water connections. Some campgrounds actually require a regulator, and some provide one at the water spigot. Not using a water pressure regulator can cause damage to the RV’s piping. This is an inexpensive preventative measure you can take.
- Use an insulated hose. Especially when camping in below-freezing temperatures, use an insulated hose. They include a heat tape that prevents your hose and water connections from freezing. Many campgrounds actually require insulated hoses when camping during the winter season.
- Check that all windows are closed before traveling. Even a small opening in the window can allow rain inside during travel, leading to water damage inside the rig. It’s smart to do one final walkaround, checking that windows and vent covers are shut.
- Use a dehumidifier. In humid climates, moisture in the air will build up on your RV’s walls and windows. Mold grows quite quickly in these moist spots, which can be harmful to your family’s health. Using a dehumidifier can help keep moisture levels under control and keep the air healthy and mold-free.
“Can we fit?” It’s a common question RV couples ask one another as they pull into any campsite. Lots of RV families make the mistake of trying to squeeze their rig spaces that are too small. Here what to look out for to avoid accidents and damage to your RV:
- Avoid gas stations that are too tight. Opt for ones that are suited for truckers and you’ll have better luck getting in and out. Hitting your RV’s roof, hitting a pump, or hitting another vehicle are costly mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
- Avoid parking your motorhome too close to a sidewalk. There may not be enough clearance to deploy your coach’s steps. If you don’t notice this, you could damage your steps.
- Watch out overhead! If the campsite is wooded, one person should really be outside the rig watching for low-hanging branches. One scraping the top of your rig could cause costly damage to the roof or A/C units.
- Be mindful of trailer swing. When turning a travel trailer to the right, be sure to watch the back left corner of the trailer. It will swing out to the left as you turn right. Some newbies don’t watch for this and hit something on the left as they are turning.
- Measure for awnings and slides. Know the length of your awnings and slides and measure your campsite to make sure there is enough room to accommodate them.
- Secure all objects before travel. Sharp objects should be put away. Breakable items should be padded and stowed away safely. Drawers and cabinets should be closed tight. If you travel in a motorhome, loose items could injure passengers or pets while driving. Check out this video to see how to get the inside of RV ready for travel day.
- Make sure nothing is blocking the slides. Before you bring them in, clear the slide areas inside your RV of all debris, loose items, toys, & rugs. Items blocking slides can cause a malfunction or costly damage. Make sure to leave a walkway to get from the back to the front of the RV while in transit if you drive a motorhome.
The electrical system is another system in the RV that new RVers must learn how to manage. Follow these tips to avoid costly RV electrical damage:
- Know your amperage. Using too many appliances at once will overload your RV’s electrical system and blow a fuse. Have some extra fuses on hand for when this happens. You will learn your RV quickly. Consider making a note of what appliances should not be used together. For us, it was our Instant Pot + electric heater that seemed to not play nice together.
- Use a surge protector. RV surge protectors are expensive but not nearly as expensive as replacing your entire electrical system. A number of RVers shy away from purchasing a surge protector, and they regret it when a power surge at the campground fries their AC unit. Opt for a device that includes an electrical management system. These will test the quality of your electrical connection (displayed as codes) as soon as you plug your device into the shore power at your campsite. At any moment, the electrical management system will shut your RV’s power off if the current ever becomes unsafe.
For more on why RVers should use a surge protector, check out this article from Family Adventure For All.
Using your RV while it is unlevel has the potential to damage your rig. Always level side-to-side and then front-to-back when you arrive at your campsite. Check out this article to learn more about how to properly set up an RV campsite.
In the meantime, avoid these mistakes:
- Opening up the slides when not level. Doing this can damage the slide motors. If the motors are moving that heavy slide at an angle, they are working too hard. No one wants their slide motors to stop working prematurely!
- Using a refrigerator when not level. Refrigerant will not circulate properly, and the fridge may not work at all. Propane refrigerators work a bit differently. They rely on gravity to do their job well. If you try to run it anyway while unlevel, the force of gravity will not be able to function properly and the fridge could overheat. You will likely destroy your RV’s fridge! This is a costly repair no one wants.
Hopefully this article has given you the knowledge you need to avoid some of the most common expensive RV mistakes. But, always remember that we all make mistakes sometimes. Show yourself some grace and enjoy the adventure!
About the Author
Shelly and her husband Jeremy run the blog Family Adventure For All where they inspire and encourage other families who have children with special needs to travel and explore the country. They travel with their daughter, Ivelina.
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