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Mistakes are the stepping stones of experience. If you do something you will do mistakes and by doing so, you learn. That is what happened to me and lots of other RVers around the world.
Let’s see what you can learn from these mistakes that you should not repeat to avoid any trouble.
1. Parking On Tree Lined Street
According to me, most of the damage caused to RV happens at 5mph neighborhood than anywhere in the world.
You know Why?
We are in the habit of driving cars and trucks in our daily lives and not a massive camper. People forget the size of their RV.
Whenever you park your RV on a street with tree-lined street be careful, remember your vehicle is bigger enough with all its antenna and stuff.
Before driving take a look at the back and front of the road and see whether there is a low hanging branch that might come in the way. If you are not attentive you might hit a thick limb and tore a part of the roof.
2. Never Leave The Awning Down
Yes, a very important tip if you want your awning in one piece!
Take it down even there is more than a breeze and especially when you leave the site. This will make sure when you return you will find it in one piece.
3. Don’t Use A Built-In Carbon Monoxide Detector
Yes, they are for our safety but do you know what it feels like when it goes off due to low power and create an emergency.
The built-in carbon monoxide detectors draw power from the RV battery so if unfortunately it goes off or is in low power, the alarm starts crying. You start guessing whether you are in danger or you are just being warned about the low battery.
They cannot torture us like that so, it is better to use a carbon monoxide detector that has a 10 YEAR sealed battery of its own like this one.
No worries, No False alarm for 10 ten years!
4. Check RV Tires
Always take a good inspection of your RV before buying it, because if the RV is new it doesn’t mean its components are.
This also applies when buying used RVs.
Before buying, check the date of the tires, which is written in 4 digits on the sidewall of the tires. Campers, 5th wheel, Motorhomes, and Travel Trailers can have as many as 8 tires which you may have to change.
Never buy cheap tires because it can land you in trouble especially if you are driving too fast on gravel roads or by putting too much weight on the RV.
It is a good thing to check the tires before you leave for the trip because you do not want to sit beside the road watching vehicles passing you by.
5. Watch While Backing Up
It’s better to spend on an essential thing now than spending on the damage later on.
Yes, I am talking about all the mishaps that happen while backing your RV. Whether you are in the gas station with cars behind you, backing up into a campsite or backing even at your storage unit without a spotter.
At first, it looked like an expensive investment but when it saved me from hitting overhanging trees, buildings, cars, and people, It’s felt like a good investment!
A wireless backup camera is better like this one here as it removes all difficult process of wiring. Installing it is like a small job which takes 10 minutes max. You can also see the traffic behind your camper which makes turning easier.
6. Keep An Eye On Gas Mileage
Your fueling habits should change if you are towing a travel trailer behind your vehicle. Gas mileage decreases by adding weight so keep an eye on it.
Many times people make this mistake because they know when to refuel when driving the vehicle alone but when a rig is attached to your car or truck even the smartest people on this planet can make a mistake.
So, it is a better option to check the range of your rig on a tank of gas before you leave a trip, especially in remote areas. Also, try to have a 5-gallon gas can which can come handy in troubled times.
7. Do Not Misuse Your Stabilizer Jacks
Camper stabilizer jacks are there to keep your trailer from rocking and swaying as you walk inside the trailer. They keep the trailer in a position raised just enough to keep it away from touching the ground.
Stabilizer jacks have a weight capacity of 2500 pounds per jack and are not meant to take the weight of the entire RV or trailer. They are made from cheap aluminum and not from something like steel.
People use stabilizer jacks to change tires instead of regular jack that’s why they twist, bend and sometimes even break.
8. Use Toilet paper That Dissolves Quickly
This is the common mistake done by RVers, as they use the wrong toilet paper. These toilets paper clog the tanks that cause trouble. That does not mean you have to buy some kind of special toilet paper.
Yes, you can also prevent a lot of mess if you use a toilet paper that dissolves quicker than the other ones. Using toilet paper that dissolves quickly helps the RV to stay in perfect running condition.
Do you know why?
Your black and grey water tank sensor will not fail due to the toilet paper again. A rapid dissolving toilet paper ensures that the sensor will last longer.
In this way, your drains will not clog hence avoiding big trouble. Use this Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper especially in your RV.
9. RVing Unprepared
Before you leave for the trip from home you should have a few things with you which I call essential items. These things help when you are in trouble, believe me!
- Air compressor for tires that is powered by a cigarette lighter like this one can be used for tires of the travel trailer, fifth wheels, Class B motorhomes, run on 12 volts. Do not purchase it if you have Class A and Class C Motorhomes because they need a more powerful compressor.
- First Aid Kit whenever you need it for small medical attention like this one.
- Basis Tool Kit like this one here that should stay in your RV every time you leave.
10. Follow The Walk Around Rule
A walk around rule will save you many times, just start using it.
Have you thought about a situation where a jack or folding chair kept in the storage cabinet under the RV fly out while driving and go bouncing down the freeway, because you forget to lock it?
I have seen and heard about many things that could be avoided like people driving off with sewer hose still connected, awnings left open, and dogs tied to bumpers.
Whenever you are planning to leave a campsite just engage yourself and others to walk around and see if you left something or forget to do the needful.
Creating a checklist will be best if you keep forgetting all the time. Just make a note as to what was bought and what you are taking back. Important stuff like unhooking things, folding and locking or closing things.
Even if you stop anywhere it is better to take a look before you start the engine. Kids, pets and even spouse, yes I mean it. Take a look.
Believe me, you can find something or the other while a walk around the rule for most of the time.
11. Generators Care
Generators are expensive and you want to hear their humming sounds for years like me. Then follow these steps to avoid buying a new one.
- Change the oil: if you have purchased a new generator then change the oil after 30 hours of in use. After that, you have to change its oil every 100 hours. I am talking about 100 hours and not one season, many times people make this mistake. Remember, if you are running a generator regularly for 4 days its 96 hours already.
- Replacing Air Filter & Spark Plugs: a good air/fuel mixture is good for your generator to keep it running for longer, for that you have to change its spark plug and air filter every 250 hours of use.
- Make Sure Battery Is Fully Charged: generators also come with an electric start so, make sure that it is fully charged before use or storing it for a long time.
- Draining Fuel When Not In Use: if you are not using the generator for a long period say over a month then drain its fuel. It will ensure that it will not damage the fuel lines, carburetors and the tank. Because some gas can begin to separate, attracting moisture.
The procedure for storing the generator is like below:
- Run the generator for 15 minutes
- Add a gas additive when the generator cools off
- Again run your generator this time until the gas is in the tank.
- Start The Generator Once Every Month: when you start the generator once every month it keeps the parts in running condition and lubricated. It removes any chances of rusting and harmful wear and tear.
12. Don’t Fall Asleep While Driving RV
Unless you have a self-driving tesla avoid driving the rig even if you feel a little bit drowsy!
Driving an RV is not like driving a car, for most of the time you drive the car inside a city for an hour less or more. You could have to drive the RV for hours without stopping which could make things uneasy.
Many accidents on a freeway happen because there is nothing interesting to see especially if you are driving in the plains. You start feeling drowsy after some time, so avoid driving or exchange the seats with others.
Your destination is not going to come near you and driving a few more miles to get near is not worthy when your eyelids get heavier and heavier.
Pullover! Take a break and rest for some time before driving again.
13. Rig Flipping
Travel trailers have a much higher center of gravity that makes it vulnerable to turnovers especially while taking curves too fast. This happens mostly if you are a new RV owner.
Taking turns too fast, driving in very strong wind and fishtailing uncontrollably is the primary reason for rig flipping.
If you are new to RV driving then start things slow take some classes or drive it for some days in the morning when traffic is low. It takes time to learn driving an RV. Remember, you are towing a small house with you so do not speed up with your trailer.
Don’t avoid those signs that you see on the road about sharp curves!
14. RV Winterization
Believe me, in freezing temperature water in the plumbing can make a lot of damage, even if you think your tanks and pipes are empty water stays in the system. Check here for Camco RV Winter Readiness Kit that Includes Antifreeze Concentrate and Hand Pump, Blow Out Plug, Dehumidifier, and More.
To avoid problems do this:
- Drain all the water from your holding tanks and pipes.
- Use RV antifreeze that will not let the remaining water to freeze.
Further Reading: A Guide To Living In Your RV During The Winter
15. How To Secure The Travel Trailer Ball Hitch
We make mistakes all the time but some mistakes cost more. I have seen people moving with a travel trailer that is hitched with a universal slide lock.
Never, do this as it might cause the trailer to flip or detach completely from the vehicle on a freeway. You do not want this so, the proper way to secure the travel trailer ball hitch is to:
- First, lower the travel trailer down onto the ball
- Then secure the latch
- Again raise it back with the help of front winch jack
If it pulls the trailer then it’s fine.
16. Communicate With Other RVers
There is no shame in asking if you don’t know something. This one is especially for new RVers, ask any experience one and they will tell you how much they have learned from others.
If you don’t know which one to the plugin if you have three different plugins with you, simply ask. My rule is to ask for the first time so that I must know it right away. That’s what we humans do!
You ask for something and people are ready to give advice, we like to give advice! But be sure to take the right advice, go online and review the advice.
Be clear as to what you are asking for and ask positively so that others don’t feel challenged.
17. Check The RV Roofline Seals
A hairline crack on the RV roof can do greater damage later. Water sips in through these cracks, tears, and holes, damaging the interior. Moisture is the enemy of your RV.
Experts say that you should check the seals on the RV twice a year, once at the beginning of the season and second at the end of the season.
Some people use chalk but it is not a permanent solution.
Do you know why?
Because it cracks under sun and freezes in the cold, where expanding and contracting always shortens the life span of even the best available chalk.
Chalk is good for stationary seals, the RV seal chalk gets twisted, bounced and thumped when RV moves. This bending and twisting are not good for the chalk as it leaves the seal open.
18. Keep An Extension Cord
Having an RV is great and not having an extension cord for shore power in blunder. Keep an extension cord permanently in your RV.
Never buy a cheap extension cord as it might break anytime. Always buy top quality things especially electrical and electronics things.
Most of the RV will require an adapter to plug into a power cord. This problem arises due to a cheap extension cord or running your RV at low voltage.
19. Save Your TV
Most of the time RVs manufacturers fit the TV just outside the slide on a side wall which is a big mistake. You might rip off the TV off the wall if it tilting bracket get caught in the slide.
So, before you move your slide check at least once outside and inside the RV. RV park power box is also an example so keep them in mind before moving the slides.
20. Don’t Overload The Camper Bumper
Whenever you have a storage problem your RV bumper comes in rescue but you cannot put more weight on it, right. That’s because when it comes to driving, the bouncing stress shows how poor are these factory-made bumpers.
So, what to do?
There is an excellent way to give additional support to your bumpers. You can add bumper supports like this one which can fix the problem by increasing RV bumper load-bearing capacity by 400 pounds-feet. It will increase the load-bearing ratio from hundreds to thousands of pounds.
You can even put a generator on it!
21. Exposing Your RV To Elements
One of the best ways to damage your RV is keeping it in open where the weather does its part by eroding the roof, wall and the tire. One hole on the roof in winter and cracked chalking in the summers is what you need to damage it.
Do not take the risk! To save some money today you don’t want to lose thousands tomorrow.
Let’s do the math!
A new RV roof may cost you $300 per square foot, so a 20 feet RV roof will cost you $6000.
That’s why whenever you are not using your camper for a long period, keep it in covered storage or you could install a covered carport on your property. In this way, your RV will last longer and you would spend less on its repair.
Further Reading: The Complete Guide to Storing Your RV at Home
22. If RV isn’t Four Season Then It’s Not
Do not trust the salesman if he says the RV is four-season, no it’s not. I have seen people selling RV with that quote when you can see exposed lines, tanks, and pipes.
Inspection on your part is extremely important because they can sell crap instead of gold if you do not have any valuable information on RVs. Check everything look underneath the trailer, go online, ask your friends. Do everything before buying and I guarantee you will find new information every day. Take your time!
23. Know-How To Read The Control Panel
One of the early problems that new RVers face is trouble in reading the control panel. It can be tricky at first that your grey tank is full and you do not know about it.
After some RVing trips, things start getting in the head. Don’t worry, on every trip you learn something. Going through your owner manual will solve many problems.
24. Keep Food With Yourself
This is a common mistake with new Rvers as they think we can get food on the way.
Ask this to an experienced one and they will tell you that you should do your shopping before leaving.
It will be a miracle when you find a restaurant on the way. These things are confined to urban areas only. I am not saying that you cannot find food on the way at all, but be prepare for the worse.
It’s better to pack your food before you leave. Take your canned food, snack, and food that lasts long with you.
25. What Type Of Air Vents Do you Have
Air vent is an important thing in your RV without it living inside a box will be suffering only.
If you only have vents that open and close then they are pretty much useless. It is because on hot days it will move the air form it but in winter if you ever open it will cause condensation. When the warm air meets the cold air it creates condensation.
If you have a fan installed of small size then it only consumes electricity. It hardly does it work. You should at least have a vent with 6 inches fan.
A solar-powered vent with a fan like this one is the best, as it can remove the humidity from the rig and is also powered by solar panels.
Whenever you are driving in a storm or leaving it in the storage remember to close the vent to prevent water damage.
26. Propane In The RV
Carbon monoxide is dangerous for enclosed places such as RV.
How there can be carbon monoxide in the rig despite the detector?
Burner blowout is the reason for this. I am not talking about the stovetop burner. What happens is that when you drive with your refrigerator running on propane, the wind blows out the burner and the propane still flows to the burnt-out burner. The propane leaks in the RV, this is one of the common causes of poisoning.
27. Planning Is Must
Yes, planning will save your time, money and will not ruin your day. Things like:
- Where would you go
- How many days you have for the trip
- If you are going to a campground then book in advance so you get a parking
- Is there shore power or you have to rely on your generators
- Food availability
- Medical facilities
There are so many steps before leaving. If you know what to do in advance then you do not have to waste time.
28. RV Community
Engaging with the community of your hobby is great as it introduces to people who do the same things as you do. People have made many mistakes like you and me and from that, they gain experience and information.
Here are some facebook groups dedicated to RVing, you can ask a question here and you will see how many people give you advice. It’s a great place to know people who have a hobby just like you.
Don’t be shy here!
- Low-Income RV living
- RV Tips
- RV Interior Ideas
- How To RV For Newbies
- RV Stuff
- RV Newbies
29. Enjoy RV Frustration
Have you being in that moment when you want to leave everything and go home, you were not alone.
Many times things don’t go according to you and you can get frustrated. Keep in mind that problems always comes but it is up to you how you face it. After all, you went for a trip for enjoying, do not let anything destroy your mood.
Be happy in small things, a good hot meal with your close people is what we want at last. The adventure started when you left your house then let adventure do it part.
Be prepared for it and you will surprise the trouble itself, try it!
30. Buying Your First RV
Your neighbor just came with a new RV does not mean you should be buying a one in the same evening. You have to be honest with you, do not fool yourself or be in a hurry. There are a few questions which you should ask before taking any steps further. Questions such as:
- Where will you park your RV, your property, RV storage or on-road?
- What is your budget?
- How many people do you have in your family?
- Where do you live?
Answering these questions will help you out to make the right judgment. Write it down on paper and you will know how big and what model you may need it.
This was the first part.
The second part of it is to know nearly everything about RV. Yes, different models, brand, price, etc.
Talk to your friends, relatives, go to different RV manufacturer’s websites. Do possibly everything and whatever you can do because after purchasing it there is no return.
To my knowledge, it is always better to rent RV for some trips (at least 3) and see what make or size suits best for you.
31. Not Documenting Everything
Yes, this is common and one of the worst mistakes that you could regret later. If you are a new RVer then start documenting everything whatever you can. It is all the memories that you can show to your children and even grandchildren.
Even for you, all these things will matter after a long time from now. Documenting does not mean you have to be a writer, you can also click photos and make videos. Even if you do not maintain a dairy start writing it today, who knows you might even start a blog tomorrow.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long should a travel trailer last?
The average life of travel trailers and most of the RVs is 10 years. Its life can increase and decrease by the way the owner uses it.
If you are using your travel trailer regularly then it goes through maintenance that increases its life span. With proper care, it can last up to 25 years or more depending upon the make and maintenance.
Potential elements that can harm your travel trailers are dust, water, snow, tree branches, harsh chemical and bad maintenance. Inexperienced drivers can also make potential damage, especially to the engine, body or tires.
Using quality products and repair parts will certainly increase its life. Check the owner’s manual and dealership for the best material that is compatible with your specific model and brand while repairs. It will all depend upon the investment that you can make on your RV.
Watch Youtube Video: Top 10 Beginner RV Mistakes (And How To AVOID Them!)
2. Can you use the bathroom in an RV while driving?
Yes, you can use the bathroom in an RV while driving if you have a built-in toilet. But, there are other things which you should keep in mind while using it, especially when the RV is in motion.
Remember, it is prohibited by law to be in a travel trailer, campers, and any other pull-behind trailer while the vehicle is in motion. That means you cannot use it while it is moving.
Yes, you can pull over to the side of the road and now nobody can stop you from using it, but not while in motion.
But if you are in Class A, B or C motorhomes then you can use the bathroom while the vehicle is moving. But, remember to take caution while walking in a moving vehicle or you could seriously hurt yourself. try to tell the driver before moving in that way the driver can slow down.
3. Is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time?
No, is it not bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time, but you have to monitor the house batteries for the trailer. It is important because the house batteries will be receiving a constant charge that you have to monitor the electrolyte levels in the house batteries.
For safety, it is better to check the electrolyte levels of the batteries at least once in a month. It will make sure that they are not low or have gone dry.
If the batteries are low then you have to pour distilled water otherwise they can get damaged.
Another thing that you have to check is that any electrical appliances that run on 120 volts are off.
4. Do I need a surge protector for my RV?
Yes, surge protectors are important for RVs as they protect it from an electrical surge that can be sent via a power pedestal. This electrical surge can be from a lightning strike, malfunctioned power pedestal or even electrical lines sending a surge of electricity.
The surge protectors block that from coming into the RV. The better models can even protect the RV form other things than electricity. Things such as low and high voltage can be controlled by these surge protectors.
Imagine there is a sudden low voltage supplied to the RV and the appliances running on it can get damaged.
5. How long do RV trailer tires last?
On average RV tires last about 5-6 years. There are other factors which increase and decrease its life.
So, if you drive your RV about 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year then the treads of the tire will wear out in 5 years. And if you drive your RV 50,000 miles or less then the tires will age themselves rather than the treads. So, if you drive more your tires treads will disappear and if you drive less then also tires will age in 5 to 6 years.
It is better to replace the tires within 5 years for maximum safety.
Look for the cracks which might appear on the tire, sometimes these cracks can be from inside which is harder to find out. These cracks are dangerous as they can lead to separation of the steel belts and losing control of the vehicle on road.
So, how can you know the actual age of your tire?
If you have purchased the tire just one year ago it does not mean that the tires are one year old. It simply means that it was purchased one year ago. What about the time it was in the store and when it was manufactured?
To know it, find the DOT letters on the tire, skip the next code of four letters or number and the next code is the date code. Now write this code and go to this website and enter the code. That’s it, now you can know the actual age of your tires.
Major factors that damage the tires are:
- Ultraviolet Rays from the sun
- Bad maintenance
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Tanmay Sarkar is the person behind writerzmag.com. An RV enthusiast, lover & admirer. Whatever I learn about RVs and RVing, I share it on this blog. Learning is a lifelong experience and it should be shared with people who have the same hobby and love as you… This blog is and shall be for the people who love and want to know about RVing…