Well you’ve bought the beast and it sits in the side yard just waiting to go out
for it’s next adventure. However towards the end of your last trip you started
to notice some things that you thought needed attention.
question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you should even attempt some
of the maintenance items yourself. Are you ready, or qualified, for do it
yourself RV repairs? Unless properly trained and prepared, recreational vehicle
owners should not attempt to make certain repairs or perform service on any RV,
product or component. If you don’t believe me I’ll give you my father’s phone
number and you can ask him how much he paid the mechanic after one of his “I can
do it myself thank you very much” attempts. I was there. It turned out very
badly. It got VERY dark on the side of the road that cold night in
The Two Types of Repairs
basically two types of RV service; crisis repairs and preventive maintenance.
Preventive maintenance can include such items as the following: checking and
sealing the roof, windows, storage compartments and doors, cleaning, flushing
and servicing the LP appliances, changing the oil in the generator and chassis
engine and checking all fluid levels, cleaning the filters in the roof air
conditioners, cleaning and treating your holding tanks, flushing and sanitizing
your fresh water system, performing battery maintenance. These can be considered
something you do now to prevent something worse from happening later. Call it
insurance if you like. Crisis repairs (also known as Holy Cripes what now!), on
the other hand, offer no options. The problem is staring you right in the face
and if you want to get back on the road it has to be handled now. A few examples
of crisis repairs would be an abnormally worn tire, a flat tire, or a blown
Fortunately preventive maintenance will go a long way towards
minimizing the frequency and the degree of crisis-type repairs. Routine tire
inspection and careful study of inflation pressures, checking and cleaning the
refrigerator components and checking the LP pressure, regular oil changes, and
periodic cleaning of the air conditioner filters can all prevent the above
crisis repairs from happening. Remember the old adage.. Pound Wise, Penny
Do It Yourself?
Oh yeah, remember that
warranty you got along with the vehicle the day you shelled out the bucks to
drive it off the dealers lot? Read it carefully before you even attempt to
loosen a screw. In some cases, warranties may be voided or manufacturer
liability lessened if unauthorized repairs are performed Some maintenance items,
though mandated by the product manufacturer, may not be covered by new or
extended warranties. Rarely are maintenance items ever covered under warranty.
The key is knowing when to actively participate and when to simply make an
appointment at your local service facility.
So the warranty is run out
and you are in the garage getting the tools out. There a few more considerations
to ponder before you dive in.
Am I physically fit and mechanically adept?
– Buck up and realize your limitations there laddie or lassie. Ask yourself,
“Can I physically perform the steps necessary to do this?” Many items in, under,
on and around motorhomes require physical dexterity. Physical limitations may
prohibit some of us from performing certain maintenance items. If the subject at
hand is truly over your head then it’s ok to back off and call a pro. You
definitely do not want to risk converting a simple maintenance task into a
costly crisis repair! It will cost substantially more to undo an error than to
simply make an appointment with a service center if the subject is beyond your
scope. (Again I offer my dad’s phone number to anyone who doubts
Do you have a willingness to learn – If you truly want to be able
to perform some routine maintenance items, be willing to do a little homework.
Servicing LP related appliances and components, for instance, virtually mandates
a basic understanding of the sequence of operation of that appliance. Both
electrically and with the flow of the LP gas. Each appliance is different, but
your advantage is that you only need to learn those that pertain to your RV. And
it’s not that difficult to learn. Oh, it requires reading and studying the
literature that came with your rv, but for the most part, it can be
Have the right tools – Be aware that many maintenance tasks
require a selection of tools and that some require specialty tools that you may
not have in your tool kit. Here are a few specialty tools you may want to
Manometer – this device allows you to measure the LP
Never adjust your LP regulator without using a
Thermocouple tester – used to bench test LP appliance
Battery hydrometer – one that is temperature compensated is
Volt, Ohm, multi-meter (VOM) – a digital one is best, but
any is better than just a simple test lamp
Consider the time factor –
Always plan your approach to any maintenance task appropriately. Realize that
all maintenance requires time. Be sure to allot yourself plenty of time to
complete whatever it is you are undertaking. Do not rush yourself. You are more
likely to omit a step or make a mistake if you are under pressure to complete a
task when in a hurry. Remember, the next time you perform that same task, the
time element will be reduced. Familiarity and repetition will breed
How to “Do It Yourself”
suggestions will get you started.
Prepare a proper and clean work area –
Having a clean work area for whatever the task may be is vital in order to avoid
confusion and also help keep the coach clean if you must traipse in and out of
it several times. When servicing the appliances for example, it is best to
perform the maintenance tasks with the appliances left in the installed
positions. An exception would be the RV furnace. In some instances concerning
the furnace, better results are attained if the furnace is removed and the work
performed on a bench.
If you will be needing electricity, have your
extension cord uncoiled and strategically placed prior to starting. Likewise, if
using a drill motor, have the correct size drill bit, or screwdriver tip at
hand. Proper preparation will make any maintenance task easier. Did you remember
to allow enough time to do the work?
Have all replacement parts ready to
go – Have all replacement parts prepared and laid out for easy access. If your
maintenance task involves threaded fittings, a handy tip is to apply the correct
sealant or Teflon tape before actually starting the work. It’s much neater and
easier when your hands are relatively clean. Lay the fittings aside and cover
them with a shop towel or cloth until needed. If the new parts need any type of
pre-assembly, do it now, before you get engrossed in the task at hand. If some
parts in a repair kit will not be needed, separate and discard them prior to
beginning. This will simplify your repair and avoid any confusion you may
encounter later when you realize you have a few parts left over.
the necessary support materials – As mentioned earlier, have all wiring
diagrams, service notes, installation instructions or any other type of resource
open and within easy reach before starting the job. If you feel you may need
additional help or support information, postpone the maintenance until all the
necessary information is in your hand. Remember, preparation is much easier for
a preventive maintenance procedure as opposed to an unwanted crisis repair.
Also, keep in mind many maintenance tasks are now available on detailed
instructional video tapes. Check out our Video Library Page. Additionally, many
local community colleges now offer classes for the RVer and RV shows offer
seminars on RV maintenance.
Get to know a local service facility – Do Not
Leave This Step Out! Even though you may want to perform some maintenance
yourself, always get to know a local dealer or service center in your area.
Eventually your going to have to swallow your pride and call on them for help
and aside from being there to order parts for you, they can also be a good
source of information.
Additional tips – Never attempt to adjust your RV
generator yourself. This is one area that is definitely better left to your
service shop. Many specialty tools are required, as the generator needs to be
load tested while making governor and carburetor adjustments. Load banks and
specialty testers are beyond the scope of the do-it-yourselfer. Just remember
that on the RV generator every mechanical adjustment that is made has an
electrical result. You cannot tune a generator by ear. This item is for the
Also never attempt to adjust your LP regulator without the
knowledge and use of a water column manometer. Changes in the delivery pressure,
though crucial to each appliance cannot be determined by visually watching a
burner flame. Too high LP pressure will damage many appliances, while too low of
a delivery pressure will result in improper combustion and inefficient appliance
By honestly accessing your technical expertise, learning and
gathering a resource library of sorts for those items on your coach, and
acquiring the proper tools and parts, you may be just ready to experience the
fun of maintaining your investment for your leisure over the road enjoyment. It
is hoped that major repair costs are avoided and total enjoyment is realized
from the experiences of working on your own motorhome.