How to spring clean your recreation vehicle

Farm Forum

For much of the country, the past winter fell victim to one brutal storm after another. However, with spring officially here, it is time to wake up your Recreation Vehicle for that first family camping trip of the season.

Longtime RV expert Mark J. Polk ( offers seven essential areas to check during this annual spring ritual: RV batteries, water system, exterior and seams, tires, engine and generator, appliances, and general safety devices.

1. RV Batteries: Polk, a certified RV technician, always starts with the batteries because they are needed to perform some of the other checks. According to Polk, the condition of the RV batteries is dependent on how well they were cared for while they were in storage.

“Batteries in storage will lose a percentage of current through internal leakage,” said Polk of North Carolina. “It’s not uncommon for a battery to discharge up to 10 percent a month when it is in storage. If you checked and recharged the batteries periodically they should be ready to go. If not, the first step is to fully charge them.” Add distilled water as required.

2. RV Water System: If your plumbing system was winterized with non-toxic RV antifreeze, then the first thing you need to do is “hook a drinking water hose up to the city water inlet on your RV and run fresh water through the entire system until all traces of the antifreeze are removed,” said Polk.

“This is a good time to check the plumbing system for leaks. With water in the fresh water holding tank, turn the 12-volt water pump on and pressurize the water system until the pump shuts off,” said Polk. “If the water pump cycles back on, even for a short period of time, there could be a leak somewhere in the system. Locate the leak and repair it.”

Next, sanitize the water system so it is safe and ready to use. This involves filling your tank with a diluted household bleach solution (a quarter-cup of bleach mixed with water in a one-gallon container for every 15 gallons your fresh water tank holds) and flushing it back out.

“Make sure all of the drains are closed and drain plugs are installed,” added Polk. “Fill the fresh water holding tank completely full of water. Turn the water pump on and run water through all hot and cold faucets until you smell the bleach. Close the faucets and let it sit for 12 hours. Drain all of the water and re-fill the tank with potable water. Turn the water pump on and open all faucets, running water until you no longer smell any bleach. It may be necessary to repeat this process to eliminate all signs of bleach.”

When the water system is completely flushed out, you can replace any water filter cartridges you removed for storage. Be certain the water heater tank is full before turning it on, otherwise the heating element will burn out.

Polk has a simple video demonstrating these instructions at

3. RV Exterior and Seams: If stored outdoors all winter, another major area to check is the rig’s exterior.

“Inspect all roof and body seams, and around any openings cut into the RV, for signs of cracking or damage,” said Polk. “Reseal any seams or sealants that show signs of separation.”

There are primarily three different types of roof materials, according to John Melaas, manager at Chuck’s RV ( parts and service center in Mead, Wash.

“There are fiberglass, metal, and rubber roofs,” he said. “Be certain to purchase the sealant that is compatible with your RV roof.”

Also check the roof vents and skylights for damage, said Melaas. “With heavy snow falls,” he explained, “we have sold a ton of vent covers.”

4. RV Tires: Check tire pressure and adjust to the manufacturer’s recommendation based on the load. Inspect the tires for tread wear and any cracking on the tire sidewalls.

“Remember, failing to maintain correct tire pressure, based on the load,” said Polk, “can result in faster tread wear, uneven wear, poor handling, and excessive heat build-up which can lead to tire failure.”

5. Vehicle Engine and Generator: These checks apply to motor homes and any vehicle you use to tow a trailer or haul a slide-in camper.

Check all of the engine’s fluid levels including the transmission, power steering, coolant, oil, windshield washer, and brake fluid.

“If a fluid level is low, try to determine why and correct the problem,” advised Polk. “Start the engine and check for proper readings on all gauges. Check the operation of all lights.”

If you carry a generator, check the oil level and inspect the exhaust system for any damage prior to starting. “If the generator hasn’t been turned over during storage, start and run it for a couple hours with at least a half-rated load,” said Polk.

6. RV Appliances: If there is liquid propane gas (LPG) in the cylinders or tank, open the LPG valve and check the operation of all LPG appliances. If any appliance is not operating properly have it inspected.

Next plug the RV into shore power and test the 120-volt appliances and accessories for proper operation.

7. General Safety Checks: Re-install any fuses that were removed for storage. “Test the operation of the carbon monoxide detector, LG gas leak detector, and smoke alarm,” said Polk.

“Replace RV smoke alarm batteries every year, just as we do with our home smoke alarms,” said Melaas. Also, inspect all fire extinguishers to be certain they are fully charged.

Now you are ready to give the rig’s interior a complete cleaning and re-stock all your favorite camping supplies.

For those who do not feel comfortable performing these inspections, crawling on the RV’s roof, or doing any repair work, most authorized service centers will gladly do it for you. Always call for estimates on your specific rig. Compare any quote with at least one additional RV repair shop.