Travel trailer in front of boondocking area on clear sunny day.

How to Maintain Your RV and Avoid the Service Bay

Have you heard that joke about owning a boat? If not, here it is:

You know what BOAT stands for, right? Bring Out Another Thousand.

This joke is so applicable to RVing that it’s not even funny. I doubt boaters are laughing either.

All of which is to say that RVing comes with the responsibility of registering, maintaining, and repairing a vehicle (or multiple vehicles), and things will inevitably break.

Frequent trips to the service bay don’t just put a damper on your travel plans—they can also be costly. Proactive maintenance and care are key to minimizing your visits to the repair shop.

In this post, we’ll share how you can keep your RV running smoothly and avoid unnecessary service visits.

Close up of RV tires with TPMS installed

How to Keep Your RV Out of the Service Bay

Stick to a Regular Maintenance Schedule

Reading the manual might not be fun, but neither is an unplanned pit stop at a service center. The best way to prevent major repairs is to stay on top of regular maintenance.

Here are the key RV maintenance tasks you should schedule on a regular basis.

  • Engine and Generator Care. Regular oil changes, filter replacements, and fluid checks
  • Tire Maintenance. Checking tire pressure, tread wear, and alignment
  • Battery Maintenance. Keeping lead-acid batteries topped off with distilled water, charged, and clean
  • Seasonal Care. Winterizing and de-winterizing as the temperature changes
  • Lubricating Bolts and Bearings. On a travel trailer or fifth wheel, pack wheel bearings about once a year if you’re a full-time RVer. Also, all those wet bolts on your leaf springs and axles need grease.
  • Engine Bay. For motorized RVs, regularly inspect the belts, hoses, and connections for any obvious signs of wear. Make sure filters are clean and that fluid levels are within range.

Handle Minor Repairs Yourself

It’s taken me years and a lot of tough situations to learn that fixing an issue myself is often the best way to go, despite my total lack of natural repair skills. Learning to handle minor repairs can save you trips to the service bay and lots of money, so it’s worth doing even you’re not a natural DIYer.

Basic repair skills, like replacing a fuse or fixing a leaky faucet, are safe and straightforward to handle without hiring a professional technician. Just keep a well-stocked toolkit and a few essential spare parts on-hand. Those who are more handy can probably repair just about anything themselves, given enough time and tools.

Online resources like eTrailer can be helpful for getting answers to technical questions. Moreover, they can generally ship parts to your location within one or two days.

Author's travel trailer parked at campsite next to picnic table
Image credit: Sarah Kuiken/TREKKN

Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

Before my truck went into limp mode, it kept showing me a message that didn’t seem very urgent: “Action Required: Keep Driving”.

Okay, I thought. I’m driving.

When I Googled the message, I learned that diesel engines need to run through a regen cycle every so often, and this message basically meant that the cycle hadn’t completed yet. Seemed pretty harmless—until my engine went into limp mode about 100 miles later.

In my case, that “harmless” message was an indicator that something was up with my catalytic converter. If I’d known, I would have pulled over before limp mode ever happened.

So don’t be like me. Stay on top of any strange noises, smells, or performance changes, and act quickly to investigate potential issues before they turn into big problems.

Related Reading: RV Maintenance Checklist for Worry-Free Travel

Man power washing RV roof as part of regular RV maintenance

Practice Good RV Hygiene

No, I don’t mean taking regular showers. Practice good driving and weight management habits to minimize the wear and tear on our RV, which will in turn minimize breakdowns and other issues.

Here are three top tips to help ensure your RV stays in top condition.

  • Good Driving Habits. Avoid harsh braking, rapid acceleration, and rough roads (when possible). Also, pay attention to your RV or truck’s payload (weight capacity) to avoid overloading it and putting undue stress on the components.
  • Seasonal Preparations. Seasonal damage can impact your systems if you don’t prepare for changing temperatures. In the winter, drain all the water from your plumbing and add some antifreeze to prevent freezing damage that can become a leak by springtime. Before hot weather hits, inspect and clean your air conditioning and cooling systems. Clean your fridge and furnace annually to optimize performance and avoid fire danger.
  • Stay on Top of Recalls. Manufacturers sometimes issue recalls or updates, so stay in the loop to ensure you’re notified about any critical recalls or updates. Check regularly for any info that’s relevant to your make and model.

Related Reading: How to Winterize and Store Your RV

Close up of long handled brush as RV owner washes roof of RV

Which Tasks are Essential for Maintaining Your Rig?

Keeping your RV out of the service bay is primarily about prevention. Regular maintenance, understanding your vehicle, and addressing issues promptly can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of repairs.

By taking a proactive approach to your RV’s care, you can enjoy more adventure time on the road and less time in the repair shop.

What are the essential maintenance tasks you never miss to ensure your rig is in tip top condition? We would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. Our readers can learn a lot from your experience. Please share your tips in the comments section below.

Thank you and safe travels!

Read more great RV Travel and Hiking articles by Sarah Kuiken.

Collage of RV maintenance including roof washing, battery care, and tire checks with text 'how to maintain your rv'

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