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Many people buy travel trailers because they are generally less expensive than motor homes and many do not require the specialized tow vehicles needed by fifth-wheel trailers. Because they do not have engines and transmissions like motor homes, they are less complicated and therefore easier to maintain. But like all recreational vehicles, they are subject to wear and tear, the effects of the weather, and vibration caused by highway travel. To maximize the life, and your enjoyment, of your travel trailer, it is essential that you follow a regular maintenance schedule.
Items you will need
Battery tester or voltmeter
Wash your trailer often, especially after each trip. Use a mild detergent and a sponge or soft brush. Most newer travel trailers have a rubberized roof which should be cleaned at least four times per year. Roof manufacturers and RV supply stores offer special cleaning products for rubber roofs, but you can also use a mild laundry detergent. While cleaning it, inspect the roof for cracks or tears caused by low-hanging branches. Check for leaks around roof vents, air conditioner covers, and TV antennas.
Check the condition of your battery at least once per month. If it is not a sealed maintenance-free battery, remove the caps covering the cells and check the water level. Add distilled water if necessary. A battery tester can directly read the condition of the battery's electrolyte. Test a sealed battery with a voltmeter to ensure that it produces 12 volts when fully charged. Cracks or bulges in the battery case indicate that it is time to replace it. Check the battery cables and clean any corrosion. If the trailer will be stored for a long time, disconnect the battery cables to prevent battery drain.
Drain your black and gray water waste tanks after each trip. After draining, pour in several gallons of water and a pound of baking soda into each tank. Tow the trailer for a few miles to break up any deposits, then completely drain the tanks. When using the trailer at a campground with waste water hookups, do not leave the drains open. Allow the tanks to get about half full before opening the valves to drain them. This will help flush them out more effectively.
Drain the fresh water tank at least once per month. Every six months (or more often if you use the trailer in very warm climates), “shock” the tank with a strong chlorine bleach solution. Drain the hot water heater every six months. Check the condition of the electrode (if it is an electric heater) and replace if it is corroded.
Check the condition and pressure of your tires at least once per month, and before each trip. Use a torque wrench to check that all wheel lug nuts are tightened to the manufacturer's specifications. If you leave the trailer in a sunny location for extended periods of time, use tire covers to protect the tires from the effects of the sun. Check wheel bearings and have a professional lubricate them once per year.
Mike Frees is an I.T. professional who was first published in the Apollo Computer corporate journal in the 1980s. He has since seen print in fiction magazines, local newspapers and nonprofit newsletters, and has been writing online articles for the past year. He has a bachelor's degree from San Jose State University and a master's degree from the College of Notre Dame.