As full-time RVers, our RV is more than just a vehicle we camp in or that transports us on vacation. Our RV is our tiny home on wheels that we live, work, and travel in 365 days a year! While the RV lifestyle is a grand adventure, there is a good amount of upkeep to keep things in working order. In this article, we share with you our ultimate RV maintenance checklist, including routine maintenance, annual maintenance, and considerations for part-time RVers or weekend warriors living in colder climates.
Why is RV Maintenance Important?
Maintenance tasks are not necessarily the most fun part of RVing, but are 100% necessary to continue to enjoy RV travel and road trip safely for the long term!
RVs are depreciating assets. Some RVs, like fiberglass trailers, hold their value better and require less maintenance and it is not uncommon to see these little white eggs from the 90’s still making camping memories today. This being said, traditional RVs and trailers can also live long happy lives and see many miles if they are cared for properly.
In addition to safety and peak performance for stress-free travel, a well-maintained RV with a documented service history is more likely to retain its resale value and attract potential buyers. Moreover, RV maintenance promotes the longevity of the vehicle. By keeping all systems in optimal condition, you can extend the lifespan of your RV, allowing for more years of enjoyable travel experiences.
Common RV Problems & Maintenance Issues
As an RV owner, there are a few major concerns to be aware of when thinking about why maintenance matters.
First, is the problem of water intrusion. Water damage is common in RVs and is any RVer’s worst nightmare. Common leaks happen at seams, slideouts, and from the roof and can lead to mold, mildew, and rotting that can be costly, hazardous to health, and in some cases even be irreversible.
Second, are safety concerns. Towing or driving an RV can be dangerous. Blowouts or mechanical failures with your tires or systems can lead to RV damage or accidents, and overloading weight or failing to brake lights or other safety measures can lead to accidents or run-ins with the police.
Third, is having working amenities. The last thing anyone wants is to embark on their next great camping adventure only to arrive with no A/C on a hot day, a smelly toilet and black tank, or to find that it is raining… inside as well as outside. Your RV will experience normal wear and tear and routine maintenance can help prevent those from becoming more major issues.
The following checklist will help you stay on top of the various maintenance tasks associated with RV ownership to help make the world of RV care less of a hassle. That way you can spend more time enjoying your adventures and the great outdoors, and less time fixing problems or stressing about what might go wrong.
What are the Basics of RV Maintenance?
RVs can have their share of problems (they are rolling earthquakes after all), but with preparation and proactive care, you can set yourself up for success based on what is within your control.
And how cool is it to have all the comforts of home with you anywhere you want to go!?
Regular maintenance is an important part of keeping your RV or travel trailer in good working condition and tip-top shape.
RV maintenance can fall into any of the following areas:
- Water systems and plumbing
- HVAC unit, vents, filters, fans
- RV exterior (paint or exterior coat, doors, seams, seals, roof)
- Tow vehicle maintenance or engine and mechanical components to a driveable RV
- RV appliances, electrical/gas/hydraulic systems, alarms, safety systems, gadgets
- Tires, bearings, axles, shocks, springs, suspension
In addition, certain tasks might need to be completed on varying schedules:
- Annual Maintenance: Maintenance done each year to keep your RV in mint condition
- Semi-Annual Maintenance: Maintenance done at more frequent intervals, multiple times a year
- Regular or Routine RV maintenance: These are maintenance or general safety checks that are best done on a regular basis (we typically think of these tasks as the things we keep an eye out for throughout the year and with each travel day)
It is a good idea to keep an updated checklist of your RV maintenance items so that you can track when you did them, as there are different maintenance items needed for different seasons and some that are necessary to do multiple times a year.
Below, we break down just what you want to keep in mind in our ultimate RV maintenance checklist!
A Complete RV Maintenance Checklist
If you are new to RVing, the idea of maintenance and all of the different systems to keep in mind might feel overwhelming. We are here to help and remind you that keeping your RV in good condition is not about being perfect or hitting every single maintenance benchmark right on schedule every time.
Suggested Maintenance For Every Trip
Each travel day in an RV is an opportunity to go through important safety checks and reset to ensure your RV is in good working order.
- Check Truck Oil, Transmission & Brake Fluid
- Set truck tire pressure
- Set RV tire pressure
- Inspect tire condition
- Make sure TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) is active and reading correctly
- Lubricate hitch
- Inspect hitch components
- Lubricate pin
- Check springs, shocks, and/or suspension
- Inspect brake lines and wiring
- Check brake fluid level
- Inspect LPG components (shut off propane if traveling through tunnels or bridges)
- Check 7-pin connector connection and truck and/or RV lights and signals
Monthly Maintenance (or every 1000 miles)
The items on the monthly maintenance list include mostly day to day safety items as well as checks to make sure the main systems of your RV are in good working order. This list may appear long at first glance, but can be moved through quickly if you are vigilant and know your rig well. For us, many of the items are more of a reminder and can be done at longer intervals.
- Check smoke detector
- Check LPG detector
- Check carbon monoxide detector
- Check water system for leaks
- Check fire extinguisher
- Lubricate jacks and slide rams
- Check hydraulic system fluid level (in our RV this plays a role in our rear slide-outs, as well as our automotive disc brakes)
- Check generator oil & filter, and run (we don’t like gas sitting stagnant in our Generac for more than about a month)
- Recondition water softener
- Clean microwave and dishwasher filters (fun fact – for the first year of RVing we used our dishwasher as storage. Reconnecting it has been amazing and uses far less water than we expected)
- Lubricate slide-out and window seals (these are prone to drying and cracking which can lead to slides not forming a tight seal and leaks)
- Check for areas that need re-caulking (as your RV flexes while rattling down the road, small cracks can form. Water will get anywhere and everywhere. It is important to be vigilant as these can often be hard to see.)
- Clean A/C filter and air returns
- Check pin box bolts are tight (for fifth wheels)
- Check roof sealant for cracks (including areas around the TV antenna or satellite dish, front and rear cap seams, around the air conditioner, fans, solar panels etc.
- Check for any loose screws on ladder, trim pieces, etc. and tighten
- Clean solar panels (even a thin layer of dirt can impact performance)
- Check breakaway cable
- Lubricate gray and black tank handles
- Check fridge water line for leaks
Quarterly Maintenance (every 3 months or 2500 miles)
A few times a year there are maintenance tasks that are proactive in nature and help keep things running smoothly and avoid breakdown in RV performance.
- Check battery cables and terminals
- Sanitize fresh water tank (to ensure you have nice fresh potable water coming out of your tanks and through your lines)
- Inspect / clean max air vents
- Clean interior fridge coils and exterior vents
- Clean heat vents (lots of dirt will get trapped in here)
- Change batteries for RV door lock
- Check RV tire lug nuts
- Lubricate compartment and door locks
- Check brake caliper bolts tight
- Check cable slides are attached
- Check slideout arm brackets tight
- Check spare tire pressure
- Check for any signs of water intrusion or soft spots in the flooring
Semi-Annual Maintenance (every 6 months or 5,000 miles)
Twice a year it is time to bring your attention to some larger maintenance items that will take a bit more time to complete and be bigger projects. We have been able to complete every single one of these on our own while traveling, but this is dependent on your comfort level.
This may be less frequent for you, depending on how much you travel with your RV in a year.
- Inspect wheel bearings (re-pack every 10,000 miles)
- Clean awning fabric (to prevent mold and mildew and check for holes). We recommend letting your awnings out as much as possible to let them dry and air out.
- Change water filters (we have a whole house water filter, as well a free-standing Berkey which only requires filter changes every 6,000 gallons)
- Lubricate axles every 5000 miles
- Lubricate suspension every 5000 miles
Once a year it is time to inspect your RV and start fresh! Some items from the 6 month maintenance list may fall into yearly for your RV, but it can also be a good idea to once a year do a more extensive one over using the items on all of the lists above to ensure your RV is travel ready!
- Inspect brakes, suspension, shocks
- Check LPG system and propane regulator (Read More: Best RV Propane Pigtail & Hoses)
- Clear air conditioner units including filter and pan
- Check RV electrical cord
- Change water heater anode rod
- Clean and protect the roof (we use the Camco 2-step system, but there are many options on the market)
Truck & Driveable RV Maintenance
Whether you have a truck and a travel trailer or fifth wheel or a driveable RV such as a motorhome, class C or van, it is also important to keep up with regular mechanical maintenance.
In general, here are a few benchmarks (although these may be different for your specific tow vehicle or RV):
- Oil & Filter change every 5,000-7,000 miles
- Truck fuel filter change every 10,000 miles
- Check spare tire is tight & pressure correct
- Replace RV tires and Spare every 5 years
- Replace truck tires every 30,000-40,000 miles (this number varies based on your RV or tow vehicle and how often you tow)
- Truck tire rotation every 10,000 miles
- Check lights and turn signals
While maintenance is best done proactively and consistently, there are also additional steps you can take while using your RV to further help avoid problems down the line.
- Black tank flushing + Grey water tank flushing (to prevent build-up). Check out our guide to cleaning RV tank sensors for more on information on maintaining RV tanks
- Regularly clean RV appliances
- Run a dehumidifier and or air purifier to remove excess moisture and dirt/dust (we find this especially helpful when boondocking in the desert)
- Wash your RV (caked-on dirt or bugs can damage paint or protective coatings)
Storing Your RV in Cold Temperatures (Winterizing)
Winterizing your RV is an important step to protect it from freezing temperatures and potential damage during the winter season.
- Drain and flush the entire water system, including freshwater tanks, holding tanks, and water lines.
- Bypass the water heater and drain it completely.
- Use compressed air or an RV antifreeze to blow out and protect the water lines. If using antifreeze, make sure it’s specifically formulated for RV use.
- Empty and clean the toilet holding tank.
- Add RV antifreeze to the toilet bowl, sink traps, and shower drain to prevent any residual water from freezing.
- Drain and clean the refrigerator, freezer, and ice maker.
- Clean the oven, stove top, and microwave.
- Ensure all appliances are turned off and disconnected from power.
Battery and Electrical:
- Disconnect the battery or turn off the main power switch.
- Remove the battery and store it in a cool, dry place, maintaining a trickle charge if necessary.
- Clean and inspect all electrical connections.
- Thoroughly clean the exterior of the RV, including the roof and windows.
- Apply a protective wax or sealant to the exterior surfaces.
- Cover the RV with a breathable cover to protect it from the elements.
- Remove all perishable food items.
- Clean the interior, ensuring there are no food crumbs or attractants for pests.
- Open all cabinets, drawers, and doors to promote air circulation.
Ventilation and Moisture Control:
- Close all windows, doors, and vents securely.
- Consider using moisture-absorbing products, such as desiccant packs or dehumidifiers, to prevent moisture buildup.
RV Maintenance Tips & Best Practices
Regular inspections of your RV’s exterior and interior are crucial. Check for any signs of damage, leaks, or wear and tear, and address them promptly. It’s also important to maintain a consistent cleaning routine, both inside and outside, to prevent dirt and debris buildup. Don’t forget to pay attention to the roof, awnings, and slide-out mechanisms, as they require special care. Another vital aspect is regular engine and generator maintenance, including oil changes, filter replacements, and fluid checks. Tire maintenance is equally important, with proper inflation and regular rotation to ensure even wear. Additionally, pay attention to your RV’s electrical and plumbing systems, checking for any issues and fixing them as soon as possible.
Products & Tools We Always Have On Hand For Routine Maintenace:
- Lexel (adhesive caulk; we find it works better than standard silicone or RTV)
- Caulk Gun (for applying Lexel or other caulks/sealants)
- Lucas Red & Tacky Grease
- Grease Gun (for greasing bearings, suspension, fifth wheel hitch)
- Mineral Spirits & Denatured Alcohol (for removing old caulk)
- Silicone Lube (for metal on metal components such as slide-out rams, awning components, and jacks)
- Slide Out Lube (for rack and pinion components)
- Seal Conditioner (for rubber seals on slides, around windows, etc.)
- Self-Leveling Dicor Lap Sealant
- Torque Wrench for lugs and bolts
- Viair portable air compressor (for inflating or deflating tires)
- Duct Tape
- Eterna Bond Tape (durable, waterproof, air-tight tape for any holes; great to have on hand for any mishaps with tree branches or the like)
- Little Giant Ladder (for caulking and repairs)
- Rubber Gloves & Working Gloves
- Drill – to tighten loose screws, drill holes for installations (such as solar)
- Impact Driver – drive larger screws and bolts
- Impact Wrench – key for pulling lug nuts off (for checking hubs, bearings, brakes, seals)
- Torque Wrench – for tightening lugs between travels
- Deep Impact Socket set – help reach nuts on longer bolts
- Ratcheting Wrench Set – allow for much quicker turning
- Socket Set (handy to have a large assortment of socket sizes)
- Slide Cable Repair Kit (if you have cable slides)
- Spare Remco water pump (or other brand depending on your RV)
- Large bottle jack (for RV or truck tire maintenance)
- Pex crimper for RV plumbing
- Electrical connectors, butt connectors, heat shrink, zip ties, spare screws, and hardware
- Tape measure
RV Maintenance Schedule Tools
RV Life Maintenance Tracker
RV Life’s RV Maintenance Tracker is a digital tool designed to help RV owners track and manage their RV maintenance tasks and schedules conveniently. It is available as a feature within the RV LIFE app, which is our personal favorite all-in-one RV travel app!
The RV Maintenance Tracker offers a user-friendly interface that allows you to input and keep track of essential maintenance information for your RV.
Here are some key features and benefits:
- Maintenance Reminders: The tracker allows you to set up maintenance reminders based on specific intervals or dates. This ensures that you never miss important maintenance tasks and helps you stay proactive in keeping your RV in top shape.
- Customizable Maintenance Tasks: You can create a personalized list of maintenance tasks specific to your RV. This includes routine checks, inspections, servicing, and other necessary maintenance items. The tracker allows you to add and modify tasks to tailor them to your RV’s requirements.
- Service History: The tracker helps you maintain a comprehensive service history log for your RV. You can record details of maintenance performed, including dates, descriptions, costs, and any notes or observations. This log can be useful for tracking the RV’s maintenance records, and warranty requirements, or for reference when selling the RV.
- Notifications and Alerts: The app can send you notifications and reminders for upcoming or overdue maintenance tasks. This ensures that you stay on top of your RV’s maintenance needs and helps you maintain its longevity and reliability.
- Sync Across Devices: The RV Maintenance Tracker syncs your data across multiple devices. This allows you to access and update your maintenance information seamlessly, whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
- User-Friendly Interface: The RV LIFE app, including the Maintenance Tracker, offers an intuitive and user-friendly interface that makes it easy to navigate and use the various features. This makes it accessible to RV owners of all experience levels.
Using this list and RV Life’s RV Maintenance Tracker can help you stay organized, save time, and ensure you stay on top of your RV’s maintenance needs.
If you would prefer to stay away from apps, you can also use and customize items in the above RV maintenance checklist and create your own spreadsheet somewhere in a program such as Excel or Numbers, create custom reminders on your phone, or input into a digital note format.
Find a method that works for you and will help you stay on top of your RV’s needs and you will be glad you did!
Fulfilling Travel Tips: RV Maintenance Overall
As full-time RVers we will be the first to admit that we are definitely not always on top of our maintenance. With our RV we have visited 25 U.S. states, roamed internationally in Canada, and explored a growing list of National Parks and iconic sights. We love RVing and we love “Rio”, our 38 foot home on wheels, but we would also rather be out hiking and exploring when we are off work, not caulking seams or sealing our roof.
Over time you will get into a rhythm and start to really learn the ins and outs of your RV. You most likely will settle in to your own schedule of maintenance based on how you use your RV and build your own checklist with a cadence that makes sense for how you travel.
Getting complacent when it comes to RV maintenance is normal, and having an RV maintenance checklist on hand can help you keep the big things top of mind.
In order to avoid potential problems and costly repairs routine maintenance is a necessary evil. If you take care of your RV, it will reward you with an extended lifespan, stress-free travel and hopefully more fun than heartache.
Being able to fix your RV and perform your own maintenance can save you a lot of money and we highly recommend doing as much as you can yourself. This being said, be sure to use a technician with the proper certification (like the RTVAA) if you are unsure.
Interested in other helpful RV Guides? Read More:
- RV Tips 101: Education Guide For Beginners
- Ultimate Full-Time RV Checklist
- 33+ Best Camper Hacks & Tips
- RV Camping Essentials Every RVer Needs
- 7+ Must-Have RV Accessories You Will Love