Your travel trailer is more than just a hitched vehicle. It’s a retreat, a travelling family vacation cottage and a trailer that offers peace and serenity or excitement and adventure. To keep costly repairs to a minimum you’ll need to undertake preventative care and maintenance. Here’s what you need to know to maintain your travel trailer in winter, spring, summer and fall.
In the fall, you’ll need to start preparing your travel trailer for winter storage. Now is a good time to check for any signs of wear or damage on your truck-to-trailer connectors. If there is no damage, clean the electrical contacts and then spray them with a water dispersant such as WD-40. Also, apply grease to any moving mechanical parts, such as the spare wheel carrier, as this will help prevent rust or seizing of the component.
The final step in maintaining your travel trailer is making sure that your living space is kept clean and mold and mildew-free. The best way is to vacuum and wash down the entire interior of your trailer. To prevent mildew, prop open any closet, storage and other doors (including the fridge). Either remove and store seat cushions at home or prop them up (away from the exterior walls where temperatures can drop dramatically). Cover all upholstery with a breathable fabric, such as cotton sheets and leave fixed beds in the open position, whenever possible Finally, make sure rooflights and windows are fully closed and lightly coat hinges with a thin oil or a lubricant, such as WD-40, to protect against rust.
The first step in winterizing your travel trailer is to make sure you wash away any dirt, grime and road salt that may have accumulated. The best way is to get it professionally cleaned, although some time and patience (along with a hose or power washer) will also do the trick. Don’t forget to wash the trailer’s undercarriage, where grime and salt can accumulate and lead to corrosion and damage to your trailer’s exterior shell, brake lines and engine parts.
If you’re storing your travel trailer for winter and you expect temperatures to dip below freezing than you’ll need to do a few things to protect your investment. The first and most important step is to protect your travel trailer’s plumbing. Just like a home, pipes in a travel trailer can freeze and burst, causing catastrophic loss and damage to your trailer. To stop this from happening, you need to drain all the water tanks—including the fresh water holding tank, the water heater, and the black and grey water tanks. To make sure that all water is gone from every pipe, flush the toilet and turn on all the taps. Once this is done close the drain valve. Now it’s time to add non-toxic RV approved antifreeze.
When properly used, RV antifreeze will protect your travel trailer from extreme temperatures. Just make sure the antifreeze is specifically designed for recreational vehicles and clearly labelled as non-toxic and safe for use in drinking water systems. Also, remember to pour a small amount of antifreeze down each drain and into the toilet to protect the traps and flaps from freezing and malfunctioning.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that every component in your travel trailer is shut and sealed properly. This starts with a visual inspection of the seal—to make sure there is no cracking or peeling (if there is, replace the seal before you complete your winterizing steps). Then shut each tank, window, door, retractable and awning, making sure the seal is closed properly and securely.
If you’re travel trailer is stored in a spot that offers an electrical supply throughout the winter, consider plugging it in. This will ensure that the trailer’s battery and electrical systems will keep a charge and power up the next time you choose to use the trailer.
If you don’t have the opportunity to plug the trailer in then disconnect or remove the battery. If the battery will be stored in the trailer while in storage, remember to charge it once every six weeks to prevent it from discharging over time—once discharged a battery can never be fully restored.
When preparing your trailer for use after it has been stored, you’ll need to de-winterize the plumbing. This means flushing your trailer’s pipes and tanks of the antifreeze that you put to prevent freezing. To flush your system, start by turning on the cold tap closest to your fresh-water tank. Keep the water running until it’s clear. Do this for each cold water tap, toilet and shower until all the water runs clear. Then locate the hot water heater and turn on the hot water tap closest to this unit. Again, wait until the water runs clear and do this for every hot water tap and shower. Once done, open up the bypass to allow water to fill the tanks.
Inspect each part of your motorhome before travelling. This includes the roof, the seals on top of the roof and around windows, door moldings and retractable living spaces. Look for cracks or peels. Check your tires. Look for defects; check tire pressure; and take a lug nut wrench to tighten each tire’s nuts. Once done, you’ll want to hook your trailer up to the truck hitch and check each light and signal to make sure all are working. For more on inspections, see the step-by-step checklist for RV maintenance.
Before you load up make sure the trailer’s LPG (liquid petroleum gas) detector is working properly. The LP test will check to make sure there are no leaks in your trailer’s system (a system that runs the gas, furnace and the hot water heater).
As soon as you park your travel trailer make sure you cover your tires. Tires last between five and seven years, but if they’re left to bake in the sun they’ll deteriorate faster, leading to unsafe driving conditions and costly repairs. Buy UV-blocking tire covers or talk to your dealer for other options.