Pre-Flight Check – What to do Before You Hit the Road
Most of us are brought up knowing a few good basics about regular life; stretch before you exercise, remember your underwear…that kind of thing. But, when you move into a RV you can feel a little like a 4-year old in your first day at school. Thankfully, even an old dog can learn new tricks and with a bit of practice and good planning you can become a pro-RVer and keep the ‘ol machine running like a well-greased wheel.
With that said and using my lovely hubby as a model we’ll now illustrate our very own pre-flight check. That would be the things you do before you move the beast on the road. We do a version of this every time we leave a campsite.
1/ Check Fluids – oil, coolant, hydraulics and transmission
Like all machines the RV has it’s own set of fluids and oils that keep everything smooth and running and they do need a bit of checking. The oil stick in a RV is really no different from a car except it’s quite a tad longer. So, just pull out the “fishing pole” and check the level with your handy-dandy eye. Diesels use a lot more oil than cars so we check this every time we move.
The coolant in our RV is in an opaque container, so Paul developed a sneaky way of checking level with a piece of kitchen roll. Just dip and read…
Hydraulic fluids are another stick and the transmission we check electronically from inside the RV. We check these last ones once a month.
Our RV has 4 massive house batteries which are Liquid Lead Acid and need to have their electrolyte (liquid) levels checked at least once a month. You slide out the battery tray, screw off the caps and do a “quickie” check on the liquid levels by eye. Plates should be covered and if it’s getting low top it off with distilled water. If you’re the more nerdy type you can check exact levels with a battery hydrometer.
3/ Check/Dump The Tanks
If you’ve stayed at an RV site for more than a week or so black and grey tanks (that would be the tanks that hold liquids from the loo and run-off from the sinks and shower) will probably be getting full. So, give ’em a dump at a dump station, rinse the tanks and dump again. The order is always black first, then grey. Once you’re done, add tank treatment chemicals back into the loo (we love Happy Camper…never had any odors from the toilet since using it). We only dump when tanks are more than 2/3 full.
4/ Check Tire Pressure
Once your RV is off the jacks (down on the ground) and the slides are in, you’ll want to check tire pressure to make sure it’s where it should be. Correct pressure depends on your weight, but big tires tend to lose pressure with temperature and altitude changes, so it’s a good idea to check them often. We refill with air from our built-in compressor.
4/ Feel The Tires
Paul usually dons a glove and runs his hands round the tires to check for obstructions, nails or anything else that might be jutting out.
These are the biggies but there’s a few other quickie checks to do before you hit the road. We’ve heard of RV’ers who lost their antenna’s, or forgot to disconnect tank hoses leading to some major “duh” moments and rather costly repairs. So, we usually both do a walk around the RV and make sure there’s nothing “dangling” or hanging loose under, inside or out. Here’s some of the more obvious checks:
- Secure everything inside…if it slips or slides, pack it down
- Make sure RV is down off the jacks and slides are in
- Roll-in the awnings and make sure they’re secure
- Un-hook water and sewer hoses
- Make sure TV antenna is down
- Bring in the RV steps at the front door
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Nan Arthur says
So, have you found a publisher for your really well written adventures about life on the road?
Not yet…still waiting for the big break 🙂
Great article. Especially liked the coolant check method. Having been an electronics person on an Air Force flightline, my hubby and I use the walkaround method. We never rely on one set of eyes. I stand outside and watch as jacks go up or down and as slides go in or out while he watches my reactions in the mirrors. Double check pulls on all cargo bay doors and standing far back to make sure all fan cove
So true about the double-check. We’ve had a couple of cases where Paul noticed something on his walk-around that I didn’t (and visa versa)
Sorry- my iPhone did not like comment form. Anyway I stand back far enough to see fan covers are closed (and antenna as you mentioned) have seen so many traveling down the road with covers and antennas flapping. Was wondering : do you prefer boondocking or hooking up to an electrical site? If boondocking do you use your coach generator or a small portable? Was curious where you get your best repair facility info : from a goodsam recommendation or your coach’s warranty guide for locations or word of mouth? And how many miles are on your RV? Do you plan to full-time for the rest of your days or do you plan to find a place you like and find a home there? Did you store a bunch of stuff or sell it all? Do you have a homebase for mail or do you use a mail service like goodsam?
Hey Lynne, Lotsa qs so I’ll try my best to go thro’ them for you:
1/ Boondocking or hook-up – we do both, but are slowly moving towards more boondocking (or staying in national forest or state parks) because of the cost & nature. Next few months we’ll do more forest and less days in developed campsites. More on that here:
2/ Generator – while boondocking we use our in-house generator (we have a 8,000 watts monster) and run it a few hours every 1-2 days while boondocking. Then, just flip the inverter and watch the usage.
3/ Repair – we’ve not (yet) had to do anything major since we left San Diego, but we’re doing some maintenance in a few weeks in Denver. The site we found was recommended on the Holiday Rambler website.
4/ Miles – we’ve only got ~4K miles on the RV so far…nothing in Diesel standards 🙂
5/ Full-timing – we plan to do this for at least a few years. Hopefully will find a place for a home at some point in our travels.
6/ Store – we sold a BUNCH of stuff and just have a 10×15′ storage for the rest. This is the post I did originally on that:
7/ Mail service – we use a service in South Dakota since that’s where we’re registering the RV & establishing residency. Have a read here:
just an idea – another way to shortcut the checking of the coolant levels in the overflow bottle is to get a good torch (try a Surefire 6P or similar) and just shine it through the overflow bottle to see the level – you can check it while its hot with no need to depressurise and no risk of additional foreign bodies in the coolant system.
just my 2 cents!
Hats off to you guys and a great article!
Cheers for the tip! I like it!
Thanks for answering all the questions! I expected to only have one or two, but they just started coming out! Thanks again. I referred to your preflight checklist in my latest blog entry.
Wow, you’ve done good on your mileage.
Cheers for the ping-back on your blog 🙂
Oops..one more question I forgot. I am really particular about washing our RV, and I know I won’t be able to be on the road but was wondering how you keep yours clean on the road. What places are friendly for that and so on.
Sorry for so many questions. We have only ever camped in Alaska, and it is a different animal altogether from the Lower 48.
Happy to answer the qs, so no problem there. You know we’ve become quite zen about the washing thing on the road. Some campsites will have washers that come to you (mobile RV washers) so we usually ask when we’re at a developed campground. Also some campgrounds are OK for you to wash it yourself (you do need to ask). I’ll usually do a quick manual touch-up (on windows and such) every few weeks or so. Otherwise we do let the girl go a bit dirty. We’re planning to give her a thorough wash when we take her in for maintenance in a few weeks time.
Wow! Paul and Nina! Your blog is so comprehensive and well written. We are just starting out on the path of saving and budgeting for the full-time RV lifestyle, and your blog reads so well. I echo the feelings of other posters here that you should put it out as a book, or an eBook. We look forward to reading more and more and more. Best wishes, Steve and Liz, Toornto, Canada.
Thanks so much for your lovely comment! So happy the blog is helpful!
Am a 70 yr old virgin at least as far as fulltime RVing. Have had a 27′ motorhome but sold it. My wife passed away 2 years ago. It had always been our dream to get another unit and hit the road again. We went 3 years FT, but because of schooling for two grandchildren we adopted we had to go back to bricks and sticks. No questions, but have been updating our old files using your blog. Love it.