RV and Truck Maintenance – Part One

We made it to Branson Missouri a week ago. It’s nice not to worry about when we have to leave to get back to work or home!

Again, I find myself typing a longer post than maybe readers care to read. I just want to get all this out before I forget. I tend to write for myself, like I’m the reader, and hope like-minded people can make use of it.

It’s raining this morning and it’s turning cold outside. So it’s time to do some indoors stuff. Like drinking flavored coffee my daughter gave me and catching up on a blog topic. We might also take off later to tour inside stuff here in Branson or catch a show. For now I wanted to catch up on how I’m handling the maintenance and repairs so far; especially as we just came from separate five week and three week stops which was a good time to tackle a few things.

The list of minor RV repairs is growing. Just like everyone said, we would have an ongoing list. Some of it I fix on the spot or whenever the urge comes over me. I’ve taken pictures of the stuff I want the manufacturer to fix as eventually we will schedule the appointment. A supervisor at the Vanleigh Factory Service Center had told me to make sure and document everything well so they have the parts when we arrive next spring. I see now what folks said  which is the first year there are bugs and minor things to repair in all new trailers. I’m still glad to have ordered a new trailer rather than buying a one year old. Had I needed to save the money I would most likely have looked at five or six year old units when by then most of the serious depreciation is gone.

I’ve started a list of typical maintenance items sorted by service intervals. In my ongoing attempt to keep things simple I suspect most of that list will never be used as I’m hoping just to be able to walk around the RV and truck and know what needs to be done and when. Truck maintenance, other than some diesel related stuff is typical auto maintenance. The exterior of the RV, tires and such are typical. The owner’s manuals and Vanleigh Facebook page is helping to form the list. And of course the feedback from blog readers and people parked near us provided valuable information. Some of the hardest maintenance decisions have actual been what product to use such as lubricants and waxes.

One would have to write a mini book to document get all the maintenance ideas. I’m just going to hit on a few that come to mind.

Truck Maintenance

While we were parked near Kansas City and still had Karen’s car, I took the truck to the local dealership where I left it for maintenance. Although the next scheduled transmission maintenance was not required for about 4,000 miles. With the Ram trucks there is a lot of information out their on Mopar websites and diesel trucks have added owner’s manuals. Routine oil changes and lubrications are more expensive compared to a passenger car. There are two fuel filters that are not cheap to buy nor install. Our truck has the upgraded Aisin transmission which requires service at 30,000 mile increments rather than 60,000. Glad I read up on the maintenance because the dealership was unaware they don’t change the transmission filter on the 30,000 transmission service interval. They just replaced the fluid. Saved about $100. The dealership said most people with the Aisin transmission option do heavy construction hauling so they were used to replaced the filter early. I also decided to follow the truck’s published maintenance schedule regarding oil changes which is; every 15,000 miles or six months or 500 hours or sooner if prompted by the oil life indicator system, whichever comes first.

The following link is the maintenance list for our 2018 Ram truck with the Cummins diesel and Aisin transmission option: Maintenance Schedule per Mopar

Regarding the Aisin transmission option and it’s abilities. We just climbed our most serious hills to date getting to Branson Missouri which is part of the Ozark Mountains. The transmission temperature did not move above it’s normal operating area. I continue to be impressed with the automatic engine braking on hill decents.  God I love this truck even if it’s not the quietest I’ve owned. The tire noise and maybe transmission noise between about 45 to 65 miles per hour sucks.

Truck Got a Bath Inside and Out – Then waxed with spray on-wipe-off liquid wax/cleaner.

The last campground in Carthage Missouri allowed vehicle and RV washing. The site was flat with gravel so ladder work was easy. I’m using the same materials to wash and wax the truck as I’m using for the RV to limit the storage requirements. Although I had a few things left from our sticks and bricks house to use up as well. I finally researched and bought a vacuum which is the Shop-Vac 1.5 gallon portable model.

1.5 Gallon Shop-Vac. You can attached hose to opposite side to use as a blower.

This model does not take up much space. Its easy to move around. It handles dry and wet vacuuming. I can add a bag for fine dust. It is also the smallest Shop-Vac model that has a blower feature which I’ve yet to use.  Karen’s house vacuum hose will reach the outside stairs but I generally get them with my Shop-Vac after I vacuum out the truck or basement. I kept a 25′ extension cord which so far this last three months has been all I’ve needed. Glad I sold the 100′ cord which would not have been worth the RV basement space in my case. I’ve got a second shorter 15′ cord that I can add it needed. If I need something longer then I’ll wheel our portable generator over and plug into it.

A friend back in Kansas City uses a local vehicle garage for his diesel truck maintenance. The shop allows him to bring in the oil and fuel filters to save him some money. So far I don’t plan to spend much time doing my own oil changes although learning to change those two fuel filters might be worth the time. Our truck has a cabin filter which I changed along with the engine air filter.

I’m particular about the leather seats in my vehicles. Stupid me forgot my good leather treatment in the storage unit. I had boxed up some cleaning supplies rather than throw them out or sell them in our final garage sale. I’ve been doing some reading and the Chemical Guys stuff looks interesting.

I keep a quart of spare engine oil inside a door pocket. I’ve got a pair of leather gloves on the driver’s side in the floor board storage area for refueling and quick access. I suggest having a set of leather gloves stored at the front of your RV basement as well.

I’ve got a spare box of diesel exhaust fluid in the back of the truck. I replace it with a new box after I use it. This stuff is hard to find in small towns. I spent about an hour driving around in no-where Illinois before I learned to keep a spare box. Our truck holds six gallons. Depending on driving conditions such as if you are towing or not, the six gallons last a long time. You can also buy diesel exhaust fluid at the diesel pumps at truck stops if you need to fill the tank.

It’s not a maintenance item but before I forget I should pass along what a neighbor said about his larger class A gas RV. It’s sometimes hard to find a gas station large enough to refuel his RV. So keep that in mind if you don’t buy a diesel rig and use truck stop diesel lanes or fuel up when unhitched.

RV Exterior Maintenance

Before I get to far into the topic, does anyone know the etiquette for washing campers, when allowed by the campground, and the neighbors are parked nearby and their rig might get some overspray? I personally can care less if the neighbor sprays a little water/mist on our camper. So far I climb the step ladder so I can rinse the trailer with lower pressure water. And I don’t wash when the wind is up on a particular side if the water might drift to the neighbor’s clean rig. If the neighbor’s is dirty then I’m not as careful.

I check the tire pressure before every trip, epecially if we have been parked for awhile. If we were on just an over-nighter I trust the portable tire monitor enough to just check the pressure.  For the longer trips I check the pressure with the monitor as well as a pressure gauge. So far I’m finding the monitor to be fairly accurate. If you are looking to buy electronics make sure and check out the TechnoRV site. His prices are competitive and he has done all the research. He sells certain brands for a reason. Also the videos on how to use everything rule. There are varying opinions regarding if you should keep the trailer tires at maximum pressure. I do which is 110 pounds for G rated tires as printed on the tire and side of the camper.  Some say if you are not hauling a fully loaded trailer then you can run with less pressure which will reduce the tire heat.  I keep it simple and run with the 110 pounds. Our TST tire pressure monitor also watches for overheating and will sound off when and if you reach a problem. I’ve never had a problem with over-heating the tires so far. 

While I’m checking tire pressure or cleaning wheels I constantly look around at the under-belly, suspension and frame of the RV for any obvious problems. I saved an old cardboard box that stores flat to kneel on. Keeps my knees clean which apparently is a big thing to Karen.

This might be a good time to add that so far I’ve bought no tire covers to protect them from the sun when parked. As you know most RV tires only last about five years due to the sun. As we are fulltimers and our trailer slide-outs shade the tires I don’t’ see a reason to buy tire covers – nor store them nor haul the weight even if it’s minor.

I’ve downloaded a fairly complete list of RV maintenance stuff from the Vanleigh Facebook page file section. The list of bolt torque settings for the suspension system and wheels has come in handy. There has been a Lippert Equa-Flex recall on Vanleigh trailers built before the first of 2019. They are changing the shackle sizes. No worries, I measured ours and we are fine. I also did not receive a recall notice on ours. It’s nice to see RV manufacturers are taking recalls more seriously. I wrote about that some time ago after Forest River was threatened by the National Highway Safety Administration. 

Rather than type it all out; below is a link to the maintenance document I downloaded from the Facebook user group for our Vilano trailer. It’s a darn good starter list. Perhaps it will be of assistance: Suggested_Maintenance (1). It has pictures!

I’m sure everyone will do the research and have their own ideas regarding products and intervals for outside RV maintenance. It has helped to walk around the campgrounds and talk to those more experienced.

  • I’m still using the ladder I kept from home. It travels in the back of the truck as it’s a heavier metal one.  But – I’m constantly on the lookout how to perform RV maintenance without leaving the ground or worst case the second step of our step-stool. Avoiding accidents when you travel fulltime is a must!
  • I’ve got an extension poll with a softer brush. I had been using it to wash the RV but now I’ve reconsidered using a brush on our trailers upgraded fiberglass sides. The brush is okay for the roof however. Our pole and brush is one of those Camco systems where you can hook a hose on the bottom. If I had to do it again, I’d not buy the same combination. I’d stick with a standard painters pole with attachments. I store the pole in the front basement. I’d suggest you measure the length of that space so you know how long a pole you can keep. Generally a pole that collapses to five feet or less should be fine. I want one that extends all the way to the top side of the trailer without having to stand on a ladder.  Take my word for it – the pole selection is very important because you will use it all the time.
  • I use the finest micro-fiber towels I can find. I also have some lessor towels for oil. If they are not oil stained I wash them out in a bucket and then Karen takes them to the laundry. I found out the other day you are not supposed to dry micro-fiber on high heat as it melts the fibers which are plastic. You should also not use fabric softener as it destroys the micro-fibers capacity to absorb moisture. All the towels and most of the chemicals are stored in one clear tote in our main basement where they are easy to get to. I also have a very large micro-fiber towel for drying the exterior which I wrap around the pole.  Water spots suck. So far the single bucket we got with the dealerships cheap RV starter supplies is all I’ve needed for maintenance and more. Get a five gallon bucket with a lid!  I clean our’s out and store stuff in it on the utility side of the camper. Some say don’t use micro fiber towels on the outside of your camper, use a squeegee or 100% cotton instead.
  •  The number of different chemicals available and recommended is over-whelming. I trust what the factory says the most, what experienced people with our same trailer brand and my own experience next. Lastly, I’ll default to the internet forums and what others around me recommend.
  • Here is a trick regarding black tank maintenance, especially if you don’t have a black tank flushing system. Learned it on our owner’s group forum. Our tank capacity is 45 black and 90 gray. I’ve also used the GEO method but without bleach.
    • As always, when parked for longer times I let the gray go to nearly full before dumping the black.  I have an extra gate twist on valve on the end where the sewer hose attaches. When I dump the black tank, as it slows down I close the extra gate at the hose and open the gray. Gray water rushes into the black tank as the black tank valve is still open. I leave the gray open about 12 seconds and then close the gray and open the extra gate at the hose to drain what gray has rushed into the black tank. I do this about four time for my tank size. Last time usually comes out clean. While doing this the black tank flush hose is running.

      Extra twist on gate valve. Get one because it’s safety in the event a gray or black valve is stuck open. You can thank me later!

      • I’ve been doing some experimenting. I use a cheap gauge attached to a water hose to count the number of gallons of water I add to the trailer tanks. In my first test the black tank level indicator says my tank is full at 25 gallons although it’s a 45 gallon tank. I know from practical experience that black tank can go for days after the gauge reads full. It takes about seven minutes to add that 25 gallons of water without the use of a water pressure reducer. As I think a fantastic way to clean a black tank it to fill it with fresh water and dump it, I’ll be continuing my experiments to see how many minutes I can run water into the black tank before it’s nearly full. I know this is dangerous and there is a risk of overfilling and maybe having water shoot out the top of the black tank vent pipe on the trailer roof. So maybe I’ll just go to three quarter full and dump which is the minimum before you should dump a black tank anyway.
      • I finally cleaned our roof after six months of ownership. Used a soft brush on a pole and water with a little Murphy’s Oil Soap per the suggestion of Vilano owners. Two weeks later I was on the roof again and man did it come out white and clean. I found three places that needed more self-leveling sealant as well such as around a couple screws. I don’t walk on the roof of the slide-outs as I’m worried that might press the roof through an exposed screw head underneath the roof membrane. Although I’ve been on them and others say it’s fine.  That’s the third time now that I’ve inspected the roof.
      • I finally cleaned and lubricated the slide-out rubber seals. To include the rubber seal underneath the slide-out!  I used Thetford brand lubricant for this. I also lubricated what was required on the slide-out gears. More on that in part-two.
      • Here is a big one – clean and lubricate your auto leveler legs when they are extended before retracting them. Especially with the Lippert leveling system, as not keeping them clean before retracting them does something to Teflon seals. Our owner’s manual said clean and lubricate them. The experienced folks camped next to us added if you don’t then the life expectancy of the seals will be less.

I’d intended to add a full list of all the chemicals and lubricants I’m using. However I want to take more time to take photos and better organize the list.  There will be a part two for this topic. I’ll most likely get to it after the Branson Missouri trip posting. I’m also thinking about a couple more topics such as dealing with insects and camping in cold weather ideas.

5 thoughts on “RV and Truck Maintenance – Part One

  1. We never cover our tires, for the reason you stated. We are usually changing them out before they can age out. Of course, after our recent experiences, there are a few more things on Dave’s mental inspection checklist.

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  2. Pingback: RV Maintenance Part 2 and Our Upcoming Travel Schedule | Our Future in an RV

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