Maintenance of the 'Rig'

This page was last edited 04/26/03

For my purposes the 'Rig' includes the RV itself and the basics of keeping it running and on track.  Chassis, body, interior, cleaning, paperwork, software, mail, and the work it takes to keep it going.  This includes such items as maintaining warranty information to properly caring for the unit.

This page is just getting started and only has some basic comments at this time about what it will try to address, except some of the items at the bottom of the page.   Thanks for your patience!

A little modification from of a statement from my thoughts page...  The money you save by not doing the Periodic Maintenance on your vehicle and its' accessories will come in handy when you're paying someone to repair or replace them earlier than should have been necessary.

Chassis

The chassis of your vehicle usually includes the running gear.  That is to say the engine, transmission, frame, wheels, axles, etc.  Usually this part of the vehicle is covered by the manufacturer of the chassis.  The service department of the coachbuilder will refer you to them and it is appropriate.  Rely on your dealer to assist you with getting the chassis components serviced properly.  There may be areas that the two entities (coachbuilder and chassis manufacturer) representatives disagree on as to who is the responsible party.  This doesn't happen often but a good dealer is an invaluable asset here.

Maintenance schedules - The manufacturer is the guide here to what the maintenance for your vehicle is.  Close attention should be paid to fluid levels and equipment wear points such as brakes.

Engine - PM service (periodic maintenance) should be performed without fail.  The longevity of your drive train is dependant on such service.  Oil changes, coolant changes, filters and adjustments are all important factors.  My personal thought is that the engine lubrication system should be serviced (oil/filter changes, lube) every 3,000 miles.  This appears to be even more important when you are running a diesel.   The manufacturer warrantees my diesel for 150,000 miles or seven years.   Common sense would then tell you that you've got one heck of a piece of machinery if properly cared for.

Transmission - An often neglected area of service, the transmission needs fluid checks and changes just like the engine.  Whether the transmission is behind a conventional gasoline powered engine or as in my case the Allison transmission, is noted as virtually 'bulletproof' if properly cared for and used.  The transmission fluid should be changed after break-in (5000 miles for my Allison) and then again at 25,000 and every 25,000 thereafter.  An interesting note is that with such advanced transmissions as we now have the status of the transmission is readily available right on the electronic shifter.  With the Allison you can actually check the transmission fluid level right from that shift pad.  It also will notify you of problems via a code system.   Fluid levels should be checked and maintained with daily frequency.  A little bit of a low fluid level can be an advanced warning of a problem.  Most times you won't be adding fluid but the check is a necessity.   Here's an example of what my Allison World Transmission needs.

Fluid And Internal Filter Changes

Transmission Vocation

Fluid and Internal Filters Change Interval

On-Highway After the first 8000 km (5000 miles); thereafter, 40,000 km (25,000 miles) or 18 months, whichever comes first.
Off-Highway After the first 500 hours; thereafter, 1000 hours maximum or 18 months, whichever comes first.

Generator - The generator is another motorized unit that requires maintenance much as your engine or transmission in the vehicle.  The generator has a service required list that should be followed for the unit that you own.  An example below is what my Onan Marquis requires.  I suspect that your generator will require a similar maintenance schedule.

PERIODIC MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE

MAINTENANCE OPERATION

MAINTENANCE FREQUENCY

Every Day or Every 8 Hours

Every Month

Every 50 Hours

Every 150 Hours

Every 300 Hours

Every 500 Hours

General Inspection

X

Check Engine Oil Level

X

Clean and Check Starting Battery

X3

Clean the Spark Arrestor

X

Change Engine Oil and Oil Filter

X1,2,3,4

Replace Engine Air Filter

X2,4

Clean Carburetor and Combustion Chambers with Onan "4C"

X

Clean Engine Cooling Fans

X2,6

Replace Spark Plugs

X4

Replace Fuel Filter(s) and Clean Fuel Pump Screen

X5,6

Adjust Engine Valve Clearance

X6

Remove Cylinder Heads and Clean Combustion Chambers

X6

Inspect and Clean Governor Linkage

X6

1-As a part of engine break-in, change the engine oil after the first 50 hours of operation.
2-Perform more often when operating in dusty conditions.
3-Perform more often when operating in hot weather.
4-Perform at least once a year.
5-Perform sooner if engine performance deteriorates.
6-Must be performed by a qualified mechanic (authorized Onan dealer).

On the fluid chart you are making... it is much easier to list the transmission requirements than to have to look up the book, and read it through to find what kind of fluid to use.  The same goes for the engine and the genset.  Have listed exactly what products you should use in the engine and life will be much easier.

Repairs

Repairs should be done by qualified personnel.  My personal experience is that if someone trained and qualified to do the repairs takes care of it then it is less likely to require a second try at fixing it.  I try to let my dealer do all of the work on the unit since he has schematic diagrams, blueprints, and other valuable data needed to maintain the unit properly.  The Cummins diesel engine I take to the Cummins shop, along with the Onan generator (Cummins owns Onan) where they have proper service personnel to do the job.  The Allison transmission is serviced at the Allison shop here locally.

An interesting little bit of information is this list of RV Salvage Yards.  You may sometime need a replacement part and want to use such a yard for an older unit part.

Body

Your dealer will give you a maintenance schedule for the coachwork that they have done.   This will also include the specifications for such things as the lighting and fuses.

Interior

This is one of those live and learn areas.  Most of the interior should pretty much be treated just as you would your home furnishings.  Follow the usual cleaning and freshening habits that you would at home.  The same cleaners work here as there.

I've found that the couches are cheap to say the least.  My weight tends to bend the support bars on them when I sleep on one of the foldouts.  I am not real satisfied with their quality and they are on my list to replace with a better quality unit.

Probably out of lack of knowledge, I expected that the front seats were good quality and durability.  They are a Flexsteel unit that on first appearance looks real good and they sit nicely.

That bubble was broken when my granddaughter left one of my 500,000 candlepower spotlights turned on and burned a 4 inch hole in the driver's seat.  I unbolted the seat and took it to, of all places, the auto trim shop here locally.  Wouldn't you think that would be the spot to get something like this fixed?  The first thing they were concerned about was matching the material and they suggested that I call Coachmen and get the cloth.  Coachmen wanted to send me a whole new seat bottom (leather outside and cloth insert).  It would take a minimum of three (3) weeks to get that here if at all.

The auto trim shop explained that they were held to very high standards by government regulations and that the material they used had to be of certain fade resistance, durability, etc.  RV units are not held to that high standard.  i.e. There are no regulations that require them to do so.  The seats in the motorhome were more of a quality that you would find in my living room.  They simply didn't have material that would do the job and match the original.  They suggested that the local fabric store that carried home furnishings quality material be checked for something to fit the job.  My wife agreed that she thought that she had even seen the fabric in question there.  We'll have to see just what happens.

Cleaning

Various part of the vehicle require cleaning periodically.  Let's start at the front and work back... 

Front:  The vehicle collects those innumerable pests known as bugs.  Spplllaaaaatttt and you've got another one.  You can't avoid them but you sure can make the cleanup work a little easier.  Get a can of Gel Gloss and go over the entire front of the vehicle.  Basically what it does is polish up the fiberglass or metal and seal the pores.  That makes cleanup much closer to a simple rinse down with a hose instead of an all afternoon cleanup.

Awning:  Open up your awning.  Spray the awning with Tilex.  Roll the awning back up for 15 minutes.  Unroll it and rinse it off and it will look like new and there will be little effort involved.

Sides:  Roof leaving those nasty black marks running down the side of your vehicle?  Use Pro Formula 409 Green.  Spray it on and wait 15 minutes, scrub it a little, and then rinse it off.  You should not have to scrub it very much at all.

Goo Gone

Carbo - Sol

A product called GooGone and another one called Carbo-Sol by Sunnyside have been recommended for cleaning sticky backing off of your equipment, motorhome, vehicle.  It is always good to test the surface (plastic, paint, etc.) with such a product to avoid paint removal, etc. before a 'full scale attach' into removing such sticky substances.

A product called 303 Protectant is a good one to protect your equipment from UV.  From their web page:  303 Aerospace Protectant gives you 100% prevention of UV caused slow fade.  Used for vinyl convertible tops, spa and pool covers, vinyl and leather furniture. It also brings back color to faded gel coat fiberglass for RV's and boats and for all rubber seals and tires.  303 Aerospace Protectant is the World's Best Surface Treatment!  These products are routinely available at several site on the Internet along with your local dealers.

Paperwork...

The paperwork portion of the RV experience can well be a nightmare in itself if not properly handled.  On the other hand if you are one of those that don't care about such things it is my opinion that you'll pay the price, as always, for your neglect.

General Information

Quite a nice idea is for you to print up an 'emergency notification' list with pertinent information on it.  You can give it to a campground host when 'checking in'  It could have the basics that they ask for anyway... such as name, address, phone, vehicle type, and license number.  You can include both the RV unit and the dinghy or tow vehicle on the info sheet.  Really want to get fancy?  Use your handy computer and make out a form with a picture of your RV on it.  Now that's class!

You could go one step further and include the names  and emergency notification for all those that are traveling with you.

Trip Information

I have a worksheet that I use for 'trip info' which has the start date and mileage along with the finish date and mileage.  I have a diary area for purchases, expenses, etc., and notes for anything that doesn't fit otherwise.  I also have a reverse side of the work sheet that has a daily maintenance schedule on it.  That side also has a trip completion list to check off what needs to be done upon return.  We always get the motorhome ready to go right back out on short notice when we get home.

Warranty Information

Each and every part of the RV usually has some kind of warranty information.  It is a good idea to have a central location for the user manuals and warranty information, that is usually contained in them or with them.  It's a lot easier to go to one spot to get such information than to have to search for it.

RV Insurance

Good Sam, Progressive Insurance, Farm & City Insurance are just some of the available policies.  A good place to look for your RV insurance is through one of the RV support clubs I've listed, or a support group.  You can also get suggestions from your reputable RV dealer.  We simply called our insurance agent and added the RV to our existing home/vehicle package policy.

Information Storage

Now that you have this vast resource of information it becomes important to store it in an accessible location and with some kind of organization to it.

Smead UPC No. 72474 is 2 Partition Wallets ($10 at Office Max) and is an excellent tool to assist in organization.  A three ring binder at about $2-$3 is also a good bet.  In that binder you can start with Day-Timer business card holders (90844 Vinyl business and credit card sleeve - folio .......... $5.99).  There is absolutely no need to burden yourself with a billfold full of credit card like memberships, access cards, club cards, campground cards, grocery discount cards, etc. that are only used during the RV experience.  Put them into a plastic sleeve in your RV loose-leaf notebook.   You'll always have the card you need with the RV.  I also store business cards that I acquire there for handy reference. 

Also available are vinyl document sleeves (Day-Timer 90750 Vinyl document sleeves - folio .......... $5.99 or Avery PV119G-50 74107) which are excellent for putting in that information sheet, instruction sheet, warranty sheet, etc. that you may want to have ready access to on a regular basis.  Warranties on items that are less likely to be used regularly, or are of less 'immediate need' type can be stored in the partition wallet or something similar to keep them together.

Another area is the trip receipts and other information gathered.  If you're really into organizing so you can make use of the information in the future then buy a package of common manila envelopes (9"x12").  You can use one of these for each trip to keep the trip paperwork together.  Mark the outside of the envelope with the basic trip information and put them all in a banker's box at home.  All of your trip information is now readily available.

Mail - What do you need to do to get your mail regularly?  I would suggest that if you are a full-timer then you need to consider such resources as Mail Boxes Etc mbelogo.jpeg (3664 bytes), My Branch Office, or other such mail services.   What they do is provide a permanent mailing address, and forward your mail to you wherever you might be.  Many of these mail box services have addresses that appear like a physical address, yet are really only a mail stop for forwarding to you.

Software

With the emerging age of computer technology it becomes apparent that we, as modern travelers, have the advantage of vast resources of information being made available to us at a mere 'click' in many cases.

Travel Pac - Eight areas are covered in this software package.  They will fit the needs of the average RVer.  They are Expenses, Inventory, MPG, Maintenance, Campgrounds, Events Calendar, Phone Book, Travel Notes. (1-800-328-2694)

Delorme - AAA Map 'N Go - The ultimate trip planner.
                Street Atlas USA - Street-level maps of the entire United States.
                Topo USA - Topographic maps of the entire United States, on four CD ROMs.

I use the first two (AAA Map 'N Go Street Atlas USA) repeatedly to plan a trip, determine mileage and route information, and estimate times.   You can print out a travel package with this type of program and it is a great help for your travel.  The second one, Street Atlas USA, is much better with street level information.  I use both of them quite a bit.  The third offering, Topo USA , is new and I would imagine that it would be very good for campers and hikers.

Note:  Don't always take the 'quickest' route for granted.  Many times there are many options and the options can sometimes lead you to adventure on the road.  Sites that you would never see traveling the interstates.  Friendly little towns that sometimes have a spot for your to stay at no charge or at a much reduced charge from the Interstate camping spots.  I'm finding that many times the two lane roads are better maintained also.  The ride is a bit slower but then in an RV you shouldn't be burning up the road anyway!

Spreadsheet - I have developed a spreadsheet much as anyone can do that has a basic knowledge of their software programs.  I personally use Microsoft Excel for my spreadsheets and you'll find available here my basic version.  (rvweb.xls)   I can put a new spreadsheet into my 'workbook' of spreadsheets at any time that I feel a need for additional information.  Any time I want to add a modification to the original spreadsheet to better use the information that I have collected, I can do so.

One of the obvious - the internet - is a vast resource of information for the RVer.   Search tools can be used on the internet to find information on many RV parks, equipment, sights to see, etc.  A good starter for your next trip.  My Publications/Internet Info page will have many of the known RV links available to you.   There are up to date as of the day I added them.  After that I'll try to maintain them as best I can.

Road WhizTM Ultra is an Interstate Services & Directories on a hand held calculator size computer.   This thing works but in my opinion is more of a gimmick than a real help.  It does a quick 'here's what's next' type Question and Answer but I personally like the books for $20 or so vs. the hand-held computer for $50 or so.  With the books I can read ahead and see just what is coming up quickly and evaluate what I want to do.  With the palm jockey I pretty much only have one option at a time presented.


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