Last Updated on 05/11/2023 by Glynn Willard
First things to do with your new RV…
After living in our travel trailer for close to two years and doing all our own maintenance, we developed a list for you to use to help prepare you for managing your new RV.
If this is your first RV of any kind, it can be really confusing.
There’s a lot of information on the internet about owning, maintaining and living in an RV in existence. We found the information helpful. But nothing broke it down from our perspective when we backed our new to us trailer into the driveway the first time..
Our first question… where do we begin???
We hope this guide helps you get acquainted with your new RV.
How Should You Use This List?
This is an extensive list and it’s a great start to prepare you for maintaining your rig whether in the driveway or living on the road.
Go through each section and check off the boxes as you go. Some you’ll complete in five minutes, other may take several hours. So be prepared to spend several days getting to know your new travel trailer, fifth wheel or motorhome.
Getting Started With Your New RV
Read The Manual
I realize this is obvious and it might take awhile. Have it on the ready as you go through this list with your RV as a reference.
I suggest also taking notes in the margins and highlighting important aspects. It’s also nice to sit down and read the manual thoroughly after spending the day with the new RV.
Plug Your RV Into Shore Power.
You’re going to need some power for several of these steps. If you don’t have solar panels, it will also keep your batteries charged.
It’s also an opportunity to make sure the AC outlets work as well as the overall electrical system.
If all you have is a 15 Amp outlet, that’s okay. It’s still enough to run the fridge or a small air conditioner (by itself) and charge the batteries.
If you don’t have an adaptor, you can find the right one for your rig here.
Learn How To Use The Tongue Jack
This is applicable to travel trailers. Fifth wheels use a different system with different options. And of course, if you have a motorhome skip this step.
Practice with the type of blocks that work best for you. We like multiple sizes of 2″x10″ pieces stacked. There are plenty of aftermarket jack stands. It comes down to your preference.
You’ll get plenty of practice connecting and disconnecting to your tow vehicle, but familiarize yourself with the steps.
Put The Leveling System And Stabilizers Through The Paces
It you have an automatic system, learn how it works. Take some time to grasp the control panel for the leveling system.
If your trailer doesn’t have an automatic leveling system, you’ll need some manual gear to help you get level. Yes, you can use layers of 2″x 6″ wood, or you can use leveling blocks.
We like our Anderson leveling blocks (a lot). If you have them, start practicing. We give some great tips in our video, 6 TIPS for LEVELLING A TRAVEL TRAILER on UNEVEN GROUND.
Even if you have an automatic system, it’s a good idea to have a manual backup system. We’ve come across plenty of individuals telling stories about when their leveling system failed and it soiled some good times.
Turn On The Refrigerator
It will take several hours for your refrigerator to cool down to its set temperature. You want to make sure it works well while you’re still fresh in the sales person’s mind.
Test it with every power source that it will run on (DC, AC or propane).
Photograph The Battery Terminals
You’ll appreciate having a reference when you change the batteries. Stolen batteries are not an uncommon thing (sadly) and that usually means the “perp” cut the wires.
If you’re away from home, but can find replacement batteries, it will be nice to have a saved photo of where each wire terminates on the battery. Even if you have a broad understanding of electrical engineering, a picture can still expedite the process.
It’s too easy not to do.
Develop A List Of All The Tools You’re Using To Pack
Regardless whether you live in your RV or just take it camping, some basic tools are essential. While you’re going through this starter guide, make a list of the tools you’re using. Make them a permanent part of your RV tool kit.
Here’s a list of the tools we carry.
Take Out The Anode Rod
If it’s a Suburban water heater, the socket you’ll need is a 1-1/16″ socket, which you should keep in your tool kit. It’s not a common size found in most socket sets.
If your RV is brand new, the anode rod will look good, if it’s not new, it may be deteriorated some or a lot. Order a new one as a spare to always have on hand. A quick search online with the model number will find you what you’re looking for.
Water Tank Vs City Water
If you plan on boondocking a lot, start using your water tank (sanitize it first) since this is what you’ll live off of. Figure out its capacity and how much weight it adds to the rig when it’s full.
You’re “city water” nozzle is what you use when you’re at a campground and want an endless supply of water. Use a pressure regulator since the park’s water pressure dictates the pressure on your rigs plumbing.
If the park does not have a sewer at your site (not a full hook up), be careful about using an endless supply of water. You’ll fill up your gray tank in no time and have to go to the dump station. Under these circumstances, use your water tank. It will give you more control over filling your gray and black tanks.
Sanitize The Fresh Water Tank
There are a lot of resources about how to sanitize your fresh water tank with bleach. And several different ratios. I haven’t seen anything that wouldn’t work.
If you use 1/2 cup per 30 gallons, fill the whole tank, let it sit for four or more hours and run it through the faucets, it’ll do the job. Flush the tank and faucets several times, and you’ll be good to go.
Find The Water Pump
Generally speaking, the water pump close to the kitchen sink in most rigs. Find where it is and take a picture of the model number. If you will be living in your rig, carrying a spare is not a bad idea.
They’re not difficult to replace, but they can be difficult to obtain when yours fails in the middle of nowhere.
Being familiar with its location and the wire connections can help expediate the return of it’s function if it fails.
Open Every Cover Panel
Yes, get your screwdriver or drill out and take off every panel cover you can find. This way, you’ll be familiar with every system’s location. Again, better while you’re in the driveway than on your camping trip.
Learn How To Bypass The Water Heater
Every system has a valve inline to send water away or to the hot water heater. If you just can’t seem to get your water heater to work, check this valve to make sure it’s getting water.
It will usually require the removal of a panel on the backside of the hot water heater.
Run The AC, Heater, Fans, Microwave & Water Heater
That’s right, test every HVAC and water system. Again, this is a good idea while you’re still fresh in the sales person’s mind. In most rigs, your fans will run off the DC (batteries) system.
So, if your batteries are not charged, they will not work. Your air conditioning runs off the AC (alternating current) system. If your plugged into a 15 Amp plug (standard 110V outlet), it may not be enough to run your AC.
If you have a smaller AC unit, it will likely work, but turn everything else off first.
Check The Pex Connections And P-Traps For Tightness
Most rigs that leave the factory are not perfect. And loose plumbing is a common problem. I’ve encountered individuals who found out one of their P-traps was disconnected the first time they took a shower.
One of ours came loose once from all the bumpy dirt roads. Fortunately, we caught it before any damage occurred. Now I regularly check all the P-traps and PEX connections that are within reach.
Jack Up The Rig And Change A Tire
I realize this is a pain, but do it anyway. The more comfortable you are with changing a tire on your specific rig, the better. Especially on the highway.
I’ve actually heard of individuals being sent home with their new rig and the spare tire didn’t fit the hub. This is a factory error and can be easily corrected if you practice in the driveway before your first outing.
Learn About Your Suspension System
There are a lot of different systems on the market. Manufacturers (assemblers) use different variations, so make it a point to research the type that your rig is equipped with.
If it has wet bolts, buy a grease gun and learn how to grease them. It’s too easy not to do. Also, note that for the grease to make it all the way through, the pressure has to be off the suspension.
This means jacking up the frame on that side enough to release the tension. Again, an easy job.
Learn What Your GVWR And CCC Are
Your rig has a very specific number for it’s max weight. This is your GVWR. The difference between what your rig weighs empty and the GVWR equates your CCC (cargo carrying capacity).
Getting your rig weighed when it’s full is a very good idea, but not always convenient. So, at least figure out how much weight including water and additional features (solar panels, batteries, etc.) you can add to the rig before it exceeds GVWR.
Why? Overloading your rig, erodes your stopping ability, overloads your suspension, contributes to tire blow outs and accelerates the wear and tear on your RV.
Also, if you’re in an accident and it’s determined you’re overloaded, your insurance company may not compensate you (or anyone) for losses.
Check All The Seals
If your rig has a walk on roof, get up there and inspect every inch of seals. If you see any breaks in the seal or potential breaks, reseal it.
I use ProFlex and it seems to work fine. There are plenty of opinions on sealers, just find one you like and keep everything sealed on the top, sides and bottom of your rig.
Get To Know Your Solar Panels And Batteries
Follow the wires from your solar panels as far as you can and trace them through the rig. It’s good to know where everything is when and if there’s a problem.
Learn all about your charge controller, how it functions and how it manages your batteries charge. There are different settings for different types of batteries.
If you have an inverter, read the manual for it and make sure it’s set properly.
Get to know your batteries and what kind of maintenance they require. Learn the voltage differences of a dead battery and a good battery. Also find the temperatures for their best operating ranges.
Familiarize Yourself With The Propane Tanks
Removing propane tanks is an easy task. Most rigs have similar setups for securing your propane tanks.
I suggest removing one in the driveway, so you know what to do when you’re out on the road. It will also disclose if you need any helpful tools.
Learning how to easily and quickly switch between tanks is important. One tank tends to run out during “inopportune” times. If you already know what to do, it will be easy to switch in the middle of the night.
Practice Backing Up The RV (Regardless Of The Type)
This goes without say. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a travel trailer, fifth wheel or massive class A. They all come with their own set of challenges when backing up.
You’ll perfect your skills while you’re out on the road, so spending hours in a parking lot is unnecessary. Just get the fundamentals down, so you know what to do in a tight situation.
Download The Schematics To Your Phone
This is more important if you live in your rig and boondock frequently. There are times when you’ll be totally off-grid with no signal.
This is when it’s awesome to already have the wiring and plumbing schematics filed on your phone or laptop.
Like all suggestions in this article, this one comes from experience. We needed the plumbing schematics and we’re deep in the Saw Tooth Mountains with no signal. I had to leave camp, find a signal, email Outdoors RV and await a response.
They got back to me on the same day with a pdf attachment of the schematics we needed. It would have been REAL nice to already have that information in that situation.
If you ask nicely, most manufacturers will email you the appropriate information on your rig.
Know The Measurements Of Your RV
Measure your rig bumper to bumper and make a note of the measurements in your cell phone, so you don’t forget.
If it’s a travel trailer, measure from the tongue to the rear bumper.
Measure from the ground all the way to the top of the highest object on your RV. This is the number you need when you’re approaching a low overpass with a maximum height number. If it says 11′ 8″ and your tallest object on your roof tops out at 12 feet, your RV will not fit.
You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to assume.
Time To Get Out And Camp (Or Live)!
This is a great list for getting to know your RV in your driveway. But your relationship with your “home away from home” will really flourish when you’re using it to its fullest abilities.
What are some of the first things you have done with your new or new to you RV?
Happy and safe travels!
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