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11 RV Shakedown-Trip Tips

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When you purchase a new RV, the first thing you need to understand is this: it’s not the same as buying a car—you’re pretty much guaranteed to have some issues. Your new RV comes with a limited warranty, so your first goal is to locate problems for repair before you have to pay out of your own pocket. To save extra trips to the repair shop—and maybe some cash, as well—we’ve compiled this list of shakedown tips based on our experiences as new RVers.

#1: Check Out All the Doors

It’s not a bad idea to begin with the basics. Make sure all the exterior bay doors and interior cabinet doors open, close, lock, and are aligned properly. Open and close all the doors multiple times throughout your trip, especially after leveling your RV at a campsite. It’s almost a given that some of your latches will need replacement and/or adjustment after your first trip.

#2: Try Out Your Slide Out

Throughout the day, push out and pull in the slide, listening for squeaks, cracks, pops, and general odd sounds. Also, watch for alignment issues such as one side moving faster than the other. Both of our RV’s had issues with the slide straight from the factory.

#3: Inspect Your Awnings

Open and close your awnings several times. If you have a European-style awning (i.e., a type typically installed on a Class A RV, with lateral arms and a “rain shed” spring in its arms but without large vertical bracing arms), leave it out during a light rain to confirm that water rolls off the fabric.  If you have a standard-style awning (a manual type typically installed on a trailer or Class C RV and which has large vertical bracing arms), make sure you keep one side of it slightly lower to create a pitch for rainwater fall-off. If it’s windy, and your awning is equipped with an auto-retract, make sure it works as advertised. Just be sure never to leave the awning open unless you are there to supervise

#4: Power Up

Power your RV for several hours using the generator—and we mean really use it. Turn on the A/C, watch TV, confirm your appliances all work off this power source. Once you’ve check out the generator, it’s time to test the inverter. Unplug the RV from all power sources, turn on the inverter, and determine which outlets and appliances run off it. Get to know the limits of your inverter’s power. For example can you watch TV while charging your laptop? Our first RV had the wrong fuse in the inverter from the factory, so we couldn’t even run our TV and stereo to watch a movie without plugging into shore power.

#5: Mind the Electronics Systems

While you’re testing your generator, be truly mindful about how well all the electronics systems work (you’ll want to test everything again on shore power as well).  Jam to music, watch TV, charge your phones and laptops. At night, turn on all the lights inside your coach. Check your compartment lighting, headlights, running lights, taillights, etc.  Does your a/c truly cool your RV? Do your heat pump and/or furnace (if you have one) work properly? If you notice any issues with these appliances get them checked immediately to ensure there’s not a larger electric issue. While you’re checking the power, inspect all your RV’s gadgets for scratches and nicks; your first trip is likely the only time the manufacturer will replace items for cosmetic issues.

#6: Test the Propane and Water Systems

Test all the devices that run on propane: furnace, water heater, fridge, stove, etc. Fill your water tanks (just don’t overfill them), and make sure the level displays work. Confirm that all the dump systems function properly, and the readouts are accurate. Try out the toilet. (Need we say more?) Ensuring that these systems work well and that the readouts are accurate will help you in general, but especially when boondocking, since you’ll truly understand how many days you can go before needing to refuel or dump your tanks.

#7: Watch Your Water Heater

Try running the water heater on electric one day, and then propane on the next. Is the water hot enough? How long does the hot water last while taking a shower? Drain and refill the tank to see how long it takes to heat the water back up. (This is a great way to understand how long it takes the water to warm up after your spouse has taken a long hot shower!)

#8: Don’t Go Far on Your First Trip

The first shakedown trip should happen at the dealership, if they have a campground on site, or no more than a couple hundred miles away in case you need to be towed home. (Yes, our first two shakedown trips ended with our RV on a tow truck). Make sure you have AAA, Good Sam, Coachnet, or a similar hazard plan before you go on that first trip. Many new RV’s come with towing-service coverage, though it’s your responsibility to understand the towing-mileage limits before heading out.

#9: Rev Your Engine

Push your engine to understand how it performs under stress. Drive up hills. Drive down hills. Drive at 10 mph and at 60 mph. Listen to your engine for odd sounds. (Of course, safety always comes first, so don’t do anything against the law or drive at unsafe speeds or grades.)

#10: Watch the Weatherproofing

You should check for leaks with a water hose before you head out, but nothing compares to a natural soaking from Mother Nature—so if a good storm comes along, embrace it. Try out the windshield wipers. Check every corner of your RV for leaks. Note that bins, roof, doors, vents, a/c, and windows seem to be the largest culprits for leaks.

#11: Leave No Stone Unturned

Test every switch, button, lever, and electronic or moving part. It’s much better to get things fixed after a shakedown trip than while you’re in the middle of your first big road trip. Speaking of future road trips, it’s not a bad idea to look into extended warranties when your original limited one runs out. We’ve run across dozens of RVers who swear by their third-party extended warranties. And finally, the idea of “leaving no stone unturned” shouldn’t stop after your shakedown trip. There several RV maintenance tasks that you should perform regularly to keep your vehicle operating smoothly and help you to find and fix small problems before they become big ones.

As with any article this should not be your sole source of information and these guidelines are simple bullet points to help get your research started. You are responsible for confirming all details with the manufacturers of your RV and accessories. Gone With the Wynn’s is sharing from their personal experiences on the road and cannot be held liable for any issues you may incur with your RV.

Comments
  1. RVing to Tipperary

    Good list for folks to use. Like AJ, I had never thought about reving the engine either. Lots of folks struggle in mountainous terrain due to underlying engine issues.

  2. RV AJ

    Great list. I like the tip about rev’ing the engine. Dont think I had heard that one before. Makes sense to know when your rig is struggling though. A real shame to find out the hard way!

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