So, you just got your new camper or motorhome and you’re ready to take your first trip, right? Not so fast! You can never just jump in and go! I can’t stress enough how important the PTI is. In this article, we’ll cover the absolute basics.
The best procedure is the one that fits you best. So develop your OWN checklist encompassing the basics and your personal additional needs. So let me explain to you the PTI I have developed as a former OTR truck driver, combined with my RV camping experience. This PTI takes about 30-60 minutes on average.
Prep: Have tire pressure & depth gauges in your pocket, gloves, a shop or paper towel, and a flashlight. If you have a motorhome, I highly recommend using an inspection mirror! This is the mirror I use on Amazon – $11.88. On a motorhome, the mirror is the only way you’ll be able to inspect the brakes and behind the wheels.
I start and end in the same place, the front of the RV. If you have a trailer, it would be the front of the truck towing it. Start the vehicle and put on the headlights and 4-way flashers. Beep the horn and test the wipers and washers while you’re in there, and then pull the hood release.
- As you walk up to the front, take notice of the way the vehicle sits. Is it level? Are there any pools of fluid underneath? Visually inspect the windshield, mirrors, wiper blades, bumper and all attached parts. Are the signal lights flashing, are the marker lights on? Are the headlights working properly?
- Open the hood. With the motor running, look for loose or moving belts. Feel and squeeze the hoses for soft spots. Pull the transmission dipstick and check the fluid level — smell the fluid, and take a drop between your thumb and index finger and squeeze it in a circle. You’re feeling for grit or metal shavings, and smelling for a burning smell. Either of these would suggest a visit to your mechanic. Listen for any odd noises, squeaks, leaks or squeals. Leave the hood open. Check the wiring for the ABCDs – abrasion, breaks, corrosion or deterioration. Rodents are famous for gnawing at motorhome wiring, so pay special attention to this inspection! I can’t start to tell you how many engine fires in motorhomes were started by gnawed wiring!
- Walk down the passenger side. Check the front tire. (Is the tread deep enough? 4/32″ or more) Check the pressure. Is it at optimal, manufacturer’s pressure cold? (* SEE PSI NOTE BELOW) Run your gloved hand over the outer and inner sidewalls feeling for bumps and looking for cracks. Check the rims for cracks and the lug nuts for rust (rust on the lugs indicate the nut is loose – always check lug nut torque within 150 miles of a tire change). Shine your flashlight behind the wheel and look at your brakes, connecting rods and tie rod, as well as the steering linkage. You’re looking for metal shavings and obvious defects. If you have a diesel pusher with air brakes, listen for air leaks and don’t forget to do a leak down pressure test!
* NOTE: Tire PSI is NOT determined by the sidewall rating! There are two factors to determine proper inflation: 1) Sidewall MAX pressure 2) Manufacturer loaded PSI. You check the sidewall PSI to make sure to never exceed it when reading it cold. You check the manufacturer’s max rating when loaded to determine the running pressure. As an example, my Class A tires have a sidewall max rating of 105 psi. However, the manufacturer has calculated a loaded psi of 85. This rating is posted on my B-Pillar, just behind the driver’s seat. If you upgrade your tires to a heavier ply, see the manufacturer’s website or call them for proper inflation based on your loaded gross weight. Never rely on the sidewall max psi!
- Work you way down the side of the RV looking for defects in the glass and walls and check that the side marker lights are working and the slides are fully retracted and sealed.
- Check your rear wheels, tires, suspension and brakes just like the front. 2/32″ is the minimum tire tread depth for the rear, but I recommend 4/32″.
- Moving to the rear, check all lights, trailer hitch and receiver, connectors, and if you have a dinghy, continue with the same procedure on the car.
- Move up the other side, repeating all the inspections from the first side. Go inside the RV and turn off the engine and lights. Open your generator compartment and check the oil twice. Check the air filter. Start the generator from the remote start in the generator compartment if you have one and leave it running.
- Back to the engine compartment, check the oil level twice, steering fluid, hydraulic fluid for your stabilizers, and radiator fluid level. Open the overflow for the radiator and use a test strip to test the anti-freeze (once per month). Check and fill the windshield washer fluid.
- Back in the driver’s seat, start the engine. Check your turn signals with a helper checking front and then back. Have them wait in the back, and then press the brake pedal and check the signals again. All of your gauges should be up to operating range. Make sure they are all working.
- Turn on one AC unit and let it run for 10 minutes on the generator, and then shut it down.
(Remember, always let the genset run for at least two or three minutes before and after you use it. It needs a warm up before use and a cool down period before shutdown)
TIP: mark the normal temperature gauge reading with a marker in a straight line, mimicking the normal reading of the gauge. If your needle passes this normal range, you’ll know at a glance that there’s a problem.
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE NOW COMPLETED THE MECHANICAL PRE-TRIP INSPECTION!
The next step is your camping checklist. The camping checklist is just as important for a successful trip! Everyone has their own, and it is specific to the camper!
Some of the things you want to include on your camping checklist are: lawn chairs, BBQ, charcoal & lighter fluid, paper plates, bowls & cups, toilet paper, sheets & towels, groceries, silverware, can opener, scissors, bottled water, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, spare fuses, spare light bulbs, fresh water hose, sewer hose, surge protector, gloves, hand cleaner, tool kit, and many others! Like I said, it’s really up to the camper!
RV Checklist – Pre-Trip
I personally use the app called RV Checklist. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have camping, there are things you WILL forget to do if you don’t have a checklist! I highly recommend this app! You can personalize this wonderful app as you go and before long, you’ll be an expert!
Download Link for Apple Users | Download Link for Android Users
This one is much easier! 🙂 You are basically going to check all your systems.
A.C., heat, water pump, water heater, all interior lights, toilet function, sink drain function, electric steps, battery level. Outside, check your basement stowage for your shore power cord, fresh water hose, sewer hose and make sure all storage compartments are closed and locked for travel. Check your slides for proper function and make sure they are all the way in and locked shut. Check your canopy and make sure it is locked in travel mode. Check all cabinets and refer and make sure they are closed and locked.
If you spend just an hour or so doing a proper pre-trip inspection, chances are you’ll have a trouble free camping trip!
PLEASE ASK ANY QUESTIONS OR MAKE A COMMENT! I LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU!
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