Now Is The Time To Look Over Your Motorhome
Big surprise here, but there are more motorhomes in use at the races today than ever before. Racers have found the convenience of having their own home away from home to be especially inviting. However, just like your home on terra firma, your motorhome requires much of the same maintenance. With wintertime now upon us, it’s a good time to look over your choice of towing equipment to not only winterize the unit; in the case of those living in cold climates; but also just general maintenance.
Once again for those living where temperatures may be hard pressed to get above the freezing mark, it’s imperative you drain the unit of every bit of water, which not only includes what’s plumbed throughout but let’s not forget to empty any cabinets which may contain any liquids which may be subject to freezing. There are a lot of things which are worse, but having to clean up busted bottles of water or soda when it comes time to go back racing again, isn’t a pretty sight.
There are two ways to winterize your water system. The first is by running RV water line antifreeze throughout your unit. This specially formulated chemical is used straight out of the bottle and is non-toxic. It usually requires two or three gallons depending on your unit. Some motorhomes have an auxiliary system for winterizing which makes the job easier, but it can also be done by running a hose from your water pump inlet directly into the container of RV antifreeze. However, it’s also important to drain and bypass your water heater.
The second method is by blowing shop air from a compressor throughout in order to blow the lines free of any water. However, be sure to limit the pressure by way of a regulator to less than 30 psi.
Also be sure to dump the black and gray holding tanks, washing them out if possible to eliminate some unwanted odors. Dump a little bit of RV antifreeze down the drains and toilet to allow some of the antifreeze to sit against the dump valve drains to keep the rubber seals from hardening and eventually leak.
“This is a great time to go over your unit from top to bottom,” says JB Strassweg of Basden’s American RV Center. Strassweg, a noted racer himself who obviously travels with his own motorhome and knows first-hand the trials and tribulations racers encounter throughout the year. “Now is the perfect time to go through your unit to assure there are no surprises during the race season,” he says. “We’re at a lot of races and get asked all the time to get a look at someone’s unit because they’ve had a problem. We don’t mind because it’s just part of our business, something we do to help anyone out.”
Strassweg mentioned his top wintertime check list which includes the condition of engine belts, hoses, etc.; followed by brake condition, shocks and air bags, generator maintenance and most importantly, tire condition.
There are date codes on tires which follow the DOT serial number. They are a four-digit number which gives you an indication of just when the tire was manufactured. The first two numbers are the week of the year the tire was made and the last two the year.
“Besides the date codes,” says Strassweg, “check for any premature/uneven wear, belt separation, bubbles, dry rot, etc. Tires five years old on an RV is old enough and due to their use, you’ll usually won’t wear out a tire before that time period. Replacing the tires is cheaper than fixing the coach after a blowout. Checking tire air pressure should not only be a once a year thing, but should also be looked at prior to any trips.”
Because racer’s motorhomes are usually run in what is termed as in a self-contained mode; running on either generator of battery power; it’s puts a strain on your batteries. “Most batteries in motorhomes are of the lead acid technology,” says Strassweg. “Be sure the water level in each is where it’s supposed to be, Four or five years is the average life span of an RV battery. If it’s time to replace them, consider an AGM battery for its better reliability and longer life especially for those heavy inverter users. The RV industry hasn’t quite fully adopted Lithium technology yet and for the money, the gel cell is best bang for the buck with its longer life span. Cleaning terminals and battery cables is another smart move at this time of year.”
Speaking of self-contained, most everyone will use a generator for a variety of things at the races. Generators run on either gasoline, diesel, or in some older units on propane. “Gas burners, if used regularly, are virtually trouble free and diesels generally are even better,” says Strassweg, “but the extreme usage and temps we put them through do take their toll. Make sure the wintertime list includes assuring the belts/hoses are in good shape. All generator units rely on air flow through them to keep cool. If yours has a radiator, it’s not a bad idea to use some type of air conditioner coil cleaner to keep them clean and ensure a good amount of air flow.”
It’s also a good idea to keep a cache of spare parts on hand for your generator as well as other things in your motorhome. “Specialty fuses for the inverters, light bulbs, screen door latches, toilet water valve, and heck, even a water pump can come in handy when you least expect it,” says Strassweg. “We stock a lot of parts at our store and short of a generator stator replacement or engine rebuild, I’ve helped racers do just about anything at the track. Just like your race program, spare parts can make a big difference in a pinch.”
In addition to all of the above, it’s a good idea to get a look at where things are sealed, roof, slides and the like. “Absolutely give everything the once over,” points out Strassweg. “A failure here during racing can make for a wet and/or drafty weekend.”
Bear in mind also that most motorhomes were not designed to tow the trailers we use. For that reason, a lot of wear and tear is placed on the motorhome trailer hitch. Just like a lot of the above things, give your hitch and the frame a good look over for any possible cracks or damage which can really wreck a lot of havoc. If you haven’t had your hitch replaced or reinforced, now would be the time to have that work done, when time isn’t always of the essence.
Like anything else, preparation is the key to success. Prepare now for a successful race season.
Basden’s American RV