By Gord Paulsen
The most important things to look for before you travel any distance are safety issues in the propane system, suspension, tires and wheels.
The propane should be checked yearly for proper function but it’s also a good idea to have the appliances checked and cleaned, the regulator checked for proper pressures and the whole system checked for leaks. As you can imagine propane leaks are a health and fire hazard. As long as there aren't any problems, this should only take about an hour.
The wheel bearings should be repacked every 7000 - 8000 kms or once a year, depending on the road conditions. Wheel grease can break down and get squished out of the bearings causing them to fail, which could result in premature bearing failure and then your wheels may fall off. Worn bearings can affect tires as well, causing abnormal wear. Having a technician repack the bearings also gives him a chance to look at the brakes and general condition of the suspension and hubs and spindles. If you do a lot of driving up and down gravel roads, consider getting it done sooner as the extra vibration and dust is harder on the bearings.
Lug nuts should be torqued and tire pressure checked every trip. Carry a clicking torque wrench with you and it should only take a couple minutes to make sure your wheels won’t fall off. The important thing is that the lug nuts are all equal, which is especially important when it comes to aluminum wheels. Aluminum expands and contracts more than steel and as a result the lug nuts are more likely to loosen. Once one lug nut starts to loosen, it increases the chances of the next one coming loose and so on.
Suspension bushings are often over looked and should be replaced as necessary. If your suspension bushings fail, your spring hangers can stretch and in a worse case scenario your axles may fall off. In most cases, it throws out the alignment and causes your tires to wear pre-maturely. Grease-able brass bushings with Zerk fittings are nice but can be expensive. The advantage is they will last a long time and can save you money in the long run by keeping your bushings in perfect health.
The tires should be balanced so your tread wear is even – this will make them last longer and check to make sure you have enough tread left. Check for cracking on tire sidewalls, which can be an indication of an impending flat tire. Check out www.rma.org in their tire safety section for tips and rules of thumb on keeping your tires in top condition.
A technician should also check to make sure your brakes and brake controller are in good working condition.
Having your suspension, tires and bearings functioning properly will improve the handling of your coach, trailer or 5th wheel, save you money on gas as well as costly and very inconvenient repairs.
A properly sealed roof might not seem like a safety issue, but if you get mold and mildew inside your coach, it can affect your health. The roof coat should be checked every spring and fall, as well as all your seams at your windows and doors.
Remember to check and change the batteries in all of your detectors and alarms, and even change out complete units if they are out dated.
All this might seem a little daunting at first, but a little maintenance now can save you from sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck, or worse, a fire truck.
Gord Paulsen is the owner operator of Advance RV and has over 19 years experience working as an RV Technician.