One of the biggest problems any camper has is regular maintenance. Unfortunately many people just don’t know there is more to maintenance than oil changes and keeping your propane full.
When you purchase your camper or motorhome at a dealership you are given a walk through of the unit to show you how to use it. If you have experienced this you know it is like drinking from a firehose, especially if it is your first camper! Each walk should include a section on maintenance of your camper, the sad part is this is typically breezed over quickly in a rush to get through the meat of the appointment.
Fast forward a couple of years, a rainstorm blows up on your one full week of camping and you start hearing a drip. Hunting all over the camper you find it in the tub, phew water is meant to be here! The first question is how did this happen? Everyone says water is bad for a camper, the death of it in fact! So how do you avoid this?
The answer is regular inspections of the exterior of you camper. So what do you look for? When we perform an exterior inspection every inch of the sealant is inspected along with all components added to the outside of the camper. Our recommendation is to inspect your camper at least twice a year and any time you think you may have come in contact with a tree branch or other obstacle!
A note before the lists begin! It is always best to perform the inspection after your Camper or RV has been washed from the roof down. It is amazing how much dirt will hide! Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended cleaners to perform these tasks.
Exterior Camper / RV Side Wall Inspection
- Carefully examine the seals along all trim pieces, windows and doors. Make sure there are no visible gaps or holes in the sealant. Products we use are Sikasil N plus (easy to work with) and Proflex( difficult to work with)
- If you own a Camper or RV made after around 2008 it is wise to randomly remove screws and inspect for any sign of water on them. This will show via either a whitish powder color, a brown tint, black tint or even the possibility of wet or damp screws. If there is no evidence of water just force silicone into the hole and reinstall the screw. If you are seeing evidence of water it is advisable to remove all the trim screws and put silicone in each hole to seal. We use Sikasil N Plus for our sealant.
- Examine all the screw insert cover, many manufacturers are now relying on this to keep water off your fasteners in lieu of quality sealants. If this has shrunk or cracked you will want to remove and replace the cover. You can locate this at your local RV Dealer and it really is inexpensive to replace. On many fifth wheels, this cover will shrink and pull out of the tunnel area, it is best to just replace it when this happens. This is definitely a task for warm weather!
- Inspect each compartment door when they are open, look for any sign of water running down them, sometimes a flashlight will show the water trail and you can follow it up and find where the sealant issue or gasket issue is.
- Pay special attention to the trims on the bottom and top edges of your slide rooms. Water can run over these and be wicked into your camper through the screws or with some manufacturers even through carpet that is exposed under them. The sad part with leaks like these is typically you don’t find the issue unit the floor is already rotted out.
- We always advise sealing the windows and doors when the camper is nearing 10 years old (sometimes sooner). Manufacturers use a product called Butyl Tape that has excellent sealing qualities. The down side is that over time it will crack and begin to dry out. Adding sealant gives another level of protection for your Camper.
- Inspect all the safety lights and make sure that they are sealed as well.
Exterior Camper / RV Roof Inspection
A couple of notes before we get into inspecting the sealant and roof material of your Camper. First know what the material is, different materials age differently. A traditional EPDM roof commonly referred to as a rubber roof will have a minor amount of chaulking that will show on your knees and hands. This is fairly normal, however, if you are seeing dark spots through the coating it is time to apply a roof coating. We recommend Kool Seal Tundra Coat as a replacement over your existing roof. If your membrane is pvc or tpo. Generally with TPO there will be texture to the roof material and with PVC it may have texture or may be smooth. Both of these are billed as no maintenance options from manufacturers, however, you still want to inspect! On some motor homes and older trailers there are metal or fiberglass roofs.
We always recommend crawling your roof during the inspection. This provides a stable 4 points of contact for you, especially if you have a soft spot in the roof!
What to look for…
- Inspect the membrane for any signs of wear. With TPO roofing feel with your hands for any loose decking underneath. There is a potential for the deck material to wear at the bottom of the membrane allowing for light moisture intrusion. On EPDM look for any dark spots coming through the top coating to determine if your camper needs a roof coating.
- Inspect all your vents and covers, look for signs of UV degradation to the plastics. If they are brittle it is time to replace them! Often you can replace just the cap or lid instead of the entire vent.
- Inspect any skylights paying close attention to the area where the sealant stops. These can crack from the mounting screws and over time the cracks will expand to a point where water can intrude. To buy time you can just seal the cracks but the best solution is to replace the skylight.
- Inspect your air conditioner cover(s). Over time if they become brittle and break it can end up costing the replacement of the unit due to rusted baseplates or even seized bearings in the fan motor.
- Inspect all lap sealant (the sealant around all the components on the roof). Even slight cracks and voids can grow and it is best to seal over these as soon as possible. To re-seal you will want to use a self leveling lap sealant for camper roofs (DiCor, XTRM PLY).
- Inspect the seam between your gutter rail and the roof, if there are voids you will want to seal with a non sag roof sealant (DiCor, XTRM PLY).
Many times Rocky Valley RV LLC. ties this inspection in with the winterizations and de-winterization of you camper. Regular inspections and maintenance break up the cost drastically instead of large repair bills that can range into the 10’s of thousands for some roof replacements. Below is a copy of the check list that we use for our inspections. Since we do not do any chassis work this is not included. We do recommend that you have an annual inspection performed of you brakes and the rest of the chassis if you travel with your Camper or RV.