Memorial Day is the official beginning of summer and marks the arrival of RV season for the vast majority of travellers. Campgrounds nationwide will be busy and many travel trailers and motor homes will be pulled from storage and readied for the first big trip in many months. Maps are being spread out and destinations pondered. An impending road trip! Vacation! This is an exciting time and spirits are high. Should we head back to that great campground we had so much fun at last year or should we set a new course and try something new? The world is your oyster and adventure lies over every horizon. This is what you bought your RV for and it’s time to reap the rewards.
Unfortunately, for some of us, our true destination will be The Land of Frustration -we just don’t know it yet- and the end result may be a stressful vacation and a family of unhappy campers. The trip from hell. The vacation that brings groans from the family for years whenever it’s mentioned. Usually, after a suitable amount of time has passed, you’re able to have a good laugh about it. We’ve all been there. But none of us want to go back. Right? So how do you avoid an unscheduled trip to The Land of Frustration? We’ll share some of the best tips we’ve compiled over the years from talking to our customers about avoidable pitfalls that have resulted in a vacation disaster. Ready? Pay attention now. This is important.
- Campgrounds nationwide will be busy from now until Labor Day and nobody wants to experience that sinking feeling you get when pulling into your destination after a long day on the road and realizing that the place is completely booked -and the next closest campground is forty miles away. Make your reservations early and get a confirmation number.
- Get your RV out well before your departure day and check that everything has weathered the winter in good shape. Pay particular attention to the air conditioning. Run it for a minimum of ten minutes and ensure that it’s cooling effectively BEFORE leaving home. We don’t need to go into detail about what happens when the A/C is turned on for the first time in months on a hot summer day, many miles from home, and blows only warm air. For reasons we’ve never figured out, RV air conditioning systems are notoriously finicky. A non-funtioning heating system on a summer vacation usually won’t even be discovered, but a wonky A/C can turn your home away from home into a nicely decorated pottery kiln.
- Check that all lights and turn signals are functioning properly. Don’t wait until the morning of your departure to check. A delay of several hours while you monkey with fuses and plugs is enough to kick off any trip on a bad note.
- Open and close all slide-outs. Listen for sounds of grinding or hesitation. We’ve had reports of folks checking into their campground and finding that their slideouts have become inexplicably stuck over the winter and they have to spend the week with slide outs that don’t slide out. Not fun.
- Check that landing jacks, hydraulic or manual, work smoothly.
- And finally, and perhaps most importantly, check your tire pressures. Tires that sit for months can lose more than half of their pressure without looking visibly low. Don’t just eyeball them. Use a good tire pressure gauge and know your recommended pressures. Underinflated tires under load and at speed are subjected to incredible stresses they weren’t designed for. A blow out at any time means changing a tire on the side of the road -frustrating, yes, but also very dangerous, especially if you have to change a tire on the traffic side with cars whizzing past you at sixty miles an hour. A blow out is never expected, either. It happens suddenly and in a matter of seconds you find yourself piloting an experimental vehicle outside of every scenario it was designed for. A slewing, uncontrollable RV with a blown tire can be, and has been, lethal to many people over the years. If you take one tip from us this year, let it be this one. It costs nothing and could save your life. Needless to say, if your tires are worn or have visible cuts or gouges, replace them.
That’s it! Those are the most common problems we hear about, over and over. If you adhere to these six tips, you’ll have eliminated 90% of the vacation disasters people experience. Simple enough, right? The only other disaster we hear about and can’t help you with is bad weather. You’re on your own there.
In closing, a final and excellent reason for checking your systems well in advance of your departure day is that dealers are very busy at this time of year. If your A/C does need a charge or your slideout isn’t sliding out don’t expect your service center to get you in and out in a timely manner. It’s an unfortunate fact. I spoke to a gentleman this morning who has been waiting three weeks to get his trailer back from the dealer for some faulty brake light work. He was very frustrated and we all know what that’s like.