There’s nothing quite like life or a vacation on the road. Taking the comforts of home with you when you travel is very liberating. However, owning an RV, campervan, or travel trailer also comes with a certain amount of maintenance apart from the need to change the oil every six months.
A travel trailer is something you tow behind a truck or car, and while you might not need to change the oil every six months, as in your tow vehicle, keeping it properly maintained will keep it in tip-top condition.
If you’re unsure where to start or what to do, this guide and handy travel trailer maintenance checklist will help you. Let's find out how to maintain a travel trailer.
Do travel trailers require a lot of maintenance?
The average cost of a camper travel trailer can creep up into six figures. That’s a significant investment that requires a certain amount of maintenance if you want to protect it.
Some people think a lot of camper maintenance is required. But others consider the time, effort, and travel trailer maintenance costs are worth it.
After all, a proper maintenance schedule will prevent lots of headaches further down the line.
What kind of maintenance does a travel trailer need?
You can split maintenance tasks into two categories: general maintenance and seasonal maintenance. Some of the jobs include:
General maintenance tips
Checking the roof
Cleaning the awning
Checking the tire tread and pressure
Inspecting the holding tanks: gray water, black water, and fresh water
Checking and cleaning the heating and air conditioning and replacing filters
Check the tail and brake lights function
Inspect towing and hitching parts
Seasonal maintenance tips
Emptying the pipes
Preparing your trailer for storage
Inspecting the battery
Are travel trailers expensive to maintain?
All the maintenance tasks cost money, but anything you spend to maintain your RV will save money in the long run. It will make sure you won’t have to worry about so many repair bills in the future.
How much does travel trailer maintenance cost?
How much it costs to maintain your RV/travel trailer depends on the wear and tear. Some people spend just a few hundred dollars, while others spend $1,000 and more.
How often should a travel trailer be serviced?
How often you service your travel trailer depends on how often you use it. If you check the manufacturer's manual, it will give you recommended service times. However, as a general rule of thumb, make sure you check and service it at least once a year.
How can I make my travel trailer last longer?
What you do to maintain your travel trailer has a massive impact on its life span. However, there are many things you can do to make sure it lasts longer, most of which involve some kind of maintenance, often after every trip.
Here are RV maintenance tips to increase the life of your travel trailer.
Inspect the seams and roof seals regularly
Keep the wheel lug nuts tight
Check tire pressures
Keep the battery fully charged
Maintain the system for the wastewater
If your travel trailer has slide outs, clean them and apply lubricant
Clean and replace any filters
Clean your awning and repair it if you find any tears
Check electrical connections between your tow vehicle and trailer are working
Regularly clean your travel trailer’s exterior
Make sure you get some professional advice if you’re worried about anything
Main maintenance and service tips
In this section, we’re going to look in more detail at some of the regular maintenance and service jobs you need to do if you want to take care of your travel trailer. We hope you find these RV maintenance tips helpful.
Cleaning and Washing
Ideally, you should consider cleaning and washing your travel trailer after every trip. The best way to clean it is with a large sponge or soft brush and a mild detergent. A high-pressure hose is not recommended because it could damage your trailer’s finish and loosen any exterior fittings.
Use a large sponge or soft brush and a mild detergent.
Don’t use a high-pressure hose for cleaning as it could damage your trailer’s finish and loosen any exterior fittings.
Make sure to clean the undercarriage, as grime and dirt often collect there.
Aluminum trailers need cleaning more frequently as they attract more dirt than a fiberglass trailer.
After cleaning, polish using wax, and it will protect and weatherproof your trailer and stop dirt from collecting on the surface
Prepare the interior before using it for storage
If you’re not going to use your travel trailer during the winter, it’s best to store it away. However, before you store it, there are some things you need to do inside the trailer.
Vacuum and then wash the upholstery.
Empty and then defrost the freezer and fridge.
Leave beds, seating, and storage cupboards open. However, you should cover them in breathable cotton material, for example, a bedsheet.
Make sure that the windows and doors are properly sealed to stop any moisture from getting in.
Check roof seals and seams
It’s very easy to forget about the roof because you don’t get to see it often. However, checking the top is critical before taking your trailer on the highway. Roofs are made using various materials, including rubber and fiberglass.
Regularly check the roof for tears and cracks.
When you clean your trailer is the best time to make such checks.
If the roof is rubber, it might need a specialist cleaning product and cleaning equipment.
Check for Leaks
The roof of a travel trailer might be made of fiberglass, rubber, or aluminum. Unfortunately, roof leaks are a common problem, regardless of roof material.
Check closely for leaks and, if you find any, make sure you repair them immediately.
Use the right sealant when repairing any leaks. If in doubt, talk to a local dealer
Not all travel trailers have an awning, but you need to include it in your maintenance schedule if yours does. Awnings are exposed to the elements, so you need to clean them often.
Before storing your awning, you must make sure it's spotless and dry.
Milkweed and mold can be an issue if your awning isn’t dry when you pack it away.
Check for any buildup of sticks, grime, and leaves.
Tire Pressure and Tread
Your trailer’s tires have to do a lot of hard work even when your trailer is stationary. Trailer tires tend to be tougher than car tires, but there is still a risk of damage.
If the tire pressure is too low, you risk damaging the axles and wheels, and the tires can overheat, resulting in a blowout.
If the tire pressure is too high, the tread will wear quicker, and grip on the road will be less.
You’ll find the correct tire pressure stamped on the tire's sidewall.
Make sure you check your tire pressure every trip using a hand-held gauge.
Wheel Lug Nuts
Your trailer’s wheels are exposed to various road conditions when out on the road. For example, traveling on uneven and poor roads can loosen the wheels.
Keep a wrench and screwdriver handy so you can tighten the wheel lug nuts whenever necessary.
Loose lug nuts are very dangerous and could cause an accident if you lose a wheel.
Your travel trailer will have three holding tanks as part of the water system, one for fresh water, another for gray water, and a third for black water.
Check your trailer’s holding tanks before every trip and afterward to make sure they’re working correctly. When you fill your fresh water tanks, use purifying tablets or a filter.
Regularly empty and flush through the tank, as this will prevent stagnant water and the growth of bacteria.
Empty the holding tank for gray water as often as necessary (on average, this should be weekly).
The gray water tank should also be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
Also, empty the black water holding tank regularly.
You’ll reduce unwanted smells if you use eco-friendly toilet cleaning chemicals.
Make sure you sanitize the black tank regularly, preferably after a trip.
Air Conditioning and Heating
Your air conditioning and heating systems are what keep you comfortable. But, unfortunately, they can become clogged with dust and dirt.
A dirty air conditioner or heating system is inefficient and prone to malfunction.
Inspect filters before each trip.
Change your trailer’s air filters annually.
Trailer Brake and Lights
For your trailer to be on the road legally, the tail and brake lights, turn signals, and license plate number light must function.
Inspect the wiring for all lights regularly.
Look for frayed or cracked wires.
Check the wires are correctly connected.
Use electrical wire for making temporary repairs until you can get to a repair shop
Hitching and Towing Components
The towing and hitching components of your trailer are pretty complicated. In addition, grime and dirt often work into these components, causing difficulties.
Towing and hitching parts should be well-maintained.
Inspect the hitches, seals, couplers, and bearings regularly.
Clean and grease the components before you use your trailer.
Keep Vents Open
Vents let air circulate and prevent the build-up of moisture or carbon monoxide.
Whether you keep the vents open depends on how much moisture is already in the air.
If it’s raining, it’s a good idea to keep the trailer vents closed.
At any other time, it’s good to keep vents open because it stops moisture from building up in your trailer.
The trailer battery has a vital role and needs to be in tip-top condition and fully charged. Therefore, you should take a look at your battery before any trip.
If you want your battery to last longer, consider plugging it into a power source.
If you’re not going to use your trailer for a while, run the battery every couple of months to stop it from discharging.
When you store your trailer for the winter, unplug the battery and keep it somewhere dry to prevent corrosion.
Regularly check your battery and top it off with distilled water.
Gasoline doesn’t keep well when it’s left sitting. To keep a generator in good condition, you should:
Run the generator for a couple of hours at around 50% load monthly.
Alternatively, you can use a fuel stabilizer if you’re storing your trailer for more extended periods.
A trailer suspension that’s functioning correctly and well-maintained ensures your towing experience is enjoyable, but above all, safe. Unfortunately, your trailer's suspension gets a lot of abuse when traveling over holes and bumps.
Inspect the suspension system twice a year
Look for breaks and cracks.
When replacing worn suspension parts, consider an upgrade.
If your trailer has slideouts, you need to give them some loving care. They require lubrication, or they will deteriorate because of corrosion and rust.
Apply a lubricant to your slide-out rails twice, or at least once, every year as part of annual maintenance
Things you should check with regards to the chassis include:
Check for leaks
Radiator clamps and hoses
Heater clamps and hoses
You should regularly inspect your propane system to ensure it’s functioning efficiently and safely.
Ideally, have the system thoroughly checked and serviced by a professional annually.
Finish & Waxing
You don’t want to be on the highway with a travel trailer that looks grimy and unloved.
Deep clean your trailer twice a year.
Wax the exterior to keep it shiny and clean.
Check the Windows & Screens
Some travel trailers have large windows, while some are much smaller. Whatever the size of the windows, they can quickly get dirty. To keep windows and screens clean, use the following simple RV maintenance method:
Remove the screens and wash them using fresh, clean water and dish soap.
Brush the screens gently to remove any debris.
Before putting them back, check for any tears or rips
Monthly RV Maintenance Checklist
The RV maintenance jobs you should perform every month include the following:
Run the generator
Top off the trailer batteries
Clean the air conditioner
Check fluid levels
Make sure your emergency toolbox has plenty of spare parts
Check your carbon monoxide and smoke detector are operational
Test any safety equipment
Check for water damage, cracks, or access points where pests can get in
Apply lubricant to the slideout mechanisms
Check exterior seals and re-seal as soon as possible if you find any cracks, separation, or holes
Seasonal RV Maintenance Checklist
You should do some maintenance tasks at specific times of the year, for example:
Give your travel trailer a deep clean
Inspect your trailer for damage
Apply a coat of wax
Replace the water filter in your water heater
Apply lubrication to any spots where metal might rub against metal, for example, the steps, hitch, and leveling jacks
How to winterize your travel trailer?
You might want to enjoy your travel trailer at all times of the year. But in some locations, winter is not the best time to head out on the open road. In such cases, you need to suspend your camping adventures and park your trailer for the winter.
It’s okay to simply park it in the garage, close the doors and forget about it until the spring. But it’s not ideal if you don’t take steps before tucking it away.
It’s important to get your trailer prepared for freezing temperatures ahead, especially if temperatures are low for more than a couple of months.
Let’s give you a few quick tips on how to winterize your travel trailer:
Drain the gray and black water tanks and flush them through
Drain the water heater and flush it through
Bypass your trailer’s water heater
Drain the trailer’s fresh tank
Drain any low point drains
Use the water pump to push antifreeze through your trailer’s water system
Open any external valves on faucets
Open any internal toilets, showers, and faucets
Add extra antifreeze into the sink drai
Yearly RV Maintenance Checklist
You should try to perform the following tasks annually:
Keep a maintenance log and remember to update it
Have your cooling and heating systems checked out by an expert
Have your hoses, belts, brakes, and tires checked by a professional
Test your trailer’s propane system annually
Concentrating on the roof, check all the seals for signs of damage or deterioration
Lubricate your TV antenna and check it for corrosion or rust
Make sure the level of coolant in the radiator is correct
Maintenance Tips for Specific Types of Travel Trailers
Off road trailers
The maintenance requirements for off-road travel trailers are much the same as any other type. However, as this type of trailer will be going off-road more frequently, more cleaning is required. Additionally, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the suspension and wheels.
Pop up camper trailers
Pop-up camper trailers might be more affordable, but they still need maintenance. Here’s a quick checklist of what you need to do:
Clean and, if necessary, repair the pop-up canvas.
Ensure the camper trailer has sufficient air circulation as this will reduce condensation.
Make sure the camper is completely dry before putting it in storage.
Use a vinyl cleaner for the windows.
Store batteries correctly and keep them in good condition.
Drain any tanks before storing your trailer.
Check the tires regularly and keep them correctly inflated.
Check that any towing components fit snugly.
Check your air conditioner for leaks and repair if necessary.
Clean the floor and examine it for leaks.
Inspect electrical points
With a toy hauler, you can take all your adult toys with you and still enjoy many of the comforts of home. Let’s look at some best practices for maintaining your toy trailer.
Check for leaks. If you catch them early enough, repairs are simple.
Clean your toy trailer regularly.
Make sure all moving parts are well lubricated. For example, the hitch, slideouts, front and rear jacks, locks, hinges, sliders, wheel bearings, and power awning.
Always follow any recommendations in your user manual.
Check the toy hauler’s appliances.
Check the tires are at the correct pressure and not damaged in any way.
Keep your toy trailer under cover when not in use
It might seem like camper trailer maintenance involves many things. There’s no point denying it because you can see from our camper maintenance checklist - there is. But, it's worth the effort, money, and time to keep your camper trailer well-maintained.
Your travel trailer was quite an investment, and you want to get as much enjoyment out of it as possible.