- Not having the right tow vehicle for the job. Growing up in the RV industry, time and time again I saw customers walk through the door looking defeated because another dealer had sold them an RV they couldn’t tow. After realizing their mistake, many were forced to decide whether or not to downsize the RV or upsize the truck. Unfortunately, most realized trucks are way more expensive so they took a hit on the RV and either walked away from camping completely or downsized and took a bath in residual value. Before purchasing, familiarize yourself with the terms GVWR and GAWR, rear end ratios, tongue and pin (for fifth wheel buyers) weight limitations, and tow guides. RV Life publishes and annual tow guide with realistic values based on options and packages. Do your homework and don’t make a $10,000 or $20,000 mistake! Also, if you are planning to do a lot of mountain camping and steep-grade towing, allow an extra 20% weight factor for your tow vehicle.
2. Using stabilizer jacks to level the RV
These jacks were not designed to carry the weight of the RV. They are simply there to make it stable. Trying to raise one side of the RV 2-3 inches or more could result in damage to the jack, mainly the jack screw. The higher the stabilizer jacks are, the less stable they become. Bring some 6″x6″ wooden blocks so you don’t max them out. Also bring 3-4 2″x6″ or 2″x8″ boards long enough to go under both wheels. Back the RV up on these boards to level the camper. If you need more than two then you might need to consider a different location.
3. Misunderstanding of proper awning use and care.
- Failure to close the awning when unattended. Awnings are great but not meant to handle wind. Forget to close the awning at night or before you leave for dinner and you may return to a $1,000+ mistake.
- Angling the awning away from the door or failure to angle it at all can cause it to fill with water and break. Also not having the awning higher than the top of the door will rip the fabric. Fabric will cost $600-$1,000 minimum to replace so become familiar with your door height and proper setup adjustment.
- Not cleaning or allowing the awning to dry. Over time the awning will mildew and become near impossible to clean. Always allow the awning to dry thoroughly before closing. If you can’t wait, air it out within a day or two and clean with a 20/80 bleach/water mixture.
4. Packing too much stuff!
Packing your RV with 1,000s of pounds of food, water and supplies is a common mistake. Many first time RV’ers will fill their 20-30 gallon fresh water tank, pack groceries, bottled water, coolers, and try to take all their modern conveniences with them. This will result in much lower gas mileage, poor towing stability, possibly even overheating if you are in a mountainous area. Even if your tow vehicle can handle it, it makes way more sense financially and practically to wait and get as many supplies as possible when you get close to your destination. Learn to minimize what you need and leave the heavy things at home. On a side note, it gets way more violent in the RV then you might think. RV’s don’t have the shocks and struts that your car does. Pack your items as secure as possible and be careful opening cabinets when you get where you are going!
5. Misunderstanding of black and grey tanks
Not understanding how the sewer tanks work is very common. It can be a nightmare if you don’t do some reading. The dealer where you bought your RV likely explained using chemical and the proper paper products, but they probably didn’t explain what it feels like the first time you get raw sewage in your mouth at the dump station. They also probably didn’t explain to you how to change your shower habits so you don’t fill your grey tank up in 2 hours. This will be a learning curve. Just read as much as possible and be prepared with your sewer hose, attachment, gloves, etc. so you won’t feel so pressured to hurry the first time when people are waiting on you.
6. Not configuring your hitch correctly
I commonly see people who purchased used RVs from individuals that sell hitch heads and weight distribution systems with the RV. These components are fairly complex and should not be taken lightly. Having the wrong settings for your vehicle could not only effect gas mileage but could create a major safety issue. Call a reputable dealer in your area and pay their service department for an hour ($100), to inspect your ball height, set your weight distribution up properly, show you how to tighten the sway control and set your brake controller. You’ll be very glad you did!
7. Not removing your sway control prior to backing
In our service department we had an entire pallet full of bent sway controllers and hitches from people forgetting to remove them prior to backing into a tight spot. Backing straight back likely won’t cause any issues. However, if you try and make a sharp turn to back into a tight spot then you’ll probably bend something!
8. Not practicing backing prior to your first trip
Many people drive to their first campsite and realize they have no idea how they are going to back their camper into a tight spot. Take some time prior to your first trip and go with a friend or spouse to an open parking lot and get some practice. Use your watcher and develop some good hand signals. There is nothing more frustrating or embarrassing than being in a campground full of prying eyes and struggling to back your trailer into your campsite. Don’t rush things. Use a spotter and get some practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will find that other people in the campground are quite kind when it comes to helping and won’t pass the judgement you might think. The comradery among RV’ers is strong and we all had to start at some point!
9. Forgetting to properly configure your RV prior to driving
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen emergency windows broken because they weren’t latched, TV antennas broken on a low passage, broken stabilizer jacks, severed power cords or water hoses, etc.
Do yourself a favor prior to camping the first time, do a dry run and practice. Then create a checklist. Run through the checklist prior to driving away. This simple practice will not only make you more efficient, it will also potentially save you a ton of money and loss of use!
10. Not properly maintaining your RV
This point is huge and very expansive (could be its own post) but here are the main points:
- Tires, pressure, and lug torque should be checked prior to every trip. Just because the tire has plenty of tread doesn’t mean the tires are safe. Those tires might be 10 years old and full of dry rot. If you have a tire blow out while on the highway, it’s not only frustrating but it can cause major damage to your RV.
- Not sealing the roof. The leading cause of RV damage is water. Failure to seal the roof every 3-5 years WILL result in extreme depreciation of your asset. EPDM rubber only has a 10 year life. Storing your RV under shelter is the only way to keep it from sustaining water damage and prolong the roof life.
- Failure to winterize is extremely common. Just because your RV has the “Polar” package that a salesman touted doesn’t mean your faucets and lines won’t freeze. What it does mean is that when it freezes you’ll have to pay double to have the polar underpinning removed for repairs. Don’t risk it! Learn to properly winterize yourself and if you think it’s going to be below freezing, winterize it.
- Don’t turn on your water heater without water in it. Yes, this is common. It will burn out the element and be expensive. It can also cause a “hot skin” condition where you have open voltage through the rv.
In conclusion, ask a lot of questions when you buy your RV and read as much as you can! If you have questions you can always email us!!!