Outside Tasks

Before you are ready to start your engine and depart your camp site, there are many little details that need to be taken care of first, both outside the RV and inside the RV.

Let's review some of the "outside" tasks that need to be (or should be) done.

Check Engine Oil. Checking the engine oil may seem like a foreign task to many people who simply add gas and go. But please remember that an RV engine is working much harder than your car engine. Even fairly new RVs can use a quart of oil now and then, especially if you have ascended steep grades. It takes just a minute to check the oil, and having sufficient engine oil can also make the engine run cooler.

Check Coolant Level. After you have checked the oil, take a brief look at your coolant overflow tank and be sure that there is sufficient coolant in the tank. There should be a level indicator on the side showing the proper level when the coolant is cold.

Check Air Pressure in Tires. Checking the air pressure in your RV tires is probably the single most-neglected maintenance item. Remember that I earlier mentioned about the correct tire pressure for your RV is dependant on the weight on each axle, and not the maximum pressure printed on the sidewalls of the tires.

You are urged to get a professional tire gauge that is constructed with a dual ended head, so that it is easier to check the pressure in your rear dual tires. However, most gauges out of the box can vary in pressure readings by several pounds. If you attend an FMCA or Escapees rally, usually there is a vendor in attendance who can calibrate your pressure gauge so that you know how high or low it is reading.

The best time to check your tire pressures is in the morning, before the RV has been driven and the tires are still cold. Never check your tire pressure when the tires are warm or hot—otherwise you will get an inaccurate reading, and you will always end up with tires that are under-inflated.

Stow Outside Items in Bays. Once the chassis is ready to roll, it is time to put away all the ďstuffĒ in the bays. Donít forget the BBQ and its associated items, the patio chairs and lounges, small foldable tables, and the patio mat. Now is the time to also be sure that the dog chains and food and water bowls are also picked up and put away. Remember to check that the tablecloth has been removed from the picnic table. And, hopefully, you are not one of the thoughtless RVers who has stretched a clothesline from the back of your RV.

Roll Up Window Awnings. Next, grab your awning hook and stow your small window awnings, if you had them out.

Roll Up Patio Awning. Stowing your patio awning is a little more involved, but is simply the reverse of what you did to unfurl it when you first arrived. Remember, though, to first unlatch and retract the end supports on the awning arms, otherwise the awning will not retract properly because the arms are held open.

One word of advice, however—have your awning hook in hand before you start to roll up the awning and are holding onto the strap. Once you start the process, the awning wants to retract, and if you let go of the strap, the awning will snap closed with a loud bang, with the arms and roller tube banging against the side of your rig— definitely not good.

More than once, I have started to close up my awning and found myself in the awkward position of holding the awning strap but the awning hook is out of reach—and by then you also canít reach the little lever on the roller tube to change the direction of the awning travel. Hopefully your co-pilot is nearby.

Be sure your awning hook is within reach before you start to close up your patio awning.

Remove Windshield Wiper Covers. Donít forget to remove your windshield wiper covers (if you use them). The rig looks awfully silly going down the road with your covers on the wipers, and the wipers are not going to work too well if you run into any showers along the way.

On more than one occasion, I have clibed into the driver's seat, settled down, and only then discovered, rather sheepishly I might add, that the wiper covers were staring at me through the windshield.

Remove Tire Covers. More than once, my final walk-around before departing my camping site has revealed that I forgot to remove the tire covers on my rig— how embarrassing.

Disconnect and Stow Portable Satellite Dish Antenna. If you had a portable satellite dish set up at your campsite, remember to take it down, roll up the coax and stow it away. Also, double-check to sure that you didnít inadvertently leave your compass and satellite finder meter lying on the ground near your dish.

Dump Gray and Black Holding Tanks. If you are fortunate enough to have a sewer connection at your camping site, then you should dump your holding tanks before you leave your camp site. Remember, however, that I cautioned you earlier about not dumping your Black tank unless it was more than half full. Dump the Black tank first, and then dump the Gray tank (to help flush out the yuk from your sewer hose). Then remember to rinse out your sewer hose with some fresh water before stowing it away. Finally, do a double-check to be sure that you have fully closed both the Black and Gray tank flush valves, and that you have put the travel cover securely over the RV sewer connection. Also remember to cap off or close the campsite sewer opening.

For the "newbies," let me take a minute and talk you about "poo." Contrary to what many neophytes think, your poo does not stay in a solid state for very long. Once it mixes with the fluids in the Black tank, both your poo and the toilet paper quickly breakdown into little tiny pieces that easily traverse your sewer hose.

The reason that I am mentioning this, is that a relative bought a new travel trailer a few years ago, but would always walk up to the campground "facilities" whenever he needed to poop. He, mistakenly, believed that the poo (as a solid) would stay in the tank and soon plug it up. Not so, but I wanted you to know.

Disconnect Water, Electric, and Sewer. When your co-pilot has finished doing the inside tasks (be sure you ask first), it is usually safe for you to disconnect the water, electric, and sewer connections. Remember to turn off the circuit breaker at the power pole before disconnecting your electric cable. Also, remember (as I sometimes forget) to turn off the water spigot before trying to disconnect the water hose.

If you were fortunately enough to have a cable TV hookup at your site, remember to disconnect it and stow the cable at the same time.

Remember that at this point in your breaking-camp routine your levelers are still down (or your rig is still on the leveling boards).

Now is a good time to take a few minutes and police your campsite. Walk around and pick up any little pieces of junk that donít belong there, including any cigarette butts that a thoughtless previous camper left behind. I often find candy wrappers, gum wrappers, and occasionally a contribution from a previous pet. Be a good camper and always try to leave your site in a better condition than when you arrived.

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