Travel trailers can be a fun and affordable way to enjoy your trips on the road. It is the perfect alternative to rough tent camping or expensive hotel stays. The key to enjoying your trip in a travel trailer is to keep your trailer in good working condition with regular maintenance.
The travel trailer is a major investment and it needs care and attention to keep it running smoothly and to get the most value out of your investment. As travel trailers will be your only accommodation on the road, any breakdowns or malfunctions can cause serious disruption to your trip. It might be easy to think that travel trailers do not require the same level of maintenance as a vehicle because it does not have an engine or transmission but that could be a costly mistake.
The frame of the travel trailer along with the suspension and axles takes a lot of beating on the road. It can lead to serious damage to the travel trailer. Costly repairs in the future or while traveling on the road are avoidable through regular maintenance.
Types of travel trailers
The type of travel trailer you have is going to determine the type of maintenance required. There are different types of travel trailers. It is important to note that although fifth-wheel campers are different to travel trailers. Fifth wheel campers are attached to the bed of a pickup trailer using a hitch. Fifth wheelers offer more space but also tend to be more expensive compared to regular travel trailers.
Teardrop trailers are the smallest type of trailers. They are mostly designed for basic use including a small kitchen and sleeping area. Generally, the amenities are powered by a single source of battery. It is important to keep a check on the battery to ensure it is functioning correctly. Expandable trailers are the most versatile type of trailers. They can be towed by regular pickup trucks or SUVs but they can expand when the vehicle is parked. Toy Haulers are large travel trailers that can carry ATVs, bikes, motorcycles, and other motorized toys.
Assess the condition of your travel trailer
One of the first things you need to do is conduct an assessment of the existing condition of your travel trailer. Before you take the travel trailer on a trip, use a maintenance checklist to go over all items to make sure you don’t miss anything. Here is a good resource for a travel trailer checklist. Take your travel trailer for a short test ride before taking it on your planned trip.
As part of the maintenance, one of the first things you need to do is clean the travel trailer. If you live near a coast, you need to make sure to have more frequent cleaning as the salt from the seawater tends to corrode the metal on the travel trailer. If you have corrosion on the metal, here is a good guide on how to remove it. Prevention is better than treatment. So make sure you try to keep the exterior of you clean from any saltwater. The first signs of rust could be cracks and scratches in the paint. After prolonged exposure, the surface starts to corrode, and holes form.
For general cleaning of the car, use a mild detergent and sponge for the exterior. The underbody of the trailer must be washed regularly as that is the place with most dirt build-up. If your travel trailer is made from fiberglass, it might require less frequent cleaning but aluminum trailers will need more effort.
The roof can be easily be overlooked but it is a critical part of trailer maintenance. Check the roof of the trailer for signs of excessive wear and tear. Even the small cracks can propagate to become problematic during a long trip. Some travel trailers come with rubber roofs, which should be cleaned by a medium bristle brush with a non-abrasive cleaner. You must always clean the front, back, and sides of the travel trailer before you rinse the roof. This will ensure there is no streaking on the exterior of the travel trailer.
Once you have finished cleaning the roof, inspect the sealants. Even a small opening can cause major leakage issues. If there are any openings, you need to reseal those using specialized sealants that are compatible with the travel trailer. Here is a list of some of the popular trailer roof sealants. If the roof of the trailer camper does not have access through a ladder that probably means it is not meant to be stepped upon. So, you will have to find a ladder to inspect the roof.
The tires take the most beating out of all the components of a travel trailer. Even the trailer is parked, the tires have to bear the weight of the trailer and its contents. As you would notice looking at trailer tries, they are designed to thicken than regular vehicles. The extra thickness provides more cushion to support the heavyweight of the trailer and it also softens the ride. The toughness of the tires has a drawback, which is that they need frequent maintenance and replacement.
The easiest and most important step in maintaining the tires is to keep air pressure at optimum levels. If there is little pressure, the wheels and axles can be damaged. The tires can also overheat and burst. A blowout could lead to disastrous consequences. If the air pressure is too much, it could shorten the life of the tread on the tire and reduce the grip on the road. Make sure the tires have enough tread left on them. It is a good idea to rotate tires to extend their life and improve grip on the road. Here are some tips on the maintenance of tires for a recreational vehicle.
A travel trailer has three types of tanks. There is a freshwater tank that holds clean water. A gray water tank that holds water used by the kitchen, sink, and shower. Lastly, there is black water, which holds the water used by the toilet. The capacity of these tanks depends on the model of the travel trailer. While on the road, access to freshwater is limited. The condition of the water tanks is crucial to the overall maintenance of the travel trailer.
You need to make sure there is no stale water in the tanks that allows bacteria to grow. Water from the black water tank and gray water tank should be emptied as soon as possible. After each dump, the tank should be sanitized. The black water tank does not function as a septic tank and is designed to only hold dirty water for a limited time and capacity. A bad smell from tanks can be avoided by using chemicals designed to break down waste before you dump it.
Awnings are a great feature of travel trailers as they provide shade outdoor space while camping. As the awning is consistently exposed to the weather, it needs to be cleaned regularly and might need repair work. Also, make sure you dry the awning before storing is so that new moisture is left on it. Otherwise, the moisture can make the awning moldy.
Air Conditioner and Heater
Get the air conditioner and heater serviced and interior air filters cleaned periodically is good maintenance practice. For the exterior air filters, changing them every six months should be good enough. It will depend on the usage of the air conditioner. Use the services of a certified technician to get your air conditioner checked for refrigerant leak. The last thing you want on your planned trip is for your air conditioner or heater to not work.
Brakes and Lights
Not only is dangerous to drive with a faulty brake, turn signals, or taillight system but it is also illegal in most states in the United States. Before you embark on your trip, make sure all of these are working. Make sure the wiring connections are not worn out or showing any signs of damage.
Hitch and Towing Parts
To avoid excessive swaying of the trailer, check the hitch and towing parts for any signs of damage or dirtiness. The bearings and seals are prone to be worn out with time. Certain hitch and towing parts are going to require greasing for optimum function.
Enjoying your trip not only requires planning for a trip but there needs to be a schedule in place for regular maintenance. From storage to getting the travel trailer ready for a long trip on the road, maintenance requires discipline. The effort you put in regular maintenance will pay off in the long run.
Not only will you have peace of mind while taking the travel trailer on the trip but it will also save you from unexpected and expensive repairs. You want to make the most out of your investment, and the best way to do is to make a schedule and checklist for maintenance and follow it with discipline. Here is a sample trailer schedule that can give you some ideas on how to make one according to your specific travel trailer.