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It's time for recreational vehicle spring cleaning

April 14, 2006|by JEFF JOHNSTON / Motor Matters

As hard as it may be to believe for those of us still snowbound, the start of the spring RVing season is almost upon us. That means a lot of RV owners will be breaking out their rigs for the first time in several months. What they find when they first open that door depends largely on how carefully the rig was put into storage last fall. It can be easy to face - or a grim situation.

If the rig was carefully cleaned and stored, the spring opening is a fairly simple chore. If a few details were left unfinished, well, grab the clothespin for your nose and dive into the job.

Start with a full exterior washing. Even in covered storage the rig will accumulate dust. The washing also gives you a close-up check for failing sealant around windows, cracks or splits in body panels or other potentially harmful signs of vehicular aging.


When washing the tires and wheels, check the tires for signs of cracks that may have developed over the winter. Be sure to include the inner side of the tires in the inspection. Check your maintenance records to verify the last time the wheel bearings were cleaned and packed. You will never regret making sure your bearings are in good shape, but conversely, you'll rue the day if you neglect them.

Open all the windows, vents and doors to circulate in some fresh air. That can make a world of difference in how enthusiastic you feel about working inside the rig while prepping it.

Remove the mothballs you scattered through the rig's interior last fall as a deterrent to rodent occupation. You might leave one or two in some of the farthest back reaches of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets, or exterior storage areas, if the smell isn't too objectionable. Rodents love moving in during the summer, too.

If you left any fabric items, such as bedding or pillows, in the RV they may need to be laundered before use. They tend to acquire a musty odor when left cooped up all winter, and cleaning them can really improve the rig's interior ambiance.

Inspect the refrigerator and give it a thorough washing with a mild bleach solution in water. Hopefully, you cleaned it last fall and left the door slightly ajar all winter, as nothing gets nastier than a fridge full of bacteria. If any odor lingers, fill the fridge with wadded-up newspaper between uses and that'll help absorb any offensive smells.

The freshwater system is a prime spot for bacterial growth. While those bacteria produce an offensive sulphur-like odor, they're harmless, and fairly easy to eliminate.

Add a mix of about a half-cup of bleach to every 10 gallons of freshwater capacity, and fill the tank. Run the bleach water through the entire system making sure each faucet is flushed. Fill the water heater tank, too, as warm water is even better for bacteria growth. Allow the treated water to remain in place for a few hours, then drain and refill the tank and system with fresh water blended with about a half-cup of baking soda per 10 gallons of water. The baking soda helps eliminate any remaining bleach odor, and also helps freshen the water system.

Insects seem to creep into any available RV opening and nest for the winter, or when they seek out new homes at spring's first blush. At best this is annoying, and if the nest blocks off the furnace exhaust flow or interferes with the water heater combustion process by altering the air flow, it can be dangerous. Inspect all such hiding places and use a vacuum crevice tool and/or some kind of long, skinny tool like a screwdriver to dislodge and remove any nest or web evidence. Look first with a flashlight to make sure the nest isn't occupied by potentially dangerous critters.

Likewise, inspect any electrical connections that are exposed to the elements. You may need to dig some insect nests out of the trailer's electrical plug, for example, or from the plug receptacle on the back of a motor home. Mud daubers are frequent squatters in these spots.

Reinstall any batteries removed for storage and check all electrical hardware functions. Moist climates are notorious for producing corroded electrical contacts, and it's better to look for them before you're on a vacation.

A bit of elbow grease and a few step-by-step processes will result in an appealing and functional RV that's ready for a season of fun.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2006

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