5 Mistakes to Avoid When Caring for the Exterior of Your RV

By Darla Preston

Anyone who owns an RV understands it’s not a small investment. It terms of finances, acquiring an RV is a large purchase, and in terms of the sentimentality and opportunity for adventure you get in return, it’s truly priceless.

Because there is so much value associated with an RV, you naturally want to do everything you can to keep yours looking and running like new. A large part of accomplishing this is taking the time to properly look out after its exterior. After all, your RV is exposed to harsh weather conditions, various bugs, and loads of dirt, all of which can lead to frustrating wear and tear.

Learning the dos and dont's of how to best take care of the outside of your RV naturally requires a bit of trial and error, but the good news is that you can learn from those who have RV'd before you and avoid making common pitfalls yourself. To help you do just that, here are five mistakes to avoid when preserving your RV’s exterior:

Mistake #1: Failing to Read the Manual Specifications

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This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people forgo reading their owner manual when it comes to exterior care specifications. This is always the first place to start. If you seem to have lost yours, you may be able to find a PDF online, or simply call and ask a dealer if they have specific instructions.

The reason this is so important is that RVs can be made from different materials, and certain cleaners may work for one material but damage the other. For example, cleaning products that work for aluminum or fiberglass roofs might cause a rubber roof to dry out and eventually crack. This is why you shouldn’t take a friend’s word for it about how to properly take care of your rig. If they have a different make and model than you, their advice doesn’t necessarily apply.

 

Mistake #2: Rolling Up Your RV Awning While It Is Still Wet

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RV awnings are one of the most ubiquitous RV accessories, and just like your RV, taking good care of it is how you extend its life. This involves making sure the moving parts are lubricated and free from rust, protecting it from harsh weather conditions, making sure it’s well-secured before traveling (this will also protect yourself and others on the road), and cleaning it regularly.

A common mistake when caring for your RV awning is rolling it up when it’s still wet. This can ruin the awning fabric and lead to mold and mildew buildup. Of course, there are times that you may have to roll up your awning while it’s still damp, such as if it was rained on right before you needed to retract it and hit the road.

If this happens, simply unroll it as soon as you are able to, and let it dry completely before rolling it back up.


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Mistake #3: Not Protecting Your RV From the Sun

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RVs are generally fairly tough, and they are built to withstand quite a bit of what Mother Nature throws their way. That being said, they are not fully resistant to intense weather conditions, so it’s important to do what you can to protect yours.

UV rays can be especially damaging to the finish as well as the tires. The heat can cause the finish, decals, rubber components, and sealants to fade, dry out, and/or crack. There are many RV coatings and wax brands that can help protect the finish on your RV, but as stated above, make sure any type you choose is designed to work with your specific model of RV.

The best place to store your RV is in a cool, dry place out of the elements, but not everyone has access to an indoor RV storage center. If this isn’t an option for you, at least try to park to your RV out of direct sunlight. Also, invest in durable RV covers and tire covers that are designed to protect from UV and oxidation damage.

 

Mistake #4: Cleaning Your RV Before Reading Up On Best Practices

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Regularly cleaning your RV will help preserve its finish, and it will help prevent costly wear and tear repairs down the line. It’s preferable that you give it a thorough cleaning after each trek to prevent dirt and residue buildup.

Cleaning works best if you start from the top and work your way down. One of the most frustrating things is putting in all of the effort to clean the sides of your RV to spotless perfection, and then they immediately get dirty again when you start scrubbing the roof and a clump of dirt rains down and clings to the sides. Also, remember not to forget to wash areas that aren’t as obvious, such as the slide-out seals.

For best results, always do a patch test when using a new cleaning product, especially near decals and graphics. This way, if there is an adverse reaction, you won’t harm a large area of your vehicle.

For the hard to reach areas, use a long brush with softer bristles to avoid scratching the finish, and for the areas that are easy to clean, a car-washing mitt is a great tool. While some RVers have no problem using power washing services, hand cleaning is recommended, as some power washers can damage the finish.

 

Mistake #5: Never Inspecting for Sealant Leaks Before Washing Your RV

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Before getting water anywhere near your RV, inspect thoroughly for any sealant leaks or gaps that lead to the inside, including on the roof. If water were to get into your RV, you could damage the interior, which could cause mold to form as well as lead to other expensive repairs. When spraying water directly onto your RV, be mindful to avoid getting any moisture into the appliance vents.

 

Happy Trails!

Hopefully these tips give you a good idea of how to preserve the appearance and efficiency of your RV. Taking good care of your rig does require a bit of time and effort, but when you think of how many beautiful sights and amazing journeys you have in store, all of that work is more than worth it. Happy travels!

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