RV Repairs and Maintenance

RVs allow travelers flexibility, freedom, and amenities while on the road. However, they differ greatly from everyday passenger vehicles. Complex plumbing, electrical, propane systems, appliances, generators, and more all require special care and know-how to maintain. As a home away from home in motion, wear and tear while traveling thousands of miles can take a heavy toll over time.

Proper routine maintenance helps prevent most problems and extends an RV’s lifespan. But even well-cared-for RVs inevitably need repairs – both minor and major. DIYers can handle many issues if they have the skills. More complex repairs require trained technicians with specialized tools and facilities. Prioritizing and budgeting for maintenance allows travelers to get back on the road faster while avoiding potential safety hazards from deferring issues.

Understanding what systems commonly cause problems, how to troubleshoot issues, typical repair costs, and when to rely on professionals will help keep any recreational vehicle running smoothly for years of reliable road-tripping. This article will explore everything RV owners need to know about DIY repairs, professional RV service, costs to budget, and tips to avoid common problems.

RV Repairs and Maintenance

Common RV Repair and Maintenance Issues

Several RV systems see the most frequent breakdowns and need vigilant preventative care. These include:

Electrical Systems

As more accessories and appliances rely on power while dry camping, the electrical system bears a heavy load. Problems include:

  • Short circuits from exposed wiring
  • Fuse and breaker failures
  • Battery drainage
  • Generator issues
  • Converter and inverter breakdowns

Routine: Check connections, scan for frays/damage, and test all components.

Plumbing System

The freshwater system, drainage pipes, sinks, toilet, and more face buildup, leaks, and winter weather damage. Issues arise with:

  • Water pump failure
  • Tank level sensors malfunctioning
  • Clogged drains from debris/sediment
  • Grey/black tank leaks
  • Toilet breakdowns
  • Pipe and valve leaks

Routine: Flush systems, sanitize tanks, and assess fittings/seals for deterioration.

Refrigerator Unit

RV refrigerators work differently than household models. Absorption-style units see frequent breakdowns including:

  • Faulty thermostat
  • Cooling unit failure
  • LP gas and exhaust issues
  • Door seal leaks
  • Electrical shorts

Routine: Inspect seals/doors, check exhaust vents, clean dust from ventilation.

Slide-Out Sections

Powered slide-outs enable spacious living areas. But hydraulic systems and gears wear out over time leading to:

  • Motor and pulley problems
  • Hydraulic cylinder leaks
  • Guide rail issues
  • Gear shaft damage

Routine: Lube rails and gears, test operation and sync, and assess fluid levels.

Propane Systems

Cooking, heating, refrigeration, and water heating rely on propane. Tanks, gauges, piping and appliances often suffer:

  • Gauge reading inaccuracies
  • Leaks from fittings and valves
  • Regulator failure
  • CO/gas detector failures

Routine: Test for leaks yearly, and assess regulator and detector operation.

DIY RV Repair and Maintenance

Handy RVers can save money by tackling many common repairs themselves. But other issues require professional technicians to avoid risks and complications.

Electrical System DIY Repairs

Simple electrical fixes include:

  • Resetting GFCI outlets
  • Replacing fuses
  • Tightening loose wiring connections
  • Servicing house and chassis batteries
  • Troubleshooting solar panel issues

Take safety precautions against live circuits and leave complex wiring jobs to experts.

Plumbing System DIY Repairs

DIYers can handle straightforward plumbing fixes like:

  • Replacing leaky P-traps under sinks
  • Assessing tank level sensors
  • Removing clogs from PVC drain pipes
  • Resealing toilet bases
  • Sanitizing the freshwater system

But avoid tank modifications or major component replacement without training.

Refrigerator DIY Repairs

If the fridge fails to cool properly, check:

  • Door seal integrity
  • Ventilation obstruction
  • Circuit board failure
  • Thermistor operation

DIY repairs become complicated very quickly for absorption refrigerators.

Slide-Out Section DIY Help

Test operation and check:

  • Hydraulic fluid levels
  • Worn cables and pulleys
  • Rail lubrication
  • Motor voltage

Have professionals make major adjustments or repairs.

Propane System DIY Care

RVers can periodically:

  • Test propane detectors/alarms
  • Check tank gauge accuracy
  • Inspect fittings and hoses for leaks
  • Bleed air from lines
  • Verify exterior cooking appliance operation

Certified technicians should handle tanks, regulators, and extensive piping.

Professional RV Repair Services

While DIY maintenance and minor fixes are essential, RVers will inevitably need professional technicians over their RV’s lifetime – especially as major systems age. Certified service centers have the expertise to efficiently diagnose issues and make complex repairs RVers shouldn’t attempt on their own.

Types of RV Repair Facilities

Where owners take their RV depends on the service needed and providers in their region. Choices include:

RV Dealerships – Dealers who sell new RVs also offer repairs, sometimes only working on their own brands. Prices are often higher.

Independent RV Service Centers – Specialize only in RV repair and accept all makes/models. Typically more affordable than dealers.

Mobile RV Technicians – Travel to RVer’s locations for convenience. Helpful for minor repairs or diagnoses.

Campground Mechanics – Some campgrounds have technicians with repair experience who offer basic troubleshooting to visitors.

Vehicle/Equipment Repair Shops – Auto or truck service centers, welding shops, and hitch specialty stores can assist with some RV repairs relevant to their focus.

Repairs by RV System & Average Costs

On average, owners pay from $100-$350 per hour for professional labor by certified technicians plus the cost of parts/materials.

Electrical System Repairs

Fault finding shorts and replacing components runs $75-$125 hourly. Typical repairs include:

  • Running new wiring, circuits – $200+
  • Generator repairs – $100-$3000+ depending on issue severity
  • Converter Replacement – $800-$2500+ with labor
  • Installing solar system – $1200-$5000 depending on watt needs

Plumbing System Repairs

Labor runs $85-$150 per hour. Common jobs include:

  • Fixing fresh water tank leaks – $300-$800
  • Replacing toilet valve seals – $350-$550
  • Installing tank monitoring panel – $350-$850
  • Fixing holding tank issues – $500-$1500
  • Water heater repair – $600-$1000

Refrigerator Repairs

Labor averages $100-$175 hourly. Typical repair bills often exceed $1500 including:

  • Installing new control boards – $900+
  • Replacing cooling units – $1200-$4000
  • Repairing LP gas issues – $250+
  • Troubleshooting thermistors and sensors – $300+

Slide-Out Section Repairs

Labor runs $125-$225 per hour. Usual costs include:

  • Adjusting slide alignment – $400+
  • Replacing hydraulic parts – $600-$2000
  • Installing new motors/gears – $1000-$3000

Propane System Repairs

Certified technicians charge $150-$200 hourly. Repairs may include:

  • Replacing regulators and detectors – $250-$850
  • Fixing leaks in piping and valves – $400+
  • Installing propane tank monitors – $750+

Scheduling RV Repair Appointments

Call ahead for appointments since many repair facilities have limited bays and busy schedules during peak seasons. Prioritize safety issues for immediate repair over convenience defects to avoid breakdowns while traveling.

Ask service advisors to blueprint full costs – detailing labor times, hourly shop fees, part prices, and taxes so final charges hold no surprises. Confirm timing expectations and check work warranties too.

Budgeting for RV Repair and Maintenance Costs

Like cars, RVs come with operating and upkeep costs. But floorplans with home-like amenities multiply the systems needing periodic investment. Setting realistic budgets prevents financial blindsides down the road.

Annual Maintenance Costs

Minor – DIY expenses for fluids, filters, cleaning supplies, waxes, seal treatments, and small parts – ~$120-$350 per year

Major – Professional inspections, tune-ups, lubrication services, winterization, repairing minor issues – ~$750 -$2000 annually

Lifetime RV Repair Costs

Repair costs exceed yearly maintenance over an RV’s lifespan. Expect to invest:

First 5 years – Up to $3000-$5000 fixing unexpected issues just outside warranty periods

To 10 years – $5000-$10,000 as appliances, furnishings, plumbing and electrical systems age

15+ years – $10,000+ for major component replacements like refrigerators, water heaters, slide-outs, and generators.

RV Maintenance Checklist

Staying on top of inspections and routine upkeep prevents many roadside headaches. Follow this checklist to cover all bases:

Interior Maintenance

Cleaning and Sanitizing – Wash surfaces, sanitize tanks/pipes, deep clean carpeting annually

Checking Appliances – Test refrigerator, range, microwave, generator, HVAC and smoke detectors

Inspecting Plumbing and Wiring – Scan pipes, fittings and tanks for leaks. Check connections and circuits for fraying or shorts

Maintaining Slide-Outs – Clean tracks and lubricate rails and gears. Test operation sync.

Ensuring Proper Ventilation – Clear debris from AC vents, fridge ventilation and range hood. Verify CO and LP gas alarms function.

Exterior Maintenance

Checking Roof and Seals – Inspect rubber roofs and EDPM seals around vents, skylights etc for deterioration annually. Reseal as needed.

Inspecting Tires and Wheels – Check tread depths, wear patterns and tire age. Ensure lug nuts tighten to spec with calibrated torque wrench.

Lubricating Hinges and Slides – Lubricate entrance step joints, compartment doors and slide-out tracks with appropriate products

Maintaining Awnings – Clean fabric, lubricate arms, inspect anchors for secure fit and test extension/retraction

Ensuring Proper Lighting – Test all exterior lighting – headlights, signals, brake lights, marker lights, spotlights etc. Replace bulbs as needed.

Engine and Chassis Maintenance

Oil Changes and Fluid Checks – Change engine oil and filters per mfg schedule. Top off low transmission/coolant/power steering reservoirs

Tire Pressure Checks – Check inflation levels, including trailer tires, before each trip adjusting to mfg placard specs

Brake Inspections – Inspect pads, rotors, calipers for wear. Flush/replace brake fluid per maintenance schedule

Suspension Checks – Listen for odd knocking. Ensure fastener torque. Check shocks and bushings for leaks/wear

Engine Tune-Ups – Replace spark plugs, belts, hoses, PCV valves as scheduled. Clean battery terminals and check starter draw.

How to Winterize your RV

Preparing an RV for storage through freezing temps prevents catastrophic plumbing damage and mold risks. This process involves:

  • Draining fresh, grey, black tank water
  • Blowing out pipes with compressed air
  • Adding RV antifreeze to sinks, showers etc
  • Draining the water heater
  • Shutting off water pumps/valves
  • Winterizing appliances
  • Charging batteries
  • Preventing rodent infestation

Hire a professional or follow detailed guides for thorough winterization. The process takes 2-3 hours for a 20-30 ft RV.

How to Summerize your RV

Prepping an RV after storage or disinfecting water systems during use involves:

  • Mixing bleach/water solution & running through pipes
  • Flushing hot water through sinks and showers
  • Rinsing and flushing tanks thoroughly
  • Sanitizing tank sensors and filters
  • Checking fridge water lines and taps
  • Assessing all water damage leaks
  • Testing operating pressures
  • Verifying water heater, pump function

Follow detailed guides to revitalize water systems properly after winter or during peak camping seasons.

Specific Repairs and Maintenance Tips for Different Types of RVs

Unique features of RV types require tailored maintenance tips:

Travel Trailers

Weight balance – Load evenly side-to-side and front-to-back per specs

Frame/chassis – Inspect welds and frame members for cracks annually

Hitch/coupler – Ensure rust-free with adequate grease, check wear and tightness

Running gear – Repack wheel bearings every 12,000 miles per axle manufacturers guidelines


Engine maintenance – Follow automotive best practices – tune ups, oil changes, belt replacement

Generator care – Change oil, air filters, spark plugs per manual. Run monthly to keep carburetor conditioned.

Drive system – Have front alignment checked whenever handling seems compromised

Fuel filters – Replace fuel filter more often when boondocking using dirtier diesel fuels

Fifth Wheels

Hitch maintenance – Ensure kingpin and slider lubricated. Check bolts and welds for frame integrity.

Pin box – Rotate fifth wheel 15° every hitching to spread wear on axis plate surface

Underbelly – Carefully wash underside, clean any debris from openings to prevent damage

Roof – Clear snow buildup around vents quickly to prevent cracks from ice dams forming

Tips to Avoid Common RV Problems

Catching minor issues early, practicing preventative maintenance and modifying usage to reduce system strain helps minimize major repairs. Useful tips include:

Inspect seals/gaskets – Periodically check all seals on doors, hatches, slide-outs, windows and vents. Replace deteriorating seals immediately to prevent moisture damage.

Monitor roof – Inspect all roof seams/membranes regularly for cracks. Reseal as needed to prevent leaks. Install protective film to prevent cracking.

Level rig properly – Always park on solid, level ground ensuring even weight distribution to avoid slide-out, door, and frame stress.

Manage humidity – Prevent mold and moisture damage by managing humidity from cooking, showering, and breathing using roof vents and dehumidifiers.

Practice winterizing – Thoroughly winterize all water systems when storing an RV to avoid catastrophic cracking and leaks.

Think preventatively – Replace water pumps, regulators, hoses, fittings ahead of failure at 5-7 years as rebuild costs often exceed new parts.

Additional Resources for RV Repairs and Maintenance


As thrilling as the freedom of RVing across vistas feels, the lifestyle still involves practical considerations – especially caring for rolling homes needing specialized maintenance and repairs. But understanding common issues, costs, DIY opportunities and professional necessity equips travelers to catch problems early and budget wisely for the investments ensuring many more years of memories ahead on the open road.

What aspects of RV repairs make you nervous? Comment your concerns below! And don’t hesitate to ask this article’s creator any lingering questions on keeping your recreational vehicle running smoothly for years of adventures ahead!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common RV repairs?

The most common RV repairs involve the electrical system, plumbing system, refrigerator unit, slide-out sections, and propane system. Issues arise like electrical shorts, tank leaks, cooling unit failure, hydraulic cylinder leaks, and propane gauge inaccuracies.

Is it worth fixing up an old RV or buying new?

RVs 15+ years old often face repair bills exceeding $10,000 for slide-outs, appliances, generators and other major components needing replacement. At this age, restoring an old RV rarely makes financial sense versus upgrading to a newer used model.

Can I take my RV to any auto shop for basic repair?

While auto shops can assist with some issues like chassis parts, brake jobs or hitch repairs, most lack specialized RV training and facilities. Certified RV technicians better understand the unique construction, plumbing, electrical and appliances needing service in RVs.

What maintenance can I do myself easily?

Handy RVers can perform basic electrical troubleshooting, clear plumbing clogs, service house batteries, check propane fittings for leaks, lubricate slide-out rails, test smoke alarms and practice other DIY preventative care for minor issues.

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