Tips for a First-Time RVer

Tips for a First-Time RVer
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Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 08:38 pm

These tips for a first-time RVer are designed to give you a solid foundation of knowledge about your new RV and ensure a smooth start in the RV lifestyle. Being well-prepared can make all the difference. From mastering efficient packing to understanding essential RV maintenance, these insights will help you confidently embrace RV life. Get ready to hit the road and create unforgettable memories as you explore the open highways and scenic byways of RV travel.

Get a Thorough Walk-Through

Image. Tips for First-Time RVers. Couple in new RV with RV Technician.
First-Time RVers

Buying From a Dealership

If you are purchasing from an RV dealership, you should receive a walk-through of your RV. This walk-through is crucial for understanding your new RV’s systems and features. Your salesman or an RV tech will show you how everything works and where everything is and answer your questions.

Buying From a Private Party

If you considering the purchasing an RV from a private party, a walk-through doesn’t always happen.  But if the sell is willing, take the time. Even if you do, it may not be as thorough as it should be. I recommend you hire an RV tech for a proper walk-through BEFORE you buy. While there is a cost involved, it could save you thousands of dollars.

Tips for a Successful RV Walk-Through

Take Video and Have a Camera Handy

Take video during the walk-through. This can be invaluable for reviewing how things work later on. Videos provide a visual reference that can clarify complex systems and procedures. Take photos and make a note of anything that is not working properly or shows damage. Major prondblems should be addressed before your trip. Minor repairs can wait until after your first trip if you don’t mind waiting. If you purchased new from a dealer, all these issues should be covered by a warranty.

Create a Checklist

During your walk-through, use this checklist of the items and systems you need to understand.  You can the list below or download a printable PDF copy.

Comprehensive Walk-Through Checklist

Electrical Systems:

  • Main Control Panel: Understand the functions and readouts of the main control panel.
  • Battery: Learn how to check the charge level, maintain, and replace the RV battery.
  • Inverter: Understand how the inverter works and how to switch between inverter and shore power.
  • Generator: Learn how to start, stop, and maintain the generator, including regular checks and servicing.
  • Shore Power Hookup: Know how to safely connect and disconnect the RV to shore power.
  • Fuse Box: Locate the fuse box and learn how to check and replace fuses.

Plumbing Systems:

  • Fresh Water Tank: Understand how to fill, sanitize, and maintain the fresh water tank.
  • Water Pump: Learn how to operate and troubleshoot the water pump.
  • Water Heater: Understand how to turn on and off the water heater and how to switch between electric and propane modes if applicable.
  • Gray and Black Water Tanks: Learn how to monitor levels, dump, and clean the gray and black water tanks.
  • Dump Stations: Understand how to properly use dump stations and what supplies are needed (e.g., hoses, gloves).

Propane Systems:

  • Stove and Oven: Learn how to safely light and use the propane stove and oven.
  • Refrigerator: Understand how to switch the refrigerator between propane and electric modes, and how to maintain it.
  • Furnace: Learn how to operate and maintain the propane furnace.
  • Propane Tanks: Understand how to check propane levels, refill the tanks, and switch between tanks if there are multiple.

Slide-Outs and Awnings:

  • Slide-Outs: Learn how to extend and retract slide-outs, and understand basic maintenance and troubleshooting.
  • Awnings: Understand how to extend and retract awnings, and how to clean and maintain them to prevent damage.

Additional Items:

  • Windows and Vents: Learn how to operate and maintain windows and roof vents, including screens and shades.
  • Doors and Locks: Understand how to operate all doors and locks, including exterior storage compartments.
  • Leveling System: Learn how to use the leveling system, whether it’s manual or automatic.
  • Towing Setup (if applicable): Understand how to safely connect and disconnect a towed vehicle or trailer.

By following this checklist, first-time RVers can ensure they cover all essential systems and components during their walk-through, gaining the knowledge needed to confidently operate and maintain their RV

More Tips for a First-Time RVer

Familiarizing yourself with your RV is a crucial first step to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience on the road. By understanding the ins and outs of your RV, you’ll be better equipped to handle any situation that arises and keep your home on wheels running smoothly. Here are some essential tips to help you get to know your RV thoroughly.

Getting to Know the RV

Document Everything

User Manuals: Collect all user manuals for the appliances and systems in your RV. Keep them in a designated place for easy reference. These manuals are invaluable for troubleshooting and regular maintenance.

Videos: If possible, record videos during the walk-through. These can be invaluable for reviewing how things work later on. Videos provide a visual reference that can clarify complex systems and procedures.

Learn the Basics of RV Maintenance

Knowing how to perform basic maintenance can save you time and money. During the walk-through, ask the RV tech to show you:

  • Proper Tire Pressure: Learn the recommended tire pressure for your RV and how to check and maintain it. Proper tire pressure is crucial for safety and fuel efficiency.
  • Battery Maintenance: Understand how to test and charge the RV battery. Regular battery maintenance ensures you have reliable power for your travels.
  • Roof and Seal Inspection: Learn how to inspect and clean the roof and seals to prevent leaks. Regular checks can prevent costly water damage.
  • Fuses and Light Bulbs: Know how to check and change fuses and light bulbs. Carry spare fuses and bulbs to avoid inconvenience on the road.

Understand Safety Features

Ensure you are familiar with the location and operation of all safety features in your RV, including:

  • Fire Extinguishers: Know where they are located and how to use them. Regularly check that they are charged and accessible.
  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Test these regularly to ensure they are functioning properly. Replace batteries as needed and know what the alarms sound like.
  • Emergency Exits: Identify and practice using emergency exits. Make sure all family members know how to use them in case of an emergency.

Trip Preparation

You’ve done the walk-through, made necessary repairs and the RV is ready to roll. What’s next?

Before you hit the open road find a large vacant parking lot or field and practice maneuvering and backing your RV. See this article for more info:

Make a list of the things you will need for your RV trip. Use the list to check off thing as you load them.

Essential Items for Your New RV

This RV checklist is a starting point for your motorhome, travel trailer, or fifth wheel. Customize it to suit your needs by adding or subtracting items.

Kitchen Essentials
(__) Spices (__) Cooking oil
(__) Bottled water (__) Hot chocolate mix
(__) Flour (__) Coffee
(__) Sugar (__) Boxed juices
(__) Syrup (__) Pots & pans
(__) Utensils (__) Silverware
(__) Tablecloth (__) Kitchen towels
(__) Wash bins (__) Scrubbing pads
(__) Pot holders (__) Coffee pot
(__) Cutting board (__) Kitchen rags
(__) Coffee filters (__) Coffee cups
(__) Tablecloth holders (__) Dish drainer
(__) Can opener (__) Champagne glasses
(__) Knives (__) Tea kettle
(__) Napkins (__) Paper towels
(__) Trash bags (__) Aluminum foil
(__) Dish detergent (__) Matches
(__) Paper plates
Sleeping & Comfort Lighting & Safety
(__) Pillows (__) Lantern
(__) Sleeping bags (__) Flashlight
(__) Beach chairs (__) Batteries
(__) Beach towels (__) Stove lighter
(__) First aid kit
Tools & Accessories Personal Items
(__) Bungie cords (__) Books
(__) Whisk broom (__) Pair of old shoes
(__) Rope (__) Coats
(__) Kleenex (__) Backpacks
(__) Toilet paper (__) Sun screen
(__) Ax
(__) Firewood
(__) Small ice chest
Cooking & Dining Entertainment & Extras
(__) Charcoal (__) Radio
(__) Portable BBQ (__) Games
Additional Essentials
(__) RV-specific tools and repair kits (__) Water hose and water pressure regulator
(__) Sewer hose and sewer fittings (__) Leveling blocks
(__) Surge protector (__) Fire extinguisher
(__) RV-friendly toilet paper (__) Personal hygiene items
(__) Extra bedding and blankets (__) Outdoor mat or rug

Remember, this checklist is not exhaustive and should be tailored to your personal preferences and travel style. You will forget things but it’s okay. Most items can be purchased at the campground or at a store near the campground.

Make Your First RV Trip Close to Home

Plan your first RV trip to somewhere close to home. Some RV lifestyle ‘experts’ even advise your first campsite should be the driveway of your home. There’s good reasoning to that advice. First, anything you forgot is just a few steps away. Second if the air conditioner dies on the hottest day of summer or the heater quits during an especially cold night you can retreat to the house.

But lets be real here, you didn’t buy an RV so you could camp in your driveway. Right? So my advise is that you pick a campground or RV park just a few miles from home.

Remember, you’re going camping not taking a road trip. Why spend a large part of your weekend driving when you could be actually enjoying your new RV. Besides it is no fun arriving late, tired from the drive… maybe even after dark… and have to back in and unhitch and then make camp. Then, of course, you’ll have to leave the campground early and face the long drive home.

I highly recommend reserving a campsite that has water, electric and most importantly sewer hookups. It’s so tempting to head off to a campsite in the forest of right on the beach but these campsites most often do not have a sewer hookup. I’ll bet you a dozen doughnuts that you will fill your gray water tank before the weekend is over and without a sewer hookup to drain into you’ll be forced to hitch up and head for a dump station or even head home early.

Know the Length of Your Rig.

When making reservations, you will be asked what your length is, they usually want the length of the rig. Meaning the tow vehicle and trailer or mtorhome and towed combined. That’s a rig.
Many parks have limits on the length of RV they can fit. Many state parks can not handle longer RVs because the roads leading to the park as well as inside the campground are too winding or narrow. Check ahead before you go to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Stay Close to Home  

The primary reason for choosing a campsite close to home is to minimize stress. If you have never driven a large vehicle it can be stressful. keeping the drive time short will make the trip easier. Keep in mind that you will likely drive slower than you may normally drive a car so it is all the more reason to stay close to home.

If you’ve never backed a trailer or motorhome into a campsite you could get very frustrated very fast. Remember that you are new to this and once you have done it a few times you will get a routine down. Work out the hand signals ahead of time or get radios to talk to each other so that nothing is missed. For the person helping back up, always remember, if you can’t see the driver in the mirror or otherwise, they can’t see you! No point in doing hand signals if you can’t be seen. See the article for more details:

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One Response to "Tips for a First-Time RVer"

  1. not necessarly a first time but learned a few lessons from the first trip after you practice backing in and the other driving tips your gonna need you dont have to camp in your drive way but stay reasonably close this time were staying in an area we know for a year to learn the quips and querks of this one last time we set off in to the mountains with out a clue….lesson learned bring on the camping or at least the rest areas and truck stops in the area

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