By Charles Kerekes
In the excitement of considering life as an RVer, it may not occur to some that the new lifestyle demands
several non-recreational roles to be assumed. One of these roles is the rv handyman (ladies included). I point this
out not to throw cold water on the exciting plans, but to prepare you for a certainty that comes standard with
living in an RV, no matter how new the unit.
If fixing things around the house is your thing, then fixing things in an RV will come easy for you. On the
other hand, if you rely on someone else when the simplest thing goes wrong, prepare yourself to become handy or
take an rv handyman along on your RV adventure.
Think that you can dismiss this role by throwing money at it? Not so fast! Even if your budget can sustain
paying for all preventive maintenance and repairs, services may not always be available. Imagine the difference it
would make if you can do your own RV repair, versus having to spend a day or two of your week-long vacation at the
RV REPAIRS VS. HOUSE REPAIRS
Even though an RV is considerably smaller than a modest house, it requires more frequent repairs. This is also
true for brand new recreational vehicles, while new houses are mostly trouble-free in their first few years.
Some of the reasons for the increased repairs in an RV are the following:
Lighter construction throughout, due to weight and space constraints. Even the appliances are not made as well
as the ones manufactured for fixed residences.
RV's have more moving parts, some of them complex.
Vibration, bumping, and frame flexing caused by travel can break or loosen all sorts of components.
Less insulation means preventive measures must be taken in freezing weather. If preventive measures are ignored,
repairs may be necessary.
Unlike houses that are frequently inspected during construction, RV's have no such regulatory requirements. This
leaves quality control up to each manufacturer, some of which choose to build poor quality products. This is why it
is so important to inspect all RV's before buying.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE AN RV HANDYMAN?
From my own experience and from observing others on both sides of the rv handyman fence, I have come to the
conclusion that the two requirements to become handy are: interest in solving a problem and not being intimidated
by machinery. A close third is knowing your limits; knowing when a problem is beyond your skills and being willing
to ask for professional help. Once you posses the above three attributes, the finer skills of being a handyman can
be learned with time and practice.
As you are gaining experience, keep this old saying in mind: "Measure twice and cut once." The key is not to be
so afraid that you won't try, but to be extra cautious when approaching an unfamiliar problem. Are you about to
drill through a wall? Do all you can to examine both sides of the wall and items near it. If there is a chance that
utilities may be running through that wall, do not proceed without consulting blue prints or an expert.
RV MAINTENANCE & REPAIRS
RV Handyman skills are necessary for RV preventive maintenance and for making repairs. Below is a list of common
tasks that a person possessing a good dose of common sense and average skills should be able to handle without
Motor home engine or tow vehicle components:
Check and fill engine oil
Check and fill engine coolant
Check and fill other engine fluids
Check and adjust tire pressure
Lubricate under-chassis steering joints
Lubricate hitch moving components
Recreational vehicle components:
Repair or install cabinetry hinges, slides, and latches
Re-attach paneling with nails or adhesive
Fix external storage door hinges and support arms
Replace broken entryway handles
Dislodge and lubricate stubborn awning mechanisms
Find and replace blown fuses
Troubleshoot basic electrical problems with a multimeter
Test RV park A/C power voltage
Check and fill RV battery water
Test RV battery charge level
Replace common electric motors such as water pump and waste water valve motors
Drill holes in various locations to run wires, but having enough sense to know where not to drill in order to
avoid damaging components beneath the surface.
Find source of water leak and caulk it
Repair leaky water lines and hoses that are easily accessible
Unclog slow or blocked sink and shower drains
Insulate exposed hoses and pipes to prevent freezing
Winterize RV before cold storage to prevent freezing
Repair broken sewage connectors and covers
Detect and find propane leaks
Clear clogged air conditioner drain passages
Recognize and correct common refrigerator problems. For example, my mostly-new Norcold fridge occasionally stops
cooling until I reset the control board by unplugging the 12 volt DC wire in the back. According to a service guy,
this is common for this brand.
RV HANDYMAN ESSENTIALS
Take it from me and the Boy Scouts—it is good to be prepared. I remember racing across Dallas a few minutes
before 11:00 P.M., trying to make it to an AutoZone to buy fuses before they closed. The converter in our brand new
RV blew a fuse, the batteries were mostly drained, and without spare fuses our new home just sat there in the dark.
This incident would have turned into an uncomfortable night were it to happen during a vacation, far away from auto
To be prepared, take along a complete set of common tools such as hammers, screw drivers, etc. In addition, take
all of the following tools, supplies, and spares that apply to your situation:
Hydraulic jacks rated for the RV weight
Sturdy blocks for using under hydraulic jacks. Check your jacks before you need them because they may not extend
high enough to lift the RV without the use of blocks. Concrete or other masonry blocks may not be strong enough to
support the weight of heavy RV's and tow trucks.
Torque wrench for tightening the wheel lug nuts
¼" and ½" socket drivers with extensions and sockets to fit all fasteners you might remove. The largest socket I
needed was a 2" for the wheel lug nuts to use with the torque wrench.
15" adjustable wrench with a 2.5" jaw opening
Grease gun or can of grease. I found storing the grease gun too messy and opted for the can instead.
Full set of Allen wrenches
Full set of screwdriver tips, including square and star shapes
Small wood and metal hand saws
Flexible magnet to retrieve fallen screws
Small mirror to look into tight spaces
Small shovel in case you get stuck in snow or mud
Small wood and metal files for rounding sharp corners
Multimeter with a set of alligator clip wires
Battery hydrometer for accurately testing battery charge
Soldering iron and solder for re-attaching broken wires
Flash light with fresh batteries
Electric drill and complete drill bit set
Quality tire pressure gauge with long hose, rated for 100 psi or higher
Adjustable gripping pliers with jaws wide enough to clamp onto water hose connector. Handy when it is time to
remove an over-tightened water hose.
At least a couple of each fuse size found in your RV and tow vehicle. More of the common sizes.
Fresh water hose and adapter to connect two hoses for longer reach
Sewer hose and adapter to connect two hoses for longer reach
Sewer pipe screw-on cap because it breaks easily in cold weather
Spare wheel for motor home, trailer, and tow vehicle
Tire valve cores and removal tool
Electrical extension cords designed for outdoor use
Maintenance & repair supplies:
Collection of screws and nails, the types used in your RV
Duct tape, both the permanent and temporary types. Temporary duct tape comes in handy to hold things like
paneling and trim in place while the adhesive dries.
Clear duct tape for temporary repair of broken signal lights, torn awning canvas, etc.
Liquid Nails adhesive for re-attaching sagging ceilings and almost anything else
Marine adhesive for waterproof repairs
Caulk designed for the roof and exterior walls of your specific RV
General use waterproof caulk for the interior
WD-40 for lubrication and for removing tough petroleum-based stains
Propane leak tester solution in spray bottle
Wire nuts for connecting electrical wires
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Being handy around the RV will save you time, money, and the added aggravation of spending part of your vacation
in a shop. At the same time be smart about what you are capable and willing to take on. One time I removed and
completely disassembled a wheel hub from my trailer to track down a squeaky noise; this has taught me that wheel
hubs are too complex for my skills and messy too.
It is never fun when something goes wrong with the RV, but you will get a great deal of satisfaction being able
to repair common problems.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charles Kerekes is a fulltime RVer traveling the US with his family and maintains the
[http://ChanginGears.com]ChanginGears.com RV web site.
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