How to Maintain an RV Exterior
August 29, 2019
Your RV Maintenance Checklist
When it comes to RV trips, a clean camper makes for a happy camper. So, just as you would take extra care to preserve the appeal of your favorite running shoes, fine china, classic car, or comic book collection, the same should go for your travel trailer. And, that starts with the exterior.
To help owners everywhere, we’re talking RV maintenance tips to ensure a long and lasting impression at every campground.
Set a ScheduleIn days past, keeping up with a cleaning schedule tended to be “out of sight, out of mind.” But, with calendar apps literally keeping us in check right from our phones, it’s as easy as plugging in that reminder and letting technology give you that nudge. The key is not resetting the schedule date once the alarm goes off…
To ensure your travel trailer is getting the TLC it needs, we suggest performing a general clean of the exterior after every trip. Depending on where you travel, this could be as simple as a quick rinse or a scrub and wax type of situation.
All the Right SuppliesWe know, this is a bit self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised how often you think you have a bucket and hose but find that one’s been cracked in half and the other was borrowed from the neighbor at the last house you lived in. So, we suggest a quick check for the essentials, then setting them aside in a dry space reserved for RV cleaning—and RV cleaning alone!
Sure, any garden hose will do the trick, but they tend to be hard to maneuver and can scuff the side of an RV due to the nature of their casing. Instead, we’d opt for an extendable hose. These are typically made of durable, yet pliable materials that won’t harm surfaces, but can be collapsed for easy storage.
Improb has a great list of expandable hoses you can check out.
You’ll want to invest in a couple different brushes. One for the main exterior and one designed for windows. And always go for the telescoping options to give you that extra bit of leverage without the need for a standalone ladder or step-stool.
These RV cleaning products found on CampingWorld.com will get you headed in the right direction:
AutoSpa™ Flow-Thru Wash Brush
Wash Brush & Squeegee
Scrub-N Squeegee Windshield Washer
Rubber Roof Brush
We won’t get too crazy with our cleaning bucket recommendations. After all, you just need a vessel that’ll hold a decent amount of water and suds without tipping over or cracking when there’s any bit of stress. We will suggest, however, that you opt for one with a solid handle and a thick shell, so the inevitable tip over won’t do any damage and leave you with a leaky bucket.
While normal cloth towels may have gotten the job done in the past, they are prone to issues that microfiber towels are not. One is lack of absorption during heavy-duty tasks. Microfiber, by nature, absorbs more than double the amount of moisture than cloth without using up any more surface area. So, you can get more of your travel trailer clean without filling up the entire laundry bin. Another perk of microfiber is the amount of dirt and dust they’re able to catch, even picking up very fine fibers and hairs that traditional rags cannot. Plus, you drastically reduce the risk of leaving behind scratches that tough cotton towels can often cause.
Car Bibles has a thorough list of the best microfiber towels in 2019, and with a name like that, you know you can trust their judgment when it comes to your ride—RV or not.
The Best RV Cleaners Aren’t Always the Most Expensive
We know the brand name items can be hard to pass up, but trust us, off brand is just as good. They use the same ingredients, but typically cost a fraction of the brand-name products. And, if you can swing it, we suggest opting for an eco-friendly cleaner that can wash away safely.
Simple Green is a product line that many RVers swear by. They even have their own page dedicated to cleaning a fiberglass RV!
- Roof | The health of your roof can be the difference between a fully functional structure and leak-prone interior with all the mildew, corrosion, and warping that comes with it. That’s why you’ll want to spend the time to properly clean the roof and any components (A/C, vents, satellite, etc.) that come with it. Sitting water can compromise seams and get into areas prone to expansion during times of temperature fluctuation. By ensuring the roof is dry and debris-free, you’ll save yourself many headaches and repair bills.
And always start at the top! That way, if you clean the roof after cleaning the sides and windows, you won’t be rinsing dirt and soap back onto your clean surfaces.
- Awning | Cleaning your awning can be an awkward experience, we know. But, if you’re able to, detach the legs and let the awning cover lay flat to get better access. If that’s not possible, that telescoping brush you (hopefully) invested in will make reaching the underside much easier. Then, hose off the top as necessary just as you would clean the unit’s roof.
- Sides/Fiberglass Coating | To maintain the luster of your RV’s smooth exterior, you’ll want to wax approximately every 3 months or so. This will help eliminate the cloudiness that can develop, as well as prevent harmful sunlight, heat, and moisture from doing long-term damage. Avoid caustic, highly alkaline cleaners and those containing ammonia, as these can cause staining.
Black streaks are a common problem in the RV world. But that means there’s plenty of advice online for getting rid of these pesky reoccurrences. KOA has a great blog on removing them, if you’re interested.
Trying to get rid of scratches? Polishing compounds are ideal for fiberglass exteriors that can be applied by hand or buffer, followed by wax to help seal the abrasion.
- Windows | When it comes to cleaning your RV’s windows, it’s really about protecting the integrity of the sealants. As you would typically clean the interior, make sure to vacuum around the window to clear any debris. Then, inspect the frame and sidewall for any voids, cracks, shrinkage, etc.
To maintain, apply a light oil or powdered graphite for lubrication.
- Metal | Metal areas require a bit of a different approach than fiberglass portions, such as avoiding dry wiping, rubbing compounds, and high-pressure washers. For Dutchmen owners, you can find specifics for taking care of metal on your RV on page 85 of the owner’s manual.
- Wheels & Underbelly | Typically, if you’ll be traveling to areas with a lot of snow, road salts/chemicals, or saltwater, you’ll want to wash the exterior and primary components like axles and running gear at the destination and once you’re home again. If left to accumulate, these elements can cause long-term, irreparable damage to key components.
For wheels, you can be a little more aggressive with your cleaning regimen. That means, any cleaner from the local auto shop should do the trick. Just make sure you have a good brush with coarse bristles and some tire shine to really make the rig pop once you’re done.
- RV Steps | For Dutchmen owners, you’ll want to lubricate all pivot points with a dry lubricant spray every 30-60 days or so.
- Hitch/Couplers | Use wheel bearing grease to lubricate the ball socket and clamp. If you notice damage, you’ll want to contact your Dutchmen dealer to get it replaced before travel.
Call in the ProfessionalsLocal detailing companies can handle RV cleaning even if it’s not advertised. By giving them a call, you’ll typically find that they may offer exterior services, and some will even handle RV interiors.
National Detail Pros
Follow the Manufacturer’s GuideWhile cleaning the exterior and most of the interior can be a pretty straightforward process, when it comes to individual components and accessories, you’ll want to consult the specific owner’s manual. This would apply to the refrigerator, stovetop, microwave, and any third-party additions you may have added during the course of ownership.
While we recommend a surface-level clean before and after every trip, you should plan on performing a deep clean before putting your travel trailer in storage. If there’s food left behind on the floors, pests will make their way to them, so don’t skip out on the details! RV covers are a great way to keep your rig looking like new, too.
For detailed information about travel trailer maintenance, we suggest checking out our owner’s manual, pages 83-91. While these recommendations are specific to Dutchmen RVs, they offer useful advice that covers most units on the road today. Also, you should take note of any cleaning you perform to help with any warranty claims.
To ask fellow owners how they clean their RVs, head to our Facebook page. And, you can always follow us on Instagram for updates about our family of Dutchmen RV owners.