Protecting Your RV From the Elements

Covering your RV will add years to its life—Part 1 of 2

Protecting Your RV

Protecting Your RV From the Elements.

What are the biggest investments most people will make? Their home, their RV and their car. Homes are built to withstand the elements to a point, but we all know the costs of maintaining a home, or neglecting it. We perform regular maintenance on our cars, and we can run them through a car wash and perhaps keep them in a garage. But what about the RV?

RV buyers spend anywhere from $15,000 to $2.5 million to purchase their home on wheels. And for the most part, these homes on wheels are made to be lightweight and flexible so they can put up with a hurricane and an earthquake every time they go down the road, which means their components are less durable than, say, our homes. So, if we want our RVs to last as long as possible, we need to maintain and protect them, and that’s where RV Covers come in. Aside from putting the RV inside a building, they’re the best protection currently available.

Protecting Your RV From the Top Down

Protecting Your RV From the Elements

So, what is it about an RV that needs better protection than a home? Let’s start at the top—the RV’s roof. Most RVs have a membrane roof made of either EPDM rubber or TPO, which is a form of plastic. These roofs do a really good job of protecting the RV from the elements, but only to a point. There are aluminum and fiberglass roofs also, but again, they also have their limitations. The biggest limitations are the seams, common in every single RV. Every mobile structure is, by its very nature, flexible.

The seams on our RVs are the same, and we use flexible sealants at those joints so they can move as the RV moves. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, and when these sealants eventually age and fail, they have to be renewed. The thing is that they a) last longer if they’re protected from UV and moisture and b) if the seals fail when the RV is covered, no damage occurs, because the seams are protected. Not to mention that the highest probability for damage in the northern half of the country is from snow and snow melt water.

Then there are the sides of the RV. Most tarps, which we’ll discuss in a bit, only cover the roof. This leaves the sides of the coach completely exposed to UV and moisture. The accumulated effects of this are quite noticeable and can include faded fiberglass or aluminum siding and end caps; dried out window, door and other seals; and black streaks that get ground into the finish and will never come out, especially if the roof is left unprotected and unmaintained all the time. These faulty seals lead to leaks and associated damage.

Regular maintenance prevents this damage from occurring while the coach is in use, but when in storage, the only thing preventing unseen damage from occurring is the RV cover.

RV covers have been around for some time, but the technology has changed, with newer, better products coming on the market. But what exactly does an RV cover do, and what makes it better than a tarp?

Tarps Vs. RV Covers: Which is Best at Protecting Your RV

Protecting Your RV from the elements

As you would expect, an RV cover protects a recreation vehicle from the elements, but the key is in how it protects the RV. A good-quality RV cover is constructed of materials that resist the elements and release moisture that develops under the cover from condensation, thus reducing or eliminating the buildup of mold and mildew. Well-made RV covers are strong and rip resistant, are relatively lightweight and easy to deploy and have connectors and fasteners that help to cinch up the cover without damaging the surface of the RV.

I have seen many RVs over the years that were covered by tarps. Now to be fair, tarps come in many sizes, are readily available and are cheap. They also retain heat and moisture like a plastic bag, which can lead to mold and mildew. Tarps fray in the wind and elements, and have metal grommets, which scratch and gouge the RV where they come in contact with the sides of the coach.

Protecting Your RV from the Elements

And, what most people don’t realize, is that the abrasive nature of tarp “fabric” or plastic causes wear to the sides and corners of the RV, causing anywhere from minor abrasive cosmetic damage to aluminum, plastic and fiberglass surfaces, to rubbing completely through the corners and edges of the roof, causing significant damage. Tarps provide little or no UV protection, especially to uncovered sides, and if they’re not tied down properly, winds can cause them to shift, and the then a flapping tarp now causes even more damage to the coach.

An RV is a substantial purchase, and maintaining and covering that investment not only makes your RV travels better, it’s money in your pocket. Protecting your RV while you’re not using it goes a long way in making your RV last longer.

See Part II on Protecting Your RV with Beat Bad Weather With an Elements RV Cover. 


Chris Dougherty is technical editor for MotorHome and Trailer Life magazines. A certified RV technician, Chris resides in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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  1. It really helped when you mentioned how an RV cover is a rip resistant and lightweight. I can understand that taking the time to understand this can help you find the best way to protect your motorhome from the elements. We are planning on getting an RV and want to make sure we know how to properly protect it, so I’m glad I found your post.