9 Essential Tips for a Fun (and Indispensable) RV Shakedown Cruise

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May 16, 2022

Travel trailer and Class B motorhome at a campsite

There’s a lot to consider when it’s time to get your RV ready for camping season. From spring cleaning to performing an RV walk around to check all components, getting your vehicle prepared to hit the road requires a proper checklist (find one here!). But in addition to all the cleaning and equipment checks that you carry out in your driveway, it’s good to plan a quick local trip to use your RV just like you would on a longer trip. Use these tips for a spring RV shakedown cruise to plan your first trip of the next camping season!

Tip 1: Set Your Intentions

Let’s be clear: the idea of a shakedown cruise is to focus on general RV maintenance. It gives you a chance to operate all of your RV’s components and appliances to double-check that nothing needs major repairs. 

Man adjusting air conditioning unit in RV.

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You might find that certain things require a tune-up (i.e., changing the oil in your generator). So make sure you build some time into your shakedown itinerary for general RV maintenance. 

That said, you can have additional intentions for your shakedown cruise. Planning an RV staycation is a great way to explore areas close to home that you might otherwise overlook on your way to far-flung destinations. 

Tip 2: Find an Exciting Destination 

Just because you’re staying close to home doesn’t mean you can’t get excited about where you’re going. Maybe there’s a state park nearby that’s always full during peak season. Or maybe you live close to a beachfront camping area you’ve always wanted to camp at, but you’ve never taken the chance before. 

Class C motorhome parked at the beach.

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Scour the map within a 100-mile radius from your home to find a place that you’re pumped to explore. Of course, you can expand your radius a bit if something really jumps off the charts, but the point is to make it a fun and productive shakedown cruise. 

Tip 3: Pre-Trip Checks

Before you leave your driveway or take your RV out of its winter storage location, it’s time to test your appliances and perform a top-to-bottom RV check. This means getting up on the roof to do an RV roof inspection and working your way down from there. 

This includes everything from checking your RV batteries to flushing antifreeze out of your plumbing (if it’s still in winter storage). It’s quite a lot to do, but it can’t be skipped. Use this guide to get your RV ready for spring

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If your RV hasn’t been for a mechanic visit in a while, this is a great time to schedule an appointment. Basic RV service is a must for keeping your engine, transmission, brakes, suspension, and other critical components in the best shape possible. 

While you can certainly perform some simpler engine maintenance, like checking fluids, at home, the best thing to do is find a nearby service center that can perform a comprehensive vehicle inspection. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what your RV needs before your shakedown cruise reveals critical needs the hard way. 

Tip 4: On the Road Checks

Even if your vehicle inspection doesn’t reveal any issues, it’s good to be mindful about feeling how your RV is handling on the road. It’s hard to diagnose issues from behind the wheel, but here are a few things you can be thinking about from home to your shakedown destination: 

  • How is your RV handling on turns? 
  • How does the suspension feel when riding over potholes or speed bumps?
  • Are you hearing any squeaking or squealing when braking?
  • Is your RV shifting (up and down) as you’d expect?
  • Is the steering wheel straight when your RV is straight, provided there’s minimal wind?

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s intended to provide some ideas for things to consider while driving your RV. The idea is to pay closer attention, so you have data to provide if you decide a trip back to your RV mechanic is warranted. 

Tip 5: Identify Potential for RV Upgrades

During your shakedown cruise, think about any RV components or appliances that are giving you trouble. They may just be old, or your RV lifestyle may have changed to render them useless entirely. 

Man performing maintenance tasks on an RV.

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Your shakedown cruise is the perfect time to consider how you can make small (or big) changes to your RV’s interior so that it serves your needs more seamlessly. For more ideas on upgrading or renovating the inside of your RV, check out the Camping World Design Center

Tip 6: Make Lists

Any good spring RV shakedown cruise is bound to turn up the need for new camping gear. Plus, you may find that you need new tires on your RV or other appliances that need to be serviced. To keep track of your findings, create organized lists and post them somewhere that you can easily add new items as they come up. 

As a kid, my Mom always made two lists: one for new RV accessories and one for required maintenance. This gave my parents an easy way to tackle the findings from their shakedown trip before we hit the road for our big summer adventures. 

Tip 7: Test New Camping Gear 

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In addition to testing out all the regular functions of your RV, your spring shakedown is the perfect time to test any new camping gear you received during the winter holidays. Break out that new camping grill to try out some new campsite cooking recipes.

Or maybe you received some new outdoor games that you’ve been itching to try out. A spring shakedown cruise can be used to test anything and everything you bring on a typical RV road trip! 

Tip 8: Assess RV Storage Organization

All RV types and classes treat storage a little differently. But these areas tend to become disheveled before the rest of your motorhome. Because RVs offer limited living space, there’s a tendency to throw things into storage compartments simply to get them out of your way. 

Food organized in storage container.

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This presents another opportunity during your spring RV shakedown cruise. Are there any ways you can improve the organization of your RV’s storage areas? This might look like adding vertical shoe racks or hanging hampers to improve bedroom and closet storage

Or it might take the form of consolidating smaller items into toolboxes and containers designed to be kept in underneath storage compartments. Collapsible storage solutions are also great options for drawer and cabinet organization inside your RV. 

There are many ways to improve the organization of your RV, but the key is to find the best solution for your camping style. For more tips, check out this list of essential packing tips for first-time campers

Tip 9: Have Fun! 

Our last tip is to make some time to enjoy your spring RV shakedown cruise. While the goal is to test and make sure you’re ready for a full summer of camping, it’s also important to relax and recreate a little to turn your shakedown into a mini vacation. 

Set aside at least a day to lounge around or get out and enjoy your favorite outdoor activity. Your shakedown cruise doesn’t have to be all work and no play!

A spring RV shakedown cruise shouldn’t be taken lightly. Identify anything that needs to be fixed, renovated or rearranged in your RV before you start your next camping season. 

By using your shakedown cruise to your advantage, you reduce the chances of costly RV maintenance when you’re hundreds of miles from home. Of course, Good Sam Roadside Assistance always has your back if something unexpected does go wrong on the road. 

Explore Good Sam RV protection plans today!