Tech – Top 10 Forgotten Maintenance Items

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February 4, 2009

Ahh- a month of Top Ten lists… To kick off my lists, the Top Ten maintenance items that are easy ‘do it yourself’ items, yet somehow don’t get done.

Some of them we all know need doing- some are pretty much always forgotten, but all of them are easy to do, and will ultimately save you money.

#10 Clean the spark arrestor in your generator muffler.

RV gensets are required to have spark arrestor installed, and usually have them integrated in to the muffler in the form of a screen, or as an add on in the tail pipe. The trouble is that this screen will become clogged, leading to a loss of power. Onan calls for cleaning it every 50 hours on most models.

Cleaning them is a very simple process – either remove the section of tail pipe with the screen and clean it, or if it is integrated in to the muffler, there will be a plug or plugs which you remove and run the genset under load for a few minutes

(! always do this over a non combustible surface- not over dry grass !)

For extra credit, you can buy a can of Onan 4C cleaner, which is great at removing carbon deposits, and run that through at the same time.

#9  Check the water in the house battery

Today’s converter and inverter/charger systems are far better than those of even 10 years ago at maintaining your battery- but they still require maintenance. Remember to follow standard safety practices (safety glasses, remove jewelry, etc.) and use distilled water only. Take the time to inspect the battery connections while you’re at it- including the ground connection.

#8 Test and/or change the smoke detector battery

We all remember to change the batteries in our household smoke detectors regularly, but we forget the RV detector until it starts to beep in the middle of the night!

#7 Lubricate power steps

Kwikee calls for monthly lubrication of their steps- probably 85% of the problems I see with these are due to lack of lubrication. Using the correct product to lubricate the step is as important as lubrication is- while there are many products that will do an adequate job, Kwiklube by Kwikee really works quite well- it goes on thin to penetrate , but gels to a heavy grease consistency, and a can will last a long time.

#6 Lubricate the slideout mechanism

While they don’t typically operate as much as the steps- keeping the slideout mechanism lubricated is really a good idea- less stress on the parts and motor, better operation, less battery draw, etc. Spraying the slide seals with a good preservative will also keep them in shape. There are several products for both of these tasks, from companies like Protect All and Thetford.

#5 Drain and flush the water heater tank

The water heater tends to be “out of site, out of mind”, until the tank starts leaking. Atwood and Suburban both recommend at least yearly drain and flush. The Suburban models use an anode rod, which is a consumable item, and should be replaced when it is 75% gone. Atwood uses a plastic plug- do yourself a favor and buy a pack of these to keep in the rig. Replace them at least every other time you drain.

#4 Clean the air conditioner coils and filters

I know right now most of us are not thinking about air conditioning, but the heat will return soon enough! The filters should be cleaned weekly in hot weather when the A/C is running all the time- or as needed in cooler weather. If you keep the filters clean, you won’t have to clean the inside coils as often.

#3 See the end… 😕

#2 Inspect the roof sealants

If you do decide to clean the coils, as I talked about in my blog post Tune up your roof A/C, it’s a great time to carefully inspect all of the seams and sealants on the roof- this should be done at least yearly.

#1 Clean the refrigerator burner

The number one cause of gas electric refrigerators not working on LP gas is a dirty clogged burner. While many will not want to get in to dealing with taking the burner apart to clean it, a lot can be done with a shop vac or air hose- just vacuum or blow out the burner area and flue regularly (of course- don’t hit it with 130 psi air- just enough to get the rust and dirt out). Learn what the flame should look like, and keep it burning well. Your refrigerator and food will thank you for it!

And now- finally, the long awaited…. (drum roll, please)…

#3 Check you fire extinguishers

In addition to checking the gauge and date- if your fire extinguishers are dry chemical type, remove them, turn them upside-down, and bang on them a bit. This will break up the powder which tends to settle and clump (especially in a vehicle).

I hope this gives some ideas about cheap inexpensive things that you can do- and need to be done-

What are your top ten maintenance items that you forget or put off?

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  28. The issue of the spark arrestor is more for performance reasons than damage. Spark arresting mufflers have a fairly fine screen in them- this screen catches carbon, and becomes clogged. It’s like stuffing a rag in the tail pipe. The downside is without cleaning, the generator will significantly loose performance, and the muffler will have to be replaced anyway.
    Each model has the cleanout plugs in a different place.

  29. I too, for the life of me, can’t find on my Onan Genny, the plugs talked about for cleaning the arrestor. Another poster states Onan says you can skip this PM. I’d like a little more info on the subject please.

  30. Walter

    Please provide details of converting marker lights, stop lights, and turn signals form OME to LED.

    Please be a detailed as posible


  31. Robert Dettman

    Cleaning the spark arrestor… Not a good idea. I have a 7kw onan generator. I checked the manual to find what p/m’s are required. I also called Onan tech support. I could not get the plug out.. It is siezed to the Malleable Iron street elbow welded to the muffler. He said nine times out of ten the plug’s pipe threadsare siezed to the street elbow and you have to replace the whole muffler. Because you end up breaking the fitting off. He said it is no consequence to the operation of the generator or warranty if you skip the step in the p/m procedure???

  32. Donald Lieberman

    Just A quick tip I had a jack that came up very slow and i took my RV to a RV repair
    shop they tried to sell me new jacks I could not believe I needed new jacks I am a ase certified mechanics so I checked out the jacks I cleaned the shafts very fine emery paper and than sprayed them with WD 40 and ran the jacks up and down
    several times and sprayed them several times WD 40 now they work like new.

  33. CyberCelt

    Check your tire pressure–all of them–car, toad, RV, spares.

  34. Rick

    what is involved in repairing the fiberglass covered sheeting on a camper when you find the fiberglass adhesive is letting loose and you see a bubble or loose spot. Also found corner pushing out at seam, most likely it has gotten water or moisture behind the fiberglass.

  35. Ernie Hadfield

    Reference #5

    You will notice that it says “drain AND flush”. How would those of you with a replacement for the plug accomplish the “flush”, since this is best done with a flushing tool?

    Also, if you put anything other than plastic or brass in the Atwood tanks you will probably be replacing the heater shortly because you will not be able to remove the plug.

  36. Robert Charles

    Following reading of the Atwood owners manual for my water heater in a Damon 2000 Challenger. All it showed was the heating element…no plugs to remove for draining. Does this indicate that only half of the water can be drained, since the heating element if removed for this purpose is located half way up the side of the heater? Thank You

  37. Karen Baas

    Chris, being a widow of 3 months and an owner of a new(2yrs) old 5th wheel, is there a list outside of the top ten I can use as a checklist. My dealer has been a great help too. but I think more people giving me ideas the better chance I wont forget anything….The top ten list has a few I don’t have on my list…Thank you…

  38. Mark Skotek

    How can I stop water from dripping from my rooftop airconditioners. I raised them higher off the roof so water dont puddle under them. They only leah after running more than an hour. I inspected everything insise from the top and made sure the drainholes were open. They are duo therm units.

  39. Himself

    I change the battery’s in my atomic clock/weather station and the some detector, every six months if they need them or not. The cost of AA and 9v battery’s are cheap life insurance. Also I check the house battery’s on or around the first Saturday of the month. (setting up an e-mail reminder on the computer is simple) Also exercise the Generator every 90 days or so only take a few minutes. Also a good way to exercise the Generator is to run the A/C for about 35 mins. I know it’s a little hard to want to do that when it’s -5 degrees outside, but it’s cheap insurance.

  40. Connie

    You can put number 3 as, lube the jacks. Not just any lube…

  41. Timber Tom

    Good list, Ghris, but I can forget more than 10.
    Regarding the Atwood water heater, that plastic plug has a few faults. It is difficult to reach, it spills water onto the side of the rig, it makes a muddy puddle right where you are standing, and it can become crossthreaded or break. When mine broke, I considered replacing it with a metal plug, but that wouldn’t solve my other gripes.
    Here is what I came up with. I inserted a 1/2″` close nipple in the fittting and screwed on a 1/2″x3/8″ faucet hose with a 1/4 turn valve and 30″ hose (of course I wrapped the threads with silicone tape). When I want to drain the heater I just open the valve and drain the water into a bucket.

  42. Hi Charlie,
    Well…. yes and no- a lot depends on the type of mechanism- there isn’t as much to lube on hydraulic systems, but here in Florida, lubrication is very much needed to help cut down on corrosion, plus treating the seals is always a good idea.

  43. Charlie Mueller

    Question – According to my maintenance manual on my 2004 Southwind, it says no lubrication is required on my three slide outs. Do you agree??? Thanks

  44. Hah- good catch Richard. It must have gotten deleted one of the times I saved the file- I’ll see if I can reconstruct it (I deleted my draft ).

  45. Richard Ibarra

    Regarding the “Tech – Top 10 Forgotten Maintenance Items”, what happened to ‘tip #3’? It is missing.

  46. Chris,

    Good list, I’m guilty of not doing #6 & #10 in a while but regularly check the other items you mentioned.