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                                                                                  DON'T DO THAT!!!
                                                                A Short List of Things That No RVer Should EVER Do
By Warren Petkovsek

Greetings, fellow and prospective RVers!
Well, my wife and I have been RVing for over thirty years now and we've certainly made our share of mistakes. More than that, we've seen many other RVers do many unadvisable and, ultimately, regrettable things with their RVs as well. We all know that we should learn from our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others, but I got to thinking; why go through the danger, inconvenience, expense and regrets of making these mistakes in the first place? That is why I've decided to compile a short list of things that RVers just shouldn't do.
So, my dear readers, you can now simply cut to the chase, read the article and avoid the risk, inconvenience and expense of many RV related mistakes. Please trust me on all of this. I've been there, made many of these mistakes and watched other RVers make the mistakes that I didn't get around to making myself. Let's check out this list of "don'ts" so that you can avoid them.
The items on the list appear in no particular order of importance. I just wrote them down as they occurred to me. Also, I refer to some of my other articles several times. All of these articles can be found on . Here we go.
• Don't fail to do your research before you purchase your RV whether it's new or used. (See my article, "
An Introduction to RVing ") Simply put, purchasing a rig that is unsuitable to your needs would be a very expensive mistake. Don't fall in love with the first RV that you see when shopping. Do lots and lots of shopping & be sure to talk to other RVers. The best question to ask another RVer about their rig is, "If you were starting all over what would you do differently?"
• Don't fail to use some kind of pre-delivery inspection check list before taking delivery on any rig that you intend to buy whether it's new or used and don't depend on the dealer to do this correctly for you. You don't want to take delivery on a rig with big problems. Even if it's new and protected by warranty you would much rather find these problems beforeyou take delivery and possibly have difficulty on the road or even have a camping trip ruined. (Please refer to my article, "
RV Pre-Delivery Checklist ".)
• Don't forget that an RV salesman's ONLY job is to sell you an RV. Unless you know this person and completely trust him you should be very careful about trusting what he says. Example: "Oh, your truck will EASILY tow this trailer safely with no problem."
• Don't fail to keep records and receipts for sales, warranty work and repairs. You may need to prove that proper maintenance was performed in case of a warranty issue or (God forbid) a buy-back under your state's lemon law.
• Don't fail to use some kind of checklist EVERY TIME you hitch up to travel. I can't stress the importance of this enough. This will go a long way toward avoiding ALL problems. (Please refer to my article, "
Basic Safety for Towable RVs ".) In this article you will find the checklist that I use & keep on my phone. Feel free to use my list or develop one of your own, but please use a checklist.
• Don't be afraid or reluctant to seek out a qualified RV tech or electrician if you are faced with a problem that exceeds your ability. Especially if it involves something as dangerous as electricity. I will quickly admit that I know only two things about electricity: (1) It is invisible and (2) It can kill you. 'Enough said.
• Don't ignore the weight limits and carrying capacities of your motor home, trailer or tow vehicle. I've heard many RVers say, "Oh, those weight limits are only suggestions" or "Those weight limits are purposely low in order for the manufacturer to avoid liability" or even "It would probably be better if I had a bigger truck, but I'm not planning on towing in the mountains any time soon". The only way to know if you're overloaded is to weigh your rig on some truck scales. These have several scale pads so that you can weigh the different axles on your trailer and tow vehicle. I won't bore you with all the weights of my truck, 5th wheel, hitch weight or all the axles, but I know what each of these weights are and I'm well within the limits for the truck, trailer, axles and tires. You should know this information as well. Remember, nobody ever complained about having too much truck. (Please read my article, "
Vehicles for RV Towing - How to Get It Right ".)
• Don't pull out in front of another RVer (or any big truck for that matter) traveling at highway speeds unless there is plenty of room and time. This applies to everyone whether or not you're an RVer or whether or not you are towing. Why? Well, my truck and 5th wheel combined weight is 25,720 pounds. Do you really want to risk pulling out in front of all that weight not knowing the condition of the brakes, tires or driver of that big rig? Don't forget that RVers are more and more comprising an older segment of the population with slower reaction times. Sometimes getting stuck behind a slow moving RV is better than waking up dead.
• Don't EVER drive distracted. There are no exceptions to this rule. To better understand the statistics and importance of this please read my article, "Distracted Driving" and share this with EVERY driver you know.
• Don't fail to plan ahead for an adequate sized campsite. Since we do a lot of volunteering in Texas State Parks and Corps of Engineers parks as well we use our rig a lot. This necessitates a larger 5th wheel for us. It also could be a problem when visiting places like our national parks. Oh, they may have some campsites that are large enough for a big rig, but many times these are only available on a first come first served basis so you can't depend on having a campsite big enough to work for a larger rig. Unless we have done our research and are sure that the campground can handle our rig we will often make reservations at a private campground near our destination which can accommodate our rig's size. Something like the Good Sam Club trip router and Campground Directory can help a lot with this.
• Don't just take someone's word for something that you really should check out yourself (with the possible exception of a qualified RV tech or electrician). However, don't fail to take sound advice from experienced RVers. In short, use good judgement and possibly get second or third opinions.
• Don't use any kind of bleach or other strong, questionable products when cleaning the exterior of your rig or its awnings. Bleach and other products will destroy the stick-on graphics. You really just can't go wrong by using cleansers and products that are designed for use on RVs. (Read my articles, "
RV Related Stuff I Like " and " Care and Cleaning of Your RV ".)
• Don't EVER ignore maintenance on your RV, motor home, tow vehicle or hitch. Much of this maintenance is required in order to maintain your warranty, but even so, you want to always do whatever needs to be done to keep a dependable, trouble free and, above all, safe rig. Sure, RV maintenance costs some money, but, as I see it, you can either afford to be an RVer or you can't. 'Sorry if that sounded strong, but don't forget the old "pay me now or pay me later" axiom. Maintenance is almost always cheaper than repairs and the lives of you and your family could depend on it. The required maintenance should be listed in your owner's manual so please stay on top of this important item. (Please read my articles, "
How to Maintain Your RVs Rubber Roof ", " Care and Cleaning of Your RV ", and " Trailer Wheel and Axle Alignment ".)
• Don't have a cavalier attitude about safety. Just because you've committed an unsafe act (such as distracted driving) 1,000 times doesn't mean that you can get away with it 1,001 times. Please pay careful attention to overtaking and following distances and never forget all the additional weight and length that you now have under your control and for which you are responsible. (Read my articles, "
Basic Safety for Towable RVs " and " Safety While Camping ... Sometimes Being Careful is Not Enough ".)
• Don't ignore water heater maintenance. This is just too easy and inexpensive to ignore. (Read my article, "
Water Heater Problems, Solutions and Maintenance ".) I'm sure that my "horror story" in the article will convince you to maintain your water heater.
• Don't handle your sewer hoses without wearing the proper gloves. I like using the throw away medical exam gloves. I've witnessed many times when guys empty their gray and black tanks at the park dump station and handle that nasty sewer hose bare handed, don't wash their hands and then the wife hands him a sandwich when they are pulling out. Do I really need to elaborate about all the bacteria?
• Don't leave the black (sewer) tank drain valve open when camping in a site with full hook-ups. You may think that by doing this that you won't have to worry about your black tank filling up, but you would be creating several much more serious problems. Solids will build up and harden in the bottom of the tank and WILL eventually plug up the tank and it will not drain. You will also be draining your black tank chemicals which dissolve solids and provide odor control. (Read my article, "
How to Maintain and Operate Your Black Water System ".) Trust me on this. I've NEVER had a sewer related problem doing the things I've described in the article.
• Don't hitch, move or level your rig with the slides extended. Those things can actually be quite fragile under certain conditions and when they are extended there is a lot of leverage working to damage them. We've seen guys pull up to the dump station with all of their slides extended and say,"Oh, I'm just dumping and I'm going right back to the campsite". 'Bad idea. Even the slight jolt of hitching up with the slides extended is often enough to damage them. While we're on the subject -
• Don't brace under your extended slides to stabilize your rig in a campsite. Oh, sure. You can buy telescopic braces that are intended to go under your slides to help take the jiggle out of your rig, but experts say that this is a bad idea for the same reason mentioned in the item above. Those slide mechanisms are just to sensitive and expensive to repair. If you want to stabilize your RV while set up in a campsite then read my article, "
Dealing With Instability in Your RV ". I also recommend using a system called " SteadyFast ". You can Google it up or read my product review on the same website where my articles are published.
• Don't ignore your tires! We all assume that our tires are up to the job, but they must be checked before and during each trip for proper air pressure and signs of irregular wear and damage. It's a funny thing. Many people will find some old used tire and put it on a utility trailer or even a larger low-boy trailer, never give it a second thought and usually never have any problems. RVs are different. Chances are that your RV tires are carrying much more weight than most cargo trailers. Also, when a tire blows out on an RV there is almost always much more expensive damage than just the tire. There is more to tire life than just tread wear. Age of the tire must be considered. When a tire reaches five or six years of age it becomes much more prone to a blow-out. Oh, I know it's hard to replace a tire with lots of good tread and no apparent cracks or dry rot, but trust me; age is a tire killer and tire failure is expensive and dangerous. This goes for your tow vehicle as well. (Read my article, "
Tires for Towable RVs and Tow Vehicles ".)
• Don't tow without double checking your hitch. (Read my article, "
Basic Safety for Towable RVs ".) If you RV long enough you will eventually see someone (even yourself) experience a failure in their hitch. A previously mentioned checklist will take care of this. Also come up with a way to check that you are hitched securely. You can probably figure this out on your own, but please feel free to contact me or another experienced RVer and find out how to check your hitch.
• Don't ever stop checking for water leaks inside your rig. I'm talking about the plumbing under the kitchen sink, lavatory and washing machine if so equipped. Many plumbing connections such as the P-traps are designed to be tightened by hand and the bounce and motion of the rig going down the road could and will cause some of these connections to work loose. Many RV cabinets are constructed with particle board and it doesn't take much water to cause irreparable damage. My wife checks all of this as soon as we set up camp and she usually finds some kind of small leak which she quickly and easily fixes by retightening the connection. Warning: Do not over-tighten!
• Don't fail to check, clean and seal your roof. This is an easy do-it-yourself job, but don't go up on your roof if you are physically unable to do this or even if you feel uncomfortable up there. Get a professional to do this for you. I have my roof checked, cleaned, sealed and treated once a year at the dealership just so that I have some documentation if I ever have a warranty claim. (Please read my article, "
How to Maintain Your RVs Rubber Roof ".)
• Don't travel with your TV antenna up or with your entry steps down! Your checklist should cover this (Have you heard this before?), but I wanted to mention these two items anyway. My wife and I have seen quite a few people pull away from the dump station with the antenna up and/or the entry steps down. Sometimes we can catch them, sometimes we radio the park headquarters so that they can catch them on the way out and sometimes they just get away and travel like that. Actually, those TV antennas are pretty tough because I often see people traveling at highway speeds with those in the up position. Still, why take the chance?
• Don't forget proper freeze protection in cold weather. I will refer you to your owner's manual for this one because there might be slight differences in procedure from one rig to another. If you are unsure then get an RV tech to do this for you. That way you will have documentation to prove that this was done in case any freeze damage has occurred.
• Don't forget to maintain your batteries. In case you have to fill the cells with distiller water, you may need a mechanic's inspection mirror and you should ALWAYS wear safety glasses or even goggles to do this job. If your rig has more than one battery you should replace ALL of the batteries when the time comes even if only one of them is bad. If you only replace one battery the new one will go bad quickly trying to hold upthe old one. When replacing batteries I suggest purchasing service-free batteries. Optima batteries are one good choice.
• Don't forget to leave an itinerary of your trip with friends and family or at least call or email with updates. Besides just being a good idea it's a considerate act and your loved ones will appreciate it.
• Don't use toilet bowl cleansers that will harm or neutralize your black tank chemicals. I like to use Pure Power which is enzyme based. If you use Pure Power or any other enzyme based black tank chemical then be sure to use a toilet bowl cleaner that is compatible and will not kill the enzymes in the black tank. As it happens, Pure Power makes a toilet bowl cleaner that is compatible with their black tank chemical and won't harm the enzymes. (Read my article, "
RV Related Stuff I Like ".)
• Don't go the cheap route on potable water hoses or sewer hoses. The premium, high quality hoses don't really cost that much more and the quality is well worth the slight additional cost. Cheap drinking water hoses will kink restricting water flow and will often leak at the connections. Cheap sewer hoses will develop pin hole leaks, leak at the connections or just fail altogether. Do I need to elaborate? (Read my articles, "
Outfitting Your RV " & " RV Related Stuff I Like ".)
• Don't fail to use a water pressure regulator and place it at the campsite water bib instead of at your RV. That way the hose is also protected. I see many RVers that don't use a water regulator, but that's a big risk to take. You never know what the water pressure will be and there are always potential spikes in the pressure as well.
• Don't fail to get help when backing your trailer. (Read my article, "
Basic Trailer Handling ".) If you don't have a spotter to watch out for obstructions when backing you will at least have to get out often and check for yourself. This is inconvenient and you will be tempted to just stay in the driver's seat and take the chance that everything will be OK. You and your spotter will need to communicate by cell phone or, in the case of limited cell coverage, small two way radios. Your spotter needs to keep all of the commands to the driver very simple. My wife and I only use, "left", "right", "stop" and "pull forward". With enough practice and using only these four commands you will avoid the "#%{#}*!!!" command.
• Don't fail to watch for overhead obstructions. This is the most forgotten precaution in RVing. We are fortunate that we have a somewhat low hanging cable TV wire that spans the entry to our neighborhood. The front A/C unit on our 5th wheel clears the wire by about 6 or 7 inches. Still, I go under this wire very slowly and watch the wire or its shadow very carefully in case it has sagged. Why is this fortunate for us? Well, every time my wife sees a low hanging limb or other possible obstructionshe says something like, "That's pretty low!" I reply, "Is it as low as that wire at the neighborhood entrance at home?" She then says, "No, I guess not, but be careful!" Sometimes if traffic and conditions allow, she will even get out of the truck, walk ahead and be sure that we can clear the obstruction. I have also seen a device called "The Giraffe" advertised. I'm guessing that this is some kind of radar that looks for low obstructions and gives the driver a warning. I also suppose that this only works at fairly low speeds. This might be worth checking out. Note: If you sell this item and would like me to test it please feel free to send me one (free, of course) and I will give it a fair product review.
• Don't leave windows or roof vents open while traveling. Dust will be sucked into the interior of your rig. Don't ask me how I know this.
• Don't forget to check your lug nuts. Even if these have never come loose you should check them often anyway. Since the axles and wheels are near the center of your trailer there is much lateral force on the tires and wheels which could, potentially, loosen your lug nuts. I even travel with atorque wrench and you should too. This item should be on your checklist.
• Don't forget to chock your trailer wheels BEFORE you unhitch. Do I really need to explain this?
• Don't use your trailer's emergency break away cable as a parking brake. It wasn't designed for this and will eventually burn up or otherwise quit working and you won't have it when you need it. Use wheel chocks and NOT this emergency break away device.
• Don't fail to turn off your propane powered refrigerator and close the valves on your propane bottles when traveling. This is what the manufacturers recommend anyway and you don't want all that opened up and in service if you were involved in a wreck. Your refrigerator/freezer will hardly warm up at all as long as the doors stay closed. Also think about that big flame that stays lit if you stop for fuel. That's a much bigger flame than a cigarette and you wouldn't smoke at a gas station or tolerate anyone else that does. I will immediately stop fueling and leave if another RVer pulls into the fuel pump area because I just assume that their refrigerator is running on propane. Safety first! (Please read my article, "
Basic Safety for Towable RVs ".)
• Don't put foreign objects such as paper towels of feminine hygiene products down the toilet. These will very likely cause damage when they eventually get caught in the drain valve seats (and they will). Then you can't remove your sewer hose without being a part of the most unfortunate mess of epic proportions that you've ever seen. Please remember to educate your guests on this as well.
• Don't depend on the level indicator lights for your fresh, gray, and black tank water tanks. These are ALWAYS notoriously inaccurate. This is because they work by seeing conductivity in the water (even fresh water has conductivity). The sensors inside the tanks will inevitably get fouled by soap scum, toilet paper and...stuff so don't depend on these indicator lights. What do you do? Well, the fresh tank indicator should remain fairly accurate because that tank is always clean. You can fly by the seatof your pants on the gray water tank because if it gets too full water will appear at the shower drain before it comes out anywhere else. If you think your gray tank is getting near full then empty it with one of those blue tanks that you would drag to the dump station or just dump your tank if you have full hook-ups. In the case of the black tank, we just empty it weekly or more often if we have company.
Well, that's about all I can think of right now. Oh, I may have forgotten something minor, but this is still a pretty good list of things to avoid when RVing. I hope that this article helps you to have a very pleasant and troublefree traveling and camping experience. Please feel free to share this article with your RVing friends and happy trails!

Copyright 2015 by Warren Petkovsek

Warren Petkovsek has been an avid RVer for over several decades. He lives in Lumberton, Texas with his wife, Myra. A former teacher, band director and professional musician, Warren is now retired from the petrochemical industry. In addition to being a freelance writer he is also a school volunteer, a Texas State Park volunteer and has been a Boy Scout Leader for many years. Warren would be delighted to answer any RV related questions that you may have and would be happy to send you some or all of his other articles. He can be contacted at