This time of year, winterization is probably heavy on your mind. The end of the RVing season is rapidly approaching, and you know there’s a whole slew of maintenance and preparation you need to do to get your pop up camper ready for months of inactivity.
One of the perks of owning a pop up camper is that the maintenance list often isn’t too exhaustive. It’s not like an RV, where you have a huge vehicle with many parts and features, all of which must be addressed. Sometimes though, even with a camper, you may sometimes forget an important job or two.
That’s why we’ve compiled this pop up camper maintenance checklist. It’s your ultimate guide to all things pop up care.
Print it, email it to yourself, or save it to your phone so you have this checklist handy when you need it most.
Here is a printable word.doc version of the checklist so you can check them off as you go: (click on the link below to download):
- As you see dust, dirt, and grime accumulate on your awning, clean it. Leaving it for later will let the mess harden or get deeper into the awning fabric. That makes it more difficult to clean, as you may now need specialty products for the job.
- Before the off-season begins, thoroughly wash both sides of your awning, the top and bottom. If your pop up camper has tent walls or sides, clean these as well.
- Let all awning surfaces dry completely before rolling them back up. This will prevent the accumulation of mold and mildew.
- Every few weeks, check for loose strings and other signs of canvas damage to tent sides and awnings. Trim the loose strings.
- If you see a small tear or hole, address it right away. Left unfixed, the hole will grow bigger. You can order replacement fabric from your pop up camper manufacturer or buy an awning patch kit. Bigger holes may necessitate a full awning or tent replacement.
Propane Gas Tank
- More than likely, your propane gas tank is a DOT cylinder tank. These are often installed in vehicles like Class B motorhomes, truck campers, fifth-wheels, travel trailers, and pop up campers. You can fit these tanks in your camper’s exterior compartment without trouble. They typically lack propane tank gauges, though, so it’s up to you to track propane levels. You can also buy a gauge if you don’t already have one.
- When your pop up camper is in use, always make sure your propane tank is adequately full.
- Don’t leave any fluid in the tank when preparing for the off-season.
- In fact, after draining, you might feel inclined to open the tank (if you can) and clean out its exterior and interior. You don’t need any specialty cleaners for this, just soap and water.
- If your propane gas tank protrudes from your camper, then you should consider investing in a cover for it. This will keep your tank safe from the elements. A cover will also prevent dings, scratches, and premature rusting and/or corroding.
- Never let your generator run out of fuel. While a pop up camper doesn’t require a huge generator, most units burn through fuel faster than you’d expect. You may have to reload fuel every hour or two.
- Once you’ve run your generator for 50 hours, you’ll want to replace the oil. It’s recommended you do so on a 150-hour basis from then on out.
- Put in a new air filter on a 500-hour basis.
- When you reload fuel, check your coolant levels. If these are low, then replace with more coolant.
- Your generator shouldn’t be left idle for the winter. Bring it with you. At least monthly, plug the generator in somewhere outside of your home and turn it on for a while. This ensures it’s working properly. Never run your generator inside your house!
- Don’t let your freshwater tank get empty or you’ll run out of water for cooking, bathing, and drinking.
- Before you leave your camper in storage for the winter, you’ll need to sanitize the tank. To do so, begin by draining your water heater. [box type=”warning”] It’s crucial you turn off the water heater and let it cool down adequately before handling it. Otherwise, you could burn or otherwise severely injure yourself.[/box]
Once the tank is drained, you’ll want to dump some bleach in the freshwater tank. This tank shouldn’t be empty yet. Calculate your water gallons. If you have 15 gallons, then you don’t need much bleach, only a quarter cup. Add a further quarter cup per 15 gallons. Run both cold and hot water faucets so the bleach filters through the tank. Then, turn the faucets off, drive around to shake up the bleach so it fills the whole tank, and wait 12 hours.
Next, drain all the bleachy water out of your freshwater tank. Add fresh water back after this. Run both faucets and test the water (don’t drink it, though!). You shouldn’t notice any bleach smells. If you’re free and clear, then your tank is clean.
Graywater and Blackwater Tanks
- If you have graywater and blackwater tanks in your pop up camper, then dump these as needed. Most tanks in pop up campers are pretty small, so you’ll dump them fairly often.
- Many RV and camper owners vouch for using laundry detergent or softener to keep their blackwater tanks sparkling clean and free of odors. Others use dish soap. Do remember there are specialty products for cleaning your blackwater tank if you want to be on the safe side.
- Liquid bleach can be used for sanitization. You want to add a gallon of the stuff to your tank, often less depending on the tank’s size. Then drain the tank and refill it like you would with your freshwater tank.
- Flushing out your blackwater tank via a hose is another cleaning method you might be interested in. This can sometimes dislodge clogs from toilet paper and other debris.
- While someone else has the towing vehicle and pop up camper running, go outside and take a look at the exterior lights. Check that they’re all working. If any of the bulbs are out, get new ones. If they’re cracked, take them to a mechanic or RV repairperson.
- Get behind the wheel of your towing vehicle and drive around for a bit. It’s better to do this in an empty parking lot or a road that’s not very busy. You want to be sure your brakes are working. They should be able to stop on a dime, more or less. If you have a larger camper, it can take a few seconds longer for your rig to come to a complete stop, so keep that in mind.
- Whether it’s you or a passenger, be on alert for unwanted sounds such as grinds, squeaks, or whines while in the towing vehicle. If you hear these, then you should consider taking your rig to a mechanic’s. You could have a brake issue. Leaving this unaddressed could lead to accidents down the road when your brakes inevitably fail.
Latches and Locks
- Go through the exterior and interior of your pop up camper and check all latches and locks. The latches should open and close smoothly. If they’re giving you any resistance or don’t want to move, try lubricating them. If that doesn’t work, you might have to get replacement latches.
- Your locks should all be working perfectly. These are what keep you safe at night and when on the road, after all. You need the security that your camper is a secure place that people just can’t get into. If your locks aren’t working, get ones that do ASAP.
- Park your pop up camper somewhere roomy with adequate light. Go around all sides of the trailer, looking for damage to the frame. If there are any dings, nicks, scratches, bends, cracks, or signs of rust or corrosion, these will need to be fixed. Frame damage is an expensive repair, but it’s a necessary one.
- Inspect the seals on the interior and exterior of your camper. The window seals especially deserve attention. Any seals that are pitted, cracked, weakened, or otherwise damaged should be ripped out and reinstalled.
Air Conditioning System
- Depending on the type of air conditioning system you have, your maintenance duties will be different. If your AC unit is built into your camper, then follow manufacturer instructions for maintenance. If you have a portable air conditioner, then there’s no need to perform maintenance. Just take the unit off your vehicle in the off-season and store it somewhere semi-warm for the winter.
- If your pop up camper has a small furnace, then you’ll need to do maintenance on this, too. [box type=”warning”] You should always make sure your furnace is completely disconnected and cooled down before handling it. Just like with your water heater, burns and other serious injuries can occur.[/box]
- You want to keep your eyes peeled for visible damage to the thermostat, fan motor, and fuse. Any loose wiring and other connections should be tightened. If you don’t feel comfortable working on your furnace, feel free to call in the pros.
- Always check that you have a fire extinguisher onboard your pop up camper. Just in case.
- Before winterizing, you might want to take the fire extinguisher outside and test it. If you’re not getting adequate pressure, you’ll want to get a replacement extinguisher.
- Unhitch your pop up camper from your towing vehicle. Is the hitch still in good condition? If it’s rusted, corroded, or otherwise damaged, you should invest in a replacement.
- Check screws and tighten these if any are loose.
- Lubricate the hitch so all parts can move as they should.
- Recalculate the weight of your camper and your tow vehicle. Check the tongue weight again so you know you’re not putting too much weight on the hitch. That can cause it to snap.
- Inside your pop up camper, inspect all the material seams. These include couches, chairs, cushions, and the mattress. If these have come loose, then you can sew or patch them up. If the damage is too severe, then get new furniture.
- Turn your stove completely off before you clean it. Most stoves have burners with metal racks. Take the metal racks off and clean beneath them. You can use soap and water for the job or a stove cleaner if you prefer.
- Use a scrubbing pad to rid your stove of old, sticky messes.
- Clean the entirety of the stove with a soft cloth. Again, use your cleaner of choice or soap and water.
- Keep the stove unplugged for the duration of the offseason.
- Call a technician to take a look at your refrigerator’s circuit board. Since there are so many costly parts within the circuit board, this is one job that shouldn’t be DIY. Do this every year.
- Go around the back of your fridge and check the pipes. If you see a substance that looks yellow or green in color, then you might need a new cooling unit.
- Test the pressure of your LP gas by running your propane. Check there are no leaks in the propane bottles.
- Tighten your propane fittings using a wrench.
- Every month or so, clean the fridge burner. You can use a shop vac for this.
- Your fridge battery must be running on alternating current (AC) power at 120 volts. It may be lower for some campers. Check this.
- Keep the fans and vents in and around your fridge clean.
- If you are replacing one battery in the battery bank because it’s old or gone bad, it’s best to change out all batteries. This way, some batteries aren’t straining to work more than others. That can lead to voltage fluctuations.
- Learn how much wattage or voltage each item in your camper requires. Then be careful not to overload your electrical system.
- When your batteries reach 50 percent during the camping season, charge them. Be careful not to overcharge, as this can kill battery longevity.
- As you prepare your pop up camper for the off-season, don’t leave the batteries in the vehicle. Take them with you.
- Store the batteries at home in a semi-warm environment that doesn’t get a lot of sun. Your garage is an optimal place.
- The batteries shouldn’t be put directly on the floor. Instead, place cardboard or a slat of wood beneath them.
- Charge the batteries even more often during the offseason, whenever they reach 80 percent.
Converter Charging System
- Your converter charging system can take AC power and make it direct current (DC) and vice-versa. If it’s malfunctioning, you’ll need to get it fixed by a professional.
- If your pop up camper has retractable entry steps, test these at the start and end of every season. Do they retract with ease? If not, try lubricating them.
Interior and Exterior Lights
- Go through your camper and turn on every single light. Then turn them off.
- Do all the lights work? Do any seem dim? Are any of the bulbs blown out? Change out bad bulbs.
- If you have further lighting issues, you might want to call an electrician.
- You should test your tires’ air pressure before any trip no matter how long it is. It’s better if the tires are cold when you do this, meaning you’ve driven less than a mile. Tires that are hot can boost the pounds per square inch by 10 PSI, sometimes higher. That gives you inaccurate readings.
- Test the tire treads regularly. You can use the old coin test to do this. Take a quarter or a penny and place it between the treads. If the coin stands up, your treads are okay. You’ll need new treads if the coin falls down.
- Although you can’t always predict it, try your best to avoid driving over road debris. This can slice open the tire, leading to a blowout.
- Change out your tires every few years.
[box] The above duties may seem like a lot of work, but if you break them up and get into a habit of doing them regularly, it’s not so bad. Your pop up camper will thank you, as you’ll get to enjoy it for years to come![/box]