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Using Your RV : RV care and upkeep

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Caring for your RV exterior
Russ and Tina DeMaris

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Remember when you got your first new car? You probably drove the family nuts by spending every free Saturday afternoon out in the driveway, practically washing the paint off it. Your RV needs good exterior care, both to maintain its fine appearance, but to be preserved longer. Care is a lot like taking care of the car--it's just a much larger area.

WASHING: Washing the RV requires simple tools and supplies. We don't recommend using dish soap, nor do we go for some of the crazy expensive stuff. Just a simple vehicle wash soap is great. Shy away from anything that's abrasive--you can permanently damage an exterior with these.

Use plenty of water, a five gallon pail is a good container. A long handled car wash brush will help reach up high, and a short step ladder for reaching windows. First rinse down the rig with a hose, knocking off as much crud as you can. Be careful not to jet water directly into any appliance ports, like the refrigerator, furnace, or others.

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Using your brush or other wash aid, start up at the top and work your way down, covering an area small enough that the soap solution won't dry before you can get back to rinse it. Move carefully along, and use plenty of soap solution. Rinse thoroughly. Many use a chamois or toweling to dry off the water to prevent water spots. Again, work from the top down.

Windows may need to be handled separately, depending on the quality of your wash soap, and especially the wash water. Hard water can leave windows looking like they've never been touched, even if you worked your heart out on it. If that's the case, after washing the rest of the rig, come back to the windows with an appropriate glass cleaner.

Black streaks are the curse of RVs. Often they can be traced to the EPDM rubber roofs so many are equipped with. Getting the streaks off is a big subject around the RV campfire--some swear by dedicated black streak removing chemicals found at RV suppliers (and some Walmarts); others have their favorites. We haven't had to deal with it since we dumped our rubber roof in favor of a product called Peel and Seal. Whatever you do, get the black streaks off before waxing.

WAXING: Use an appropriate type of wax for your exterior materials. Metal sided RVs can use wax made for cars and trucks, but fiberglass or filon looks to see a wax formulated for fiberglass siding. If you can't find this at the auto parts store, you may need to look up a boat or marine supply dealer.

Apply the wax as directed on the label, and follow this closely for the best results. Always start on a thoroughly clean rig. To do so otherwise risks scratching the surface. Waxing an entire RV can take a while and be a back breaker for some, so don't be afraid to split the task into consecutive days so you won't wear yourself out.

How often should you wax? A simple rule of thumb says when water no longer beads up on the surface, it's time for another waxing.

TIRES: There are plenty of potions on the market that swear they'll clean, shine, protect, and otherwise bless the socks off your tires. Don't believe it! Most of the nostrums that put shine on your tires contain ingredients that can actually damage the tire. Blowing a tire at interstate freeway speeds is guaranteed to ruin your day. Simply wash the tires with the same solution you use on the sidewalls, rinse them, and live with them the way they are.

If you can find inside storage for your rig, you'll spend less time washing and waxing. But it's a lot more fun just to take it out on the road and enjoy the RV lifestyle!

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