The temperatures are rising in Wisconsin (finally!). Time to get the RV out of storage and head out to for a weekend (or week!) of campfires, fresh air, and great stories from a relaxing weekend. Before you buy the ingredients for s’mores, however, make sure you do a full inspection of the RV and truck so you can get to the campground for fun weekend without a breakdown.
Check the truck tow rating
Trucks (and SUVs and vans) have a tow rating for a reason. Before you head out for your camping weekend, make sure your vehicle is rated to tow the RV safely. Don’t tow a RV that weighs more than the vehicle tow rating; towing a RV (especially repeatedly) can compromise vehicle handling, significantly increase stopping distance, put additional stress on the vehicle engine and transmission, and wear down tires and other vehicle parts prematurely.
How to check: The tow rating can be found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. The weight of your camper can be found on the trailer or in the camper’s owner manual; remember to factor in items that add to the weight, such as water and personal items.
Inspect the tires on the truck and RV
Worn truck and RV tires can ruin a camping trip very quickly. Worn tires are more likely to blow during the trip and can be a safety hazard during summer storms. Even with the correct amount of tread, truck with low pressure (or too much pressure) can lower gas mileage, cause tires to wear unevenly, and put undue stress on suspension parts (needing premature replacement).
How to check: Check the tire tread and pressure of every tire (including spare tires) on the truck and RV. Use a penny to check the tread; place the penny on the tire. If you can see Abraham Lincoln’s head completely, there is inadequate tire tread for travel. The tires may also need to be replaced if there are cracks or other damage; contact a tire shop to see if the tire can be fixed or get replacement tires before your next camping trip.
For tire pressure, use a tire pressure gauge to ensure every tire is at the correct pressure. The correct tire pressure (pounds per square inch-psi) can be found in the truck manual or on a decal on the inside of the driver’s side door. (Do not rely on a warning light on your dashboard; this may not activate until the tire is 20% under pressure.)
Look closely at lights
At some point, you are probably going to travel in the dark of night or during a dark storm. Its times like these when properly working truck and RV lights are a must for the safety of everyone involved.
How to check: Regularly check truck headlight and turning signals to ensure that all lights are in running order (or ask a mechanic to replace bulbs during your next oil change). Before you leave the driveway (or storage facility), connect all wiring to the camper and turn on the vehicle. Stand behind the RV and check all lights: directionals, brakes, and running lights.
Test the hitch
An improperly hitched camper heading down the highway is a hazard to the vehicle and all the cars around them. It can also damage the RV and bring camping trips to an end.
How to check: Inspect the hitch, chains, and wiring for corrosion or damage that could cause the towing equipment to fail. Next, check the hitch connection by trying to lift the RV hitch off your truck. If it lifts off, the connection is not adequately connected and you need to inspect your hitch, safety chains, and all wiring before you leave.
Check the trailer and truck brakes
For those towing a camper that is more than 2,000 pounds, trailer brakes are recommended for handling and safe stopping. Trailer brakes needed to be wired into a truck’s wiring system.
How to check: Always check your trailer brake connections and test your vehicle to ensure it stops when you need it. If you don’t have trailer brakes as part of your truck package but haul on a regular basis, contact your mechanic to have a trailer brake controller installed in your truck so you and your RV get to the campground safely.