Downtime means time for RV maintenance and repairs

Our rig outside the Minnesota state Capitol
Our rig outside the Texas state Capitol

Traveling and having adventures in our Roadtrek 190 Popular 4×4 is a ton of fun. We relish our time on the road. But that time takes its toll on the rig because we’re essentially living in it full time during those treks. That means we need downtime for RV repairs and maintenance.

As part-time RVers, we have the advantage of still owning a sticks-and-bricks to return to periodically as a home base. We’ve thought about selling our house, and probably will before too long. It’s just too large now that the kids are out on their own. But we also will likely look to replace it with someplace that we can land periodically for RV downtime.

The benefit to downtime is that it’s a good time for maintenance and repairs that have stacked up. We recently completed a winter trek through Texas and had about two months in Michigan before heading out on our Midwest trek.

We took full advantage of having somewhere else to live and something else to drive while we were in Michigan. That meant getting to work repairing and restocking the Roadtrek for our next long trip. Here are some highlights of what we accomplished.

Chevrolet maintenance and repairs

Our RV is built on a 2007 Chevy Express 3500

Roadtrek built our 2008 190 Popular on a 2007 Chevrolet Express 3500 van chassis. Being in our hometown also means being very close to our preferred Chevy dealer. They know how to work on our rig and actually seem to enjoy doing so because of its uniqueness.

So, that’s where we go for oil changes and other routine maintenance whenever we can. We noticed on the way back to Michigan that the air conditioning on the Chevy side of the rig wasn’t performing as well as usual. So in addition to an oil change, we also had them check out the Chevy A/C. They discovered that two rubber hoses had been rubbing together. One of them wore through enough to leak, resulting in our air conditioning malfunction. I asked them to replace the hose and recharge the A/C. I also asked them to move the hoses so they wouldn’t come into contact with each other again. They went above and beyond by replacing the rubber hose with a metal tube. By relocating it slightly, they also addressed the rubbing issue.

One thing we really appreciate about that dealership is that even simple jobs like oil changes include a video inspection. The mechanic shows you the underside of the rig and under the hood. They point out key areas they are checking for leaks or other problems and provide a status update.

That’s how we were able to see that our rear brakes needed some work. In a weird twist to that basic repair, the mechanic found himself having a problem late on a Friday with the new brakes rubbing. The shop was getting ready to close for the weekend. The mechanic knew we were trying to get the rig ready to leave by the middle of the following week. Despite the shop being closed, the mechanic and service advisor worked on Saturday morning to figure out and resolve the problem. We had our van back on Saturday afternoon.

Having a great dealership and service team willing to go the extra mile for their customers is worth their weight in gold! We can’t recommend Graff Chevrolet in Okemos, Michigan enough. If you are in the area and need help, stop in and see them. They will work on other makes and models, too. Be sure to tell them the Trekers sent you!

RV maintenance and repairs

On the RV side of things, we had developed several problems during our Texas trek.

Our window curtains have those sewn-on plastic strips with the tabs and over time the plastic decays and rips. That means the curtains won’t stay on the tracks. We took the time at home when we could remove the curtains to take off the old track strips. We also washed the curtains. Then, Jessi’s mom sewed on the new track strips and we reinstalled the curtains. They now go up and down smoothly again.

Some have suggested not reusing the plastic strips because they can degrade and become brittle. But it was the easiest way to replace what we already had. And since the original track strips lasted about 13 years, we’re not too worried about them.

Another problem that developed was a bit more serious because it involved our propane tank valve. On our Roadtrek, they cross-mounted the propane tank underneath the rear of the coach. Over time, the valve that opens and closes the tank had begun to seize up to the point where I was using a wrench to open and close it.

Thus began my quest to replace it. The problem is, all of the RV shops we spoke to in our immediate area said they wouldn’t replace the valve. Several offered to replace the entire tank. (No thanks!) Propane companies I spoke to wouldn’t do the work because the tank was mounted to an RV.

I finally found that General RV in Wixom, Michigan would do the work. But they were slammed with incoming repair jobs. Luck was on our side when a service tech called me one day and noted they had a cancellation in the following week if I could make it in. I told them I didn’t care what day and time, I would take it!

Our shiny new propane valve that turns easily

They did a good job of getting us in and out in one day so I could wait with the rig. That’s impressive knowing they had well over 100 rigs on the lot lined up for repairs. It also was nice that General RV would work on our rig even though we did not buy it from them. (A local RV dealer that we’ve used for repairs before recently said they are so backed up that they will only work on rigs purchased from them. (Maybe I should pursue my RV tech training!)

I also finally got around to tightening our electrical cord connections. A couple of years ago, we removed the mouse-hole style electrical plug the Roadtrek came with. We now have a twist-lock cord. Unfortunately, the twist lock plug connections can work themselves loose, so I keep tabs on this and repair it as soon as I can. One of these days, I’ll figure out a more permanent fix to that problem.

During our time off the road, I checked everything over to tighten up other loose connection points, like for the bracket that holds our WeBoost antenna in place outside. I also finally replaced the double-sided tape holding the internal WeBoost booster to the wall with heavy-duty Velcro. (In extreme heat, that tape used to loosen up and we ran the risk of the booster falling. Not anymore!)

Another inside repair was to address some cracks that have developed in the flooring of our aisle shower. Now covered with a heavy-duty waterproof tape, our concern about water infiltration is addressed for the short-term. Long-term, we’ll have to look at getting the glaze redone on that floor.

And it was a good time to open the awning and give it a good scrubbing. Plus, I finally figured out why the awning wasn’t latching in as tightly as it used to when closed. A little research and a few adjustments later, the awning was sitting snug against the van again.

For the last bit of RV maintenance, we took advantage of a solid supply of water and a huge yard to dump fresh water into so I could sanitize our fresh water tanks. We continually empty and refill them often enough that I’m not too worried about things building up from stagnation. But exposing the tanks to all sorts of water sources in different states means I like to drop some bleach in and shock them clean every once in a while.

RV Life updates

A lot of times, life on the road means putting off simple chores. These include a good deep cleaning of the rig inside and out and touching up the outside paint to address stone chips and other scratches. All three of those items were checked off before we left for Minnesota.

Have you looked at how dirty your ceiling fan is? Here’s ours all cleaned up for reference. 😀

By the way, if you haven’t looked at it lately, inspect your ceiling vent fans. The screens often are covered in more dust than you realize. And you need to wash the gunk that has collected off the fan blades. This is especially true if you spend time in dusty environments.

Deep cleaning also means removing all the bedding to run it through a washing machine. We routinely wash our sheets, but the blankets and comforter can usually wait until we can launder them in our own washer and dryer and not have to worry about paying by the minute to do so.

And while the bedding was off, we finally worked on improving our mattress situation. We opted for memory foam roll-up mattresses to put on top of the electric sofa that becomes our bed. Being able to test these out while “camping” in the driveway meant less stress compared with making a quick decision on the road.

Our kitchen mats also had started to wear out and no matter what I did I wasn’t going to really get them clean anymore anyway. So we ordered a couple of new ones and spruced up the kitchen again with a simple mat swap.

In addition to all of the above, I used my WorkSharp knife sharpener to get our kitchen knives and scissors back into shape. I really like how easy that thing is to use, but in vanlife, it falls into the category of nice to have, not need to have. So, we leave it at the home base.

RV life realities

What you see on social media about RV life, for the most part, isn’t a true representation of what’s happening. Even on our Instagram and Facebook accounts, we prefer to share cool things we’re seeing or great hiking treks we have taken rather than the mundane routines of daily life.

But daily life happens whether you are rootless or have put down roots. Being part-time RVers we have a bit of the best of both worlds. We love being on the road and having adventures. Still, there are times when “I’ll fix that when we get back to home base” is a comforting thing to say and to hear.

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