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Whether you continuously use your RV throughout the year or only take a trip or two, performing regular maintenance on your RV is an essential part of retaining its value. And a big part of RV maintenance is the frequent washing of the vehicle’s exterior.
Washing the exterior of the RV provides many benefits. By removing the mud, dirt, salt, and rain from the vehicle, you avoid the corrosion, staining, and chemical spotting that the minerals in these elements can cause to the finishes and surfaces. Keeping your RV clean improves the exterior condition of your vehicle. It allows you to drive the vehicle when needed safely. A clean and well-maintained RV enhances the value of the vehicle and provides you with the pride of owning such a well-maintained vehicle.
How often you wash your RV depends on where it is stored and how often you take it out on the road. If you use your RV continually, you may need to wash it every month or every trip to keep it in top shape. Somewhat regular use may require that the RV be cleaned every three months. It is best to wash your RV at least twice a year. At the very least, wash your RV once a year, even if it is stored in a protected environment.
There are three ways you can wash your RV – run your RV through an automatic RV/truck wash, have a mobile RV detailing company come to your home or storage location, or wash your RV yourself.
It is not recommended to use an automatic car wash to clean your RV. Many car washes cannot accommodate the RV’s height and length. If you want to use an automatic wash, go to a truck and RV wash. You can use the Internet to find one near your location. You can also contact your nearest RV dealership and ask it for a recommendation.
If you use an automatic or truck wash to clean the exterior of your RV, remove any items attached to your RV such as bikes and other recreational equipment. Ensure the doors and windows are closed completely and don’t forget to check the roof vents.
There are benefits to washing your RV. This is the least expensive way to keep your RV clean and in good working order. Also, cleaning your RV allows you to simultaneously inspect the vehicle and make sure that the seams, vents, and windows have tight seals, and the attachments are securely fastened.
Before you turn on the water, park your RV on a level surface out of direct sunlight and sweep off any debris. Check your owner’s manual for specific cleaning instructions for your vehicle. Learn the type of materials used to construct your RV, recommended cleaning solutions and tools, and whether or not the roof can be walked on. Gather your supplies: ladder, mop, buckets, brushes, sponges, squeegees, washing mitts, cleaning cloths and solutions, and wash your RV in this order – roof, sides, windows, awnings, and tires.
Be extremely careful if you choose to wash your RV with a pressure washer. Using the pressure washer too close to the vehicle or at too high a setting can cause a lot of damage. The pressure washer can remove paint and decals, loosen and break seals, tear awnings, and push water inside the cabin through seams, gaskets, and rivets.
Using dish soap in place of an RV washing solution is not recommended as the dish soap may remove the gel and wax coatings that protect the vehicle.
Exterior RV roof and side surfaces typically are constructed from rubber, metal or fiberglass. An RV surface made of rubber, typically referred to as EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) or TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin), is durable, but you should not use abrasive or acidic (often citrus-based) cleansers or any products that contain petroleum distillate as they can break down the rubber.
To wash an RV surface made of rubber, wet the surface, apply a rubber roof cleaner and scrub with a sponge or car cleaning mitt, and rinse. After the surface is clean and dry, you can apply a rubber protectant that will provide additional protection from the elements and make future washing easier. Never use a sealant on a rubber roof because it can prevent the roof from flexing as designed and cause additional damage.
Metal RVs are often constructed from aluminum or stainless steel. To clean a metal RV, wet the surface and apply a pre-wash to remove the majority of the dirt and grime, and scrub with sponges and wash mitts. Rinse the surface and then wash the RV a second time with a non-abrasive cleaner, and rinse again. Painted metal surfaces can be cleaned and waxed with standard car products.
RVs made of fiberglass typically are coated in a gel resin to give the surface a smooth and shiny appearance. As the surface ages, the gel coat oxidizes and becomes cloudy and then black. The best way to maintain a fiberglass surface is to use a wash-and-wax product that both cleans your RV and protects it for the future. If the fiberglass surface is showing signs of oxidation, the oxidation must first be removed before a protectant can be reapplied. Do not use any cleaners that are alkaline or ammonia-based.
The products you use on your fiberglass RV depend on the level of oxidation. For mild oxidation use a cleaner/wax or restorer/wax which contains a mild-to-medium abrasive. Apply the product in a circular motion to a 3-foot by 3-foot section. Let the product dry to a haze and then buff it out. For a more heavily oxidized roof, use a wax or cleaner polish containing mild abrasive. To prevent further oxidation, apply a coat of protectant or paste wax to the surface.
Traveling with an RV is a great way to see new places, but to see them clearly you need clean windows. If you are doing an intensive clean of your RV, take down the curtains and clean them according to the manufacturer’s directions. Wash any blinds with a microfiber cloth and your preferred household cleaning solution.
If you don’t want to take down the screens you can clean them with a vacuum cleaner or a lint roller. If it is time to deep clean the window screens, take them out and rinse them with water. Next wash them with a sponge and a mixture made from a half-gallon of water and ¼ cup of dish soap or vinegar. Rinse the dirt and soap from the screens with water and let them dry before reinstalling them.
Now that you can access the glass, clean the windows with a streak-free glass cleaner or a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar and clean microfiber cloths or a squeegee. If the exterior windows are hard to reach you can use an outdoor window cleaner and attach it to a hose. Spray on the product and rinse off it with water according to the manufacturer’s directions. Use a microfiber cloth and a cleaning solution to remove the dirt from the window sills and screen tracks. Lastly, protect the gaskets around the windows and sliders by wiping them down with a silicone-based cleaner and protectant. This will keep the gaskets supple and in working order.
Before you tackle the RV awning, check the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you use the correct cleaning products for your awning material. The awning must be dry before your roll it up or retract it to keep mold and mildew from forming.
Sometimes cleaning the awning is as easy as brushing off leaves and debris, rinsing both sides with water, and letting it dry before storing it away.
If it is time for a deep clean of the awning, brush off the leaves and debris and wet both sides with water. Spray on an awning cleaning solution and let the solution sit for five minutes so that it penetrates the awning material. Use a soft brush, sponge, or cloth to lift the dirt and grime from the awning, and rinse with water. Be careful not to scrub so hard that you remove the protective layer on acrylic awnings. Chemical residues left on an awning can damage the fabric, so ensure all the cleaning solution gets rinsed from the awning. After the awning is dry, you can apply a protectant to repel dirt and keep the awning from fading and cracking.
Many RVs are not driven as frequently as cars and spend most of the time parked on driveways or in storage yards. This constant exposure to the elements can take a toll on the tires and cause them to deteriorate and crack. Proper maintenance and cleaning, as well as covering the tires while the RV is being stored will ensure you get the most life out of the tires.
To clean the tires, rinse the tires with water and spray on a rubber cleaning or mild soap solution. Use a sturdy brush to scrub the dirt and grime off the tires. Rinse them thoroughly with water to remove the dirt and soap. After the tire is completely dry, spray on a tire protectant. Make sure the protectant you use doesn’t contain petroleum distillates, alcohol, or silicone as these can break down the tires. Installing wheel and tire covers can keep UV rays from drying out the rubber tire compound while the RV is stored.
Now that you know how to maintain your RV correctly, it’s time to plan a trip, pack up the RV, and head out on the open road! If your RV glass still isn’t in top shape after you’ve washed it, use Glass.com to receive a quick and easy quote for RV glass replacement services near you.
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