Making sure everything is in working order gives you peace of mind when you’re on the road and means your camper will stay in better shape for longer.
Just like your home and car need regular maintenance and care, so too does your camper trailer. Spending a bit of extra time on it to check everything is in working order before a trip will give you peace of mind when you’re on the road. Not to mention your camper will stay in better shape for longer and will attract a higher resale price when the time comes. Read on to discover some camper maintenance tips.
Like with any moving vehicle, making sure your camper stops when it needs to and has reliable brakes is of utmost importance. Remember to keep track of how often you’re checking your brakes as they will wear eventually. Under good conditions using an inertia brake controller, electric brake magnets should last around 50,000km. If you’re not sure what brake linings that have overheated and cracked look like, then it’s best to consult a professional. And if you are doing any tinkering with the brakes, make sure to take a few laps around the block to make sure everything feels right.
There are several different types of suspension systems on camper trailers, and each has its own maintenance requirements. Often, it’s the older ones that need a bit more attention. When checking that your suspension is in good working order, the first thing to check is the leaf springs. You should be looking for cracked springs or excessive wear on any moving parts around them. These should be checked every 10,000km. If you have independent rubber suspension, which is common in Australia, it will need re-rubbering every few years.
Ensuring your tyres aren’t worn, corroded or suffering internal issues is an important part of maintenance. Suffering a blown tyre can be a dangerous and unpleasant experience and it’s hard to feel if something is wrong with your camper’s tyre all the way from your tow vehicle. That’s why checking them often is necessary. The main concerns for camper tyres are age-related failure and excess loading. Tyres will degrade faster in warm and humid climates where they’re exposed to sunlight. It’s recommended that you have your tyres professionally inspected five years after fitting them and then each year after that. If your tyres are kept in good condition, they may last up to 10 years, but it’s best they’re not used longer than that. Rotating your tyres every 10,000km will help distribute weight evenly.
Seals are important to maintain because they stop outside elements from getting into your camper trailer. When sealing is not sufficient, it doesn’t take much for dust or water to get in. Any doors and windows should be lined with pinchweld seals. Over time these seals tend to harden and tear, so you should wipe them down with a silicon-based spray (avoid oil-based) every so often. They also become ineffective if the tubular section is kinked, torn or is being compressed more than 50 per cent.
The pinchweld seals are held under pressure by compression latches which can cause the seals to flatten out slightly over time. The latches should be tightened after a year or two to keep the seals in contact. Just be sure not to depress the tubular section more than 50 per cent while doing this. If your camper has sliding windows, they need to be sealed against the stationary pane. Before you head off, make sure there aren’t any twigs or leaves caught in pop-top roofs or other seals, and ensure drainage points such as sinks are plugged.
Making sure your bearings are in good working order ensures your camper drives smoothly on the road. You can check the condition of the bearings by jacking up your camper and giving each wheel a spin in the direction of forward travel. You should listen for a rumbling sound as your bearings should operate smoothly and without any grinding noises. You can also give the wheel a good jiggle to see if there’s any vibration and free play from side to side. If you notice anything not running smoothly or hear unusual sounds, it’s best to consult a professional.
We don’t often think to check on our couplings, but they still require a quick look every now and then. If you’re towing with a regular ball coupling, check that the cavity is lightly greased and any slack in the secured coupling is taken up by the adjusting bolt. Alternatively, if you’re towing with a friction coupling, it should never be greased or lubricated — and the towball should be secured to the tongue with a lock-plate to avoid swivelling. You should also check that the friction pads have not worn below their specified service thickness. They should be replaced if so.
Jockey wheels sit right in the line of fire between your tow vehicle and camper, so they’re going to get coated in any dust or grime that’s kicked up by your tow vehicle. Foreign members or a build-up of grit can cause the mechanisms within the device to wear, making it become jammed or rigid and shortening its life. Jockey wheels are easy to maintain as all you need to do is make sure they’re clean and free from any debris such as small rocks, twigs and leaves. If your camper is stored outside and your jockey wheel is exposed to the elements, you can do the old cut a slot in a can and slip it over the top like a cap. This is a simple way to stop rain and dirt from getting in.
Your camper’s water tanks will need to be flushed every so often. Flushing them can be done in a few different ways, but here are two you can try. You can sterilise the system by adding a cup of bleach to a few litres of water and pouring it into the tank. Run the outlet taps to let the bleach flow through the system and add fresh water to top up the tank to keep it going. Leave it to sit for a few hours before flushing the system thoroughly with freshwater. If you can still smell bleach afterwards, you can add a cup of baking soda to the tank and run it through. This can be repeated if needed but it shouldn’t take more than one cycle to remove the scent.
Another way to clean the tank is to combine a cup of baking soda with a few litres of water. Pour this into the half-full tank. Leave the taps and filler tube open, then pour in plenty of vinegar to activate a fizzing reaction. Wait a little while and then rinse it all out with fresh water and you’re done.
Electrical connections and wiring
It’s important to make sure your electrical connections and wiring are clean and free from dust and mud as this can lead to problems stemming from corrosion. Any plugs that are suspected of water ingress can be easily disassembled and cleaned and may require the wires that connect at the rear to be trimmed and reconnected. If you see corrosion, it can be removed by either a wire brush or steel wool. You can also vacuum the dust out of hard-to-reach places. Make sure you check your sheaths for wear, especially under the chassis where they come into contact with road debris. Secure loose wiring with zip ties. And make sure any electrical work is undertaken by a professional.
Canvas is an important element of any camper trailer that must be maintained and looked after. Being a relatively thin component of your camper, it must be treated with care at all times to avoid tears and wear. Canvas is a plain weave fabric that utilises tightly woven cotton or linen yarns to produce a waterproof, durable finish. Canvases come in many different weights and thicknesses and the quality can vary dramatically.
The number one thing to watch out for with your canvas is mould. This is why you should never pack up your camper when it is damp. Once the mould settles in, it can weaken and damage the fabric. If unfortunately, you do encounter mould, you should let it dry, brush off as much as you can and then apply a solution of one part household bleach to four parts water. Once it’s dry, give it another brush and then rinse the area with clean water.
Your canvas shouldn’t require cleaning with soaps or harsh chemicals. If need be, you can hose it down after brushing off the bird droppings and dirt once in a while. You may also be required to season or reseal your canvas occasionally.
If you do get a puncture or a tear in your woven walls, there’s no need to stress, you can easily repair it. You can purchase canvas repair kits that will allow you to sew and seal your own patches, or you can have them fixed by a professional — there are plenty of places to get this done and it’s not too expensive.
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