18 RVing Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid
Helpful tips of what not to do for beginner RVers.

By: GoLife Staff

For those new to RVing, you may be wondering what are some of the common RVer mistakes and how to prevent them. Luckily, the RV community is great about sharing insights and lessons learned to help others avoid issues. 

This list includes some of the top mistakes many people make when starting out RVing, plus how to not have these problems on your RV trip.

Don’t Make These RVing Mistakes!

1. Not Having All the Gear You Need

Before you set out on your RVing adventure, be sure you have everything you need to safely and effectively use the features of your motorhome or travel trailer. For water fill-ups and tank dumping, you’ll likely need a potable water hose, pressure regulator, water filter, and a high-quality sewer hose.

You will also want an extension cord, power adaptor, and surge protector to avoid electrical issues when plugging in. See more tips for RVing gear you’ll need.

2. Letting Your Grey or Black Tanks Overflow

If you aren’t hooked up to sewer connections, your RV tanks only have a limited capacity. If your grey tank overflows, it could lead to water coming up through your shower or sinks and potentially causing damage. Of course, the black tank overflowing would lead to a very unsanitary situation with a lot of cleanup. 

It’s important to keep an eye on your tank levels and not let them get too high when traveling or boondocking. Keeping up with tank cleaning maintenance is also key to avoiding plumbing issues.

Read this guide to RV toilets for more insights.

Taking the cassette toilet out of the Winnebago EKKO for dumping. Photo by: Chris Miller & Noel Fleming.

3. Not Locking in the Sewer Hose Connection

Making a mess at the sewer dump station is both gross and embarrassing. Unfortunately, it isn’t all that difficult to knock the sewer hose off its connection if not secured well. Make sure you have a quality sewer hose and lock in the connection. Wearing gloves in case there is an issue is another best practice!

4. Not Leveling Your RV

Not only is being unlevel while camping in your RV an inconvenience, it can cause some major issues. For example, propane fridges must be level to function properly, and slide outs should not be extended if your RV is not level.

Many RVs come with automatic leveling jacks now, but those without can use blocks to manually level your RV. However, sometimes just taking a look at your camp site and adjusting to a more level area can do the trick! Read more about leveling your RV here.

Driving onto leveling blocks. Photo by: Jon & Nadia Bajuelo.

5. Driving with Storage Bays Open

Before heading off to your next destination, it is always a good idea to do a walk around your RV to make sure all of your storage bays are closed securely and you aren’t leaving anything behind. In addition to lost items, driving with your storage bay doors open can also damage them or become a hazard for other drivers.

6. Not Putting the Leveling Jacks Up Before Driving Away

Driving off with leveling jacks down can not only damage that equipment, it can also be harmful to your RV as well as the campsite – especially if on concrete. The simple solution is to not be in a rush to leave and always do a final check of these important steps. Having a checklist to go over can really help!

7. Not Winterizing (Or Camping in Too Extreme Weather)

Not all RVs are made for all-season camping. Even those that are, often need to be prepped for winter use. Neglecting to winterize your RV properly before storing it for the season can also lead to major issues. 

If planning to travel in your RV in colder temperatures, it’s important to take measures to protect your plumbing and make sure you will be able to stay safe and warm when traveling. (Get more winter RVing tips.)

Kenny Phillips preparing to winterize his Vista.

8. Not Using Biodegradable Toilet Paper

Did you know you shouldn’t use the usual residential, thick toilet paper many homeowners buy? Not using biodegradable toilet paper specific for RV toilets can cause plumbing issues quickly. Luckily, this is an easy problem to avoid just by updating your shopping list!

9. Using Power Sources without a Surge Protector

Unfortunately, not all of the pedestals you plug into at campgrounds are wired well. Even if they are, there is always the risk of a lightning strike or a general electrical malfunction that could cause a surge. An electrical surge has the potential to destroy your RV’s electrical system as well as anything you have plugged in when it happens. 

The simplest way to prevent this is to invest in a surge protector or electrical management system to protect your RV from electrical issues. Just plug the surge protector into the outlet first, then (after getting the green light) plug in your RV’s power cord to the surge protector.

10. Picking the Wrong Tow Vehicle (For Travel Trailers)

Not just any vehicle can tow a trailer. If you are planning to use your current vehicle or buy a new one to tow your RV, be sure it meets all of the requirements first! Otherwise, you can end up in a dangerous situation.

Check the weight rating of the tow vehicle and how much it is safely able to tow, then compare that to the weight of your towable RV. Don’t forget to keep in mind the full-loaded weight when making your decision – which includes all of your camping items and full tanks.

11. Not Checking for Tire Issues

Before taking off on any trip, it is always important to check your RV’s tires and the tires of your tow vehicle. Check for proper PSI and do a visual inspection for cracking or other issues. It is also critical to keep up with tire maintenance and not put off getting new tires when they are showing signs of needing to be replaced. (Read more about tire care and maintenance.)

Many RVers also add a tire pressure monitoring system for peace of mind. These systems monitor your tires and alert you if there are any issues, which could save you from being stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire!

12. Taking a Route Not Meant for RVs

Do you know that some roads are not meant for RVs because they have low bridges, narrow tunnels, or are not built to handle heavier vehicles? That’s why it is important to know your RV’s height, width, and weight before taking to the road. 

Always be on the lookout for signs warning of potential dangers ahead. There are also RV-specific GPS options and apps that will help you avoid these non-RV-friendly roads. Planning out your route, especially when traveling in a larger RV, can save a lot of headaches!

13. Not Checking the Weather

RVs are not meant to be driven in high wind and are not a safe place to shelter if there is severe weather, like a hurricane or tornado. It’s important to keep an eye on the weather when traveling to make sure you are not driving your RV directly into an unsafe situation.

Making a habit of checking the weather before taking off to a new destination can also help you avoid severe hot or cold temperatures that can be damaging to your RV and uncomfortable for you. 

14. Not Securing Indoor Items Before Driving

Forgetting to put away items on your counters and latch your cabinets (when applicable) can be a hazard for passengers and pets. Plus, it can cause a big mess! Shampoo left on a shelf in the shower can end up splattered across the floor. A wine glass on the counter can lead to finding little pieces of glass for weeks. And, of course, not securing your fridge items can mean cracked eggs and spilled sauces.

It’s not difficult to secure items before your drive, but it may take some getting used to. Just remember everything will get jostled around a bit while on the road, so make sure your personal items are put away safely so not to break or spill.

Photo by Kelly Laustsen & David Somach.

15. Leaving the Awning Out During High Winds

Oftentimes, RVers will park, set up camp, and leave everything as is until it is time to pack up again. While this is usually a great plan, if inclement weather is in the forecast, it’s important to pull in the awning and any outdoor items that could blow into your RV or someone else’s.

RV awnings aren’t meant to withstand high wind and can be damaged or do damage to your RV if the wind picks up too much! Keep an eye on the weather and pull your awning in if in doubt.

16. Going Over Your RV’s Safe Weight

Overloading your RV can be very dangerous as well as lead to costly issues. Make sure you check the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – the weight of the RV plus anything you will be traveling with, including people and pets. It adds up faster than you may think, so it is important to check your RV’s weight!

You can check your RV’s weight at various places, with truck stop scales being a popular option.

17. Not Keeping Up with Regular RV Maintenance

Your RV’s manual lists all of the recommended maintenance for your rig and all of its components. It’s important to keep up with the regular, preventative maintenance in order to avoid issues in the future. 

Here is a list of outside checks you should be doing, and here is another list of indoor RV checks. If you don’t feel comfortable taking on the maintenance tasks, you can always set up an appointment with an RV service center to have them check your motorhome or travel trailer.

18. Running Out of Propane or Fuel

An RV’s fuel economy is likely much lower than your commuter vehicle. While the fuel tank is usually larger, it is important to keep an eye on your gas gauge and not take any risks with letting it get too low. It’s especially important to have a safe amount of fuel when venturing off into backcountry camping sites or when driving in more remote places. (Read these tips for getting better fuel efficiency.)

Having a roadside assistance plan is also a great idea and can help to give you peace of mind when traveling in new places. 

Propane is also important to keep an eye on since it is used for cooking and heating in many RVs. Plus, it isn’t as readily available as fuel, so you may need to spend some extra time researching a local place to fill up your propane

We hope this list helps you feel more prepared for taking off in your RV! If you have any other avoidable mistakes to share, please feel free to add them in the comments.


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