If you’re contemplating buying a motorhome, one thing you might not have considered in the cost of maintaining it. It’s something you’d expect, but there are some long-term fixed maintenance costs you have to consider.
There’s nothing quite like the freedom of being on the open road and exploring new locations. However, alongside all the fun things you can do, there are also practical matters that play a key role in motorhome ownership.
In this post, we’re going to look at the maintenance side of things, for example, what you’ve got to do and how much it’ll cost. Knowing your responsibilities and following a maintenance schedule will keep your motorhome in tip-top condition and safe for you and your passengers, as well as other road users.
Is owning a motorhome expensive?
Maintenance costs are not the only expense that comes with owning a motorhome. Let’s take a quick look at some of the annual maintenance costs you can expect to pay.
Some of the annual costs of owning a motorhome are:
How much you have to pay for your motorhome insurance depends on several factors. For example:
- Type of motorhome insurance coverage
- The age of the motorhome
- The new or replacement value
- Where you store your motorhome
- Driving record
- Insurance claim record
- Vehicle security
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to pay an average of around $100 per month for your motorhome insurance. In addition, you might want to take out additional coverage for breakdown cover, excess protection, travel insurance for your motorhome, and legal assistance.
How much road tax you have to pay is dependent on the vehicle’s curb weight and where you live. To find out the exact amount of tax you have to pay it’s best to contact your local vehicle tax authority or visit their website.
Regular maintenance and servicing
The cost of maintenance and servicing is something else that will vary, depending on the vehicle and its age. The annual costs may also change from year to year as not all maintenance jobs need to be done every year. When it comes to servicing and annual motorhome habitation checks, this depends on the vehicle’s warranty.
Winter is always a good time for servicing and maintenance as you’re not going to be using your motorhome quite so much.
Depreciation over time
The rate of motorhome depreciation very much depends on your purchase. For example, did you purchase a used motorhome, or was it new, and if so, how old was it when you bought it?
A good indication of depreciation rates is to compare the price of a similar motorhome that’s older.
How much does it cost to maintain a motorhome over a year?
Maintenance costs are something else that’s very variable but we can say that the average will be £250 – £500 per year. It’s going to depend on the age of the vehicle and its maintenance history. In addition, there will be years when the cost is higher than others, as there will be minor and major motorhome maintenance that you need to do.
Are motorhomes hard to maintain?
Motorhome maintenance is not that difficult, but it will require extra effort and time on your part. If your budget allows, plenty of professional motorhome maintenance and servicing companies can do the hard work for you.
There’s also a vast support network online from the motorhome and RVing community that will provide valuable hints and tips for the repairs and maintenance you can do yourself.
Motorhome maintenance checklist
If you want to learn how to maintain your motorhome, this checklist is an excellent place to start. Take note of the following tips, and you’ll have all the bases covered.
1. Read and digest the manufacturers manual
Your owner’s manual is a vital source of information. You can’t be expected to remember it all, so it can be an excellent point of reference. If you’re unsure about what you’ve got to do, there’s nothing wrong with booking a visit to your local certified motorhome service garage.
2. Maintaining the roof
Your motorhome’s roof is not something you get to look at often, but it has to take a great deal of abuse from weather such as sun, rain, wind, and hail. Therefore, you should always include regular roof checks in your motorhome maintenance schedule.
The roof is something you should clean regularly. All you need is a light solvent and water. Your motorhome may have a built-in ladder, but if not, use a stable and secure ladder and approach it at the side.
Inspecting your motorhome roof
When you’re checking the condition of the motorhome roof, there are areas you need to pay special attention to. The seams and seals are particularly important as any issues left unchecked could cost you dearly in the long run.
Ideally, you should check the seams and seals for leaks three or fours times a year. You can develop leaks in any of the seams, so make sure you check the units for the air conditioning, skylights, vents, and the edges of the roof. If you develop a leak, it will first soak into the outer wooden framework. From there, it could seep into the ceiling panels. Water damage can be very costly, so seal any leaks using a quality sealant when the roof is clean. The sealant you use should be compatible with your motorhome’s roof, depending on whether it’s metal, TPO, EPDM (Rubber), ALFA, or fiberglass.
Treating rubber roofs
If your motorhome has a rubber roof, you must treat it a minimum of once every year. This will protect it from the harmful rays of the sun. A roof inspection is also essential, at least every six months.
3. Maintaining the tires
Maintenance of your motorhome tires is much the same as you’d do for your car. Visually check for tread wear, particularly if it’s uneven, and make sure the tires are all correctly inflated.
Loading the trailer correctly is also key, and improper loading will lead to uneven tire wear and increase the risk of a blowout.
Checking the tire pressure
Don’t forget that tire pressures can change, depending on the temperature and altitude. You should always check tire pressures when the tires are cold, as friction from driving will heat the tires and affect the pressure.
There is a risk of overinflated tires exploding, damaging your motorhome, or leading to an accident. It is equally dangerous if they are underinflated. You may have issues controlling the vehicle, and the increased resistance will affect your fuel economy.
One check you should always do before any trip is the tire pressure, along with ensuring the lug nuts are correctly tightened. These can come loose at any point, whether your motorhome was in storage or you were driving it.
4. Maintenance of the chassis and engine
You’ll find guidelines regarding how and when to maintain the motorhome’s engine in your owner’s manual. There will be information on changing the air filter and oil along with brake maintenance.
Topping up and changing the oil and replacing the filters
Much like any other vehicle, your motorhome is going to need an oil change and the filters changing regularly. This is a vital part of any motorhome maintenance schedule as it will ensure the engine runs properly. If you fail to take care of the oil and filters, it could lead to the engine seizing.
A replacement engine could cost thousands of dollars. So the general recommendation is to change the oil every three to four thousand miles.
You’ll need to check and replace several other filters regularly, for example, coolant, air, hydraulic, and fuel filters. If you don’t change these filters, it could lead to overheating, poor fuel economy, or oxidization.
Maintaining of the brakes
For your safety and the safety of other road users, keep your brakes maintained. It’s best to get them checked by a certified motorhome mechanic regularly.
Part of any brake maintenance schedule will include lubricating wheel bearings and checking the brakes have sufficient material on them, so they work effectively.
5. Battery maintenance
If you plan to park your motorhome up for the winter, you should take the battery out and store it correctly. Ideally, that will be somewhere warm, so there’s no possibility of freezing.
The battery should be checked before any trip. You should aim to keep it fully charged if possible. In general, a deep cell battery will last three years, but when it’s at the end of its life cycle, you’ll need to replace it. A start-type should last five years before it needs replacing.
There’s nothing worse than a dead battery if you’re out on the road. This is especially true during the winter days and a proper winterization of your motorhome can save you during harsh and unexpected conditions.
6. Generator maintenance
Another important motorhome maintenance job is to service your motorhome’s generator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how often you should change the oil and the filter.
If you’re not going to use your motorhome for several months, don’t forget to run it regularly, or it could cost a lot to repair.
7. Maintaining your motorhome tanks
Motorhomes usually come with three types of holding tank, and they each require different attention.
The tank that holds the freshwater only requires a flush twice a year. The best time to do this is when you bring it out of storage and then once during the middle of the summer. The reason for the flush out is that bacteria often builds as it loves environments that are moist. Mix up a gentle solution of bleach and water to sanitize the fresh water tank and then fill and flush it a few times to ensure all the bleach is gone.
You should only ever use approved chemicals for cleaning your black tank as these are most effective at breaking down any solids. Once you’ve emptied the black tank, use the flush system, if it’s got one, as this will keep the sensors clean and ensure that they read accurately.
Gray water tank
There’s very little maintenance required in this case, but it’s not uncommon for them to smell. If you’ve got this problem, an odor blocker will get rid of any foul odors.
Care of your wastewater system
There are several things you can do to keep your wastewater system in good working order:
- Only use biodegradable paper
- Empty the holding tank regularly as this will prevent backup
- Use the correct sewer connections
- Regular flushing is essential as this will prevent buildup that can lead to clogging, a system failure, or seized valves.
8. Water heater maintenance
You need to check your water heater occasionally. What you’re looking for is a build-up of debris in the chamber or burner tube. If there is some, remove it using compressed air.
In addition, check that the heater’s anode rods don’t need replacing and rinse out any sediment. Sediment accumulation can be a problem if you use the water heater regularly or if you store it outside.
9. Maintaining your motorhome slideouts
The most important part of the slideouts are the seals. You must ensure they don’t stick when you retract the slide. You can reduce the likelihood of this happening by cleaning them of debris and making sure they’re lubricated.
Window seals are just as essential to lubricate. It will keep the rubber pliable and fresh and ensure a good seal. It will also allow the windows to move freely from vertically or horizontally.
10. Maintenance of the slideout toppers and awnings
Awnings are prone to developing mildew and mold, and if it’s not dealt with, it can cause severe damage, and it’s not good for your health.
An excellent way to deal with it is to give it a good wash before you park up for the winter. However, you must make sure it’s thoroughly dry before you retract it.
One helpful tip is not to use the awning if there is a risk of high winds. The wind can cause damage to the alignment, which will make it difficult to store.
11. Maintain your vehicle’s electrical connection
If you use your motorhome as a tow vehicle, you must make sure the electrical connection is working properly. Again, it’s a matter of safety for yourself and other road users. The electrical connection ensures the vehicle you’re towing with your motorhome is transmitting the right signals, for example, when you apply the brakes or use a turn signal.
12. Check appliances
If you’ve got anything in your motorhome that’s gas-powered, make sure it’s in good working condition. If you’ve had the appliance for a while and have not used them recently, check that insects or other pests haven’t got into the appliances. Practicing pest control for your motorhome is essential as various bugs and vermin can cause problems and make the appliance unsafe and even dangerous.
You need to check any other appliances, such as your freezer and refrigerator. Imagine how you’d feel if, in the middle of a summer vacation, your freezer or refrigerator decides not to work. Also, if the appliances in your motorhome are more than a few years old, you might start to have problems with them.
13. Check the lighting
Remember to check the interior and exterior lighting monthly. Your owner’s manual will give you all the information you need to help you understand how all your lighting works. Some parts of the lighting system, for example, might only work in certain situations. Your Daytime Running Lamps are just one example.
If you need to replace any bulbs, make sure you do it before you make your next journey, and always make sure you’ve got a selection of spare bulbs just in case you need one.
14. Check the windscreen
Your motorhome’s windscreen should always be clean and free from cracks and chips. Any that you notice should be repaired and soon as possible, or it might mean you have to replace the whole windscreen, which will be expensive.
Condensation can be a problem with a motorhome, and there’s not much you can do to prevent it. However, when you’re packing up your camper, it’s crucial that you clean the windscreen and then allow it to dry completely.
Cleaning your windscreen wipers is something you should do regularly, especially after you’ve been on a trip, as there could be all kinds of debris left underneath the wipers.
15. Give your motorhome a clean
This is possibly the most obvious suggestion, but it’s surprising how many people don’t consider cleaning a vital part of the motorhome maintenance schedule. It’s always a good idea if, every now and again, you give your motorhome a thorough clean, inside and out, from the top to the bottom.
16. Servicing and tests for roadworthiness
Having your motorhome serviced regularly may make you more aware of any problems you might have otherwise missed. Before you head out on the road, it’s also an idea to ensure all the tests for roadworthiness and your motorhome insurance coverage are valid.
17. Keep an eye out for warning lights
Most modern motorhomes have an elaborate system of sensors that will let you know when something is wrong. For example, there will likely be warning lights that tell you when your tires lose pressure, a door is left open, your oil is running low, or your battery needs charging. You might also have a display that lets you see how much gray water and fresh water are in the relevant tanks.
Your owner’s manual will let you know what to look for.
18. Check for Moisture and Damp
Recognising first signs of moisture, mold and damp in your motorhome is crucial to taking proper care of it. Some of the signs to look for are:
- Musty smell – usually, a heavy unpleasant smell is the first sign of damp
- Black spots around windows, doors and roof lights. Sometimes, there can be blue on pinkish staining on the walls
- Soft or spongy surfaces – try pressing your finger into the walls. If it leaves a dent you might have a really serious damp problem.
Your motorhome is a vehicle you drive on the road, so it’s critical that you keep it well maintained, not just for your own and your family’s safety but for other people on the road. Now you know how to maintain your motorhome and have got a list of motorhome maintenance checks you should do on a regular basis, there are no excuses.
You can do many of the checks yourself, and you should also be able to make any necessary repairs and replacements. Keeping on top of the maintenance of your motorhome will save you money, time, and effort in the long run and allow you to enjoy the pleasures of owning one for much longer.