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Maintenance Considerations

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Your rig requires periodic maintenance. Don't overlook it! Unless you want to be presented with unfortunate surprises over and over again, you have to give it a little attention - you know the old adage, "An ounce of prevention..." So take care of your rig and it will take care of you . Periodic maintenance pays big dividends in two ways: less problems while travelling, and less headaches from things falling apart. Treat her the same as you would an expensive automobile and she will do the same for you.


You will be relieved to know that the care and feeding required for a typical fifth-wheel is not difficult. A couple hours each month should do it in most cases. Of course, if your rig has tens of thousands of miles on it and is older than dirt, then your maintenance involvement could be a lot more. Also, big rigs like pushers will typically require more in the way of attention, primarily because of the motor.

Following is a fairly exhaustive list of maintenance considerations. Some things should be looked at each month while others can be done once a year. In all cases, go over the list before you set of on a long trip.

When performing maintenance on your rig, be sure to consult your manuals for suggestions and procedures. Also, many helpful hints and how-to blogs and videos can be found on Google.

If you live in a severe climate area - the freezing cold of Minnesota or the burning heat of south Florida - you might want to consider a cover for your rig. This can often prevent time-consuming jobs like roof caulking or leak repairs. Large covers can be pricey but not super-duper expensive, especially considering the benefits and cost of repairs. Here's an example on Amazon.

These maintenance regimens should be performed at least twice a year.

Lubricants and sealers - a little dab'll do 'ya

There are several things on your RV that require periodic lubrication:

--antenna gears
--rear stabilizes - don't use silicone or WD-40
--tv gears

There are a number of RV parts that need lubrication. Different parts require different forms of lubricant.

White lithium grease

White lithium grease should be used on anything on your rig that looks like a gear, roller or bearing. This is because this type of grease, made with lithium soap, is particularly adherent to metal, non-corrosive, weather resistant, water resistant, rust resistant, and is good under heavy loads. In addition to gears, it is also good for hinges and springs. Use it for metal-to-metal or metal-to-plastic applications. Another reason to use this type of grease is that it does not tend to accumulate the dust, dirt or grime that can muck up gears, bearings and springs.

Here is a collection of white lithium products available on Amazon. They come in both sprays and rub-ons.

Silicone-based lubricant

The other type of lubricant typically used with RVs are silicone-based. This type of product is commonly used for things like rubber seals and gaskets. Like lithium, silicone also comes in either spray or rub-on variants.

Silicone should not be used in applications that call for lithium grease. Silicone can attract dust, dirt, grime, sand and salt which are sworn enemies of gear and bearings.

Warning: some blogs on the 'net claim you can use petroleum products, talc or baby powder rather than spending money on silicone. Don't do it!

Protect All Slide-Out Dry Lube and Protect All Slide-out Rubber Seal are popular products for slideout assembly support arms, gears, cables and seals.

Monkey grease

Your fifth-wheel hitch plate and kingpin also need greasing. An automotive grade chassis grease, commonly referred to as "monkey grease" is good. Both the face plate of the truck hitch and the bottom of the RV hitch should be greased, as well as the kingpin itself.

As an alternative to messy greasing, I instead use a nylon plate slipped over the kingpin. This allows the two surfaces to freely rotate on each other without wear. Be sure to examine the plate regularly to make sure it is still in good shape. And even though I use the plate, it is still a good idea to put a little grease on the kingpin. I also carry a second plate in the basement in case I lose or damage the first one; they are certainly cheap enough.


Another type of gooey stuff you'll need for your RV is rooftop caulk. Mosst RV roofs have seams as well as various pipes, a/c bases and other thingys that need caulking around.

Don't use a silicon-based caulk on your roof; it is guaranteed to peel over time, especially in heat. Also, don't use the typical white bathroom caulk you find at Lowes or Home Depot; they won't work either. I use Dicor Corp RV Self-Leveling Lap Sealant, which is good for both rubber and aluminum rooftops. ProFlex also comes highly recommended. Roof caulk isn't expensive and I can do the roof of my 37-footer with about a dozen tubes. Apply generously, making sure the caulk extends well past seams and outlets.


Any RV insurance adjuster will tell you that the primary and most common source of problems is water leakage, which can come from two places: (a) improper caulking on the roof, and (b) leaks around the slideout seals.

-- dont use silicone caulk; use self-leveling lap sealant
-- caulk roof seams, around rooftop thingies
-- rubber seals

Most RV roofs come in either rubber, fiberglass or aluminum, rubber probably being the most common because it is the lightest weight. A rubber RV roof is commonly called a TPO roof, standing for 'thermoplastic polyolefin'.

In order to prevent leaks you need to examine your roof once a year, and do some re-caulking if necessary.

In case you might be worried, RV rooftops are generally safe to walk around on. Be sure to wear soft shoes and don't lay heavy or sharp things on the roof. Also watch for wet or slippery spots, especially while you're cleaning. And it should go without saying to be mindful of the edges. I like to put the slideouts out when I go up on the roof, first as a safety measure, but also since it gives me a safe place to stand when working on the roof.

Many RVs have a ladder to help you get up; if it doesn't, use extreme caution when using your own ladder as it is subject to slipping when propped up against a rig.

I can't say for sure but I believe most, if not all, RV roofs have seams somewhere. If so, that is one of the places where leaks can form over time. Other leak candidates are the various pipes and vents that protrude from the roof. Your sewer will have an exhaust pipe leading up to the open air. Your a/c units sit on the roof and will wiggle around while you travel. Your rooftop antenna is another attachment. There are roof racks, ladders and roof fans. There may be others. All these provide leak sources and need caulking.

While you're up on the roof you may also want to consider applying a coat of Pro Guard Liquid Roof. It will help protect your roof from rain as well as the sun's UV rays.

I highly recommend you watch this video from RV Repair Club before you go up to clean your roof. BTW, if you're not on the RV Repair Club email list, you might want to do so. They have interesting and useful tips from time to time.

Here is a list of things you'll need to do a good job of cleaning and caulking your roof.

Before caulking, clean the roof with soap and water or a cleaner, especially the areas to be caulked. Allow to dry and then wipe the caulk parts with a denatured alcohol-based cleaner. Again, allow to dry. Finally, make sure the weather is going to cooperate. You're also going to need a knife to strip off old caulk as well as a caulk gun.

BTW when doing roof caulk or inspection, it would be a good time to replace vent caps if they look like they may be loose or broken. If a cap breaks off, rain can flow down the pipe into your rig.

-- cap links..

Here is a good article from RVshare on maintaining and repairing your RV roof.

-- see above article for roof repair..

fix a hole..

Jacks and stabilizers

-- A neighbor at one of the campgrounds showed me his hydrolic jacks - front, mid, back.

Most fifth-wheels have two or three pairs of jacks: some at the front, some at the rear and some at the middle. The front pair is of course necessary to allow the rig to be attached and detached to and from the truck. A lot of folks refer to the front jacks as the landing gear. If there are rear jacks, they are usually called stabilizers since their only purpose is to stabilize the rig from swaying. If the rig has jacks in the middle, then all three pairs are probably self-levelling.

The commonality among all jacks is that they need lubricating. For non-self-levelling jacks and stabilizers, the recommended lubricants are a white lithium grease for the gears and a silicone-based lubricant for legs exteriors.

Dab a bit of bearing grease on the bevel gears at the tops of the front jacks and work it in with your fingers. Spray some dry lithium grease onto the end points of the rotating crossbar. This process is best done after fully extending the legs close to maximum. Note that the jack gears themselves are sealed and do not require lubrication.

It is vitally important that you do not use a silicone lubricant for the jack gears. See ...

Also, when lubricating the jack legs be careful to wipe off any excess.

The rear stabilizers on most fifth-wheels are the scissor action types, driven by a worm gear. To maintain, clean with a wire brush and wash down. Check for loose nuts. Apply the same Protect-All lubricant that you use for the slideout rails. Run the stabilizers up and down a few times to work in the lube.

Hint: if your rear stabilizers are the manual crank type rather than electric, pick up a socket that fits and attach it to a cordless drill. This makes running the stabilizers up and down much easier, at least until they contact the ground, at which time you will probably have to use the crank.

Hitch and kingpin

You may not think so, but even your fifth-wheel hitch mechanism requires a little periodic maintenance and inspection. Before you begin, make sure to unhitch your rig so you can get to both the truck bed fifth-wheel and the rig's hitch.

RV fifth-wheel hitches are similar to those used on the big semis. In fact, it might be possible for a semi tractor to tow your rig, assuming the tractor hitch can accept a 2" kingpin.

You might be surprised to know that the big semis aren't all that different from a fifth-wheel in terms of how the trailer and tow vehicle are attached. Recently I saw a big semi rig unloading at the local Home Depot. I went over to the driver and asked about how the truck and trailer match up, mostly because he was hand-cranking the legs in order to mate the two. I had always been under the impression that big rigs use pneumatic or electric systems to either raise and lower the trailer, or close the hitch pin, or both. But he said "No, it's all manual." Now I don't know if that's true of all semis but, if so, you may be please to know that your electric trailer jacks are superior to those of the big semis!

There are a lot of fifth-wheel manufacturers, ranging from cheap to expensive depending on how much load they need to carry. Fifth-wheels run up to $3000 USD or more.

-- hitch

First some terminology. Some folks use the term "fifth-wheel" to refer to the device in the truck bed. Others use it to refer to the part that sticks out in front of the trailer. I and most people use it to refer to the part that lives in your truck bed. Sometimes referred to as a coupling", it has a big flat plate with a big notch called a king pin "funnel" that the rig's kingpin (see below) slips into. A fifth-wheel is supported on metal rails attached to the frame of the truck. A properly mounted fifth-wheel resides squarely over the truck's axle. If any of these rules are violated, you could be in for real trouble. My advise is to have your fifth-wheel professionally installed, probably where you bought the hitch or at a reputable RV dealer.

A fifth-wheel type hitch is distinguished from the goose neck hitch that you find on typical horse trailers.

There doesn't seem to be any commonly used term for the part of the trailer extension that sits on top of the fifth-wheel. For want of a better term I tend to call it the "plate". Part of hooking up to a trailer is to maneuver the truck's fifth-wheel under the plate.

The plate contains a fat piece called a "kingpin" that slips into the slot in the truck's fift-wheel plate. While pulling the trailer, the fifth-wheel plate and the plate remain in constant contact, although the kingpin allows the plate to rotate on the hitch while turning. A typical fifth-wheel kingpin is 2" in diameter.

Your maintenance routine should consists of periodically giving the hitch, plate and kingpin a good cleaning with a wire brush. In particular, you are trying to remove any old grease, dirt or metal flakes. Wash thoroughly when done. Be sure to make a visual inspection of all parts for wear or fatigue. Next, dry everything and spray with white lithium grease (see above). Make sure the lubricant soon dries so that it doesn't accumulate dust and dirt.

Spread a bit of heavy grease where the hitch and kingpin mate up. Axle grease (aka "monkey grease") works well. This type of grease will pick up dust and dirt, so it should be changed often. Don't use grease on the surfaces of the hitch and plate.

Finally, push a nylon plate up onto the kingpin. I actually leave mine on all the time so that I don't forget it. This kind of plate prevents wear and tear from plate rotation while turning.

Wikipedia has an interesting history of the origin of fifth-wheels.

Slideouts and seals

-- hydrolic, gear..

There are several manufacturers of slideouts for RVs. Ours is made by Accu-Slide so I am going to talk about that one. It is cable driven; each slideout having four cables, two on each side. One cable on each slide pulls it out while the other pulls it in.

Maintenance for cable slideouts consists of two procedures. First and foremost is making visual inspections of all the cables. I can tell you first hand that you don't want to deal with problems caused by frayed or broken cables. To inspect, first move the slideouts out to inspect the cables on each side. Make sure they are not too lose; there should be a bit of slack. Check for fraying. Then move the slides in and check the other sets of cables. Don't forget to look up on top of the slide and check the motor and cables there. Any problems seen with the cables should be addressed immediately; you can take it to a dealer or you can replace them yourself [see ???].

While the slides are in and out, spray the cables with a dry white lithium grease. Don't use anything else! The motors are sealed systems and don't require lubing.

While doing your slides, you might also want to spray some silicone on the rubber seals surrounding the units. These seals are for preventing rain from coming in. Silicone helps to prevent drying and cracking of the seals, and I can tell you from personal experience that you don't want the expense of having them replaced.

Here is a PDF for the Accu-Slide service manual.

-- hand-crank
-- 12v
-- emer crank
-- friction

- - - - -

It is a common electric powered slide using a pair of toothed rails and a round cylinder shaped rod. The manual actually says the slide doesn’t require lubrication, but I like to use a product called Protect All Slide-Out Dry Lube anyway. This lube helps protect the metal gears from corrosion and I think makes the slide work a little smoother. Two other things I do to help the slide out run smooth are waxing the black plastic underside. As for the round metal actuator, I just make sure it is nice and clean and maybe wipe on a little silicone lube but not much. Anything to help the electric slide motor run easier is a good thing in my book.

-- foam locks stupid, replace with 1/4-20 nuts lock nuts

Cable and TV

Winegard is by far the largest maker of rooftop TV antennas for RVs. There are varied styles, but this discussion centers on the hand crank type. The crank, probably located inside on the bedroom roof, should be lubed with silicone spray a couple times a year. It is important to use silicone because the crankshaft contains a rubber O-ring seal. Don't be tempted to use another type of lube which may damage the seal and allow water leaks.

Refer to the Winegard User Manual for more info. This manual is for the Sensar model but the Lubrication section should apply for many Winegard antennas.


Awnings don't require much in the way of maintenance other than spraying the arm joints with some dry lithium lubricant. Run the awning in and out a few times to work the lube in, and then wipe of any excess.

While the awning is out, it would be a good time to inspect the cloth for holes or wear. Replacing awning material is not a big deal. Refer to the section on awning repair for details.

Here is a popular RV awning cleaner afailable from PPL.

Tires and brakes
--Keep your tires at the recommended pressure, even if the unit is just sitting. Allowing tires to deflate will cause damage to the tire walls and will certainly lead to problems "down the road." Tire covers are recommended in hot regions.

Most RV service centers and axle manufacturers recommend servicing the trailer wheel bearings every year or 12,000 miles. I stretch it out to about every two years. At that time, I take it in and have the local RV service department do it for me. It’s a pretty messy job and not one I want to be doing in the campground. I have them repack/inspect the bearings, replace the seals, check and adjust the brakes. I do pull off my wheels every 6 months and while checking the brakes see if any grease has leaked out past the rear seal. I will also pull the rubber cap and have a look at the axle end to see if the grease there looks OK and not missing or burnt looking.

My axles actually have some EZ-Lube grease fittings on them and I will add a few extra pumps of fresh grease into them while spinning the wheel. I make sure to use the same type of bearing grease that is already in there. Finally after every tow and during rest stop breaks I habitually check the temperature of the wheel hubs and tires. After a while, you get to know what normal temps are and hopefully will be alerted to a bearing or tire failure. A great way to check is with a handheld Infrared Thermometer.


Here is a wash & wax available from the folks at PPL.

Exterior lights

A typical RV will have a number of lights that come on when you are connected via the umbilical cord and you have the truck lights on. My fifth-wheel has lights with yellow covers on the front and sides, and red covers at the rear. These covers are made of a reflective plastic and are easily replaceable.

I have had several light covers pop off, primarily due to rough roads. Here are links to where I found the red and yellow covers on the 'net.

-- cover links..

Here is a link to where you can find replacement bulbs, at least for my trailer.

-- bulb link..

Other than cleaning the lens covers and replacing broken ones, or replacing burned out bulbs, there isn't much in the way of maintenance for your exterior lights.

Hinges and locks

While performing your regular maintenance regimen, don't forget to dry lube various miscellanea: hinges and knobs on basement doors, door locks, fold-out stairs, exterior heater door hinges and so on. Also put a bit of silicone on all the rubber things you can find, especially on the exterior.

General considerations

If you can afford it, a cover for your rig will pay for itself. It helps prevent weather damage and lets you keep that new trailer look much longer.

Leaving a trailer unattended for awhile is a guaranteed invitation to ants and cockroaches. There are lots of good ant sprays, but we've found that Bengal Concentrated Roach & Flea Fogger is great for roaches. Simply spray the stuff into nooks and crannies and a day later you will find roaches laying around with their feet in the air.

While you're going over your rig it would be a good time to tighten or replace all exterior screws. Travel over bumpy roads has a habit of jarring them loose. Self-taping metal screws are excellent for securing things like fixtures, siding and strips.

If your handrail grip is starting to wear or come loose, here is a relatively inexpensive replacement from PPL. You don't want to ruin a trip due to a bad fall that can be prevented.

Wash and wax your rig at least once a year. Good times to do this is before you set out on a trip and when you come back. Also pay attention to spots that might be starting to rust; this will head off problems that could turn out to be big issues later.

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