Top RV Questions Answered

Owning an RV is exciting and liberating, but when you purchase your first recreational vehicle, you inevitably have a lot of questions. Some of them are common to nearly all RV owners, and all of them are important to the longevity, safety and comfort of your RV. We’ve put together some of the top RV ownership questions and answers in one place to put your mind at ease.

Do I Have to Winterize my RV?

This is a critical question if you plan on storing your RV during cold weather months or for any length of time when you won’t be using it. The short answer is yes, you need to winterize your RV if you’re going to store it during colder months. This includes flushing out all lines, including the fresh water, gray water and black water tanks, and adding RV antifreeze to your water lines so that they don’t freeze if they temperature drops below freezing. You run the risk of a blown water line, damaged toilet and more if you don’t properly winterize your RV when not in use. Even in California or Florida, if the temperature drops below freezing for even a few nights you could sustain serious damage that will be costly to repair.

Do I Have to Use RV Toilet Paper?

Back in the 70s and 80s, using RV toilet paper was a must to prevent clogged toilets, stopped up sewage systems and plugged up black water lines (no one wants to deal with that!), but advances in RV toilet systems have changed things. While most recreational vehicle manufacturers still recommend using RV or camping toilet paper, there are many standard brands that are safe for today’s RVs.

A quick and easy test is to put a few sheets of toilet paper in a jar of water, shake it a few times (no more), then wait. If the paper begins to disintegrate after a few seconds, it is safe for RV use. You can also look for a toilet paper labeled as “safe for septic systems.” This toilet paper will be safe for RVs and cost significantly less than TP labeled specifically for RV use.  Charmin is considered one of the worst brands for RVs. You should also avoid any TP labeled “extra strong” or “ultra-strong,” as they are designed specifically to NOT dissolve easily.

Why Do I Need an RV Surge Protector?

An RV surge protector is absolutely necessary in order to protect all the electrical equipment in your RV or travel trailer. The surge protector will shield all your electronics from any sort of electrical surge from a power pedestal that could otherwise fry your electronics. A power surge can be caused by lightning or a faulty power source. Since you will be hooking up to unfamiliar power sources at various campgrounds, protection is crucial to prevent blowing out everything from your microwave to your lights and sound system.

Are RV Parks Expensive?

The cost of an RV park varies widely from state to state and from park to park. Are they expensive? Depends on what you want/need from a park and the particular park you choose. To keep it in perspective, consider what you are really paying for. Most people think if an RV park as a place to pull in and dump their tanks, use the park’s electricity and water and move on. But that isn’t all you’re paying for at an RV park. In some states, there are taxes tacked onto RV park rates. You are also paying for the amenities offered in an RV park, so if you simply want to dump your tanks and use some electricity for the night, look for smaller parks with fewer amenities.

If you want amenities such as laundry facilities, showers, dog parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, weekly activities and more, you will pay more. When you factor in these amenities and what you would pay separately for some of them, the cost becomes more reasonable.

If you’re looking for just the basics, check into RV campgrounds in state and national parks as well as local parks (the chains tend to be more expensive), and boondock as often as you can.

Can RVs Drive in the HOV (Carpool) Lanes?

Use of the carpool or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes by RVs is not consistent from state to state or even city to city. It is best to check with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or the local highway department when you are traveling. In most situations, there are restrictions based on the number or axles on our vehicle, the gross weight (there is usually a 10,000 pound maximum) or whether you are towing anything.

Can I Paint My RV’s Walls?

If you don’t like the interior of your RV, you can paint the walls to freshen things up, but it isn’t an easy job. The walls of most RVs are either vinyl or wood veneer, neither or which accept paint easily, so proper preparation is key. You will need to wash the walls to remove any grime or oils, remove all borders, hooks and artwork, then lightly sand the walls to prepare them. Next, you’ll need to apply a bonding primer (ask your local home improvement store for a recommendation) before finally painting the walls. Skip any of these steps and the paint will smear rather than adhere. Also keep in mind that you’ll be paining small areas in small spaces, so painter’s tape and patience are a must.

How Important is it to Level My RV?

Proper leveling of your RV is critical for  few reasons. The most important is the operation of your refrigerator. If your RV isn’t level enough, your refrigerator can stop operating and you’ll wake up to warm food. You may also end up with a hefty appliance repair bill if the ammonia in the cooling system pools and causes a blockage around the coils. Water tank readings can also be affected if your RV isn’t level, giving you an inaccurate reading. It can be a serious problem if you discover you have a full black water tank and you’re miles from a dump station.

How Do You Get Internet in an RV?

Most RV parks offer some kind of Internet access, but often it isn’t reliable. National and state parks generally don’t have it and you won’t find it if you’re parking in a Walmart parking lot for the night. If you need reliable Internet access, you have a few options:

  • If you’re staying in one place for a long time, you can get DSL/cable, but you’ll need to get a new plan every time you move.
  • You can rely on public Wi-Fi, but this depends on where you are and whether it is available. If you’re boondocking, you’ll probably be out of luck or out of range.
  • Cellular access will give you better coverage, but speed and prices can vary. It is available wherever there’s a signal.
  • Satellite gives impressive coverage and is accessible anywhere there is southern sky access (perfect for boondocking if you park in the right spot), but it is expensive.
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