Looking for detailed guidance on how to get your truck camper ready for the summer? Or perhaps you’re looking for a quality preventative maintenance plan to keep everything in your camper operating in tip-top shape? Well, you’re in luck. Fellow reader, Patrick Taylor, the proud owner of a 2013 Arctic Fox 990 truck camper, has taken the time to spell everything out in a fun, easy to understand way. This is part two of a two-part article; part one can be found here.
Here’s a recap of my preventative maintenance (PM) effort just concluded on my 2013 Arctic Fox 990. I hadn’t performed this thorough an inspection since 2017, and with a three-plus week 2020 summer camping trip coming up, I used this opportunity to clean, service, repair, replace, lube, caulk and re-tighten up loose items. So, if you haven’t utilized your camper in awhile feel free to follow along as I get my camper ready for a busy camping season.
My overall goal in conducting preventative maintenance is noticing and fixing small items before they develop or become major issues later. Naturally, if I uncover something major it’ll get fixed quickly as we depart soon. When I start digging in and checking systems and components the first thing I grab is a bright flashlight and a mirror otherwise a person is just blindly wasting their time. A mobile device with a camera comes in handy to take photos of areas you just can’t get eyes on. These are mobile, mini houses and require keen attention to maintain in top shape. I took a ton of pics, but for visual brevity and not wanting to kill Truck Camper Adventure’s server, I’ll only include the discrepancies or “squawks” and fixes as we call them in aviation.
NOTE: I did NOT accomplish all this in one day. I spread it out over a week’s time and even then I felt I could do more. This is not “all encompassing” nor “finite”—your mileage will vary.
The Interior (Part 2)
Steps, Door, Hinges
Where to start? Why at the steps and door first. Check the steps and all the bolts and nuts to make sure they are tight. If the step hinges, does it move freely? Spray some WD-40 on the attachment and hinge hardware to keep the rust down. Check the condition of the skid step material. I sprayed the rubber skid material on my Fox Landing with Aerospace 303 Protectant just to keep the UV from deteriorating the material. Watch out it can be real slick afterwards.
Next, look at the door and screen. On mine, the screen door was sagging (make sure your camper is level vertically and horizontal before you attempt to adjust the door). Look at the hinges. Grab the appropriate screw head and tighten the hinges on both the door and the frame. Additionally, after a few years of use I’ve noticed the door latch has required frequent adjusting. Adjust the door latch and mechanism until you’re happy with the firmness. Lube the door lock and mechanisms with white lithium grease. I use the spray can with a long red “smart straw”—it works great—and check the latch for firmness again. Operate and lube the lock too—use graphite on the lock. Open the door.
Grab some Aerospace 303 and wipe down the door seal. Look for cracks and cuts, and if not serviceable, replace it. Check the rubber stop on the outside wall next to the door hook. Mine was deteriorated and was starting to come apart at the base against the exterior. I ordered a new rubber stop for $8.00 on Amazon.com. Spray some Aerospace 303 on the new rubber door stopper to delay it’s deterioration then attach it. Next, it’s time to inspect the electric slide-out.
With the electric slide-out closed (standing outside looking inside through the door) I looked under the slide. Every nylon bushing bolt on the slide was loose! I found a slide-out rail roller on the floor and after a little searching found the nut too—whew! Don’t be intimidated by this job. Here’s how you attack it. Grab a light and direct it where you are going to be working. You’re going have to lie on the floor and reach in for the inner rail attachments. For us big guys this is a challenge. I found I could just barely get my arms under the floor and into the area where I needed to tighten the bolts and screws.
Use the right tools and don’t over-torque the nylon bushing bolts. Put the roller back on the rail so you can prepare to attach the nut. Take note of the Allen head shaft on the roller. Tightening the nut is a little trickier as the center of the roller has an Allen head tip to hold the shaft while you tighten the nut with a combination wrench. Add some Loctite to the threads, so you won’t have to mess with it again.
Wipe down the bottom of the rail to remove the dirt and grime. Then add a drop of oil to the rail (don’t use grease as it’ll attract and retain the dirt and grime).
Since you are already on the floor, take your flashlight and look over all the wires, cables, and routing for chafing, security, and solid attachments. Look at the slide motor attachment hardware for security and firmness. If you can, get someone to operate the slide switch, while you watch to ensure there is no interference underneath as the slide moves. If you have a wire bundle not quite moving out of the way grab a tie wrap and secure it. Check operation again if you’ve adjusted wire bundles etc. Now operate the slide to the “out” position and leave it. Next, go outside and get under the slide-out, but watch your head.
On the outside, with the slide out, peel the two rubber gaskets down (a long screwdriver works wonders) to get access to the outside rail attachment bolts. Check to make sure they are tight—mine were loose—you’ll see the threads and the bolt head will not be flush if they are loose.
Grab a socket and a ratchet and snug them up. Don’t over torque them! Look also at the outside rail mounts (close to the outside). Wipe the bottom rail and then apply a drop of oil. Look over the teeth in the wheel and the rail. Hopefully, they are in good shape without excessive wear. If you see metal shavings you need to investigate and find out why. Since I’ve already cleaned the camper I now put Aerospace 303 Protectant on the rubber seals—the inside wiper seal and outside seal got a good wipe-down with 303 all the way around (get back on the roof to wipe down the top seals if not already done earlier). Just peel back the rubber seal with a screwdriver to get access to both sides of the external seal and the internal wiper seal. You’ll be surprised how much dirt you get on your rag wiping them down. Once finished, operate your slide and note any grinding or abnormal noises. It should operate smoothly.
Go back outside and look at how well it’s sealed against the exterior in the closed position. If you’ve got a big gap you’ll need to adjust the closed position. Mine fit nice and snug and operated more smoothly than I can remember. If satisfied, leave it open while you continue working inside. I was happy to see my slide-out was operating better than new.
Air Conditioner (Inside)
Now it’s time to finish up the air conditioner maintenance. Take a screwdriver and remove the two plastic black cover screws. Pull down the filter panel. Clean the plastic panel, as it’ll be dusty. Wash off the filters in soap and water, rinse and squeeze out the excess water and lay them over a towel to dry. Next, grab your drill with a Phillips tip and extract the four screws on each corner and the three small screws for the internal duct. Either disconnect everything and detach the panel or get a helper to hold the panel while you look for and tighten the four 8mm unit ring to roof attachment screws holding the base to the roof.
The only way you can verify they are loose is to try and tighten them. All four of mine were really loose. Snug them down—don’t over-tighten them—they’ll probably loosen again in time. Reattach the cover and the filter panel (don’t forget those foam filters). Then wipe the plastic down with some Aerospace 303. Next, crank the fan to “on” and then further to “A/C.” Make sure your fan and air conditioner unit is working.
Inspect the door for closing correctly and smooth operation. Inspect the rubber door seals for flexibility without tears. Check the sliding door locks. I had one pretty loose, but it was still locking. Now is a good time to just clean the entire refrigerator. The bottom drawer and glass panel will come out once you remove the strip on the left side (three screws). Check the shelves and door shelves. Now that it’s clean and dry, I wiped down the door seals with Aerospace 303 and all the plastic. Power up the refrigerator in A/C mode. Select “on” and a desired temp. Give it a minute or so to power up. I’ll just leave it alone and come back later to check on the temperature and then run it off propane to check if it’s working properly. I use two remote temperature sensing probes to monitor how well its working/cooling while camping and these come in handy on camper preparation/checkout.
Next, I filled the water tank about half full—20-25 gallons. I hooked up my white water hose and in-line charcoal filter to the hose bib at my house. Since I’ve not had running water through the hose or, charcoal filter, I turned on the tap and run a gallon or so of water to ensure its fresh and clean. I bought a little digital flow meter years ago I hook right in-line with my water hose to monitor how much is going in. Before I turn on the water I confirm my drains are all closed and the hot water tank anode plug is installed. Next, turn on the water pump and let it pressurize the system. Get out your flashlight to inspect the Water Pump for cavitation, loose mounting attachments, leaks and a clean screen with no debris. Mine seems to be vibrating a little more than normal so I grab my 8mm wrench and tightened up the motor mount screws, which were at least a turn and a half loose. I waited for the pump to stop then I opened the sink tap to bleed off the air—the pump should come back on. Next, I opened the hot water sink tap to purge some air while the hot water tank fills.
Note: The hot water tank will bleed off the air on its own; I’m just trying to expedite the process.
After I’m positive the air is out of the hot water tank, and I don’t hear the tank filling, I turn “on” the electric hot water tank heater. With a flashlight, I inspecting for any leaks under the sink, hot water tank area, under the wet-bath, anywhere I can visibly see, etc. While inspecting my water line I heard the water pump kick on a few times intermittently with no faucet running. Hmmm, that’s a warning flag. That should not be happening with everything off and definitely not normal to come on every few minutes or so. I surmise I have a leak somewhere and now I can’t stop looking until it’s found. Ugh. These leaks can be a nightmare to find and usually you have to take the bottom panels off to access the entire basement for a thorough inspection. Northwood replaced my potable water tank under warranty when it started leaking in my first year of ownership. Immediately, I suspected something associated with that, as that system was definitely “disturbed” to remove/reinstall a new tank. Oh boy, what fun. Flashlight, mirror and iPhone camera were put to maximum use.
Soon, I found evidences of a leak from water calcium remnants on top of the gray water tank below the sink. You can see the calcium build-up on the forward black tank.
Using the iPhone and flashlight, I’m able to get a pic of the leak, under pressure, under the sink where the Water Pump 1/2-inch flex line hooks into the PEX lines (hidden behind and down under the sink). Look closely at the pic; water can be easily seen at the attach point.
Here is a pic of this leak now fixed (under-sink area all removed for access). I bought some higher quality flex line with a thicker outside diameter that should hold up much better. I think this hose had been compromised for a while. I vaguely remember camping on the last outing and noticed water under the truck bed on the ground and the pump doing the same thing (running intermittently) with no demand. Evidently, I totally missed that one. Well at least that leak is fixed now and I cannot find anymore. Fingers crossed. Now it’s time to check the hot water. Open the hot water tap. It should be hot. As I recall my Suburban hot water tank will go to a max internal temp of 180 degrees. I grab a thermostat and check the temp—it’s 175 degrees. Plenty hot. I turn off the electric hot water switch-no sense in it still heating and then confirm the water pump switch is off.
Now that I’ve confirmed no more leaks, as far as can ascertain anyway, I hook up my white water hose and in-line charcoal filter to the city water supply attachment on the camper, but I also add my 40-50 psi regulator
I do this just to verify the check valve inside the camper at the water pump is working which prevents city water from flowing into my on-board potable water tank. I turn on the cold water tap in the sink and verify water is NOT flowing into the main water tank in the camper while under city water. There is also an anti-siphon vacuum breaker behind the stove that if an inadvertent use of the on-board water system is used it cannot back-flow into the “city” water supply. I do not turn on the water pump to operationally check if this vacuum breaker is working—it would just piss water behind the stove and make a mess while connected to city water. It is therefore never recommended to turn on the water pump while utilizing city water.
Now it’s time to turn on the hot water propane switch. You should hear it start up. Go outside and verify operation. Open the access panel (you should hear the propane burner going) and verify no leaks. Leave it “on” to hose down the wet bath with hot water.
To the wet bath. I use the Oxygenics Body Spa RV shower nozzle to thoroughly spray down the dirt/dust and debris in the wet bath with hot water. Next, I wipe the wet bath down with a non-abrasive cleaner. If you want to add a layer of protection to the composite shell put on a layer of car wax. Buff it off and then polish it with some 303. Turn off the hot water propane switch.
Note: After the shower gets used a few times while we’re camping we dry the wet bath then spray and wipe off/polish it with Rain-X Exterior Detailer. Rain-X on the wet bath composite material makes the clean up so much easier and it keeps the wet bath looking sharp while minimizing water spots.
After I’ve wiped down the toilet and polished it with Aerospace 303, I added some Jet Lube Silicone Compound DM to the toilet knife valve. Operate the handle a few times to ensure smooth operation. Some folks use graphite, but I’ve found it just makes a mess and this silicone works just as good or even better in my view at keeping the rubber gasket lubricated, sealed correctly, and not leaving behind debris. If you don’t have a rubber gasket on the bottom you wont get a watertight seal. Hopefully you don’t have a bad odor when the knife valve opens—if you do you probably never drained and flushed the tanks from last use. Turn the water back on and flush the toilet and run some water in the tank. Make sure the knife valves seals the bowl from the lower tank. In preparation for the trip I added some water to the black water holding tank through the toilet and then I added some T-5 RV Toilet Treatment.
With water now in both the grey and black tanks, confirm the grey and black knife valves are in the closed position. Grab a flashlight and a bucket—just in case of a leak—and put on some rubber gloves. Remove the dump drain cap and confirm the drain valves are not leaking. Use the flashlight and look for any leaks in the basement area of the tanks. Knife valves can be replaced if they no longer seal. Reinstall the drain Cap and discard your gloves. Turn off the hose bib and disconnect the city water hose to the camper attachment point. Head back inside the camper.
With the propane on, I did not notice any odors or alarms, so I head to the stove for some MX. First, I fold up the top cover then I lift up on the front part of the grate and then the rear to remove it. Next, I slide the top cover of the stove back toward the wall and lift it out to clean, and inspect the stovetop burners, igniters, wiring and plumbing. After cleaning the stove top, I operate each burner separately using the pezio spark igniter to light the burner. If you look at each burner on the side you should see the igniter. My igniter on the center burner was toast. You can find the burners on-line for about $40—they don’t sell just an igniter as it’s built into the burner. Remove the burner (one Phillips screw); the black gasket and the spark lead carefully. Reinstall the new burner, attach the spark lead and screw down the mount.
Next, I light the pilot in the oven (no igniter in the oven) and ensure the oven burner is working properly. After the stove and oven burners are off, I check the range hood vent screen and clean it as necessary. Soak it in some Simple Green then run it through your home dishwasher to get it real clean. I make sure the range hood light works and operate the fan. The fan worked, but just wasn’t acting normal, then I remembered to go outside, grab a ladder, and move the vent tabs from the “locked” position to “open.”
I’m not planning to use the propane heater furnace, so I’ll defer that maintenance for any winter trips later this season. That check out includes confirming the thermostat turns on and off the heater. I always carry a small electric 110 volt heater should some weird cold front pop in unexpectedly.
Note: I wish Northwood Manufacturing or the other camper manufacturers would have an option to have the tiny diesel heater installed vice the existing propane heater (which consumes propane and DC power excessively in my view). Diesel heaters sip fuel compared to the thirsty propane heater and emit far less humidity into the camper when operating. I’ve seen folks even modify the fuel pickup to their diesel fuel system negating the need for the small diesel fuel tank. This system might be a future modification for me as you can get them now for less than $250.
Wipe down the microwave inside and out. I’ve already operated it (functional check when I was on GenSet power) so I know the round table turns and the unit heats effectively.
Electrical Components (outlets, plugs and switches)
Check all the interior and exterior camper lights and inspect/ clean the lenses if required. Plenty of the ceiling lenses had dead bugs. They are easy to pop out and quickly clean and reinstall. Operate every switch, fan, and rheostat. Check the outlets (USB if you installed any, the 110 volt outlets inside and outside, the cigarette lighter in overhead cab area) and the GFCI above the sink. I use a simple receptacle tester or my voltmeter whichever is most handy for all the 110 volt outlets—seen here plugged in. Notice USB outlet mounted above.
Open the fuse panel and verify the fuses are all good.
12 Volt Fuses: The easiest way to check 12 volt fuses is with a “test light.” Clip the test light to a 12 volt battery terminal. Position the pointy end of the tester on the left side of the fuse (you can see a tiny hole with metal). Poke the tip in and the light should come on. Then do the same on the other side. Now you have confirmed (without removing the fuse) that there is continuity in the fuse—its good. If the test light does not come on remove and replace the fuse.
110 volt A/C Fuses: These are just like your house. Turn the breaker off and then try to operate the A/C system. Next, reset the breaker and turn on the system. You have confirmed that power is going through the fuse as advertised and is working. Hopefully, any over amperage will trip the breaker.
I check the TV operation and make sure it ties into the stereo and the speakers still work. I also check the DVD and radio.
I also check and test the propane and carbon monoxide alarms. Both are brand new, spring 2020. I also check the camper status panel. It should read your current configuration—battery topped off, black and gray tanks almost empty, and the water tank about half full.
I’m just about done! I open and close every window looking for binding excessive wear, dirt, broken hinges, latches, and locks and missing sealant or attachment screws. All the windows are in great shape and just require some Windex and some dirt and dust removal on the bottom ledge. Now is also good time to apply a few drops of oil to help the windows slide easier. I notice I’ve got some window treatment shade hooks that have busted from the heat—brittle. I’ll look into replacing those. I also look over the window screens for any holes, cuts, tears or excessive slack. They all check out great for another year!
Next, I look over the cabinetry for any deformations, water damage, or excessive wear. Inside the pantry I remove the wire cabinet and clean the area. All the dishware (dishes, pots, pans, etc.) look great but I remove them all for a quick wash inside the house—the dishwasher takes care of that expertly. Then I grab some furniture polish and wipe down the wood cabinets. It usually soaks in quickly. Then I look over the linoleum floor for cuts, tears, and excessive wear. So far, so good.
Next, the carpet gets a quick clean and a visual once over for any big wear areas needing deep cleaning—especially under the table. Since the vacuum is out what better time to vacuum the upholstery and window shades. I’ve got that funky “mouse fur” fuzz on the ceiling so I don’t touch it with a vacuum. Next, I make the bed with fresh linen and blankets. I think I’ll wrap this PM effort up and turn it over to the wife so she can begin stocking the camper inside with all the appropriate vittles. Now, its time to start packing a road trip toolbox and prepping the F350 dually for the long trip. We’ll be on the road before we know it!
Since I’m just now getting around to posting this let me add this. After returning from our 15-day, 1,500 mile camping adventure I can report the camper operated flawlessly!
One thing I did forget was to deploy, inspect, lube, wash and spray Aerospace 303 on the rear awning. Ugh! We stopped to camp on the Oregon Coast, on a 92-degree bright sunny summer afternoon, and deployed the rear-awning for shade. OMG—it was dirty had black splotches and smelled horrific. After all that prep I’d forgot the awning—remember, your mileage will vary! Needless to say, our post trip cleaning and storage prep included opening the rear awning and trying to remove the dirt and black splotch areas. It took quite a bit of scrubbing using Simple Green and elbow grease. I did find that some areas were stained a pink color and that is from microorganisms that are almost impossible to remove. Once I got it as clean as I could I sprayed both sides with Aerospace 303, buffed it with a microfiber towel and rolled it back up. We’ll have to see how well that protects and prevents future mold growth.
I washed and waxed the camper exterior on return and then put on the cover. I have to watch having the gray cover on in the summer heat here in Vegas as it will allow the interior to get excessively hot. On the front cab I add four “noodles” between the front cap and the exterior to provide a good airspace gap. Sometimes I’ll pull the cover back from the front cap just to keep the stagnant heat down on the exterior front cap gel coat.
Covers are double-edged swords! On one hand they protect the rubber roof, plastics and gel coat from excessive UV and dirt but the downside is they absorb and retain the radiant heat causing excessive temps both externally and internally. This degrades the adhesives and can even leave your gel coat with some areas of delamination or waviness. The very best solution during storage is just get it out of the sun and then put on the cover.
On the inside with the exterior cover on, it’s not uncommon to see 116-degree temperatures during the summer (stored outside). I will open the two top vents at least an inch or so, add a fan inside the camper to circulate the air, and add a 5-gallon bucket full of water to add some humidity into the interior. This is about the best solution I’ve found. Winters here in the desert are mild. I add an electric heater with a temperature controller, so that when it gets cold enough it kicks on the heater and fan. When the temps are forecast to get below freezing, I’ll turn on the basement fan to circulate air from the basement into the camper.
Operators storing their campers outside in the northern cold and wet climates have other issues to deal with during storage—continuous freezing temps, excessive interior humidity from exterior rain, ice and snow. I’m no expert on that, so I’ll leave that topic open. Please comment below on what you do so other campers glean from your cold/wet/icy weather storage experience.
I hope you got some useful mileage from this and that it helps you keep your camper in tip top shape. Good luck and Happy Camping!
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