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Keeping up The Old RV

As you know, I have a 5th wheel. It’s a 1993 30 foot Fleetwood Terry Resort. I bought it used and in need of repairs but I love it! The space inside is huge when the slideout (entire living room) is out, the kitchen is bigger than in my previous trailer and situated just the way I like it, and the shower has a seat in it which is handy. Best of all, it cost so much less than a new one that it is fully paid for! Most of the repairs I was able to do myself but some have needed extra help and were not cheap by any means so I do have a good chunk of money invested in it. It is my home. Unfortunately, not all RV parks or employers can appreciate its fine qualities. They see the date of manufacture, the weathered, peeling decal on the door, a few dings here and there (Hey, I didn’t put them all there, some it came with!) and they assume it is falling apart. No matter what you do to fix up the insides or items hidden from view, it is important to keep the outside up and make it look like you care about your rig. Here are some things you can do to get past the age police:

1. Wash it! Nothing makes a rig look better than not having dirt, mud, or black streaks on it. You don’t have to pay to have it professionally cleaned or find a car wash with a trailer wash stall. I was actually able to get a teenager to wash mine once very cheaply and he did a fantastic job. If you are in a park that doesn’t allow running a hose to wash your rig, then use a bucket. It works! It may not look perfect afterward but it will look nicer and I have never had a park jump on me for bucket washing. You can also have some fun and use a good rain storm. Anytime it rains where I am, I run out with my extendable brush and wipe down my truck. It’s perfectly good water so why let it go to waste?

2. Wax it when you can. Folks like to see a gleaming trailer no matter what the age. Even if all you wax is the front and the side that faces the office when checking in, it can help make a good impression. To get out extra paint from hitting a post or other vehicle, try rubbing compound on metal sides but go gently and try it on a small area first. Don’t advertise that you or the previous owner aren’t perfect drivers and don’t ask me how I know this works. Winking smile

3. Get rid of the frayed awning hanging down. If your awning is all torn up, carefully release it (see YouTube videos on this) and get rid of the fabric or better yet have it replaced. I can’t tell you how ugly a torn awning looks to your fellow campers and park staff. It is OK to keep the arms and roller if they are not damaged but don’t wait a year to do something about that bad awning if the damage to it is obvious.

4. No duct tape outside or blue tarps. Both are very useful when you first find an issue but they were never meant to be permanent. If you can’t afford a professional repair, then be creative and try doing some sort of repair yourself. Caulking is easy and cheap. Eternabond is great stuff and available at most RV parts places. YouTube videos can show you how to repair something easily yourself.

I had a small crank open window that just would not stay closed when traveling. It broke several times even after repairing properly because of the design and constant wind where I travel. I used duct tape as a temporary fix but then I finally just screwed the darn thing closed. I never use it anyway and it looks normal and nice outside now. Note: Never screw an emergency exit window closed! Those you must properly fix.

I have also had an issue where I believe a mouse chewed through a marker light wire in an inaccessible location below the floor under my bed. Replacing it perfectly would have meant opening the skin under the front of my 5th and cutting the floor outside or just cutting open the floor inside. What if we missed cutting in the right place the first time? That could get ugly very fast and in any case is very time consuming. Instead, we bypassed the break by running a new wire from one nearby marker light after testing it by connecting it to a battery to see if that would turn on all the marker lights again. We ran the wire through a closet and under the bed to  a small hole we drilled to drop down to the umbilical cord where we knew we had power. Creativity can be cheaper than perfection and still look nice.

5. Paint it! I have seen the most elegant looking old rigs that look even better than many newer rigs thanks to a good paint and/or decal job. When you buy a used trailer from a dealer, often times they have cleaned up rust and repainted parts to make an RV look better for sale. If you don’t feel like painting the whole rig or most of it looks a little aged but otherwise fine, how about doing like the dealers do and paint those smaller parts to show you care about your RV and extend the life of those parts. With electric sanders or multifunction tools, Rustoleum Rust Reformer, and a can of paint, anyone can make their RV look a little better. I recently painted the 5th wheel hitch on the front of my RV and the bumper on the back. They don’t make my 23 year old “baby” look new by any means but it does look much nicer  than with all that rust showing. If you don’t know how, then ask the guy at the hardware store, check YouTube, open a discussion around the campfire. There is nothing difficult about painting and the rewards are really worth it. For those of you who don’t have a home garage to do it in, you may be able to rent a space to do it in a garage or storage area or check if  a nearby RV park has an area they will let you do it. The Escapees park in Coursegold, CA actually has a workshop area for repairing vehicles, etc. Be sure to ask permission first and cover anything paint might get on that it shouldn’t including the ground.

RV bumper painted5th hitch painted

6. Don’t clutter outside. Whether you are staying in a campground for a day or a month, keep it neat out there. If you must keep a lot of items outside, put them together in a location that is not as in your neighbor’s face like under a slideout and keep them covered. A green or tan canvas tarp looks a lot better than the blue plastic tarps and aren’t as noisy. If you can keep them in the back of your vehicle, do it. Turn your 5th wheel hitch area into a nice storage area by making a skirt out of heavy vinyl or get one made for you. Put items away after use. Get rid of anything you don’t truly need and use A LOT!

7. Stand and take a good look at what shows through your windows.  Are your blinds broken? Are the curtains some wacky pattern or in tatters? Can anything be seen through the windows that wouldn’t look good including your old butt stepping out of the shower? Whatever it is, fix that view. Speaking of views, if your RV sports any bumper stickers, make sure they don’t include a date on them or anything that would make the age more obvious like “Vote for Harry Truman” or “Woodstock or Bust”.

8. Lie. That’s right. I said lie. If your RV is only a little older than 10 years, then when asked the year, tell them a year that brings it in at 9 years old. Learn that year. Commit it to memory. Update it next year. Repeat until it is too obvious that your rig is older than 10 years. Rarely do RV parks actually ask for proof and if one does, you can always say, “Oh, I thought you meant the year I bought it.” to cover. If you have followed the above steps and made your RV look nice outside, many won’t question you any further while others will let you stay anyway. Campgrounds and employers with a 10 year rule usually (though not always) will use some discretion when enforcing that rule.

While many of these may seem obvious, a lot of people either forget to do these things, don’t have money to fix it “perfect”, don’t know how, don’t notice the aging, or think it doesn’t bother them so why should it bother others. Unfortunately, we do live in a world that judges us all the time. There are still many people, especially local politicians, who don’t understand the RV life and consider us trailer trash. A good looking RV (and sometimes a little lie) will often trump RV age discrimination.

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