When we first got our motorhome we were so excited. Our dream of just throwing in our bedding and hitting the road quickly became way more difficult than we thought.
You quickly learn you can’t just leave everything in the motorhome ready to go as things like the bedding needs cleaned, its a good idea to empty all the tanks between uses and a myriad of other things that have to be done and checked if you want a problem free trip.
Here is a list of the common mistakes we made (some we are still making) when we first got our new motorhome in no particular order. Hopefully, you can avoid making them.
1 Purchasing an older motorhome and going on a long trip
When you get your new older motorhome there are going to be some repairs needing to be done. You will at least have to get to know your new motorhome and all the quirks that you have to learn about. If you don’t you could have some unexpected bills.
To give just a couple of examples, in our motorhome the gearbox oil was very low. It took ages for me to even find out how to check that but I was really glad we had not just jumped in for a long trip when I saw how low the oil was.
The leisure battery was completely gone and only measured 6 volts and was destroying the second battery. Luckily we caught this quickly and only had to replace one.
Just realise that there is so much to learn and can feel a bit overwhelming at first but you will get there.
2. Puting the hob cover down while the gas is still on
This has almost caught us out a couple of times. It happens when the gas is on low, on a bright day and you think that the cover, made of glass on ours, is safe to put down. We have been lucky so far but it is very easy to do and will usually cause the glass cover to shatter and can be quite pricey to replace. Make sure the gas is off before you put down that cover.
3. Cranking up the stabilisers too much
This is common as they should be just touching the ground and not lifting the back of the motorhome in the air. They are really just to stop the bounce in the rear suspension, not for liting the motorhome off the ground. I think ours have been damaged by the previous owner trying to jack up the back of the motorhome.
4. Forgetting the stabilizers are down
Of course, once the stabilizers are down you have to try to remember to lift them up again before you go. This is a favourite one to forget about when you are excited about going to a new place. Have the stabilizers as part of your walk around list. They are quite costly to replace.
5. Forgetting to disconnect the electric hook up electricity
This is so easily done and I actually started moving before I saw the bright orange cable in my mirror. Again this was a lucky escape and managed to stop just before there was any damage done.
How is it possible? We had a fridge full of food, it was very hot and we wanted to leave the fridge on the electric hookup for as long as possible. Once the engine starts the fridge can run off the alternator. With all the distractions when doing the final checks and making sure everything is away you tend to forget what has still to be done, we forgot we were still connected once we started the engine. It was very close to a disaster.
6. Not Cleaning the windscreen before set off
The windscreen on our motorhome is huge. Its an A class motorhome so the windscreen is across the full width of the motorhome – about 8 feet. There are only two window wipers. Don’t get me wrong you can see fine its just that once underway, especially in the winter when there is salt on the roads it’s a good idea to clean the main windows. Just helps reduce the stress of driving a little. Definitely a good one to do, If possible put a product like Rainex on the windscreen so the water just runs off and keeps the windscreen very clear.
7. Forgetting to do a walk around before setting off
Alway, always walk around your motorhome before you set off. You will almost always notice something you forgot. Once all the family is inside and strapped in so they can’t get out have a walk around the vehicle and make sure electric cables are disconnected and hoses are all away, stabilizers are up. That walk around could save you a fortune.
8. Forgetting to put the tables away
This is one for the new guys like us. We would be strapped in with the table still up and head off. It would take ages for us to notice that the table wasn’t packed away. It can be dangerous during a crash, either the passengers hit off the table or the table hits off the passengers. Not options I am fond of.
Our table goes under the mattress of the over cab bed. We actually have two, the second one goes into a locker. The number of times we forgot was ridiculous. We have a much better system now – remember to put them away.
9. Not securing everything inside before we leave
This sort of goes along with the tables. When you have been parked up a while and you get comfortable and all the things come out of the lockers, you begin to not see everything around you. For us, it seems to be the kitchen items like olive oil, herbs and spices, the kettle go invisible. In the bathroom soap still lying about or toothbrushes. Its amazing at first how you just don’t see all the junk that could be flying dangerously around in a crash. Train your eye and put anything lying around in a cupboard.
10. Not Making Sure Cupboard Items are Secure
Once you put things away in the cupboard you have to pack them securely otherwise you will have a ton of broken stuff in your cupboards. We like to secure the kitchen crockery with dish towels. The cutlery drawer is also a pain and has to be stuffed or you get the noise of cutlery jangling for hours. If you forget this pre-departure step then it can sound like you have put your whole kitchen into the drum of a washing machine and switched it on – a consistent crashing and banging and jangling. Not many people can take it for long, your dishes certainly cant.
11. Leaving a light on when not hooked up
Or any powered item on in your motorhome when you are not there. Get into the habit of switching off the main switch and most things should be off.
I say most things and if you are in a new motorhome this would probably be the case. As a motorhome ages it has many different owners all with different ideas about how to wire certain things up and can bypass the switch. So when you get your older motorhome double check to see what does and what doesn’t go through the switch. That will help you know what you need to make sure is switched off so you don’t end up with a dead leisure battery on your first day.
12. Trying to drive too quickly
Motorhomes are surprisingly easy to drive but they are not fast. Take your time, they are heavy high-sided and wide vehicles. Don’t be scared to slow down. If you have miles of tailback behind you then pull in and let them pass. Always give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, it’s going to take longer in a motorhome.
13. Ignoring sounds and smells
Never ignore anything that you think has changed. Check it out and make sure a noise or smell can be explained. If you can then get it checked out to be sure.
Just recently on one of our longer trips, I could suddenly smell diesel. I sort of ignored it as I was overtaking a large lorry and thought it was coming from that. When it didn’t go away I pulled in to the next safe place, got out and there was diesel literally pouring out from the engine. It looked terminal. Turned out to be a split hose but if I had chosen to ignore it who knows what damage would have been done.
14. Leaving the awning out
So easy to do. Once up you just take it for granted and go off for a walk. Before you realise the wind has picked up and when you return to your motorhome the awning has blown over the roof. You really do not want that to happen these are very expensive to replace and even the parts can be expensive. Best to keep it rolled up if you are away for any time and keep an eye on the wind.
15. Take your time learning
There is a very steep learning curve. You need time to take it all in. You will be learning about engine maintenance, electrical systems 12volt and 240volt for us in the UK, waterproofing, gas systems and appliances, the general maintenance of the interior to name but a few and that’s before you have even started driving it. My advice is – take it slow and don’t give yourself a hard time for what you don’t know but enjoy the learning. Once you have a grasp of the workings you will feel more in control.
16. Not checking the gas levels
Have done this a few times. You have to remember that the heater, the cooker as well as the fridge and hot water all run on gas. Just remember to check how much gas you have in your bottles. This sounds easier than it actually is. As of yet, I have not found a reliable meter that can measure the amount of gas left in our gas bottle. The meters tend to be no more than a guide. Don’t get me wrong, a guide is good but sometimes you need accuracy so you can judge if you need to change the bottle or not. Having two bottles solves this problem as you can just run the bottle down till its empty and change over but if you have only one bottle chances are you will lose a bit of gas when you take your bottle for exchange unless you run out when you are away. I prefer to have the bottle changed before we leave, saves us hunting for gas bottles on holiday.
17. Not closing the roof vents and hatches while driving
When its hot and you have all the doors, windows and hatches open, make sure you close them all before you start travelling. All our windows and hatches are nearly 30 years old so they are not the strongest. A few times we have set off and the main hatch is still open a little. Make sure all the windows and hatches are closed you do not want them to be ripped off or damaged. Again, these are expensive to replace, especially the large ones.
18. Forgetting about the step
Classic mistake that happens so many times. There is usually a warning, some motorhomes have alarms. Our brake light stays on the dashboard so usually you notice. However, 27-year-old lights are not the brightest and if there is bright sun it can be hard to see. The danger time for me is if you want the do some slight manoeuvring and the step gets caught on something you didn’t anticipate or notice before you start moving. So far have been lucky but watch out for it.
19. Not paying attention parking next to lamp posts and trees
This one is of those moments when you feel your heart sink. You pull up to the kerb and hit a lamp post, how is that even possible? Our road has quite a camber on it so you can park next to the lampost fine just not in a high sided vehicle. So you can be a foot away from the kerb and the top of your motorhome will graze the lamp post. Fortunately, I noticed this before we hit the lamppost but keep a good eye out for things if the road is not completely flat as the top of the motorhome will be moving much more than the driver’s seat.
Taking a lot of stuff you don’t need can be a pain, it just gets in the way when you are trying to find the stuff you do need. That’s not the main problem – the main problem is that you may actually overload your motorhome. A lot of motorhomes do not have a huge payload so you have to choose what you take carefully
21. Forgetting the toolbox
If you have an old motorhome, never forget to take some tools. I have on occasion forgot to put in certain tools and it feels like driving naked. Have a box of tools you think you may need or that you would be annoyed if you forgot them and just leave them in there for whenever you want to go quickly. Obviously, watch the weight, you don’t want to be overloading.
22. Failing to check the tyres for damage and pressures
Always do this. Having had a dramatic puncture the risk is just not worth taking ten minutes to check the tyre pressures and making sure the tyres are in good condition. If your tyres are at the correct pressure it will ensure a longer life for your tyres.
To check the age of your tyres click here.
23. Put off fitting a reversing camera
You know, sometimes I can be foolish. I bought a wireless reversing camera for the Hymer at the very early stages of ownership. I had driven a couple of times and realised that I could not see a thing at the back of the motorhome. There was a blind spot as big as a house.
I realised how urgent the camera was when I was reversing into my drive and a pedestrian nicked behind me to get past before I reached the drive which was about five feet away. Luckily I caught a glimpse of them in the wing mirror or I would have gone right over them. Time for a camera. What a difference, even a cheap one makes. It may not have a huge screen but you do have a very good idea whats going on behind you. If you don’t have one, get one.
24. Forget to prep for winter (freezing temperatures)
You must drain down the water in your system. If you don’t the taps will get damaged. We were always forgetting to drain the tanks. You do not want to be buying a new hot water tank. Make sure everything is drained down so if it freezes there should not be any damage to a lot of expensive parts.
We had to get a new tap which cost a surprising amount of money.
25. Leaving things on the dash
The Hymer has a huge dashboard. In fact, the idea of making it into a spare bed was talked about. As a result of the space, it can become a rubbish magnet and sometimes you don’t even notice. When you set off you notice all right when there is a tidal wave of junk flying across it.
Make sure it’s clear before you move.
26. Leaving the gas on while travelling
I have done this a few times and it’s not clever. Before you set off always make sure you switch off the gas bottle valve at the gas bottle. It just means that if there is an accident and a gas line gets fractured you won’t have the added complication of propane being released in an emergency situation. Make sure its off.
Also, make sure the individual isolation valves are off while travelling as well.
27. Make sure all the curtains are tied back
Our Hymer has old school curtains at the windscreen and the side windows at the front. The windscreen curtains are always tied up because you see them easily but the curtains at the side are sometimes forgotten or they come loose. It’s good to make sure the curtains are tied up if the windows are open and they are not secured they tend to fly out the window and block the view in the mirrors which can be a bit of a problem.
28. Forget the tin opener and salt
For some reason, we always seem to forget something essential for the kitchen. We have not quite reached the stage of having a permanent set up for the motorhome yet so we load up most of the items we need. Mainly for that reason, we tend to forget something essential so having a list of all the things we need would be useful but somehow we always think we can do it by memory. Never quite works.
29. Forget to make sure the over cab bed is secure.
In a Hymer, there is a drop down bed above the driving area. Once we forgot to attach the belt that holds the bed up and it dropped down when we started moving, a real rookie mistake but thankfully we were not on the road at the time. When you have your bedding and the table up there it can be a bit of a weight. Always make sure drop-down beds are secured.
30. Forgetting to have Fun
Well, not really. We always have fun. Even when the motorhome breaks down and we have to get towed home, it’s all just a big adventure. There are no guarantees with a motorhome holiday and that is part of the fun. Always have fun.
There is so much to think about in a motorhome it really is amazing that we actually get anywhere. So many mistakes in such a short space of time, I am sure there will be plenty more.
Feel free to leave your mistakes below, I am sure our list is not comprehensive.