It's summer, and our Airstream is sitting in storage as we eagerly await our next trip. Because an out-of-sight Airstream can quickly become an out-of-mind Airstream, we schedule regular visits to inspect for problems that can slowly get worse if left unchecked.
A storage lot inspection is particularly important during the hot dry Arizona summer–or if you've winterized and your Airstream is sitting in the cold.
Here's the checklist I use to inspect our Airstream in the storage facility, and identify a lurking problem or trip-killing repair. This video walks you through each step:
1. Perform a visual inspection of the exterior
When you get to the storage lot, begin your inspection on the outside of the Airstream. Are there any signs of vandalism or theft? Rust on the hitch? Pigeons roosting above and leaving a mess on the roof? Are weeds growing underneath that could create a path for bugs to get up and into the Airstream?
If everything looks normal, great. But if you find something that doesn't look quite right, investigate further or put a fix-it or troubleshooting task on your to-do list.
2. Check the tire pressure
If the tires don't look flat you might assume that all is well. But by the time the tires look low, the tire pressure is actually very, very low. So, it's important to check the pressure even if the tires look ok.
You can use a manual tire gauge to check each tire, or if you've got a tire pressure monitoring system, fire it up and look at the monitor as it cycles through each tire pressure. If tires are more than 10% low, top them up or make a note to bring a portable compressor on the next visit.
3. Go inside and sniff
Are there any funky smells present? Does anything smell moist or moldy, indicating a possible water leak? Is there a rotten odor, like garbage?
Smells can tell you a lot about what you need to look for. If something smells "off," look around to find the source. If not, move on to the next inspection point.
4. Switch the battery disconnect to the USE (or ON) position
Hopefully, when you put your Airstream into storage you remembered to put the battery in the STORE or OFF position (depending on the type of battery disconnect installed in your Airstream). If not, be sure to do this next time. If so, push the button to the USE or ON setting to reconnect the battery for the rest of this summertime storage check.
If you attempt to switch the battery disconnect to USE and the red light on the panel does not light up to indicate battery power, it probably means that your batteries are completely flat.
There are several reasons why your Airstream's batteries can go dead in storage. I cover these—and how to prevent them—in this blog.
For purposes of this inspection, however, if the battery disconnect won't go into the USE position, you will need a voltmeter to check the voltage of the batteries and start diagnosing the problem. If they are indeed dead, you'll need to plug the Airstream or get a battery charger.
5. Check the battery voltage
Assuming the battery disconnect switch is working properly, you can look at the SeeLevel II monitoring system and push the BATTERY button. If the meter reads at least 12.6 volts (for lead acid batteries) or at least 13.3 volts (for lithium), you are in good shape.
If the battery volts read less than that, it's an indication that the batteries may be draining or not holding their charge. Actions you might take include plugging in to charge the batteries, or if you are using solar to keep the batteries charged, perhaps moving the trailer out of the shade or moving your portable solar panels to capture more sunlight so your batteries stay maintained.
6. Turn on the water pump
Because it's summer–and for us it's extremely dry in Arizona–I always check the water seals to make sure they aren't dried out. For instance, the toilet seal at bottom of the toilet should be kept moist all times. And the p-traps should always have a bit of water in them, so sewer gas doesn't drift into the Airstream.
With the water pump on, do these things:
- Flush the toilet
- Run water down the bathroom sink, kitchen sink, and shower drain
These steps will make sure there's enough water to keep the toilet seal moist and the p-traps maintain their water seal.
7. Give the rest of the interior a visual inspection
Open all the drawers and cabinets. Look for droppings and shredded fluff that might indicate rodents. Make sure the garbage can is empty and that you haven't left any food or other items that could rot or attract bugs or critters. Even experienced Airstreamers leave behind the occasional detritus when they're in a hurry!
Next, take a look at the sidewalls and ceilings for things like:
- Dried streak marks or stains coming down the wall that could indicate a possible rainwater leak
- Countertop dust with dried droplets of water that could indicate a possible rainwater leak
- Water stains on the curtains
8. Turn off the water pump and put the battery disconnect switch back to the STORE or OFF position
That's it! Your 10-minute summertime storage lot check is all done.
You can close things up knowing everything is as it should be—or, leave with a task list of fixes or things that need further investigation. Either way, it's time well spent.