Do you know what an RV’s biggest enemy is? The answer is WATER! This is precisely why you should never pressure wash your RV motorhome, camper or travel trailer. Simply because of the high-pressure of the water will damage your RV’s exterior surfaces and components. Also, a pressure washer, if used incorrectly, can also cause personal injury.
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I absolutely cringe when I see RV owners or RV detailing services using pressure washers to clean the exteriors of motorhomes and campers.
The several-hundred-hertz fluctuation from near-zero pressure to even 1500 PSI (pounds per square inch) or more can damage anything in the pressure nozzle’s aim.
And, if you hire an RV detailing service, you better make darn sure they are qualified to pressure wash your RV. A simple oversight or mistake can result in expensive damage. And guess who will be on the hook for that damage?
So, let’s take a good hard look at why you should never pressure wash your RV.
Why You Should NEVER Pressure Wash your RV
Full Body Paint and Gel Coat
You’ve invested a lot of money into your motorhome or camper. One of the most expensive things you can damage by pressure washing your RV is the exterior fiberglass finish. If your RV has full body paint, you’re looking at upwards to $25,000 to repair the exterior finish.
RV Decals and Graphics
If your fifth wheel, travel trailer or motorhome does not have a sealed gel coat or full body paint, your decals are most vulnerable to pressure washing.
Even spraying any water on your RV decal or graphics, you risk injecting water underneath the edges which will eventually cause your decals to lift, crack, bubble or peel off completely.
Also, pressure washing directly over the decals or graphics may destroy the color and finish.
Doors and Windows – Caulking
If you spray any high-pressure water directly onto your RV windows or doors, you risk damaging not only the fittings and caulk, but also you’ll be inviting water intrusion to the inside of your RV.
Exterior Vents and Access Panels
Even when hand-washing your motorhome or camper, it’s very important to never allow water to enter all exterior access panels to your RV refrigerator, convection or microwave oven as well as your water heater. This also includes your propane furnace vents. Each component has sensitive electrical parts and wiring that can result in direct damage. And further, can affect the safe operation of those components.
But more importantly, water intrusion to these components can pose serious health hazards or even can be fatal. Water and electricity don’t mix. If you pressure wash your RV, you could risk electrocution or fire due to electrical shorts caused by water contact.
Exterior Electronic Components – Speakers and Electric and USB Outlets
Newer RVs are oftentimes equipped with exterior audio speakers as well as electric and USB outlets. While they are designed to withstand outside elements, they are not intended to receive direct high pressure water infiltration.
If you pressure wash your RV, it can cause damage not only to the external components and their housings but also, internal wiring. Let’s not forget your RV an incur water damage to the caulking and seals around them as well as water intrusion seeping into your fiberglass walls.
For more detailed information on how to properly care for your RV exterior: Protect your RV from Salt Air and Sun Damage
While yes, your RV roof is meant to get wet, it’s not designed to withstand direct high-pressure power washing. Fifth wheel and travel trailer rubber roof membranes risk gouging, tearing or slicing depending on how close your high-pressure nozzle is.
But you can even damage your motorhome’s fiberglass roof with a high-pressure power washer. First, you’ll damage the fiberglass finish but also, any caulking or Dicor adhesive applications.
So, by avoiding pressure washing your RV all together, you’ll alleviate any controllable damage to your roof construction.
While your RV air conditioner units are meant to withstand wind and rain, they are not designed to withstand straight-line high-pressure washing. So, it’s best to just use your regular all-purpose water hose and RV soap to wash away any surface dirt, pollen and road grime from your air conditioner covers.
For more detailed information on how to take care of your RV rooftop air conditioner units: RV Air Conditioner Cleaning and Maintenance
Skylights and Roof Vents
Like the exterior vents and access panels on your RV’s exterior body, pressure wash contact can crack your motorhome’s or trailer’s roof vents. This also includes your Gen-turi as well as your RV black tank vent.
But also, high-pressure washing will also degrade or damage any adhesives or roof sealants.
If you pressure wash your RV roof, you stand to damage your television, satellite dish and WiFi antennae as well as any adhesive applications that secures them to your motorhome or camper’s roof.
For more detailed information on how to take care of your RV roof: RV Roof Inspection, Cleaning and Maintenance
Chrome or Aluminum
Using a power washer or pressure washer on any chrome or aluminum accessories or your wheels can damage the finish causing it to later peel or cloud. It’s better to hand-wash your chrome or aluminum rims and any decorative exterior RV accessories and decorations with a mild RV wash. You can follow up with a good coat of chrome or aluminum polish and buff until shiny.,
Brakes, Seals and Bearings
Pressure washing your RV’s wheels is a big no-no to begin with on RVs in general. However, from a safety standpoint, high-pressure water can adversely affect your RV’s brakes, seals and wheel bearings.
Instead, just use a gentle spray with your all-purpose water hose to clean off any residual brake dust, dirt and grime from your wheels.
Your RV tires are the most important feature on your RV because, that’s how we roll. High-pressure power washing your rubber tires can cause damage to the sidewall cords inside your tires.
It’s best to just use a tire scrub brush with our recommended tire soap to clean your tires. After, you can apply a tire dressing to preserve the rubber while protecting them from UV rays and salt damage.
For more detailed information on how to take care of your RV tires: RV Tire Safety and Maintenance
There’s a reason why your engine is protected by a hood or engine housing; to keep water away from the engine components. However, if you pressure wash your RV engine (motorhome), getting too close to everything under the hood could result in an expensive disaster.
Everything from electrical wires, fuses, gaskets, hoses, fittings and delicate mechanical parts can be subject to becoming dislodged, broken, flooded or soaked from high pressure water.
If you insist on cleaning your motorhome’s engine, use a specialized engine cleaner and your all-purpose water hose instead. Always wipe down with a clean dry cloth after to keep moisture at bay in your RV engine compartment.
That’s a Wrap!
So save your money on buying a pressure washer or hiring a detailing crew to clean your RV exterior.
But, if you’re hell-bent and insist on using a pressure washer to clean your RV motorhome or camper, be extremely careful not to get too close, especially if the nozzle of the pressure washer is set to a narrow angle.
Watch your PSI and always keep your pressure washer nozzle at a safe distance from any surfaces as well as your person. Never play around with a pressure washer as they can cause serious injury if not used correctly. And, not that anyone needs a reminder, do not allow children to play with or use a pressure washer.
And, while we don’t recommend using a pressure washer on your RV, there are a few reputable high-pressure power washers out there.
If you have a very powerful gas-powered pressure washer unit, you’ll need to make sure you’re using the right adapter. And always…ALWAYS make certain the water pressure is turned to minimal PSI.
So, that wraps up this article. We hope it was insightful and helpful in helping you decide if pressure washing your RV is the right thing to do. And, if you have a big enough checkbook in case it causes damage.
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