5 things to do before you head out for the 4th

If you're like a lot of Airstreamers, you're planning to travel over the 4th of July weekend. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of preparing for fireworks and picnics, and overlook some of the maintenance and safety checks that can delay or cancel your trip.

Here are 5 easy things you can do to ensure your trip doesn't get blown up: 

1. Check all of the Airstream's appliances

The last thing you need on a holiday weekend it to discover a "trip killer" at 6PM the night before you plan to leave. Whether you store your Airstream in the driveway or a storage facility – but especially if it's been sitting at a storage facility – test every system you can. Ideally you should do this a few days before you plan to go.

Two weeks ago I brought our trailer home from storage to pack it for a weekend trip. When I tested the air conditioner, it didn't work. Luckily we were headed to a higher elevation where air conditioning wasn't needed. But that could have been a trip killer in hotter weather, or we'd have to find another destination at the last minute.

Here's a walk-through checklist I use for our appliances:

  • Check the battery charge. Push the BATT button on the SeeLevel II monitor. Ideally you want to leave for a trip with a full charge, so if the batteries aren't reading at least 12.6 volts (12.9 for lithium) you should plug the Airstream in for a few hours. If the batteries are dead or low, read this to find out how to prevent it from happening again.

  • Turn on lights and fans. If some items don't turn on, you may need to check and replace a fuse. If you aren't sure how to replace a fuse, watch this short video.

  • Turn on the refrigerator and light a stove burner. If you have a propane fridge, make sure it runs on gas.

  • If you can plug in, test the microwave.

  • If it's going to be cold, test the furnace.

  • Turn on the water heater to make sure it works.

  • Put water in the tank and turn on the water pump.

  • If you can plug into a 30 amp or 50 amp plug (like you find in a campground), test the air conditioner. Do not test the air conditioner with a household (15-amp) plug. 

Make notes of what you'll need to clean or fix. For example, our bathroom door handle has occasionally fallen off. It's easy to fix with an Allen wrench and some Loc-Tite, but if I don't do it, someone's going to get locked in the bathroom (and one of us might also be in dog house, so to speak).

Some things might require a trip to the hardware store, so factor in time for that.

2. Connect the 7-way plug and make sure all the lights, brakes, and the brake controller work

If something's amiss, you might need to clean your electrical connections. Dirty connections can cause lights and brakes not to work. Dirty connections can also cause hot and melted power plugs when you're plugged in at the campground. If you aren't sure how to clean your connections, I explain it here.

Of course, when you are testing the 7-way plug, don’t try to tow unless you are fully hitched up!  

3. Check all the Airstream's tire pressures – including the spare

Use a tire gauge or fire up your tire pressure monitoring system and make sure all tires have the right pressure. Top up low tires.

While you're at it, check all the tire pressures on your tow vehicle too. 

4. Look at the weather forecast

This is the time of year to be on alert for potentially hot or stormy weather. Be prepared to watch local radar and avoid severe thunderstorms and hail, and pack clothes and gear accordingly. 

If you are headed someplace hot or planning to boondock, these are some of the things we do to stay cool in hot weather.

5. Make sure you’ve booked a campsite ahead of time 

Obviously this is essential if you're going someplace popular.

But even the places that used to qualify as "less popular" have become quite full. This is even more true when it comes to weekends and holidays. Make a reservation online or call ahead so you aren't disappointed.

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