Van Life How To: 10 Things Vanlifers Need to Monitor on the Road

Van Life How To: 10 Things Vanlifers Need to Monitor on the Road

Buy or Sell Campers

Buy or Sell Campers

29 July 2023

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In the world of adventure and freedom, van life has emerged as a popular choice for those seeking to explore the open road while enjoying the comforts of home.

Living life on wheels offers unparalleled experiences, but to make the most of it, proper knowledge and preparation are essential. In this ‘van life how to’ guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of van life and provide you with valuable insights on how to optimize your journey.

In the following sections, we will dive into the various aspects of van life, offering valuable ‘van life how to’ tips and insights to help you embark on your journey with confidence and preparedness.

So, let’s get started on this exciting road trip of knowledge and discovery!

Table of Contents πŸ“–

Regular Inspection

Engine Oil

Air Filters

Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)

Tire Rotations

Tire Rotation Patterns

AGM Batteries

Lithium Batteries

General tips to conserve your energy

Cleaning Your Solar Panels

Water Tank Maintenance

How to Check Fasteners?

πŸ’‘ Lights and Windshield Wipers

First Aid Supplies
Emergency Tools

🚐 General Campervan Maintenance

Maintaining your van is the backbone of a successful van life journey. A well-maintained vehicle ensures safety, reliability, and peace of mind as you travel to new destinations. Regular upkeep and preventive maintenance are essential to keep your van running smoothly and avoid potential breakdowns that can spoil your adventures.

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πŸ” Regular Campervan Inspection

Get into the habit of conducting routine inspections of your van. Check the engine, tires, brakes, lights, and other crucial components to identify any issues before they escalate. Look for signs of wear, leaks, or unusual noises and address them promptly.

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Engine Oil

The engine oil is the lifeblood of your van’s engine. It lubricates moving parts, reduces friction, and helps dissipate heat. Regularly check the engine oil level and change it as recommended by the manufacturer to ensure optimal engine performance and longevity.

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Air Filters

Air filters play a vital role in maintaining the engine’s health by filtering out dust, dirt, and other contaminants. Clean or replace the air filters at regular intervals to ensure a steady flow of clean air into the engine, which improves fuel efficiency and performance.

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Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)

If your van is equipped with a diesel engine, understanding Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is crucial. DEF is an emissions-reducing fluid that plays a significant role in cutting down harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel engines.

By converting NOx emissions into harmless nitrogen gas and water vapor, DEF helps reduce the environmental impact of diesel vehicles.


Tire Rotations

Tires are the literal connection between your van and the road, and their condition directly affects your driving experience. Regular tire rotations are essential for maintaining even tread wear, extending tire life, and ensuring consistent performance throughout your van life journey.

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Tire Rotation Patterns:

There are several tire rotation patterns, each designed to address specific wear patterns. The most common rotation methods include:

  1. Forward Cross
    This method involves moving the front tires to the opposite sides of the rear axle, and the rear tires move straight forward.
  2. Rearward Cross
    Similar to the forward cross, but the rear tires move diagonally to the front, and the front tires move straight back.
  3. X-Pattern
    The tires on the front axle are swapped with the rear tires on the opposite side, creating an X pattern.

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πŸ”‹ Battery Levels

In the world of van life, batteries are the lifeline that powers various electrical systems and devices on board. From lighting and refrigeration to charging your gadgets, maintaining proper battery levels is crucial for a comfortable and functional van life experience.

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πŸ”‹ AGM Batteries

AGM batteries are a popular choice among van lifers due to their deep-cycle capabilities and maintenance-free design. These batteries are specifically designed to handle repeated charging and discharging cycles, making them reliable power sources for various electrical appliances in your van.

AGM batteries are known for their:

Durability – AGM batteries are highly resistant to vibrations, making them suitable for life on the road.

Safety – They are non-spillable and sealed, reducing the risk of hazardous leaks or acid spills.

Low Self-Discharge – AGM batteries have a lower self-discharge rate compared to other battery types, meaning they can hold a charge for more extended periods without regular charging.

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πŸ”‹ Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries have gained popularity in recent years due to their high energy density and longer lifespan compared to traditional lead-acid batteries. While they are more expensive upfront, their advantages make them a worthwhile investment for serious van lifers.

Lithium batteries are known for their:

High Energy Density – Lithium batteries can store more energy in a smaller and lighter package, which is especially advantageous for van life where space is limited.

Longer Lifespan – Lithium batteries can withstand significantly more charge and discharge cycles compared to
AGM batteries, resulting in a longer overall lifespan.

Fast Charging – Lithium batteries can charge and discharge at a faster rate, making them more efficient for power-hungry appliances and devices.

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Solar panels on roof of camper van

Photo credit: Oxbow Van Conversions, a van conversion company in Bend, Oregon

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β˜€οΈ Solar Power

Harnessing the power of the sun has revolutionized the way van lifers approach energy consumption. Solar panels on the roof of your van can convert sunlight into electricity, providing a clean, renewable, and sustainable power source for your on-the-road needs. Embracing solar power not only allows you to live off-grid but also contributes to a more environmentally conscious and eco-friendly van life journey.

As a van lifer relying on solar power, adopting energy-saving practices is crucial to making the most out of your energy resources. By following these tips, you can stretch your power supply and ensure a comfortable and sustainable van life experience.

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β˜€οΈ Cleaning Your Solar Panels


Efficient solar panels are essential for optimal power generation. Regularly cleaning your solar panels will remove dust, dirt, and debris that accumulate over time and hinder their ability to absorb sunlight effectively. Follow these steps to keep your solar panels clean and operating at their peak performance:

1. Give the solar panels a good hose down or shower of rain to wash away dirt and dust. This is an important van life how to for keeping panels working optimally.

2. Stand on a ladder next to the van and use a soft broom, sponge or window squeegee with soapy water to clean the surface of the panels. Scrub gently to remove any residue without damaging the panels.

3. Be sure to hose off any soap residue thoroughly so it doesn’t impact efficiency.

4. Check underneath the solar panels and remove any leaves or other debris. Keeping the underside clean allows for proper airflow and cooling. Cool solar panels work more efficiently.

When cleaning the roof and solar panels, never stand on the panels themselves. Also inspect seals around the mounts and electrical cables to identify any leaks early. Staying on top of van life how to maintenance protects your investment in solar power.

πŸ’¦ Water Levels & Cleanliness


In the world of van life, water is a precious resource that you must manage wisely. Ensuring an adequate supply of clean water and maintaining the cleanliness of your water system are vital aspects of a comfortable and sustainable van life journey.

Water Tank Maintenance

Keeping your water tank clean and well-maintained is essential to ensure the water remains safe and free from contamination. Follow these tips for water tank maintenance:

Water Filters

Install water filters in your van’s plumbing system to further purify the water and remove any impurities.

Sanitize Water

Hoses: Ensure your water hoses are clean and free from any buildup. Sanitize them periodically to prevent any potential contamination.

Slide-out Pantry

πŸ”© Fasteners & Cupboard/Drawer Closures

As a van lifer, you’ll be traveling on various terrains, encountering bumpy roads and vibrations along the way. These constant movements can gradually loosen fasteners and bolts in your van. Regularly checking and tightening fasteners is crucial to maintaining the structural integrity of your van and preventing potential issues.


How to Check Fasteners?

Follow these steps to ensure your van’s fasteners are secure:

Visual Inspection:
Regularly inspect visible fasteners in and around your van. Look for any signs of looseness, rust, or wear.

Use the Right Tools:
Have the necessary tools on hand, such as a socket set, wrenches, and screwdrivers, to tighten loose fasteners.

Tighten Gradually:
If you notice any loose fasteners, tighten them gradually and evenly. Avoid overtightening, as it may cause damage to the fasteners or the components they secure.

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🌑️ Coolant

Keeping your van’s engine operating at the right temperature is crucial for its performance and longevity. Coolant, also known as antifreeze, plays a vital role in regulating engine temperature and preventing overheating, especially during long drives and hot weather conditions.

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πŸ’‘ Lights and Windshield Wipers

Clear visibility and proper lighting are essential for safe driving during your van life journey, especially in adverse weather conditions or at night. Maintaining your van’s lights and windshield wipers ensures you can see the road ahead and be visible to other drivers, enhancing overall road safety.

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πŸš— Tire Pressure


Proper tire pressure is crucial for a safe and smooth driving experience in your van. Maintaining the correct tire pressure not only ensures optimal handling and performance but also contributes to better fuel efficiency and extends the lifespan of your tires.


🚨 Emergency Kit


As a responsible van lifer, preparing for emergencies is essential. Having a well-stocked emergency kit ensures you are prepared to handle unexpected situations while on the road.
Your emergency kit should include:

First Aid Supplies:
Bandages, antiseptic wipes, adhesive tape, pain relievers, and other essential medical items.

Emergency Tools:
A flashlight, multi-tool, duct tape, and a fire extinguisher.

Communication:
A fully charged mobile phone with emergency contacts, and consider a portable charger or power bank.

Basic Repair Supplies:
Duct tape, spare fuses, and tools to perform minor repairs.


πŸ“ Summary


Embarking on a van life journey is an exciting and liberating experience. To make the most out of this adventure, prioritize general vehicle maintenance, manage diesel exhaust fluid levels, perform regular tire rotations, monitor battery levels and utilize solar power for a sustainable energy source. Additionally, maintain water levels and cleanliness, regularly check and tighten fasteners, ensure proper coolant levels, maintain lights and windshield wipers, and monitor tire pressure for a safe and smooth ride.


By taking a proactive and responsible approach to van life maintenance, you’ll enjoy a more comfortable, safe, and memorable journey filled with amazing experiences and breathtaking sights.

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πŸ”‘ Key Takeaways

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πŸ’§ Keep an eye on Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) levels.

πŸ”„ Rotate tires to extend their lifespan and improve performance.

πŸ”‹ Check and maintain battery levels, considering AGM and Lithium Batteries.

β˜€οΈ Utilize solar power efficiently and keep the solar panels clean.

🌑️ Regularly inspect and top up coolant levels.

πŸ’‘ Ensure proper functioning of lights and windshield wipers.

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⁉️ Frequently Asked Questions

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It’s essential to follow the maintenance schedule outlined in your van’s owner’s manual. Generally, regular oil changes, fluid checks, and inspections should be performed every few thousand miles or as specified by the manufacturer.

Inspect your solar panels regularly for any dirt, debris, or dust accumulation. If you notice reduced solar power generation or visibly dirty panels, it’s time to clean them.

If your engine overheats, pull over to a safe location and turn off the engine. Allow it to cool down before attempting any checks. Do not open the radiator cap while the engine is hot, as it can cause burns. Seek professional assistance if needed.

Check your tire pressure at least once a month and before long trips. Regular checks help maintain optimal tire performance and safety.

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