How to Use a Motorhome in New Zealand

Before you begin your exciting New Zealand adventure in your new motorhome, you need to be aware of the various safety and functional procedures associated with your unit’s features and amenities. To help readers out, we have put together this helpful guide:

1. Driving & Cab

Under New Zealand law, all RV passengers and drivers are required to wear a seatbelt at ALL TIMES while driving. Because an RV unit is much larger and wider than traditional vehicles, you need to be aware of your driving at all times, giving yourself time to adjust to the new driving style. You will need to start your unit by holding in the brake, putting the vehicle into a neutral gear, turn the key part of the way to the right, allow the glow light to turn off, and then move the keys into the full “on” position. Be sure to check power cords and other storage spaces if the RV alarm goes off after beginning to drive.

When operating the handbrake located in some units, be sure to pull up on the handle until you hear a ratchet sound. To release, pull up slightl further with the button fully depressed, and then let it drop into the down/off position. Always have the handbrake on before adjusting seats in the RV unit.

Finally, always allow extra space for turning and other road vehicles when driving an RV unit. To avoid loss of driving stamina and awareness, give yourself breaks every few hours of driving.

2. LPG

The majority of RV units have supplied LPG to operate both interior stoves and hot water systems. Additionally, some units will use the LPG to operate the interior heating system, and attached BBQ unit. When picking up your vehicle, your LPG unit should already be completely refilled, and attached securely to the vehicle. To begin gas flow, turn the knob anti-clockwise as far as it can go, and then back a fraction.

Make sure the shut-off valves are parallel with the pipes of the LPG system’s pipes. In an emergency, turn the gas flow and shut-off valves to the “off” position.

3. LPG Stove

Some vehicles will come with a stove ignition switch, and a range hood switch. To begin using your LPG stove unit, be sure to turn the range hood switch on, select the burner, press downwards, and ignite using a match. Never cook on the glass cover surface, and always ensure the burners have cooled completely before returning the glass cover to the closed position.

4. LPG Hot Water Heating and House Heating

Your vehicles LPG system controls will differ depending on your RV rental model. To use hot water, if your RV has it, you will need to assure that the LPG system is operating, there is water in the tank, and the water pump swtich is on. If your system has a switch and a red light, simply turn the switch to the “on” position and wait for the red light to turn off to use the hot water system, indicating that the gas has ignited.

You should always wait a minimum of 20 minutes after the light has turned off to use hot water features. Additionally, if the red light comes back on during this waiting period, which means the ignition has failed, you will need to check the LPG system for leaks, and to see if the various knobs are in the correct position. You may turn the water heater back on. 

Other systems work differently. Simply pressing the on button, or turning the switch to 60 degrees will get the ignition process started, and you will need to wait at least 20 minutes for the water to heat. But if the red light on the unit comes, ignition has failed, and the LPG unit will need to be checked after turning the switch off. Always ensure that the gas knob is completely turned off before driving.

Some systems will have a thermostat connected to the LPG system. Units with this function will have a simple-to-understand knob system to control the temperature within the RV unit. Similar to the other unit control systems, you will need to check the LPG unit if the system fails blow cool or warm air, or has a flashing red light. 

5. 240V Power

In most RV units, the 240V power unit will provide power to the microwave, power outlets, and house battery charger. Additionally, some units will use the 240V power to charge the hot water heater, and the space heater system unit.

It is recommended that you plug your house battery into the 240V power system a minimum of once every two days to keep it at a sufficient and functional level of charge. To connect to the power unit, always make sure the main unit power is shut off, insert the power cord into the motorhome, and insert the other end of the cable into the campsite power where you are staying. Finally, simply turn on the power unit to begin charging.


6. 12V Power

The 12V power is provided by the house battery you will charge using the 240V power. This power unit helps to charge the fridge, house lights, stove ignition, and water pump. Additionally, some 12V power will provide a charge for TV/DVD units, range hood, outdoor step, awning, and toilet flush system.

Every 12V power unit is a deep cycle battery, separate to the vehicle energy battery. This means that if the house battery ever becomes completely drained, it will not affect your vehicle’s primary battery from being able to start the RV. Additionally, the house battery will experience a gradual charge while driving, but will never be completely charged from this gradual process. This means you must remember to charge the house battery overnight using a 240V power unit every few days to ensure a sufficient charge.

Finally, the 12V battery isolator switch must be turned on at all times if you wish to use the appliances operated by the house battery.  However, be careful to avoid plugging appliances into the 12V socket in the cab when not driving, as it will drain the vehicle battery, potentially causing the vehicle to be unable to start.

7. Fridge Unit

The majority of fridge units run off 12V and 240V power. To operate the fridge, you must have the 12V battery isolator switch must be turned on, as well as the fridge isolator switch. When not plugged into a 240V unit, the fridge will run off the charge contained in the house battery.

To ensure the fridge works at maximum efficiency, keep from overcrowding the unit, keep the door tightly closed, and the outer vent dial closed. When driving or plugged into a 240V power source, be sure to turn the fridge onto a high setting. However, when sleeping at night, this switch should be turned to a low setting to minimise noise. At all other times, you should have the fridge turned to a medium setting.

8. House Lights

Similar to other small usage units, the house lights are operated via the 12V house battery. To operate the house lights, both the 12V battery isolator switch, and the house lights switch, must be turned on.

9. House Heating

When your unit has an electrical heating unit, be sure to connect to a 240V power source to operate. Then turn the dial to the “on” position to increase or decrease the motorhomes inner temperature.

For diesel-based heaters, however, you will simply need to turn the heater dial to the desired temperature. To check on the status of your diesel-based heating system, and for it to operate properly, you will need at least a quarter of a tank of diesel gasoline in your vehicle’s tank.

Most heating system units will have a separate dial to determine which heating system you want to use, such as the water heating, or vehicle temperature systems. You should allow up to 60 minutes for water to become heated when using this unit to take a hot shower, or get hot water from the sink.


10. Toilet Unit

Before using the toilet, ensure the toilet unit switch is turned on. When flushing the toilet, be sure to turn the unit lever, and push the flush button to have a functional flush occur. If you need to remove the waste unit to empty it, the toilet lever must be turned to the off position. Additionally, this lever should always remain at the off position when driving.

When refilling the toilet flush water unit, you will need to open the toilet locker on the side of the vehicle with the keys given to you. Be sure to reference the unit’s meter to see how full of water it currently is. To fill the tank further, pull out the filling nozzle, unscrew the cap, and fill the water. However, NEVER add chemicals to your unit, as it can cause irreversible damage.

We recommend that you empty your toilet’s waste unit a minimum of every one to two days. Otherwise, the smell can cause discomfort and health problems. Additionally, you must always empty your toilet waste unit at a regulated and official waste disposal location, at your camp, or other properly equipped location. Tip the waste unit into the disposal station, and press the release button to empty. Always ensure the waste unit is properly aligned after returning it into the side compartment on your vehicle.

11. Fresh Water Tank

Most units have a fresh water tank that provides fresh water for the sink, shower, and water basin. To obtain running water, be sure the 12V battery isolator switch and the water pump switch are turned on. When wanting hot water, be sure to reference the above-listed LPG hot water heating section.

To ensure your unit does not run dry, we recommend filling up your fresh water tank a minimum of every one to two days. The refill process is simple, as you must simply attach your unit’s hose to the water source at the holiday park, and attach the other end to the fresh water tank unit. Always refill at a slow pace, to avoid water bubbles. Finally, when your unit is full, it will begin to overflow out of the tank, or below the vehicle. When this occurs, disconnect the hose, and reapply the cap cover to your fresh water tank.

12. Waste Water Tank

For most RV units, the sink and shower will drain into the waste water tank. Similar to the toilet units, we recommend emptying the contents every one to two days and the waste water tank must be emptied at an authorized dump station.

To empty your waste water tank, attach your waste water hose to the unit nozzle, secure it, and place the other end of the house into the dump station. You must then pull the unit’s lever to 'open' to release the contents. Once the draining process has finished, you must return the lever to the 'closed' position, and remove the hose.

Drains in most waste water tanks are very narrow when compared to those found in a regular house. To avoid blockage, avoid pouring fats, oils, or food particles down the drain.

13. Awning

If you wish to release the awning, loosen the two wing nuts, lift the two levers, and use the pole provided with the unit to pull the awning out. After this has been done, be sure to tighten the two wing nuts to secure the awning.

Never bring out the awning when extreme weather conditions such as intense rain or winds are present. Additionally, never leave the awning pulled out while you are asleep or the vehicle is unattended. Finally, before beginning to drive again, be sure that the awning has been placed back into the normal position and secured.

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