How to De-Winterize Your RV or Camper

Camping season has arrived and it’s time to de-winterize your RV to get it ready to go. But, if you’ve never de-winterized your motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer, here’s our step-by-step guide to help get your RV back on the road so you can get camping!

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When you bring your RV out of storage, you’ll need to commit some time to not only de-winterize your RV but also complete some RV maintenance to get your motorhome or camper back on the road.

So, let’s dive right in and get to it! Because the sooner you get your RV de-winterizing completed, the sooner you can go camping!

RV MAINTENANCE: How to De-Winterize Your RV or Camper

RV Exterior Care

When you pull your RV out of the weeds in your backyard or storage garage, the first step you’re going to do to de-winterize your RV is inspect your motorhome or towable’s exterior with a fine tooth comb.  

      • Look for cracks in the fiberglass, check all seals, sealants and caulking.
      • Inspect all roof vents, doors, windows, and every seam and seal.
      • Remove old cracked caulk and sealants, clean and reapply new. Allow all caulk and sealants to dry throughly prior to washing or water testing for leaks.
      • Make sure there’s no damage to the body or components.
      • Put out your awning to check to make sure its working properly.
      • Deploy and engage your RV steps; lubricate joints if needed.
      • Inspect your RV roof and all fittings around air conditioners, antennae and slide-out tops. Clean places before applying self-leveling roof sealant.
      • Lubricate all locks and hinges and tighten any screws or bolts.
      • Make certain all lights work; inside and out.
      • All valves in your RV’s utility center should open smoothly with ease.
      • Inspect the tires for any cuts or cracks.

Once your RV exterior has been inspected, repaired and everything is working correctly, it’s time to give your RV motorhome, fifth wheel or camper trailer a good once-over with an easy dusting polish to make her sparkle and shine.

If your RV has been stored out in the harsh weather elements, you may want to check out how we protect our RV from salt air and sun damage.

So, now that we’ve got your RV exterior ready, let’s get to de-winterize your RV utilities and ensure your mechanical RV components are ready to go.

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Inspect and Charge your RV Batteries

As you may or may not already know, your RV house batteries will discharge substantially while in storage. So, part of de-winterizing your RV, you’ll need to do a little RV battery maintenance. 

First, we recommend putting on some rubber or latex gloves and eye protection. Battery acid is highly corrosive and will cause serious injury to your eyes and skin if safety precautions aren’t taken.

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You’ll also want to make certain you secure all power to your RV. Ensure the main cutoff is OFF.

After which, inspect your batteries’ connections. Check for cracks in the battery housing and connections. Using a soft toothbrush or clean rag, clean them up with hot water and baking soda. Allow them to dry completely before reconnecting the cables to the terminals.

You’ll need to charge your batteries completely. Once they’re completely charged, check the battery fluid levels. Fill your batteries using ONLY distilled water.

If your batteries are cracked or damaged, replace them promptly. We highly recommend replacing multiple battery packs in unison. Never put in a new battery with old ones.

Any time you remove your RV batteries, be mindful of the wiring. Make certain all battery cables are clearly marked with positive and negative. You may want to take a photo of your setup before disconnecting them so you have a good reference of how to reinstall your RV batteries.

In our case, we converted our battery bank of four lead acid batteries to six lithium batteries in our fifth wheel. And in our Winnebago View motorhome, we replaced its’ original house battery with four of our lithium batteries.

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Now our RV batteries require zero maintenance! This has lessened the stress of maintenance schedules, adding water, etc. The bonus is we can take our lithium batteries down to zero state of charge.

RV Propane System and Propane Tank

Another integral part of de-winterizing your RV is to make certain your propane system is reading to go. Inspect all seals and hoses on your RV’s propane system making certain they haven’t cracked or dried out. Also, check to make sure rodents haven’t feasted on any hoses, cables and wires.

Before you proceed to test, turn off all propane powered appliances first. Avoid smoking and keep away from flames or sparks. It’s wise to turn on your propane leak detector inside your RV.

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After opening the valve on the propane tank all the way, smell for evidence of propane leakage. A good way to find leaks is apply soapy water on the regulator and valve. If you notice any bubbling, you have a leak. Should you feel uncomfortable repairing propane components, we highly recommend you leave this job to the professionals by contacting a certified RV tech who’s proficient in propane components.

If you don’t have any leaks, clean all of your propane components and appliances. Continue onto the testing process by lighting and allow them to run awhile. Once you’re satisfied with their functions, ensure they all operate properly in the LP mode.

When checking your propane RV refrigerator in electric mode, turn it off. Open the doors allowing it to return to room temperature. Then test it electrically.

Since RV tank monitoring systems are notorious for giving false readings. We highly recommend installing a bluetooth propane tank monitor. It provides more accurate propane level readings so you don’t run out at inopportune times. We’ve been able to estimate down to the least fraction of when we need to refill our propane.

RV Water Heater

You’ll need to check your water heater’s exterior access cover and refrigerator panel as part of your RV de-winterization process. Make sure they’re free of cobwebs, dead (or alive) insects or spiders, dirt, and debris.

Inspect it for cracks, splits and leaks. If you’ve not cleaned your water heater component when you winterized your RV, this is a good time to complete that project now.

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It’s important though to clean your water heater compartment thoroughly, we use a water heater cleaning wand to get deep into the component to clean out any calcification and hardened debris.

Read our hot water system cleaning how-to guide.

RV Fresh Water System

As RVers, we know that water is an RV’s worst enemy. And if you don’t know the source of a leak, your RV will suffer the consequences as will your wallet. Oftentimes, it will end up a costly project so it’s important to keep after those leaks.

When you de-winterize your RV, part of the process is checking every nook, cranny, pipe, joint, seal, gasket, etc. for water leakage.

Move the water heater’s bypass valve to the normal position. Then check all faucets and pipes for leaks by turning on the cold and hot water. Place a dry paper towel in under-cabinet plumbing to easily see any leakage.

While inspecting for water leaks in your basement compartments, make sure you check your UDC connections. Recently, upon finding a leak in our basement, we ended up replacing our Kantleak water service panel and water pump.

If you’ve winterized your RV using antifreeze in your water system, drain and flush it thoroughly. As discussed in a previous blog on how to properly clean your RV’s fresh water tank, you’ll want to sanitize your water system.

As discussed in that blog, we recommend adding 1/4 cup of plain bleach (not that scented crap!) to every 15 gallons of water to your RV’s fresh water tank. Allow the water/bleach mixture to sit for 4 hours. After which, drain and flush out until the water no longer has a bleach odor and tastes clean.

RV Sewage System – Black Tank and Gray Tank

One of the most embarrassing moments in RVing is your gray or black tank leaking. Your black tank should have been stored with empty tanks, so this shouldn’t be a nasty or tedious job.

But, you’ll need to inspect your sewage hose and connections for leaks. You’ll also want to check your RV tank valves.

Even if you’ve cleaned and emptied your black tank before stowing your camper for the winter, you’ll still want to do this while connected to a dump station or sewer hookup. First, look closely at the visible sewer plumbing that leads out of your RV. Check the pipes for cracks or splits and ensure joints are properly sealed.

Next, you’ll want to inspect the valve seals. Cautiously pull and move the handle and watch closely for leaks. Should the valve stick, you can lubricate to acquire a better seal.

Oh, and it’s the perfect time to install a new sewer hose storage under your RV so you’re not storing your sewer hose in with all your outdoor camping gear (video below):

Once your inspection, repairs and you’re sewage system has checked out, use the following RV black tank geo method each time you dump and flush to keep your sensors and tank clean.

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For in-depth RV tank maintenance, check out what our a professional RV tank maintenance specialist recommends in the video below:

Inspect and Inflate your RV Tires

Your tires are the most important safety component on your RV. Because, face it, if your tires are crap, you ain’t goin’ nowhere. Or, if you do chance going down the road on aged or damaged tires, you’re going to get stranded or worse, in an accident.

So, take necessary time to inspect your RV tires carefully. Look for craps, cuts and scrapes. Inspect the treads and sidewalls.

Tire Maintenance

Realize that while your RV has been stored, typically those tires will have significant PSI. Before inflating, we recommend you check the tire manufacturer’s proper tire pressure. Once you know, inflate your tires to the recommended tire pressure.

And, if you’re in the market for a reputable tire pressure and temperature monitoring system, check out this tire pressure and temperature monitoring system we prefer.

For more in-depth article, check out our RV Tire Safety & Maintenance Guide

Most importantly, take your time inspecting, caulking, cleaning and getting your RV ready to go.

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RV Interior Care

Now that you’ve completed all of your RV’s exterior care and component maintenance, its time to de-winterize your RV interior with these easy steps.

      • Give it a good vacuum and sweep.
      • Get rid of pests that may have taken refuge in your camper (i.e. insects and spiders, rodents, snakes, etc.).
      • Check for rodent damage including wire chewing, nesting, and defecation. Immediately repair chewed wires, filters, insulation, etc.
      • Inspect the ceiling, walls and floor for water damage. Repair the source of where they originate. Look for mold, mildew and mushrooms. Clean and sanitize throughly.
      • Dust and clean every corner and crevice. As well, give your refrigerator a good cleaning with hot soapy water with disinfectant. Put in new deodorizer in both your refrigerator and freezer.
      • Drain antifreeze out of water lines and flush thoroughly with fresh water.
      • Clean all fan and window screens.
      • Replace all of your dehumidifying moisture absorbers with new ones. 

SAFETY NOTE: If you have evidence of rodents, ALWAYS wear your PPE! Disposable gloves and a disposable face mask for biohazard removal.

That’s a Wrap!

So, that wraps up how to de-winterize your RV. If you follow these simple but necessary steps, your motorhome or camper will be ready for camping season. But also, by doing each will re-familiarize yourself with all of your RV components and provide a sense of security knowing your RV is ready.

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Related articles:

RV Tire Safety and Maintenance

Protect your RV from Salt Air and Sun Damage

RV Air Conditioner Cleaning and Maintenance

How to Clean and Sanitize RV Fresh Water Tank

Clean and Maintain your RV Hot Water System

RV Roof Inspection, Cleaning and Maintenance

RV Fantastic Fan and Window Screens

 

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