As winter winds down, spring camping season starts to ramp up. For RV owners, it’s time to bring the campers and motorhomes out of storage and prepare their RV for camping season! But, before taking your RV on the road, you first need to de-winterize your RV. The RV de-winterizing process is more than just dusting her off. You’ll need to go over your camper with a fine tooth comb ensuring all systems are a GO!
What does it mean to De-Winterize your RV?
To de-winterize your RV is the opposite of winterizing your RV. It’s when you bring your RV out of storage, clear out lines, and do a massive cleanup to prepare it to be road worthy and ready to camp.
When you dewinterize your RV, you’ll need to complete a few RV maintenance tasks in getting your utilities back online in your motorhome or camper. You’re also going to go over every inch of your RV to prepare it for the rigors of RV travel and camping.
So, let’s dive right in and get to it! Because the sooner you dewinterize your RV, the sooner you can go camping!
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How to De-Winterize Your RV
Prepare Your RV for Camping & RVing!
De-Winterize Your RV Exterior
When you pull your RV out of the weeds in your backyard or out of the 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.
Give your RV a good soapy water wash down. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
While you’re drying your RV with a clean, nonabrasive cloth, this is a good time to inspect the whole outside of your RV. Make note of any cracks in the fiberglass, seals that need new caulking, missing or broken screws, nuts and bolts.
Inspect your RV roof for any damage and repair immediately. Check around all the vents, and fittings around air conditioners, antenna and slide-out tops. Clean specific locations thoroughly before applying self-leveling roof sealant so it adheres properly.
DOORS & WINDOWS
Check to make certain all doors and windows are aligned correctly and open/close with ease. Tighten loose screws, nuts and bolts. Lubricate hinges and locks.
SEALS & SEAMS
Ensure all seals and seams are not cracked or showing gaps or splits where water may intrude. Remove old cracked caulk, clean and reapply new sealant. Allow all caulk and sealants to dry throughly prior to washing or water testing for leaks.
Deploy your awning to check to make sure its working properly. Ensure all screws, nuts and bolts are properly secure. Give it a hose down and scrub if needed. Repair any tears or rips in the awning material. Lubricate all pivot points.
Deploy your RV steps to ensure they are working as they should. Scrub them down with hot soapy water and rinse well. Then, lubricate joints to ensure smooth operation.
If you’re RV steps are unsightly or your old step covers need replacing, new RV step covers will give your camper an updated look.
Make certain all outside lights work, including your RV’s running lights (brake lights, etc.). Replace any faulty light bulbs and repair or replace any broken, cracked or etched light covers.
UTILITY CONTROL CENTER (Water, Sewer)
Clean out your utility center where your water and sewer controls and valves are located. Ensure all valves in your RV’s utility center open and close smoothly with ease.
ELECTRICAL CORD & ADAPTERS
In the event of those aforementioned, it’s safer to replace the entire cord than to haphazardly repair it. Do not risk possible electrocution or fire by repairing them.
If your electric cord is attached to an electric reel, inspect and lubricate moving parts to ensure it winds your electric cord properly.
TIRES & RIMS
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 a fiberglass dusting polish to make her sparkle and shine.
Open up every exterior compartment on your RV. Check for moisture. Also look for any evidence of rodents, snakes, insects and spiders. Give them a good clean out.
Place a couple desi packs in each corner of your outdoor compartments to help mitigate moisture. It’s also wise to place one or two in each of your storage bins, your RV tool kit and RV repair kit, inside your air compressor bag. These are the best prevention methods for places where you don’t want things to rust or mold.
If your motorhome or camper has an onboard generator, it’s time to open her up and get it ready to go for boondocking or off grid camping. Without going into elaborate detail, you need to ensure it has clean oil and runs on maximum load with no issues. You also need to make sure your RV’s air conditioner runs flawlessly as well as all of your appliances, lights, electric outlets, etc.
So, now that we’ve got your RV exterior ready, let’s get to dewinterize your RV utilities and ensure your mechanical RV components are ready to go.
✰ READ MORE ✰ If your RV has been stored out in the harsh weather elements or where it’s sat in salty air environments, check out how to Protect Your RV from Salt Air and Sun Damage.
If your camper was in cold weather storage, you’ll need to do one of two things after putting your RV batteries back into your RV.
Either recharge them using a trickle charger before installing them back in your RV in a warm environment such as your basement or garage.
Or, install them in your battery compartment and plug your RV into an electrical source to recharge your house batteries. Make certain you use your RV surge protector between the power source and your electrical cord plug.
Now, if you did winterize your RV in warm temperatures but left your RV house batteries installed, be aware that your batteries will have discharged substantially while in storage. In any case, you’ll need to recharge them to 100% charging capacity.
Remember though, if your lead acid batteries have depleted below 50% or if your batteries are cracked or damaged, replace them promptly.
Also, if your batteries are nearing end of life for total efficiency, it’s a good idea to spend the money on new batteries for the upcoming camping season.
It might be a good time to replace them with lithium batteries and never have to worry about battery maintenance and discharge rates again!
Now, if you’re not replacing your batteries, you’ll still need to do a little battery maintenance on your lead acid, AGM or golf cart batteries. Lithium needs no maintenance other than recharging them. And of course, you can take them down to 0% state of charge.
First, it’s important to wear the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) when working on your lead acid batteries.
We recommend wearing protective chemical resistant gloves and eye protection. You’ll also want to wear old clothes for this project. Battery acid is highly corrosive and will cause serious injury to your eyes and skin if safety precautions aren’t taken.
You’ll also want to make certain you secure all power to your RV. Ensure the main cutoff is switched to OFF.
Next, inspect your batteries’ connections. Check for cracks in the battery housing and connections. Using a soft detailing brush and lint-free shop towels, clean them with hot water and baking soda. Dry them thoroughly with a clean shop towel. Allow them to air-dry completely before reconnecting the cables to the terminals.
As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to charge your RV’s house batteries completely. Once they’re completely charged, check the battery fluid levels. Then, fill your batteries with ONLY distilled water using a battery bulb filler.
Any time you remove your RV batteries, be mindful of the wiring. Make certain all battery cables are clearly marked with positive and negative.
A great tip to help you remember how to hook them back up is to take a photo of your setup before disconnecting any cables and wires. This will give you a reference of how to reinstall your RV batteries with the proper cables and connectors.
Finally, when replacing your RV batteries, we highly recommend replacing multiple battery packs in unison. Never mix new batteries in with old ones.
✰ READ MORE ✰ Types of RV Batteries for Motorhomes & Campers
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.
You’ll need to inspect all seals, hoses and connectors on your RV’s propane system making certain there are no cracks, splits or dry rot. Also check to make sure rodents didn’t make a feast out of your propane hoses, cables and wires.
Next, you’ll need to test your RV propane system. However, before you proceed to test, turn off all propane powered appliances first.
And absolutely refrain from smoking and keep anything that can ignite away from any part of the propane system.
Make sure you turn ON your propane leak detector inside your RV.
Now, open the valve on the propane tank all the way. Use your sense of smell to detect propane leakage.
Another good way to detect propane leaks is to apply soapy water on the regulator and valve. If you notice any bubbling, that means your propane system has a leak.
If you’re not comfortable repairing propane components on your own, it’s best to hire a certified RV tech who’s proficient in propane components. Make sure you ask them!
If you don’t detect any gas leaks, clean all of your LP’s components and appliances. Continue onto the testing process by lighting and allow them to run awhile.
Once you’re satisfied with all of your propane system’s 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.
Once your propane system is running proficiently with no leaks, then take either the propane tanks or motorhome into a propane filling station.
Since RV tank monitoring systems are notorious for giving false readings. We highly recommend installing a bluetooth capable propane tank monitor.
It provides more accurate propane level readings so you don’t run out of propane at inopportune times. We’ve been able to estimate down to the least fraction of when we need to refill our propane.
RV Refrigerator Exterior Panel
Remove the exterior panel for your RV refrigerator and check for spider webs, bugs and any other pests. Use a can of compressed air to blow any debris out of the burner tube and ignition area if your RV has a propane powered fridge.
Inspect all the wiring in the compartment for mice damage and make sure all the connections are on tight.
RV Water Heater
Your RV water heater is next on the list when you de-winterize your RV. You’ll need to inspect behind your water heater’s exterior access cover. Make sure it’s free of cobwebs, dead (or alive) insects or spiders, dirt, and debris.
You can use compressed air to blow out the burner tube and remove any dust and debris from the inside housing. Don’t get the nozzle too close to any of the fittings.
Also, inspect both for cracks, splits and leaks. If you’ve not cleaned your water heater component when you winterize your RV, this is a good time to complete that project now.
After you’ve done your inspection, it’s time to clean your water heater compartment thoroughly using a water heater cleaning wand to get deep into the component to clean out any calcification and hardened debris.
✰ READ MORE ✰ Read our RV Hot Water System Cleaning Guide before proceeding with that project.
RV Fresh Water System
RV owners are very well aware that water is an RV’s worst enemy. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to inspect your RV fresh water system and lines regularly and anytime you winterize and/or de-winterize your RV.
Because if you don’t know the source of a leak, your RV will suffer the consequences as will your wallet. It can end up a costly project. So, you need to keep after those leaks.
When you de-winterize your RV, you need to check every nook, cranny, pipe, joint, seal, gasket, etc. for water leakage.
Move the water heater’s bypass valve to the NORMAL position. Place a dry paper towel in under-cabinet plumbing to easily see any leakage. Then do a water integrity test all faucets, pipes under the sinks and water lines for leaks by turning on the cold and hot water.
While inspecting for water leaks in your basement compartments, make sure you check your UDC connections. We found a leak in our fifth wheel’s basement which ended up replacing our Kantleak water service panel and our water pump.
Now, if you used antifreeze in your water system when you winterized your RV, it’s time to drain and flush it thoroughly. We highly recommend being hooked up to sewer when you do this as to not fill your tank.
As discussed in our how to properly clean your RV’s fresh water tank, you’ll then want to sanitize your water system.
We recommend adding 1/4 cup of plain unscented bleach to every 15 gallons of water to your RV’s fresh water tank. Allow the water and 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.
Now, the last thing you need to do on the water side of de-winterizing your camper is to buy a new drinking water hose and water filter. Also make certain your water pressure regulator is working correctly.
RV Sewer System – Black Tank and Gray Tank
When you winterized your RV last fall, it should have been stored with empty tanks, so this part of how to de-winterize your RV shouldn’t be a nasty or tedious job.
That said, you’ll still need to inspect your sewer system, tank valves and all connections for leaks.
Even though you’ve emptied and cleaned your black tank before storing your camper for the winter, you still should inspect your RV’s sewer system. Do this while your RV is 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, inspect the sewer valve seals. Cautiously pull and move the handle and look closely for leaks. Should the valve stick, you can lubricate to acquire a better seal.
Then, we recommend replacing your sewer hose so you can start the camping season with a fresh new hose. Don’t forget to check all of your sewer hose connectors to make certain they’re not cracked or fittings are not broken.
Once your sewer system checks out clean and repairs are made, now it’s time to prepare your black tank by adding the specified amount of water.
Then either add in some Happy Camper black tank treatment. Or, you can use the RV black tank geo method.
To make your own black tank geo method, in an empty 5 gallon bucket, mix 1 cup Calgon water softener, 1 cup borax powder and 4 gallons hot water. Dump the entire bucket down your toilet and flush.
You’ll need to add those each time you dump and flush to help keep your sensors and black tank clean.
For in-depth RV tank maintenance, check out what our a professional RV tank maintenance specialist recommends in the video below:
Your tires are the most important 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 old or damaged tires, you’re going to end up stranded alongside the road at an inopportune time or place. And trust me, you never want a tire blow out that can cost you thousands of dollars in repairs.
So, take the necessary time to inspect your RV tires carefully. Look for excessive wear, cracks, cuts and scrapes. Inspect the treads and sidewalls. Make certain all of your tires pass the penny tread measuring method to determine if it’s time to replace your RV tires.
Also, while your RV was stored, your RV tires will have significant PSI depletion.
Before inflating, we recommend you check your tire manufacturer’s tire recommended pressure readings. Then, inflate your tires to the recommended tire pressure using a digital tire pressure gauge.
When you de-winterize your RV, it’s also the perfect time to invest in a tire pressure and temperature monitoring system. We prefer the TST 507 tire pressure and temperature monitoring system over other competitors.
✰ READ MORE ✰ For more in-depth article on RV tire maintenance, check out our RV Tire Safety & Maintenance Guide
How to De-Winterize Your RV Interior
1. Now that you’ve completed all of your RV’s exterior, components and utilities, its time to de-winterize your RV interior.
2. Remove and clean all fan and window screens. Repair any screens before putting them back in.
3. Test all electrical appliances as well as all electrical and 12volt outlets, switches and lights. Make certain your television(s), microwave or convection oven all work correctly. Check all visible wiring for mouse chewing or bare wires.
4. Remove inside air conditioner cover to inspect wiring for rodent intrusion. Test air conditioner under full load from electric source as well as on generator.
If your RV is hooked to a power source, run your air conditioner to exercise it and remove any residual moisture from the air.
5. Remove and clean ceiling vent covers and vacuum out ceiling vents and voids.
6. Replace all batteries in your RV’s smoke detectors or any other component that runs off of alkaline batteries.
7. Get rid of pests that may have taken refuge in your camper over the winter or in storage (i.e. insects and spiders, rodents, snakes, etc.).
If you find fleas, roaches or other bugs that want to go camping with you, blast those buggers with a bug bomb fogger. (Note: You will have to vacate your RV when fumigating).
8. Carefully remove any rodent nests, urine and poop. Be extremely careful not to disturb or stir up the waste. This is considered a toxic biohazard and has high potential of spreading the HantaVirus should it become airborne.
9. Check for rodent damage throughout your RV. Look for and repair or replace chewed wires, filters, insulation, etc.
10. Inspect your RV ceiling, walls and floor for water damage. Carefully poke and prod corners and edges to detect soft spots. Look for the “3 M’s”; mold, mildew and mushrooms.
If present, again, wear the proper PPE as black mold is highly toxic. Clean all areas and sanitize throughly using a high power cleaner and disinfectant that kills mold and mildew. Repair the sources of where they originate.
11. Dust and clean every corner and crevice of the inside of your RV. Wipe out the cabinets and drawers and inside your closets. Give your RV kitchen, bathroom and shower a good sanitary wipe down using antibacterial disinfectant wipes.
12. Though you’ve defrosted and cleaned your RV refrigerator when you winterized your RV, you still should wipe them out using disinfectant wipes. Put in new refrigerator deodorizers in both your refrigerator and freezer. Then, turn it ON and close the doors tightly.
Do not restock with food until the inside temperature of your fridge reaches 40°F. Wait to restock your freezer until after inside temperature reaches 0°F (-18°C) or below.
13. If you’ve not already done so, drain antifreeze out of all water lines and toilet. Flush thoroughly with fresh water.
14. Replace all disposable dehumidifiers (we use Damp Rid) and desiccant packs with new ones in cabinets, closets, drawers, baskets and storage bins. This is especially important if you’re going to be RVing or camping in humid regions or the woods.
Also, these are great to help combat condensation in your RV or camper.
15. Vacuum both sides of your mattress. Inspect your mattress(es) for pests (bugs, rodent chewing and nesting), mold and mildew. Sprinkle with plain baking soda and cover with a mattress protector if not already.
Then, make your bed with your favorite bedding. Spritz with lavender spray.
16. Sprinkle carpet with plain baking soda to remove lingering odors while it was in storage. Vacuum and/or sweep the floors.
18. Clean all windows, inside and out. Include mirrors and anything shiny to make your RV interior sparkly clean.
19. Inspect all fire extinguishers to make certain they are within the expiration dates.
20. Start repacking your camper for your first camping adventure or RV road trip of the year!
✰ READ MORE ✰ When you de-winterize your RV, it’s important to also inspect your bed and Prevent Mattress Mold.
Final thoughts on how to de-winterize your RV
So, that wraps up how to de-winterize your RV. If you follow these simple and necessary steps, your motorhome or camper will be prime for camping season and your RV road trips! But also, once you de-winterize your camper, you’ll re-familiarize yourself with all of the components in your RV.
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