Camping season is here! And it’s time to get your RV out of storage and get your motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer camper ready for RV travel! But, there’s a right way to get your RV back on the road. Here, we’ll show you how to dewinterize your RV or camper with this do-it-yourself guide!
We confess, we’ve never had to winterize or store our RV because we’re full-timers. But that’s not saying we don’t know the process of preparing an RV to get down the road and to your favorite camping spots.
RV MAINTENANCE: How to Dewinterize Your RV or Camper
RV Interior Care
Now that you’ve completed the outside stuff, its time to do a little preparation inside your RV.
- Give it a good vacuum and sweep.
- Get rid of those little critters that may have taken refuge in your camper (i.e. insects and spiders, rodents, snakes, etc.).
- Check for rodent damage including wire chewing. Look closely for water damage (discoloration of ceiling or walls, musty, mildew or mushrooms, etc.).
- Dust and clean every corner and crevice. As well, give your refrigerator a good cleaning with hot soapy water with disinfectant.
- Drain antifreeze out of water lines and flush thoroughly with fresh water.
- Clean all fan and window screens.
- Inspect for roof and drain leaks. Repair the source of where they originate.
Now, let’s get all of your RV’s utilities and components ready to go.
Inspect and Charge your RV Batteries
Like your tires, your RV batteries will discharge substantially while in storage. To dewinterize, you’ll need to do a little maintenance to them upon opening up the battery storage compartment. First, we recommend putting on some rubber or latex gloves and eye protection. Battery acid is highly corrosive and will cause serious injury if precautions aren’t taken.
Also, you’ll want to make certain you secure all RV power. Ensure the main cutoff is OFF. After which, you’ll inspect your batteries’ connections; checking for cracks in the battery housing. As well, check the connections. Clean them up with hot water and baking soda using a soft toothbrush or rag. Allow them to completely dry 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. And, we highly recommend replacing multiple battery packs together. Never put in a new battery with old ones.
SAFETY NOTE: If you remove your RV batteries, be mindful of the wiring. Make certain the wires are clearly marked with positive and negative.
By the way! Since we’ve converted to our battery bank for four lead acid batteries to six lithium ion GC2 batteries in our fifth wheel we have zero battery maintenance! This investment has lessened the stress of maintenance schedules, adding water, etc.
RV Propane System and Propane Tank
Inspect all seals and hoses on your RV’s propane system making certain they haven’t cracked or dried out. Make sure rodents haven’t feasted on 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.
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 there is bubbling, you have a leak.
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. It’s a good time to easily install an inexpensive Bluetooth propane tank monitor system to get more accurate propane level readings so you don’t run out at inopportune times.
RV SAFETY RECOMMENDATION: If you’re not knowledgeable about propane component repairs, immediately secure the propane and call a certified RV service tech to inspect and repair.
RV Water Heater
Speaking of which, you’ll want to check your water heater’s exterior access cover and refrigerator. Make sure they’re free of cobwebs, dirt, and debris. Give it a good inspection for cracks, splits and leaks. If you’ve not cleaned your water heater component, this is a good time to do so.
To refresh your memory of how to do this, we recommend you read our Tank Cleaning and Maintenance blog for a great how-to guide.
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.
RV Fresh Water System
RVers 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. Oftentimes, it will end up a costly project so keep after those leaks. When you de-winterize, 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 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 sewage system leaking. Your black tank should have been stored with empty tanks, so this shouldn’t be tedious or dirty. You’ll want to inspect your sewage dump 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 with valve lubrication tot the tanks to acquire a better seal.
And, it’s the perfect time to install a new sewer hose storage on your RV. (video below):
Also check out our product review for a cool RV Sewer Hose Storage tube.
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. For black tank waste management, we use the RV black tank Geo Method as prescribed by our friend and professional at Kleen Tank.
The black tank geo method recipe requires a clean and empty 5 gallon bucket, 1 cup Calgon water softener, 1 cup Borax powder and 4 gallons of hot water. Mix everything in the bucket. Empty and flush the entire bucket’s contents down the commode.
For in-depth RV tank maintenance protocol, check out what our favorite RV tank specialist has to say in the video below:
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 roof vents, doors, windows, and every seam. Carefully remove old 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.
- Get up on the roof and inspect all fittings, around air conditioners, antennae and slide tops as well.
- 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 glide properly and open with ease. Inspect the tires for any cuts or cracks.
- Deploy steps and awnings to insure they are ready to go. Get back on the roof to insure caulk and seals are adhered to prevent leaks.
Once everything has been inspected, repaired and proven to work 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.
Inspect and Inflate your RV Tires
Your tires are the most important safety component on your RV. Because, face it, if you’re tires are crap, you ain’t goin’ nowhere. So, inspect them carefully. Look for craps, cuts and scrapes. Inspect the treads and sidewalls. 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.
For more in-depth article, check out our RV Tire Safety & Maintenance Guide
Most importantly, take your time inspecting, caulking, cleaning and getting ready to go. You don’t want to miss a thing going down the road.
So, that wraps up this blog on how-to dewinterize your RV and get it ready for the road and camping. If you follow this simple protocol, you’ll not only be a happy camper but also, you will refamiliarize yourself with all of the components of your RV. By taking the time to do this, you’ll have less stress and be able to enjoy your camping season experience!
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