It’s necessary to winterize your RV before putting it into storage or if you’re not going to be using your RV for a long period of time. These winterizing procedures are necessary for all of your RV’s systems and components to ensure they all work properly.
Why it’s important to winterize your RV
RVs are expensive. So, why not take care of your camper even when you’re not using it.
If you will be storing your RV where the temperatures will be below 32° Fahrenheit, you need to take special precautions to prevent certain components and parts from breaking and cracking that can result in costly repairs.
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How to Winterize Your RV for Storage
Winterizing your RV Water System
First, you need to prepare your RV’s water system for freezing temperatures. If you do not winterize your RV plumbing properly, it could result in damage not only the water system, lines and tanks but also your RV.
The last thing you want is to pull your camper out of storage only to discover interior water damage, cracked tanks or split connections and hoses because you didn’t take the proper precautions.
It’s best to winterize your RV while you’re at a full hookup site so you can utilize the sewer, water and electricity during the winterization process.
Step 1: Always read your owner’s manual for RV and model specific winterizing guidelines.
Step 2: Disconnect your RV water hose from outside water source.
Step 3: Disconnect and remove all inline water filters; including water filters under the sink and your residential refrigerator.
Step 4: Drain your fresh water holding tank.
Step 5: Flush gray and black tanks throughly and empty completely.
Step 6: Open kitchen hot water faucet to evacuate hot water and pressure from the hot water system. You should allow the hot water tank to cool before draining the water heater to avoid injury.
Step 7: Make sure you open the pressure relief valve and remove the drain plug. Drain the water heater.
Step 8: Turn on all faucets (both hot and cold), showers (inside and outside) and toilet valves. Open the low point drain lines under your RV to empty all water lines. Using your RV’s water pump will help evacuate most of the water out of your water system. However, don’t allow your pump to run dry. Immediately turn off the water pump once all water is completely evacuated from lines. Then, close all faucets and cap off all drains.
Step 9: Before putting in your RV antifreeze into your water system, you’ll need to bypass the water heater. Otherwise, you’re just going to waste your antifreeze. You can do one of two things: Either disconnect the water intake line coming from your fresh water holding tank and connect one end of the tube into the water pump inlet and the other end into the jug of RV antifreeze. Or, you can install a water pump converter kit.
Step 10: Add the prescribed amount of RV/Marine antifreeze according to your RV owner’s manual and/or depending on size of your RV. Typically, it will take at least 2-3 gallons depending on the size of your RV.
Step 11: Turn on your water pump to pressurize the water system and cycle the antifreeze through the lines. You should begin with the faucets closest to the water pump. Then, open both hot and cold faucets until the antifreeze comes out of the faucet. Do this with every faucet, showers and toilets. You may need to use as many jugs of antifreeze as necessary to get optimal results.
Step 12: Pour at least a pint of anti-freeze into all sink and shower drains. Also, pour the same into toilets and flush to keep any residual water from freezing and cracking your tanks. Make certain all faucets and valves are closed.
Step 13: Secure your water heater if it has an electrical heating element. This will help alleviate damage if your RV is plugged into electricity in storage.
Though not highly recommended, If you prefer not to use antifreeze, you can evacuate the air from all water and sewer lines. This will prevent water hoses, connections and components from expanding, freezing, cracking or breaking.
CAUTION!! ONLY USE the PINK or ORANGE RV ANTIFREEZE!! Never use automobile antifreeze (green) (ethylene glycol) in your RV water system or any RV holding tanks. Also, never carelessly dump auto antifreeze down any drain (even storm drains) or allow it to dump into the ground.
Check out our video on how to properly clean your hot water system as well as your black and gray tanks. These methods are also useful in RV tank winterization procedures.
Winterizing your RV Electrical System and Batteries
Protecting your RV’s electrical system for storage is just as important as your other RV components. It’s wise to unplug any appliances while they’re not in use. Your motorhome, travel trailer or fifth wheel batteries are subject to freezing temperatures. Batteries are expensive and their life can be greatly extended through proper care and maintenance.
Step 1: Turn the battery switches to OFF. Also, turn the inverter OFF if your RV is equipped with one.
Step 2: Remove all batteries from your RV.
Step 3: Store batteries in a warm, dry area on a battery tender or trickle charger.
If your RV will be stored in a climate-controlled warmer environment, you can just keep your batteries on a battery tender also known as a trickle charge.
Winterize Lead-Acid Batteries
Step 1: Check the fluid level before putting your camper in storage.
Step 2: Top off your lead acid batteries with distilled water only. This will ensure the batteries are fresh and ready to reinstall for next RV or camping season.
Step 3: Put your lead acid RV batteries on a trickle charge.
Winterize Lithium Batteries
Step 1: Ensure you secure all switches before disconnecting power to your lithium batteries. Make certain that they are truly disconnected from stereo, CO2 sensor, and any other emergency sensors.
Step 2: Disconnect the main positive and negative wires that supply your lithium batteries. Even after bringing your RV out of storage, you should have plenty of charge in the batteries.
For both, lead acid or lithium, it’s imperative to unplug and remove your batteries if your RV will be stored outside below freezing temperatures. You’ll need to store your batteries in a heated garage, basement or room but away from heat sources and moisture.
Now it’s time to thoroughly clean your RV completely. Personally, if you’re putting your RV into storage or kept outdoors, I would remove all bedding, pillows, and anything that could be torn apart and used as nesting material for rodents.
Windows, Fans and Screens
Finally, you’ll want to close your window blinds or pull down the window shades. This will help keep the sun’s UV rays from degrading the inside of your RV; the wood finishes, furniture fabrics, curtains, and carpet.
Discard all food and contents from your refrigerator and turn refrigerator off.
Drain and purge ice maker water line (residential refrigerator). Disconnect water line to prevent mold growth in the tube.
Remove refrigerator filter. Unplug refrigerator if possible.
Scrub all surfaces, drawers and racks with mild soap and water. Dry the interior thoroughly. Place two or three charcoal desi packs on refrigerator racks to absorb moisture and odors.
Leave refrigerator cracked open to allow ventilation using a refrigerator door block.
Cabin and Closets
Through use, the inside of your RV (cabin) becomes dirty from everyday use, cooking, outdoor elements, smoking, etc. So, part of winterizing your RV is cleaning the cabin thoroughly before putting it into storage.
Wipe down all walls and doors, countertops and surfaces using a damp rag (not wet!) with a hot soapy water solution. Personally, I use Thieves or Fabuloso all purpose cleaners. Use the same solution for inside cabinets and drawers. All them to dry thoroughly.
Place a desiccant moisture absorber packs in each drawer and cabinet.
Remove all the grit and grime that may have accumulated throughout the camping season in every crack, crevice and corner; including those hard to reach places. Vacuum and/or sweep all bare floors and carpets thoroughly. This includes insides of closets, bathrooms, laundry area, etc. Don’t forget to pull out and/or get underneath all furniture if possible.
Follow up with a damp mop and hot water soapy solution; allowing to dry thoroughly.
Pest Intrusion Prevention
The last thing you want is to open your RV next camping season to find spiders, bugs and anything bigger (live and/or remnants) that used your RV for party central. So, it’s important to prevent pests from entering.
Inspect all locations where pests (insects, spiders, mice, rats, snakes, etc.) can enter and plug them completely. Some claim rodent proof steel wool works but we highly recommend expanding foam instead.
Also, remove anything that pests may see as a food source or anything they can nest in.
Place anti-pest devices in all spaces including the basement and behind the basement wall to keep bugs, mice, ants, etc. from having an ongoing party in your RV over the winter or while it’s in storage.
Moisture, Mold and Mildew Prevention
To help eliminate moisture that would promote mold and mildew, place desiccant packs in each drawer, cabinet and closed compartment. For larger contained spaces, put in multiple desi packs. You can also use damp rid moisture absorbers to help mitigate moisture issues.=
RV Exterior Care
After you’ve cleaned the inside of your RV, now it’s time to clean, dry, inspect and protect your RV’s exterior and components.
Wash, Dry and Protect
Part of winterizing your RV should include giving your motorhome or camper a good bath. Wet wash your RV completely using good quality RV soap and clean water. Pay particular attention to dirt streaks originating from your roof, slide tops, lights, windows, etc. Clean off bugs using a specialized bug scrubber so you don’t scratch your full body paint or decals. Also, use an RV degreaser for tougher road grime and caked on grease or dirt.
Scrub your roof thoroughly using the same RV soap and soft bristle extension brush. Clean, inspect and repair any components on your RV roof, vents, air conditioner, caulking and the seals around all exterior doors and windows.
Clean your awnings and slide toppers using the same long handled brush and allow to dry completely before rolling them in. While they’re deployed, inspect for rips or tears. You can repair them while you winterize your RV or put it on your list when you dewinterize your RV or bring it out of storage.
Inspect all exterior surfaces for cracks, chips or blemishes. It’s also a good time to check all seals, gaskets and caulk and apply as needed. Protect and lube all RV’s seals and gaskets using a UV protectant.
Clean and degrease your tires using a good quality tire soap degreaser and a soft bristle tire brush. I recommend not using the brush that you use on your RV roof or fiberglass. Then, go over your tires with a good quality tire protectant.
Clean your RV windows inside and out. If your RV has acrylic windows instead of glass, make certain you use the correct window cleaner and good quality scratch-free cloth so you don’t scratch your windows.
PEST CONTROL PRO TIP: Put a few drops of Peppermint Essential Oil on some cotton balls and place inside your basement compartments, under the bed and inside cabinets and drawers to help deter spiders and bugs.
Before putting your RV in storage, we recommend lubricating every moving part with spray silicone to lube all door locks. Also, lubricate using the same to the legs of your hydraulic level-up system and electric stabilizers.
Winterizing your Generator
It’s important to run your generator at least one hour under load monthly anyways. But when you’re winterizing your RV, it’s important to give it one last exercise before putting your RV to bed for the season.
Step 1: Run your generator for an hour under full load.
Step 2: Drain the old oil, replace filter and add in new oil.
Step 3: Run new oil for another ten minutes under full load to check for leaks and pressurize.
Step 4: Check hoses and connections around the tank and pump for leaks and weeping fluid.
Final Inspection After Winterizing Your RV
After you’ve cleaned, lubricated and took every measure to winterize your RV, now is the time to conduct a final RV inspection before buttoning your camper up for hibernation.
Ensure the propane tank valves are CLOSED.
Cover the tires of the RV to prevent damage from UV rays and to mitigate degradation and dry rot.
Latch and lock every cargo or basement door.
Make sure there are no tree branches or overhead wires touching or have potential of rubbing the roof of your RV.
Ensure your RV television antenna is properly secured.
Carefully coil the electrical cord that plugs into your tow vehicle and store inside a sealed heavy duty plastic bag along with a desiccant pack with a rubber band and tape wrapped around the bag to ensure no water intrusion and keep moisture away from connection points. Place inside the pin box of your fifth wheel. You may also want to place a rodent deterrent in your fifth wheel’s pin box to prevent rodents from nesting and feasting on the cable.
Stow all other electrical wires and RV emergency brake cable the same way in a separate sealed heavy duty plastic bags with a rubber band and tape wrapped around it to ensure no moisture or rodent intrusion.
Be aware, low hanging cables place an unnecessary strain on them and their attachment points. Which is reason for stowing them properly.
And lastly, it’s important that you park your RV safely. Make sure you to stabilize your RV so it doesn’t move. Use your leveling blocks to take pressure off of your tires and wheel chocks to keep your tires from rolling.
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Final thoughts on how to winterize your RV
Your RV is now ready for storage. Be aware, these RV winterizing tips are not all encompassing. There may be other tasks specific to your RV manufacturer, model, setup or personalization that need attention. So, it’s important to read your RV owner’s manual for details pertinent to your specific motorhome or towable.
Once you finish winterizing your RV, you can now relax and start marking off the days until you can pull your camper out again for the Spring and de-winterize your RV!
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