How to Winterize Your RV for Storage and Freezing Weather

As the freezing winter season rolls in, RV owners have to make the decision to winterize their RV or put it a storage with climate control. For those who are forced into winterizing their camper, there’s necessary steps to ensure all of your RV systems and components will all work properly when it’s time to go camping again.

How to Winterize Your RV - RV Winterizing Guide - Always On Liberty

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How to Winterize Your RV

Comprehensive Guide to Winterizing Your RV for Storage or Freezing Weather

How to Winterize Your RV - Always On Liberty

Why it’s important to winterize your RV

We all are well aware that RVs are expensive. So, why not take care of your camper even when you’re not using it when it’s in winter storage?If you’ll be parking or storing your RV where the temperatures will be below 32° F, you need to take certain precautions to prevent damage to your RV from freezing weather and unwanted pests.

Certain RV components and parts can crack, split, break, and leak which can result in costly repairs. And pests can make for an unwelcome discovery once you open up your camper again.

RV Owners Manual
Photo source: Winnebago RVs

One important note before proceeding with our RV winterization tips is to always read and review your RV manufacturer owners manual as well as those for each component (air conditioner, refrigerator, cooktop, stove, water system, water heater, onboard generator, etc.).

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get winterizing your RV the proper way.

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 hose connections and the hoses themselves because you didn’t take the proper precautions.

It’s best to winterize your RV while you’re at a full hookup campsite so you can utilize the sewer, water and electricity during the winterization process.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Winterize Your RV Water System & Plumbing

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 completely. 

Step 5 – Flush and clean your tanks throughly and empty completely.

Step 6 – Open kitchen hot water faucet to evacuate hot water and pressure from the hot water system. That said, it’s important to 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) as well as the 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, never 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 – Make certain all faucets and valves are closed. Then, 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. 

Winterize Your RV - RV Antifreeze in Toilet

ANTIFREEZE CAUTION TIPS

ONLY use PINK or ORANGE antifreeze that’s made specifically for RVs and boats.

NEVER use green automobile antifreeze containing ethylene glycol into your RV water system or holding tanks.

NEVER carelessly dump auto antifreeze down any drain (even storm drains) or allow it to dump into the ground.

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 we don’t recommend it, you can evacuate the air from all water and sewer lines instead of using antifreeze in your water system.

This may help to prevent water hoses, connections and components from expanding, freezing, cracking or breaking.

But, it’s not the most effective way to winterize your RV water system as you still may get residual water that may settle in bends and low points which may freeze.

✰ READ MORE   How to Clean and Maintain Your RV Hot Water System


Check out our video on how to properly clean your RV hot water system as well as your black and gray tanks. These methods are also useful in prepping your RV for storage and winterizing.


Winterizing your RV Electrical System

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-by-Step Instructions to Winterize Your RV Electrical System

Step 1 – Turn the battery switches to OFF. Also, if you’re RV is equipped with an inverter, turn it OFF as well.

Step 2 – Remove all batteries from your RV.

If they are lead acid, protect your hands from possible battery acid leakage by wearing rubber-coated gloves.

These are also great for gripping your heavy batteries when lifting them out of the battery storage compartment.

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 the battery tender or trickle charger.

Winterizing your RV 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.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Winterize Your RV Lead Acid Batteries

Always On Liberty - Winterizing Your RV Lead Acid Batteries

Step 1 – Check the battery fluid levels 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 the next camping season or your RV vacation.

Step 3 – Put your lead acid RV batteries on a trickle charger and store in a warm, dry location.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Winterize Your RV Lithium Batteries

Always On Liberty - Battle Born Batteries

Step 1 – Ensure you secure all switches before disconnecting power to your lithium batteriesBut, 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.

You’ll need to store your batteries in a heated garage, basement or room but away from heat sources and moisture.

RV Interior

Now it’s time to thoroughly clean your RV completely.

Before putting your RV into storage or kept outdoors, I highly recommend removing all bedding, pillows, cushions or anything that could be torn apart and used as nesting material for rodents.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Winterize Your RV Interior

Bathrooms

Cleaning your RV bathroom is as simple as cleaning a bathroom in a house. You’ll want to scrub down the toilet, sink and shower stall using prescribed cleaners.

Also, though it pains me to say this, you’ll have to get down on your hands and knees to scrub the bathroom floor.

✰ READ MORE ✰  How to Clean Shower Doors in Your RV or Boat

Windows, Screens, Ceiling Fan and Vents

Remove and clean all window and fantastic fan screens. Also, clean fan blades and mechanisms using a detailing kit.

Vacuum and scrub out window mechanisms and sliding window troughs.

Clean windows using a glass and acrylic-friendly window cleaner along with a clean, scratch-free, soft cloth.

Lubricate all mechanisms including ball bearings in window troughs, fan motors, etc.

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. This includes any wood or cabinet finishes, furniture fabrics, curtains, and carpet.

✰ READ MORE ✰  How to Care for your RV Fantastic Fan and RV Window Screens

Refrigerator

Cleaning Refrigerator

Discard all food and refrigerator storage containers from your refrigerator and freezer. Then, turn it OFF.

This is perfect timing to defrost your freezer which can take a bit of time. So, plan accordingly to perhaps allow it to thaw while doing your other interior winterizing.

In the mean time, drain and purge ice maker water line from your residential refrigerator (if you have one).

Disconnect water line to prevent mold growth in the tube.

Remove refrigerator filter. Then, unplug refrigerator if possible. While this may be more of a hassle for those with large residential refrigerators built into a slide, it’s still worth trying to eliminate possibility of problems while your RV is in storage.

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.

✰ READ MORE ✰ How to Maximize Efficiency of Your RV Refrigerator

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 to do a diligent cleaning of the cabin before putting it into storage.

To do this effectively, you’ll want to wipe down all walls and doors, countertops and surfaces using a damp rag (not wet!) with a hot soapy water solution.

Personally, I use a non-toxic, family and pet friendly cleaner like Thieves all-purpose cleaner.

But, if that’s not a concern, you can opt to use some high-power cleaner like Fabuloso or Awesome. However, I want to caution you when using those two commercial cleaners.

You’ll want to do a once-over with a clean damp cloth. Otherwise, the film left behind attracts dirt and dust which makes more work for you when you bring your RV out of storage.

Also, through personal experience, the Awesome can deteriorate certain surfaces.

Whichever cleaner you use, apply and clean the inside cabinets and drawers. All them to dry thoroughly.

And lastly, I highly recommend placing a moisture absorber pack or two in each drawer and cabinet to help prevent mold and mildew. 

Floors and Carpets

One of the last cleaning chores you’ll need to do when winterizing your RV is to clean your floors. this includes both, the linoleum flooring as well as your carpets. And make certain to do this to the flooring inside your cabinets and closets as well.

My first suggestion is to 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.

You’ll want to vacuum and/or sweep all bare floors and carpets thoroughly. Remember, a simple piece of popcorn or potato chip could be that one invitation for pests.

This includes insides of closets, bathrooms, laundry area, etc. Don’t forget to pull out and/or get underneath all of your furniture if possible.

Then, follow with a damp mop and hot soapy water solution; allowing to dry thoroughly.

Lastly, sprinkle a good amount of pure unscented baking soda on the carpets to absorb odors.

Personally, I’d stay away from those scented carpet powders because they only mask the odors instead of remove or absorb them. Plus, they are highly toxic and may cause allergies for your family or pets.

Once you’ve give a good vacuum and sprinkled baking powder, I suggest placing charcoal air purifying packs in all corners to keep moisture and odors minimal.

How to Prevent Bugs, Mice, Spiders and Snakes from Entering Your RV While in Storage

One of the most important things you want to do when winterizing your RV or preparing your camper for storage is to ensure nothing gets inside.

I’m talking about unwanted visitors; PESTS! You know, spiders, bugs, rodents and snakes!?

Seriously, do you really want to open your RV next camping season only to find spiders, bugs and anything bigger (live and/or remnants) have been using your RV as their personal party central.

So, the most effective way to mitigate pests is actually preventing those bugs, spiders, mice and snakes from even entering your RV.

That means you need to get down and dirty to inspect every possible entry point where bugs, spiders, mice, rats, and snakes can enter.

Then, you’re going to want to plug them completely. While some claim using a rodent barrier kit works, we highly recommend expanding foam instead.

Why? We’ve heard and read that mice have grown accustom to actually chewing into steel wool to make their way to your comfy couch or soft bedding.

Equally important to eliminating possible pest intrusion is to remove anything that pests may see as a food source. Again, even a single Cheerio or Cheeto can determine feast or famine for unwanted visitors.

Also, you need to eliminate anything that bugs, spiders, or mice can nest in. This includes paper bags, cardboard boxes, rags, clothes, etc.

A good rule of thumb is if it’s soft or can be chewed and gathered, it’s potential nesting material for flying or furry pests. So, it’s just best to remove them all together.

Then, 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 camper over the winter or while your RV is in storage. 

✰ READ MORE  RV Storage Pest Control: How to Keep Bugs and Mice OUT of your RV


RV PEST PREVENTION PRO TIP

Place a few drops of peppermint essential oil on some cotton balls. Then, place them inside your basement compartments, under the bed and inside cabinets and drawers.  This will help deter spiders, bugs and the rest of the unwanted food chain from entering those spaces.


How to Prevent Moisture, Mold and Mildew While your RV is in Storage

Mold and mildew caused by moisture can lead to serious unhealthy problems in your RV. But also, it leads to damage that may or may not be salvageable.

There are several ways to help mitigate and even eliminate moisture and condensation in your RV from happening.

To help eliminate moisture that promotes mold growth and mildew, I highly recommend placing a desiccant pack in each drawer, cabinet and closed compartment.

Now, for much larger contained spaces, you may want to use multiple desi packs methodically placed in each corner.

Or, if you’d rather, you can also use DampRid to help mitigate moisture issues. But, realize once they fill up with water, they lose their effectiveness; especially in humid climates or storage spaces with uncontrolled temperatures.

And, let’s be honest here, DampRid isn’t exactly environmentally friendly as it cannot be recycled like desi packs.

How to Prepare your RV Exterior for Winter Storage

After you’ve cleaned your RV interior, now it’s time to clean, dry, inspect and protect your RV’s exterior and components.

Part of winterizing your RV should include giving your motorhome or camper a good wet bath and scrub, thorough dry and protective polish.

During your RV washing process, this is the perfect opportunity to 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.

The best way to wash your RV is to start on your roof and work your way down to your RV’s underbelly and tires.

The reason you leave your RV’s underbelly and tires last is those will have dirt and grit that will remain in your wash mitt, sponge or brushes that will scratch your paint and chrome.

First, we recommend washing your RV using clean hot water, a good quality RV soap and a new or very clean soft wash mitt. In my opinion, you should not cheap out on your RV wash soap.

Cheap soaps or those not really prescribed for RVs or high end automobiles will leave your camper looking dull, affect the finish and may attract unwanted dirt and dust.

My personal suggestion is the Wash Wax All brand because it’s proven a worthy product invented and manufactured in the USA by an aircraft, boat and RV owner! 

In fact, their line is the only auto and RV care products we trust to use on all 3 of our RVs, tow vehicle and our Jeep in the past decade!

✰ READ MORE ✰ Protect your RV from Salt and Sun Damage

RV Roof

Winterize your RV - Washing RV Roof

When you start to wash your RV, again, start by scrubbing your roof using our recommended RV soap and soft bristle extension brush.

Now, while you can use the controversial power washer method, we don’t recommend it as the powerful stream can do more damage that’s not worth the risk.

Be careful not to scrub the roof excessively hard; especially the rubber membrane on fifth wheels and travel trailers. You certainly don’t want to wear a hole or crack that can cause leakage.

Also, be mindful of no scrubbing too hard to lift or damage the integrity of caulks and sealants in place.

✰ READ MORE  How to Clean and Maintain Your RV Roof

RV Awning and Slide Toppers

Clean your awnings and slide toppers using the same long handled brush. Allow them to dry completely before rolling them in.

While your slide toppers and awning is deployed, inspect for any rips, tears or areas showing wear.

If there are things that need repairing, you can repair them while you winterize your RV. Or, you can put it on your list of things to do when you de-winterize your RV or bring it out of storage.

When you’ve finished with washing your RV roof, awning and toppers, it’s time to get off the ladder and move onto washing the main body of your motorhome or camper.

RV Exterior Body

Even before rinsing down your RV to wash, it’s important to pay particular attention to dirt streaks originating from your roof, slide tops, lights, windows, etc. This is so you know where to concentrate more of your cleaning efforts.

Clean off any dried on bugs using a specialized bug scrubber that effectively removes all bug residuals without damaging your full body paint or fiberglass finish and decals. 

We also regularly use a degreaser for tougher road grime and caked on grease or dirt and the same scrubber. You may want to use a SOFT toothbrush to get into those vents, cracks and crevices.

RV Windows

After washing and drying your RV’s exterior, you’ll want to clean the windows inside and out.

I want to make a certain note here. If your RV has acrylic windows, NEVER use any cleaning products or solvents that contain alcohol.

They will scratch or etch the surface that will lead to surface milking and haze. It also will cause the surface to collect dust and dirt that can etch your windows even more.

Having had glass in both of our fifth wheels and now both, glass and acrylic dual-pane windows in our Winnebago View, we keep it simple.

We use just one window cleaner that we can use on both without worry along with a good quality scratch-free cleaning and polishing cloth. The great thing is this cleaner can also be used to clean our entire RV between wet washes.

✰ READ MORE   Waterless Wash Wax ALL for RVs, Boats and Automobiles

Tires and Rims

The last part of your wet wash is to degrease your tires and rims 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 after drying your tires, go over your tires with a good quality tire protectant.

✰ READ MORE ✰  RV Tire Maintenance Tips – How to Maximize the Life of Your RV Tires

Protect your RV’s Exterior Finish

Once your RV is all clean and shiny, it’s time to protect and lube all of your RV’s seals and gaskets. You’ll need to use a specialized UV protectant that specifically made for rubber and silicone features.

And finally, to preserve and protect your RV’s exterior finish, give your RV exterior a light wax using a clean, soft applicator cloth and multi-polymer ceramic wax that has UV protection.

Inspect and Repair Caulks and Sealants

Once you’re finished cleaning your entire RV, including the roof, you need to allow it to dry thoroughly, even after a towel dry.

It’s important to allow the seals to dry so you can get a good look at them.

You’ll need to repair and reseal should you find dried, cracked or damage seals around any components on your RV roof, vents, air conditioner, and the seals around all exterior doors and windows.

Of course, you’ll want to do this with a perfect weather forecast with no rain or high humidity in the next 24-48 hours.

✰ READ MORE ✰  When to Replace RV Roof Caulk & Sealant

  • Lubricate all parts that should move

Before putting your RV in storage, we recommend lubricating every moving part with spray silicone; including all door locks.

And don’t forget to lubricate the legs of your hydraulic level-up system as well as your electric stabilizers.

Also, dry lube spray to lube your RV’s hydraulic slide mechanisms. Top off your unit’s hydraulic tank with specialized hydraulic fluid if necessary.

How to Winterize your RV’s Onboard Generator

Motorhome Generators - Maintenance Oil Change

It’s important to run your generator at least one hour under load monthly anyways. This helps prolong its’ use.

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.

The steps in winterizing your RV’s onboard generator are actually quite simple.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Winterize Your RV Onboard Generator

Step 1 – Run your generator for an hour under full load. After which, turn it OFF.

Step 2 – Drain the old oil, replace filter and add in new oil.

Step 3 – Turn your onboard generator back ON to run the new oil for another ten minutes under full load to pressurize.

Step 4 – While your generator is running, check hoses and connections around the tank and pump for leaks and/or weeping fluid.

✰ READ MORE ✰ Best Motorhome Generator – Diesel vs. Propane?

Final Inspection After You Winterize Your RV

After you’ve scrubbed, cleaned, lubricated and took every measure to winterize your RV, it’s time to conduct a thorough inspection before buttoning your camper up for winter storage.

Final Steps to Winterizing Your RV

Step 1 – Ensure the propane tank valves are CLOSED.

Step 2 – Cover the tires of the RV to prevent damage from UV rays and to mitigate degradation and dry rot.

Step 3 – Latch and lock every cargo or basement door.

Step 4 – Make sure there are no tree branches or overhead wires touching or have potential of rubbing the roof of your RV.

Step 5 – Ensure your RV television antenna is properly secured.

Step 6 – 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. Wrap a rubber band and tape tightly around the bag to ensure no water gets into the electrical cord’s connection points.

Place the entire assembly 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. 

Or, if you’d rather, you can take the cord home to store in your garage or basement. 

Step 1 – 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.

Step 8 – It’s important that you park and stabilize your RV properly and safely so it doesn’t move.

Use your leveling blocks to take pressure off of your tires. And, use wheel chocks to keep your tires from rolling.

Step 9 – Do one more walk around to ensure all is safe and secure. Lock exterior doors.

Step 10 – For insurance purposes, take lots of photos of your showing exact location and all sides of your RV in the storage lot or storage facility. Get closeups if necessary.

Final thoughts on how to winterize your RV

RV in the Snow - Winterize

Now your RV is winterized and 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.

And before even starting the process of winterizing your RV, read your RV owner’s manual for specific details pertinent to your motorhome or towable and its’ components.

Until it’s time to dewinterize your RV, you can now relax and start marking off the days until you can pull your camper out again for the next camping season!

Always On Liberty - Winterizing Your RV Camper


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One Reply to “How to Winterize Your RV for Storage and Freezing Weather”

  1. All recreational vehicles, including RVs, must be winterized. However, before you do anything, examine the RV’s owner’s manual. Check to see if your RV has any unique winterizing instructions. Pay strict attention to the directions if there is a specific method to follow.

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