Camping season is over and it’s time to winterize your RV or camper before putting it into storage. Regardless if it’s a motorhome, travel trailer, fifth wheel, truck camper or even camper van, proper winterization procedures are necessary for all of your RV’s systems and components. Here’s a great how-to-guide.
Look, RV’s are expensive and a valuable investment. So, why not take care of it by making certain all points are covered before putting it into hibernation. To properly winterize your RV, we recommend these steps to get it ready for storage.
How to Winterize Your RV
First, let’s prepare your RV’s water system for freezing temperatures. If you do not winterize your RV properly, it could result in damage not only the water system but also your RV. You don’t want to pull it out of storage to find water damage or split connections and hose because you didn’t winterize it properly.
- Use the low point drains to empty your RV fresh water tank completely.
- Either add RV antifreeze to the fresh water system or evacuate the air from the lines. This will prevent water hoses, connections and components from freezing or breaking.
- You’ll also need to flush and completely drain the water lines for the water heater, toilet and refrigerator.
- Empty and flush gray and black tanks throughly and completely.
See our friend, Jim Tome from Kleen Tank, instruct us how to properly clean our hot water system and tank as well as our black and gray tanks on our RV Tank Maintenance YouTube video. These methods are also useful in RV tank winterization procedures.
Protecting your RV’s electrical system for storage is just as important as your RV components. 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.
- Turn the battery switches to OFF. Also, turn the inverter OFF if your RV is equipped with one.
- Remove all batteries from your RV.
- Store batteries in a warm, dry area on a trickle charger.
If your RV will be stored in a climate-controlled warmer environment, you can just keep your batteries on a battery tender.
For regular lead-acid batteries…
- Check the fluid level before putting your camper in storage.
- Top off your batteries with distilled water only. This will ensure the batteries are fresh and ready to reinstall for next RV or camping season.
Clear Out and Clean
Now it’s time to thoroughly clean your RV completely.
- Sweep all bare floors, vacuum the carpets thoroughly and damp mop.
- 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.
- Discard all food and contents from your refrigerator and secure it’s power.
- Scrub all surfaces, drawers and racks with mild soap and water.
- Wipe down all kitchen countertops and inside all cabinets with disinfecting solution and hot water.
- Remove anything that pests may see as a food source. Inspect all locations where pests (insects, spiders, mice, rats, etc.) can enter and plug them. Some say to use steel wool but we recommend expanding foam.
- 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. The last thing you want is to open your RV and find spiders, bugs and everything bigger (live and/or remnants) that had a hay day.
- To help eliminate moisture that would promote mold and mildew, we highly recommend putting desi packs in each drawer, cabinet and compartment. For larger contained spaces, put in multiple packs. You can also use these to mitigate moisture issues.
- Sprinkle a little baking soda on the carpets and put these charcoal packs to keep odors minimal.
TIP: Put a couple drops of Peppermint Essential Oil on some cotton swabs and place inside cargo compartments, under the bed and inside cabinets and drawers. Though we’ve not proven this, it’s been said it will help deter spiders and bugs.
After you’ve cleaned the inside of your RV, it’s time to thoroughly wash and wax the exterior.
- Remove road grime and dirt streaks from the exterior walls and roof.
- Use this amazing degreaser safe for RVs for tougher baked on or caked on grease or dirt.
- Open your awnings, clean and allow to thoroughly dry before rolling up for storage.
- Inspect for rips or tears. You can repair them now or put it on your list of de-winterization tasks.
- Inspect all surfaces for cracks, chips or blemishes. It’s also a good time to check all seals and caulking.
- Repair any discrepancies immediately.
- Clean and protect your RV’s seals.
- Windows should be cleaned inside and out.
- Inspect for cracks and ensure the gaskets are in serviceable condition.
- Lube the gaskets with the same protectant.
Before putting your RV in storage, we recommend lubricating every moving part with spray silicone to lube all door locks and legs of your level-up system. Use dry graphite spray to lube the hydraulic slide mechanisms. Top off your unit’s hydraulic tank if necessary.
It’s important to run your generator at least one hour under load and then, drain the old oil, replace filter and add in new oil. Run new oil for about ten minutes to check for leaks and pressurize. Lastly, check the hoses and connections around the tank and pump for leaks and weeping fluid.
After you’ve inspected, cleaned, lubricated and took every measure to winterize your RV or camper, now is the time to conduct a complete walk-around final RV inspection:
- 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.
- Secure and lock every cargo door.
- Make sure there are no tree limbs or branches rubbing on the roof of your RV.
- Ensure the television antenna is properly secured.
- Carefully coil the electrical umbilical cord that plugs into your tow vehicle and store inside the pin box of your fifth wheel.
- Stow your electrical wires and cables in a sealed plastic bag with a rubber band wrapped around it to ensure no water intrusion.
- Place a pest deterrent in your fifth wheel’s pin box with the electrical cable to prevent rodents from feasting on the cable.
- Coil your RV’s emergency brake cable and store behind the wiring on the outside of the pin box so it’s not hanging down or exposed. Low hanging cables place an unnecessary strain on them and their attachment points. If you can, coil and store them in a heavy plastic sealed bag and wrap tape around the opening the best you can so pests, dust and dirt is kept out.
We hope these basics help as a guide and reminders of how to winterize your fifth wheel or travel trailer. Be aware, this list is not all encompassing. There may be other items specific to your RV’s setup or personalization that you’ll need to do. Finally, when you’re all done, put your calendar up 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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