As much as we all want to avoid it, winter is on its way. The cold temps that force many of us inside our brick and stick homes and out of our RVs for the season is upon us. Get your RV prepped for storage by winterizing it. Here is a step-by-step guide that will help you get it prepped so that it stays in tip-top condition for the next camping season.
Step 1: Clean the Inside
The first thing you want to do is clean the inside completely. Not only is this going to keep odors from forming while it sits, but it will help keep the pests out too. Here is a list of places you want to hit:
- Wash & store all bedding. Insects and rodents will try to make nests in them if they’re left out where they can get to them.
- Scrub the bathroom, including the toilet and shower. You don’t want to find a bacteria or mildew problem in the spring.
- Wipe out all your cabinets and pantry to ensure there aren’t any crumbs that little critters would love to feed on.
- Wipe the stove top and scrub out the oven. Crumbs can collect here too and attract hungry critters.
- Turn off the fridge and leave the doors open so it warms up. Clean the fridge with an antibacterial cleaner, preferably something with bleach in it. Once you’re done, leave the doors open so it’ll dry out and not trap any moisture inside, creating a stinky situation.
- Sweep and mop all the hard floors and vacuum any carpets. It’s always a good idea to shampoo the carpets if you can as well.
- Vacuum any furniture to remove debris and crumbs and wash any removable covers.
Once the inside is cleaned, it’s time to turn your attention to the plumbing!
Step 2: The Plumbing
The plumbing is one of the most sensitive areas of the RV and can succumb to damage in the winter if not cared for properly. Any traces of water in it can freeze up and crack or burst your pipes and/or water tanks. Here’s what you need to do to get it ready for the cold winter months!
- Drain your fresh tank and water lines completely. To do this, find the low point drain lines. These are usually found under the RV with caps on them. Open up the caps and gravity will pull all the water out of the rest of the lines.
- Clean all your tanks, especially the gray and black tanks. Anything left in these can promote the growth of some nasty bacteria that you don’t want to deal with later.
- Completely drain and bypass the water heater.
- If possible, use an air compressor to blow all the water out of the system. This gets a lot more of the water out than just draining.
- Remove the water line that feeds into the water pump from the source, leaving it connected to the water pump, and put the line into the jug of antifreeze.
- Turn on the pump and let the system build up some pressure.
- Head inside and, starting with the faucet closest to the water pump, turn on both the hot and cold. Leave them on until the pink antifreeze starts to run out of the faucet. Shut it off and move on to the next faucet. Don’t forget to flush your toilets until it shows up, and run the outside shower!
Your water system is now filled with this non-toxic antifreeze that will keep your lines and tanks safe. Ensure you use only non-toxic RV antifreeze! Using regular antifreeze will contaminate your water system and could make you very sick when you try to use it again.
Step 3: Prepping the Outside
To keep your rig working and looking great, there’s some outside work to do as well. This prep work will protect more of your RV than you realize and keep you from having to spend time and money on unnecessary maintenance later.
- Completely wash the exterior. Leaving dirt and pollution on the outside of the rig can cause serious wear in the gel coat of your fiberglass. This is the main reason that graphics fade and gel coats yellow.
- Wash the awning and make sure it’s completely dry before putting it away. Dirt and pollution can do a number on your awning, and so can any moisture left on it when you put it away. If it freezes, it can cause cracks.
- If possible, jack up the RV to get the pressure off the tires to avoid flat spots.
- Disconnect the battery. Even when you have everything turned off, little things can draw power and ruin your battery. It’s best to store the battery in a warm, dry place.
- Protect the RV with an RV cover if possible. This will keep the sun off the exterior graphics, dirt and pollution off the gel coat, and keep the tires covered up so they don’t become damaged from dry rot. If you don’t get a full RV cover, at least invest in tire covers to keep your tires in good working order to avoid a blowout from cracks.
- If your RV is a motorhome, fill all the fluids and disconnect the chassis battery as well.
- Fill up your propane tanks. They need the pressure in there to keep the liquid from turning into a gas and evaporating.
Step 4: Regular Visits
Make several visits to your RV over the winter to make sure nothing has changed since your last visit.
- Check for damage or theft. The sooner you find and report it, the more likely the perpetrator will be caught.
- Head inside to ensure nothing has decided to call your RV home for the winter. This includes rodents, insects, and depending on the area, even people. The sooner a situation such as this is discovered, the less damage will be done.
- If you weren’t able to jack it up off the tires, moving the RV will help to keep the tires from getting flat spots.
- If the RV is stored outside and it has been snowing, remove the snow from the roof. The weight can sometimes be too much and cause the roof to cave in.
With your RV fully winterized and making regular visits to ensure its well-being, your first trip out in the spring will be much more enjoyable! This may seem like a lot of work now, but the repairs you’ll have to make later if you skip it are going to cost you a lot more time, and money, than winterizing ever will!