RVs can quickly deteriorate in the harsh weather of winter months if they aren’t properly set up for storing. When they aren’t in use, the cold and damp—as well as potential rodent infestations—are just a few of the conditions that can damage your rig while out of use. Although you can take your RV to a maintenance shop, these are fairly straightforward processes that aren’t difficult and can save a bit of money if you can do them yourself.
***Please note that these are general recommendations. Be sure to consult your manual—or a professional—the first time.
Related Read: Preparing Your Coach For A Long Winters Nap
Drain the Water and Add Anti-Freeze
You don’t want to damage your plumbing by allowing water to freeze in your faucets, pipes, pumps, or valves. This is why draining every bit is so important.
***Consult the owner’s manual for appropriate winterization suggestions for the refrigerator, washing machine, ice maker, dishwasher, etc.
Unhook from shore power, turn off all electricity in the rig, and shut off the propane.
Unhook from outside water source and bypass your water heater. (Check for a factory-installed bypass valve.)
Turn on all of the faucets, including the shower and outside faucets. Open the system drain valves to empty all the water.
Flush the toilet to clear all water from that line.
Connect an air compressor with a “blowout plug” to the city water inlet to clear the lines. Adjust the air compressor to 30 psi (or less) to avoid damaging the water lines and run it until the water is blown from the faucets and drain valves.
Clean and flush your gray and black water tanks.
Close the drain valves and protect the drain valves, flush valves, and seals by pouring 1-quart of pink RV antifreeze through ALL of the sink and shower drains, as well as the pipe traps and into the gray and black tanks. Add a pint to the toilet.
Open the drain plug of the water heater and empty the tank. Use a rinsing wand to flush out any sediment. Leave the drain plug open until you remove it from storage.
Although you can pump 2 to 3-gallons of anti-freeze through the system, be careful. Use a water pump bypass kit; you do NOT want anti-freeze in your fresh water tank.
Prepare the Exterior
The next thing is to clean and seal the exterior. This may take a bit of time and requires you be outside, so it’s best done before it’s too cold.
Check the Roof
When winterizing your rig, make sure to close all the roof vents and check the plumbing vents and air conditioner covers for any cracks or potential leaks. Then, examine the rest of the roof for any damage and make necessary repairs.
Related Read: RV Roof Maintenance
Check and Clean the Exterior
Check the seals around the exterior doors and windows, and re-caulk where it’s needed. Clean and store all of your outside water hoses.
Then, consider taking your RV to a truck and RV washing station. Use sponges and a special detergent to clean the RV’s exterior, trim, rims, and tires. Rinse, let the exterior completely dry, and then wax it. Extend the awning, and use an awning detergent to clean it. After dry, use slip-on awning covers if you’re storing the RV outside.
Related Read: Selecting the Right RV Cover for Winter
Protect the Tires and Jacks
Due to the amount of weight they carry when not in use, your RV’s tires can develop flat spots over time. Raise your rig off the ground on its leveling jacks to relieve this pressure. Prevent rust on the jacks by coating pivot points with graphite spray or silicone.
Park on a paved surface to prevent settling and be sure to set the parking brake or use wheel chocks.
***If you don’t have jacks, move your RV a half tire-turn several times while it is stored to re-distribute its weight.
Address the Engine and Batteries
Top off the fuel tanks and add a fuel stabilizer to prevent condensation. Run the engine for several minutes so the additive makes it throughout the system. Fill the radiator with automotive antifreeze. Top off the brake fluid, oil, and windshield washer fluids.
Then, top off the fluid levels in maintenance-style batteries and make sure they’re fully charged. Disconnect the cables (negative side first), and in freezing climates, remove and store them in a dry, warm location.
Protect Your Power Sources
Turn off your RV’s main circuit breaker and disconnect from shore power. Check the owner’s manual for storage instructions for your generator. Then, fill the end of the exhaust pipe with steel wool to protect from infestation.
Fill all of the propane tanks and secure plastic bags with rubber bands over the tank connections to protect them from infestations. Remove and store external propane tanks in a sheltered location away from the RV.
Prepare the Interior
Remove all food and drink. Even canned items can freeze and burst, creating an inviting atmosphere for rodents. Remove all clothing, bedding, towels, and toiletries. If you are storing your RV at a storage lot, remove all valuables including tools and TVs.
Engage in a “search and destroy” mission. Check for gaps or openings that birds, insects, or rodents might enter and cover them with screening or fill them with steel wool. Cover vents with aluminum foil.
Then do a thorough cleaning. Clean the cabinets, refrigerator, and stove inside and out, and vacuum the carpets. Thaw and dry the freezer’s interior. Place a fresh, opened box of baking soda inside the refrigerator and prop open the doors.
Lastly, place an open container of moisture absorbent on a flat surface, such as the floor or a countertop. This removes humidity from the air and helps prevent mildew and rust.
Related Read: Very Cold Weather Tips
Once you have your rig ready for storage, place it in a garage, under a shelter, or under an RV tarp. If necessary, consult an expert in your area for the best solution. Although winterizing can be a hassle, it’s worth the effort when it saves money and frustration later on.
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