It’s never fun to have to admit that summers coming to a close, but unfortunately it always manages to happen! As we approach the colder months, it’s important to make sure your RV is properly prepared not only to endure the cold weather but also just the fact that it’s going to be sitting for possibly 5 to 7 months?
The first thing I always start with is moving out all the items that can’t take the cold or that just don’t need to ride out the winter in your RV. This includes any clothes, linens, etc. you might miss if your RV is stored away from your home or other items that you would want to use at your home over the winter months. I have children, so we always end up with extra toy’s and movies they have brought along on trips over the summer. Lastly, I always remove all food and drink items. Don’t give a mouse any more reason to want to live in your RV over the winter!
Second thing is take this opportunity to double check your RV for any routine maintenance and or service that needs to be looked at. This would also include taking this time to give it a good scrub and wax on the outside of your RV. If you are able to do it yourself, that’s even better but keep in mind that a lot of RV dealerships in more seasonally driven areas will offer a discount for major services and repairs that they can work in over the fall and winter months as they are generally too busy in the summer months to take on large repairs…(like… tire blow out damage, re-roofing, body work, etc.). Some examples of common maintenance that is often overlooked would be wheel bearing packs(recommended by most manufactures every 2000 miles or annually). Re-sealing windows, compartments, roof vents, etc.. Keep in mind that most of these are all sealed with just silicone caulking or Dicore self leveling sealant and all these products shrink and deteriorate over time and in most cases these are all that keeps water from penetrating your RV. On the topic of roof, the most overlooked and really pretty easy thing to do is clean and condition your roof. Most newer RV’s have a rubber roof membrane that works wonderfully to keep mother nature out but it also needs to be conditioned to prevent it from drying and cracking or becoming brittle. This is literally as simple as wetting the roof, applying the cleaner/conditioner and scrubbing a bit with a brush and rinse it off with water. This could add years or life to your roof membrane and also a good opportunity to check the seals around all the vents, skylights, etc. on the roof while you are up there. I know not everyone is comfortable with doing these repairs themselves and please remember that your local dealer can perform all these jobs for you if you’d prefer.
Third would be the actual winterization of the water system of your RV. There are basically two schools of thought on how to do this properly. The Air method or the Antifreeze method. They both start with the same list of to do’s… Drain water heaters and remove anode rods, drain your tanks and open low point drains, clean and dump black and gray tanks. The Air Method – Some people prefer to use high pressure air to force any remaining water out of the lines and leave it at that. This can be accomplished with various fittings that are available to attach to your water system and they allow you to hook an air compressor to them and pressurize the lines with air. Keep in mind you have to have someplace for this air to go or you will have lines blowing off fittings! Leave faucets and fixtures open so the air can push water out the openings of the faucets and fixtures. It is fairly effective but not perfect. Keep in mind that a match head size drop of water can freeze and split a water fitting? The antifreeze method differs in the idea that it fills all the space in your lines with antifreeze and thus prevents the lines from being able to freeze up. This differs in a few areas that are worth noting… You need to make sure your unit has a bypass valve on the hot water heater that can be turned to prevent filling your water heater with antifreeze and you do not have to fill your fresh water tank with antifreeze. Most dealerships will sell a kit for do-it yourselfers that allows you to utilize your water pump to pressurize the water lines with antifreeze. In an averaged size travel trailer it usually only takes 2-3 gallons to winterize all the water lines. Then I’d suggest putting a splash in the pea traps and toilet just to be safe. Keep in mind this RV Antifreeze is specifically made for RV water systems… it’s non toxic and safe if you were to drink it. Again, these are both services that are offered at the dealership and myself, I let them do it! I don’t want to find out in the spring I did it wrong as water line repairs can add up fast. It’s easy to forget your outside shower? Ice Maker in your fridge? See where I’m going with that….
Fourth, prep for long term storage. If you live in an area that gets below freezing, it’s a good Idea to remove batteries from your RV and store them someplace warm and even keep them on a battery maintainer or charger from time to time. If a battery freezes, it never regains it’s full charging abilities and could even be completely ruined and not charge at all. Motorhomes are a little different story as sometimes it’s inconvenient to remove all the batteries and bring them inside, but at minimum I’d keep them on a charger and/or check and run the unit from time to time. Batteries are very expensive so I always play it as safe as I can to get the most use out of them as possible. As part of this storage prep I will also fill up the propane bottles and if it’s a motor home fill the fuel and put in fuel stabilizer.
Lastly, find a safe place to store it and tuck it away for a long winters nap. I would recommend an RV specific cover if you are leaving it outside for months at a time. They are going to help shed water and snow but also remain breathable so moisture won’t build up underneath and mold or mildew start. They will also keep the wind from being able to take it’s toll on vents, awnings, satellite dishes or anything protruding that could get beat up or torn off by some of the harsh winter storms. A cover is not necessary but It’s a good investment to protect your RV. Some people opt for covers specifically made to cover an air conditioner and/or tires and leave the rest of the unit exposed. It is truly up to you and your preference.
A few last tips or recommendations. Keep in mind each RV and storage situation is different, by no means is this the definitive list of all you need to do to assure a safe winter for your RV…Simply tips to help make it easier. Also, it’s worth checking in on your RV from time to time to make sure nothing has changed be it wind blown, vandals, or just keeping snow pushed off the roof if you live somewhere that get’s a lot of snow. I’d also suggest people with on-board generators start them up a few times over the winter. Most people don’t use their generators that often and sitting unused is the number one reason these develop problems.
Have a safe and happy winter! See you next camping season!