When I talk to RV owners about winterizing their RV, I like to ask what winterizing means to them. More often than not, the response I get is winterizing means to protect the RV water system from freezing in cold temperatures. Protecting the RV water system is the most important part of winterizing an RV, but there are many other things you might not consider when winterizing your RV.
To me, winterizing means you also plan to store the RV for a period of time. With that said, winterizing the RV now entails things like preparing the RV’s interior, exterior, chassis, and plumbing system from the harsh effects of winter storage.
Let’s start with the RVs interior
When temperatures drop, mice and squirrels start looking for a winter home, and RVs sitting in storage make good winter homes. Rodents are notorious for chewing through vehicle wiring, plastic and rubber, so it’s important to make it more difficult for mice and other rodents to gain access to your RV.
One way to prevent this is by inspecting the RV for any gaps or holes where rodents can get in, and filling these areas using silicone or expanding foam. Next, open drawers and cabinet doors inside your RV. Look in all of the corners and crevices, paying particular attention to areas where plumbing and wiring enter the RV. If you can see daylight mice can most likely get in, so seal these areas too. Next remove any food, and thoroughly clean the RV so no remnants are left that can attract mice and other rodents.
In addition to rodent control, winterizing the RV’s interior also includes:
- Clean the refrigerator and freezer and leave the doors propped open. You can use baking soda to help absorb any odors.
- Turn the LP gas supply off at the cylinder(s) or tank.
- Close the window blinds or shades to avoid sun exposure to the carpet and upholstery.
- Clean the air conditioner filter(s).
- If you have vent covers installed that prevent rain from getting inside, leave them cracked open to allow for some ventilation.
- Remove any dry cell batteries from devices like smoke alarms and clocks, but don’t forget to install new batteries next spring.
When you store your RV outside for extended periods of time the exterior starts to show signs of wear, caused by the constant exposure to the elements. Ozone in the air and ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun start to take their toll. Ozone causes the paint to fade and makes products like rubber and vinyl dry out, crack, and start to deteriorate. UV rays from the sun make this aging process happen quicker. Here are a few things you can do to protect your RV’s exterior.
It’s a good idea to clean the RV roof prior to storage. The type of roof your RV has will determine the cleaner to use.
- Wash the exterior and if you’re really motivated wax the exterior, using a quality wax formulated for the type of exterior surface your RV has. A good coat of wax protects your RV finish the same as it does an automobile.
- When you are cleaning the RV’s exterior, inspect all roof seams, body seams and window sealant for any cracks and openings that would allow water to get in. Consult your RV dealer for sealants compatible with these materials and re-seal as required.
- Don’t forget to clean the awning fabric too, and let it dry completely before storing it. If you have a pop-up or hybrid trailer make sure all of the tenting material is clean and dry before storage.
- Ideally you should try to store your RV under a covered area and on a solid surface like concrete. If this isn’t possible, avoid parking under trees and in tall grass, fields or wooded areas. If the RV won’t be parked under some type of covered shelter you might want to invest in a cover. Covering your RV can be a logical and cost-effective way to protect your investment. If you decide to use a cover make sure it is made of a breathable material.
- Service all locks with a spray lubricant and lubricate all hinges.
Just like the exterior of the RV, the tires on your RV can be damaged by the harmful UV rays from the sun. Inflate the tires to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure and cover the tires with covers that block out the sunlight.
Frozen ground and petroleum-based surfaces, like asphalt, can damage tires over time. Place blocking, like Lynx Levelers between the ground and the tires. Make sure the blocking is larger than the footprint of the tire. No portion of the tire should hang over the edge of the tire block; this can cause internal damage to the tire. For trailers, chock the wheels front and rear.
Battery maintenance is an important part of winter storage preparation. If you plan to start the unit while in storage, and periodically plug the unit into shore power, leave the batteries in the unit. Plugging it into shore power once a month for about eight hours will help keep the coach batteries topped off. At a minimum, you should check and adjust the water levels in all lead-acid batteries and make sure the batteries are fully charged. A discharged battery will freeze much quicker than a fully charged battery. If the RV is in long-term storage it’s better to remove the batteries and store them where they will not freeze. In either case keep the batteries fully charged when they are in storage.
Note: If your converter charger doesn’t have a three-stage charging system (or storage maintenance mode) don’t leave the unit plugged in constantly. This can overcharge the batteries and deplete the electrolyte levels.
If it’s a motorized RV you should fill the fuel tank prior to storage and add a fuel stabilizer. Run the engine and the generator long enough for the stabilizer to get through the entire fuel system. I also recommend changing the oil and oil filter on the engine and the generator prior to storage. Acids accumulate in used oil and can corrode engine bearings, especially while sitting for long periods of time. If possible, exercise the generator at least two hours every month with a minimum ½ rated load on the generator. Consult your generator owner’s manual for load ratings.
As you can see, there is more to winterizing your RV than protecting the RV water system. For more information, winterizing & storing your RV visit rvonlinetraining.com.
KOA’s resident RV expert, Mark Polk, and his wife Dawn started RV Education 101 in 1999. Since that time RV Education 101 has helped educate millions of RV owners and RV enthusiasts on how to properly and safely use and maintain their RV. Mark’s favorite past times are RVing in their 35-foot Type A motorhome, and restoring vintage RVs, classic cars and trucks. For more information on how to learn about RVs the easy way, visit RV Education 101. Be sure to check out their RV Online Training Site too!