As 2020 (finally) begins to wind to a close, RVers are reaching that point in the year where they have to say goodbye to summer adventures and warm weather and start to prepare their rigs for colder days ahead. Unless you’re a snowbird or a full-timer headed south for a more mild winter, chances are you plan to pack up your camper and store it away until the spring.
Preparing your RV for storage is an important process. If you’re storing your rig where temperatures can drop below freezing, you absolutely cannot skip the step of winterizing your camper. The winterizing process will protect your plumbing, seals, batteries and tires so they don’t fall prey to the winter elements. If you winterize your camper correctly, you can hit the road with ease again when the temperatures warm up and avoid pricey maintenance costs from winter damage. Read on to find out how.
The most important part of winterizing your camper is to prepare the plumbing for freezing temperatures. Just like in a sticks and bricks home, water inside of RV pipes can freeze and expand in cold weather, causing pipes to burst and your wallet to shrink from repair fees. The first step is to make sure there is no water left in your pipes at all. Start by turning off all power in your RV, as well as the water heater. You’ll want to bypass any filters as well as your water heater for this process.
Some rigs have a factory-installed bypass valve, but for others, you can purchase an inexpensive kit to do so. Drain your freshwater tank and open all faucets from the kitchen to the bathroom sink and shower. Flush the toilet multiple times to empty the lines of all water left in them.
Next, you can try one of two methods to ensure the pipes end up totally dry (or both). Option one is to blow out the system with compressed air. You’ll need an air compressor and a “blow out plug” to take this route. The goal is to blow air at no more than 30 psi through all of the pipes to completely empty them. If you use this method, you’ll still want to top things off by pouring RV and marine antifreeze into your sink and shower drains as well as your gray and black tanks after you’ve emptied and cleaned them.
Option two is to pump your entire system full of antifreeze. It will take several gallons of antifreeze depending on the size of your camper, but this method is generally viewed as a more reliable way to ensure your pipes will be safe in the cold. Make sure you purchase a nontoxic RV and marine antifreeze, which is pink, unlike the antifreeze you’d use in a car. You can pump it through the system using an external hand pump or your RV’s internal water pump. You’ll want to open one side of each faucet at a time until the pink liquid runs out of the faucet.
There’s more to winterizing than just plumbing. In case you haven’t caught on yet, moisture is the enemy for stored RVs. Not only do you want your plumbing dry, but you want to keep moisture from seeping into the interior of your RV as well. One key way to keep this from happening is to check all of your seals.
Yes, that means even getting up on the roof of your RV to make sure everything is sealed tight. Just in case, consider leaving an open container of moisture absorbent inside your RV for the duration of its storage stay. The last thing you want is for mold and mildew to grow inside your rig while you are away. Not only is mold damage expensive to remediate, but it is harmful to the health of everyone staying in your RV.
Cold weather can completely drain a battery, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to your battery when packing things up for winter as well. The best thing to do is to your camper’s battery entirely and keep it somewhere warm indoors. Keep it charged by attaching a battery maintainer. You don’t want to overcharge it or let it die, both of which permanently damage the battery’s capacity, so the sweet spot is to never let your battery fall below 80%. Diligent battery care during the offseason means a better battery when you hit the road again.
RV tires can dry out and get brittle when they sit idle in the winter. Tire covers are well worth the investment if you are storing your RV outdoors in winter. If left in the same place, tires can also tend to flatten as they bear thousands of pounds of weight for months on end. If you’re storing your rig somewhere you have easy access to it, move the rig a few feet every so often to keep that from happening. Another solution is to put your camper up on blocks or jacks so that the tires aren’t bearing that weight all winter.
How to Winterize a Camper
If all of this sounds too overwhelming to complete on your own, you can always take your RV into a maintenance center to have their help with winterizing your camper. You can also find heated storage lots that will minimize the risk of cold weather damage on your RV. Whether you choose one of these solutions or you winterize your camper yourself, a job well done will lead to happier camping in the spring! For more RV tips and tricks, be sure to visit our blog.