When to Winterize an RV: Preparing For The Colder Months

Winterizing is an essential process for campers who love to take their RVs for camping instead of tents. RV, also known as Recreational Vehicle, is used by campers during seasons like spring and fall. When fall comes and goes, you will know that it is time for the RV to be prepared for the harsh winter. If you want to take out your RV after winter, it is mandatory to winterize your RV.

Shutting down and covering your RV with a customized cover is not enough. It is the owner’s duty to protect his or her RV during the cold winter period and store it under ideal conditions for prolonged life.
When you winterize your RV, you prepare the plumbing system, exterior, interior, and the chassis to withstand the cold temperature. Similarly, de-winterization is the process where the steps are reversed. The RV is prepared for yet another wonderful, fun-filled camping trip.

Winterizing is something you should never skip if you are going to store your RV in cold weather. If not done, the RV might give you problems when you try to take it out for camping in spring. Broken pipes, water damage and condensation leading to damage are some of the frequently caused problems in an RV when the winterization is not done. When the liquid from the drain lines are not drained before storing the RV, cracking of the pipes under cold weather occurs. Sink valves, drain taps, toilet etc. are the other things which could get damaged.

Prevention is always preferred. Winterizing your RV is done by following a few steps of instructions. Bear in mind that the general instructions might vary from the RV manufacturer’s instructions. Try to understand the recommendations and stick to them above anything else.

When to Winterize an RV: Things Required

When you begin the process, it is mandatory for you to ensure that you have all the things required close to you. Some of the things which will be needed are: by-pass kit for the water heater (provided your RV does not already have it installed), a wand (for cleansing the holding tanks), hand tools (required to remove or install something), converter kit for water pump and lastly, 2 to 3 gallons of antifreeze. The antifreeze chosen should be non-toxic and suitable for an RV.

WASHING AND DRYING OF THE RV

Washing and drying the RV is the foremost step. Since you are going to store your RV away in a place for months at a stretch, you must give your RV a good wash. This means not only the exterior walls of the RV must be washed, but the tires also; awnings, and any corner which accommodates dirt. Drying is very important after washing. This is because even a small amount of moisture left on the surface for a long period of time can result in corrosion.

PREVENTION OF RODENTS AND PESTS

The next step is to ensure the prevention of pests entering into the RV. This is done by cleaning the interior of the RV. No food item should be left in the vehicle as it would tempt pests and rodents to invade the RV. All counters and seats have to be wiped clean and the floors have to be mopped spick and span. The refrigerator needs to be cleaned, emptied and switched off for the winter. Any holes in the vehicle need to be blocked to avoid pests or rodents from entering the RV.

If you use any appliances made out of propane, you must already know that spiders are attracted to the smell of propane. Even a small amount of propane, which could go unnoticed by the human eyes or nose, can cause insects to swarm towards it. So, it is advised to make sure that no ends of any propane-lines lead to the outside of the RV. The stove burners are to be covered with plastic to prevent bug infestation.

Many RV insurance companies have reported that animal infestation is the most common problem which RV owners face every year and end up claiming insurance. Rodents simply love crawling into RVs through holes and end up building nests and chewing any wire in sight. If you do not have any insurance coverage for your precious RV, then your pocket will be empty in no time due to paying huge bills to repair all the damage caused by the rodents.

The best precaution which you can take is to ensure that no food item is left behind on the counters or in the shelves. If you want to leave some food behind in the RV during the storage period, (although, it is highly not recommended) you can leave them in cans or bottled which are sealed.

Care must be taken to ensure that no standing water is left in the RV. If you possess an ice maker in your RV, you must drain the water. Many RV owners completely forget the fact that the ice makers have standing water, which could attract various kinds of insects. Some RV owners have claimed to use some type of mint oil outside the RV, as rodents dislike the smell of mint.

Insect screens can be installed over the refrigerator, furnace, and heater. This has proven to be effective when it comes to keeping pests and rodents out.

It is strongly advised to resist the desire to use poison to kill rodents and tiny animals. It is true that poison is very effective and can get rid of rodent trespassing your RV, but you must consider the scenario where the rodent might ingest the poison and crawl up into a corner of your RV and die. This can cause serious stinking of your RV during the winter.

DRAINING WATER FROM THE RV SYSTEM

The next step is to drain the water from the RV. This is the most important step in winterizing the RV. No water should be left in the RV’s system when the climate is cold outside. If water is present, it could freeze and ruin the havoc on the RV. It is absolutely necessary to drain water from all the tanks installed in the RV. This includes the water heater, grey and black tanks, and the freshwater tanks. Backflushing of the water is recommended by many professionals to ensure that you get all the water out of the system. The general steps followed by plenty of people who own RVs are as follows.

  • If you possess inline water filters, you must remove them and bypass before beginning the entire process.
  • Draining the fresh water tank as well as the black and grey holding tanks is done. If you do not possess an in-built flushing system for the tank in your RV, you can utilize a wand to clean the black tank. The termination valves must be well lubricated.
  • The water heater needs to be drained next, followed by removing the drain plug and opening the pressure relief valve. The water heater must not be hot or in a pressurized state when performing these actions.
  • The cold and hot water faucets, toilet valve and outside shower are to be opened.
  • The low point drain lines of your RV are to be located and opened. Usually, there are two lines, one for hot and one for cold. To force the water out, you can use a water pump. You can stop when the system is completely drained.
  • The faucets are to be closed back up and the drains are to be recapped.

ANTIFREEZE FOR YOUR RV

The antifreeze, which is specifically for RV must be employed and it has to come out of all the faucets. Automobile antifreeze should never be used in an RV’s water system as it can cause damage. The antifreeze which is produced exclusively for RV water systems is non-toxic and is available in almost all the RV-supply stores. To winterize your RV once, 2 to 3 gallons of RV antifreeze is required.

It is advised to follow your RV manufacturer’s recommendations or instructions, but the general steps are as below.

  • The water heater must be bypassed to prevent the antifreeze from filling up after some time.
  • The inlet side of the water pump is disconnected and a piece of tubing is connected instead.  The other end of the tubing is introduced into a gallon of antifreeze. Bear in mind that RV antifreeze is used.
  • The water pump is turned on to allow the pump to pump the RV-antifreeze throughout the entire system. The faucets are opened slowly until antifreeze makes its appearance. When antifreeze is exhausted, use another container.
  • Flush the toilets until you notice the antifreeze.
  • After ensuring that all the faucets have been opened in the recommended manner, make your way to the city water inlet. The screen must be removed and the valve must be pushed in until you can spot antifreeze gushing out. Now, the screen has to be replaced.
  • Additional antifreeze needs to be taken. A cup is poured down each drain and two cups are poured down the toilets. The toilet’s antifreeze is flushed into the holding tank.
  • The water heater’s electric element is turned off.
  • All the faucets are ensured to be closed.

PUT AWAY THE RV’S COMPONENTS

There are numerous parts present in an RV which must be turned off before winter strikes. Awnings are to be taken down and gas tank valves are to be shut off. The roof of the RV must be carefully inspected to find any leaks and fix them which could cause a major problem during winter. The oil of the RV must be changed before storing. If your RV is motorized, the fluid level of the vehicle must be thoroughly checked.

The owner’s manual will contain the appropriate fluid levels which need to be maintained. If your RV has an onboard generator, the oil level needs to be checked and the generator needs to be serviced accordingly. The generator’s exhaust system is also carefully monitored. If any damage persists, it should be rectified before starting the generator. It is also recommended to remove batteries present in the RV. This is because they tend to become unusable after extended periods of storage. The batteries are to be stored separately where the temperatures are not too extreme. The RV’s tailpipe can be plugged in with some rags or wool to keep the rodents and pests away.

CONTROLLING MOISTURE INSIDE THE RV

A bag of Damp-Rid can perform wonders when placed inside the RV during the storage period. It helps in absorbing moisture from the air. It is a great idea as surface fungi can be easily avoided.

COVERING UP THE RV FOR THE WINTER

The final step of winterizing your beloved RV is covering it up. Before covering, you must ensure that the RV is completely dry to avoid corrosion and rust. It is strongly recommended for the RV owners to use breathable fabric or a custom-made RV fabric as the material for the cover. Plastic tarps are frowned upon as they are not breathable. When the fabric is not breathable, you will find the growth of mold and mildew underneath the tarp.

If your RV is going to be stored in the outdoors during winter, you must cover the tires as they need maximum protection from the sun. Leaving the entire weight of the RV on the tires can also result in wear and tear. To avoid this, you can leave your RV on blocks. By doing so, you are taking the pressure off the tires and ensuring longer life.

By following the recommendations and tips, you can store your RV during the harsh winters easily and prevent any damages. By doing so, you can de-winterize your RV and take it out for a camping session when spring finally arrives.  De-winterizing your RV is not hard at all, and it is absolutely essential for safe and hassle-free travels.

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