Winter RV Storage Checklist
As winter draws near, it’s time for many of us to bid farewell to our faithful traveling companion (that’s your RV). But fear not. Showing your RV some love right now will ensure that it’s ready for fun again once the flowers bloom.
The term “winterizing” can mean different things to different people, depending on where you live and where and how you store your rig. If you live in a sunny southern state and your RV is in a carport next to your house, very little is necessary to prepare it for the off-season — in fact, there may not even be an off-season. On the other hand, off-site storage in cold, wet, windy or otherwise inhospitable climes requires more due diligence to protect your RV from the evils of broken pipes, water intrusion and other forms of damage.
Below is a detailed list of areas to pay attention to before putting your trailer away for a long winter’s nap. Check all that apply.
Clean Up Inside
Sweep, vacuum and otherwise clean the interior. Empty the cabinets and pantry of food and crumbs. This will not only make for a fresh-smelling living space when you return for your next trip but will make your RV less attractive to rodents and bugs. Speaking of which, there are a number of recommended, humane ways to keep critters out — from peppermint oil and various potpourris to Kanberra gel, wipes and spray.
Dump the Tanks
You already know you should dump the black and gray tanks, but make sure to flush and drain them thoroughly. Depending on how much time you’ve spent in the RV, you may also consider using a gray-water-tank cleaning product to prevent odors. Completely drain the freshwater tank using the low-point drain, and open all faucets to evacuate remaining water in the system.
Drain the Water Heater
If the water heater has an anode rod, check its condition and replace if necessary. In any case, use a flushing wand on the end of a garden hose to remove any rust or debris at the bottom of the tank after draining.
Winterize the Plumbing System
If you live in a climate where the RV will be exposed to consistent freezing temperatures, have it winterized by a qualified service center. You can also do this yourself if you’re a confident DIYer, but make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. An improperly winterized system can result in expensive damage from split pipes.
If the RV may be exposed to freezing temperatures, but not constantly, put some RV antifreeze in each sink trap, toilet and shower/tub drain. This will help prevent water in these locations from freezing and causing damage.
Circulate the Air
It may seem counterintuitive, but keep one or more roof vents partially open so air can circulate within the RV. If you don’t intend to cover the RV, use a roof-vent cover, like those from Maxxair, which will keep rain and snow out while letting air in. If you store your rig in a dry, dusty area, keep the vents open but use a properly fitting, high-quality RV cover to keep dirt out of the interior.
Dry the Air
Most areas experience wet weather during the winter months, so make sure to use some form of desiccant product to remove moisture from the air. If you’re plugged in at your home, leave a dehumidifier running. This will prevent wood cabinets from warping and upholstery and carpet from mildewing. Just make sure to remove the water from the desiccant bucket or humidifier on a regular basis.
Preserve the Batteries
Charge, then disconnect and remove the batteries. Extremely cold or hot weather can shorten battery life, so it’s a good idea to keep them at home if this is the case. Place them on wooden blocks and attach a maintenance (“trickle”) charger so they’re ready to go when you are.
Protect the Tires
Make sure the tires are properly inflated to prevent “flat spots” caused by underinflation. Use tire covers to protect them from ultraviolet rays in sunny areas. Also, keep in mind that tires that sit for extended periods in water or on concrete can rot or crack, so place each tire on a heavy plywood square where it’s dry and can breathe.
Inspect the Exterior
Thoroughly wash the outside of the RV, and if it has a rubber roof, use one of the many available products on the market to help keep it protected. Check for any cracks or loose sealant that may allow moisture in, and patch or fill as needed.
Keep the Fuel Fresh
Be sure to run treated fuel through the generator, if you have one. Owners of toy haulers equipped with fuel tanks should add fuel stabilizer and fill the tanks to prevent condensation. Fuel stabilizer also prevents corrosion, varnish and gumming, and keeps stuff from growing in the tank, especially for diesel.
Top Off the Propane
Fill and inspect the propane cylinders, mount, fittings and hoses, and close the valve for storage.
Some bugs love the smell of LP-gas, and mud daubers can block important areas like igniter tubes and flus. Cover the openings to the water heater and refrigerator compartments with RV screens designed to keep out flying pests and make sure they are kept clean.
If the RV requires repairs that need to be completed at an RV service facility, the off-season is the best time to get them done.