The leaves are turning, the days are growing shorter and soon enough snow will be on the ground. You’ve had a lot of adventures on the road over the past few months, but the change in seasons means more than just a change in wardrobe; it also means that it’s time to winterize your RV for off-season storage. Here’s how to prepare it for hibernation.
Before you start the process of winterizing your RV, make sure you’ve got somewhere to park it. Depending on where you live, RV storage can be scarce, so try to reserve your spot as early as you can. When looking for a facility that offers RV storage, be sure to filter your search so that you’re only seeing places that offer this feature in your results. RV storage comes in a few different forms. At its most basic, it’s an uncovered parking lot. An upgraded version of this offers a stall that you can park your RV under to offer some protection from the elements. If you want all the bells and whistles, seek out a facility that offers fully enclosed garage-style RV spots with individual locks and alarms. Prices and availability will vary depending on what type of RV storage you want, but storing at a facility is always a better idea than parking your RV in front of your own home where it can end up damaged or towed.
Spring isn’t the only time for cleaning (although you should plan on doing that once it’s time to take your RV out of storage). Failure to properly clean your RV before putting it in storage can result in minor problems turning into expensive repairs. Be sure to remove all perishable items along with toiletries and cleaning supplies. If it can either attract pests or freeze and burst, get rid of it. A good plan of action is to deep clean using the cleaning supplies you keep in your RV and then put them in a box and remove them. Remove cushions and bedding and store at home if possible. If you don’t have the space for this, at least make sure they are clean.
A great place to do the initial fluid drain on your RV is at the dump station of the last campground you camp at. You’ll want to drain the fresh holding tank and the gray and black water tanks along with the hot water heater—just make sure it’s not hot or under pressure when you do so! Be sure to flush toilets and run faucets to make sure that all the water is gone. Rinse holding tanks with a water wand to get them nice and clean. Once you’re satisfied, use compressed air to force any remaining water out. After you drain fluids, double check that you’ve replaced caps and tightened valves on everything.
The amount of antifreeze that an RV requires can vary based on the size and features, but generally speaking, three gallons should be enough. Just make sure you get the RV specific antifreeze, which is pink and can be purchased at any RV supplies store. If you don’t have a bypass installed in your hot water heater, you can buy this kit while you’re there. Bypassing your hot water heater when you flood your water lines with antifreeze will prevent it from filling up. While this won’t damage your hot water heater, it will waste gallons of antifreeze. Pump antifreeze through pipes and flush toilets and run faucets to ensure that everything has been filled. Once you’ve completed this step, pour a few cups of antifreeze down the toilet and into each drain (don’t forget the shower drain) for good measure.
Remove the battery, fill the propane tanks and check your tires for proper air pressure. Fill if needed and apply tire cleaner and sealer to the sides of tires. Some RV owners like to actually remove the tires and leave the vehicle on blocks to prevent wear and tear from the weight of the vehicle, but this isn’t necessary and it’s possible that your storage facility might not allow it. Do a once-over on the outside of your RV to make sure there aren’t any exposed vents, holes or cracks in caulking. If there are, seal them. Consider purchasing an RV cover if you’re living in an area with exceptionally harsh winter weather. Make sure that you have removed all valuable items and that your RV is securely locked. If you have a fifth wheel, a fifth wheel lock can be an excellent added security measure. This is also a great time to make yourself aware of your storage facility’s security features and revisit your insurance policy.
Still stumped? Many RV supply stores will be happy to winterize your vehicle for you (for a fee, of course). Don’t be shy about asking your storage facility manager for tips either, as many RV storage facilities are familiar with the process and may even have some of the necessary supplies for sale. Remember, these tips are not intended to be an exhaustive guide, so you should still consult with your RV owner’s manual or dealership. Winterizing your RV might seem like a long process the first time you do it, but once the snow melts and it’s time for summer road trips to start again, you’ll be glad you did.