Short days, cold nights, icy roads, frozen lakes and park closures… there’s a lot of reasons to end your camping season after the Fall weather is over. If you’ll be putting your RV in storage before temps drop below freezing, it’s important to perform some winterizing maintenance that can keep you from paying costly repairs in the Spring.
Why winterize your RV?
The most common issue that happens to RVs in the winter is freezing water lines and holding tanks. When the temp drops below 32, the water or leftover moisture in your lines can freeze and the ice can cause them to crack. If you’ve got an RV with a motor, the same can happen to your gas tank when fuel has been left sitting for a long period of time. Also, it’s always a good idea to make sure your RV isn’t attracting critters while it sits in storage during the off season. While this sounds like a lot of work, winterizing is fairly simple and can save you a lot of headaches in the future. An RV dealership can winterize your rig for you, but it’s not difficult to do it yourself.
How cold does it need to be to winterize your RV?
It’s safe to say that if the temp is going to drop below 32, your RV should be winterized before it gets that cold. Some RV owners will wait until it’s going to remain below 32 for a period of 24 hours or more. Which would mean that nights in the 20s and days in the 40s may not cause damage to your RV. It’s up to you if you want to err on the side of caution. Some water lines may already be insulated and therefore somewhat freeze-resistant. It’s important to know your RV before performing any kind of maintenance.
How long does the winterizing last?
If your winter lasts from October to March you shouldn’t worry about having to do much maintenance after the initial winterization. Fuel stabilizer will last for over a year and antifreeze will last for at least 4 months (and in some cases up to 2-3 years, depending on how diluted it is). My RV is sort of like my baby… so I’ll go check on my rig in storage every other month if it’s not being used, which isn’t a bad idea. Especially if your RV has a motor, you might want to start up the engine and run it every so often in the off months.
How To Winterize Your RV Water Lines:
You can winterize your water lines in one of two ways: blowing them out with an air compressor or pumping antifreeze through the drainage system. Either way, you’ll need to empty your water heater and other holding tanks.
Empty Water Heater
Step 1: Turn off water heater
- If you do this a few hours before, it gives the water time to cool before you drain it
- If you don’t have time to let it cool, just turn off the water heater and let water run so you don’t get burned when you pull the plug
Step 2: Empty water heater tank
- Turn the pressure relief valve to release so that it drains completely, then return the relief valve to its original position once all water has drained
Step 3: Close both water valves
- This will ensure that the water is blocked off from entering the heater
Step 4: Open the center water valve
- This will allow water to circulate through the lines, but not enter the water heater
Empty Holding Tanks
Step 1: Empty holding tanks completely
- This includes the fresh, black and grey water tanks
Step 2: Rinse/clean holding tanks
Step 3: Run all faucets to empty the fresh water pump until they run dry
- Don’t run the faucet for too long, running it dry can damage the pump
Winterization Method #1:
BLOWING OUT LINES
How to blow out your lines:
Step 1: Remove any inline water filters that you have in your RV, but put the housing back after the filter is removed
Step 2: Use your adapter to connect your air compressor to the RV water inlet
Step 3: Turn on your air compressor and dial down the pressure to about 35 psi
Step 4: Open all the faucets one at a time until they only spray air and no water
- Don’t forget to flush toilets, spray the shower hose, drain any outside hoses and low point drains until it’s just air coming out
Pour antifreeze directly into your drains:
You can pour it directly into P traps to get the antifreeze to run through your water line
Winterization Method #2:
FILL LINES WITH ANTIFREEZE
Filling Lines with Antifreeze:
Step 1: Using your pump converter kit, connect the hose to your water inlet connection
- If your hose already has a connector on it, the valve may not be necessary
- You may want to use your hose clamp if the valve does not feel secure on the water inlet connection
Step 2: Insert loose end of hose into the gallon of antifreeze
Step 3: Turn on all faucets one at a time until they each run pink with antifreeze
- Keep checking on the antifreeze gallon to make sure it hasn’t run out
- Don’t forget to run the following lines until they run pink with antifreeze
- Both hot and cold sides of faucets
- Flush toilets
- Spray the shower hose
- Run any outside hoses
- Run low point drains
- Clear the city water outside connection
Step 4: Pour antifreeze directly into your drains
You can pour it directly into P traps to get the antifreeze to run through your water line
Supplies you’ll need:
- Pump Converter Winterizing Kit
- Should include a hose and valve connector
- You may need a small hose clamp to connect the hose to the water inlet to keep the antifreeze from leaking
- RV Antifreeze (3-4 gallons depending on your RV)
- Propylene Glycol is considered “RV Antifreeze” because it’s safer to use in RV plumbing and won’t taint your water system
How to Winterize Your RV for Mice:
During the cold months, your RV might look like a nice cozy hideaway to unwanted critters. There’s a few preventative measures you can take to try and keep mice, ants and rats out of your RV.
Make sure your RV is sparkling clean
- Anything that smells like food can attract pests. Scrub your sink, remove all groceries and vacuum out food storage shelves. Oftentimes pans (especially seasoned cast iron ones) have grease leftover from cooking. If these are left in your RV, the smell can attract bugs. It’s best to either remove or scrub down all cooking utensils to remove the scent. Sweep, vacuum and wipe down all appliances to neutralize the odor. Canned foods are about the only grocery items that are safe to keep in your RV for long periods of time.
Block off any entrance points
- Cracks near doors or spaces where pipes may enter are easy entrance points for mice. Check all around the outside of your rig (including underneath) to see if there are holes that should be filled. You can use caulk or spray foam as sealant, just make sure you’re not blocking any exhaust pipes.
Set precautionary measures
- Since pests hate strong scents, I bought a battery powered oil diffuser for my RV and filled it with a strong tea tree oil concoction. This was the only successful solution to our red ant infestation that followed us around all summer. Some other RVers have different methods such as:
- Peppermint oil with reed diffuser sticks
- Tea tree oil on cotton balls placed sporadically throughout the RV
- Dryer sheets stuffed in the holes of entrance points
- Traditional mouse traps work, but remember if you use the humane live traps you’ll need to check on the traps just about every other day
Store your RV away from heavily wooded areas
- A covered, climate-controlled garage is the safest place to store your RV. These storage units can get pricey and aren’t an option for everyone. If you can’t store your RV in a garage, try to make sure it’s parked on paved ground. Keeping it away from trees and tall grasses will help keep pests out
Check on your RV in storage
- Every 5 or so weeks, pay your RV a visit. Even if it’s just in your driveway. Jump inside and look for mouse droppings or leaks. If you do get critters invading your space, you can handle the problem before it gets worse.
How to Winterize your RV Gas Tank:
Step 1: Fill your tank with gas until its almost full
Step 2: Add fuel stabilizer to your tank
- Amount of stabilizer you should add depends on size of your gas tank
- Fuel stabilizer helps keep your gas fresh for when you start your engine back up and prevents the gas from evaporating
How to Winterize your RV Battery:
A partially charged battery is at risk of freezing when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. A fully charged battery won’t freeze until it gets to -50 degrees. When the liquid inside a battery freezes, electrical connections break and the battery becomes useless. There are two different ways you can protect your battery while your RV is in storage during the winter.
Store your battery inside your house
Some RVers remove their battery completely and store it inside for the season. This allows you to fully charge it before starting your engine in the spring. The tricky part about this method is that if you want to run your motor occasionally during the winter, you’ll have to take your battery in and out everytime.
Set up a trickle charger
A trickle charger connects to your battery while it’s in storage and slowly adds power to the battery. This ensures that your battery never runs out and keeps it from being depleted due to nonuse. Trickle chargers require a power source, so make sure your RV is being stored somewhere you can plug the trickle charger in.
It’s always a sad day when the weather decides that RVing season is over. Taking a bit of time to ensure your rig is going to be safe during the winter is well worth the effort. There are a few other checklist items you’ll want to consider before storing your RV. Check out our RV Storage Checklist before you put your RV away for the winter.
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