Winterizing Your RV: A Comprehensive Guide to Preparing for the Cold Season

As the leaves change and the temperatures drop, we as RVers don’t just have to think about preparing for Christmas but we’ll also need to start thinking about the dreaded “W” word: winter.

Properly winterizing your RV is not just a seasonal chore; it’s a crucial step in protecting your investment and ensuring it’s ready for next year’s season.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to winterize your RV, helping you avoid costly damage and unnecessary stress.

Red and white rv parked on the street, needs winterizing, dusted in snow

Getting Started

  1. Choose the Right Time: Timing is everything when it comes to winterization. Start the process a few weeks before the first hard freeze in your area. This way, you have ample time to complete all the necessary steps without rushing.

  2. Gather the Tools and Materials: You’ll need a variety of tools and supplies, including RV antifreeze, a water pump converter kit, sealants, cleaning materials, tire covers, and more. Make sure you have everything on hand before you begin.

  3. Find a Suitable Location: Look for a flat, well-ventilated area to perform the winterization. Ideally, this should be close to an electrical outlet and a water source for convenience.

Exterior Preparation

  1. Clean the Exterior: Give your RV a thorough cleaning, removing any dirt, grime, and debris. Cleaning the exterior now prevents staining and damage during the winter.

  2. Inspect and Repair: Check for any damage, such as cracks, leaks, or gaps in the exterior. Repair any issues promptly to prevent further damage from the elements.

  3. Protect the RV from the Elements: Ensure your RV is protected from snow, ice, and wind by:

    • Covering it with a breathable RV cover.
    • Applying sealants and caulking to any openings.
    • Installing window and vent covers.

Plumbing System

  1. Drain and Flush the Water System: Open all faucets, drains, and the low point drains to remove any water from the system.

  2. Use Non-Toxic Antifreeze: Add RV antifreeze to the water lines to prevent freezing and damage. Be sure to use a non-toxic, RV-specific antifreeze.

    Pro Tip: Our friend Nick Buchanan (@thatrvtech on TikTok and IG), a certified RV Technician revealed this little tidbit of knowledge just the other day: 
    If you don’t want to use Antifreeze in your RV because it makes the water taste funny or or for any other reason, you can use bottom shelf vodka. 
    Because of it’s high alcohol concentration it won’t freeze during the winter and it’s more fun to clean the lines next season. 😉 
  3. Treat Water Tanks and Lines: Empty and clean your freshwater and wastewater tanks. Add antifreeze to the wastewater tank to protect the valves and seals.

  4. Protect the Water Heater and Pump: Drain and bypass the water heater. Add antifreeze to the water pump to protect it from freezing.

Electrical System

  1. Disconnect and Store Batteries: Remove the batteries from your RV and store them in a cool, dry place. Regularly check the battery charge during storage.

  2. Protect Sensitive Electronics: Unplug all electronic devices to avoid any potential electrical issues during the winter.

  3. Winterize Solar Panels (If Applicable): If your RV has solar panels, consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions on winterizing these components.

Interior Preparation

  1. Cleaning and Decluttering: Clean the interior thoroughly, removing any food, toiletries, and perishables. Declutter to prevent pest infestations.

  2. Prevent Mold and Mildew: Place moisture absorbers, such as desiccant bags or dehumidifiers, throughout the RV to prevent mold and mildew growth.

  3. Keep mice and other pests out by covering your vents with dryer sheets. 

HVAC System

  1. Service the Furnace: Have the furnace professionally serviced to ensure it’s in top working condition for the winter.

  2. Insulate the RV: Use thermal curtains and draft stoppers to insulate windows and doors, keeping the heat in and the cold out.

  3. Cover Vents and Openings: Seal off vents and openings with insulating material to prevent drafts.

Tires and Suspension

  1. Check Tire Pressure and Tread: Properly inflated tires will prevent flat spots and uneven wear. Consider adding tire covers to protect against UV damage.

  2. Lift the RV Off the Ground: Use leveling jacks or blocks to lift the RV off the ground to prevent tire damage from long-term contact with the pavement.

Propane System

  1. Check for Leaks: Inspect the propane system for leaks and ensure all connections are secure.

  2. Safely Shut Off and Store Propane Tanks: Close the propane valve and disconnect the tanks. Store them in a safe, well-ventilated area.

  3. Protect Propane Lines: Wrap propane lines with foam pipe insulation to prevent freezing.

RV Cover Maintenance

  1. Regular Inspections: Periodically check the RV cover for tears or damage, and repair or replace it as needed.

  2. Cleaning and Storing: Clean and thoroughly dry the RV cover before storing it in a cool, dry place.

Additional Tips

  1. Stay Informed About Weather Forecasts: Keep an eye on local weather forecasts and be prepared to revisit your RV to address any issues that may arise during the winter.

  2. Visit the RV During the Winter: It’s a good idea to visit your RV periodically to check for any issues, especially if you’re experiencing an exceptionally harsh winter.

Conclusion

Properly winterizing your RV is an investment in its longevity and your peace of mind. By following these comprehensive steps, you’ll ensure that your home on wheels is protected from the winter elements and ready for your next adventure when the snow thaws. With a little time and effort, you can enjoy a worry-free winter and look forward to hitting the road again in the spring.

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