6 Tips and Tricks for Cold Weather RVing

rv cold weather - RvingTouring the country by RV will undoubtedly provide you and your family with unforgettable moments and memories. Whether camping your way through the Blue Ridge Mountains or traversing Texas, something about getting out in your rig just feels right. Putting aside for a moment all the fun you’ll have, it’s important to remember that it might not always be steady going. You could run into tough terrain, engine troubles, blown tires and, perhaps the most pesky, cold weather. Frigid temperatures can become a real nuisance on an RV vacation, but you can account for any difficulties they might cause by knowing how to properly take of yourself and your vehicle.

Six Tips and Tricks for Cold Weather RVing:


There are a number of things you can do to trap warm air in the RV and even maneuver it to those “cold spots” where heat doesn’t collect. Among them: closing roof vents, utilizing space heaters, and covering floor vents in rooms you aren’t currently occupying to push warm air from the furnace directly to the bedroom. A catalytic heater is one of the safest supplemental heating products as it produces no harmful amounts of carbon monoxide and does not use battery power.




If you prefer your plumbing functional, we recommend taking care of its components. Check the location of water lines to ensure they are being protected by a heat source. If not, a small space heater can be placed in the area to provide additional heat. NOTE: Read and follow all safety precautions when using a space heat. Understand the amp draw and how far away items need to be. Allow a slow drip from your faucets to prevent ice buildup, open cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen to keep water lines warm and apply heat tape to valves and connections most prone to freezing. Another option is to run RV antifreeze through the lines and in the fresh water tank. This will allow only use of the toilet, but a couple of gallons of fresh water in the refrigerator can be used for drinking and cooking.




Just like on any ordinary home, snow buildup on an RV roof can add unnecessary weight and cause the interior temperature to drop considerably. However, unlike a home with a slanted roof, snow will melt very slowly and form ice patches that linger. So, after a heavy snowfall, be sure to climb up and clear away those piles of snow.




Before beginning to plan an RV road trip to a climate with prolonged cold temperatures, get the furnace checked. Have your furnace looked at by an RV repair technician—it absolutely must be in working order before you hit the road. If the furnace stops working in sub-freezing temperatures, pretty soon everything else will, too.




Keep more cold air out by adding insulation in the key places located around your RV. Window and trim film, foam board flooring, and reflective foil all go a long way to helping you stay warm without having to run the furnace. Additionally, you can hang heavy drapes from large windows and line your rig with skirting to block those whipping winds.




The roof vent cover is one of those things we’d classify as being more important than it looks. It’s a simple concept, but one should never take for granted being able to ventilate an RV while blocking precipitation from leaking and being trapped inside. After all, the name of the game is to get rid of cold air.



Whoever said winter is when RVs go to rest, they never visited Yellowstone in February or took a tour of Alaska at Christmas time. There’s still so much to see when it’s cold outside, you just have to know how to get to it safely and comfortably.

Discussion
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39 Responses to “6 Tips and Tricks for Cold Weather RVing”
  1. Dirk Pastoor

    Instead of going to Arizona, my wife wants to camp in Canada. What kind of skirting did you put on? just a tarp like material? Did you extend the slide out? if so, did you insulate the roof? Anything you can think of would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Thanks for viewing the RV Repair Club and with a little preparation, your winter camping in Canada should be relatively comfortable. I would suggest some type of skirting for underneath the RV such as a snap on tarp or canvas so help reduce the cold wind from whipping underneath. If it’s really cold and windy, I’ve seen avid winter enthusiasts use sheets of block foam available from home repair stores or even bales of straw and hay! Slide rooms can be extended, however make sure you know what material the roof and floor is made of. Most use an insulated roof, but many only use a plywood floor so it would need to be insulated with some type of temporary sheet insulation. I’ve seen the silver roll type used in several cases but remember to take it off when you bring the room in. A couple more tips is to insulate the windows if they are not dual pane. This can be done with the residential see through plastic that you heat with a hair dryer. Check out what heat is available to your water tank and water lines. Black and Gray tanks can just have RV antifreeze dumped in, but the fresh water needs to be protected from the cold weather. You can purchase an aftermarket heat blanket or use what I do, a small ceramic heater placed near the tank. I would also suggest investing in a catalytic heater for supplemental heat.
      Good luck and happy camping,
      RVRC Team

      Reply
  2. MARTIN

    I will be leaving Western New York State in late January. Trailer will be in storage mode till that time. I am heading south and hope to get into North Carolina the first day. Because of winter road conditions, Salt, Salt Spray and so on. Should I have my AC unit in a cover for the trip till I get south. Also wondering about refrigerator vent and how to cover that if needed ? Thanks for the advise.

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and if I were you I’d leave Western New York WAY before late January! However, when you do head South, you do not need any additional cover for the roof AC or the refrigerator vent. Both have a durable plastic material covering them that can withstand the elements for your journey. You will want to make sure they are both secure before heading out. It’s more important to know what height is at the top of your roof AC so when that “low clearance” sign pops up, you don’t “pop off” your AC unit! Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

      Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Hi, Terry. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site. Getting your rig and especially your generator ready for winter is an important item. We did shoot several oil change procedures and maintenance videos that are in the que for posting, however to properly winterize your genset, Onan recommends the following procedure.

      Fuel varnish is a common problem with gasoline generators even if you are not storing it for the winter. Just a few weeks without running the unit on at least 50% load can cause varnish and poor or no start conditions. Onan recommends running the generator once a month at 50% load for at least 30 minutes which means turning on heavy draw appliances like the AC units. This should be done prior to putting your rig down for it’s long winter’s nap! The next step is to stabilize the fuel. There are several good products on the market, however consult an automotive specialty store or your dealer as there are also several cheap products that are mostly water with a little stabilizer. Onan does not have a recommended brand rather this statement;

      “First comes stabilizing the generator’s fuel supply. Without this step, a gummy residue called fuel varnish can develop that can clog your generator’s carburetor. So add a fuel preservative and stabilizer; then run the unit under load for 30 minutes plus 2 minutes for every foot of fuel line from the fuel tank to the generator. Doing this way ensures that the entire fuel system is properly treated.”

      I have found that SeaFoam and Sta-Bil are highly recommended by several automotive and chassis manufacturers. If you have an on-board generator drawing from the vehicles fuel tank, it’s a good idea to store the unit with a full tank of gas. This will eliminate any condensation inside the tank and ultimately rust from forming and clogging the filters.

      Once again Onan recommends; “First comes stabilizing the generator’s fuel supply. Without this step, a gummy residue called fuel varnish can develop that can clog your generator’s carburetor. So add a fuel preservative and stabilizer; then run the unit under load for 30 minutes plus 2 minutes for every foot of fuel line from the fuel tank to the generator. Doing this way ensures that the entire fuel system is properly treated.”

      Then, drain and change the oil and filter using the recommended brand and weight. Onan recommends Onamax and either SAE30 or 15W-40 depending on the unit and the region of country/temperatures. I do think it’s important to use the recommended oil and filters as some cheaper products have inferior materials in the filters which can break down prematurely. Oil has several classifications such as viscocity and detergent or non-detergent. If you use a detergent oil in certain engines it will foam and ruin the component. Viscosity is the oil’s resistance to flow or speed it will travel through the engine. The SAE30 is tested at 210 degrees which is normal engine operating temperature. The 15W-40 is different as the W means it has been tested at a lower temperature for Winter and will flow like a 15 and better suited for colder temperatures yet protects the engine when it gets up to 210 degrees after running for some time.

      Onan also recommends removing the spark plug and spraying a fogging oil product inside the cylinder. Again, Sta-Bil has a good product that is an easy to use spray can and can be purchased at most auto parts stores and even Ace Hardware. It’s a good idea to turn the generator over (try short starts) to move the piston in the cylinder and spray several times. This will help protect the cylinder and piston and reduce varnish. Don’t forget to reinstall the plug!

      The last thing is to take steps to keep rodents out. Mice and rats can eat through wiring, filters, and cables leaving you a mess. Some RVer’s love moth balls, others like the bait. Whatever your preference, keep the critters out!

      Reply
  3. Brenda

    We camped a couple of years in snow and 15 below weather with no problems but a lot of precautions.

    First we purchased a heated water hose. They use them for Carle to keep the water supply from freezing. We purchased adapters for hose ends so we made sure the temperature monitoring end was outside the unit.

    We did not leave a dump hose on. When it was time we just connected the hose and dumped. One less thing to freeze.

    I found a company in our area who made skirts for oil rigs. They made one to fit and attach to the 5th wheel. Kept this to the ground with sandbags..

    I also found a temperature related plug in. This was put in the belly outlet. I then plugged a heated into it. Set the temperature so the heater would be turned on and off with the temperature.

    I then set monitors (temperature) in the belly and by my water in hose. I was able to monitor the temperature from inside my 5th wheel to verify the temperature was maintained.

    I did not use my on board washer and dryer. The pipes for it are by the wall and it was just one less thing to worry about freezing.

    We rented a 100 gallon propane tank. This allowed the park to come pickup the tank and fill it. Had propane in my onboard bottles just in case the rented bottle ran out. Had a special hose made to do this from a propane company.

    It was fun camping in the winter. Did not have any problems.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, John. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with obtaining an owner’s manual; however, I would need to know what appliance or type of RV you are requesting?

      Reply
  4. Max Cosme

    RV Make: Heartland, RV Model: Elkridge, RV Year: 2014

    Where can I find an owners manual for 2014 Heartland / Elkridge

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Max. You can get the basic owner’s manual from Heartland direct at: https://www.heartlandrvs.com/resources/utilities-menu/owners-manuals. This will cover the coach section, but not much info on the appliances as they all have separate Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) manuals so you will need to find the model and serial numbers of your Refrigerator, AC, Water Heater, etc and get those manuals as well.

      Reply
  5. Robert

    RV Make: Sunnybrook, RV Model: Titan LX, RV Year: 2006

    Never winter camped, With all the information below it sounds as if might be fun to do so, but I would never camp in sub zero weather. I guess that would me a no diehard camper. lol

    Reply
  6. Charles

    RV Make: Itasca, RV Model: Suncruiser, RV Year: 2013

    Will I have a problem with Hydrolic Leveling Jacks in cold weather?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Charles. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to provide assistance on your leveling jack question. Most hydraulic systems use a standard Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) such as Dexron III, however Power Gear and Lippert Component Inc (LCI) both recommend the following: Mobil DTE 11M, Texaco Rando HDZ-15HVI, Kendall Hyden Glacial Blu, or any Mil. Spec. H5606 hydraulic fluids are recommended for cold weather operation. These fluids are recommended for operation below -10 deg F

      Reply
  7. W DeCoste

    RV Make: Open Range, RV Model: FR316RLS, RV Year: 2017, Brand: Norcold, Model Number: 8 cu feet refrigerator

    I have a fifth wheel with a Norcold refrigerator and the typical two external “vents”. One high up and the other low. It appears that during a recent driving rain storm the lower vent accumulated some water which found itself inside the unit – on the floor. I checked the windows, slides etc. and it seems to be the only possible source of a leak. The lower vent seems more susceptible to accumulating water. So… is there a preferred way of adding drain ports to these vents or vent covers?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your moisture issue in the refrigerator compartment. The upper vent is designed to let hot air escape or “vent” while the unit is running. Your refrigerator heats a liquid solution at the burner assembly at the bottom which is where the lower vent is. This solution turns to a vapor and travels up the cooling unit known as an absorption process and then works it’s way back down by gravity. The heat that is generated in the back compartment needs to vent for the refrigerator to work efficiently. If you have a driving rain, water can get in the top and bottom vents therefore it’s important to make sure the entire base of the compartment is sealed. Some manufacturers such as Winnebago place a plastic tray under the refrigerator with a drip tube while others just apply black silicone in massive amounts! Take off the lower vent and inspect the floor and all around the refrigerator
      to see if there is a spot that water can penetrate. You might need to apply more silicone or even some expandable foam to seal it. Some owners place a piece of plastic on the inside of the vent to keep moisture out but DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU ARE RUNNING THE REFRIGERATOR DOWN THE ROAD!!! Be sure to take the plastic off when you are using the refrigerator! Since you do not have a tapered floor which would force moisture to flow to a low point to drain, I do not think you can add a drain hose that would be effective?

      Reply
  8. tanya

    RV Make: fleetwood, RV Model: pace arrow, RV Year: 2008

    We are full timers and RV in the winter…need to know more about insulating RV from freezing. I was told to put plastic over inside windows. What about the condinsation

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Tanya. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club and the opportunity to assist with your cold weather camping preparation. Most people purchase an RV to get away from the cold however being from Northern Iowa, I have spent many nights in below freezing weather in a variety of RVs! The first thing I would suggest is to inspect your fresh water system to see how it is protected from freezing. Is there a heat vent that goes to the fresh water tank, pump, and lines? Even with a heat vent, I have frozen units at 20 degree weather as there is little air circulation in an RV due to limited cold air returns so pockets develop and those small water lines don’t need much to freeze. I would suggest adding supplemental heat such as a heat pad or even install a small portable heater in the service compartment.

      If you don’t have dual pane windows, then yes, I would apply the heat
      shrink plastic that you can get at any home improvement store. It’s
      the type that applies with a tape strip and use a hair dryer to shrink it
      tight. Then get some DampRid for condensation and put 2 or 3 in the
      rig front to back.

      And finally, get a Catalytic Heater for the inside for backup heat.
      They are odorless and produce very little condensation and SAFE! My
      favorite is the Olympian model.

      Reply
  9. MARCOS LOAIZA

    RV Make: COACHMEN, RV Model: SANTARA, RV Year: 1999

    I AM NEW IN THE WINTERIZED DE RV.

    Reply
  10. Kenneth Carter

    RV Make: Chevrolet, RV Model: 2900 LTD, RV Year: 2005, Brand: Sunseeker, Model Number: Forest River

    Water suddenly stop flowing into RV.

    Reply
  11. Pat

    RV Make: Escalade, RV Year: 2008

    The outside vent for the refrigerator has allowed the refrigerator to stop working in high winds. Is there a protection I can put around it to keep the wind out? I also have wondered if there was a way to put heat in the floor.like they do in bathrooms in houses.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Pat. Both Dometic and Norcold refrigerators have a metal box surrounding the flame that should keep wind from blowing it out? Some owners remove the box or leave the peak window open for ease of access so make sure it’s closed or the box is actually in place. Also, make sure you have a good strong blue flame, if it’s jumping around or orange in color, it’s a weak flame and will go out easily. There are several heated floor options such as Aqua-Hot which is the top of the line, but hard to retrofit and electric pads that you can get from home repair stores. My favorite is Step Warmfloor manufactured by Electro Plastics Inc as they have narrow panels that can be customized for the narrow hallways and larger kitchen areas by placing two side by side or 3-4 in larger areas and operate off battery power.

      Reply
  12. Steven

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Springdale, RV Year: 2002

    How can you tell when the holding tanks are freezing up.How RV much antifreeze should be used to keep the tanks from freezing, say at 15 degrees to 0 degrees?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Steven. About the only way to tell if the holding tanks are freezing up is to open the dump valve and nothing comes out? The amount of RV antifreeze needed in your black and grey water tanks depends on the size/capacity of the tank and the concentration of the antifreeze. Check the label for the antifreeze to gallon capacity and adjust to your size tank. Some are rated to –50 degrees but that’s at full strength through the lines, not rated for the holding tanks with added fluids. I’ve always just put about 3 gallons in each tank and not had issues even in zero degree temps.

      Reply
  13. Tom

    RV Make: Citation , RV Model: Thor, RV Year: 1997

    My wife and I live in our RV fifth wheel. In the winter the top of the slide-out comes in a ways. Only the top never bottom. How can I fix it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Tom. To provide more specific information regarding your slide room issue we need the make, model, and year of your rig as well as the type of slide mechanism. Most of the mechanisms today are Lippert Components Inc (LCI) but there are a few cable slides by Accu Slide, side gear by Schwintek, and others. It’s unusual for the top to creep as most models have all the connecting rods at the bottom and the top “floats”? If it’s a cable slide, could just be slack in the cables?

      Reply
  14. Eugene

    RV Make: Shasta, RV Model: 2500, RV Year: 79, Brand: Dometic, Model Number: Rm 46/47

    I need help knowing how to test and run on LP . control buttons and knobs are missing and not sure what positions ( if it works

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Eugene. To provide more specific information we need the make, model, and year of your RV and what you are looking to test and run on LP? Motorhomes have ASME LP tanks mounted horizontally in a compartment while trailers and most 5th Wheels have DOT Cylinders like the ones used for residential grills. They come in 20-40 pound cylinders and utilize a pressure regulator at the tank or cylinder and supply individual appliances such as the refrigerator, oven, stove top, water heater, and on-board heater. Since you referenced the “6-Tips for cold weather rving”, you may be referring to the heater? Typically RV manufacturers used Suburban or Hydroflame as well as a few others but these are the main ones. They are controlled by a thermostat on the wall just like your home and don’t really have control buttons or knobs, just the black slider for on/off and temperature. If those are missing, I would recommend just replacing the thermostat as it’s fairly easy and inexpensive. The only appliance that I am aware of that has control buttons and knobs is the stove top and possibly the refrigerator. If these are missing, get the model and serial number of the appliance and we can assist in getting replacement parts so you know the positions.
      Thanks
      Dave-RVRC

      Reply
  15. STAN

    RV Make: Entegra, RV Model: Aspire 44B, RV Year: 2014, Brand: Aqua hot, Model Number: 400lp

    How to heat the floor?

    Reply
  16. Delmolino

    RV Make: Jayco, RV Model: Sunhawk, RV Year: 2015

    Traving in and staying in cold weather -10 F.

    Reply
  17. Keith

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Passport 29 foot, RV Year: 2015

    If I was to put insulation on the floor or underside of my RV (permanent placement), What kind would I use that would stay in place and not hold moisture. I’m looking to make it a bit more comfortable for winter camping and keep heat bills down. It would have to stay in place while traveling or sitting.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Keith,

      It depends on the type of RV you have, most motorhomes already have block foam insulation sandwiched into the floor design. Most trailers simply have a plywood floor but some do offer a winter package that has loose fill insulation with the aluminum outer material applied underneath and a corrugated plastic sheet over the entire underfloor. This allow you to apply the insulation and the plastic not only secures it but also keeps moisture out. Another option would be to spray foam insulation underneath like Handi Foam or have a professional insulation company do it.

      Thanks,

      David
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  18. MICHAEL RHODEN

    RV Make: SAFARI, RV Model: SIMBA, RV Year: 2006, Brand: GENERATOR

    BEST WAYS TO PROTECT IT LIVING IN WINTER ON YOUR OWN LOT

    Reply
  19. Michelle

    RV Make: Imagine, RV Model: Imagine, RV Year: 2018

    How do you insulate windows without causing condensation to drip?

    Reply