How to Winterize Your RV for Extended Life and Use

‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. And mama in her kerchief and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap!

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of a new-fallen snow gave a lustre of midday to objects below, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, my beloved RV had not been winterized… OH MY DEAR!

rv cover - resized

Even if you are not storing your RV in the frozen tundra regions of the country, taking a few precautions and getting your rig ready for even a short storage period is important to help extend the life of the batteries, prevent UV degradation, and reduce failures further down the road. Below are some tips for winterizing your RV and getting your rig ready for the long winter ahead.

Motorized

If you own a motorized RV it’s recommended you fill the fuel tank before storage which will reduce the condensation that could lead to rust and a clogged fuel filter. It’s also a good idea to add a fuel stabilizer; check with your chassis manufacturer for their recommendation. Make sure all fluid levels are full and the proper antifreeze ratio is correct. It’s also a good idea to place a strip of cardboard under the windshield wipers to keep them from sticking to the glass.

Tires

Inflate the tires to proper tire inflation, and if you are storing a rig on blacktop or a surface that is suspect to chemicals, place a piece of plastic or plywood underneath to prevent “leaching.” It’s also a good idea to cover the tires to reduce UV degradation.

There has been much discussion on the weight applied to tires during storage and developing a “flat spot.” Tire manufacturers have recently changed their opinion and there has been no concrete evidence of such an effect. I still think it’s a good idea to use your leveling jacks to relieve the pressure though. Consult your owner’s manual for leveling jack procedures and recommendations for storage.

Water System

Even in above freezing temperatures it’s a good idea to either get rid of all the water in the tanks, lines, and water heater, or add RV antifreeze. Removing all the water can be done manually by opening all the drain valves, turning on the pump and opening the faucets, and taking the drain plug out of the water heater. However it’s best to purchase an air hose adapter that screws onto the city water fill and and then open all the faucets, toilet, shower, and take out the drain plug on the water heater. If you have a water filter under the sink, don’t forget to remove that as well.

Otherwise, you can add RV antifreeze throughout the system. Just remember to switch the water heater by-pass or you’ll need 6 or more gallons of antifreeze to fill that as well.

Interior

Get rid of any food item in cupboards, pantries, and in the refrigerator. Even items like canned goods and dry packaged food can freeze and explode or attract rodents. It’s best to remove everything. If your RV is being stored in a non-secure location, remove the TV, DVD player, tools, and any other valuable items that are easy to unhook and run away with. Prop open the refrigerator and open a can of DampRid to control moisture and condensation. Make sure all roof vents are closed as well. Remove any batteries from clocks, smoke detectors, and other accessories.

Propane

Shut the valve of your propane tank at the tank itself to ensure no propane can travel through the rig to an appliance. Cover the valves and regulator if they are exposed to the elements.

Batteries

If you are storing your RV and have access to electricity, your batteries will receive a charge from the converter; however they can still sulfate if not properly charged if stored longer than one month. It is recommended to conduct a multistage charge once a month; however this requires a special type converter or large inverter. Note: if you are plugged into electrical power it’s a good idea to turn all the circuit breakers off except the converter.

If you are not plugged into electricity, your batteries will lose charge and start to sulfate quickly. In this case it’s recommended to remove them and store in a warmer, dry place with a proper charger. A good option is using a Battery Minder either plugged into an electrical source, or the model with solar panels if you will have access to the sun.

Exterior

Be careful not to park your rig next to a tree due to the sap and danger of damage from a limb falling. If you are not storing the rig in a covered storage it’s a good idea to use a cover. The newer covers are made of lightweight material and are fairly easy to install. The cover also helps keep moisture out and protects against UV degradation to the roof material and sealants. Make sure all compartments are shut tight and sealed properly. Make sure the awning is clean and completely dry before rolling it up for storage.

Rodents

Check all vents, look for any gaps, and take precautions for rodent control. There are several methods, some like moth balls placed around wheels and inside compartment, although the smell may last for a long time after storage. Some like using the traps or even bait. A new product on the market is Mouse Free – a spray containing a mint extract that has received great reviews.

Remember, taking a little bit of time getting your RV ready for storage now will help reduce annoying repairs and maintenance later on down the road. Now tuck your RV in for a long winter’s nap and count down the days until spring!

Related Videos: Learn How to Winterize an RV

Discussion
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34 Responses to “How to Winterize Your RV for Extended Life and Use”
    • Customer Service Techs

      Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and opportunity to help find the right RV cover for your rig. The main manufacturer’s of RV covers are Adco, Carver, Camco, and Covercraft as well as several more customized companies. If you visit http://www.adcoprod.com they have a locator for an authorized ADCO dealer in your area. You can also find several places online such as Amazon.com and even Walmart.com. However, I suggest visiting an authorized dealer to get the correct dimensions and a perfect fit.

      Reply
  1. glen woods

    The best and least “smelly” way to prevent rodents is Regular Bounce dryer sheets. Don’t use scented (other than regular scent) and only bounce seems to work. Moth balls are a waste of time (been there, done that , mice had a ball and the camper smelled horrible all summer). I have used Bounce for three years with no infestation. Inexpensive and your camper smells great. Place them in all cabinets, drawers, drop-out beds, under mattresses, etc.

    Reply
    • Mark

      RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Salem, RV Year: 2016

      I don’t have luck with the dryer sheets but Fresh Cab scented pouches work extremely well. They don’t cost much and leave a pleasant smell.

      Reply
  2. jfisherbear

    We have used an abundance of fabric softner sheets every year and had no mice or other intruders. Another comment-covers on the rv. One winter with a cover as shown in the photo(properly installed and tied down) and almost all of the paint rubbed off 2 large areas of the sides where it billowed in the wind.

    Reply
  3. Mark Kahansky

    Is it practical to glue light strip to an rv under the awning? What would be the best glue to use?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Wayne. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your icemaker winterizing question. Some people actually run RV antifreeze up into the mold since it’s nontoxic and actually “potable”, but I don’t like the “sweet” taste that lingers so here’s what Norcold recommends in their owner’s manual:

      1. Lift the ice maker arm up to the off position
      2. Close the water shut off valve, usually under the sink near a filter
      3. Remove the water supply line and the ice maker water line from the water solenoid valve. This is located at the back of the refrigerator accessed through the outside vent door
      4. Drain the water from both lines
      5. Connect both lines to the water solenoid valve in the original locations
      6. Dry the inside of the ice maker with a clean cloth

      Reply
  4. Dennis Molgaard

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Discovery, RV Year: 2006

    #1 Where is the hot water heater by-pass valve on this motorhome.
    #2 Also where is the fresh water drain valve?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Dennis. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your winterizing question. To provide more specific information, we need to know the make, model, and year of your RV! Some models have the water heater bypass in the water center, others in the service center, and still others in a compartment next to the water heater. Some models don’t have one!

      Reply
    • Thomas MCGOUGH

      RV Make: Fleetwood , RV Model: 32S, RV Year: 2006

      Over the main door where the slide out control is in the cabinet beside that is also a battery switch says it’s electronic and it has Maine and also house batteries I have looked in the main folder for the motorhome and have not been able to find any information pertaining to this switch and would like to know which position to put it when winterizing and also what exactly does it do. Thank you

      Reply
      • Customer Service

        Hello Thomas,

        To provide more specific information on the switch you are referring to we need the make, model, and year of your RV. From the information, you are describing the Battery Disconnect Switch with the Main being the chassis battery and the House being the deep cycle house batteries that run your lights, vents and other 12-volt DC items. This switch is like disconnecting the negative cable on the battery so nothing can drain them during storage. There should be an off/on or connect/disconnect which allows you to disconnect when in storage. If you do not have any markings, flip the house switch to a position and see if the house lights work. If not, this is the disconnect, if they do, it’s on.

        Thanks,
        David RVRC Video Membership

        Reply
  5. Dick

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Bounder 33C, RV Year: 2016

    How do I shut off the ice maker water feed?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Dick. We would be happy to assist you; we just need some more information. What is the make/model/year of your RV?

      Reply
  6. Don

    RV Make: Jayco, RV Model: WhiteHawk 33 RSKS, RV Year: 2016

    As we are connected “shore-line” during storage, can I simply remove the battery once a month or so and take it home and charge it? I am working on the trailer weekly or so and use the power for lights etc…

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Don. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club and the opportunity to assist with your battery storage question. To properly charge a lead acid battery, you need to perform a multistage charge once a month which consists of a high voltage initial charge that breaks up sulfation and boils the lead acid, then goes into an equalizing and float stage. If you don’t have a large inverter on your rig, then are not getting this done while connected to shoreline and probably don’t have this type of charger at home? Since you do have 120-volt power at the storage facility, I would recommend purchasing a Battery Minder and leave it on the batteries throughout the storage time. This will send high impact waves into the batteries and condition them without the boiling, gassing, and loss of lead acid. They claim to be able to extend the life of the batteries by over 200 cycles which could be 2-3 years! You can get more info at http://www.batteryminder.com however I would check out Northern Tool to purchase them, they run on sale at a very good price.

      Reply
  7. Mark Wilson

    RV Make: Cougar, RV Model: XLite 27RKS, RV Year: 2012

    Regarding rodents: bounce sheets are useless. We tried them one year and found found mouse poop on them! I remove all floor vents, stuff steel wool in the vent, cover with tinfoil, and screw the vents back on. I also used sealing foam around all water hose entrances in the bathroom, kitchen, etc. Steel wool also on openings in pass-throughs(levelling jack openings). Placed “mouse blocks” in kitchen floor level cabinets, bathrooms, and in pass throughs. Finally, have a solar-powered rodent “vibrator” type instrument that is placed in the ground outside the RV. So far, so good!

    Reply
  8. Cheryl

    RV Make: Coachman, RV Model: Leprechaun, RV Year: 2017

    I’ve just purchased my first RV and am going to be living in my RV over the winter in rainy Washington State. What should I be doing to “winterize”?? Also any tips on staying warm? Keeping dampness at a minimum?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Cheryl,

      Preparing for cold weather varies with the various RV types. Since you did not provide the make, model and year, we do not know what type of insulation is in the sidewall and roof, if the water system is protected from freezing, or what type of heat systems you have. Typically when someone refers to “winterizing” it means getting the unit ready for storage in the winter by either blowing out all the water or adding RV antifreeze and nothing gets used until the spring. In your case it’s more getting ready to live/RV in cold weather which means you can not blow the water lines out or add RV antifreeze and still use the unit. There are a couple of good blogs on the site about winter camping and here is a rough draft I just wrote that will be posted soon. Hope this helps?

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  9. Richard McGrew

    RV Make: Alfa, RV Model: SeeYa 40, RV Year: 2003, Brand: Keurig Coffee Brewers, Model Number: All models

    It is impossible to drain the water from the water heating tank. If the brewer is subjected to freezing temperatures the tank or other water flooded parts make will be damaged by the water when it freezes. Take the brewer to a warm place for the winter.

    Reply
  10. Katherine

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Extreme Lite Vibe, RV Year: 2017

    We are newbies to the RV scene and have LOVED our trailer through the summer and now, fall months. In Oklahoma, we never know if or when it might freeze. The host at our favorite campground says she has had campers even at Christmas without problems with the water hookups at the sites. So, how long can we wait before winterizing the camper? Also, if we do winterize it, and we get weekends with a warmup, can we take it out again? Will we have to winterize it again after that? I would love to keep camping on the weekends as long as we can! Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Katherine,

      There is no definative answer for “how long can we wait before winterizing the camper?” It all depends on the temperature, if it goes below freezing and you have water in your fresh water tank, lines, and water heater, then it will freeze and cause damage. This year the temps have dropped way below average for this time of year and we have had 10 degree mornings which would freeze the water. Some years we have not had freezing temps until the end of November. Most campground hosts are a wonderful source of information regarding normal RV issues but typically do not get the feedback from RVers that have gotten frozen pipes and water damage. Since you did not provide the make, model and year of your RV we do not know if it has heat directed to the fresh water and pump so I would suggest checking out the videos on the RVRC site showing how to winterize with pressurized air or RV antifreeze. You can dump the fresh water tank and blow out the lines, or fill them with RV antifreeze in less than 30 minutes. So when you are not using the unit, keep it winterized and then just hook up water if the temperature is above freezing to use for camping.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.rvrepairclub.com/C10111

      Reply
  11. David

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: 37U, RV Year: 2005, Brand: Splendide®

    How to winterize my washer dryer combo

    Reply
  12. Patrick

    RV Make: Coachmen, RV Model: Freelander, RV Year: 2018

    Local tire dealer fills tires with “nitrogen.” Is it OK to mix “nitrogen” with regular “air”? Or should you keep it all regular? Tire dealer says OK to mix. Thanks, Pat

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Patrick. It’s ok to mix as regular air is 78% nitrogen already! Nitrogen is the new “pet rock” phenom of the day and it has a great debate on both sides of the fence. What I personally have found is the tires seem to run cooler in hot weather especially the inner duals with Nitrogen.
      Thanks
      Dave-RVRC

      Reply
  13. Donald

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Cougar, RV Year: 2017

    Our old RV had a gravity fill port for potable water. Our current Keystone RV has a garden type hose connection with a backflow protection device. I doesn’t seem to want to be blown out for winterization and the pump is not easily accessible for draining and doesn’t have it’s own drain line. How do I install anti-freeze into the fresh water holding tank so that I can get it into the pump? The dealership said that we should just open the drain lines under the camper and open the faucets. I’m concerned about the pump and the exterior shower and the 2nd outdoor water outlet.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Donald. Camco makes an RV antifreeze hand pump that you put the pump draw tube into the RV antifreeze jug and the other hose has a city fill connection and you simply pump the antifreeze to the water pump. Camco also makes a winterizing kit that you can install after the city water fill valve and before the water pump. Simply cut the supply line and add the diverter valve. Both products can be found at any RV dealer and I’ve even found them at home improvement stores and even Walmart that has an RV parts section.
      Thanks
      Dave-RVRC

      Reply
  14. Billie

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Montana 3811MS, RV Year: 2018

    Do I need to put antifreeze into the hot water tank since it is drained?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Billie,

      Nope, as long as it is drained it is safe for the winter. I recommend leaving the drain plug out during the winter as well, there will still be some water in the tank and if it freezes and expands on the drain plug it can sometimes damage it. Don’t worry about the remaining water in the tank though, it is there on purpose so any sediment will float in the water instead of sitting on the bottom of the tank.

      I hope this helps,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  15. Colleen Moore

    RV Make: Rockwood Lite, RV Model: 2706WS, RV Year: 2019

    We are shopping for an RV cover. Do you have recommendation for cover? Also, do we measure the same for all RV covers?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Colleen,

      When buying an RV cover it is very important to buy one that can “breath”. Having good air flow around the RV when it is covered is best to prevent any moisture build up and it keeps the seals and paint in better shape. They do make different covers for different climates. They have some that are just rain covers, UV covers, all climate covers etc. I recommend getting an all climate cover, it has all of the protection features. Adco makes a great cover that comes with the DuPont Tyvek material. It is made to withstand all conditions and has UV protection. When choosing a size, they have universal fit depending on the length of to RV box. You have to measure the box from front to back, don’t include the A frame if a trailer, and this will be the length of the cover. If you fall right in between a universal size, get the bigger one to be safe. I will provide a link to their website that has more information on the different covers they make.

      I hope this helps!

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply