By Chris Dougherty
Certified RV Technician
In much of the country, once a year it becomes “RV winterizing time.” Here are some tips if that applies to you.
• Water System — Be sure to properly winterize your entire water system for where your coach is located! Up here in New England, where winter temps fall well below zero, I always both blow out the water system and use antifreeze. Some items like toilet and ice maker valves are very sensitive to freezing and can hold water which will freeze and break the valve, leading to a mess in the spring. Want to make blowing out your water system easy? Set your air compressor to around 50 psi and use a blow out plug like one of these.
• Drains and tanks — Flush and drain your holding tanks completely on your last trip of the season. Pour plenty of RV antifreeze down each drain so the water in the p-trap is replaced, and some antifreeze can collect at the dump valve. Don’t forget to do the same with the toilet!
• Batteries — Flooded batteries that have discharged will freeze, which leads to cracked plates and battery destruction. The batteries in your RV must be on a constant charge all winter if left in the RV from at least a small trickle charger like that found on the Torklift PowerArmor Solar (see the Green RV Project on the RVTravel Channel on YouTube.) The battery should be disconnected from the RV if using this system to prevent drain from parasitic loads like safety detectors, the stereo and so on. If you don’t have the ability to charge the batteries here, remove them and store them in a warm, dry location. Charge them before you store them, and again when it’s time to reinstall them. Note: Only leave them on charge in the RV (with the RV plugged into shore power) if it has a multistage charger. If you only have a converter in your RV, remove the batteries or use a trickle charger like the PowerArmor Solar. This will keep the batteries from boiling over from overcharging.
• Removing your batteries? Take a picture of them before you disconnect them so you can remember how the wiring is done in the spring!
• Keep out the mice! Remove all foodstuffs from the RV and clean it thoroughly inside and out. Don’t forget under the furniture and cabinets. Crawl underneath the coach with a can of spray foam and seal up any openings that mice could get into. Consider using one of the mouse repellents that are on the market.
• Refrigerator — Make certain to clean the refrigerator and all its pieces before storage. Store the refrigerator with the doors propped open using the hold-open locks provided with your refrigerator, or hold them open with a towel or an aftermarket refrigerator door stay.
• Turn off the LP gas.
• Water Heater — If you don’t have a water heater bypass, I highly recommend it. A bypass allows your water heater to be drained and left open while you run antifreeze through the rest of the system.
• Protect your roof — Winter is harsh on your RV roof because of standing snow and melting that will allow water to back up and flow into the smallest cracks. Covering an RV is very important and is the best way to prevent this kind of damage. Use a good commercial RV cover like those you can find at your local RV dealer or here.
• Clean and service your roof — Go up and check your RV roof for tears and other damage to the roof itself and all the seams. Check to make sure the vent covers, sewer vents, refrigerator vent, skylights and all other items are sound, undamaged and sealed. Make sure your antennas are down and secure.
• Awning — Wash and dry your awning to prevent mildew growth while it’s in storage.
• Cover the tires and get them off the ground if possible — Tire manufacturers recommend getting the weight off the tires, but that’s not always possible. At a minimum, you should park the tires on a board or other surface instead of the dirt. Those poly cutting boards work well for this, or you can use the leveling blocks you already have. Make sure the tires are clean, and cover them with tire covers to help protect them from UV damage.
• Absorb the moisture in your RV — Mold and mildew develops and grows when there is moisture in a stagnant atmosphere, like inside an RV. Use an RV dehumidifier to help keep the air as dry as possible when in storage. If your RV has power you can use an electric one as long as the temperature in the coach stays above freezing, or you can use one of the chemical ones. You can find a number of choices here.
The very best way to winterize your RV is to drive it South for the winter! For those of you able to do so, I send you off with best wishes for a great season in the sun (and just a wee bit of envy)!