An RV reminds many people of summer — camping with family and friends, long road trips, and enjoying magnificent sites around the country. Winterizing an RV doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun. However, the concept of winterizing shouldn’t scare you. Instead, think of it as preparation that will save you trouble, and money, in the future.

RV plumbing systems can easily freeze up if owners don’t winterize their RV. But it’s not only the plumbing. Winterizing also protects your RV’s exterior and interior, preventing damage. If you’re a longtime RV owner, you know the importance of doing these things. And, you’re familiar with the high costs of replacing plumbing lines or other costly RV repairs.

You may have learned some of these lessons the hard way. Or maybe this is the first time you’ve had to think about it. Either way, there’s still time to prepare your RV for the winter. Do so now to avoid the last minute hassle of trying to get everything ready before the first frost hits — or worse, replacing expensive parts because of winter damage.

Benefits of Winterizing an RV

rv on snow

You might be asking yourself why you should take the time, and spend the money, on winterizing an RV. The most apparent benefit is protecting water lines and plumbing lines from freezing and eventually bursting. This, however, isn’t the only benefit of winterization. What are some additional benefits of winterizing an RV? Some include:

  • Controlling insects and rodent infestation
  • Preventing mold and mildew growth in moist areas
  • Preventing damage to the chassis
  • Protecting the engine, wiring, and accessories in the RV from freezing
  • Helping to prevent the battery from dying

Equipment and Tools Necessary for Winterizing an RV

So, what items are necessary to winterize the RV? For those who plan on winterizing an RV themselves, some things are imperative to do it properly. These include:

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Mothballs, steel wool, and mousetraps (to prevent insect/rodent infestation)

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Additionally, an RV trailer storage kit, or large cover, should cloak the exterior of the RV. This kit will protect it from snow, hail, and ice, and preserve the paint and exterior surfaces. All you’ll have to do when spring rolls around is hose the sides off. Then, you’re ready to hit the open road. Also, note that depending on the tips you choose to follow, some equipment isn’t necessary. So, this isn’t an all-inclusive list of the essential items for winterizing an RV.

Seven Tips for Winterizing an RV Properly and Efficiently

Now that you know why you should winterize, how should you go about the process? These are a few tips to help hurry the winterization along, without compromising on the quality of your work.

Start by draining

When winterizing an RV, one primary area of focus is on preventing pipes from freezing. To ensure this doesn’t occur, owners must drain all water, from all water sources, in the RV. If there’s an inline water filter, remove and bypass it before beginning. Then, drain the water heater and fresh water holding tanks. Also, drain/flush the grey and black holding tanks.

If there’s a water source, make sure draining and flushing of the tanks and pipes take place. Even a small supply of running water can wreak havoc on the RV if temperatures dip too low. So, it’s best to prevent this altogether by completely removing all sources of water from the RV.

Antifreeze will help prevent pipes from bursting

After emptying all water sources, pour non-toxic antifreeze into the drains and piping. Pouring antifreeze into the toilets, sinks, and all drains coats the piping system properly. Antifreeze will also help prevent the pipes in the RV from rupturing. Water inside pipes causes them to expand as temperatures decrease. Antifreeze will prevent this expansion from occurring.

Don’t forget the housekeeping

It’s surprising how many crumbs end up underneath the seats of an RV. Or trash that piles up around an RV, after a long summer of traveling. Most owners don’t clean their RV after every trip. Many people don’t even wash it at the end of camping season. When winterizing an RV, it’s imperative to do so. Rodents love to come inside to escape cold temperatures. If there are crumbs everywhere, it’s calling to them to invade the space.

Make sure to empty the freezer and fridge. Also, leave doors open to prevent odors because power sources aren’t running. Leave cabinets open and make sure there’s no food (even in a sealed package) left behind. Wipe counters, clean the stove, and take the time to do general housekeeping you were avoiding, while traveling. The cleaner the RV is, the safer it is. Last, place mothballs, steel wool, mouse traps, and other deterrents in the RV, to keep rodents and insects away.

Shut off appliances

Many RV owners neglect some winterization tasks, once they complete the first few steps. Yes, the pipes are the primary concern. But, there’s much more inside the RV that needs prepping as well. Defrost the freezer and keep a box of baking soda in it. Doing this will help prevent odors from developing since the electricity won’t be running for several months. Shut off the main panels and circuit breakers. Since the RV isn’t operating, why run the risk of something happening to the switch in freezing weather? Open cabinets and drawers, close the blinds and roll down the shades to protect the interior surfaces. Remove cell batteries, shut off gas lines, and make sure to turn off all appliances. Clean out A/C filters and leave air vents open to prevent them from cracking during the winter.

Then there’s the exterior

If your RV is muddy, dusty, or has soil all over it, you need to clean it before storing it. This dirt shouldn’t sit on the surface for several months, especially while the RV has a cover over it. Before covering the RV up for storage, wash it. Waxing and polishing it is also beneficial if time permits. Rust and discoloration can occur if owners don’t adequately safeguard the exterior. So, use WD40, silicone, or other lubricant-based sealants, around doors, hinges, and other surfaces.

Location, location, location

It’s almost as important to choose a safe area to store the RV as it is to winterize it. If possible, leaving the camper at an RV park, or sheltering it under a roof is the best option. These locations have all the necessary security in place to protect an RV from damage or theft. Plus, you won’t have to worry about laws or restrictions preventing you from parking in yards or on roadways. Begin your research early, to find safe storage facilities or RV parks, to safely park during the winter season.

Cover it up

Protecting the RV under a shelter, tent, or another protective system is the final step of winterizing an RV. There are several covers available specifically for covering an RV or a camper. These products are available in multiple sizes, materials, and finishes because no two RVs are alike. Therefore, every owner is likely to find a protective cover that is perfect for their RV.

In regions where it snows or hails during the winter, protecting the RV is imperative to maintaining its appearance. Even in areas where these weather conditions don’t occur, if temperatures get very cold, covering the RV is beneficial. There’s a protective solution for every region, season, and for every RV. Make sure to look for the best protective covers available. They should be durable, and large enough to cover the entire body of the vehicle. It’s better to go bigger, rather than not have enough coverage for the RV.

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Winterize for the Season to Extend Your RV’s Lifespan

An RV is a costly investment, but it’s not all about the money. The RV is something you love because it affords you the liberty of being on the open road. And, you get to enjoy scenic vacations, magnificent US landmarks, plus spend time with the family. You can enjoy the open road at any time to enjoy long road trips. Or, you can enjoy a weekend getaway for two, to a nearby destination you want to visit. No matter what adventures are ahead of you, they’re only possible if you protect your RV.

By winterizing your RV, you’re protecting the plumbing, the chassis, and the interior and exterior components. You’ll also prevent water pipes from bursting and keep mold from forming around areas where moisture levels are high. Finally, you’ll keep insects and other pests at bay. These are some of the many benefits RV owners will realize, by preparing their RV for the winter.

Remember: if you take care of your RV, it will take care of you.