RV Storage Tips for Winter

motorhomesnowYour camper, trailer and motorhome need some proactive care to survive the winter.

The first set of measures is common to all three. That is the prevention or reduction of damage that a season (or two) of non-use will cause. This includes damage caused by freezing temperatures, moisture, rodents and other vermin.

Your summer cottage on wheels will likely have some way of holding both fresh drinking water and perhaps some way of holding grey (washing/shower) and black (sewer) water.

Starting with the fresh water, the first thing to ensure is that all the water is drained from the system. That includes all sinks, as well as the showers inside and outside (if applicable), hot water tank ( an easy one to forget) and the outside drain. Next get fresh water anti-freeze from a store that sells it for this purpose. Do not use car radiator anti-freeze, as that is deadly!  You do not want to have even the smallest amount of poisonous material left in the system when you refill it with fresh water the next time you use your RV. Follow the directions in your owner’s manual and ensure that all parts of your fresh water system get protection from freezing. Usually that means having the safe anti-freeze get pumped into all the taps, pumps, lines and fixtures.rvantifreeze

Next, take care of the grey and black water holding systems. Here again, purchase the proper RV anti-freeze and ensure that it gets to all parts of the system.

If you have a battery, it will need care over the winter. One method is to hook up a maintenance charger to keep the battery fully charged. These are inexpensive and designed for this task (available at any auto parts outlet). If you use a regular charger you may overcharge the battery, resulting in the boiling off of battery acid and a resultant fire. Make sure the charger can NOT overcharge and is made to do this task. You could also take out the battery and store it in your heated garage. Again, it should be charged periodically or connected to a maintenance charger over the winter. Remember, a discharged battery can freeze and split the case, spilling its acid. Each battery in your RV will need protection. This is also a good time to check and clean all the electrical connections.

Shut off the propane at the tank or tanks. Most appliances leak a very small amount and there is no need to waste propane or create a potential fire hazard.

Leave the fridge and freezer doors open. You will be greeted with a great biological experiment in the spring if you do not! You may need to prop them open.

Taking all linens, towels and cushions into your house is a good idea. This applies even when your RV is stored under cover. In the northwest, the humidity is such that mold and mildew will take hold easily in the uncirculated air inside. I use a heater with a fan set on low to circulate and warm the air.motorhomeroof

Now is the time to check the roof for potential leaks. Likely sources are seams and places where dissimilar materials meet. Inspect these seams very closely. Anywhere there are screws or vents are places where water can cause problems. Remember, even tiny leaks can cause dry rot. Roof caps (where the roof meets the sides and windows), windshield and awning need careful inspection. A good cleaning of the roof using only the proper cleaner is a good idea. An RV specialist should be able to supply you with the cleaners and sealers.

If you do not have access to a roofed storage area, a storage cover or tarp will provide additional protection against the elements. I would caution you to ensure that there is space between the tarp and the roof for air circulation to prevent damage to the roof. Be careful to not damage your roof with sharp objects. This applies especially to rubber roofs. I have successfully used soft Rubbermaid tubs with a ladder on them to keep the tarp clear of the roof. Even then, I use a  fan heater inside, being very careful to keep it away from combustible materials.

Foodstuffs need to be cleaned out. Use common sense. Paper boxes are easy for rodents and bugs to get into! Storage in plastic containers is preferable. You do not want to start a vacation having to clean and then disinfect the RV before you even start your holiday. There are many traps available for rodents and sprays to kill bugs, but if your RV is cleaned of food items the chances of a problem are significantly reduced. If you live in an area prone to rodents, there are numerous sound repellers and repellants available. Check with local RV dealers and online. University web sites seem to have good information consistently.

Leave all cupboards and doors open. This discourages rodents and makes it easier to allow airflow into all areas to prevent mildew.

Motorhomes and trailers need to have tires examined and corrected for tire pressures and damages. Inspect especially the tire sidewalls, as that is where there is often damage from rocks and other hazards. Check for broken springs, worn shocks, as well as any lights that are out. Trailers should have the hitches and wiring harnesses checked.

For winterizing motorhomes there are numerous more helpful tips in my article titled Winter car storage checklist. The same running gear advice for cars applies to motorized RV’s, campers and trailers.

Happy RVing next season!