Welcome to “Ask an RV Expert,” the advice column where RVillage experts answer your questions about common RV maintenance problems.
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Dear RVillage Expert: I’m a new RVer with a travel trailer. Can I winterize my rig myself? —Michele Z.
While the snowbirds prepare to lather up with SPF and camp in the sun, other RV owners are stocking up on antifreeze and preparing to tuck their rigs away until next travel season. And with RV winterization in sight, it’s either time to call in the professionals or roll up your sleeves.
Winterizing your rig can be a timely, detail-oriented task to tackle, but the one good thing about it is that it’s DIY-friendly. You don’t need to be a mechanic or RV technician to get your rig ready for winter storage; in fact, all you really need is a little patience and a few tools. Plus, by doing it yourself, you’ll save money and the hassle of scheduling with a service center.
Up for the job? Here are a few key steps you’ll need to prepare for if a DIY RV winterization is in your near future. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for specific winterization steps for your rig.
Water lines. The most important step with RV winterization is to protect your water lines from freezing temps. You can do this by either blowing out your lines or filling them with a non-toxic RV antifreeze. If you choose to blow your lines out, you’ll need an air compressor with an RV blow-out adapter or you can install an RV-specific blow-out system in your rig. Make sure to remove and bypass any inline water filters, first. Don’t forget to winterize exterior lines if your rig has an outdoor shower, kitchen, or other gear.
Empty tanks. Completely drain and clean out your black and gray water tanks. This step helps protect your tanks from freezing and it rids them of any bacteria that could be lingering. You can use a black tank cleaner during this process to ensure a thorough cleaning.
Water heater. Most new RVs come with bypasses installed for your water heater, so don’t let this step sound intimidating. You’ll simply need to bypass your water heater before blowing out your lines or adding antifreeze. You can do this with the factory-installed system on your RV. If your rig doesn’t have a bypass system, you can easily add an aftermarket kit to tackle this step.
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Exterior clean. Give your rig a good wash to clean off any dirt and grime that could sit on it for months in storage. Make sure you scrub your tires to get rid of any roadway chemicals that can damage your tire walls, and thoroughly clean and inspect your roof for cracks and leaks.
Interior clean. Inside, you should deep clean your RV. Empty the refrigerator and cabinets of any food that could spoil, freeze, or attract unwanted pests. Do the same in bathrooms so you don’t come back to toiletries that have exploded. If you’re worried about moths destroying fabrics, either remove clothing and bedding items from your rig or store them in plastic tubs.
Appliances. For things like dishwashers, washers/dryers, ice machines, and other appliances with water lines, be sure to check your owner’s manual for winterization instructions. You should also leave your rig’s refrigerator cracked open during storage to help prevent mold and odors.
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Rodent repellent. Not only can rodents and pests invade your rig’s interior during storage, but they can also damage wiring and make nests in storage bays, exhaust pipes, and other areas of your RV. You should check and fill any cracks inside and outside of your rig, set traps, spray the perimeter, and park on concrete if possible.
Batteries and propane. Remove your battery and your propane tanks and store them in safe locations away from your rig. For your battery, it’s especially important to keep it in a dry, warm area during storage. You can also top off your propane tanks at this time so they’re ready to go when spring rolls around.
Coverage. Before saying goodbye for the season, cover your RV with a durable, UV-resistant, and waterproof cover to protect it from the elements and prevent mold and mildew. It’s also a good idea to cover your tires, especially if you’re storing your rig outside in an area that receives significant snowfall and regular freezing temperatures.
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