How to Winterize Your RV: 14 Easy Steps

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Winterizing your RV is an essential process for any RV owner who is storing their RV during colder months. Pulling your camper out of storage in the spring only to find rodents, water damage or other issues is a nightmare!

Proper storage and winterization lessens the possibility of damage to your RV during the storage season. Read our easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to learn how to winterize your RV.

Also, bookmark our complementary guide on De-Wintering your RV, so you have those instructions handy in the spring. For more step-by-step RV maintenance guides, check out our eBook: The Owner’s Guide to RV Maintenance.

How to Prepare Your RV for Storage

The first step in the winterization process is properly preparing your RV for storage. The following steps will help prevent damage to your RV systems and prevent pests. These steps should be completed regardless of the climate your RV is being stored in.

Turn Off Propane

It is always a good idea to turn off your propane when you are away from your RV. If your RV is being stored outdoors, in a well-ventilated area, simply turn off the supply valves on your propane tanks. For RVs being stored in an enclosed area, the propane tanks should be removed from the RV and stored securely, in an upright position in a well-ventilated area.

How to Winterize Your RV: Turn Off Propane
How to Winterize Your RV: Turn Off Propane

Charge and Disconnect the Battery

The house battery should be fully charged and then disconnected to prevent it from dying while in storage. Every time a battery is drained below 50% capacity, it shortens the lifespan of the battery.

Fluids in discharged batteries can also freeze and destroy the battery. Most RVs have a battery disconnect or kill switch, so you do not need to physically remove the battery. Simply turn on the switch to prevent parasitic loads, such as gas detectors, from draining the battery.

Check and Repair all Exterior Seals

The seals around windows, doors and exterior storage bays need to be checked and repaired regularly. Before putting the RV into storage inspect the seals for cracks, chips or thinning. Apply new sealant anywhere you find damage.

Keeping your seals secure will help keep water out of your RV during the storage season. For more details on which sealants to use and the re-sealing process, see our article on the best RV sealants for every job.

How to Winterize Your RV: Check Seals
How to Winterize Your RV: Check Seals

Check for Rodent Entry Points

The entire exterior and interior of your RV should be checked for holes and gaps where mice and other rodents could enter your RV. Inside the RV, check for holes chewed in the back of cabinets and closets. 

Outside the RV, inspect the walls of storage bays and get under the RV and check for holes or gaps. Repair all holes found, even if they are small, as mice can squeeze through a hole as small as a dime.

The RV should also be thoroughly cleaned and all food items should be removed. Any tasty odors left behind are likely to attract mice and other critters.

Defrost and Open Refrigerator

Defrost your RV refrigerator by simply turning off the power and opening the fridge and freezer doors. Place dry towels in the fridge and freezer to help soak up melting frost. Once the refrigerator is defrosted, use towels to completely dry the inside.

Leave the doors to the refrigerator open while the RV is being stored, and place DampRid buckets inside to soak up any moisture.

How to Winterize Your RV: Defrost the Fridge
How to Winterize Your RV: Defrost the Fridge

Close Up the RV

Before leaving the RV in storage, make sure all windows, doors and roof vents are securely closed.

Place insect screens over all exterior appliance vents to prevent wasps and other bugs from nesting inside your appliances. Finally, lubricate all door hinges and locks, to help prevent them from sticking in the spring.

Drain Holding Tanks

We describe the full process of draining your holding tanks in the below section on How to Winterize Your RV for Cold Weather.

However, even if you are not winterizing your RV, the water heater, holding tanks and fresh water tank should always be fully drained before putting your RV into storage.

How to Winterize Your RV for Cold Weather

The following steps are intended to protect your RV in cold climates. Complete the following winterization steps if your RV could be exposed to freezing temperatures while in storage.

Clean and Dump Holding Tanks

Start the winterization process by fully emptying your gray and black water holding tanks and flushing them to clean. Our beginner’s guide to RV holding tanks includes step-by-step instructions on the proper way to dump and clean your tanks. Stay connected to the dump station as you will drain the interior lines in a few steps.

Also drain your fresh water tank. Most RVs have a drain valve under the RV that can be opened to quickly release all the fresh water. See our complete guide to emptying the RV fresh water tank for more details.

How to Winterize Your RV: Dump Tanks
How to Winterize Your RV: Dump Tanks

Remove Water Purification Filters

If your RV has a built-in water purifying system, remove the filter and follow the manufacturer’s guide to winterizing the system.

Drain Water Lines

With your gray tank dump valve(s) open, open all faucets. Let any residual water empty from the sinks, shower and outdoor shower. With the black tank valve open, flush the toilet until no more water flows out.

How to Winterize Your RV: Drain Water Lines
How to Winterize Your RV: Drain Water Lines

Drain Additional Appliances

If your RV comes equipped with an ice maker or washing machine, make sure to open their valves and drain all the water from these appliances and their connected lines.

Drain and Bypass Hot Water Heater

Turn the water heater off and allow time for any hot water in the tank to cool. Once the water has had time to cool, drain the water heater by removing the plug and opening the pressure relief valve in the exterior water heater access panel (see picture below).

Replace the plug before putting the RV in storage. Then, bypass the water heater. A water heater bypass is installed in most modern RVs, see your owner’s manual for the exact location.

How to Winterize Your RV: Drain the Water Heater
How to Winterize Your RV: Drain the Water Heater

Run Antifreeze through Water Lines

Next, pump nontoxic RV antifreeze through your water lines. Using the winterize setting on your RV, insert a hose into the container of antifreeze and attach the other end to the winterization fill, turn the control panel to “Winterize” setting and turn on the water pump.

This will allow your water pump to draw antifreeze directly from the bottle. Open each faucet until antifreeze flows out, then close. Flush the toilet until antifreeze enters the bowl.

Note: If you have an older RV without the built-in winterization feature, you will need to install a water pump winterizing converter.

Add Anti-Freeze to Drains

Finally, pour about one cup of nontoxic RV antifreeze into the kitchen sink drain, bathroom sink drain and shower drain.

How to Winterize Your RV
Now Your RV is Ready for Winter!

Now you have learned how to winterize your RV! However, there are several other maintenance tasks that need to be performed at least once a year. See our guides to sanitizing fresh water tanks and cleaning RV water heaters for more information.

How long is your camping season? Do you winterize your RV each fall or do you continue camping throughout the year? If you are interested in skipping winterization and hitting the road, check out our favorite winter road trip destinations and our tips for RV camping in cold weather.

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