How to Prepare Your RV for Winter Storage

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Preparing your RV for winter storage is important to ensure it’s protected during the colder months and in tip-top condition for the next camping season.

Proper preparation is key! Follow along as I walk you through the steps to prepare your RV for long-term storage so you don’t miss a crucial step.

1. Exterior

Thorough Wash

A thorough wash is the first step to preparing your RV for winter storage. Grime, dirt, bird droppings, etc., can degrade the paint and cause rusting. Using an RV-safe soap, wash the exterior thoroughly, including the roof, undercarriage, and awnings. Allow the RV to dry completely before covering it.

Check Roof

Inspect the roof seams, around vents, and other potential leak points. Use a sealant specifically designed for RVs to close any gaps. This will help prevent leaks that could result in water damage and mold growth.

Use an RV Cover

Investing in a quality RV cover made of breathable material can protect your vehicle from harsh weather, ultraviolet rays, and sun exposure. Ensure that the cover is snug but allows for some air circulation.

2. Interior

Remove All Food Items

When preparing your RV for long-term storage, particularly during the winter months, one of the first things to address is removing all food items. Leaving food behind can attract pests, which could lead to extensive damage. Clean out your refrigerator, pantry, and all storage areas where food might be kept. This is also an appropriate time to empty your medicine cabinet of any items that may freeze or degrade over a long period.

Thoroughly Clean the Interior

Cleaning the interior of your RV helps prevent mold growth, pest infestation, and unpleasant odors from forming in your RV while in storage. Here’s how to do it:

  • Vacuum: Remove all floor mats and vacuum the floors, focusing on corners and underneath furniture.
  • Surfaces: Wipe down all hard surfaces, including counters, tables, and appliances. Use a mild cleaner for sensitive surfaces like leather or wood.
  • Appliances: Clean out the refrigerator, microwave, and oven. Make sure they are dry to prevent mold and mildew.
  • Bathroom: Clean the toilet, sink, and shower. If you use toilet paper that is not RV-safe, remove it, as it can attract pests.

Humidity Control

If your storage facility offers climate-controlled units, this can help prevent damage due to freezing or excessive heat. Regardless of whether you have climate control, it’s a good idea to use moisture-absorbing products to manage humidity levels inside the RV. These can be placed in areas prone to moisture, such as the bathroom and kitchen, and will help prevent mold from forming in your RV.

3. Plumbing and Water Systems

Winterizing your camper’s plumbing and water systems is arguably the most important step for storing it during the colder months. This process helps prevent any water remnants from freezing, expanding, and causing severe damage to the plumbing infrastructure. 

  1. Draining Water: Begin by removing any water filters, draining all holding tanks (black and gray water tanks) at a designated dump station, and ensuring the water heater is drained. Switch off the water heater and let it cool before draining it. Open all faucets and low-point drain lines to flush the water from the system.
  2. Bypass Water Heater: After draining, bypass the water heater using a bypass kit to prevent antifreeze from entering and potentially damaging the water heater during the subsequent steps.
  3. Adding RV Antifreeze: RV antifreeze is necessary for those storing their RVs in particularly cold weather. Add antifreeze to the water lines, following the instructions specific to your model. Install a water pump converter kit or position the water pump inlet within the antifreeze container, then circulate the antifreeze through the system by operating the water pump and opening all faucets.

We cover this in detail in our step-by-step guide to winterizing an RV.

4. Mechanical

RV Battery

Proper care for your RV’s batteries during long-term storage, particularly in cold weather, is important as cold temperatures can cause a battery to discharge quicker, significantly shortening its lifespan.

You’ll hear different methodologies from RVers on how they tackle this issue, but in my opinion, the best option is to remove the battery and store it in a dry place with a battery tender, maintaining a charge. Here’s a quick breakdown of that process:

  1. Remove the RV Battery: Disconnect and remove the battery to prolong its lifespan.
  2. Clean the Battery: Eliminate any corrosion, dust, or dirt from the battery using a mixture of baking soda and water.
  3. Check the Battery’s Electrolyte Levels (Only for flooded lead-acid batteries): Ensure the fluid level is at least a half-inch above the plates and top off with distilled water if needed.
  4. Place the Battery in a Warm Location: Store the battery in a warm and dry place to prevent freezing.
  5. Connect a Battery Tender: Utilize a battery tender to maintain the battery charge and prevent overcharging during storage.

Check out our guide to storing an RV battery over winter for a more detailed breakdown.

Propane System

Propane tanks require special attention before placing your RV in long-term or short-term storage, especially during colder months.

  • Inspect for Leaks: First and foremost, inspect your propane tanks and all connecting hoses for leaks. You can do this by applying a soapy water solution to the connections and opening the gas slightly. Bubbles will form if there is a leak.
  • Turn Off All Gas Appliances: Make sure to turn off all gas appliances and the main gas supply valve.
  • Storage Facility Rules: If you use an RV storage facility, check their rules regarding propane tanks. Some facilities require that tanks be removed, while others may have specific requirements for storing them.

RV Tires

To avoid flat spots on your RV’s tires, inflate them to the manufacturer’s maximum recommended pressure. If stored outside, using tire covers can protect your tires from sun exposure and cold temperatures.

Oil and Oil Filter

If you have a motorized RV, check the oil and oil filter. If the RV won’t be used for a few months, consider changing the oil to keep the engine in great condition.

Fuel Tank and Fuel Stabilizer

Fill your fuel tank to prevent moisture from accumulating, and add a fuel stabilizer. Make sure to run the engine long enough to circulate the stabilizer through the system. This will ensure your gas tank and fuel system are in tip-top shape for the next season.

Tip: Add some fuel stabilizer to your gas generator if you have one. Be sure to “Exercise” your generator every month.

5. Security

Security measures are often overlooked when preparing your RV for storage. Here are a few tips to help you achieve peace of mind when storing your RV.

  • Choose the Right Storage Facility: When it comes to the safety of your recreational vehicle, selecting the right storage place can make all the difference. Look for RV storage facilities with strong security measures, such as 24/7 surveillance cameras, gated access, and onsite security, and that are well-lit and well-maintained.
  • Invest in a High-Quality Lock: The simplest security measures are often the most effective. Investing in a high-quality lock can provide an added layer of protection against theft.
  • Employ Wheel Locks and Boot Clamps: Wheel locks or boot clamps can make it more challenging for thieves to tow away your RV. These devices are generally visible and act as a deterrent even before a thief attempts to break in.
  • Install an Alarm System: If your RV doesn’t already have an alarm system, it might be a good idea to install one. Modern alarm systems can be linked to your smartphone, allowing you to receive real-time updates about your vehicle. Ensure the alarm system is fully functional and activated before leaving your RV in storage.
  • Use an RV Cover: Using an RV cover made of breathable material protects your RV from the elements and makes it less visible and appealing to would-be thieves. The cover should fit snugly around your RV, making accessing doors and windows harder.
  • Maintain Regular Checks: If possible, visit the storage facility regularly to check on your RV. Frequent visits can act as a deterrent to potential thieves and will allow you to spot any signs of tampering early on.

Important: Always refer to your RV’s owner’s manual for any guidelines specific to your model. With proper preparation, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is planning your road trips for the next time you take your rig out of its winter home.

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