What if I Forgot to Winterize My Camper? (Important Steps)

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Forgetting to winterize your camper can happen to anybody.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to understand the potential issues of not winterizing and what you should immediately do to minimize damage.

Plus, we have a few tips to ensure you never forget to winterize your camper again!

What Happens If You Don’t Winterize Your Camper?

Winterizing your camper is a crucial step in preparing it for the cold weather ahead and maintaining its longevity.

If you neglect this process, you may face a series of problems that can lead to costly repairs, including:

Water Damage

One of the biggest risks of not winterizing your camper is water damage. When water freezes, it expands. This can cause pipes to burst and tanks to crack, leading to leaks. These leaks can result in water damage inside your camper, including mold growth.

Appliances such as your water heater, toilet, water pump, etc., can also be damaged if they are not properly winterized. For instance, if water is left in your water heater or pipes, it can freeze and cause the appliance to crack.

Battery Life

Another issue that can arise from not winterizing your camper is battery drain. An improperly stored battery can shorten its lifespan.

To prevent this, it’s recommended to remove the battery from your camper during winter storage and keep it in a warm, dry place. You can also use a trickle charger to maintain the battery’s charge throughout the winter.

Exterior Damage

Freezing rain, snow, and ice can cause damage to the camper’s exterior, including the windows, vents, and awnings. The sealants on your windows can also become compromised, allowing cold air and moisture to enter your camper.

To protect your camper’s exterior, it’s recommended to use a cover designed to withstand the elements or store it in a covered or indoor storage facility.

Tire & Suspension Problems

Tire and suspension problems are another potential issue that can arise from not winterizing your camper.

You need to regularly ensure proper tire pressure for all tires while your RV is stored over winter. Better yet, jack up your RV to relieve any stress on your tires and suspension system. You can use the built-in hydraulic leveling jacks or place the camper on jack stands.

Rodent Infestation

Lastly, rodents and other small animals may seek shelter in your camper during the winter. These creatures can cause damage by chewing through wires and other parts of your camper. They can also leave behind droppings, which can pose a health risk.

To prevent this, thoroughly clean the inside of the camper, remove any food sources, visually inspect the entire camper for any entry points and seal off any that you find.

What Should I Do if I Forgot to Winterize?

If you’ve forgotten to winterize your camper before the cold weather hits, don’t panic. You can still take steps to mitigate potential damage and prepare your RV for the remainder of the winter season.

1. Assess the Situation

The first thing you should do is assess the situation. Check the weather forecast to see if freezing temperatures are expected. If the weather remains above freezing, you may still have time to winterize your camper. However, if freezing temperatures have already occurred, it’s possible that damage may have already happened.

Related: When to Winterize Your RV

2. Inspect for Damage

Inspect your camper for any signs of damage, including:

  • Checking the plumbing system for leaks
  • Inspecting the appliances for any malfunctions
  • Checking the exterior for any visible damage

If you find any issues, it’s important to address them as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

3. Drain All Water

If no damage is found or after repairs have been made, the next step is to winterize the camper.

Drain all water from the camper. This includes the fresh water tank, water heater, and gray and black water tanks. Don’t forget to drain the water lines as well.

4. Bypass the Water Heater

After draining all the water, you should bypass the water heater. This is an important step to prevent antifreeze from entering the water heater during winterization. Many RVs have a built-in bypass valve for this purpose. If your RV doesn’t have one, you can have one installed or use an external bypass kit.

Valterra P23505LFVP Water Heater by-Pass Kit

Valterra P23505LFVP Water Heater by-Pass Kit

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5. Add Antifreeze

Once all water has been drained, add RV-specific antifreeze to the plumbing system. This will help protect the pipes from freezing if the temperatures drop. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for adding antifreeze to your specific camper model.

STAR BRITE Non-Toxic Anti-Freeze

STAR BRITE Non-Toxic Anti-Freeze

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6. Remove the Battery

Remove the charged battery, check water levels, and store it in a warm, dry place. Hook it up to a battery maintainer to keep it properly charged.

7. Prevent Rodent Infestation

Finally, take steps to prevent rodent infestation. This can include sealing any openings where rodents could enter and removing food sources from the camper.

While forgetting to winterize your camper can be a stressful oversight, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the world. By taking these steps, you can help protect your camper from further damage and ensure it’s ready for your next camping adventure.

How to Remember to Winterize Your Camper

  1. Set a Reminder: In today’s digital age, setting a reminder on your phone or digital calendar is one of the easiest ways to remember to winterize your RV. You can set the reminder for early fall, giving you plenty of time to complete the process before the first freeze.
  2. End-of-Season Ritual: Make winterizing part of your end-of-season ritual. As soon as your last camping trip of the season is over, start the winterization process. This way, it becomes a habit, and you’re less likely to forget.
  3. Visual Cue: Leave a visual cue in a place where you’ll see it often. This could be a note on your fridge, a sticker on your calendar, or even a Post-it note on your computer monitor.
  4. Pair with Another Task: Pair winterizing your RV with another annual task. For example, you might always winterize your RV when you do leaf pickup in the fall.
  5. Checklist: Maintain a closing checklist for your RV. Just as pilots have a pre-flight checklist, having a pre-storage checklist ensures you don’t forget important tasks, including winterization.

By using one (or more) of these strategies, you can ensure you won’t forget to winterize your camper next fall!

2 thoughts on “What if I Forgot to Winterize My Camper? (Important Steps)”

  1. I didn’t winterize because I was scheduled to head to southern Texas for the winter on Oct 21st, 2023. I was out of town for my grandkids birthdays and the transmission went out on my truck. My TT had been prepared for travel. Water heater drained and plug left out, water lines drained and faucets left open. I did not add antifreeze because i was heading south before the cold weather. My slides are in and it is ready to hook up and go. I have now been waiting 5 weeks on getting my truck repaired. This week the temps dropped below freezing where my TT is at. Once I get I my truck back and head south what should I check for when I arrive at my Texas location?

    • Hey Pam, you’re most likely fine. I would add anti-freeze to the system now if you don’t know how long it will take to get your truck back. Once at your destination, flush and sanitize the water system, fill it up, and thoroughly check for any leaks throughout.


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