7 Steps to De-Winterize Your RV

December 17, 2020

Spring is nearly here and you know what time it is! Time to hit the road and explore the great states of America. For many RV owners, hunkering down and winterizing their trailer is a necessity. But once the snow begins to melt, they’re eager for a vacation. Before you do so, you need to make sure your RV is in good working order.

So grab a flashlight or a hands-free headlamp and inspect all the nooks and crannies of your RV before you hit the road! Here are seven steps to de-winterize your RV.

1. Look Over the Exterior

Look over the exterior, checking for and repairing any cracked caulking around the vents and storage door access. Otherwise, you’ll accumulate mold and soon even find wet insulation or delaminated walls.

Once you check for cracks, wash the RV with something like a gentle dish detergent or Thetford RV Wash and Wax. Look for loose screws and rivets, double-checking further for dents or cracks in the lights. Don’t forget to extend, wash and dry out the awning, too, (unless it’s made with Sunbrella or similar fabric) and check for signs of rodents.

2. Check the Tire Pressure

Still outside, check the tire pressure and fill it to the recommended pressure suggested by the manufacturer’s inflation chart. Also, ensure there are no visible signs of cracking on the sidewalls as a result of sun damage or winter weather. Good tires guarantee your safety, so don’t skip this step!

3. Practice Propane Tank Safety

7 clean de winterize rv

Your last exterior de-winterizing step is to check your propane tanks. Ensuring the tank valves are in the Off position, check the indicator or measure the tank to see if there’s actually propane to be able to test for leaks. Alternatively, you could loosen and lift up the hold down bracket. With ample propane, check for cracks and rodent damage along the rubber hoses and tank and regulator joints, using a sudsy soap and water solution to see if bubbles form. If you find bubbles, replace the cracked rubber hose with more durable stainless steel braided lines if necessary. Also be sure to pressure test the complete system, ensure the propane detector has a fresh battery and, lastly, check the inside appliances.

4. Replace Batteries and Filters

As mentioned, you may need to replace batteries after a long break. A critical part of your power system, it’s important to remove and store batteries correctly at the end of the camping season. However, even when stored properly on a maintenance charger, batteries can still lose charge.

Check the battery for signs of swelling, often a result of freezing. Swelling indicates the battery must be replaced, but before doing so, ensure there are no cracks or leaks that can emit battery acid. Multiple batteries must also be replaced simultaneously or your older ones can be a real drain.

Replace the battery (taking photos of the connections as a reminder) and clean the cable connections and battery terminals. Scrub the parts with a wire brush and baking soda and hot water mixture, reassembling when complete. Also check the battery fluid level, topping it off with distilled water. Finally, charge the battery and check again.

While inside the RV, replace any filters and batteries, especially if it has an internal water or air filter. Sometimes, all an RV needs is a new air conditioner intake filter and a stove exhaust fan filter.

5. Empty Waste Tank Valves

Ideally, emptying the black and gray water tanks should take place during RV winterization. However, even a few gallons of waste can create hardened sediment, which needs to be tended to. Take a bucket and gently open the gray water valve first to determine if there are any issues. If the valve is stuck, do not apply any more pressure. At this juncture, there might be bigger problems that require a trip to a service center.

If either valve sticks, apply lubricant for a few hours, waiting until you can place a gallon of water in the tanks, dumping the output into a bucket or at a dump station. If you’re de-winterizing your RV at home, this output water should go down the toilet. Lastly, leave a gallon or two of water in both tanks, softening any leftover residue.

6. Test the Sewer Hoses

Another step to de-winterizing your RV is to test the sewer hoses. Check for leaks by holding up each end of the hose and filling it with water. This periodic check can catch problems ahead of time instead of when there’s a line of impatient RVers waiting behind you at the dump station. It’s also wise to always keep a sewer hose tucked away in a watertight case for emergencies, as well as an extra set of hose clamps, elbow and dump station drain adaptor.

7. Check the Fresh Water System

Adjusting your water heater bypass valves to “summer” or “normal,” begin the process of sending water to the water heater tank. This allows you to light the burner and test the freshwater system.

Connecting to city water, turn the tap halfway, turning off any running water and open taps. Check for leaks beneath the sinks and showers, and also under the trailer. Close the drains and turn the tap fully on, checking for leaks a second time.

Next, turn on the cold water in the kitchen sink. Expect it to sputter a bit, pushing out trapped air and, if you used antifreeze during winterization, a pink-hued stream, too. Follow the same steps (both hot and cold) on the rest of the RV’s taps, until the pink stream turns clear. Don’t forget to flush the toilet a few times, too!

Get Your RV Ready for Spring!

For some, de-winterizing your RV also means giving it a good spring cleaning. Just like a home, it helps to give a refresh and decluttering. This way, you can hit the road with a clean house on wheels! Just be sure that while you tidy the cupboards, you address more important issues. Making repairs and practicing preventative maintenance is just one part of owning an RV and the freedom that comes with it!

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