Summer has come to a close, and winter is here. That means it’s time to batten down the hatches and get ready for the frigid inclement weather.
For some RV owners, winter means packing up and storing their camper for the winter. For others, it means prepping their RV to undertake some winter wonderland vacations.
This guide will bring you through everything you need to know to prepare your RV for winter, whether you’re storing or cruising this season.
And don’t forget to look into RV insurance, which is a unique hybrid of home and auto coverage.
Storing your RV
A lot of RVers put their homes in a professional storage facility for the winter to help protect against storms, moisture, pest infestation, and frozen pipes. But these spaces are expensive and fill up quickly. You can also store your RV in a garage, detached structure, or even under a weatherproof cover.
If you want to winterize your RV to protect it against weather storms—no matter where it’s stored—follow the checklist below.
- Top off all engine fluids including radiator (antifreeze), oil, brake fluid, fuel tanks (fuel stabilizer), and windshield washer reservoir (antifreeze for windshields).
- Top off your battery’s fluids. Remove the battery from the RV and store in warm, sheltered location. This is the same for small batteries like TV, smoke alarms, and clock radios so they don’t freeze or burst.
- Remove generators and propane tanks. Store in warm location away from the elements.
- Install plastic bags or covers outside vents (furnace, fridge, water heater), because bugs are attracted to the odor that’s added to LP gas.
- Clean and replace air conditioner filters. Cover A/C to avoid letting air in.
- Clean exterior of RV, including awnings. Focus especially on the undercarriage.
- Seal all gaps, holes, vents, and cracks that could attract pests and let in moisture.
- Clean interior of RV. Remove food or anything fragrant (even deodorant and toothpaste). Keep the fridge door open to prevent mildew, and defrost the freezer. You might even want to set traps for rodents and insects.
- Leave all drawers and cabinets open. Close blinds to avoid sun exposure, which can lighten or fade the carpet, drapes, and upholstery inside.
- If your RV has leveling jacks, lift them so the tires are off the ground. This prevents your tires from going flat. If you don’t have these, put treated wood or foam between ground and tires and rotate the RV half a tire revolution every month.
- Lubricate all hinges and locks.
- Winterize all appliances according to manufacturer recommendations.
- Use an RV cover that is designed to fit securely and protect against the elements. Don’t use a tarp, which won’t properly protect your vehicle.
- Store your RV under a covered area and on a solid surface (concrete or pavement). Steer clear of anything that could break under the weight of snow.
Using your RV
An RV can actually be a great way to take a winter vacation with the family. You can park at RV-friendly ski resorts, or you can camp in local parks to watch the snowfall. You can have all the comforts of home (like your favorite blanket and coffee maker) with you while you’re on vacation.
But winter weather doesn’t treat your RV the same way that summer does. You need to take extra precautions to make sure your RV is fully prepped for any cold chaos that comes your way.
Here are some things to consider when preparing your RV for use in the winter:
- Keep out drafts, snow, and rain by applying caulk and stripping on doors, windows, and cracks. Don’t forget to seal all skylights and roof vents.
- When parked, use foam boards between the RV frame and the ground to prevent freezing and cracking.
- Invest in an RV skirt to further prevent freezing.
- Protect your holding tanks with antifreeze and a holding tank heater.
- Use foam pipe insulation to insulate holding tank pipes and sewer hose. This prevents ice dams and flooding.
- Use a small space heater to prevent your water pump from freezing.
- Use insulated curtains on the windows to heat the interior of your RV, especially at night. You can also use these as room dividers for additional heat.
- Prevent your refrigerator from clogging up by removing the outside fridge access cover and placing duct tape over the vent slots.
- Clean out your furnace and replace any air filters. If you don’t have a furnace, buy a heat pump for additional warmth. Portable electric space heaters can help as well.
- Propane doesn’t last long, so bring extra with you or always be near a refill station.
- Get your tire pressure checked before leaving. Tires may have slightly deflated in the summer heat and need to be refilled for the winter cold.
- Check your battery performance to ensure it won’t stall or burn out without access to heat.
- Always have a winter emergency kit on hand, including: warm clothing, thermal blankets, tire chains, weather band radio, winter sleeping bags, white gas camping stove, gas powered generator, extra food and water, and cash.
Adventuring in the snow with your RV can be a beautiful experience, but make sure you stay safe. Put your RV in for maintenance before making a trip, check the weather in advance, and always have emergency supplies on hand. It’s also a good idea to make sure someone at home knows you’re itinerary and is in constant contact with you to make sure you and your family are doing okay.
Whether you’re taking your RV out for a winter drive or storing for the winter, it’s important to take precautionary measures to keep your assets safe and secure. Not all RVs are the same, so make sure you consult the user’s manual to ensure you are following all necessary steps for your particular vehicle.