A Beginner’s Guide to RV Winterization
Posted: November 11, 2022
A Beginner's Guide to RV Winterization
Check out the top 5 steps you should take before storing your rig for the season!
New to the wonderful world of RVing? Like many Americans taking to the road recently, chances are if you’re new to the game, you probably don’t have all of the tips and tricks of some of the more seasoned camping veterans out there. But lucky for you, we know a thing or two about RVs, and we’re going to share some of our best advice to get you up to speed when it comes to RV winterization. And since freezing temperatures are just around the corner for most travelers, now’s a great time to talk about prepping your rig for the winter.
Keep in mind that many of these principles apply whether you're winterizing a travel trailer, 5th wheel, motorhome or other type of camper.
5 Things Every RV Owner Must Do to Winterize a Camper, Travel Trailer, Motorhome, or 5th Wheel
1. Winterizing Your RV Water System
To kick it off, let’s chat about keeping your RV fresh by draining your water lines and plumbing system. This is one winterization must-do that you don’t want to skip. Ensuring that your lines and tanks are free of moisture, which could allow pipes to freeze, burst, and cause costly damage to your rig is crucial to the winterization process. It's also essential you winterize RV appliances that use water, such as your washing machine and ice maker.
Now, there are a few ways you can tackle clearing your plumbing system out. Winterizing your RV with an air compressor is the most common way to conquer this process without spending the money and time taking your RV in to a shop every year to be serviced by a professional. Most RV owners who do the DIY route, typically use an air compressor to flush out their lines.
While clearing your lines with a compressor is relatively easy, it does require a few tools to accomplish. For starters, you’ll need an air compressor. And secondly, you’ll need a “blow out” plug that attaches to your compressor so you can connect it to your city-water line to complete this process. You will accomplish this process by opening faucets, drain valves, exercising diverting valves, and removing drain plugs to drain the system of most of the water initially. About PSI: You only need about 15 psi to successfully blow water out of the system as this process is more about air volume than pressure. We recommend not exceeding 40 psi as going much higher may damage your plumbing and cause leaks. Not a big deal. However, this method does require a little work and a little bit of an investment.
Another option is the purchase of a water drain-down system like Floë. This system uses compressed air to clear your lines just like an air compressor, but it’s small and fits right into your RV — allowing you to use it whenever you want easily. The Floë integrated drain-down system is also useful for clearing your lines out between trips, so you always have usable water to drink from without worrying about any bacteria growth or stagnant, unpleasant water. In just a few minutes, you can blow out all of your hot and cold water lines, fresh water tank, and water heater tank, getting your RV ready for storage or your next trip. Pretty neat, right?
Watch How the Floë Helps Quickly Winterize an RV
Here’s how some of our Lippert Scouts use air compressors and antifreeze to winterize their RVs
“We drain then blow out the lines with the air compressor. After that, I fill the lines with antifreeze. I pay the premium for the Propylene Glycol antifreeze since I’ve heard the cheaper ethanol product can dry out any rubber in the system. I would love to skip the antifreeze, but found that there is a good amount of water still in the lines when pumping the antifreeze in.”
“Living in Michigan, I unfortunately have to winterize every year! I use a portable air compressor with a blowout plug connected to the city water inlet. I blow the lines out completely. Then, using an adaptor at the water pump, I pump a few gallons of RV antifreeze through the entire system. I then hook up the compressor and blow out the lines again. I also pour RV antifreeze in all traps, toilets and tanks.”
2. Wash Your RV Inside & Out
Another must-do is the simple act of cleaning the interior and exterior of your RV. From washing down the outside to emptying out your cabinets, it’s important to give your rig a good scrub before storage.
Exterior RV Cleaning:
First and foremost, make sure all doors, windows, and vents are closed before washing your RV. Once that’s done, you’ll notice giving your rig a good wash takes a little more time and space than spraying down a car. If you can park your RV in your driveway or by your house and have room to wash it, you’ll find out that maneuvering your garden hose around your rig can be a job on its own.
One way around this is to invest in a portable power washer that doesn’t require any sort of spigot hook up to operate. Products like the Power Pro Max portable pressure washer allow you to easily spray off your RV without getting tangled up in a hose. All you’ll need is a five-gallon bucket or water source to drop your power washer hose line in, and then spray away with the included gun and wand. Portable power washers can also be great to take on the road with you to spray off any major mud splatters or camping gear that gets dirty along the way.
Another option is to locate a designated semi-truck or RV washing bay. Some car washes around the country have wash bays large enough for travel trailers and motorhomes to safely get washed without worrying about scratching up your sides or roof. Always be sure there’s adequate clearance before driving your RV into a bay or wash area.
Interior RV Cleaning:
Just like the inside of a house, you’ll want to sweep and clean your RV before storing it during the winter months. And like leaving a home or cabin empty all winter, don't forget to clear out all the food from your RV to help ensure there are no mice or rodents looking for free room and board while you’re away. It’s also recommended to remove any appliance that uses water to operate, like a coffee maker, so you’re not coming back to mold growth or unwanted smells. Some RV owners even use dryer sheets to keep their rig smelling fresh throughout the winter.
Good advice from a Lippert Scout on their cleaning process
“I start by first emptying the camper of food, then vacuum thoroughly, putting dryer sheets everywhere makes it smell nice.” -D. Tyler
3. Inspect Seals & Repair Leaks
This next maintenance to-do can and should be something you’re inspecting throughout the year, especially if you own an older or used RV. Regularly checking and repairing any cracked or leaking seals can help prevent major repairs down the road, as well as help you keep the cold air out of your rig during winter. First, you’ll want to inspect and repair any seals around doors, windows, or areas of your roof like vents, AC units, sky lights, etc. If you have any gaps or leaks, there are numerous products on the market that can help you fix these issues. Alpha Systems has a robust collection of repair tapes, sealants and adhesives for DIY jobs just like this. There’s even an industrial strength, Alpha roof cleaner that can be easily sprayed on to rubber, glass, metal, and painted surfaces to keep your roof clean throughout the year. Since many different products exist that do not adhere to each other, please ensure the sealant you order is compatible with your roof material. If you are unsure which roof material you have, verify this with the RV manufacturer before proceeding.
After you check your seals, check your roof thoroughly for weak or damaged areas that could lead to leaks, especially if you’re storing your RV outside during the winter. You don’t want melted snow or precipitation to cause damage while your RV’s not in use. Alpha Systems has several options so you can get the right color and all of the supplies you need to make these crucial repairs.
Watch Wandering Weekends Inspect and Reseal Their RV for Winterization
4. Clean & Inspect Tires
Your tires are another area to prep before storage. If you haven’t already, clean your tires off before you store your RV. If you’re parking your rig on asphalt or concrete during the winter, it’s recommended that you roll your tires onto cardboard or wood to avoid any potential freeze damage that could be caused by concrete or dirt. It’s also ideal to not store your RV in grassy, softer areas as thawing could cause your wheels to sink into the ground — making it difficult and messy to move come spring.
You’re also going to want to make sure all of your tires have the proper amount of pressure going into RV hibernation. Like any vehicle, you can check your tire pressure with a store-bought gauge. If you have a TPMS (Tire Pressure & Temperature Monitoring System) already connected in your RV, this is also an easy way to check your tire pressure. These systems can be useful on the road and in storage to keep you updated on your tire status. For systems like Tire Linc®, you can even check on your tires using your smartphone. This particular TPMS product connects with an RV owner’s OneControl® app, so you can get regular updates on that status of your tires, as well as other connected features of your rig.
Another recommendation for your tires during storage is, if possible, move your rig once or twice a month so that your tires aren’t in the same position all winter long. This will help relieve constant pressure on one spot of your tire for the length of your storage.
Big Truck Big RV Adds TireLinc & Floë to Their RV
5. Check Your RV Regularly During Winter Storage
And last but not least, if you’re able to get to your RV, checking it regularly during storage is ideal. This way, you can ensure there are no leaks, busted pipes, mice, funky smells, and that your tires are at proper pressure. No RV owner wants to start off travel season with a long list of maintenance issues. Taking care of your rig during winter properly, will make sure you can get back on the road as quickly as possible come spring.
Check out what Lippert Scouts are saying about our Tire Linc® system!
"A huge thanks to Lippert for providing us this Tire Linc System free of charge. It couldn’t have come at a better time!! We had previously been using a different TPMS system which was basically useless and didn’t even warn us before we had a blow out on our trailer earlier this year. We knew we needed a better one so when we read more about review stating THIS TPMS SYSTEM SAVED US IMMENSE HEADACHE!! the opportunity came to test this one out for Lippert, we were super excited!
"It arrived very promptly to the RV park we were staying at. My husband was able to get it installed the same day. The installation process was fairly easy, he just screwed it in to the valve stem and synced each tire to the app. It shows the temperature and tire pressure in real time for each individual tire.
"The first drive after the installation was short and uneventful and we were parked for about a week before we drove again. It was starting to snow and we were driving over a mountain pass that day so we were in a big hurry to try to beat the snowstorm! We got everything hooked up on the trailer and did a final walk around everything and didn’t see any issues, everything appeared to be fine. My husband got in the truck and turned on the app and it immediately alerted him that there was a big problem with one of the tires. It looked fine to us from the outside but I’m so glad we had this system to warn us otherwise!
"We drove a very short distance to a nearby tire shop and found out that the valve stem had come loose on the tire and it was leaking rapidly depending on the tire position. If we hadn’t had this system we wouldn’t have known there was a problem and we would have wound up on the side of the highway with a flat tire in the snow! I’m SO thankful we had the Tire Linc to warn us!! This is a MUST have for anyone who owns an RV!!! One of our favorite things about this particular system is the app. It’s so easy for my husband to mount his phone on the dash and easily monitor everything while we’re on the road. "HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS PRODUCT!!!"