Living in the snow belt, the camping season is only about six months of the year, the rest of the time our motorhome sits idle or in storage. I envy those that live in the south or more temperate locations that do not need to put there RV in storage. How do you winterize your motorhome? To winterize a motorhome requires 13 steps and 2 for the engine. I have outlined the steps below. However, before we begin, some planning can make restocking quick and easy as well as storage. If this is your first time, purchase some storage bins. It can make things easy and quick to get in and out of the motorhome.
1. Use bins & store
The easiest way we have found, thanks to my organized wife, is to use stackable plastic bins with lids. Plus labeling these bins by department such as “Kitchen”, “Bedding”, “Clothes” etc. will make it far easier to find items when they are stored. For us, we just put things that are not going to be affected by freezing in our garage. The rest goes in our basement. Food that can potentially go bad or need to be consumed in the next six months goes back into our pantry. We found that unloading the camper and cleaning took longer than to actually winterizing the motorhome with antifreeze. So here are the steps.
2. Winterize your water system
This is probably the most critical step. As any kind of frozen water can result in extreme damage that could be very costly to fix in the spring. The first step is to drain any water that is in the water storage tank. This includes the hot water tank which has a plug on the outside of the motorhome.
Next drain the dark water and greywater systems. Cleaning your waste water tanks thoroughly is probably a good idea at this time as you will be ready for the spring. Here is a link to an article on cleaning it thoroughly. Next, you will want to either blow out the lines with high-pressure air or just run antifreeze through the lines. You will want to run the water out of each tap to till the water turns red or the color of the antifreeze, then you will want to run it for a few seconds to fill up the “P” trap to make sure there is no water in the drain.
3. Remove everything
We mean take out everything, by taking out everything it limits the potential for things that could go wrong when it is stored. So remove everything in the kitchen from pots and pans to canned goods and dry goods. With Bedding remove blankets, towels, sheets, pillows, and toiletries
4. Thorough cleaning
We clean everything. From the outside to the inside. We wanted to make sure that this is the least desirable place for rodents to come visit in the winter. As with every winter the waning of the winter temperatures fluctuate dramatically and cause for some humid days then freezing days. In the days of melt, we wanna make sure there are no options for mold growth. This is also time for us to inspect everything to make sure that nothing is broken or leaking when we put it away for winter storage. We also pull the awning out and clean off any debris that could mold during the winter months.
5. Rodent proof your motorhome
Rodent proofing your motorhome is a must, as the cold comes in the rodents are looking for a warm place to hide out for the winter and find food. So the first step is to plug any holes that they can get into your motorhome. Mice can get into any place that has a hole that is as small as 17 mm or 8/12th in diameter. For myself, these are also potential holes for insects and dust to get into the motorhome. I like to make sure that it is all plugged up with steel wool or expanding foam. To find all the holes, get a flashlight and have someone on the inside looking into the cabinets and shine a flashlight underneath to see if any light gets in. Then walk around the motorhome and look for holes. Some of the most common places are the panels for the water heater, fridge, or storage. Other locations underneath are where hoses that come into the motorhome are located and electrical inlets. Make sure they are all well plugged.
6. Clean fridge and wedge it open
Leaving the fridge open has several purposes, first, it will allow airflow and prevent any kinds of mildew growth and prevent any kind of rust by trapped humility. This also gives you the opportunity to make sure the fridge is off.
7. Leave cabinets open
Leaving cabinets open will allow the flow of air throughout the motorhome and in the event that any kind of leak occurs in one of the cabinets, there is sufficient airflow to hopefully dry it off. Plus this also lets you know that you have emptied the cabinet and placed it all into the right storage container.
This step can be optional depending on where you live. For me, it is optional. If you live somewhere where humidity is high even in the winter months, this is a good idea to place a few dehumidifying salts keep things fresh for the next season.
9. Clean filters
If you have not cleaned out any of the air filters in your RV, this is probably a good time to do so. Check the air conditioner intake as well as the furnace intake. Your vehicle air intake might also have an air filter for the cabin. Check your vehicle owners manual for the location and replacement.
10. Remove your batteries
This is an important step to extend the life of your batteries. I removed both the vehicle battery to the motorhome and the cabin power deep cycle batteries. Plus leaving the deep cycle batteries outside can cause freezing and cracking and basically killing your battery. Storing your battery inside where there is a stable temperature and placing a trickle charger on the batteries will keep them ready for the spring. The best way I have found is to place them in a bucket and trickle charge them for the winter months. Just because of the location of where I am storing them I did not want to have an accident and have my battery leak all over the place.
I found this trickle charger was the best low-cost option, plus I used some storage bins I had around that I was not using. Placing your batteries on the ground is fine, at one point in the past keeping your batteries off the concrete floor was a must, that is no longer necessary with modern designs of batteries.
11. Turn off your propane
Turn off your primary propane to make sure there are no slow leaks that might drain your tank over the winter. To test for any kinds of leaks create a solution of soapy water and a sponge and soak all the connectors to see if any bubbles appear. This is also a good time to inspect the age of the tank and any rust or damage to your propane.
12. Close all windows
Check all the windows and air vents to make sure they are closed tightly and there are no chances of leaks or airflow in the winter months. It is also a good time to fix any insect screens that might have gotten broken in the summer and replace them. I find it is easier to just go buy some window mesh from home depot and replace it yourself.
13. Cover your wheels
The Sun can cause great damage to your tires as they sit for the winter months. The UV and the dry cold air can cause the rubber to dry and crack shortening the life of your tire and cause tire rot. The use of tire protectants can also help to extend the life of your tires on your motorhome. Here is what I use for my tires.
14. Cover up or store in a covered facility
Covering your motorhome ensures that the UV rays and winter snow will reduce the damage while it is in storage. The best solution is to store it in a building that keeps the temperature stable for the winter months. However, some people choose to store it outside, just like myself, in which I have opted to use a cover.
That should cover the winterization of your motorhome. However, I have 2 more steps that I do to make sure that we are ready for the spring camping season.
2 Additional Steps To Winterize Your Motorhome
01. Oil Change - before winterization or in the spring?
This one depends on how much you might have used your motorhome in the current season. If you used your motorhome quite a bit and drove long distances and you are close to needing the recommended oil change then do it before storage, but waiting till spring does not hurt anything. This one question I have asked many people and there were tonnes of different opinions on this topic. So I dug deeper and with the new technologies in oil and filters, it really did not matter that much. Changing your oil based on your recommend operations manual for the vehicle is the best option.
02. Fuel Additive
We keep our motorhome fuel filled and ready to go all the time. As you know when you have a trip planned, it is just one more thing to do to get on the road. So we always keep our tank full and ready to go. However, gasoline has a relatively short lifespan as does diesel. In fact, gasoline can start to lose the boost to it in as little as 30 days, unless you add a fuel stabilizer to it. Diesel is exactly the same and it also needs a stabilizer. The quality of the stabilizer does matter, and cutting corners on this is really not a savings at all as a full tank of gas can be about a $100. Purchasing a good stabilizer will only cost you about $20, for many applications. This is the one that I use in my motorhome.
That’s all 15 steps we use to winterize our motorhome until the next camping season upon us.
Does Storing Batteries On The Concrete Floor Drain The Batteries?
At one point batteries did need to be stored off the concrete floor due to the fact that the container would cause an electrical charge between the cells caused by the lime in the concrete. No longer is that necessary with the new plastic containers that batters currently come in. In fact, placing them on the concrete batteries has a cooling effect and may prolong the life of the battery.