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The Ultimate Guide to Winterizing Your RV

Amy Leal-profile-image
Amy Leal
February 1, 2024

Winterize your RV with maintenance tips for every part - roof, exterior seals, batteries, generator, LP gas, plumbing, black tank, water heater, pest control, and engine. Plus, tire care & storage advice for off-season readiness.

The Ultimate Guide to Winterizing Your RV

If you thought RV season ended with the arrival of colder weather, this guide is a must-read. Sure, a lot people store their RV when winter arrives, but more and more continue the RV life no matter how cold it gets. Either way, winterization is critical.

Our guide is full of down-to-earth winterization tips to keep your RV running smoothly on all fronts during the winter season. And for those planning to tuck their RVs away for the winter, occasional road trips included, these tips will help protect your rig while you’re at home in front of the fireplace.

Working from the Top Down

Starting the winter with a well-maintained roof prevents a range of troubles later down the road. Begin with a thorough inspection based on your roof type looking out for cracks, punctures, and signs of wear.

Cleaning your roof is equally vital, but ditch the harsh chemicals and pressure washers –they can harm certain roof types.

After cleaning, it’s time to inspect the seals. Check the sealant around vents, skylights, and seams for cracks. Choose a high-quality RV roof sealant compatible with your roof type. Protecting your roof from UV rays is the final touch.

Proper roof maintenance, from inspections to protection, ensures your RV stays road-ready for years.

Resealing the RV Exterior

Resealing your RV exterior helps maintain its integrity and prevents water damage. Check and maintain areas prone to wear and tear, such as the roof, corners, windows, doors, and flanges.

The correct sealant is crucial. Use self-leveling sealants for roofs.Non-self-leveling sealants work best for vertical surfaces.

Regular inspections, ideally at the start and end of each season, can catch potential problems early. We recommend resealing or replacing the sealant every 7 to 10 years to prevent leaks.

Resealing as part of your RV's winterization process is vital because temperature fluctuations and harsh winter weather can make existing minor cracks and gaps worse. A well-sealed RV exterior is more resilient to these winter challenges.

Keep the Charge Going in Your RV Batteries

RV batteries power everything from refrigerators to lights. If you’re not hooked up to shore power, you need a robust house battery system.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions for you specific type of battery. You may or may not need to add distilled water to the battery. All batteries need regular cleaning of cables and posts, with visual checks for corrosion.

Preventing dead batteries after storage hinges on proper charging and disconnecting. If you’re storing your RV for the winter, you should disconnect batteries. Go a step further and store the batteries in a warmer environment until spring arrives.

Does Your Generator Need Winterizing?

Winter camping sounds like it’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s been growing in popularity for the last several years. Most winter camping enthusiasts wouldn’t be without an RV generator.

To keep the power going, even during the harshest cold weather, your generator depends on you performing regular maintenance. That includes filter changes—fuel and air—and routine oil changes.

For winter storage, additional considerations come into play. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for specific winterization steps, focusing on fuel stabilization.

Regularly running the generator for at least thirty minutes each month, even during storage, prevents issues caused by prolonged inactivity.

Prepare the LP Gas System for Cold Weather

When preparing your RV for the winter season, don’t forget your LP gas system.

Check your propane tanks, lines, and regulators for any signs of rust, dirt buildup, or damage that might lead to leaks. Use the soap bubble test to detect leaks. Also, routinely inspect all propane-burning appliances, including heaters and stoves.

If your tank sits in the open air, a well-fitting LP gas tank cover can be a useful addition, offering an extra layer of protection against the cold.

By adhering to these winterizing tasks, you can ensure your RV’s LP gas system is well-prepared for the winter months, whether you're hitting the road or storing your RV.

Ready the Plumbing System for Winter Storage

If you plan to store your RV for the winter, you’ll need to winterize the plumbing system. Failure to winterize may lead to frozen water, causing pipes to crack and resulting in costly repairs. We recommend starting this process when temperatures drop to the low 40s or high 30s.

Prepare the pipes for winter by removing water filters, draining and flushing the tanks, and draining the water heater. Next run anti-freeze through the system, including the water heater. You can bypass the water heater if you’re living in the RV full-time.

Running antifreeze through faucets, toilets, and drains completes the winter storage process. Pouring a cup of antifreeze down sinks' drains and into the toilet adds an extra layer of protection.

Black Tank Maintenance Is Non-Negotiable

All RV holding tanks need winterization, but the black tank maintenance requires a special kind of love. Winterizing the black tank is critical for practical reasons, including:

  • Damage prevention
  • Odor control
  • Sanitation

If you use your RV in winter, especially in colder climates where campgrounds may shut off water access, maintaining the black tank becomes even more critical. Without easy access to dump stations, a well-maintained tank ensures a hassle-free and sanitary experience.

Winterize Your Water Heater

Winterizing your RV plumbing system should include special attention to the water heater. The process starts with inspecting and, if necessary, replacing the anode rod, a crucial step to prevent tank corrosion.

A thorough water heater winterization includes flushing the tank to remove mineral deposits, a task that becomes more critical if water sits stagnant all winter. This involves draining the tank followed by a deep clean using a vinegar solution. Let the vinegar solution soak and then flush it out before storing the RV.

If you plan to use the RV for cold-weather living and camping, make the vents and burner tubes are clear of debris. This involves cleaning out any accumulated bugs, nests, or webs that could impede airflow or cause a fire hazard.

If you’re storing the RV, removing debris discourages pests from making nests.

Winter Pest Control

Winter is prime time for uninvited critter guests in an RV! Rodents top the list of winter pests, but ants also gatecrash in warmer areas.

The trick to keep pests away? Keep your RV clean. Think crumb-free drawers, pristine fridge, and tidy under-couch spaces. If you're parking your RV for the winter, remove nesting-friendly items like toilet paper rolls.

There’s anecdotal evidence that with rope lights around the outside of your rig scares critters away. Some RVers even use mothballs. For ant invasions, mix Borax and sugar water to send them packing.

If you're tech-savvy, tryn ultrasonic pest repellents, just make sure they're powered up. Whether you're braving the winter chill in your RV or tucking it away, these tips will ensure you're not hosting a pest party!

Cold Weather Preparedness

This tip is specifically geared toward full-time RV owners and winter camping warriors. Preparing for winter should always include beefing up your RV emergency kit. Being prepared for unexpected weather conditions is vital and can save lives in emergencies.

Essential items to include are:

  • Hand warmers
  • Body warmers
  • Poncho
  • Thermal survival blankets
  • Fire starters
  • Waterproof matches.

Everything on this list will keep you warm and dry in rain, snow, or extreme cold. They not only provide comfort but could also be life-saving when you need to maintain body heat. Keeping these weather-specific items in your RV's emergency kit will help ensure you're well-prepared for a range of outdoor conditions while traveling.

Essential Cold Weather RV Engine Maintenance

When you own an RV winterization involves a critical emphasis on engine maintenance. The engine demands routine care, a fact often overlooked when RVs remain stationary for extended periods, as is common in winter.

Following a regular maintenance routine for your RV engine during the colder months helps ward off problems that can sneak up when the temperature drops. Your winterization checklist should include

  • Oil change
  • Tune-ups
  • Ttransmission fluid change
  • Air filter replacements
  • Belt inspections

When you consider the expense of repairing motorhome engines, taking a few hours to prep for winter can help avoid costly repairs come spring.

Help Your RV Tires Weather the Winter

In winterizing your RV, don't overlook tire maintenance. Regularly check tire pressure. Adjust pressure according to load and keep an eye on it, especially before trips, to maintain safety and durability in winter conditions.

Be aware of when to replace tires. Depending on usage and storage conditions, you’ll need new tires every three to seven years.

For those storing their RV in winter, tire care is vital. Ensure proper inflation before storage and consider using tire covers for protection. Periodic tire rotation is also a good practive.

Putting the RV to Bed for the Winter Season

If you prefer using your RV during the warmer seasons, you’ll need to arrange for proper RV storage.

Parking in your driveway might seem convenient, but it could lead to rule violations, exposure to weather elements, and neighborhood tensions. Selecting a secure storage facility with features like surveillance, accessibility, and on-site personnel is crucial.

Long-term storage should include periodic checks, pest prevention, and running essential systems.

While you’re considering what you can do to help your RV through the winter, don’t forget to plan for your next RV experience. A partnership with Harvest Hosts offers access to over 8,000 unique locations across North America. Join us today and start planning your next adventure.

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 8000 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Amy Leal-profile-image
Amy Leal
I’m a free-spirited travel and lifestyle writer who loves the RV life. I spent several years living in my vintage Holiday Rambler and exploring the beautiful United States. Today, I live in a casita on the Sea of Cortez and take shorter road trips. I’m excited to trace new maps with stories of Mexico’s sun-soaked magic and the joy of roaming without borders.