How to Winterize Travel Trailers and Motor Homes

Winter Camping

Whether you have a travel trailer, fifth wheel or motor home, winterizing your recreational vehicle will keep it in good condition and ready to take on the road in the spring. If you plan to camp during the winter, you should also take steps to protect your unit against the weather. This will help you stay more comfortable and have less potential problems.

Winterizing an RV for Storage

If you are going to be locking your recreational vehicle up for the winter and not using it at all then there are certain steps you should take. You should always follow the specific instructions in your owner's manual. General procedures include:

Clean the RV

This is the first thing that needs to be done. You don't want leftover crumbs drawing mice or bugs! When you give the unit a good cleaning at the end of the season it ensures that it will be clean and ready to go when you are.

  1. Remove all food from the RV, even canned foods.
  2. Clean the kitchen area thoroughly. Be sure to get in the stove where crumbs may have fallen.
  3. Turn off the refrigerator and wash it out. Leave the door open.
  4. Remove toothpaste and other items from the bathroom.
  5. Clean the bathroom thoroughly.
  6. Wash towels and store in storage bags.
  7. Wash bedding. Place in plastic bags.
  8. Vacuum or sweep.

Protect the Pipes

You will want to make sure that there is no water that could freeze in any of the lines. This could create a major problem if it froze and the pipes burst.

  1. Empty the gray and black water holding tanks.
  2. Drain the fresh water tank.
  3. Blow out the waterlines. (You can use compressed air to do this.)
  4. Open all the faucets.
  5. Drain and flush the hot water heater.
  6. Add RV/marine antifreeze (which is red) to the fresh water tank. You will need two to five gallons of antifreeze to completely winterize your camper. (Note: RV antifreeze is safe to use in the fresh water tanks. It is a good idea to flush it out in the spring; however any residue that may be left behind is not harmful.)
  7. Run every faucet, including any outside, until the liquid comes out red.
  8. Flush the toilet until it is red.
  9. Run the shower until it runs red.
  10. Run a hot water tap so that the antifreeze will go into the hot water heater.
  11. Pour antifreeze down all drains.
  12. Make sure you get some antifreeze in the holding tanks.

Additional Steps

  1. Lower the stabilizers.
  2. Fill the tires with air to the maximum pressure.
  3. Turn off propane tanks.
  4. Check the water in the battery.
  5. Check the oil (it is good to have it changed after the last camping trip of the season).
  6. Remove smoke detector.
  7. Make sure tanks, heaters, pumps, lights, and anything else are off.
  8. Close all windows, vents, and doors.
  9. Lock it.

Specific Concerns for Motor Homes

Because of the fact that motor homes have engines, there are a few additional things that you need to do when preparing your vehicle for winter storage.

  • According to the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), it is important to "secure all caps to prevent water, snow and dirt from entering the engine."
  • FMCA recommends making sure that the fuel tank is full before winter storage, a step that will help prevent condensation from occurring in the tank.
  • It is also advisable to add a fuel stabilizer to the fuel in the tank. This is a good way to "keep the fuel from breaking down and leaving deposits."
  • IdiotsGuides.com recommends that you flush the radiator when preparing to winterize your motor home, replacing the anti-freeze with a formula specifically defined for the climate in which it will be stored.
  • You should also make sure that all of the engine compartments that hold liquids are full, according to IdiotsGuides.com. This decreases the chances of freezing or drying out.
  • For motor homes with gasoline engines, FMCA further recommends changing the oil and filter as part of the winterization process. This will keep "acids from accumulating in the oil," something that could cause the engine's bearings to corrode if it occurred.

Winterizing for Year Round Camping

You may be one of those hardy souls that enjoys camping year round. Even if this is true, you will want to do some winterizing of your camper, if only to make it more comfortable. Winterizing will also help you save money on propane.

Insulate

Campers aren't really meant to keep out the cold. They just aren't very well insulated. In order to combat heat loss you should tape plastic over the windows and replace the factory curtains with insulating curtains. Cover ceiling vents as well, and consider adding skirting around the bottom.

Pick Your Site

When you are camping in the winter try to pick sites that have some natural protection from the wind, like trees. Try to keep the front facing north. It will usually be the most insulated area, as well as the smallest, and you don't want an entire side of the camper getting hit by a cold north wind if you can help it.

Take Care of Your RV

Always follow the directions in your owner's manual for winterizing. By taking care of your camper properly in the winter you can be sure you will have it for a long time. You will save money on repairs, and when those first warm days of spring show up you will be ready to go.

How to Winterize Travel Trailers and Motor Homes