Whether you are a newbie to Motorhoming or a seasoned camper, you will need to perform some maintenance precautions against the damage winter can do to your vehicle.
Let’s take a look at what you should think about to prepare for inclement weather to protect your RV or Motorhome.
What Happens if you don’t winterise your RV?
You can avoid water pipes freezing, which in turn can lead to pipes, tanks and taps to bursting. Leaking Water causes a lot of damage, and some insurance policies will not cover you for this type of damage if you have not drained down all your motorhome’s water systems.
You could not only find a whole heap of damp and rust but also that your vehicle will not start, your tyres are flat, and your brakes froze on. All of this damage will affect the value of your RV, not just in money terms but for your enjoyment of your vehicle too.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to store your RV undercover for the winter, then you may find that you can skip a lot of this work. If you can keep your RV connected to mains electricity and keep a heater on a low or nighttime setting, this could avoid the need for draining down systems. You may still want to flush out your water-based systems as part of your annual maintenance, but indoor storage will greatly reduce the amount of maintenance required.
Check your insurance policy; the small print will tell you all about the assumptions that have been made in respect of annual maintenance and winterizing that is expected.
Your owners manual is a really good source of reference, and although I think it is generally accepted that some people cannot read instructions, you may have access to a youtube video to help.
So, what do you need to do?
The first question you will need to consider in winterizing your motorhome is to decide whether you are going to do this yourself or get your local garage to do the work for you. Some companies will come out to your home or storage site in a mobile unit to do this work for you.
If you are going to use a professional and hand over this job to someone else, you will want to know what they are going to do for your vehicle and so having a checklist of what needs to be done is essential regardless of who does the work.
If you are going to this yourself, then you will need to make sure that you have your owners manual to hand and of course you will need the right tools.
What tools you will need will vary from one vehicle to the next but essentials include;
- Non-toxic RV antifreeze
- Wand or brush to clean out holding tanks
- Water Pump Converter Kit
- Tubing to connect to the water pump for drainage
- A set of hand tools to remove drain plugs
If you don’t have any of these, you can easily find them in your local parts store.
It’s worth considering where it is best to do the work of draining down all water-based systems. If you can park over a drain so much the better as this will speed up the process significantly. Even better if the drain is on a slight incline. However should the ideal conditions not be available then you can take your time with this and drive your RV around a while to dislodge any remaining water in the systems.
RV’s and Motorhomes vary in the systems that are already installed to flush out tanks. Your owners manual will tell you what you have to make these jobs easier.
Kampgrounds of America Inc has a comprehensive checklist that includes the following steps;
- Drain the freshwater holding tank.
- Drain and flush the gray and black holding tanks.
- Drain the water heater.
- Open all hot and cold faucets; don’t forget the toilet valve and outside shower.
- Locate and open the low point drain lines.
- Recap all drains and close all faucets.
- By-pass the water heater. If you do not have a by-pass kit installed, the water heater will fill up with antifreeze before it goes through the water lines, wasting six gallons of antifreeze.
- Turn the water pump on and pressurize the system. Replace the antifreeze container as required.
- Repeat this process on all faucets from the closest to the farthest away. Don’t forget the outside shower, if equipped.
- Flush the toilet until antifreeze appears.
- Pour a cupful of antifreeze down each drain.
- Make sure all the faucets are closed.
- Consult your owner manuals for winterizing icemakers and washing machines.
- The unit is winterized.
This area is equally important, and you will be sleeping here when your vehicle is in use, so if you have removable covers on your upholstery, then you can take these off and clean them. You may want to leave any covers off the fittings until you plan to use your RV again.
If upholstery is not removable, then you can sponge down and spray with a protector. Make sure these areas are aired and completely dry before your vehicle goes into storage.
Moisture-absorbing crystals can help to soak up damp areas and also to prevent damp areas from forming. These do work well but you should make sure that you keep an eye on them and replace them as necessary.
Spray areas inside the chassis on all metal surfaces with a rust inhibitor. Use WD40 all internal and external catches and locks.
The base of your vehicle
Make sure that you check the base of your RV. Empty ‘U’ bends, these can be sited under the vehicle. Depending on where your RV will be standing over winter you may want to add some additional protection to any exposed piping with lagging.
If your RV is stored where you have easy access, then you can fire up the AirCon now and then to circulate the gas. This can also help to reduce any build-up of moisture in the RV.
Store your wipers off the screen, so they don’t perish. Even a thermal windscreen cover will help here.
If your RV is being stored under cover and connected to an electricity supply, you may not need to disconnect batteries. There are two schools of thought here. Some prefer to disconnect the batteries, then re-charge before your next use. Some prefer to keep them connected. If you are firing the vehicle up every so often, then you can leave your battery connected. This helps with security too.
Inside storage or at least a cover
If you don’t have an inside area to store your RV over winter, then this is not a major problem. You may want to ‘rent’ an inside area if your home does not have one, and this can add to the cost of your maintenance.
You can buy a weather-proof cover. Make sure it fits your model of RV or Motorhome. It should come with fixings. It is advisable to give your unit a really good clean down before covering. This can help to prevent rust. Check you have sprayed rust inhibitor where advised and used WD40 on locks.
Don’t forget the roof.
Depending on where your vehicle will be standing, you may need to use blocks. If you are not using a handbrake, then use blocks for safety. You can use tyre savers and wheel covers here too. Wheel covers will help to preserve your wheel brakes –don’t forget your spare wheel!
When should I winterize my RV?
It seems that the best time to start the process of making sure that your RV is prepared for Winter is when you are sure that you will not be using your RV again and your camping season is over.
However, if you are going to use your RV over the winter season, then there are still some steps that you should take to make sure that your RV is still able to function well for the winter and you are not inviting damp and mould into your RV.
Moisture-absorbing crystals can help to soak up damp areas. These do work well, but you should make sure that you keep an eye on them and replace them as necessary.
By taking a few preventative measures, you can avoid costly repair bills.
What if I Want to Use My Rv in Winer?
For some people, the colder weather is not a signal to store your RV, but to prepare for your winter adventures. Skiers and Boarder especially want to use their RV’s in winter.
There are some essential tools you should have in your RV or Motorhome;
- A shovel, look for a shovel with a telescopic handle to make storage easier and invest in a good quality snow shovel.
- Deicer is a must, stock up before you leave home.
- A good quality ice scraper is essential.
The most important thing to consider is keeping stuff from freezing. You will need to prevent the same things from happening to your RV that winterizing your RV protects, so to keep fuel, pipes and tanks from freezing you need to protect them.
The three things that cause the most winter problems in your RV are breathing, showering and cooking.
Add diesel fuel supplement to keep fuel from freezing. Think about how you will use your propane. Propane creates moisture. Moisture is your biggest enemy and you do not want to let this into your RV or Motorhome. Invest in small electric or battery heating units. You can buy small battery operated space heaters. These are great for keeping control bays warm. You can also instal insulation to these areas; even bubble wrap works wonders here!
Not all RV’s are designed for winter use, but those that are will have a skirt that you can instal to keep the underside of your RV warm.
This is really important not only to keep any exposed pipes from freezing but also to help keep you warm inside.
If your RV is not equipped with a skirt, then nature provides a perfectly acceptable alternative, Snow!
This is where your good snow shovel helps out. Use snow to pile up all around the base of your RV, taking care not to cover any exhaust pipes or outlets. If you cover the exhaust pipe then carbon monoxide can back up into the RV and this can be very dangerous, so best avoided. The snow acts as a good insulator and will keep the underside of your RV warm.
If you use a hose to dump toilet waste, then store you hose inside your RV or invest in a good quality PVC hose that will be sturdier against the cold.
If you can, always use the showers in the campsite shower block in winter. You may have to pay extra for this but showering in your RV will create a lot of excess moisture, even in the latest designed units. If you don’t park on a campsite and have to use the shower, then you can invest in a squeegee to wipe down the shower unit after use, even dry it off with towels and open some vents after use.
Your roof vents will need to be used from time to time to keep moisture build-up from happening, so you will need to make sure you have vent covers fitted.
These need to be kept clear of snow on the roof, so get up there after it’s snowed and make sure your roof is clear.
You cant stop breathing! But you can choose to not cook with your propane stovetop. Electric grills and hot plates work much better in winter in your RV or Motorhome than your propane stovetop. Invest in portable cooking units.
You can safely leave a portable electric heater on overnight too as temperatures can plummet overnight.
Change to warm bed linen, buy flannel sheets for your winter RV adventure and a down comforter is a must. You can also use an electric mattress pad for warming up your sleeping areas before going to bed.
Even small things like wearing warm, comfortable clothing inside and always wearing soft houseshoes will help keep you warm. The floor of your unit will get cold.
If you think moisture is building up inside your RV, then open all the cabinet and storage areas and crack a window or roof vent for a short period each day.
Moisture crystals do work well, and you can buy a small thermometer for your RV that tells you the inside and outside temperatures as well as giving you a moisture reading.
Be aware of your window areas. If you have double screens and curtains, use them. Make your own heavy winter thermal curtains or velcro bubble wrap to the windows as a last resort. It may not look pretty but will keep you warm.
How do you keep your RV from freezing while living in it?
Two simple words, ‘insulate’ and ‘prevention’.
We have already mentioned a few great tips for winter weather adventuring, but you can do more.
If your RV or Motorhome is not a newer model, or not built for winter weather, you may find that you have a lot of pipework running underneath the unit. As already mentioned, you will need to protect the underside of your RV. Although making a ‘skirt’ out of snow is effective, you may not have snow at the level of your campsite to use.
You will need to protect all pipes that run under your Motorhome, and good lagging will keep everything from freezing. Natural fibres work best, so use that as your base layer and add on a protective outer layer. Good old bubble wrap is a good outer layer for exposed pipes.
You can buy heated hoses and these are a good investment if you are going to be using your unit a lot over the winter. Heat tape will also work well.
Inside you want to keep in mind that your main objective is to reduce moisture. You can purchase small space heaters and models that you can use all year round, and portable air cooler and warmer units are perfect.
We mentioned investing in good quality bedding specially designed for cold weather. A good tip is to have two heated matress pads and make your bed the ‘filling in the heated mattress pad sandwich’.
Dehumidifier pellets draw out condensation and are a really good idea for the inside of your RV.
Protecting the Rv engine and generator from freezing.
Engine manufacturers recommend that you add a diesel Anti-Gel Supplement to fuel. As Diesel starts to ‘gel’ at around 20 degrees, it can damage your engine.
You can also fire up your engine every now and then, although other campsite users can complain that running your engine will harm the plant!
Having a winter adventure in our RV can be great fun, and if you are careful and plan ahead that you should be able to avoid your adventure turning into a disaster!
Gonewiththewynns.com www.cruiseamerica.us camping.lovetoknow.com gorving.com