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Now that summer has officially arrived with the coming of Memorial Day, many folks are thinking about camping and RVing in the next few months. Yes, we’re also concerned about COVID-19, limited camping sites due to social distancing as well as campground closures this upcoming summer camping season, but with any luck, and some careful planning, you’ll still be able to spend some quality time in your RV this season.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the things I have always done when taking an RV out of winter storage. We’ll also examine some of the equipment you should inspect for mechanical reasons as well as your own personal safety.
Getting started: how to de-winterize
While most folks start this important process by dealing with their water system, I start by airing out my rig. You see, when I was a young boy and would stay at my grandparents home for a few days occasionally, one of the first things I learned was to stay away from places in their home or in the case of my granddad, his workshops. Simply put, they reeked of moth balls and it’s a fragrance I hate to smell to this day. However, it is a repellent for many insects, mice and other vermin when storing your RV. With that said, I too used mothballs when storing my rig. They are offensive to many insects and more importantly mice and rats.
This process would include opening all the outside compartments, the ventilation fans covers and all the windows. This would also be the time to inspect your window seals for any signs of water damage or any cracks that may have occurred over the window. Also, be sure to check your screens for rips or tears at this time too.
Once I’ve started the airing out process, then I would plug my RV into shore power, make sure all my breakers are turned and then I would turn on my refrigerator and the freezer. I wouldn’t put anything in them at this time, but I liked to have them on for six to eights hours and then I’d check the appliance’s temperature to make sure it was working correctly.
Inspect your RV’s interior
While your refrigerator is cooling down, thoroughly inspect the interior of your RV. Do this from room to room by inspecting all the seams in the walls and the ceilings. Look for any signs of water damage such as stains or excess moisture. Be sure inspect inside your cupboards, cabinets, and closets too. You’ll be looking for any signs of water damage here too, but also keep a close eye out for any signs of rodent droppings in case the moth ball treatment didn’t work. If you do find that either of these issues exist, you’ll need to do some inspecting to determine where water or rodents may be coming into your RV and fix the problem as soon as possible.
For me, when I used to store my RVs over the years, I would always do this task at least a month before I was hitting the road. This provided me with plenty of time to order and replace faulty parts or have a professional repair the issue if I couldn’t tackle it on my own. Also, keep in mind that almost all RVers that store their rig over the winter only to find that they need to have a problem repaired at an RV shop flood these places in the spring, so booking an appointment for repairs at the last minute is almost impossible at this time of the year.
Next, check all of your electrical outlets and your switches to make sure there are no shorts or loose wires preventing them from working. Since some RV light fixtures require bulbs smaller than the standard ones you would find in homes or apartments, even a burned-out lightbulb can be problematic if you’re not in an area where you can easily find a replacement.
Make sure your house batteries are fully charged and if you remove them during cold months reinstall them to be sure your 12-volt electrical system is working correctly. For those of you that rely on solar power, check that system to ensure it’s working properly too.
Inspecting your RV’s exterior
The first thing I inspect on the RV’s exterior is the slide-outs. I like to run them in and out a couple of times so I can listen to the motor and gears and be sure they are working properly. After you have extended them out for further inspection, go back inside and inspect the floor area beneath them for any damage. If you have automatic retractable steps, inspect them at this time too.
Next, take a look at your roof. Check the seals around any antennas, vents, the air conditioning units, or any other fixture on the roof. Be sure to look for any cracks in the roof if you have a rubber sealed roof. While you’re on the roof, inspect your slide-outs from above. Make certain that the seals on their sides and tops are working correctly and they aren’t crack as well.
Just like you did with the interior, check your electrical outlets, and inspect all of your exterior lights which would also include the navigational lights as well. For this step, you’ll need to hook up your tow vehicle if you have a camper, but this also gives the chance to check your hitch and the electrical plug on your toe vehicle. If you have a motorhome, and you tow a vehicle or boat behind it, you should check your hitch and electrical plug on them just to be sure they are securely attached and working correctly too.
If you have factory installed generator in your RV, it’s a good time to check this as well. Oil, gas, and exhaust should be checked on your generator and you should let it run at least 30 minutes to ensure it’s working properly. Be sure to check these fluids before starting your motorhome too. Be sure to read my full guide on starting and maintaining your RV generator.
Now’s a good time to check your tires too. Always be certain that they are properly inflated and visually inspect them for sidewall cracks or bulges. I recommend checking the air pressure and if they are low, fill them to appropriate tire pressure. Be sure to check on them a couple of days later to see if they’ve lost any pressure. If they have, it’s likely you have a problem. Also, always make certain that your tires are properly inflated and be sure to include this task in your RV departure checklist before starting or continuing on your journey.
Heating and cooling
Be sure to check on your furnace and air conditioning units as well. For air conditioning this is amazingly simple because this power source relies upon electricity. This test also allows you to check the thermostat as well. Simply turn on the AC unit and set the thermostat to a low temperature. If your unit turns on and blows cold air, you’re good.
Checking your heating can be a bit more complicated. Most RV furnaces are designed to operate using propane gas and you should definitely test your propane system too. This is also a good time to check on your RV’s thermostat and any appliances such as your water heater or refrigerator if you plan on using the propane option on those appliances while off grid.
This is always the last system I check. If I’ve done the right job when I winterized my rig, this should be no problem. At this point I fire up my water pump and pump in a few gallons of fresh water through the water lines into my freshwater tank to flush out the RV antifreeze that I added when winterizing my rig. Then I mix ¼ cup of baking soda with a gallon of water and add it to the tank too.
As a rule, I release the bypass on the hot water heater so I can flush that too. I repeat this process until I no longer smell or taste any chlorine or chemical in my water coming through the faucets. Usually, I do this 2-3 times until I’m satisfied with the taste of my drinking water, however, your tastes may vary, so I recommend you fill and drain your freshwater tank until you’ve got it to where you feel comfortable drinking it.
Folks…always make sure to properly maintain your RV. Be sure that you’re confident to take it on any journey before you leave, and always maintain it through your journeys.
As always, my friends, thanks for following my articles, and my journeys through full time RVing. It’s always a pleasure sharing my travels with you. Stay safe, stay healthy and I hope to see you out on the road sometime.
Want to simplify your winterization process? Check out Mike’s guide on the best RV winterization kits.