How to Winterize an RV for Storage

large camper vehicle with cover over windshield

If you won't be using your RV in the colder season, take some steps to protect it from the elements. Whether this is your first winter with a motorhome, fifth wheel, travel trailer, etc. or you've dealt with the cold before, winterizing is an important step in keeping your model safe, secure, and ready to roll when spring arrives.

Interior Preparation

Do a visual check on the interior, especially around portals where plumbing pipes, hoses, or wiring enter the RV. If any daylight is showing around the openings, fill in the space with blocking of some kind.

Don't leave any food items inside the RV while it's being stored for the winter. Thoroughly clean the interior so there are no food crumbs to attract wildlife or insects.

Prep the refrigerator by cleaning the interior thoroughly and defrosting the freezer. Keeping the refrigerator doors open while stored and placing a box of baking soda inside the unit will prevent and eliminate the build-up of odors.

empty fridge in camper vehicle

Clean or replace AC filters, open vents just a little only if your RV has vent covers and is either stored inside or has an RV cover. This helps provide ventilation during storage. Also, open cabinet drawers and doors so they can air out.

Using a product designed to reduce moisture build-up can help prevent damaging mold residue inside the RV.

To help prevent fading of carpet, drapes, and upholstery, securely close window blinds and/or window shades.

If your RV has a main electrical breaker, turn it off during storage time. Also, remove the batteries from items such as clocks, smoke alarms, or CO2 detectors.

Exterior Preparation

A visual check of the underbody is recommended to see if there are any visible openings, gaps, or holes that are large enough to allow rodents or other small critters from entering the RV. Silicone or an expanding foam product can be used to fill in these areas.

Lubricate hinges, window latches, locks, and slide-outs (if applicable).

Give the exterior a good wash and then apply a quality wax or protectant expressly used for RVs.

Under the Hood

One thing you don't want to have happen is water freezing in the tanks and water lines. To avoid this problem, you'll want both the grey and black water holding tanks to be empty. You want the fresh water tank to be empty and all water in the lines to be drained.

To clear the lines, turning each faucet on (sink, shower) inside the RV one at a time allows water to drain from both the hot and cold faucets. Before turning on the water pump and opening a faucet, placing a bowl or other container under the faucet will collect the water draining from the lines preventing it from going back into the holding tanks.

Adding RV antifreeze to the system is also a vital step to winterizing. It's important that the antifreeze flows through both the inside and outside faucets.

Miscellaneous Preparation

covered tire on recreational vehicle

Where and how the RV is stored is important. For those who do not have access to an enclosed garage, investing in a quality cover for the RV body plus tire covers adds a layer of protection.

For additional protection for tires, prior to placing the covers, inflate each tire according to the manufacturer's specs. Also, placing a sturdy plank under each tire helps protect the tread by keeping it off frozen/ice-covered ground. It also helps prevent the tires from sinking into the ground.

Do research on products designed to help repel mice from entering your RV or from setting up housekeeping in the engine area. Starting the RV occasionally during storage will also keep the engine and battery fresh, and shoo off any wildlife nesting under the hood.