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How to De-winterize an RV; A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: May 10

Get your RV spring-ready by following the RV de-winterizing tips and tricks inside. Read on for a full RV de-winterization guide.

Dewinterizing RV

Summer is here! That means it's time to take out your motorhome for a much-needed camping trip. But before you can hit the road, make sure your RV is ready for the trip ahead. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to de-winterize a camper making it camping-ready.

P-S Some RV de-winterizing tips and tricks for full-time RVers are also included at the end.

Step 1: Inspect, Maintain and Clean the RV Exterior

Cleaning RV exterior

Start the RV de-winterizing process by making sure the RV exterior is fully maintained and squeaky clean.

  • Remove the RV cover and inspect the RV exterior. Look for any scratches on the hull, cracks in the body, discoloration, or damage to the body

  • Check the roof for cracks and leaks. Fill any cracks with sealant. Apply roof treatment if there are signs of aging

  • If you have solar panels installed on your RV, give them a good clean

  • Check the vent caps, stink pipe vent covers, and air conditioner shrouds for any bird or wasp nests

  • Open all doors and windows to see if they work properly. Oil all hinges including those on RV slides

  • Clean the RV awning and check if it is deploying correctly

  • Look for spider webs and rodent nests under the RV

  • Make sure all plumbing, electric, and water lines are damage-free

  • Thoroughly clean the RV exterior and roof. Wax the RV exterior once it is completely dry

Here is a video with some helpful tips for washing your RV.

Step 2: Charge the RV Batteries

Charging Rv batteries

The next step is to make sure your RV batteries are fully charged and good to go. RV batteries lose a percentage of their charge when they are left unoperated for a while. If you hadn't periodically checked and recharged the batteries during the off-season, chances are the batteries are not at their full capacity. To recharge your RV batteries:

  • Make sure the RV is not connected to any power

  • Use a voltmeter to check the current charge in your RV batteries. For a 12V battery, a full charge will read 12.7 V. Anything below that means you need to recharge the battery

  • Attach the battery charger to the RV charger while the battery charger is turned off

  • Turn the battery charger on and let it charge the battery completely before turning it off. This may take a few hours to a few days depending upon the size of your battery

  • After the battery is charged, check the water level in the battery. Add distilled water to reach the optimal level (if the water level in the battery is below the plates, fill it up before you begin charging the battery. The plates should always be covered in water)

Once the battery is fully charged, reinstall it to the RV by:

  • Spraying both terminal ends with hot water and baking soda solution (you can also use a commercial battery contact cleaning product) to keep them from corroding

  • Attaching and tightening the red (positive) battery cable

  • Attaching and tightening the black (negative) battery cable

  • Double-checking that all the cable connections are tightened

Learn how to replace RV house batteries.

Step 3: Maintain RV Tires

RV tire

Just like the RV battery, RV tires also lose their pressure when the RV is in storage. Generally, the tires will lose about 2 to 3 psi for every month they are in storage. To maintain RV tires:

  • Check all the tires, including the spare, for cracks along the treads and sidewall

  • Use an air inflation gauge to check the pressure in all the tires

  • Inflate the tires to the correct pressure according to manufacture guidelines

  • Make sure all lug nuts are tightened when reinstalling the tires

  • Wash and clean the tires to make sure they are ready to hit the road

The start of the season is also a good time to get new motorhome tires. If the tires on your RV are old and worn out this is a good time to replace them.

Learn some tips to make your RV tires last longer.

Step 4: Check RV Engine and Generator

RV generator

Inspect the RV engine by:

  • Check all engine fluid levels

  • Check the fluid levels of the power steering, transmission, engine oil, brake fluid, engine coolant, and windshield washer fluid

  • If the levels are low, top them off

  • Start the engine and check the readings on all the gauges

  • Make sure that all dash lights, headlights, taillights and windshield wipers are working

Check the RV generator by:

  • Check the oil level in the generator

  • Check the exhaust system of the generator for any damage before you start it

  • Start the generator and run the AC to check if it is working correctly

  • If the generator surges or will not start, have it inspected and repaired

Learn how to wire your RV batteries.

Step 5: Dewinterize RV Holding Tanks

dewinterizing RV plumbing system

There are three stages of de-winterizing RV water system.

Stage 1: Removing Antifreeze from RV Plumbing System

  • Make sure all the faucets in your RV are closed

  • Use a water hose to connect your RV's water inlet with a fresh-water hookup

  • Turn the water on and listen closely for any leaks or drips in the lines

  • Starting from the farthest faucet from the water inlet, open the faucet and let the water flow through

  • The antifreeze you used would likely have a pink color so you will see pink-colored water flowing through the faucet

  • Let the water run until it becomes clear and then close the faucet

  • Repeat this process for every faucet, shower, and toilet, as well as the outside shower and low point drain in your RV

  • Once the water from all the outlets runs clear, close all faucets, fill your RV's freshwater tank, and remove the water hose connected to the hookup

  • Use the water in the freshwater tank flush each faucet again. Run the water pump and repeat flushing the faucets

Stage 2: Sanitizing the RV Freshwater System

  • Sanitize the RV freshwater system by cleaning it with bleach

  • Close all drains with drain plugs

  • Take a quarter-cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons of water in your freshwater tank

  • Pour the bleach into a 1-gallon container and fill it with water

  • Pour the mixture into your freshwater tank and fill it with water as well

  • Run the water pump and open all faucets in the RV

  • Keep the faucets open till you can smell the bleach. Once you do, close the faucets

  • Let the solution sit for up to twelve hours in the water tank and water lines

  • Drain all the water from the freshwater tank by opening up all the faucets

  • Re-fill the freshwater tank with clean water and run the faucets again

  • If you can still smell the bleach, repeat the process till you can't smell it anymore

Stage 3: Refilling the RV Water Heater

  • Turn the water heater bypass off

  • Install the drain plug or anode rod in the water heater drain

  • Turn on the water pump and start filling the water heater. Once it starts filling, open the “hot” tap on a faucet to allow air to escape

  • Do not turn the water heater if no water is in it

Make sure you check all the pipes in your RV plumbing system for leaks and cracks before you hit the road. Also check your water heater, black and grey water tanks, and water hoses.

Here is a quick rundown on how to clean your RV's water system.

Step 6: Inspect the RV Propane System

RV propane tanks

  • Turn off all propane appliances before you begin your inspection

  • Turn on the leak detector in your RV

  • Open the valve on your LP tank slowly and smell for leaks

  • Use a sponge to apply soapy water solution on the valve and regulator and watch closely for bubbling or spurting

  • Make sure all wires and hoses aren't damaged

  • If your RV has refillable propane tanks, take them to a dealer to get refilled. Make sure your propane tanks are properly certified

  • Turn on all LP appliances in your RV are debris-free before turning them on and running them on LP mode for a while

  • Refill all RV propane tanks before hitting the road

Learn how to connect an exterior propane tank to your RV.

Step 7: Check the RV Electrical System

RV electrical system

  • Turn off the RV electrical system and check all the wires for damage

  • Turn all appliances in the RV to electric mode, turn on the RV electrical system and run all the appliances for a while

  • Check all the 120-volt appliances by running them on electric mode

  • Make sure all in-built electric elements like the indoor RV lights are working properly

  • Check to make sure all power outlets in the RV are receiving power

Get the Latchit RV Surge Protector to make sure your appliances remain safe from power surges.

Step 8: Deep-Clean the RV Interior

RV spring cleaning checklist

Once you have checked all the vital working elements of the RV, it is time to head inside and do some deep cleaning. We have an entire blog dedicated to spring cleaning your RV. Check it out here.

Step 9: Take Stock of all Safety Devices

RV fire extinguisher

Run a safety check on all the safety devices installed in your RV by:

  • Replace or reinstall the batteries in all safety devices including the carbon monoxide detector, smoke alarm, and LP gas leak detector

  • Test each device to make sure it is working properly

  • Look at the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and purchase a new one if needed

  • If you have a dry powder fire extinguisher, release any powder that may have settled during storage by shaking it and tapping it on the bottom

  • Make sure you know how to operate your fire extinguisher

Also, make sure to restock your first-aid box and road safety gear before hitting the road. Here are 7 best emergency kits for RV camping.

Step 10: Update RV's Insurance and Registration

RV papers

The last step in de-winterizing your RV is to make sure all your paperwork is in order.

  • Make sure your RV registration, RV insurance, and emissions sticker is up to date

  • Store your RV documentation in an accessible place in your RV

  • If you have a large motorhome or towable RV make sure you have the required permissions before you hit the road

  • Make sure your driver's license is up to date

RV Dewinterization for Full-Time RVers

If you're living in your RV full-time, de-winterizing your RV will look slightly different for you.

  • Remove all RV insulation you installed to keep your RV warm in the winter like RV skirting

  • Pack and store winter essentials like space heaters, warm clothes, and blankets

  • Take your RV in for some routine servicing

  • Declutter and re-think your RV organization

  • Deep clean your RV interior and exterior

Here is a of how to dewinterize your RV.

A Clean RV is a Happy RV!

Now that your RV is fully de-winterized, it is time to plan the perfect trip for the seasons. Take a look at all these amazing places you can head to this season. Head over here for more RV trip planning resources. Happy Camping!


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