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How to De-Winterize Your RV: Get Ready for Camping Season!

How to De-Winterize Your RV: Get Ready for Camping Season!

It’s springtime, the snow is starting to melt and the weather is getting nicer. Just like an animal coming out of hibernation, it’s time to wake up your sleeping RV. There is so much to see and do, you can’t get on the road fast enough! But if you live in an area that has freezing temperatures, you probably winterized your RV. So, before you can take off on an adventure, you need to properly de-winterize your RV. 

What Is De-Winterizing an RV? 

In order to protect your RV from the harsh cold in winter, it’s important to winterize your vehicle. This could include putting chemicals in your water pipes to prevent freezing or setting traps for rodents. However, when spring rolls around, you need to properly de-winterize your RV.

This means making sure you remove the chemicals for health and safety. De-winterizing your RV also means inspecting the pipes, tires, and anything else that could have been damaged during the winter to ensure your safety while on the road.

How to De-Winterize Your RV

First, we’re going to take a look at how to de-winterize your RV’s water system. Then we’re going to walk you through a proper spring maintenance check. Let’s get started!

Water System

Drain Antifreeze

If you properly winterized your RV, you most likely used RV antifreeze to keep your pipes from freezing and cracking. First things first, drain the antifreeze from your pipes. This is easy to do by opening up your low-point water valves.

Reconnect Water Heater

Most of the time, the RV’s water heater should be bypassed by a set of valves during the winterization process. Sometimes the drain valve is left open as well. Once the antifreeze has been drained, turn the valves to reconnect the water heater to the main lines.

You also need to reinsert the drain valve if it has been left out (usually if it’s an on-demand heater). If you fail to do this, you will have a cascade of water pouring out of the water heater when you pressurize the system (we have been there).

Flush Fresh Water System

Next, make sure to flush your fresh water system.

This means connecting to water, opening all faucets, and running water through the water lines. This includes your shower and toilet. You want to make sure the antifreeze is flushed out. Start with the cold water and run until there is no color or smell in the water. 

Also, when you de-winterize your RV, make sure you flush out your water heater tank by running the hot water lines. Don’t turn the water heater on – just run the hot water valves to flush it out.  This may take more water than the cold lines. Again, you’re looking for clear, smell-free water.

You also want to make sure to flush your water pump. Fill your water tank with some fresh water and run the water pump until cleared. 

Sanitize Fresh Water System

Once you have flushed the antifreeze out of the fresh water system, you will want to sanitize your system. If water was sitting stagnant all winter, and this can allow bacteria to grow.

To ensure the water is safe, we recommend using a freshwater tank sanitizing product and follow its instructions. Doing this will yield the best results in making sure your water is safe to use and tastes great if you drink it. 

Camco TastePURE Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner...
  • Requires no measuring, mixing, or preparation
  • Stops bad odors and foul tastes in your drinking water by...
  • Perfect for dewinterizing your fresh water tank and lines

Maintenance Checks

De-winterize also means making sure the cold weather didn’t cause any damage to your RV. So, while you’re flushing and sanitizing your system, this is the perfect time to do your maintenance checks.

Look for Leaky Pipes

While water is running through your system, check them for leaks. When water freezes in your pipes, it can cause them to crack. In winter, even the smallest amount of moisture can cause major damage.

In order to avoid further damage or water damage, check your pipes thoroughly. Make sure to stop the flow of water for a moment to put full pressure on the pipes when checking for leaks. 

Check Tires

Make sure to check your tires. It’s best for tires to keep moving. But during the winter, your RV’s tires may be used less frequently or not at all. So, you need to make sure there are no cracks, bulges, or noticeable flat spots. Also, check for pressure and air them up if needed. As always, it’s important to have a high-pressure air compressor onboard your RV. 

Check and/or Reinstall Batteries

Next, check your batteries.

If you unplugged them or took them out for the winter, make sure to reinstall them. It’s always best to remove batteries if they will be in extremely cold temperatures.

But if they were left on board, make sure they are holding their charge. If you are using lead-acid batteries, check the water in the battery and top it off with distilled water if needed. 

Inspect Exterior of RV

You will want to inspect the exterior of the RV. Make sure the winter weather didn’t cause any damage. High winds or hail can cause damage to the roof.  Check it over for cracks, tears, or peeling caulk.

Also, check your RV exterior lights to make sure they all work.

Inspect Propane & Connections for Leaks

Turn on your propane and check for leaks in the connections and hoses. This can be done by sniffing inside closed compartments for a propane smell. 

If a leak is suspected, you can use a little soapy water to find it. Just take the soapy water and brush or spray it onto the connections and hoses. If the propane is on and you see bubbling, this could be a potential leak that needs to be taken care of.

Test Propane Appliances

When you de-winterize your RV, you should test all of your propane appliances, too. Make sure they turn on and run properly along with no leaks in the hoses or connections.

Test Electric Appliances

You also want to test the electric appliances. You don’t want to get on the road and find out something isn’t working anymore. Also, check your electrical outlets to make sure they work as well.

Run Generator, if applicable

If you have a generator, run it for a few hours. You really should run it for at least an hour once a month, while it has fuel in it. If the generator has been fogged or drained of fuel, it may need to be primed and will have a hard time starting. 

Once running and warm, it’s a good idea to put a load on it to “exercise” it. 

Check Engine

If you have a motorhome, checking the engine is also an important task when you de-winterize your RV.

Start by checking all the fluids before attempting to start it. Once it starts, it’s critical to first keep an eye on the oil pressure indicator and make sure it comes up. Let the engine run and make sure there are no new leaks.

It’s probably a good idea to get an oil change while you’re at it. It’s very important your engine is in good working order. There is nothing worse than taking your home on wheels into a shop and having to leave it there.

Check Windows and Vents

Make sure to check your windows and vents. Again, some live in places with harsh weather that could leave cracks in windows and break vents. Also, check the seals to make sure they haven’t cracked and no water will get in.

Open Cabinets and Air Out RV

It’s also good to open cabinets, doors, and windows to let the RV air out. The air in the RV is most likely stagnant, and opening everything will freshen it up.

Check for Rodents/Bugs

Lastly, check for signs of rodents and bugs. We always recommend installing glue traps or spring traps without food for the winter. Using poison bait or food can actually attract rodents. Check any traps and all tight spaces for signs of rodents. Now is the time to set food traps if you note rodent activity to eliminate them. 

De-Winterize Your RV and Be Road Ready

Taking the time to de-winterize your RV is important for a fun and safe road trip. This process is more than just flushing out your water system. It’s making sure your RV is road-ready, so you spend more time exploring and less time in the shop!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Tom Brian

Saturday 2nd of April 2022

The steps to dewinterize your RV are quite easy. Thank you for providing this information.