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How To De-Winterize Your RV

Waking Up Your RV After Winter Storage

Mark Quasius
Jun 1, 2013
Photographers: Mark Quasius
Winter is finally over and it’s time to get the RV ready for spring. You’ve carefully winterized your RV, put it in storage over the winter, and patiently (or not) waited for winter to end so you could go RVing once again. But, you can’t just hop in and go. Now it’s time to undo all of the procedures you went through when you winterized it for storage. De-winterizing your RV correctly will ensure that you won’t have any problems later on so that you can fully enjoy your RV.
Fresh Water and Waste Systems
Undoubtedly, water systems are the first thing you’ll think of when winterizing or de-winterizing. Your RV’s water system was flushed with antifreeze prior to storage to prevent freeze damage. Now you’ll need to blow it all out and refill with fresh water. Antifreeze tends to leave a bitter taste that hangs in the plastic water lines of an RV, so you’ll need to flush plenty of water through the lines to remove this. Ideally, you’ll do this right off the bat and once you’ve run plenty of water through the lines, you’ll let it sit for a few days to soak up any additional antifreeze taste. Then, drain your fresh-water tank and refill with fresh water once again. Run it through the entire plumbing system once again until you have thoroughly flushed any residual antifreeze taste from the lines. Then, drain the tank once again and refill with fresh water and you are ready to go. If your RV has any on-board water filters, be sure to change them after you have completed the final flush or else the filter will be rendered inoperative by the antifreeze passing through it.
Photo 2/7   |   The majority of your de-winterizing work will take place in the utilities bay where water filters and the various drain and fill valves are located.
Drain your black- and gray-water holding tanks once the fresh-water system is ready. Carefully remove the drain cover after the dump valves have been closed for a day or two. That area should be clean and dry. If any liquid comes out when the drain cap is removed, your dump valves have a slight leak. Fortunately, replacement valves are inexpensive and easy to replace so dump your tanks and let them drain thoroughly, then replace the drain valves so you are good for the next season or two.
Some water heaters have anode rods in them. An anode rod is a sacrificial device designed to erode in order to prevent corrosion in the tank. Some heaters, most notably Atwood heaters with an aluminum tank, don’t have them. But, steel tank heaters, such as those made by Suburban, do have them. They are attached to the drain plug, so remove the plug and take a look. If the rod is corroded, replace it. At this time, take a peek into the tank. If there is sediment or lime buildup in the base of the tank, it’s a good time to flush it out to allow your water heater to operate efficiently.
Photo 3/7   |   A manifold water distribution system eases any water service work as individual valves control either hot or cold supply lines to the various fixtures.
Other Utilities
Electrical systems also need to be checked. Take a look at your RV’s batteries, and make sure the battery water is up to the correct level. Also check for any corrosion on the battery terminals. If present, remove and clean the connections and reinstall. Small felt washers are available at automotive supply stores that fit over top-mounted battery posts prior to installing the terminal. These washers are filled with a type of oil that is designed to resist corrosion. They work amazingly well and are much neater than greasing your battery connections.
Once the batteries are in great shape, plug in your RV’s shore power cord and verify that the charger is bringing them up to full charge. Then take a look at your RV’s lighting. If you have a towable RV, be sure to connect to the trailer lighting umbilical and verify that all of your tail, stop, turn, and clearance lights are functioning. Replace any bad bulbs or correct any wiring issues.
Photo 6/7   |   The refrigerator needs to be cleaned and the ice maker flushed to remove any antifreeze remaining in the system.
Check over your appliances. Does the water heater create hot water? Does your refrigerator get cold? Fridges can get moldy inside if they don’t get enough ventilation when not in use. Be sure to clean your refrigerator’s interior thoroughly before you turn it on to cool it down. Also, verify that your gas range is functional. If your furnace or air conditioner uses filters, be sure to remove them and either clean them or replace them to maximize airflow.
Running Gear
It’s now time to perform a basic chassis service if your RV is motorized. Ensure that you have fresh oil and filters for the engine as well as transmission and other components. Grease the chassis and give it a careful inspection for anything that’s not right. Towable RVs don’t have an engine but still have a chassis, so that inspection is still critical. Be sure that any maintenance is current per the recommended service schedules. Repacking wheel bearings is one item that tends to get ignored, so don’t forget about that.
Leveling jacks and tongue jacks should also be inspected and lubricated, as necessary. You’d be surprised how much difference a trip around the RV with a small can of oil can make when it comes to compartment door hinges, door latches, etc. Inspect your tires for wear and especially sidewall cracking. RV tire tread typically doesn’t wear out due to the lack of mileage they are driven. But, the sidewalls do dry out and cracks will form due to the excessive sitting in one place. If your tires are starting to show signs of dry rot, you’ll need to replace them to prevent blowouts when traveling.
If your RV is equipped with a generator, don’t forget to service it, as well. Engine oil, filters, and other procedures are covered in your generator’s owner’s and service manuals.
General Inspection
You may not have been using your RV during the offseason, but that doesn’t mean it’s been vacant because they can be a popular haven for rodents and insects. Check for mouse droppings or any other signs of rodent activity. If present, check carefully for damage. Mice have a strange appetite and have been known to eat electrical wiring insulation or chew through carpeting or furniture in order to make their nests. Insects, especially mud dauber wasps, tend to build nests in refrigerator burner tubes, rooftop tank vents, and chimneys in water heaters and furnaces. If any obstructions occur, you’ll need to remove them. If you placed dryer sheets around your RV when in storage, you may want to pick them all up, as well.
Photo 7/7   |   Don’t forget to repack the wheel bearing as per the recommended service intervals. That’s also a great time to inspect the brake shoes and tires.
The next step is to thoroughly clean your RV. Unless you found a hermetically sealed location to store your RV, chances are it picked up some dirt while in storage. Dirt just doesn’t get better with age, so it’s best to clean your RV now rather than let the dirt build up and become harder to remove later. Once your RV’s exterior is nice and clean, consider sealing it up with a wax or poly sealant to provide a barrier to the elements and protect your RV’s finish. Check for any cracked caulking and re-caulk it, as necessary. Windows, doorframes, vents, and rooftop plumbing protrusions all need a good bead of sealant to prevent water intrusion.
Once you have everything finished, there’s only one thing left—go camping and enjoy!

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