How to De-Winterize Your RV – the Complete Guide

Winterizing your RV is going to help you expand its life span and even allow you to use it for some winter camping.

When you’re winterizing your RV, you’re actually going to protect the RV plumbing system from freezing. You also need to take care of the RV’s interior, exterior and chassis, as it’s important to reduce the risk of damage from the winter conditions.

Therefore, when you’re going to “de-winterize” your RV, you’re in fact going to reverse all the steps, making your RV ready for the next camping season.

Start with the RV water system

De-winterizing the RV system includes 2 main actions and you need to do both of them:

  • You should remove the RB antifreeze from the plumbing system
  • You also need to sanitize RV water system so that it’s safe to use later on

As each of this actions requires you to go through several steps, let’s take a closer look at each of them.

  • How to remove RV antifreeze from the plumbing system

Running fresh and potable water through the whole plumbing system until all antifreeze is eliminated is going to be enough if you used non-toxic RV antifreeze to eliminate the risk of freezing of the water system.

Caution: if you added the non-toxic RV antifreeze right to the fresh water holding tank as you winterized your RV, you should start with draining any antifreeze left. Continue with adding some potable water to the fresh water holding tank, turning the water pump on. Open every single water faucet too. Once you see only clear water running through the system, you should turn off the pump. Don’t forget to close the faucets as well.

It’s essential that you run fresh water through the whole plumbing system. Don’t forget about the toilet, the outside shower, the washing machine and ice maker. You should also take the water heater of the “by-pass” mode- only if it’s doable. You’re going to have to drain the antifreeze from the water heater tank if the water heater isn’t bypassed. You can collect it in a container or a bucket.

Once all the traces of RV antifreeze are removed, you should reinstall all water filter cartridges that you put away for winter storage. The antifreeze from the plumbing system should be in the gray and black water holding tanks by now. You have to empty them the moment you get to an appropriate waste disposal site.

  • How to sanitize the RV system for safe use

    • The first step to take is to check if all the drains are closed and that all drain plugs are well installed. Use a quarter-cup of household bleach for 15 gallons of water in your water tank. Use a one-gallon container and mix the water and bleach in it. Pour the mix into the fresh water holding tank.
    • You should pour the bleach solution straight into a potable RV drinking hose (connected to your RV) before you connect it to the other end of the hose to your potable water supply. This needs to be done when your RV doesn’t come with a fresh water location. You should fill the fresh water holding tank until it’s completely full. Continue with turning on the water pump and running water through every single hot and cold faucet. You should do it until you start feeling the smell of bleach.
    • The solution has to sit in the water tank and water lines for 12 hours, give or take. Don’t forget to close the faucets. When time’s up, drain all of the water, re-filling the tank with potable water afterwards.
    • Open all faucets and turn on the water pump. You should run the water until you don’t feel the smell of bleach anymore. You should do this step a couple of times as it’s mandatory that you get rid of all signs of bleach.

Winterizing your rv fresh water system

Take a look at the RV batteries

If you have been carrying for the batteries throughout the winter, your batteries should be just fine. Keep in mind that when you store them, they are going to lose some of current due to the internal leakage.

RV Battery

Did you know that a batter may discharge even up to 10% a month while it’s stored? If you’ve already checked and recharged your batteries, you shouldn’t worry about their condition.

  • If you haven’t done it just yet, the first step to take is to charge your batteries completely. You need to add water only to lead acid batteries until they’re fully charged. Do it only if the water level is below the plates as the plates have to covered all the time.
  • Once a battery is fully charged, take a look to see if you need to add distilled water.

In case you removed the batteries for winter storage, you need to put them back in, making sure that you connect all of them the right way.

Caution: not everyone likes working on or around batteries, so get an authorized RV repair facility to do it for you instead.

Check the engine and generator as well

  • If you’re RV is motorized, you should check all vehicle fluid levels. It’s better to go by the book so look in the vehicle owner’s manual for finding out about the right levels. When the fluid level is low, you should find out the cause and solve the situation.
  • Start the engine and look at the readings on all gauges, making sure they’re all right.
  • If you’re using an onboard generator, you should also check its oil level. Don’t forget to service the generator according to the intervals specified in the owner’s manual.
  • Take a good look at the generator exhaust and identify any damage before using it.
  • You should never run a generator with a broken exhaust system. If your generator doesn’t start as you didn’t use a fuel stabilizer in the fuel system in the first place, it’s better to check it out and fix it at an authorized RV service facility. Do the same if it keeps surging after starting it.

Take a look at your RV’s appliances as well

  • You need to open the LP gas valve at the cylinders or tank, inspecting the operation of every LP gas fired appliance.
  • The water heater tank has to be full of water before you run the water heater for a test.
  • When an LP gas appliance isn’t functioning right, you should have it checked by an authorized RV service facility.

Note: don’t forget testing the LP gas system for a leak. The gas operating pressure has to be tested while performing once a year as well. This isn’t something you can do on your own, so get an authorized RV repair facility for testing it.

Once all the LP gas appliances are checked, you should plug the unit into electricity.

  • Test every single 120-volt appliance and accessories on your RV to make sure they work fine.
  • You also need to have the right electrical source (30-50amps, depending on the unit you’re using) so that you test various items (the rood air conditioner, the microwave and so on).

Inspect the RV tires

Inspect the RV tires

It’s not only the batteries that lose some of their charge while stored, but also the tires that lose some of their air pressure while stored. As a matter of fact, the tires can lose 2-3psi a month by simply sitting in your garage.

  • You should check the tire pressure with a good tire inflation gauge.
  • It’s essential that you adjust the inflation according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, considering your load.

Tip: tire manufacturers only publish the inflation and load tables for the right inflation pressure.

Safety first- check the safety items as well!

  • Don’t forget to re-install all dry-cell batteries or fuses that you removed when winterizing your RV. When you didn’t remove the batteries from your safety devices before storage, you should simply replace all batteries.
  • Remember to test the functioning of the carbon monoxide detector, the smoke alarm and the LP gas leak too. You need to inspect very well all fire extinguishers as they need to be fully charged and serviceable.
  • For obvious reasons, it’s mandatory to replace and recharge fire extinguishers as needed.

Tip: these are few of the things that you need to check as you de-winterize your RV. You also need to take a look at the sealants and seams, identifying any leaks. Clean the interior and exterior of your RV and…have fun!

Some tips for the road

No matter how cautious or meticulous you are when taking care of your RV (whether it is for a regular check or it’s the de-winterizing before summer), some unpredicted things may happen anyway. If you’re an RV newbie, the chances of making some mistakes are quite high so you should definitely try to avoid the rookie mistakes.

Here are the most “popular” mistakes that new RVers tend to make. Check for the solutions too as it may come in handy at some point:

  • You don’t really know how to use your RV

Simply driving your RV isn’t complicated at all. The situation may get tricky and challenging when, for instance, you need to stop at the dumping station and you realize that you have no idea whatsoever about what it needs to be done.

Sure, you can go and check the user’s manual once again, but…are all RVers behind you willing to wait for you until you do that?

RV isn’t only about driving it around, but also about many procedures that you need to learn about. Chances are it’s not going to be complicated to turn off the outdoor shower, but using the right power switches or operating unfamiliar controls may put you in a pickle.

Even if it’s going to take you a while, make time and read through the operator’s manual before you actually go on a trip. Practice makes perfect so test the big procedures (extending the slide outs, dumping or leveling) before you’re out in the wild.

  • You should do some prepping

Many mistakes are made even before actually driving away in your RV. Planning is one fundamental word when it comes to using an RV so you should take some things under consideration for every single trip. Following these tips is going to ease up and improve the whole experience:

  • The budget- you need to set aside the budget for your trip. The spending for food and fuel is essential. Don’t forget to set aside some money for the emergencies.
  • The reservations- last thing you want is to get to your campsite only to find out you cannot park as you don’t have a reservation. A popular camp does fill up pretty fast and RV sites are quite limited.
  • The route- try to stay away from the road with sharp turns and the narrow roads as well. Avoid the highways with low bridges as well, as you may be too high.
  • The miscellaneous- over packing is easy especially when your RV is pretty small. Bring only what you need as you can shop while on the road too.
  • You’re not using a checklist

Be meticulous and write down a check list that you’re going to use before, during and when you’re back from your trip. You should update this list after every trip. It’s going to take you a couple of years until you learn about using your RV the right way.

We all start somewhere so you shouldn’t be embarrassed about making few mistakes in the beginning. Don’t forget to laugh about it and do your homework, nevertheless.

  • You have no idea about the size of your RV

Newbies RVers find it challenging to learn about the actual size of their RV. Parking or cornering the RV are some of the most difficult operations for the beginners, so take time and practice.

You need to know how big you are as you drive or park somewhere. Using a spotter when you’re parking is going to ease up your efforts, so leave the pride aside and use it.

  • Drive-off damage

This is one funny and, yet, traumatizing mistake that any new RVer can make. Driving off while you’re still connected to the power/water or sewer happens a lot more than you think.  It’s not only an expensive mistake, but quite embarrassing as well.

Now that we’re on it, don’t forget to take down your TV antenna and pick up the wheel chocks before you actually start driving.

Tip: You should also clear away any objects that may interfere with retracing/extending your slideouts. It’s both embarrassing and it may damage your RV too.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!