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Spring is right around the corner, and your camper is calling. The beginning of the camping season is the perfect time to assess the condition of each distinct part of your motorhome or trailer before hitting the road.
According to many RV technicians, proper dewinterization is the most neglected point of RV ownership.
A little time, effort, and investment go a long way, and we can’t overstate the importance of learning how to dewinterize your RV properly. You can do many of these tasks at home, but your local Camping World Service Center can help. Before you break your RV out of winter storage and pack for your spring camping trip, it’s essential to dewinterize your RV thoroughly.
How to Dewinterize Your RV
Save this post for step-by-step guidance on preparing your RV each spring. Ian’s tips above provide a good baseline but keep reading for more important spring RV maintenance tips.
Start with a Basic Inspection & Safety Checks
Do this early to allow time to schedule any necessary maintenance before it’s time to embark on your spring camping trip.
Take time to inspect your fire safety systems. Ensure the carbon monoxide detector, smoke alarm, LP detector, and fire extinguishers are all in working order. Consult the manuals for each device for testing and inspection criteria.
Service the Major RV Systems
From there, it’s time to inspect the major systems:
Technician Tip: The checks below will help you perform a basic walkthrough of your RV each spring. But even if each appliance and system appears to function, it may not be performing at its best.
Your 12-volt DC and 120-volt AC electrical, LP gas, and RV water systems should be professionally tested before each new season of use. These tests are complex and require specialized tools. This is NOT a DIY task.
Electrical System Checks
- Visually inspect all battery connections. If the terminals are corroded, be sure the shore power is disconnected, and you wear safety goggles and latex gloves when cleaning them off.
- Charge your RV batteries and battery fluid levels. Charge the battery and/or add distilled water as needed.
- Check your generator’s air filter (if equipped) for nests and ensure it doesn’t need to be replaced.
- Prime your generator. Generator manufacturers recommend running the unit for a specific amount of time to warm up and for a specific amount of time under load, even when it is not being used. This will keep oil in the top end to prevent dry starts and fresh fuel in the carburetor, pump, and fuel lines. Please perform this simple task to avoid fouling the carburetor and/or pump and dry rotting the fuel lines.
- Run your generator to operating temperature, shut it off, and then check the oil level.
- Test all appliances on the electric setting.
Propane System Checks
- Ensure all propane appliances are turned off (furnace, stove, oven, refrigerator, water heater).
- Inspect the water heater, refrigerator, and furnace from the RV’s exterior with a flashlight. Remove debris from burner tubes and look for insect nests in the intake/exhaust tubes. Blow out with compressed air if available.
- Inspect your propane lines to be sure the seals and hoses aren’t cracked.
- Check propane levels. Refill your LP container(s) to 80% of full capacity.
- If everything looks okay, open the valve on the container(s) all the way. You can check for leaks by using a soapy water solution around the valves and looking for bubbles.
- Test all propane appliances to setpoint multiple times if possible. Each appliance will cycle on and off based on thermostat settings. Allow them to run through a few cycles to be sure they will not fail on your first camping trip. Don’t just turn them on and presume they are fine after a few seconds.
- Check your carbon monoxide detector and propane safety alarm. Consult the owner’s manual for each device for proper testing criteria.
- Check your RV tires (and the spare) for proper inflation when they are cold (i.e. have been sitting for at least three hours.
- Inflate tires to the recommended tire pressure (PSI) from your RV’s manufacturer rather than the tire manufacturer, as that recommendation is based on your unit’s weight and cargo carrying capacity (CCC).
- Inspect each tire for cracks, cuts, scrapes, bulges, or bumps along the sidewall. Anything suspicious warrants a trip to your service center for a professional opinion.
- Check the tread depth for each tire. A minimum of 4/32” is recommended for safe RV travel. Tires with tread depth less than 4/32” will provide poor traction in rain, snow, mud, or other slippery conditions.
- Repack wheel bearings. This should be done annually.
Study up on everything you need to know about RV and trailer tires. If your tires need replacement, set up an appointment to install new tires.
Flush and Sanitize Your Fresh Water System and Holding Tanks
If you use non-toxic RV antifreeze to winterize your fresh water system, you’ll need to drain and flush it from the plumbing system. Do this with the following steps:
- If removed, re-insert the low-point drain caps or plugs.
- Put the anode rod (Suburban water heaters) or drain plug (Atwood water heaters) back in. If your anode rod wasn’t removed, replace it now.
- Repressurize the water system using either a hose or filling the fresh water tank and turning on the water pump.
- Open faucets, showerheads (indoor and outdoor), and the toilet to flush out the antifreeze in the system.
- Turn off the water pressure, remove the low-point drain caps, and turn the water pressure back on to flush out the remaining antifreeze from the water lines.
- Turn off the water pressure and replace the low-point drain caps.
- Change the valves on the water heater bypass to “use” mode. This means closing the bypass valve and opening the hot and cold valves.
- Check the operation of your water pump and city water hook-up and test all valves, including faucets, outside shower, and toilet.
After draining and flushing the system, it should be sanitized with a proper bleach dilution or a solution like Aqua Pure. Follow the instructions on the container, but you can also consult the video above.
Inspect Your RV’s Interior and Restock the Essentials
- Thoroughly clean the interior from ceiling to floor, using only RV-safe interior cleaning products.
- Drain dehumidifiers (or replace disposables), if applicable.
- Check inside cabinets and under sinks for signs of pests or rodents. If you discover signs, find the source and use insect and rodent-repellent solutions before adding any new food items to the pantry.
- Check the water filtration system and install new filter media. Never reuse filters from a previous season, as they may have been contaminated.
- Go through your camping supplies and restock the essentials.
Inspect and Wash Your RV’s Exterior
- Perform a thorough RV walkaround. Look at the condition of windows, window seals, paint, latches, doors, door seals, compartments, and all exterior components.
- Climb up safely and inspect the roof. Look at seams along the edges and around all roof vents, antennas, A/C units, etc.
- If you find any cracks in the caulking or missing sealant, remove the old sealant and replace it.
- Wash your RV from roof to tires using a soft bristle brush and an RV-friendly exterior cleaner. Don’t forget the awnings. They are exposed to all weather conditions and rarely see sunlight on their underside, making them prone to mildew.
- Rinse well and dry completely. Leave awnings extended for a few hours to dry fully before retracting. Using a soft towel to dry windows will help to prevent spots.
Now You’re Ready for Spring Camping
Take the time to run these checks and perform necessary maintenance, so your spring camping season is a success. Then, all you’ll need to do is pick a location and head out for an epic spring break RV vacation.
Here are a few more resources to help you plan your spring camping trip:
- RV Spring Break Destinations for Families
- RV Spring Cleaning Tips
- RV Safety Tips for Spring and Summer Storms
If you don’t have time to dewinterize your RV yourself, reach out to your local Camping World Service Center. Our trained technicians are happy to help you get your RV prepped for another exciting season of RV adventures.
Do you have any questions about RV de-winterization? Let us know in the comments below!