Updated: January 31, 2023

Winterizing an RV can seem like a daunting task, although many new RV owners merely put the vehicle in a parking space and walk away. However, there’s a better way to preserve your vehicle to keep it around for years and avoid any RV storage mistakes. Based on a few RV horror stories, here’s an insider’s look at veteran ways to prep your RV for self-storage instead of making “newbie” mistakes.

1. Forgetting to Empty All Storage Compartments

At the end of the adventure season, it’s best to clear out your RV entirely. Sure, it might bring on what RV enthusiasts call “the winterization blues,” but your rig will appreciate the overhaul. And you’ll be grateful for your efforts when you get the RV out next season.

Cleaning out your RV means emptying the fridge, medicine cabinets, kitchen compartments, and more. Take it from a family who forgot to remove a can of shaving cream from the bathroom! You don’t want to start your adventure season scrubbing up a mess that could have been avoided.

Look over every nook and cranny in your rig. Some things to remove are:

  • Hand or liquid soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving cream
  • Food (in fridge and cabinets)
  • Toothpaste
  • Lotion
  • Candy the kids stashed

Here’s a pro tip: defrost the fridge and freezer, then prop open the doors to prevent mold and mildew from developing over the winter. Before you crack the fridge door for winter, make sure you scrub all the gunk out of it first. Food residue can leave a nasty surprise in the spring — but not if you make your fridge spotless during winterization and leave some baking soda to absorb odors.

2. Not Shopping Around For an RV Storage Space

While lax cleaning procedures can create mounds of springtime issues, consider the bigger picture, too. Where will you store your RV for the winter?

It depends on the type of RV that you have. Some people have a large enough outbuilding to park their camper for hibernation. However, most individuals opt for self-storage. And for a good reason, too. Self-storage facilities can offer the safety and security that parking in an outdoor RV park, alley or driveway cannot. Plus, they often offer car storage and boat storage in case you have multiple vehicles to keep safe. 

Still, it’s best to follow up on your self-storage options before you tuck your RV away for the winter. No one wants to be sorting out misunderstandings or miscommunication during the winterization stage.

A few self-storage options exist for different types of RVs, such as:

  • Indoor trailer storage units
  • Covered RV storage
  • RV parking spaces
  • RV land lots

It’s essential to verify the monthly self-storage cost, which typically averages around $130 for RV storage. Some self-storage facilities run winterization specials, but you have to reserve your RV space within a specific time frame to secure the deal.

It’s never a bad idea to shop around for the most secure and affordable facility for your camper. Opt for one with appropriate insurance coverage that fits your budget and provides plenty of peace of mind that storage provides.

3. Failing to Empty Your Water Lines

Up to 66% of an adult human body is made up of water. Plus, we can only last about three or four days without any water. In short, we love the stuff! However, water is an RV’s nemesis during off-season storage.

Water lines and pipes can freeze and burst if you leave water in them during the winter months. What this means come springtime is a handful of costly repair bills. This hassle could set your adventuring back several weeks or months. Worse yet, it could delay your RVing indefinitely if the damages ding your finances too much.

To protect your water lines and pipes, drain all the water out of them before putting your RV away in storage. Many RV owners replace the water with antifreeze for an added layer of protection from the cold.

Each recreational vehicle has different instructions, so be sure to follow the ones belonging to your rig. If you’re unsure about how to empty your lines or use antifreeze, recruit a trusted RV repair service to complete it correctly.

4. Using a Poor Quality Cover

It might seem strange, but RVs enjoy being snug as a bug in a rug when put away. Like most people, campers want to be clean and dry before settling in for a long winter’s nap. So, let’s talk about RV “blankets,” or otherwise known as covers, of course.

Investing in a quality cover is an excellent way to protect your adventure-mobile. What you’re looking for is a well-fitted, breathable, durable fabric that covers your RV well. A few tattered, old blankets simply won’t do. Neither will the infamous blue tarps scattered around motorhome parks as they don’t release moisture and don’t tend to fit RVs well.

According to the experts, here are seven reasons to use a cover during the off-season:

  1. A covered RV repels harmful UV rays to prevent seal damage.
  2. Deflects sunlight to keep interior temperatures under a safe 81 degrees.
  3. Protects against leaks from rain, sleet, or snow.
  4. Prevents fading and cracking on your exterior paint, graphics, and trim.
  5. Prevents damaging dirt and debris buildup on your roof.
  6. Promotes fewer washings, waxings, and roof treatments.
  7. Protects your investment by preserving your RV’s resale value.

Since most people don’t have the budget to pay for a climate-controlled facility to store their RV, investing in a quality cover is the way to go — but get it right from the start. Your rig will thank you.

5. Ignoring Your Tires

Your RV tires see a lot of miles during adventure season, and yet, many newbie RVers forget about them during the winterization process. Sure, tires are sturdy and can take a beating from the miles of the highway. But they require some wintertime TLC, as well.

One of the most common mistakes people make is assuming their tires are meant to brave the harsh elements sans protection. Like the exterior of your RV, your tires can experience damage from extended exposure to the sun. Harmful UV rays can deteriorate the rubber and cause weather cracking. Plus, asphalt or frozen ground can damage your tires over time, too.

The best option to maintain your tires’ longevity is to park your RV on a level surface, so its weight is evenly distributed on all the tires. Next, chock the wheels or block the tires so that no area of the tire is overlapping. This approach will help keep your tires strong and healthy for the long haul.

6. Storing with an Empty Tank

Lastly, some new owners make the RV storage mistake of forgetting about the fuel tank during the prep process. If your RV is motorized, though, this is a vital step during winterization.

Be sure to fill your fuel tank most or all of the way full. You’ll want to add a fuel stabilizer, too. Run your engine long enough to distribute the stabilizer throughout your entire fuel system. Now is a perfect time to change the oil and oil filter, mostly because acids can gather and cause corrosion.

Keep Tabs on Your Ride

Many veteran RVers run the generators for a couple of hours each month to “exercise” it. Additionally, many remove the battery altogether for long-term storage. Others periodically plug their RV into shore power, so they leave the battery intact.

Putting your beloved RV to bed for the off-season requires more than merely a “park and walk away” approach. Although winterizing details might seem overwhelming, it’s 100% doable — with a dose of common sense and some elbow grease.

Dyanne Harvey

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