Getting your RV Ready for Winter Storage

This article is also available in French

It’s that time of year again! The leaves are beginning to change color, the kids are heading back to school and the RV is just about done its duty for the year. There may be a few more road trips to squeeze out of the season, but for the most part this time of year comes with busy schedules and an unpredictable weather forecast, both of which make it hard to plan any sort of adventurous excursion. As a result, soon it will be time to begin the necessary steps required in order to get your RV winterized and ready to store for the cold winter months.

Highway through fall forest

We sat down with Art Dack, RV Care’s Parts and Accessories Programs Manager and RV aficionado, to discuss the proper procedures to get your RV ready for winter storage to help prevent any unfortunate mishaps.

“Every Spring there are a handful of RV owners that come into the dealership with significant damage on their RV that occurred during the winter months,” says Art. “The main reason for this is due to a lack of a proper inspection, preparation and routine maintenance prior to putting your RV into storage.”

If you do not feel qualified, or just want a trained professional to have a look at your unit, you can bring your RV into your RV Care Dealership and they can perform the necessary inspections and maintenance, if required. However, if you are a do-it-yourself-er follow these guidelines to ensure that you don’t run into any problems this winter.

**Disclaimer: We have purposefully excluded water systems from this article due to the fact that it requires a more in-depth conversation. However your water system is extremely important and must not be over looked in the storage preparation process.

Exterior Inspection

Art pointed out that there are two main enemies that can dramatically affect the exterior of your RV while it is in storage.

1. Unknown Water leakage

This is one of the most commonly overlooked things when it comes to inspecting your RV, but it also the most damaging. Water damage that has been sitting for months can lead to detrimental damage that will cost a pretty penny to get repaired.

Art pointed out that the two worst culprits of water damage is the roof of your RV and the corner moldings. “Check everywhere there is a hole or fixture attached to the exterior of your RV, such as around windows, doors and compartments etc.” says Art, “specifically check the sealant around each opening and ensure that it’s not cracked, chipping or peeling.” He also mentioned that it is important to not only check the sealant around all of the roof fixtures, but also the plastic components, such as vent lids, to ensure that no UV damage has occurred over the RV season.

Art warns all RV consumers to be wary of the different types of sealant and how much they are using. “Using the wrong type of sealant may cause it to not properly seal or bond and may become discolored and unsightly, and using too much just creates a mess,” says Art. “The type of sealant that you should be using is entirely dependent on your geographical location and make of your RV. It’s important to talk to your RV Care Dealer and get them to help you find the right sealant for your particular RV and your specific application.”

2. UV Damage

The second most damaging factor to the exterior of your RV is UV rays from the sun. In many cases the plastic components, along with any vinyl decals or graphics fade, peel or even worse, crack when they become severely UV damaged.

“One of the worst ways to experience UV damage to your RV is parking your RV in the same spot, facing the same direction, without a cover year after year,” says Art. “This results in uneven fading throughout the years causing one side to be more UV damaged than the others.” Art’s tip for avoiding this general problem is  “whenever possible when you are storing your unit without a cover, park it in a different direction each year – then it will at least fade evenly!”

Ultimately, to avoid UV damage all together it is recommended to use a proper RV cover, designed for that purpose, when storing your unit. A good quality cover is an excellent investment that will save you unnecessary time and money in the long run, while also protecting your investment.  Traditional plastic tarps should never be used, because they do not breathe and can trap moisture.  We recommend using the ADCO All Climate Designer RV Cover, which you can purchase at your RV Care Dealer.

RV Cover Alternatives

If your budget does not allow spending the money on a full RV cover, there are a few alternatives

  • Tire Storage Covers: 90% of the time RV tires get replaced due to UV damaged sidewalls, not worn treads. You can purchase Tire Storage Covers at your RV Care dealership and even if you are using a full RV cover it is highly recommended to ensure the tires are covered separately, just in case.
  • Air Conditioning Cover: purchase a vinyl cover to protect your rooftop AC vent from insects and other critters crawling into it. This will also ensure that the plastic shroud does not get exposed to any UV damage.
  • Propane Cylinder Cover: available in soft vinyl or hard plastic for travel trailers
  • Windshield Cover for Motorhomes: this protects the inside of your RV from any UV damage.

Anti-Theft Devices for towables

Working in the industry for 30+ years Art has seen more than one RV disappear during the winter storage period. He suggests that consumers invest in a “Hitch Lock” that attaches to the hitch coupler, which he refers to as a “cheap insurance policy!”

Checking up on your RV throughout the winter is not a bad idea as well, in fact Art recommends it! “If you are able to access your RV, do a quick inspection a few times throughout the time it’s in storage,” he says, “this is to ensure that there have been no vandals, natural damage or water leaks that have occurred.”

Interior Inspection

When you go to inspect the interior of your RV there are a couple more things to keep in mind. Remember, the more intense you are about cleaning the inside and prepping it for storage, the less work you will have to do when you de-winterize your RV in the spring.

1. Clean out living space

Remove all food, valuables and freezable items from your RV and ensure that you clean out the refrigerator, keeping the doors propped open during storage to avoid any mold or mildew forming. Art also suggests “cleaning all surfaces, removing all particles that may attract unwanted critters. “ It’s also a good idea to seal any openings in the floor so that pests can’t access the inside of your RV.

2. Insect Screens

Aftermarket insect screens are available to install on your appliance vents to ensure that there is no entryway for insects or furry little pests. Art stressed that it is important to get the proper screen made specifically for each appliance in your RV to ensure 100% efficiency.

3. Humidity

Obviously the amount of humidity that builds up in your RV varies by geographical location. Regardless, it is important to take the right precautionary steps to reduce the humidity in your RV and eliminate any chance of mold or mildew forming.

Your RV Care Dealer will have a variety of dehumidifying products for you to choose from. Art suggests using “Dry Air Crystals” that work to absorb any moisture in the air. The downside to using this product is that the crystals may need to be replaced from time to time and if you are in a highly humid climate this could be quite frequently.

4. Roof Vents

Something that Art specifically suggests is to “install roof vent covers and then leave your vents open the entire time that your RV is in storage.” You might be a bit apprehensive about this at first, but Art swears by it, “as it allows your rig to be well ventilated and dissipates the moisture, preventing bad smells and mold or mildew build-up. “

5. Disconnect + Properly Store Battery

It is important to properly disconnect the battery and its cables, and store it separately from your RV in a garage or shed. To ensure that your battery doesn’t freeze and ultimately crack Art suggests, “trickle charging” it every 4 to 6 weeks. Check out this blog post on Winter RV Battery Storage Tips  to learn more about proper battery care and maintenance.

Lastly, if you have a gas engine or generator with a gasoline tank on board your RV, don’t forget to use a gasoline conditioner additive. This ensures that your gasoline doesn’t breakdown while it is sitting in storage.