De-Winterizing your RV Inside and Out

With spring right around the corner, many folks are itching to grab their RV out of storage or from the driveway, dust it off, and hit the road. But if you winterized your RV last fall or winter, then you have some work to do first. Many RVers dread this time of year, but here at Harvest Hosts, we’ve got you covered. Follow along for a simple how-to for de-winterizing your RV and ensuring the tanks are sanitary. 

Drain the antifreeze

When de-winterizing, the first goal is to ensure that all the antifreeze has been removed from the tanks. If you used non-toxic RV antifreeze, begin by draining your holding tanks. This step is different for each model and style of RV, so refer to your owner’s manual. If you bypassed your hot water heater, then switch it back to “normal”. If you filled your water heater with antifreeze, then drain that as well. Again, refer to your owner’s manual for how to drain the water heater. 

Flush with water

Once both tanks are empty, begin pumping potable water into your RV. Turn on the water pump and go into your RV and turn on all faucets. When the water runs clear and all the antifreeze is emptied, then turn off the water pump and close the faucets. Be sure that your water heater is filled, as well the ice maker, outdoor shower, toilet, etc.

Sanitizing the tanks

The next step in de-winterizing will be to sanitize the tanks to ensure all the pipes and holding tanks are safe to drink from. This process can take up to twelve hours, so it’s best to ensure the RV isn’t in use during this time. A general rule of thumb is to sanitize your water tanks every six months anyway, so it’s good to be well-versed in this step. Additionally, if your water tanks ever become contaminated, for instance, if non-potable water is accidentally used, then your tanks must also be sanitized. This would require less sanitation time than an RV water system that has had antifreeze in it.

Close all drains and ensure drain plugs are installed. This next step will require a little bit of math. You’ll need ¼ cup of bleach per every fifteen gallons. Do not use more bleach than recommended. Add the total amount of bleach into a small amount of water in a bucket and then pour it into the fresh holding tank. Then turn your water pump back on and run all the hot and cold faucets, until it begins to smell like bleach, and then turn them off. Let the solution sit for twelve hours. Then drain all the water, like we did above, and refill with potable water. Turn on the water pump and open all the hot and cold faucets. Continue flushing the lines until it no longer smells like bleach. Sometimes this step needs to be done a few times to ensure all the bleach is gone. 

Other steps

Depending on where your RV was stored for winter, it may need exterior cleaning. Some RV owners prefer to work from the outside in when getting their RV ready for travel. You can begin by using any car cleaners for the exterior. Sometimes, a heavier duty cleaner can be used if there is any tar buildup. At this point, you can also check your awning(s) for mildew or stains. Do an exterior inspection to look for leaks in the caulking around windows and doors. Check all the lighting as well, including turn signals, for any burned out bulbs.

Check your batteries. 

Oftentimes, cold weather can drain batteries, similar to in a car. Batteries left sitting in the cold can discharge 10% each month. Test and charge all your batteries to be sure they’re good to hold charge and power your RV. 

Check your tires. 

Tire pressure drops when in the cold, and storing them can cause them to lose two-three psi per month. Check your tire pressure with a gauge and fill them according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Check your appliances.

Open your LP valves and check the operation of all gas-powered appliances, including the heating system. Make sure the water heater is full of water before testing out the hot water heater. Next, plug in the RV to a 30-50 amp source and test all electrical appliances and outlets, including the microwave and AC unit. Take this time to check your smoke detector/carbon monoxide detector and any fire extinguishers on board.

Check your fluids.

If you own a motorhome, pop the hood and check all the fluid levels. Most fluids remain the same while in storage. If you topped everything off before storing, you may have a leak if you’re low on a particular fluid. If you don’t feel comfortable assessing this yourself, take it to an RV mechanic. While you’re checking the fluid levels under the hood, be sure to check the generator as well. Check the exhaust system for any damage prior to starting it up. 

De-winterizing and sanitizing RV water tanks doesn’t need to be a scary or daunting task. With a little practice, any RV owner can establish a routine. After a few seasons, most RV owners feel like experts at winterizing and de-winterizing their RVs. But wait, didn’t we say we had your back? Harvest Hosts has put together a helpful list that you can download. Feel free to print it out, or use your phone, and check off the boxes to ensure you didn’t forget anything! Click here to download the checklist.

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