De-Winterizing your RV & Prepping for Spring

With the weather warming up all over North America, the first RV trips of the 2022 calendar year are likely just around the corner. It’s time to dust off the RV keys, renew your Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome memberships, plan your upcoming trips, and start de-winterizing your RV. Feeling nervous about that last step? Harvest Hosts has you covered. We’ll go over the easiest way to de-winterize your RV and prepare for spring so you can hit the road confidently.

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What is Winterizing and De-Winterizing?

Let’s first define these terms before jumping into any explanations. Winterizing an RV involves preparing it for winter. This is a crucial step for anyone whose RV in regions where the temperature will dip below freezing at some point throughout the season. Freezing temperatures can cause pipes and appliances to freeze and burst, which is a nasty surprise to come back to in the springtime. Hot water heaters, water lines and pipes, and water pumps are especially susceptible to freezing and bursting, causing expensive damage and plenty of work later on. 

To winterize an RV, all water must be drained out and replaced with non-toxic antifreeze, while black and gray tanks need to be drained and flushed. We’ve written a great article that goes into detail on how to winterize your RV.

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De-winterizing your RV is the opposite of winterizing it. The process involves draining the antifreeze, flushing everything out with water, and sanitizing your tank. Keep reading to learn more details about de-winterizing your RV to ensure that you follow all the proper precautions.

De-Winterizing your RV

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 (the only kind we recommend), begin by draining your holding tanks. This step is different for each model and style of RV, so refer to your owner’s manual for more specific instructions. If you bypass your hot water heater, then be sure to 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, as it can differ depending on the model of hot water heater your RV is equipped with. 

Flush with water

Once both tanks are empty, begin pumping potable water into your RV. Turn on the water pump, go into your RV and turn on all faucets. When the water runs clear and all the antifreeze empties, turn off the water pump and close the faucets. Be sure that your water heater is now filled, as well the ice maker, outdoor shower, toilet, and any other secondary water-using systems.

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Sanitize 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. 

Maintenance and Spring Cleaning

Harvest Hosts has a great general yearly maintenance list, but the below steps will also need to be taken to ensure your RV is safe to hit the road once the de-winterization process has been completed.

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 both car and chassis batteries. Batteries left sitting in the cold can discharge as much as ten percent each month. Before hitting the road, be sure to test and charge all your batteries, thus ensuring that they are still capable of holding a charge and powering your RV. 

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Check your tires. 

Tire pressure drops when sitting in the cold, and storing RVs can cause their tires to lose two or three PSI (pounds per square inch) per month. Check your tire pressure with a gauge and fill your tires up 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 the RV into a 30 or 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 and you are finding that a particular fluid is significantly lower, you may have a leak. If you do not feel comfortable assessing this yourself, take it to an RV mechanic. While you are 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. 

Cleaning

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 extend your awning(s) and check them 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.

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Additionally, it will most likely be necessary to give your RV’s interior some extra care. Most surfaces will likely be dusty and will need to be wiped down, and the floors will certainly need a good sweep and mop. If there was any bedding or towels left in the RV, it may need to be washed in case it got a little musty. Harvest Hosts has a detailed cleaning list as well that can be useful for spring cleaning. 

Planning your Trip

After all the hard parts are out of the way, it’s time to plan your trip! With over 4061+ all over North America, Harvest Hosts locations can make great pit stops, overnight stays, or even destinations. Our blog is full of great trip ideas that give excellent details on destinations all over North America. Harvest Hosts search page also has tons of great features so you can find the perfect Hosts along a route, near a destination, or even in an entire, more specific region.

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Are you feeling more prepared to hit the road this spring? Following these easy steps will make the preparation your first trip of the season a breeze. It can be tough to memorize all of these steps that are typically only performed annually, but this article should serve as an excellent guideline to get you started. 

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What is your spring RV de-winterizing routine like? Where is your first trip for spring? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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  1. Roni
    19th March, 2022

    Sam, Just read through your tips for sanitizing the freshwater tank. It seems you forgot to mention that after you pour the concentrated bleach solution into the tank from the bucket, you need to fill the rest of the freshwater tank with clear water before turning on the water pump to get the water through the system.

  2. Sue
    17th March, 2022

    Sam, I was an R & D Technician for gas grills in the late 1980’s. I have another very important safety task for propane users. Your propane travels from your tank, thru a hose (check for cracks) up to a burner unit. Spiders like to make nests in the venturi tubes under your burner. The best way to clean them out is tie a small rag on a wire that you can shove through your tubes all the way to the burner. Run the wire in and out a few times to dislodge webs. Water matts it down, so does forced air. My job was to take apart burnt up gas grills and discover the cause of the fire.