Important Guide to Prepare Your RV for Winter Storage

For many, colder temperatures and winter frosts mean tucking the RV away until the thawing season arrives.

If you tend to be a fair-weather camper, you’re not alone. Many RVers prefer to get their camping in when the sun is shining and the temperature is solidly above freezing. Like all of these fellow hibernators, now is the time to get your camper ready for winter storage.

Truck and travel trailer parked under trees without leaves at sunset.
Laurel Creek Campground | Murfreesboro, AR – Photo by: Nina Herzig

Winterizing your RV can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This quick checklist will help you on your way to buttoning up your camper for the season.

RV at dump station emptying tanks.
Photo by: Rv Chickadee

Drain Your Lines and Tanks

Any left-behind liquids can quickly freeze during the winter and lead to burst pipes and damaged equipment. To prevent any disasters, start by draining all of your lines and water tanks in the RV.

  • Remove any in-line filter you may have and then empty your freshwater tank.
  • Next, make sure that your black water tank is completely empty. Use a built-in flushing system, a reverse flush valve, or a flush wand to help remove any lingering black water and to rinse the tank.
  • Don’t forget to drain the water heater as well. Frozen water in the water heater can easily ruin the appliance and require you to install a new one in the spring.
  • Depending on how cold of a climate you live in, you may want to introduce antifreeze into your pipes as another protective measure.

Several lead acid batteries set on the ground.

Remove Batteries and Turn Everything Off

Cold temperatures and batteries are not a match made in heaven. This applies to both coach batteries and if your RV has an engine, the engine battery. Disconnect and remove the batteries for the winter and store them in a relatively warm place, like a garage. Do not place the batteries inside your living space.

Invest in a battery tender to keep the batteries active while they are not in use, and be sure to not keep them on a heat-sucking concrete floor.

Also, any LP appliances inside your RV need to be turned completely off to avoid any potential leaks with the temperature change. Leaving any valves open can lead to some costly repairs.

Protect From Moisture

The freeze and thaw cycles that the winter brings often allow moisture into tiny crevices that it usually wouldn’t reach. The best practice for winterizing your RV is to thoroughly check the RV’s exterior for any potential damage leading to leaks. 

RV desiccant buckets can help remove any moisture that happens to sneak inside during the winter. This will ensure that no mold forms and you don’t come back to a pungent odor that will be difficult to remove.

Mouse in a green humane live trap.
Photo by: Live Small Ride Free

Critter-Proof the Camper

One of the most harmful things that can happen to your RV over the winter is critter infestation.

A great first step in deterring critters is removing all of the food inside. During the “on-season,” it is easy to leave the basics inside the RV’s kitchen. During the winter, you need to remove every last scrap of food that a mouse may be interested in finding. This includes deep cleaning the interior to get any scraps that may have fallen into small spots.

Next, do a complete check of the exterior of the RV. Start your inspection underneath the camper and in the engine, looking for any small crevices that mice can make their way in through. They don’t need much space and can quickly destroy the wiring inside your RV while building several homes.

Lastly, you can set some mouse traps that can act as a last resort if they still find their way inside. If you choose this route, make sure to do checks on them often throughout the winter.

Two RVs stored under a hay barn with snow on the ground.
Photo by: Live Small Ride Free

Find a Safe Location

Ideally, we would all be able to put our RVs in an indoor, heated space. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to these spaces. If you’re storing your camper outside for the winter, one big thing to look out for is potential falling tree branches or large snowdrifts sliding off of a roof on a nearby building. Remember that the winter freeze can easily snap branches that otherwise appear strong and healthy. If you park your RV next to your house or garage and have large chunks of ice or snow slide off during the winter, this can also damage your RV.

The best outside spot would be on a flat and paved surface, underneath a covering. If this isn’t possible, find level ground that doesn’t have any trees nearby, and keep it out of long grass.

If you’re paying to store your camper at an off-site property, be sure to ask questions about the safety and monitoring devices available at the facility. The last thing you want is to return to a camper that’s been broken into or damaged.

Cover and Protect the RV

Even in the wintertime, the sun’s UV rays can damage your camper’s exterior.

Before winter hits, give your camper a thorough wash, followed by a layer of wax. Wax protects your camper from UV rays, helping to prevent paint fade and dry out of any rubber or vinyl.

A full cover for your camper will also help protect it from any wind, UV rays, or other elements trying to bring more wear and tear to the RV. While these covers can seem expensive, it ends up being a worthwhile investment to protect your much more expensive RV. Many covers that are made for specific models will have zippered entries around the door so that you can still get inside when the cover is on.