When learning how to de-winterize your RV, it’s important to have a good RV checklist. But don’t worry, we’ll give you a rundown on how to do so in this RV camping resource guide.
Doing “all the things” to get your RV camper ready for the season can be overwhelming for sure as it involves preparing your RV for use again by reversing the steps taken to winterize it.
This means flushing the plumbing system of antifreeze, checking for any damage or wear and tear that may have occurred during storage, testing all the systems, and cleaning the RV.
It’s important to follow the proper steps for de-winterizing your RV to ensure it’s safe to use and to avoid any potential problems down the road.
In this article, we’ll go over the steps you need to take to de-winterize your RV and get it road-ready.
How To De-Winterize RV
It is important to have a checklist for each process and system from departure lists to winterizing your RV camper, to checking the batteries, to sanitizing your water lines.
While we highly recommend you use a checklist when you de-winterize your RV, here’s a quick rundown of the major steps you will need to take to de-winterize your RV for spring and summer travel.
This, however, is not a comprehensive list.
Clean and Inspect The Exterior of your RV After Storage
The first thing you want to do when you de-winterize your RV is to give the exterior a complete inspection and cleaning. This will include:
- Washing the exterior of the RV to remove any dust, debris, or gunk that may have built up during winter storage.
- Perform a thorough walk around the RV checking all windows, doors, and seals for cracks in caulking and/or leaks.
- Remove and repair any missing or damaged sealant or caulking and check all the windows and door glass for any cracks or damage.
- Be sure to check all the vents and seals around the vents and clear any bugs, nesting, or debris when you de-winterize your RV.
- Inspect your awning to ensure it is in good working condition and test all your lights and signals.
Check Your Tires
To properly de-winterize your RV, you must give your tires a good inspection. Failing to properly inspect and repair tires can result in faster wear on tire tread and accidents.
- Inspect all the tires including the spare for cracks or damage on the sidewall and tread. Driving your RV with underinflated tires can cause poor handling, uneven wear, and blowouts.
- Replace all damaged tires and check the tire pressure as tires lose 2-3 psi during storage & inflate to the proper manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
Charge Batteries and Reinstall
RV Batteries discharge as much as 10% while in storage so you will need to test them. Be sure to wear safety glasses and latex gloves prior to working with the battery system on your RV.
- Disconnect any shore power connected to the RV.
- Turn off ALL RV POWER and ensure the main cutoff is in the OFF position.
- Inspect batteries for any cracks and replace all cracked batteries.
- Charge the batteries.
- Check the battery fluid levels and add distilled water as needed.
**Only add water to lead-acid batteries after fully charged.**
When you de-winterize your RV, be very careful if removing any batteries to ensure the positive and negative wiring is clearly marked.
Always replace multiple battery packs together and never add a new battery to an old one.
De-Winterizing Your RV Fresh Water System
Sanitizing the freshwater system is probably the most nerve-wracking part of de-winterizing your RV, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you winterized your RV using RV antifreeze, then you will want to follow the steps in your owner’s manual for proper flushing and sanitizing your RV water system.
If you added antifreeze directly to your freshwater holding tank, the first thing you need to do is drain the tank entirely and follow these steps to sanitize your freshwater system.
Please note that you should always follow the directions in your specific RV Owner’s Manual and that these checklists do not negate or replace your owner’s manual.
Draining the Fresh Water System
- Check Fresh Water System For Leaks
- Level RV and Drain The Fresh Water System
- This generally involved opening the “exterior fresh tank drain” valve on the permanent fresh water holding tank).
- Open the “low point drains”. As their name indicates, these valves will be at the lowest point of the water lines (consult your RV owner’s manual for proper water draining procedure).
- Turn ON the water pump and allow it to run as needed.
- Give the toilet a few flushes while the water pump is on until the water stops flowing.
- Relieve the water pressure using the water heater P&T valve BEFORE removing the water heater drain plug. Otherwise, if there is any water pressure present the water will spray out of the opening when the drain is removed.
- When you are finished, reverse these steps and, then dump your grey and black water holding tanks at an appropriate facility.
Sanitizing The Fresh Water System
Once you have successfully drained your freshwater tanks, you will want to sanitize the water system using the following procedure.
Consult your owner’s manual or RV dealer for the proper procedures for sanitizing your freshwater system.
- Close the drain valves
- Prepare a chlorine solution using 1/4 cup of household bleach to 1 gallon of water in a container.
- Prepare 1 gallon of solution for every 15 gallons of tank capacity*
- Pour the chlorine solution into the Gravity Fill.
- Continue filling the fresh water tank with clean (potable) water until it is full.
- Open the hot water line on all the faucets until water begins to flow continuously and a chlorine smell is noticeable.
- Close the hot water lines and repeat with the cold water lines on the faucets.
- Let the solution remain in the system for at least four hours when using 50 ppm or make a 100 ppm solution if less time is needed. However, a minimum of 1 hour is required even with the higher concentration.*
- After the required period, drain the chlorine solution from the freshwater system. (Consult owner’s manual for proper water draining procedure)
NOTE: Some solution may remain in the water heater & will be flushed in the following steps.
- Fill the freshwater system completely full using clean (potable) water.
- Then, drain the freshwater system again! (Again, consult your owner’s manual for the proper procedures to drain your freshwater system).
- **IF A CHLORINE TASTE LINGERS IN THE WATER, FLUSH THE WATER SYSTEM WITH A SOLUTION CONSISTING OF ONE-QUART VINEGAR TO FIVE GALLONS OF CLEAN WATER. RE-FLUSH AS NECESSARY**
Alternatively, KOA says,
“Instead of using your RV water pump to flush antifreeze from your camper’s water system, you can also use a garden hose or city water supply. Begin by attaching the hose to your water hookup instead of turning on the RV water pump, and then follow the same steps described above.”
Have Propane Tanks Tested By A Professional & Replace Propane Tanks If Necessary
MOST OWNER’S MANUALS RECOMMEND THAT YOU HAVE YOUR PROPANE SYSTEM TESTED BY A PROFESSIONAL ONCE PER YEAR!
The following serves as a checklist for the times you test your propane tank for leaks throughout the season.
- TURN OFF ALL LP (Liquid Petroleum) ITEMS BEFORE YOU BEGIN.
- Check your propane system to ensure seals and hoses haven’t dried or cracked during winter storage.
- Do not smoke or have any flames or heat sources in the RV during the testing.
- Turn ON the propane leak detector inside your RV.
- Open the valve on the tank all the way and smell for leaks.
- Apply a soapy water solution on the valve and regulator and watch closely for bubbling or spurting. Ensure the soap used does not contain chlorine or ammonia OR purchase an appropriate propane leak detector solution at your RV camper supply store.
- Check for any evidence of rodent damage to wires.
- Clean all your LP gas appliances then test them by lighting them and letting them run for a while.
Final De-Winterizing Systems Check
Once you have completed a check of the major systems on your RV including battery charging, tire check and replacements, freshwater sanitization, and external cleaning and sealant repair, you have just a few more systems to completely de-winterize your RV.
You will want to perform checks on all your appliances, check all hoses for cracks, and repair them as needed.
- Testing Appliances- Test all appliances in electric mode. Check and clear any outside access covers for your refrigerator and water heater for debris.
- Check All Dump Hoses– Check all the dump hoses for cracks or leaks and replace any damaged hoses before the first dump.
- Check Waste Tank Valves– Check the seals on your waste tank valves- Makes sure the tank is empty and connected to the dump station before performing this test. Also, check the valve seal by moving the handle in small increments. If it is sticking, add some valve lubrication to the tanks to restore the condition of the seal.
Consult Owner’s Manual
This is a very quick rundown of the basic systems that need to be checked and prepared before taking your RV camper out of storage on your first camping trip of the season.
It is not a comprehensive checklist. In fact, in our review of the items to be completed before departing with your RV, we found over 200 checklist items to be completed.
We have compiled those into a comprehensive Interactive RV Departure Checklist Bundle which you can purchase here.
We also highly recommend that you review your owner’s manual and consult with your RV service department for additional information and items you need to repair before heading out on your first RV trip of the season!
Do I need to Dewinterize my RV?
Winterizing your RVs is very important if you want to protect your investments. Failure to do so can seriously damage your campers most especially their plumbing system.
When temperatures fall below the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit water freezes and expands. The expansion causes the pipes and tanks to crack and break which eventually leads to damage to your RV’s whole plumbing system.
Is it OK to dump RV antifreeze on the ground?
RV antifreeze, even though it is labeled as non-toxic and biodegradable, should not be dumped directly haphazardly on the ground. It is still a chemical that can potentially harm the environment.
You should find facilities that can dispose of the antifreeze for you, some automotive service stations or parts stores can do this task for you.
You can also check for guidelines provided by the local government on how to dispose of this kind of chemical.
Remember to follow these guidelines before you get your RVs into action.
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