Yes, You Can De-winterize your RV: Here is How

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the ice has thawed—do you know what that means? It’s time to de-winterize your RV!

The snow and ice have melted, temperatures are rising, and the sun is making its way out of hibernation—it’s finally spring! And, you’ve probably itching to take your recreational vehicle out for quite some time now. But before you get too excited, you’ll need to de-winterize your RV properly for warmer weather.

Winter is over? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While you could take your recreational vehicle to a service center, many choose to de-winterize the RV on their own. It’s not too difficult, but if you don’t follow the proper protocol you could end up discovering winter damages halfway through your first trip. Not ideal, to say the least.

So, without further ado, here’s some advice for a seamless de-winterizing process!

No more winter? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A quick note: Make sure you stay with your RV throughout the entire de-winterizing process. It will likely take the better part of a day but if you leave in the middle of the task you might come back to an unintended swimming pool in your beloved RV.

Charge Your Batteries

When de-winterizing your RV, you’ll want to check your batteries for any wear and tear, including cracks that may have developed from frozen water. Batteries lose power in cold weather so it’s likely they’ll need to be charged and reconnected to your RV.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Propane Power

Next step, propane power!

To start, make sure everything is turned off when testing the propane system. Then, open the valve about ¼ of an inch and check for any propane leaks by smelling the inside of the RV or by putting a soapy sponge by the connectors to see if any air bubbles appear. Assuming that you don’t find a leak, test your gas appliances and let them run for a few minutes. (It may take several minutes or more for the gas to work its way through the lines). If things shut off, try turning them back on—there may be air pockets in the line that just need to be pushed out.

Once inside the RV, also check for any water damage (this doesn’t have to do with propane but its good practice regardless). Inspect all vents and the areas surrounding the AC unit which tend to receive the most water damage. Finally, look inside cabinets and closed spaces—there may be some unwanted critters that snuck their way into your RV.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flush the Water System

The most important step to de-winterizing your RV is prepping the water system for use. When it comes to winterizing your RV, you probably followed one of two methods: using an air compressor to get all the water out of the vehicle or adding non-toxic antifreeze to your tank to ensure no water turned to ice over the cold winter months.

If you went the air compressor route, you won’t have to deal with draining antifreeze and can move along to prepping the water heater. If you did add antifreeze, you’ll have to make sure it’s out of your drains and into your holding tanks before you sanitize the system.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the anti-freezers, connect your water hose to a fresh potable water supply and fill your tank. Then, run water through every faucet, both hot and cold. You’ll also want to test toilets, showers, the refrigerator’s ice machine, and dishwasher during this time. Once the color from the antifreeze is gone and you have clear water, you can turn off the water supply drain pressure from the system using low point drains. At this point, you can install all filters back into the system that you removed during the winterization process.

If your coach is equipped with a water heater, you’ll need to install a drain plug, open the water heater valves, and close the by-pass valve on the water heater. This ensures that your antifreeze doesn’t get into your hot water tank. Turn on the fresh water supply, open the hot water faucet until the water heater is filled, turn on your faucet, and wait until the water flows through without any air.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, We Sanitize!

Next, sanitize the RV water system by using a household bleach-water mixture (roughly a quarter-cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons of water that your fresh water tank holds) and flushing it through your water system.

Prep your RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First, make sure all drains are closed (for obvious reasons). Next, fill the tank with the sanitizing mixture, turn on the pump, run it through the hot and cold faucets, close the faucets, and let it sit for at least three hours. Drain the bleach mixture, refill your fresh water tank with potable water, and flush out the system to get rid of any remaining bleach (no one wants to drink bleach water).

Finally, check your holding tank levels and dump excess waste if necessary at a suitable waste disposal site.

Not the way to care for your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check Your Tires

During the harsh winter months, your tires may have taken a beating. Check for any cracks or irregular bumps, and use a tire pressure gauge to measure the psi. (Check your user’s manual for recommended psi or utilize your RV’s tire-pressure monitoring system).

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron