RVs in storage


Here’s Everything RV Owners Should Know about RV Winterization

Read Stephanie Puglisi's tips and tricks on winterizing your RV!

As the temperatures begin to dip around the country, RV owners in colder climates reluctantly prepare to give their rigs a rest until the next camping season. Before you tuck your RV away for the winter months, there are a few things you need to do to ensure your camper is properly prepped for storage and ready to hit the road come spring.

Whether you tow a trailer or drive a motorized RV, winterization is a vital component of regular RV upkeep and helps you protect your investment while it’s not in use. From flushing your water lines to adding RV antifreeze to your plumbing, this process can be a weekend DIY project or easily handled by a dealership or mobile service technician. Either way, winterizing your RV helps prevent costly damage while your rig isn’t in use.

But what exactly does it mean to winterize your RV? Here’s everything you should know about RV winterization and how you can easily get your rig ready for colder months.

What is RV winterizing? 

RV winterization provides owners with peace of mind knowing their campers are prepared (inside and out) to take on colder weather and extended time in storage. The key element to RV winterization is preventing your water pipes and lines from freezing or bursting in the winter months. If you live in an area where your RV will encounter temperatures near or below freezing for more than 24 hours, chances are you’ll need to winterize your rig.

Since protecting your RV’s plumbing system from frigid weather is the primary focus of this maintenance routine, it entails things like bypassing your water heater and draining your tanks—all of which can sound intimidating to first-time RV owners. But don’t let these tasks overwhelm you, RV winterization is truly a straightforward process that also includes cleaning, removing food items that might perish or explode under freezing temps, sealing cracks and holes to deter rodents and pests, and other attainable to-dos.

Here's a list of key items you–or a service tech–should cover when winterizing your RV:

  • Drain and clean your black and gray holding tanks and the freshwater tank.

  • Flush out your water lines, open low-point drains on your RV’s exterior, and empty your water heater.
  • Bypass your water heater.
  •  Apply RV antifreeze to your plumbing system.
  • Give your interior a thorough cleaning and remove food and other items that could perish or freeze in cold temps. You should also remove any clothing or valuables you don’t want to sit in your rig all winter.
  •  Place mothballs, mouse traps, or other rodent and pest deterrents in your RV while it’s in storage.
  • Remove dirt and grime from your RV’s exterior by washing and waxing your rig before storage.
  • Inspect your roof, window and door seals, and the underbelly of your RV for any cracks or holes that need to be resealed or repaired.
  • Remove your propane tanks and your RV battery for safe storage. It’s best to keep your battery in a warm location where you can charge it in the off-season.
  • Cover your RV with a UV-protected and mildew-resistant RV cover, especially if you’re storing your rig outside. Consider purchasing separate RV tire covers if your cover does not protect your tires.

Can I winterize my own RV?

Yes, RV winterization can be a DIY project with the right equipment and an easy learning curve. You’ll need things like RV antifreeze, a water heater bypass kit (if your system isn’t equipped with one), sealant to repair any holes or cracks, and some basic tools to open and close drains and access your water heater valves. Make sure to consult your owner’s manual and refer to any manufacturer resources online.

If this sounds like too much to take on yourself, have no fear: you can also have your RV winterized by a professional at your preferred RV dealership and service center or hire a mobile service technician to handle the job. This route saves you time and gives comfort in knowing your RV is squared away before heading to storage. 

When should I winterize my RV?

Ideally, you’ll want to have your RV winterized before temperatures dip below freezing for more than 24 hours to avoid damage to your rig’s plumbing system. After your last camping trip of the season, you should start taking steps to prepare your RV for the winter months. If you’re hiring a professional, this means scheduling your winterization as early as possible as this service can book quickly once cold weather arrives.

What happens if I don’t winterize my RV before temperatures fall?

Don’t panic. If a cold snap hits or you’re at the campsite when freezing temperatures set in, there are easy ways to protect your RV in a pinch. Keeping things warm is key to preventing damage to your plumbing. Run your heat continuously on low and keep cabinets and drawers open to allow for air circulation. Empty your holding tanks. Disconnect your hose from the water source, or use a heated water hose. You can also wrap your pipes with heat tape to add an extra layer of protection.

Where should I store my RV after winterization?

You have several options when it comes to storing your RV for the winter. While a covered or enclosed storage bay will help protect your RV from the elements, there are plenty of owners who safely store their campers outside in the offseason.

If you’d prefer an indoor storage facility, you’ll want to make arrangements well in advance to ensure your RV has a reservation. You should also keep in mind that indoor facilities (especially those that are heated) can be significantly more expensive than other storage options. So, take your budget into account when deciding how and where to store your camper. For those storing their RVs outside, investing in a durable cover is best for protecting it from the wear and tear of snow, rain, UV rays, and frigid temps. This route can also save you from hefty storage fees, especially if you have space on your own property to keep your rig.

No matter how you winterize your RV or where you store it for winter, once warm weather returns, you’ll be happy you took all the necessary steps to keep your rig protected and prepared to hit the road for another year of travel and adventure.

Planning on winterizing the RV yourself? Here are some more tips from RV expert Mark Polk.

Jeremy Puglisi

The RV Atlas

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the weekly RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts and the RV Atlas blog. They are also the authors of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations, and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop-up camper more than 10 years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) over at RV Atlas.