How to Get Your RV Winter Ready, Part 1

By: Guaranty RV
Posted On: November 22, 2017
For many RV owners, they go wherever adventure calls. And sometimes, that means snow, ice, and cold weather. You can have plenty of fun going winter camping or hunting in an RV, but you will want to make sure you’ve prepared your RV, especially if it isn’t an RV designed for four-season camping.

We’ve written before about winter friendly RVing and camping, but we wanted to offer a refresher on winter camping trips, winter proofing, and the top RVs for winter. Many high-end Class A motorhomes are equipped for four-season camping. As well, Oregon’s own Northwood has a long history of building four-season travel trailers and fifth wheels.

In part 2 of this blog post, we’ll be sharing tips for winter RV safety.

But if you have an older model RV, or one that isn’t necessarily designed for four-season camping, there are steps you can take to winter proof your RV, both for a winter camping trip and storing your RV until spring. In the first part of this two-part blog post, we’ll cover how to protect your RV on your trip to a winter wonderland.

1. Protecting Your Water System


The first thing to consider when taking a winter trip is that you’ll need to determine if you’ll be experiencing consistent freezing temperatures. If you’re headed up into the mountains, the likelihood is high!

Traveling with water in your RV’s water system can be a recipe for disaster, leading to frozen pipes that can break or even your water heater breaking. The repairs for these can be extremely costly. However, it’s completely avoidable.

One option is to winterize your RV’s water system, which means completely draining it of water. This means you won’t be able to use the toilets, sinks, or shower as you would normally, but the pipes and tanks won’t freeze. You should add RV antifreeze to your black and gray water tanks; the amount you’ll need will depend on the size of the tanks themselves. You should insulate any pipes you can using tube piping from the home improvement store.

A second option, however, is to insulate the underbelly of your RV using an RV skirt; these can be made to the exact specifications of your RV. You can learn more about RV skirts here. As well, if you’re particularly concerned about freezing pipes, you can run a small space heater underneath your RV when you are parked to keep the underbelly warm. Just remember to frequently check the space heater to prevent shorts and damage. Inside the RV, you can keep cabinets and drawers open where water lines are located to allow heat inside to keep those pipes warm. Remember, all of your pipes should also still be insulated using tube piping.

If you’re just winter proofing your RV for storage, these tips work as well; winterizing the water system by draining it and adding antifreeze will be most beneficial, but adding an RV skirt to prevent snow buildup and damage can help as well.

2. Bring Fresh Water


You’ve winter proofed your water system; you have an RV skirt made to fit your RV; but sometimes, campground water can freeze. Bringing plenty of water ensures that you will have plenty of water to drink and use your RV’s toilets even if the water at your campground becomes unusable.

Another important aspect of this is to purchase a heated water hose for use at your campsite; even if your campground’s water isn’t frozen, it is possible for it to freeze in the hose itself. A heated water hose will help prevent this.

3. Pick the Perfect Spot


When it comes to where you park your RV, it matters. If you can, try to secure a spot that gets plenty of sunshine during the day; even if the temperature is below freezing, the sunshine will help increase the temperature inside your RV (and beneath your RV skirt) and will help prevent frozen pipes and extreme temperatures inside your RV. As well, if you can, a spot that has a natural wind barrier that doesn’t also block sunshine is absolutely ideal. Preventing wind chill can help keep the temperatures in your RV just right. If nothing else, determine the direction of the wind and park your RV so that your water system doesn’t take the brunt of the wind; while this won’t completely prevent anything from freezing, it will help.

4. Have a Reliable Heat Source


The most important aspect of winter camping is to ensure your own safety and the safety of your friends and family. This means having a reliable heat source the entirety of your trip. You can use portable ceramic heaters in your storage bays to keep those areas warm without using too much electricity.

For heating throughout your RV, bring a full propane supply on your trip and stay on top of how much you’ve used and how much you have left. Being short in cold weather can lead to dangerously low temperatures inside your RV, especially at night.

If you don’t own a generator for your RV, winter camping is a time you should definitely consider purchasing one; having it installed helps to keep your batteries topped off, your power on, and your heat system working.

You can also use electric heaters inside your RV, but this can lead to increased energy costs; as well, electric heaters should be checked frequently to prevent shorts and fire hazards (like being too close to fabric couches or curtains).

As a reminder, never use anything like your range burners or oven as a heat source; carbon monoxide can be deadly. All RVs should have a carbon monoxide detector installed; they are extremely affordable and available from almost every large store, such as Target or Wal-mart. Installing one and ensuring that batteries are always topped up will help prevent deadly accidents.

Our service department can help you choose even more accessories to keep your family and friends warm on winter camping trips, such as solar panels.

5. Insulate the Interior of your RV


As we’ve written, many newer RVs are designed for for all four seasons. However, older models might not have proper insulation for winter camping. It is possible to add, however!

The first step will be insulating your windows. Windows can be one of the largest sources of cold in an RV. There are a few options here. Firstly, a low-cost option means covering your windows with foil-backed foam insulation. This is a great option if you have any skylights. Secondly, you can purchase or make insulated curtains to cover your windows in the winter; these help keep cold air out and prevent warm air from escaping out windows. As well, another option if you have a Class A or C motorhome is to use an insulated curtain between the cockpit and the living area; this reduces the size of the space you need to heat.

Another step you can take is to ensure that around the doors of your RV is insulated; most RVs have weatherproofing around the doorframe, but if you have an older RV, this may need replaced or improved. Thankfully, this is incredibly affordable and available from your local hardware store. You can also cover your exterior doors at night with the same material you use on your windows and skylights; just make sure you have a way to easily remove it and store it during the day.

6. Protect Your RV for Storage


So you’ve decided to sit it out on winter camping this year. You’ve insulated the interior of your RV to prevent freezing and damage; you’ve invested in a winter skirt to keep your water system safe; and you’ve winterized your water system to prevent broken pipes.

There are a few more steps to ensuring your RV stays safe in storage. The number one concern for most RVers is to keep pests (like bugs and rodents) out. Insulating any spaces that they might sneak in (like windows and doorways) is a big step towards preventing this.

Before packing your RV up for the winter, you should defrost the freezer (if you have one) and completely clean out the refrigerator. Even a few crumbs can be attractive to pests! Leave the doors of these cracked and place baking soda inside to prevent odors. Make sure to clean out the cabinets completely and wipe down the interiors well. Wipe down all the counters, clean linoleum floors well, and vacuum any carpeted areas.

Remember to remove any dry cell batteries from things like clocks, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors (as well as any other accessories you have in your RV, like iHomes or stereos). This will keep them from leaking in the cold and damaging your accessories, as well as your RV surfaces.

For the exterior of your RV, investing in a cover for your RV can prevent lots of damage from ice and snow, as well as wind, rain, and falling leaves. Before putting on a cover for the winter, make sure to wash your RV and apply a coat of quality wax to help protect the finish. Make sure that all awning fabric is clean and dry before putting it away for the winter.

Remember to perform any necessary maintenance before storing your RV for the winter; that can include adding a fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank, then running for long enough to get the stabilizer through the fuel system. Change the oil and the oil filter on the engine, as well as the generator. Throughout the winter, you may consider running the generator for a few hours at least once a month; it may also be worth starting up your RV every two or three weeks, just to ensure that everything remains in running order. Double checking batteries throughout the winter is also important; it will prevent them from getting extremely rundown or damaged.

The last thing to check is your RV’s tires; make sure they are filled to the correct amount. Many specialists recommend blocking your tires for the winter—putting them on pieces of wood or concrete blocks to protect the tire from contact with the asphalt or cement; if you choose to do this, remember that no part of the tire should hang over the side of the block. For more information on winter RVing be sure to check out part 2 of this blog.

When it comes to winter camping, we hope this helps you take the steps necessary to prepare. Whether you’re on the road this winter or staying close to home, we can help you with anything RV and trailer related. Simply contact us here!