Tips for Storing an RV Outside in the Winter

line of rvs in parking lot

We all love our recreational vehicles, the fun and memories they provide us during the warm summer camping season, but what should you do with that RV during the winter? I suppose if you are a member of the “rich and famous club” you can rent some type of building, workshop, shed or other large enclosed space to store your baby for the winter, but if you are like the rest of us you will probably have to just get by with what you have, which usually means storing the RV outside of your home or at some type of rental storage facility. And while this might sound like a tragedy waiting to happen, there are actually some things you can do right now to ensure that your RV stays in tip-top shape during the cold winter months—and ready to once again serve you when the summer rolls around.

In this article we have provided a brief guide for storing your RV outside during the winter, with tips and tricks that have proven very successful for others just like.

Winter Storage Tips for Your RV

If you are forced to store your RV outside for the winter months, either at your home or at some type of rented storage yard, there are several strategies you can employ to ensure your recreational vehicle survives the bitter cold, rain and snow that is often associated with this season. Here we have listed just a few of these strategies:

Wash and Wax Your RV

When it’s time to put your RV out of commission for the winter, the first thing you should do is give it a good wash and a wax job. This may sound like an odd time to do this, but a coating of high-quality wax will actually help protect the paint of the RV from sun damage, and will also keep the dirt buildup to a minimum. Waxing your car for storage will also make it much easier to clean when it comes time to take it out of storage.

Check and Clean All Seals

With your car nice and clean, it will be much easier to inspect and clean all of your silicone seams, caulking and rubber seals. These seals and seams are located throughout the RV, both inside and outside, so be very thorough with your inspection. Dirty seals and seams can be cleaned with water and a mild detergent to keep them in proper working order. However, if you have any seams or seals that are cracked or in disrepair, NOW is the time to get them fixed, and failing to do so can ultimately cost you a ton of money. According to experts, water damage is the number one problem people face during winter storage, and once the damage has been done it can cost thousands of dollars to remedy.

Keep Your RV Ventilated

When moisture finds its way into the interior of an RV the end result can be a musty smell, mildew and dangerous mold, some of which is impossible to clean and get rid of. That being said, one of the best ways to keep moisture from accumulating in the interior of your vehicle is to allow for ventilation. Most recreational vehicles have rooftop vents, and leaving these vents open during the winter can prevent the buildup of moisture. But how do you go about preventing rain and other forms of moisture from entering the vehicle through these vents? The answer is specialized vent covers.

Vent covers are specially designed to allow lots of air flow while also preventing rain and snow from getting inside the vehicle. With air vents, you can equalize the temperature both outside and inside the vehicle, which prevents condensation and other forms of moisture.

Other ways to vent your RV when in storage is to leave the cabinet doors open, slide open closets, and even prop open the refrigerator door.

Let There Be Light

Mildew and mold spores can proliferate in dark, damp and dank spaces. To combat this, you will want to allow at least some sunlight to come into the RV when it is in storage. While it may “feel” more secure to pull down all the nighttime or blackout shades when your RV is outside in the winter, studies have shown that the darkness inside can actually lead to mold. Instead, just use the simple daylight curtains (to hide the contents within) and leave the windshield uncovered to allow for lots of light.

Secure Slide Outs and Treat Seals

This is perhaps a no brainer, but when storing your RV in the winter you will want to pull in all of the slide outs and securely fasten them. This way, the mechanical parts that help retract and extend these slide outs will not be exposed to the winter elements and there are fewer chances of leaks. Before you pull in the slide outs for the winter, take some time to clean and inspect all the seals. You can even apply some seal conditioner on the seals to keep them flexible all winter, and some anti-corrosion protectant on the slide rail. Some RV owners will also rub baby powder on the inner seals before closing the slide outs, which will help keep the parts dry and make the slide outs easier to open up when the storage period is over.

Screen Potential Entry Points to Keep Insects and Rodents Out

There are many potential entry points on an RV where bugs and rodents can set up shop for the winter. Some of these bugs, depending on the part of the country in which you reside, can cause some major havoc to recreational vehicles once inside the rig. To prevent this, we suggest you thoroughly inspect your RV and screen off any exterior spots that may allow bug and critter entry. Popular places include rooftop plumbing vents, exterior fridge panels, air intake piping and furnace exhaust openings.

Also, make sure you clean the interior of your RV thoroughly, and remove any traces of food from the vehicle. The last thing you want is for a family of mice or rats to move into your prized vehicle during the winter, doing untold harm to your electrical wiring and leaving little “presents” throughout your cabinets and drawers.

Shut Down All Electrical Power

If you want to be sure your RV starts when you come back to retrieve it after a long cold winter, there are a couple of things you can do. None of these tactics are completely foolproof, but they will reduce the chances of a drained RV battery. First, make sure to cut all electrical power by turning off your battery disconnect switch, which is usually located very near the battery. This will ensure zero drain on the battery bank while in storage. You should also charge your battery before storing the RV, as a fully charged battery has less chance of freezing up than one that is very weakly charged.

Taking Care of Plumbing and Tanks

In terms of plumbing, the steps you will want to take will actually depend on temperature—whether or not there is a chance of freezing. In warm temperatures, you can usually get away with just flushing the waste tanks real well before going into storage, and then filling them back up about one-quarter to one-half tank to prevent drying out. For the fresh water tanks, try filling them up all the way, adding about a half cup of bleach and running them into all the pipes as a way to disinfect your system while it’s in storage.

If there is a chance of freezing, we recommend removing all water from your tanks, including the water heater tank. You can then put antifreeze into the piping, valves, drain traps and a little in each water tank to prevent the pipes from freezing. If you plan to store your RV in severely cold temperature, we recommend you check with the manufacturer about the proper way to winterize your car.

Securing Your RV

To protect against theft, we first recommend you store your RV in a reputable RV storage lot with plenty of their own security measures. If you are storing your vehicle at home—or away from home—you can put a hitch lock on the king pin to prevent anyone from hooking up to your RV while you are away. You can also lock the wheels using a wheel lock; and be sure to ask a trusted neighbor to watch your RV if you plan to be away on vacation.

Protecting the Tires

To keep your tires looking great and prevent having them blowout or deflate while in storage, there are several things you can do to reduce that chance. Try to park it in a cool, dry area, and remove as much unnecessary weight as possible from inside of the vehicle. Fill the tires to the recommended PSI—and then add an extra 25 percent, making sure you do not surpass the manufacturer’s rim capacity. Clean the tires with soap to remove any excess dirt and oil; and move the RV to a different spot every three months to prevent cracking and flat-spotting from the cold, dry weather.

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