How to De-Winterize Your RV

Take a Close Look at Your Hitch

If you have a trailer, check all the hitch components for wear, damage or rust. If anything needs attention, take care of it now instead of on the road. Hook the trailer to your tow vehicle; test all the lights, brakes and the breakaway switch. Every 24 months, clean and pack the wheel bearings and replace the grease seals. Inspect all spring shackles and u-bolts, and adjust the electric brakes if necessary. 

After you've completed all de-winterizing steps, take your trailer out and test for proper brake operation and handling. If you experience any strange noises, vibrations or steering and handling problems, get them checked out and repaired.

Re-Install the Propane Tanks

If you didn't fill your propane tanks before shutting down for winter, now's a good time. Then place the tanks back in their rack and secure. Remove any covers you placed over the tank connection fittings and connect the tanks.

Once the tanks are connected, make sure that there are no open flames or ignition sources (such as a lit cigarette) nearby. Then open the tank valves and spray some soapy water on every connection. If bubbles appear, you have a leak that must be repaired immediately. This could be as simple as tightening a connection.

More: RV Checklist: What to Pack for Your Trip

Flush the Plumbing System

In areas where winters get below freezing, you probably added RV antifreeze to your fresh water system, drain traps, toilet and holding tanks to prevent ice damage. Now it's time to flush the system.

  • Consult with the owner's manuals for your refrigerator ice maker, washing machine and dishwasher (if so equipped) for de-winterizing instructions.
  • Connect your rig to the city water source and open the faucet.
  • Open all RV faucets, including tub and shower—include the outdoor shower if you have one. Let the faucets run until all the pink RV antifreeze is flushed from the system. Close the faucets and open the system drain valves and let any residual antifreeze empty. See your owner's manual for valve locations. Close the drain valves.
  • Flush the toilet a couple of times to clear any antifreeze from the line.
  • If your water pump has a bypass circuit, return it to normal operation. If you didn't bypass the pump when you winterized your rig, fill the fresh water tank about a quarter full and run the pump to flush out any antifreeze. Then add some sanitizer to the fresh water tank according to manufacturer's instructions and run that through your entire system using the pump.
  • Clean and flush your fresh, black and gray water tanks, then close the drain valves. If you bypassed a water filter, bring it back online.
  • Finally, re-install the water heater drain plug drain, and take the water heater off the bypass circuit and fill it completely. Shut off the city water supply and turn off the water pump, then open the pressure relief valve (located at the top of the water heater tank) and leave it open until water stops spilling from the valve. Then close the valve. This will create some air space in the tank to accommodate water expansion when it gets hot.
  • Watch for signs of leaks and address them as needed.

Exercise the Stabilizing Jacks

Your stabilizing jacks on your trailer should be raised and lowered to "exercise" all pivot points. Lubricate them with silicone or graphite spray if necessary. For your motorhome, observe the leveling jacks as an assistant raises and lowers them to make sure they're operating properly.

Make Sure the Slideouts Slide Out

Carefully extend and retract your slideouts fully a few times, watching and listening to make sure they operate smoothly and don't bind. Lubricate slide mechanisms if needed and retest. In the fully extended position, test any lights and electrical outlets for proper operation.

Take the time up front to de-winterizing your RV and help minimize problems on the road.

More: How to Find the Perfect RV Campsite

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About the Author

Jeff Adams

Jeff Adams is a California-based freelance writer, contributor to and an avid camping enthusiast. He's been dragging his trailer and willing family around the western U.S. for more than a decade.
Jeff Adams is a California-based freelance writer, contributor to and an avid camping enthusiast. He's been dragging his trailer and willing family around the western U.S. for more than a decade.

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