Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to prepare your RV for camping – which means you need to know how to de-winterize an RV camper trailer.

For many avid campers, this is the time when they drop off their campers to a professional RV shop to get it repaired and maintained. However, de-winterizing your RV is not a very complex process and you can do it right at home as well.

To prepare your RV for camping, you need to inspect the interior and exterior of the camper, charge and reinstall the batteries, flush out all water systems and sanitizer them, check propane and electric appliances, check the engine and generators, and assess the entryways into the RV.

In this guide, I can help you understand when you need to de-winterize your RV, why it is important to check your camper before taking it out, the right way to assess all the components of your RV and other important tips to maintain your trailer.

I have always de-winterized and winterized my trailer by myself and believe it is worth the while of every RV camper to know all the details and see first-hand how everything functions in an RV. You never know when you might need to fix an unexpected problem while you are on the road.



When Do You Need to De-Winterize Your RV?

The exact time of de-winterizing your RV camper depends on you, but it is important that you do it once the winter season is over and temperatures remain consistently above sub zero. If an unexpected late winter snaps come when you have had your RV winterize, it is a good idea to wrap it up snugly and park it in a sheltered and warm area until the cold passes.

Make sure that you give your RV a once-over a couple of weeks before you want to take it out to camping. THis will give you plenty of time to do a comprehensive check of all the exterior and interior components of the vehicle and get your camper fixed by a professional for more complex issues like battery and engine problems.

Basic Steps to De-Winterizing an RV

De-winterizing your RV is not a very complicated process though it can take a few hours to do. Here are some of the steps you need to follow:

Inspecting the Exterior of the RV

Before you jump into the more intensive maintenance, you need to inspect the exterior of the RV visually for any cracks, damages, or holes. If you live in a state with harsh winters, it can take a toll on the condition of your RV. In case your RV develops a leak or a hole, it can lead to several nasty surprises on the road, like insulation, a leaky roof, and mold.

To check the exterior of your camper, this is what you should do:

  • Check out all the vents, doors and windows for any cracked or peeling caulking and replace it.
  • Make sure the seal is intact in all the slides of the camper and replace broken seals.
  • Extend the awning and check it for damage at the awning rail. Rinse it out and then let it dry it out.
  • Check for water damage on the roof of the RV and find cracks on the roofs caused by snowfall.
  • Inspect the hitch for rust or corrosion and replace worn down and broken parts.
  • Check all the exterior lights, including and the front and back lights, the brake lights, turning lights, etc. are working fine and replace the burnt out bulbs.

Checking the Tires

While your RV is stored away, it will lose about two to three psi of air pressure every month. If your RV is stored in cold conditions, then it may lose even more air when you uncover it for the spring camping.

If you drive your RV with underinflated tires, it may not just result in uneven handling but also tire blowouts, which can be an accident hazard.

To check the tires, here are some things you need to do:

  • Check out the owner’s manual to find the recommended tire pressure based on your load.
  • Check the tire pressure by using a pressure gauge
  • Make sure to inflate your tires to the appropriate pressure
  • Check the tires for any tears, punctures, uneven wear, and deformities, and buy new tires if they are worn out.

Charging the Batteries

Your RV batteries will also lose a portion of their charge due to internal leakage. If these batteries are not checked on a regular basis while your RV is stored away, it can drain the battery. By ensuring your batteries are charged during the off-season, you can extend the lifespan of your RV batteries.

  • Before you take out your RV on a trip, it is important that you charge the batteries using a voltmeter. Ensure that your battery is not connected to an electric supply or you will get a false reading. If your battery is fully charged, it will read 12.7 volts. If your battery is at or below 12 volts, it needs to be fully charged before you take it out.
  • To charge the battery, connect the battery charger to the RV charger. Then turn on the battery charger and let the battery charge fully. Depending on the size of the battery, your RV battery will need a few hours to a few days to charge.
  • Also check the water level in your battery. If it is low, add distilled water until it reaches the correct level. If the water is below the plates, you need to add some more to ensure the plate is fully covered.
  • When reinstalling your RV battery, make sure that it is securely connected.

If you are not comfortable in inspecting and installing your own battery, contact an RV service to get it maintained for you.

Flushing Your Water System

Preparing your fresh water, gray water, and sewage systems is one of the most essential steps in preparing an RV camper. On the road, sources of fresh water and sanitary facilities may be scarce, so you need to make sure your water systems are all in order.

When you closed down your RV for the winter season, you probably used an RV antifreeze to prevent the plumbing from freezing. This antifreeze needs to be flushed out of the systems so that your water is safe and clean to drink. Here is how you can drain the entire tank:

  • Turn on the water pump and open all the faucets in your RV, including the ones on the sinks and showers and flush all your toilets.
  • Make sure that your water looks, tastes, and smells fresh and clean before you turn off the faucets and the water pump. If the water tastes or smells funky, add a little bit of baking soda to it to remove the flavor. Drain the water again until the water is perfectly clean.
  • Also, take out your water heater out of the bypass mode. If the heater was not put into bypass mode, you will also need to flush out the antifreeze from the heater tank and dispose of it properly. You can replace the water filter cartridges after that.
  • Make sure to dump the contents of your gray and black water holding tanks at an approved dump site.

You can also use a simple garden hose instead of the water pump to flush out all the water from the system.

Sanitizing the Water System

Since your water system has not been in use for months, it may have grown bacteria and mold; hence, it is important to sanitize it. Whether you have used antifreeze or not, sanitizing your water system is still essential.

Here is what you need to do to disinfect your RV’s water system:

  • Make sure all the faucets and drains are closed in the RV. Install drain plugs, where applicable.
  • For every 15 gallons of fresh water tank, measure one-quarter cup of common bleach. Make a solution of it by pouring the bleach into one gallon of water. Pour this solution into the fresh water tank.
  • Fill the entire tank with potable water. Open all the faucets in the RV to start circulating the water and close the faucets when you smell the bleach in it. This is done to ensure the bleach solution cleans and disinfects every part of the fresh water system.
  • Let the solution sit in the plumbing system for eight to 12 hours or overnight. This is enough time to kill the bacteria. This solution is perfectly safe and will not damage the components of your water system.
  • Drain all the water from the system and refill the tank with potable water. Flush it all out by opening the faucets. Allow the water to run on until it no longer smells like bleach.

Although this process takes several hours to complete, it is very important for your health and the health of your family.

Checking the Plumbing

While you are preparing the water systems in your RV, you should also take a look at the plumbing systems for any tears or punctures. Here is what you should do:

  • When your fresh water tank is filled up, turn on the electric pump and pressurize the water system. Once the system is fully pressurized, the pump will turn off.
  • Listen for the sounds of the pump turning back on. If the water pump turns back on again after a short while or does not shut off at all, there might be a leak in your plumbing systems.
  • Find the location of the leak by inspecting all your pipes and looking under the sinks. Also check the toilet edges for any leaks.

Any leak inside the RV camper can result in water damage that can result in malfunctioning components and expensive repair work. If you see any signs of a leak, you need to get it fixed by an RV repair service.

Checking the Propane Tanks and Appliances

Your RV most probably uses propane along with electricity to power its equipment. To reinstall the propane tank, here is what you need to do.

  • Place the propane tanks on their mounts and attach the hose to them. Make sure the hose is attached tightly by turning on the propane valve to open the gas line slightly.
  • Add some soapy water to the hose connections with the help of a small sponge. If any bubbles start forming, it is a sign that the propane is leaking.
  • Tighten the connections and repeat the process to test again.
  • Take your propane tanks to a propane filling station to get them completely filled.
  • Once your propane tanks are properly installed, make sure that all your gas-powered appliances are in working order by turning on and testing each appliance. When testing the hot water heater, make sure it is filled up with hot water.
  • If any of your gas appliances are not working properly, get them maintained by a certified RV repairman.

In some states, you need to recertify your propane tanks on a regular basis. If you live in a state that requires recertification, make sure that your tanks’ certification is still valid and ask the authorities when your tanks will need to be certified.

Testing 120V Appliances

Aside from your propane-powered appliances, you will also need to check your 120-volt electric appliances. Here is what you need to do:

  • Make sure that your electric power source produces 30 or 50 amps, otherwise your heavy-duty electric appliances like the microwave and AC may not work very well.
  • To find out if your AC is working in electric mode, turn it off and then open the doors so that your RV is room temperature again.
  • Once the RV is connected to an electric supply, turn on the air conditioner again and see if it is cooling the camper efficiently on electric.

Checking the Engine

Your RV will not go anywhere, or worse, leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere, if there is something wrong with its engine. That is why making sure your engine is in 100% working order is the most important maintenance you need to do.

  • Inspect the engine of your RV by checking all the fluid levels of the engine and make sure all its controls and lights are operational.
  • Also check the fluid levels of the engine oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, transmission, power steering, and windshield washer fluid. If the levels are low, top them off.
  • If you notice any signs that there is a leak in one or more parts of the engine, get a certified mechanic to take a look at it.
  • Once you have checked the fluid levels, start the RV engine and check all the readings, wipers, and lights are working as they should. If you see a service light turning on, it is important to get your RV inspected by a certified mechanic.

Changing the Filters

One important but often overlooked task is to change all the air and water filters in your RV. Your filters can collect a lot of debris when you are out camping so it is important to replace the old filters with new ones.

Changing the AC and water system filters can improve system efficiency and save on energy. It is important that you select the right-sized filters for your RV that fits snugly with the components and prevent dust, bacteria, and other pathogens from entering the RV.

Checking Safety Devices

Before you head out to camp, make sure that all the safety equipment and devices in your RV are operating the right way. This includes the fire extinguisher, the smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and LP detector.

  • Install new batteries in all safety devices that are battery-powered.
  • Test your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. Make sure you know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Check the expiration date on the fire extinguisher and buy a new one if your fire extinguisher has expired. If you use a dry powder extinguisher, make sure the powder is loose and ready to use.
  • Make sure that you know how to use a fire extinguisher and what the safety alarms in your RV sound like.

Planning for safety beforehand can ensure a smooth and risk-free camping experience.

Additional Camper De-Winterizing Tips

In addition tothe essential de-winterizing tasks, here are some more maintenance and cleaning tips that can help your camper remain spick and span and in perfect working order during the entire journey.

  • Make sure all your doors, windows, and air vents are working properly. As the weather turns warm, the vents will be needed for unrestricted airflow, keeping the interior cool, and preventing humidity.
  • Make sure to restock first aid and a medical emergency kit. Check the expiration dates on the medication and restock supplies if they are low.
  • Make sure your RV is also equipped with an emergency supply kit which contains all the important tools for repair and troubleshooting including screwdrivers, a hammer, nails, tape, pliers, coolant, oil, hoses, level blocks, and batteries.
  • Make sure your RV registration is valid and has not expired as well as its emission ticket. Having RV insurance is a great idea to keep your camper protected against accidents.
  • Wash the exterior of the RV with soap and water to ensure no mud or gunk lingers on it. Start washing at the top and make your way down the RV.
  • Check the nooks and crannies of your RV for any insects or rodents like cockroaches, spiders, mosquitoes, mice, or other animals.
  • Make sure to clean the blades and screens of your fan with soapy water. Take apart the fan and wash each component separately.
  • For maximum visibility, it is a good idea to wash your windows and screens with soapy water. You can allow them to air dry and then wipe away any stains with a microfiber cloth or towel.
  • Change all the linens in the RV, including your bedsheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and washcloths.
  • Vacuum the floor of your camper to make sure the interior of your RV is dust-free and clean.

Why Is It Important to De-Winterize Your RV Camper?

A winterized RV has been sitting unused for months, so you need to make sure that all its components are in good shape and are ready to be used. If you do not perform a comprehensive de-winterizing process on your camper, you will not be able to find out the issues and problems with your RV.

If you take it out camping with you in this condition, it can leave you stranded, or worse, can cause dangerous accidents.

Hence, it is always better to be safe and sorry when it comes to your RV, and a de-winterizing process can do that.


Anthony Day

Anthony Day

Hi, my name is Anthony, and RVs are what I'm passionate about. I bought my first RV when I was 21, and I've been hooked ever since. I'll guide you on how they work, how they can be used in different environments, and how they fit into our everyday lives.

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