Dewinterize Your RV With This Helpful Guide
It’s almost spring. Many RVers are starting to anticipate putting the RV back in action after always-too-long winter hibernation. Waking your RV up from winter storage is not just a matter of filling up the tanks and taking off on an adventure. There are a few tasks that need to be done before we can go anywhere in our RV. For RV newbies, the prospect of dewinterizing their new RV can seem a little overwhelming. If this is you, don’t worry. Just follow the steps in this helpful guide, and you’ll see that systematic dewinterization is really no big deal.
Aside from getting the antifreeze out of the lines, spring dewinterization gives RVers a chance to do a pre-season inspection to make sure that all systems are a “go!” before we hit the road. It’s always easiest to do some preventative maintenance or deal with an issue while it’s still minor before you really need to. We’ll start with checking and doing preventative maintenance on the exterior, and then do the same on the interior of the RV. Then we’ll dive into how to drain the antifreeze out of your water lines, change out filters, and top up everything that needs to be refilled.
Before you do anything else, you’ll want to have a look at all the exterior components of your RV. This is especially true if your RV has been stored outdoors. I like to start at the top by cleaning and inspecting the roof of the RV and then work my way down, ending by ensuring the tires are in good shape and noting their age. Here is what you need to do during your exterior inspection.
Inspect the Roof and Roof Seals
Your RV roof protects the rest of your RV, so it’s vital to keep your roof in good condition so you can enjoy your RV for a long time. The first thing you should do in the spring is get up on the roof and clean, inspect, and repair it. If you have doubts that you can do this safely, get a certified RV technician to do this job for you. Always be sure to take proper safety precautions and wear appropriate footwear whenever you go up on your RV roof. Also, it’s a good idea to bring a phone with you in case you need to call for help for some reason.
When you are up on the roof, sweep any debris off and check the general condition of the membrane or fiberglass. Check all the seals for cracking and reseal as needed. Next, check the condition of the roof vents and skylights. If there are cracks in these, cover them or seal them with silicone caulking, and plan to replace them soon. You never want any moisture leaking into the RV.
Inspect the Remaining Exterior Components
Back down on the ground, walk around the RV, and take note of any cracked or loose caulking, loose window seals, etc. If there are any irregularities in the fiberglass or metal cladding, you’ll need to deal with them very soon, as they may indicate that bigger problems lie beneath them.
- Recaulk around windows, joints, and doors as necessary.
- Check all rubber seals around windows, doors, and slideouts.
- Treat all rubber seals with RV seal conditioner spray.
- If your RV is motorized, check for leaking fluids underneath the chassis.
- Lubricate RV slideout mechanisms using RV slideout lubricant.
- Unroll the awning and clean it as necessary
- Check furnace and water heater vents for debris or insect nests.
Check the RV Tires
Before you do anything else, make sure your tires are in good shape and inflated to the RV manufacturer’s tire pressure recommendations. RV manufacturers frequently put tire pressure recommendations on the RV information/specification sheet that’s mounted on one of the interior walls of the RV. You’ll also usually find it on a sticker near the driver’s side door.
Now is also a good time to check the age of your tires. They may look like they’re in good shape on the outside, but if your tires are more than 5-7 years old, they will sadly be past their prime. RV tires carry a lot of weight compared to other types of tires. For this reason, they wear out by rotting on the inside (where you can’t see it) unlike other types of tires.
Did you know it’s easy to tell the age of your RV tires? That’s because tire manufacturers always stamp a date on every tire that’s sold in North America. The date stamp looks something like this number: “2518.” The last two digits tell you the year the tire was manufactured, and the first two are the week it was manufactured. So a tire stamped with 2518 was made in the 25th week of 2018. As much as older RV tires can look perfect on the outside, their looks aren’t a reliable indicator of their condition. RV tires always age out before they wear out. A tire blowout on an RV can be a disastrous end to a holiday.
Dewinterize Your RV Water System
Flush the Water Lines
If your RV was winterized for cold climates, it probably has food-grade RV antifreeze in all its water supply lines, including those that supply the toilet. Spring is the time to flush the water lines. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
- Reconnect all waterlines and check to make sure all fittings are snug.
- Fill the fresh water tank.
- Turn the water pump on.
- Go into the RV and turn each faucet on, one at a time to flush the pink antifreeze out. Let the water run from each faucet for about a minute after it no longer looks pinkish. If your RV has an outdoor shower, be sure to flush it the same way.
Dewinterize Your RV Water Heater
Now that you’ve got all the antifreeze out of the water system, you can get the water heater up and running. Here’s everything you’ll need to do to dewinterize your RV water heater:
- Reinsert the anode rod (Suburban water heaters) or plastic drain plug (Atwood and Dometic water heaters). If you have a Suburban water heater, you’ll need a 1-1/16″ or 1-1/8″ socket and Teflon tape to do this job. If you have an Atwood or Dometic water heater, you’ll need a 7/8″ or 15/16″ socket, but you won’t need Teflon tape to form a thread seal.
- Turn the bypass valve back into the “Normal Flow” position.
- Inside the RV, turn the pump on and turn a hot water faucet on, but don’t turn the water heater on yet.
- Leave the hot water faucet turned on for a few minutes until there is a steady flow of water.
- When the hot water faucet is no longer spitting, you’ll know that there is water in the water heater.
- Go outside and pull the pressure relief valve. If water comes out, the tank is full. This means it’s now safe to turn the water heater on.
- Check the plumbing system for any drips so that you can fix them before they damage your RV.
RV Plumbing With City Water
Next, you’ll want to make sure that the water system functions properly when you’re hooked up to city water.
- Hook up your city water connection.
- Check the plumbing to make sure that there are no leaks
- Turn on the hot and cold on each faucet.
- Put the drain plug in each sink and check underneath for any water leaks.
Additional Interior Inspection
Check and Maintain the Batteries
Spring RV dewinterization is a great time to check and maintain your RV batteries. Here’s what you’ll want to do:
- First, put on safety glasses and Nalgene or rubber gloves, to protect yourself from any acid that splashes out of the batteries.
- Now carefully open the vent caps.
- The liquid acid in the battery should cover the lead plates.
- If the lead plates are exposed, top the battery liquid up with distilled water until the lead plates are completely submerged.
- Close the vent caps.
- If there are signs of corrosion on your battery terminals, disconnect the positive (red) wire first and then the negative (black) wire. Give each terminal a scrub with a toothbrush and baking soda. Coat the battery posts with dielectric grease. Reconnect the wires, positive first and then negative.
Change the Batteries in the Smoke Detector and the Carbon Monoxide Detector
Smoke detector batteries should be changed every 6 months. Spring is the perfect time to change out smoke detector batteries as part of your process to dewinterize your RV.
Refill Propane Tanks
Check and Change Generator Oil and add Fuel if Necessary
Most gas generators require an oil change every hundred hours. To prolong the life of your generator, you should be sure the oil is topped up and changed as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Making this chore part of your task list when it’s time to dewinterize your RV will help to make sure your generator lasts for many more camping seasons.
It’s not difficult to dewinterize your RV yourself. The RV dewinterization tasks outlined in this guide will help you to enjoy a perfect RVing season without breakdowns, leaks, etc. Not only that but performing regular springtime (and fall) maintenance will help ensure your RV will stay in good shape for years to come.
Lynne Fedorick is a freelance writer with 35 years of RVing experience. She specializes in topics such as fulltime RV life, great destinations for RVers, RV organization, RV News, RV tech, and dog behavior/training.