Going on a summer camping trip or cross-country excursion wouldn’t be complete without a functioning, well-maintained RV or camper. But if your vehicle has been sitting in self-storage all winter, it’s not as simple as turning on the ignition and heading off. A lot may have happened during the idle months, including damages or leaks caused by fluctuating temperatures, improper storage conditions, or other issues. For your safety — and the safety of your family and friends who may be adventuring with you — you’ll need to dewinterize your RV or camper before you travel.
1. Inspect the Exterior of the RV
The first thing you’ll want to do is give the exterior of your vehicle a meticulous once-over. Look for any signs of wear and tear, damage, or leaks — particularly on the roof, windows, doors, and seams, as these are common areas where problems can occur. Depending on the climate where you live, and whether you stored your RV outdoors or indoors, you may need to pay special attention to broken valves, pipes, or water tanks. Don’t forget to examine the undercarriage for rust or severe scrapes from road debris.
Many leaks can be prevented or fixed with a new layer of sealant, but it’s also best to consult a professional if you suspect bigger problems.
|Tip: Depending on the climate where you live, and whether your RV storage was indoors, covered outdoor parking, or uncovered outdoor parking, you may need to pay special attention while examining your vehicle for any broken valves, pipes, or water leaks.|
2. Check the Tires
Tires are an integral part of your RV or camper, and their condition can greatly impact your safety on the road. Checking your tires every travel day can help you avoid blowouts or decreased lifespan — and in extreme cases, save you a considerable amount of money.
Tires don’t lose air only when you use them — extreme temperatures or sitting idle for an extended period of time can also cause them to deflate. After you go over the exterior of your vehicle, check the tires for any signs of cracking, bulging, or tread wear. Then inspect the tire pressure, using this reference guide to make sure that all your tires are properly inflated to the specified levels of your RV or camper’s make and model. Remember to check the condition and pressure of your spare tire, as well.
3. Make Sure There's Enough Fluid
Check the levels of all fluids in your RV or camper, including engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant. Periodically, you’ll also want to check your windshield wiper fluid levels and the water levels if you have a non-maintenance-free battery, if they require ongoing maintenance. If you’re low on any of them, top it off before driving off the lot. If you think there may be a leak, be sure to do a thorough inspection and take your vehicle to a mechanic or repair facility, if need be. As always, consult the manual to make sure you’re using the recommended brands for each of the fluids. You can learn more about checking the levels of fluids here.
4. Charge the Battery
A functional battery is key to powering your RV or camper’s electrical systems. After a long winter, the battery may need to be charged or replaced, and it’s critical to ensure your battery is fully charged and functional before going on your trip. Use a voltmeter to check the battery voltage — it should read around 12.6 or 12.7 volts when fully charged. If the voltage is low, recharge the battery, which can take up to a few days. If it's unable to hold a charge, replace it.
5. Examine the Electrical and Propane Systems
Driving your RV or camper on rough terrain can create vibrations that loosen fittings in your electrical and propane systems. Inspecting these regularly is key to your safety. To examine your electrical system, look for any damage to fuses, circuit breakers, and wires. If all looks good, run all your RV appliances to electric mode (including the AC) and test each of the power outlets and interior/exterior lights to make sure they’re receiving power.
As for the propane system, you’ll want to take your RV to a mechanic once a year to perform a Timed Pressure Drop Test. If you’ve already done this in the past six months, you can test your propane system as well by checking for leaks with a soapy water solution. Light the stove burners to help remove air from the propane lines, and inspect your propane-powered appliances to ensure they are operating correctly.
6. Flush the Water System
After a winter of sitting idle, it's imperative to flush your RV or camper's water system and sanitize it to remove any antifreeze that you used when you winterized your vehicle before storing it. After all, you’ll rely on your water system to provide a clean source of drinking, cooking, and bathing water throughout your trip.
To flush the system, drain the water heater, open all faucets, and run fresh water through the system until it runs clear. You’ll also want to make sure that you dispose of the antifreeze properly if it’s not biodegradable. Don't forget to check for leaks during this process.
Once you've flushed the system, sanitize it with a diluted bleach solution that you let sit in the water tank for at least 12-24 hours. Rinse thoroughly, and then fill your fresh water tank.
|Tip: It’s never a bad idea to have backup water filters during your trip in case your water system becomes contaminated.|
7. Clean the Inside of the RV or Camper
Once you’ve checked off the above items, the last thing you’ll want to do before heading off on your trip is to thoroughly clean the interior of your RV or camper. Ideally, you did a deep clean before storing it for the winter, but if not, follow this guide to disinfect the interior. If you did a deep clean, simply remove any items you may have used for winter storage (such as moisture absorbers) and vacuum all surfaces, including floors, counters, and upholstery. Check all drawers and cupboards for any signs of pests, and clean out the refrigerator and pantry.
|Tip: SmartStop Self Storage offers a range of outdoor storage for RVs, campers, low-speed vehicles, and more, including both covered and uncovered parking spots. Prepare for the off-season this fall by finding the nearest storage facility for your vehicle once your summer travels are over.|