By Patrick Galvan, Storage.com
Now that temperatures are dropping and vacations plans are shifting from campgrounds to ski resorts, it’s time to prepare your recreational vehicle for a few months of inactivity.
Finding a place to store your RV over the course of winter can be challenging, especially since many homeowners associations don’t allow people to keep RVs in their driveways. To solve this problem, you might consider renting a space at a self storage facility with RV storage.
However, before storage, your RV should be properly winterized for protection against winter weather. Damages due to lack of winterization can range from marred paint to costly engine repairs. Precautions include cleaning out unneeded items from the RV, as well as making any necessary repairs ahead of time. This isn’t just a matter of convenience; winterization helps ensure a longer lifespan for your RV.
Why You Should Clean Your RV Before Storage
According to Tom Zeilstra, Parts & Service and Rental Manager for Pierce RV Supercenter in Montana, anything “other than dry goods” should be removed from the RV. “Items that can freeze—makeup, shampoo, any product with a water base—need to be removed,” he says. This includes cans, jars, and bottles containing fluids. When left in freezing temperatures, liquids will expand, causing containers to rupture or burst. This will create a mess in your RV that could even be hazardous to you.
Zeilstra also recommends removing all food items from your RV when it’s not being used. Over time, mold could develop and spread throughout the rest of the RV.
Worse still, food left in your RV will attract rodents and insects. “Once they’re in, they will make themselves at home everywhere: in cabinets, underbelly of unit, and even the furnace,” explains Trailside RV out of Grain Valley, Mo.
“Items that can freeze—makeup, shampoo, any product with a water base—need to be removed [before storage].”
Tom Zeilstra, Parts & Service and Rental Manager for Pierce RV Supercenter
An infestation of any kind is never a good thing, but rodents are particularly harmful for RVs. They’ll be looking for an enclosed place to nest for the winter, and an RV offers the sort of shelter they need. Mice and rats have even been known to crawl inside the electrical components of vehicles and chew on the wires.
But how do you discourage mice or rats from making their winter home in your RV? Zeilstra says to place dryer sheets throughout the RV interior. “They don’t like the smell,” he explains. “Place many throughout the coach, in drawers and cupboards, [as well as] the engine compartment. Strong bars of deodorant soap also work.” Throughout the winter, be sure to check the dryer sheets and/or soap and replace them.
Why Preventative RV Winterization Matters
The most important step of RV winterization is preventative maintenance. This ensures your RV remains in good condition for future road trips.
First, inspect the outer surface of the RV for cracks and gaps, including the roof, and fill these in with sealant as necessary. This will keep out debris and pests. Replenish the air supply in the tires to keep them from being flattened and deformed after sitting still for months, too. You should also cover them with RV tire covers, which protect them from the sun and premature cracking.
It’s also important to tend to your RV’s water system and drain it. If the water in the tank freezes, it could erode or puncture the tank’s interior. “To winterize RVs properly, a non-toxic antifreeze should be used,” says Trailside RV. “The best type is a safe-to-drink, non-alcohol-based product. It may be a bit higher in price, but it won’t dry out gaskets and fittings. The product should be pumped throughout the water lines and a portion poured into the drains. You should not fill your water tank or water heater with it.”
Michelle Muggli, manager of Air Park Self Storage in Aitkin, Minn. agrees, stating, “[If you live in] the northern regions with harsh winters, make sure your water lines have been drained an filled with antifreeze. Also, all tanks and such must be drained and free of water.”
“[If you live in] the northern regions with harsh winters, make sure your water lines have been drained an filled with antifreeze.”
Michelle Muggli, manager of Air Park Self Storage
“If you’re not familiar with winterizing the RV water system, it’s advised to have a professional at an RV Service Center do it for you,” Trailside RV adds. “If not done right, it could cost $500 or more next spring for repairs.”
Another good idea to prevent costly damages to your RV is to use an RV cover to avoid roof leaks. Don’t use plastic covers, though, “as the wind movement will eat paint off on the corners of the RV,” Trailside RV explains. Instead, they suggest “lightweight nylon [RV covers] sold by specific size to fit properly. It needs to be fastened snugly to eliminate movement against the sides and corners.”
After you clean and winterize your RV, you can move it to a storage facility with vehicle storage until you’re ready to use it again. Many RV storage facilities feature outdoor parking spaces designed to accommodate RVs; some may even have covered or indoor options, though those usually come at a higher cost.