De-Winterizing Your Camper
The temperatures are starting to rise and it will soon be time to load up the tenement on wheels and get away from the daily grind, even if just for the weekend. But, before we hitch up and haul off to serenity, we need to get the RV ready to go. The process is similar to a reverse winterization, but there are a few more things that need to be checked to make sure we start the season off right and help make our entire year go a little smoother.
How to De-Winterize a Camper
UNCOVER AND INSPECT
Start outside the RV and give it a good inspection. Remove any covers put on for the winter and look for damage or wear of any kind. Inspect the exterior for any cracks, peeling or signs of vermin/insect infestation.
TAKE CARE OF THE ROOF
Clean the roof. Not just a hose off, but use a good cleaner (be sure to use a cleaner that is compatible with your roof type). Follow up the cleaning with a roof conditioner A little maintenance goes a long way when dealing with your roof.
CLEAN THE EXTERIOR
Give the whole RV a good wash and wax. Be sure to use RV compatible products. A lot of RV’s have graphics packages that can be damaged by general auto cleaners and waxes. Most of these graphics are not available for replacement, so you want to be sure to take care of the ones you have.
CHECK THE TIRES
Be sure to check the tire pressure. Having a good pressure gauge is recommended because the ones at roadside stops are usually whipped and swung around by roadside warriors acting out childhood fantasies or just getting out their frustration after a day on the road. Refer to the owner’s manual as the pressure may be different than what is shown on the tire itself. Also inspect the tires for any cracks, cuts or deformities. Check the spare as well. A blown tire can not only slow down your trip, but it can do major damage to the RV itself.
CHECK FOR LEAKS
After you get the outside cleaned up and inspected, it is a good idea to perform a pressure leak test. This can be as simple as blocking a storage door with a plastic panel and inserting an electric blower through the panel. Go around the RV with a spray bottle full of soapy water and look for bubbles. This is going to help you find the smallest of leaks before they cause damage. Look for condensation in lights, it can indicate just a bad seal, or it can indicate a leak between the light and the inside. The light may need to be removed, sealed and reinstalled.
SERVICE THE BATTERY
A good idea for winterization is to disconnect the battery and install a battery tender. Otherwise, just disconnecting the battery is good practice. Before reconnecting the battery, be sure to check the water level (if it’s not a maintenance free battery) and give it a slow charge back to full power. Even better if you give it a load test. Most auto part stores will do this for free, and you only need to take the battery, you don’t have to drag the whole camper there. You can get your own battery load tester and check it whenever you want. Don’t forget to check the battery in your tow rig as well!
Check all the lights and signals. Be sure they all work. Check the harness that connects to the tow vehicle for cracks or corroded connections. They sell little battery boxes that can power the lights so you don’t have to hook up to your tow vehicle. They’re great when checking a wiring problem with your brake lights by yourself. You don’t have to have someone sitting on the brake pedal the whole time.
CHECK THE PROPANE
Fill the propane bottles, turn on valves and a check for leaks. Use a spray bottle with soapy water and hit all connections and valves. Don’t forget to do this inside as well for any accessible connections. Do not use a flame to check for leaks!
Be sure to grease any fittings your camper has. Spray hinges and latches. Hit the squeaky fold out steps and storage doors. Don’t forget to lube slide outs, if applicable.
INSPECT AND CLEAN THE INSIDE
If possible, dump everything you have stored inside to give access to the entire interior. Remove any access panels and give a very detailed inspection. Look for any indication of insects or rodents, clean up after them and attempt for find where they entered. Remove and clean anything you can. Discard your moisture eliminator and open up a new one. A good spring cleaning will start your season off fresh and dry.
CLEAN AND FLUSH THE PLUMBING
Not only do you want to hook up and flush all of the pink antifreeze, but you’ll want to sanitize the lines. After flushing the lines, you can mix a quarter cup of household bleach per gallon of water and dump into the fresh water holding tank. Run each line until you can smell the bleach, then allow the lines to sit for 4 hours or more. Flush the lines until you can no longer smell the bleach. While hooked up, look for any leaks in the water lines or drain lines. Again, a good idea to dump all of the contents ahead of time so you can quickly access all areas in the event something is leaking.
HOT WATER HEATER MAINTENANCE
Beside checking to see that it’s working, you need to change the anode rod. This is simple to do, it is attached to the large nut under the exterior cover for the hot water heater. This rod will look corroded and it should, it is sacrificial and prevents the metal inner workings of the heater from rusting. Changing this rod annually, usually less than twenty dollars, can extend the life of your hot water heater ten fold.
Open all the faucets and release the water pressure before removing the nut. Even a small amount of pressure will cause the rod to shoot out with force and cover you in all of the gunk that has built up.
Be sure to check that all the appliances and lights are working, including the light in the microwave and the range hood. Does the refrigerator get cold and does the heater work? Better to find out at home instead of when you are on the road.
Be sure to change batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. LP detectors should be tested. Be sure to check the expiration on fire extinguishers and replace if out of date. Get a quality extinguisher with a gauge so you can be sure it is good (your life may depend on it). Check to see that everything in your first aid kit is still good.
I’m not talking about beer and chips (though they are important), but more so make sure you have electrical tape, duct tape, screwdrivers and paper towels. A visit to the dollar store automotive section can provide you a good selection of items at a low cost. On the road you’ll be the one most likely performing the emergency repairs, give yourself a hand by having tools on hand to do it quickly. Then you can quickly get back to enjoying the beer and chips.
Knowing that you are on your own once you hit the road can be very daunting for some, so if there is anything you unfamiliar with, such as checking the gas or electrical connections or inspecting the tires or brakes, get some help from someone who does know how. Proper preparation and maintenance go a long way in setting up to have the most enjoyable season possible.
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