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RV Maintenance Tips for Winter Storage

Whether you’re new to the Trailer RV Lifestyle or a seasoned RVer, you’ll want to stay on top of maintenance so you can enjoy your Recreational Vehicle (RV) for many years to come. Exterior maintenance is a great place to start.

RV Ready for Cleaning

I have added my 10 top things to do prior to storing for the long winter months.

1. Wash your RV exterior

Pressure Washer and RV Washing Supplies

Hose off the loose dirt and grime, then, using a soft brush or sponge, wash the RV with specialized RV soap (found at most dealerships or automotive supply stores), a quick rinse with cold water will do the trick.

Tip:  Before washing, remove the black streaks that appear around windows, doors, vents etc. I found this great product from Magic Boss – All Purpose Cleaner available at most Pool suppliers and Amazon (also works on those bugs that have dried on to the front of the trailer). Take extra caution around appliance vents when washing to prevent water from accessing the trailer.

All Purpose Cleaner – Great for Your RV

2. Wax or apply a protectant to your RV exterior

Time to channel your inner Karate Kid and do the wax-on wax-off method.  This can be a time-consuming task depending on the size of your RV, but it is well worth the effort. Make sure the exterior is dry before you start waxing and spot-test on a small area on any graphics or stickers before widespread application. Also, check to ensure that the wax is appropriate for use on the type of exterior on your RV as well.  Apply a coat of good quality wax or protectant to your RV exterior. I waxed mine shortly after purchasing my trailer and it has certainly helped remove the bugs and bird poop after multiple camping trips, especially those pesky ones that splat on the front of the vehicle.

Tip: I now use Wax & Dry Spray Car Wax by Turtle Wax.

3. Clean your awning and keep it dry for storage

Before you roll up your RV awning for storage, clean it well by sweeping off all debris and wash with mild soap and water. Lubricate moving parts (in my case the awning pistons) with silicone spray. When you roll it up, ensure that the awning is in a locked position against the trailer.

Tip: Spray the awning with your cleaner solution and roll it back up and leave it stand for a few hours before reopening and rinsing off the cleaner. This gives the cleaner time to dissolve dirt and stains in the rolled-up position.  It saves a lot of elbow grease as you do not need to scrub stubborn areas.

3.5. Batteries

Don’t forget to remove your batteries for the winter and put them on a trickle charger. Replace the battery casing lid to prevent water gathering in the box and freeze-thaw damaging the battery storage box.

RV Batteries

4. Inspect any sealed areas thoroughly to prevent water damage and potential rodents gaining access

Your RV is in the elements day-after-day throughout all the seasons, you’ll want to make sure that your RV exterior including the roof, sides, edges, windows, doors, vents, end caps, moldings, compartments, and underside are sealed off and doing their job to protect the interior from potential water damage.

To prevent mice, or other rodents, look for any gaps, openings or areas with aged sealant and re-caulk if necessary. Make sure to use the appropriate sealant and when in doubt, ask your RV dealer or manufacturer for advice.

Tip: One interesting tip I picked up was placing scented dryer sheets in the corners of the RV to reduce bugs and keep spiders out (these work).

5. Lubricate all hinges, locks and moving parts

No-one likes creaky doors, windows or compartments. Lubricating hinges and moving parts with WD40 and all locks with a graphite spray lubricant is an easy maintenance step that takes only a couple of minutes.  When I purchased the Denali, it had been stored and not used for the current season, so all the hinges squeaked.

Another often overlooked moving part is the rubber flanges and seals for the slide-out, compartment doors and windows. Every year, clean them and coat them with a protectant for rubber to keep them supple and working properly. Look for products that state RV Slide-out Rubber sealant conditioner.

6. Cover outside vents to keep critters (and condensation) away

RV Outside Vents Max Air Covers

Keep the insects out and prevent nesting by installing mesh or covers on outside vents (furnace, refrigerator, water heater) for long-term storage. Buy a proper A/C cover and cover your air conditioning unit to avoid condensation during storage.

My vents have a Max Air flow cover on them, and I have purchased a full breathable RV cover for the trailer and use this during the winter as I must store my trailer outside in all the seasonal elements of the lower mainland in British Columbia.

7. Open your vents

When your RV is not being used during the summer months, the inside living area can get up to 130F degrees depending on your location. That type of intense heat will cause even the toughest materials to break down and fail over time. Open your vents to let the air in. (But remember to keep the outside vents closed to keep the rain out!)  I can keep my vents open as they have a Max Air cover but one that is not covered is a rain sensitive one and should automatically close when it rains (but I don’t rely on that, so I close it).  Next year, I plan to put a Max Air cover on it like the others, to even out the venting.

I leave the vents open in the winter to allow airflow when the trailer is stored as we store the trailer from November to April with the cover on and the sun can heat the unit. Warm air holds more moisture (water vapour) than cold air. It also rises vertically so the vents allow the warmer air to exit with the moisture.

8. Lubricate your slide-out rails

Lubricate your slide-out rails a couple of times a year to stop rust and corrosion. You can find a can of lubricant spray specifically designed for this project for under $20. This is a much cheaper solution than replacing your slide-outs down the road!  I always do this before I put the trailer to bed in the winter as well as coating the rubber slide-out seals with a seal product to protect the rubber.

9. Winterize the water system

Exterior Faucet with Shower Extension (antifreeze flowing through system)

Winterizing the water system inside is necessary for me as we encounter many days of minus temperatures in a row during the winter. I do not want the inconvenience of a burst pipe.

First, empty the hot water tank and the holding tanks. On my last camping trip of the season I always do a thorough sewage and grey water dump and clean the tanks. This process means that I only have residual water in the pipes, however for peace of mind I like to install the pink potable ani-freeze.

Draining the Hot Water Tank

To do this, close off the bypass valve to the hot water tank and attach a hose to the water pump, the other end is placed inside the potable water jug. Then turn on the pump and it will pull the fluid from the jug. Open all the taps and flush the toilet while the pump is running to ensure the water exits and turns pink with the antifreeze. I use a four-gallon jug of potable antifreeze as my pipes stretch a long distance from the pump to all the taps and toilet in the trailer.

For the left-over antifreeze pour a small amount down each of the sink and shower drains. Before finishing reattach the system pipe to the water pump and then clean all the sink and shower surrounds to remove the pink anti-freeze and prevent staining.

10. Cover the RV

Checking the Tires

After you finish winterizing the RV, inside and out, it’s time to cover.  Breathable lightweight covers are available from dealership stores and RV suppliers.  Make sure you cover the tires too.  Before covering the tires, I always check the pressures and wash the tires with protectant.  Don’t forget the spare.

RV Cover Installed for Winter

All the 10 steps mentioned will help protect your RV and make it ready for the first trip of the year.

For additional tips on maintaining your RV, Go RVing Canada has created a handy checklist of maintenance tips to keep your RV exterior in top shape. 

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Published: October 27, 2023
Last Updated: October 27, 2023

Joss Penny by Joss Penny

Joss has been employed by the BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association since 1988 and held the position of Executive Director since 2006. Over the past 30 years Joss has been involved in many of the provincial processes that have shaped the tourism product in British Columbia. Joss has a keen interest in the outdoors and enjoys running, fishing and camping pursuits.