The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer and the excitement of hitting the road in your RV is setting in again. Unless you are a full-time RV-er, this means bringing your rig out of storage and performing RV spring maintenance to get your camper ready for the season. Before you head out on your first camping trip of spring, use this RV de-winterizing guide to get your RV clean and ready for travel again.
1. CHECK YOUR TIRES
During the months in storage, your RV tires will lose about two to three psi of air pressure each month. If your RV is stored outside or somewhere cold, your tires may be even more deflated when you uncover your camper in the spring. Driving your RV with underinflated tires can cause poor handling, uneven wear, a blowout and may even lead to an accident.
Using a tire pressure gauge, check the air pressure in all of your RV tires — including the spare. Reinflation the tires to match the manufacturer’s recommendation based on the load. If you are unsure of the correct tire pressure for your RV, check your owner’s manual.
2. INSPECT THE EXTERIOR
Before diving into more intensive RV spring maintenance, visually inspect the outside of your RV for any damages, leaks or cracks. Inspect the weather-stripping around windows and doors and replace any sealant that is cracked or peeling. Check all body, roof and slide-out seams and apply new seals as necessary.
If you stored your RV outdoors for the winter, check for any water damage and pay particular attention to the roof — heavy snow accumulation can lead to structural damage or cause seams to crack. When working on the roof of your RV, use extra caution to prevent a fall.
If you have a towable camper, inspect the hitch components for rust and damage.
3. CHARGE AND REINSTALL YOUR BATTERIES
Just as your RV tires will lose pressure during storage, your RV batteries will also lose a percentage of their charge due to internal leakage. If they are not periodically checked and recharged during the off-season, your RV batteries lose a small percent of their charge each month that they are in storage. By keeping your batteries charged during storage, you can extend the lifespan of your RV batteries and will be ready to go when the season starts!
4. FLUSH YOUR WATER SYSTEM
De-winterizing your water system is one of the most crucial steps of RV spring preparation. When you are on the road, you rely on a clean source of water for cooking, drinking, washing dishes and showering. However, when you winterized your RV water system in the fall, you most likely added non-toxic RV antifreeze to the water system to prevent the pipes from freezing. This antifreeze must now be flushed out of the plumbing system so the water is clean and safe to drink.
- Turn the water pump on.
- Open all water faucets, including sinks and indoor and outdoor showers.
- Allow water to run through the system for several minutes.
- While the pump is running, flush the toilet a few times.
- When the water comes out clear, close the faucets and turn off the pump.
- Take the water heater out of bypass mode.
- Replace all water filter cartridges that you removed for storage.
- Dump your gray and black water holding tanks at an official dump site.
5. SANITIZE YOUR WATER SYSTEM
The second essential step for de-winterizing your RV water system is to sanitize it. Even if you did not use non-toxic antifreeze to winterize your plumbing system, sanitizing your water system is still important for removing any bacteria or mold that could have grown during the months in storage. Follow these steps to sanitize your RV water system:
- Close all drains and install drain plugs.
- Measure one-quarter cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons your fresh water tank holds.
- Pour the bleach into a one-gallon container and fill it up with water.
- Add the bleach and water mixture into the fresh water tank fill.
- Fill the fresh water tank entirely with potable water.
- Turn on the water pump and open all faucets.
- Run the water until you can smell the bleach and then close the faucets.
- Let the solution sit for up to twelve hours in the water tank and water lines.
- Drain all of the water from the system.
- Refill the fresh water tank with potable water.
- Flush the system by turning on the water pump and opening all faucets.
- Allow the water to run until it no longer smells like bleach.
6. CHECK FOR LEAKY PIPES
While you are preparing your RV water system for the start of the season, check your plumbing system for any leaks. With water in the fresh water tank, turn on the electric pump and allow it to pressurize the water system. When the system reaches full pressure, the pump will shut off. Listen for several minutes to hear if the pump turns back on. If the pump cycles back on again or does not shut off at all, there is a leak somewhere in your plumbing system.
Locate the leak by checking the pipe system and looking for leaks under sinks. Check the toilet for leakage around the edge. Leaks inside your RV may also cause water damage if not addressed quickly. Repair any leaks you identify or take your camper to an RV repair service if you are not comfortable fixing the leak on your own.
7. REPLACE PROPANE TANKS
If your RV uses propane, reinstall your propane tanks on their mounts and connect the hose. Make sure the hose is fitted tightly by turning on the propane valve a little bit to open the gas line. Apply soapy water to each of the hose connectors using a sponge or small spray bottle. Watch to see if any bubbles form, indicating that there may be a propane leak. Tighten the fitting and repeat the process to make sure it is tightly connected.
8. TEST YOUR RV GENERATOR
If your RV has an onboard generator, check the oil level. If oil levels are low, have your generator serviced by a professional.
Before testing your generator, check the exhaust system for any damage. Operating a generator with a damaged exhaust system can harm the generator and lead to serious consequences. After inspecting the exhaust, turn the generator on to test it. If you exercised your RV generator during storage, it should start up easily. If the generator was not operated at all during storage, run it for a few hours with a half-rated load. Refer to the owner’s manual for load ratings.
If your generator surges or will not start, have it inspected and repaired.
9. CHANGE FILTERS
During RV spring maintenance, change out all of your air and water filters. Air filters can collect a lot of dust and debris during a busy camping season, so start the season fresh with clean filters. Changing filters in your air conditioner and water systems can also improve the efficiency of your systems and save energy. When changing air and water filters, make sure to purchase the correct size for your air conditioner and water system. Ensure the filters fit snugly to effectively filter out dirt and bacteria.
10. CHECK WINDOWS AND AIR VENTS
As part of your RV spring maintenance, open all of your windows and air vents to make sure they are in working order. Air vents ensure proper air flow through your camper to prevent excess humidity and keep you cool all summer long. Properly functioning air vents become even more essential when you turn your RV heat back on in the fall, as they protect against toxic gas build-up inside your RV. Opening all of your windows will also refresh your RV with clean spring air after you take it out of storage.
11. RESTOCK FIRST AID AND EMERGENCY SUPPLIES
Another crucial step for RV safety this camping season is to restock your RV first aid and emergency supplies as part of your RV spring preparation. Check the expiration dates on any medicines and restock any first aid supplies that are low. Get rid of any dry food that has expired and make sure your RV has plenty of bottled water in case of an emergency. Your RV emergency kit should also include tools and other supplies for emergency RV repairs, such as pliers, a hammer, screwdrivers, extra oil and coolant, hoses, batteries and leveling blocks.