Polk’s Top 7 – Prep your RV for Fall & Winter Camping

Fall Camping

Fall camping is my favorite camping! Cooler mornings and evenings and pleasant daytime temperatures, you just can’t beat it. As we head towards colder temperatures I want to offer a few preventive maintenance checks you can perform on your RV to make sure it is prepared for the fall and winter camping seasons.

In no particular order here are my top 7 checks to prep your RV for fall & winter camping:

RV batteries
  1. Inspect your RV batteries 

Check all battery connections for secure mounting, and clean the batteries with a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and water if necessary. If you have lead-acid batteries, check the electrolyte level in each cell and add distilled water if necessary. Many older converter chargers provide a constant charge of approximately 13.5 volts which is too high for fully charged batteries and the electrolyte is boiled off, resulting in an early death for the batteries.  Check water levels weekly, at a minimum, when using the RV. Test the battery state of charge, and charge any batteries that are at or below 80%. A discharged or partially charged battery will freeze much faster than a fully charged battery. You can use a digital voltmeter to measure voltage and get a quick picture of the batteries depth of discharge. If you don’t feel comfortable working on or around batteries have a reputable RV service center perform battery maintenance for you.

RV 101 Tip:   A 12-volt battery that is charged should read 12.5 to 12.7 volts. Readings less than 12.5 indicate the battery state of charge is below 80% and the battery needs to be charged.  A 6-volt battery that is charged should read 6.25 to 6.37 volts. Readings below 6.25 indicate the battery state of charge is below 80% and the battery needs to be charged.

automotive antifreeze

2) Test automotive antifreeze

The cooling system in a vehicle performs a very important job; it prevents the heat producing engine from overheating and quite possibly seizing up. The antifreeze in your motorhome or tow vehicle’s radiator should always have a 50% to 70% concentration of antifreeze to water. Water does a good job keeping the engine cool, but it freezes quickly during cold winter temperatures. Water can also cause certain metals to rust and corrode over time. The proper concentration of antifreeze is necessary to provide freeze protection, and chemical protection against corrosion. You can use test strips, a float type hydrometer or a refractometer to test the antifreeze concentration. A refractometer is the most accurate testing device. Inspect all coolant hoses for signs of damage or leaks. Coolant hoses deteriorate from the inside out. Inspect all hoses for wear, cracks, soft spots, brittle areas and leaks. Inspect hose clamps for secure mounting and replace any damaged coolant hoses or clamps as required.

RV 101 Tip: Check your vehicle owner’s manual for intervals to have the cooling system inspected and flushed.

3) Fuel Stabilizer

Fuel stabilizers provide excellent protection against stale fuel during periods of storage, and they contain corrosion inhibitors, remove water and help clean fuel injectors. There are fuel stabilizers designed for use with gasoline and diesel engines. I personally use a fuel stabilizer in gas powered lawn equipment, ATVs, boats, motorcycles and generators.

4) RV furnace check-up

One LP gas appliance in your RV that gets overlooked during warm weather is the forced air furnace. Most service requirements for the furnace need to be accomplished by a reputable RV service center, but there are a few things the owner can do to prepare the furnace for cold weather operation. The battery plays an important role in the proper operation of the furnace. Keeping lead-acid batteries watered and fully charged will prevent many furnace related problems. Inspect the furnace ducting that is above floor level for any damage, like crushed ducting or obstructions that could affect the furnace operation. Make sure the furnace air return is not blocked or restricted. Make sure the LP gas cylinders or tank is full. Test the operation of the furnace before the day arrives when you actually need it.

RV 101 Tip: Have your LP gas system tested annually by a certified technician, for proper appliance operating pressure and leaks.

5) Inspect all safety devices in the RV

Make sure all the dry cell batteries in safety devices are good. Carbon Monoxide is deadly! Test the CO detector, LP gas leak detector and smoke alarm for proper operation every time you use your RV. Instruct individuals on symptoms and what to do if they are exposed to carbon monoxide, or if the LP gas leak detector alarm sounds.  Make sure you have a charged fire extinguisher on hand, and that you and other adults know how to operate it.

CO detector

RV 101 tip: Safety devices in RVs have expiration dates. Try to find the expiration date and write it on the front cover of the device as a reminder of when to replace it.

RV roof maintenance

6) Clean, inspect and re-seal your RV roof

Not that this is directly related to fall or winter use, but I like to inspect the roof twice a year, at a minimum, and I think spring and fall are good times of the year to make these checks.

Note: Exercise caution any time you work on the roof of your RV. The roof surface can be slippery and a fall can result in serious injury or worse.

Clean your RV roof with an approved cleaner for the type of roofing material your RV has. Every time you clean the roof, you need to inspect the sealants around all of the openings and the seams on the roof. Water will take the path of least resistance and if there is the smallest opening it will find it. Thoroughly inspect the roof sealants for potential leaks and reseal any areas of the roof seams and around openings where you suspect a leak. Make sure you use sealants compatible with your roofing material. Keep in mind that your warranty can be voided if you fail to perform some of these required inspections. Check your RV owner’s manual for roof inspection intervals. If you are not comfortable working on the RV roof, have the inspections done by a reputable RV service facility.

winterize RV plumbing system

7) Winterize the RV

In the event you don’t plan to use your RV during the fall and winter months, winterize the plumbing system to prevent freezing and prepare all other systems for short or long term storage.

If you want to winterize the RV yourself, but you’re not quite sure how to do it check out our Winterizing & Storing your RV video training course.

Happy Camping,
Mark Polk
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