Not every traveler ventures forth in an RV during the winter months, and even those who do may lack the means to shelter it beneath a roof within a heated sanctuary. Preparing and safeguarding an RV for the winter season occupies the thoughts of many a nomad, particularly if it involves their maiden voyage in a pristine, newly acquired abode on wheels. Although the task may initially appear intricate, and the terms of the warranty often explicitly state that it does not extend to damages resulting from improper operation, including inadequate winterization of the mobile dwelling, the entire process can be distilled into a few straightforward measures.
The paramount and obligatory steps to ready the RV for winter encompass:
- Draining the water from the tanks;
- Emptying the boiler of water;
- Purging the system of water;
- Opening the faucets and leaving them in this position throughout winter;
- Cleansing and drying the toilet (including flushing the reservoir);
- Sanitizing the refrigerator and leaving it ajar;
- Charging and disconnecting the auxiliary battery;
- Cleansing the interior of the camper;
- Preparing the vehicle for frigid conditions (checking the tires, replenishing fuel, topping up windshield washer fluid).
In the subsequent sections, we shall expound upon each of these measures and elucidate their relative significance.
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How to drain water from an RV?
It is crucial to bear in mind that even a brief exposure to frigid temperatures can wreak havoc upon an RV. Consequences stemming from the freezing of water within the system tend to be arduous to rectify and entail exorbitant repair expenses. Above all, the formation of ice within the pipelines can precipitate cracks and compromise the system’s integrity, particularly at the junctions. These vulnerable points often elude detection, necessitating the laborious disassembly of various components. Faucets, too, frequently fall victim to damage, resulting in insidious leaks. However, the most dire scenario unfolds when the hot water boiler succumbs to harm, an event that can amount to several thousand zlotys in replacement costs.
Henceforth, it behooves us to commence the preparations for the winter season by expelling the water from all its reservoirs and conduits.
The most straightforward approach, of course, involves emptying the gray water, a task that we routinely undertake. The gray water tank typically resides beneath the chassis (or within the interstitial space if the camper boasts a dual-floor construction). To thoroughly drain this tank, it is advisable to incline the vehicle towards the outlet. Achieving this can be facilitated through the use of leveling chocks.
The clean water tank, on the other hand, possesses its own valve that necessitates opening. The drain outlet is commonly positioned directly beneath the tank, with the water cascading away from the camper.
In the vicinity of the boiler, such as the Truma Combi, one typically encounters two valves. The first, known as the “antifrost” valve, serves as an automatic safeguard against freezing. It activates automatically when the ambient temperature plummets below 5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, it can be manually released by disengaging the lock.
Most manufacturers incorporate a secondary valve for the manual drainage of the boiler, a task that should be performed prior to the arrival of winter.
To expel the water from the system lines, one simply needs to unseal all the taps. In faucets equipped with a mixer, the valve is initially opened as though intending to release hot water, followed by the cold. The unscrewing of the faucet is often accompanied by a resonating suction. Ultimately, the faucets are positioned midway, betwixt the realms of hot and cold, and left ajar for the entire duration of the camper’s winter hibernation.
The culmination of the obligatory steps entails “draining” the water pump. After completely purging the tank of water, a brief activation of the pump suffices—a mere matter of seconds. This serves to expel any residual water ensconced within its interior.
Let us not overlook the toilet’s requisites. Emptying, cleansing, or at the very least rinsing the cassette itself, along with the interior of the bowl, is imperative. However, the utmost importance lies in emptying the cistern, if the camper is furnished with one. In the event of toilets boasting a cistern equipped with a solenoid valve, the valve should be opened for a spell, following the removal of water from the system.
A noteworthy aspect of the installation is the pumping station, though not all RVs are equipped with one. Typically employed for the purpose of extracting water from the shower tray, the pumping station finds utility in vehicles where gravity alone is insufficient for drainage. The RV owner’s manual will delineate the pumping station’s whereabouts, divulge the path of access (where the inspection flap resides), and impart instructions on its unsealing for drainage.
Among the optional endeavors, though not obligatory, we may consider cleansing the clean water tank (which usually features a cap atop that can be unscrewed to grant access to its interior). Those in possession of a compressor may also avail themselves of the opportunity to purify the system through the force of compressed air, thereby ensuring the near-complete elimination of water from the conduits. Driving the camper for a distance is another option worth noting. The jolts and pressure fluctuations that arise when the windows are opened aid in the expulsion of residual water from the system. Moreover, it is a fairly common practice to inundate the system with ecologically friendly glycol-based fluids. While they guarantee the prevention of any freezing within the camper during winter, it is crucial to remember to thoroughly flush the entire installation in spring to expunge them entirely.
Interior, awning, gas…
Having eliminated the water, we may proceed with the subsequent stages entailed in readying the RV for the winter season.
In order to forestall unwelcome visits from vermin, all provisions and food remnants ought to be removed from the kitchen cabinets. Employing scented repellents can also prove advantageous. The refrigerator should be switched off, meticulously cleansed, and left ajar, thereby averting the proliferation of mold and unpleasant odors within its inner sanctum.
Unfurling the awning and conducting a thorough inspection to ensure its dryness is a prudent course of action. Prior to rolling it up and consigning it to winter slumber, it is advisable to thoroughly dry it and, if necessary, cleanse it with specialized products.
Either extracting the gas cylinder from the motor home or ensuring its valve is firmly closed and, preferably, detached, is recommended. While gas alone poses a minimal risk in winter, it is judicious to store the cylinder in a designated rack, outdoors and removed it from our camper as well as other vehicles occupying nearby spaces.
The battery of the residential part
Prior to winter, it is prudent to ensure that the leisure battery is fully charged, followed by its disconnection from the system. Typically, the primary power switch can be found in close proximity to the battery in most RVs. Failing to disconnect the battery will inevitably result in its discharge during the winter hiatus. Even when all appliances are switched off, numerous electronic components lie dormant, quietly siphoning minuscule amounts of energy. This may not be of concern during regular use; however, prolonged periods of inactivity, particularly in frigid temperatures, will precipitate battery depletion.
Alternatively, if feasible, one may opt to periodically connect the camper to a 230-volt mains supply every few weeks. Allowing for a duration of 12 to 24 hours should sufficiently replenish the battery’s charge. Naturally, in such a scenario, it is imperative to keep the primary power switch activated.
Preparing the car part of the camper for winterization
In addition to attending to the camping aspect, it is imperative to also tend to the vehicle itself. To commence, we initiate by scrutinizing the tire pressure. Prolonged parking with insufficient pressure may result in irreversible tire deformation. Such compromised wheels cannot be adequately rebalanced at a later stage.
It is advisable to replenish the fuel tank to its maximum capacity, preferably with winter-grade fuel. By filling it “up to the brim,” we thwart the condensation of moisture from the air, thus preventing its ingress into the fuel system. Furthermore, in the event that we need to operate the camper during extremely cold weather, we can evade the risks and predicaments associated with the crystallization of paraffin in diesel fuel.
Let us also bear in mind the addition of winter-specific windshield washer fluid. Should remnants of summer fluid remain within the camper, it is best to acquire a concentrate from a service station, pour it directly into the reservoir, drive a short distance to ensure thorough mixing, and employ the windshield washers to expel any remnants of summer fluid from the nozzles.
After situating the RV at the winterization site, it is prudent to remove the car battery and transport it home. Concurrently, it is essential to note that upon disconnecting the battery, the central locking system ceases to function. Thus, it is advisable to first ascertain the method of manually locking the vehicle using the key. In our case, prior to battery disconnection, the procedure entailed locking the car from within using the remote control, subsequently detaching and extracting the battery, exiting through the driver’s door, and finally securing it with the key.