8 Steps to Rev Up Your RV After Winter Storage

Ready to hit the road again this summer? Read our pro tips and practical steps to safely take your RV out of storage. 

Many Recreational vehicle (RV) owners choose to put away their RVs in winter because they don’t want to drive on icy roads, in low-visibility conditions, or worry about extra maintenance on the road. There are more things to consider when traveling by RV during winter and some owners don’t want to deal with them, so they “winterize” their RVs, getting them ready to go into storage for the season. 

Now that spring is here and things are warming up, it’s the perfect time to get back out on the open road and see the natural beauty of this great country. Wait a minute though, not so fast! Since your RV has been sitting in storage, it’s going to need a complete inspection before taking it back out there. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered with this guide of eight practical steps to safely taking your RV out of storage and making it ready for travel again.

An essential post-storage checklist

Your RV’s post-storage condition will depend on the exposure it received while not in use and how long it was out of action. You should always give your RV a thorough inspection after it’s been sitting in storage even if you followed all the proper steps before storing it. 

Not all RVs are going to be in the same condition as when they went into storage, especially if they’ve been sitting there for a long time. If you stored your RV indoors, it should have softened the impact of typical problems that can happen. If you left it outdoors, there could be a bit more damage due to increased elemental exposure and a higher chance of various critters like rats and bugs getting in. 

Checking off the post-storage checklist is best done sooner rather than later regardless of your storage method. This allows a comfortable amount of time to make any necessary adjustments or repairs and still meet your desired departure schedule. Let’s get started. 

Check the tires

What can happen to your RV’s tires during winter storage? The weight of an RV bearing down on them for an extended period can wear out their tread while internal and/or external environmental conditions can slowly eat away at their metal and rubber. Tire pressure troubles are also more common during cold days when lower temperatures cause air pressure to decrease sharply.

Check for visible issues on the RV’s tires and use tools if necessary. Visible problems include swelling, blistering, cracking/cuts, and debris that could be stuck in the treads. Check the tread depth with a ruler (you should have more than 2/32 of an inch tread depth remaining) and use a pressure gauge to check that the tires are properly inflated. Consult a mechanic for a more thorough inspection if necessary and don’t hesitate to repair or replace weak tires to prevent dangerous accidents.

Test the power sources

An RV’s batteries naturally run down during storage. Turn off the power and take protective measures before testing the battery (here’s a good guide on doing that). Once you test the battery’s health, you can restore the power and check how well onboard appliances and lighting are responding. Three great tools for easier electrical testing are a multimeter, a non-contact voltage tester, and a clamp meter.

You should also inspect the propane supply for cracks or leaks in the tank, seals, or hoses; just make sure to turn off all propane-linked appliances before doing so.

Next, it’s essential to test the charge on all onboard smoke, carbon monoxide, and propane detectors. These are legally required for all RVs and could save lives so take a moment to replace tired batteries or inspect voltage system connections.

Inspect the roof

An RV stored outside in the winter could have roof damage from accumulated snow and ice. An RV stored inside can also see issues like rust or age-related deterioration on everything from aluminum (which is very heavy by itself) to rubber.

Roof damage is typically easy to see in the forms of rips, cracks, sagging/soft spots, or discoloration. You should also check the RV’s interior where any walls and fittings meet the roofline. These locations may also be showing signs of strain which can be indicators of a struggling roof.

An especially important thing to know before reviewing the condition of your RV’s roof is if it’s walkable. One rule of thumb is that RVs with a ladder indicate that you’re welcome to walk around up there. No ladder can mean “no-go.” Check the user manual or call the manufacturer or dealership first and be extra careful about roof weight limits.

Clean the interior and exterior

Smart pre-storage steps don’t necessarily stop common RV storage issues like mold and mildew which can crop up due to excess moisture and humidity. Some safe cleaning inside and out can fix these two problems. The RV’s exterior can be cleaned using gentle car soap and a sponge and hose. Be cautious with power washing, however; this may cause exterior and roof damage to some RVs. Pay special attention to door and window seals as you wash the exterior because they may reveal leaks.

Next, on the inside, wash drawers, surfaces, floors, and fabrics, and wipe off shower stalls and fridges. Your RV owner’s manual should have advice on recommended cleaning products and precautions.

You’ll definitely also want to check for rodents on the inside as they like to burrow their way in if they can. Mice and squirrels are fond of RVs for two reasons: rigs provide a warm, enclosed space and they’re full of things to nibble on, ranging from wiring to food you could’ve left inside.

Look for telltale signs of rodents onboard like droppings, holes, and gnawed spots. A rodent-centric deep cleaning of the RV should remove associated health risks while the furry squatters themselves should also be evicted. This helpful guide on rodent-proofing an RV could prevent the problem from happening again.

Inspect water and waste sources

Every RV owner knows that having the water and waste systems running smoothly is essential. Look for any leaks that winter storage may have caused in your water pipes by turning on showers and faucets. Next, double-check all waste system tanks and their associated parts for cracks and leaks.

Adding non-toxic antifreeze to the water system is common (especially before cold weather storage) so you’ll also want to get all traces of it out of your system before taking off on the road. A reliable way to do this is simply to use the water pump to run fresh water through all of the pipes and tanks until it flows clear from all exit points like toilets, showers, and faucets.

It’s essential to properly select where the antifreeze runoff goes. It can’t simply be dumped on the ground or down the nearest drain. A best practice is running it off into tubs and seeking out the nearest antifreeze disposal spot near you. This might mean dropping it off at a service center or auto parts store which can often dispose of it safely.

Alternatively, you could use a local landfill if they have the right disposal procedures or type your zip code into Earth 911’s antifreeze disposal locator which will also help you responsibly dispose of other potentially hazardous materials.

Lubricate the "joints"

An RV coming out of storage is leaving hibernation. It’s going to be stiff and need some loosening up before getting back to work. Hinges, latches, jacks, and handles will all benefit from a quick spritz of some WD-40 or lubricating products like it. This will keep these parts working smoothly during your upcoming trips.

Check the undercarriage

Look underneath your RV for signs of trouble like cracks, holes, and leaks. These can be filled with expanding insulating foam or silicone. Shoring up the undercarriage’s integrity like this will also help prevent rodents from getting in. Don’t forget to check for rust, which can be a side effect of cold storage. Rust can be removed and prevented using a wire brush or specialized product followed by rust-resistant paint. Again, be sure to wear protective eye, mouth, and skin gear.

Take a short test drive

You should test drive your RV after its inspection. A quick drive can reveal post-storage issues that visual or hardware checks might miss. Feeling how the RV handles itself in motion could highlight things like vibration or weight imbalance which might indicate improper wheel alignment.

You might also hear squeaking, grinding, or rattling while on the road which could indicate anything from a loose vent to a shaky slide bar. Get back to your base and consult a mechanic if you can’t confidently locate the source of any odd sounds.

Now that you’ve read this list, we hope that you’re ready to get that RV out of storage and get back on the open road! Doing an inspection first is vital for everyone’s safety and the life of your RV, so make sure to properly prepare your wagon of fun before you go on a trip. 

Be sure to check in regularly on all the smart tips and advice we have to offer. Our expert insight ranges from practical advice on living the RV life to financial guidance and maintenance to help keep your RV insured and running smoothly. We’re happy to help you live the dream! 

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