Now that spring has come you’re probably itching to get your rig out of storage. Before you can hitch up and take off you have to undo everything you did when you winterized it, and now de-winterize your RV for spring! This may sound like a huge task but it’s really not too bad. The worst part of this is knowing you have to wait until it’s done so get it started and work your way through so you can be on your way.
Clean and Inspect the Exterior
One of the first parts of de-winterizing your RV is making sure that everything is in working order on the outside. You can do this while you clean all the dirt and grime off of it that has accumulated over the winter. Start with washing the outside by hand and pay attention as you go along. Look for cracks and dents and any breaks in any seals. It may be tempting to break out the power washer here but avoid that temptation. You can actually do a lot of damage to the paint and finish. There are some great gadgets out there that will help you get a good clean without working your fingers to the bone.
Inspect the Roof and Awning
The roof can become damaged from sap, branches falling on it, and general sun damage so you want to get up there and look it over. Repair any cracks you find and ensure you’re using the right product for the right kind of roof. You can’t use the same material for a rubber roof that you can a fiberglass or aluminum roof. Open up the AC cover and inspect the condenser fins for any damage. Clean or replace the return air filters, and run the air conditioning through a cooling cycle to check for unusual noises or vibrations.
Roll out your awning if you have one and make sure to clean it well. Dirt that collects on your awning can get into the mechanisms that retract it and cause it to get stuck. Once it’s good and clean inspect if for any damage or holes. Repair these right away as they can grow quickly and cause a huge issue.
Check the 12-Volt DC System
If you removed your batteries for the winter you can put them back in. Check the over for corrosion and clean, dry, and tighten the terminals. If the water level is low be sure to fill it up with distilled water and give it a full charge. Not giving your battery a full charge can lead to acid stratification and sulfation and can kill your battery fast. Hook up your battery and make sure it’s working properly.
Check the 120-Volt AC System
Now you want to ensure that the AC system is working. First check your main cord for any wear, rips, exposed wires, or oxidation. If the prongs have any oxidation on them, clean them up with a fine grit sand paper. If you find any damage to the cord, don’t try to repair it. Get a new one as using a damaged cord can be a safety hazard. After you test the polarity and voltage of the outlet, plug it in and head inside to check all the components in there.
Once your inside turn on all the breakers and plug in all your electrical components. Make sure all your outlets work and test everything out with a polarity tester to ensure nothing is amiss. Head into the bathroom and test the GCFI switch on the outlet. Check it with your polarity tester to ensure that when it trips that it is in fact turning off the electricity to it.
Clean the Fresh Water System
Now it’s time to get all the antifreeze out of your clean water system and sanitize it. You can reuse your antifreeze so get a bucket and catch it so you don’t have to buy more. Keep in mind that while the goal is to get it all out of there and sanitize the system, the RV antifreeze is non toxic so don’t panic at the thought of missing a little. It’ll make the water taste funny but it’s not going to make you sick.
After you have the antifreeze drained out, fill your fresh water tank or connect a hose to the system so you can start to flush the system. Open the bypass valve to the water heater and then start working your way through the RV, turning the faucets on and running until there is no more pink. Start with the faucet closes to the intake or fresh water tank, which is usually your kitchen sink. Don’t forget to flush the toilets and run the shower as well and as running any outside water connections for things like an exterior kitchen or shower.
You shouldn’t have had to put any antifreeze in the fresh water tank, but if you did, make sure to flush that out a few times as well and then check any filters or strainers you may have in your system. Now that you have the system flushed you want to sanitize it. You can do this with either an RV water system sanitizer or some bleach.
Cleaning the Grey and Black Tanks
Hopefully you did this before you put your RV in storage but you want to do it again just to freshen it up, sanitize it, and get anything you may have missed. After flushing your clean water system you should have plenty of water in the grey water holding tank, leave this there for now. You’re going to start with the black tank.
Hook your sewer valve up to the hose and drain in a suitable place. Hook up a hose to the sewage tank rinse valve and fill up the black tank. You want to ensure you get all the bleach water out so you may have to run through this a few times. Dump the tank and continue to flush it until the water runs clear. Close the valve and fill it up again. Dump it again and ensure that the water is still running clear. It’s possible for things to stick to the side of the tank so filling it completely and then emptying will help grab that stuff off of there. Now you can pull your grey valve, which will help clean out the hose before you have to put it away.
Once your tanks are clean and empty, add an enzyme based product to the black tank. The enzymes will help break down the waste so that the tank is easier to empty later.
Inspect your DOT cylinders or your permanently-mounted horizontal ASME tank. If a cap or plug was previously installed, remove it from the service valve. If a cap was not used, quickly open and close the service valve allowing the burst of LP pressure to blow away any contaminates that accumulated in the throat of the unprotected service valve. Next, connect the regulator the system. Then open the service valve and leak test the POL or ACME fitting. You can create a leak detector solution by mixing a solution of liquid soap and water. Spray the solution onto the LP fitting to check for leaks.
Remove any tape or foil previously applied to the furnace intake and exhaust vents, as well as the cardboard pieces at the water heater and refrigerator access doors/vents. Now you’re ready to inspect and clean your water heater, refrigerator, range, and furnace. An important step before lighting the appliances is to rid the system of air. You can do this by lighting a stove burner while you light the other appliances. Once you have verified they all work ok, ensure the LP pressure is set correctly. You should do this every camping season. If you do not own a manometer, I recommend taking your RV over to Lakeshore RV Center. Once that is out of the way, you can activate the LP leak detection device.
If your RV includes a generator, change the generator’s oil, air, and fuel filters. Be sure to also clean and lube the throttle linkage at all the pivot points. Next, use your hand to move the governor arm to make sure there is no binding, and log the hours on the hour meter. You should also clean and reinstall the spark plugs.
Now you’re ready to fire up the unit. Once it is running smoothly, allow it to power the RV. You can do this one of three ways:
1. Manually plug the shoreline into a 30-amp receptacle inside the RV
2. Manually throw a switch or manipulate a breaker
3. An automatic switching device makes the connection
4. Now turn on the roof air conditioner to put a larger load on the generator, and let it run at least 30 minutes. Before you shut down the generator, be sure to turn off your air conditioner first.
Extend the slide-outs and check your seals over for any damage. Clean and condition your seals and lubricate them if needed. Check your slides to ensure they are sliding evenly and that they are centered. Sometimes they can get knocked out of alignment and you may need to adjust them a bit. Next, lubricate the mechanism that slides it out. This may be a track along the side, or a rack and pinion under it. If you have hydraulic slides you won’t need to lubricate this part but you will want to make sure that the hydraulic fluid is topped off and that there are no leaks.
Check the Undercarriage
Crawl under the RV and check for any pests that may have made themselves a home. You also want to look for any rust issues that may be forming as well as any holes. If you have holes but not mice, it will only be a matter of time. Patch up any holes you find. Mice are crafty and only need a hole the size of a dime to get it so fill anything you find.
Check your Connections
If you have a trailer make sure to check all your connections for both electrical and at the hitch. Lube your hitch before you connect it to the tow vehicle and test your breaks. You want to ensure that you can stop, and that the people behind you will know that you’re about to stop!
If you have a motorhome you have a whole other area to check out and that’s all the mechanical components. Check, change, and fill any fluids such as the oil, transmission fluid, coolant, etc. Pay attention to your leveling system when you’re in there and ensure that if it’s hydraulic that it has fluid. Start it up and take if for a quick test drive to ensure everything is working properly. This may sound like a no brainer but make sure you keep the radio off during this time so that you can listen for any abnormal noises.