Not using your motorhome, RV or campervan during winter? Concerned about the cold weather and storing/ closing it down properly? You're in the right place- here's everything you need to do to prepare your vehicle for winter storage, winterise your motorhome and get a FREE checklist!
Ah winter… back so soon?
Although plenty of us continue to use our motorhomes, RVs and campers all year round, if you're NOT going to be using it for a few months (you know, due to something like a global lockdown…), then it's worth knowing how to shut down your vehicle properly to avoid unnecessary damage- AND stay compliant with your insurance.
It's easy to just lock the door and walk away, but there are a few things you should do to your camper before leaving it unused for a few months.
NOTE: If you are going to be driving in winter, be sure to winterise your motorhome properly AND brush up your knowledge on how to drive in heavy rain– it might just save your life!
*There may be affiliate links in this post, meaning if you click and make a purchase, we earn a small commission (from the seller- no cost to you) We are very selective about our partners and who we recommend- if we wouldn't recommend it to our family, we won't recommend it to you.
Why should you winterise your motorhome, RV or camper?
There are two main reasons we recommend following these winter motorhome storage tips.
The first is to avoid problems from the cold, like damp, mould and burst pipes. Most damage done to motorhomes occurs during the winter months- especially COLD winter months. Also, if you're planning to go motorhome skiing, here are 10 essential things you NEED to do and know before you go!
Cold weather can also cause problems with tyres, seals, engines and other essential parts! (If you want to avoid the possibility all together, you could always run away for the winter somewhere warm, like these 7 warmest places in Spain!)
The second reason to winterise your motorhome is to comply with many motorhome insurance policies, which often state that they will not cover damage caused by water freezing inside the motorhome systems (including heating) between November and March. (Check your insurance policy to know exactly what rules you need to comply with.)
What does winterizing your RV or motorhome mean?
Honestly, there are two meanings to ‘winterising a motorhome' (or winterizing for my overseas readers 🙃). The first is to prepare your vehicle for use during winter or cold weather, such as if you're going motorhome skiing.
The second is to prepare your vehicle for winter storage. In this article, we're talking about shutting down your RV, motorhome or camper for a few months, NOT how to safely use it in snow/ ice/ cold weather.
RV Motorhome Winter Shutdown Checklist
Shutting down your motorhome/ camper for winter?
Grab your FREE winter shutdown checklist here
When should you prepare your motorhome for winter storage?
I would recommend following these steps as soon as it starts to get frosty so you avoid potential problems, particularly if the weather is going to be approaching 0ºc and things might start to freeze! Obviously, this only applies if you're not going to be using your motorhome!
Where to store a motorhome for winter
These tips are useful regardless of where you store your motorhome– in a storage yard or on your driveway. Some things are easier to do at home and some may be forbidden in the motorhome storage unit (like draining down your system), but there are plenty of other places to get that done.
Also, if you want to keep your battery on charge, you may have to take it home with you if you don't store your motorhome/ camper on your drive- many motorhome storage units don't have or allow power supplies.
If you are storing your camper at home, make sure to fit some additional motorhome security devices– thefts of vehicles increase over winter, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
How do you store a motorhome for the winter?
Ok, deep breath. This may all sound overwhelming, but I promise it's not that bad. A little effort now will save a lot of trouble in a few months time.
Step 1- empty nearly everything!
- Empty out all perishables (food, drinks etc). We often leave our canned foods in the motorhome, but we do remove any fizzy drinks- just in case! Remember to remove spices, flour etc as these can attract bugs if left.
- Remove ALL linens and clothes. Anything which can easily mould. This includes coats, towels, bedding, mattress & seat cushions. Some people remove their curtains too- we never have but it's personal preference.
- We also remove toilet and kitchen rolls, which only go soggy if left behind.
- All personal hygiene soaps, liquids and sanitary protection
- Take out ALL valuables, especially electronics. Remove sat-navs, speakers, torches, battery lights, fairy lights- we often find the battery terminals can corrode if left too long in the cold/ damp.
- Remove paperwork. You can leave owners manual in if you wish, but there's a chance it could get damaged.
Step 2- what can I leave in my RV over the winter?
It's ok to leave some things inside your motorhome/ RV/ camper over winter. Admittedly, some things will depend upon whether or not you're leaving it plugged in and leaving heating on, but here's a helpful guide for you of things we leave in the van over winter:
- Pots/ pans (cleaned!)
- Crockery/ cutlery/ glassware (cleaned!)
- Cleaning supplies (you can choose to remove the liquids if you wish. We never have, but then we don't live anywhere it gets REALLY cold)
- Some people choose to leave their first aid kit/ medicines. We choose to remove ours, but that's only so we can use it over winter if we need to
- Generator (drained)
- Dog bowls/ toys (because you just know I'll forget them otherwise!) – Here's a list of our essential dog road trip accessories
- Smoke alarm/ Carbon monoxide detector (yes, with batteries in. Just in case)
Can I leave a TV in my RV motorhome over winter?
Yes. There is no reason to remove your TV EXCEPT for the fact that thieves could target it. We don't carry a TV, but here are some of the best 12v motorhome TVs on the market if you want to treat yourself for Christmas.
RV Motorhome winterization tips- cleaning
- Once everything is out, give it all a REALLY good clean, inside and out! This is a good time to apply a coat or two of wax to the outside.
- Check awnings are totally dry before storing them away
- Check fridge/ freezer are empty & clean. Leave the door hooked ajar (there's often a locking setting on the fridge door catch which you can pull out to leave it ajar)
- Prevent against condensation & mould. Leave all lockers, cupboards, wardrobes etc ajar. There's an entire post on how we stop condensation in our motorhome here.
Winterising a camper tips- Top things up!
Once you've emptied and cleaned, think about the things you are leaving behind, and top up any fluids which will be staying in the vehicle, including:
- LPG Gas cylinders. Refill Gaslow cylinders if you have them. If you have exchangeable cylinders, it might be best to remove them completely and store them at home (yes, you're going to lose your spare bedroom for the winter!). This is also a good time to TURN OFF all gas bottles and also the main supply into the motorhome.
- Put Anti-freeze in engine (we'll get to using antifreeze inside your motorhome plumbing in a bit)
- Engine Oil
- Motorhome Fuel
- Check tyre pressure (also check tread and make sure there is no cracking/ damage before winter starts- cold weather won't help that at all!)
Motorhome Winter Storage Tips- How to drain down the RV
DISCLAIMER: This is a generic guide. Most motorhome systems are very similar, but please do check your owner's manual before following these steps. If in doubt, ask your dealership or a local garage for advice on your specific model.
- Empty ALL systems over a suitable drainage point. (If you can angle your motorhome to get as much as possible out, even better!)
- Make sure you have emptied: freshwater, wastewater, water heater tank and toilet flush (if separate from freshwater) (Make sure your toilet is empty too…!) You may prefer to buy a water heater bypass kit instead.
- Open all internal taps (yep, while over the drain)- LEAVE these open all winter.
- If you have a mixer tap, open it in the middle so both sides are on.
- If you have inline water filters, disconnect and empty these.
- Leave the water pump running until taps run dry (then turn it off quickly to avoid pump burnout)
- Remove the showerhead and drain water from the hose. Leave the hose hanging onto the bathroom drain (if you have a wetroom/ shower room) or a bowl if you have carpet.
- Check underneath the motorhome and make sure the u-bends are as empty as possible (this is normally where the shower u-bends are)
- If possible, go for a quick drive to bump things around and make sure everything is as clear of water as possible.
Winterize drain down Kit for RVs, Motorhomes and Campers
For the best results, you need to push air through the system to get all the water out. This is the best kit we've found.
Should you use antifreeze when preparing your motorhome for winter storage?
If you don't use a drainage kit like the one above, there may be some water left in your ‘u' bends. You can add a little antifreeze down the plughole to help stop this freezing (especially in sinks and to the toilet cistern.)
Should you use RV motorhome antifreeze in the freshwater tank?
DON'T add antifreeze to your freshwater pipe unless it's special RV motorhome antifreeze which is non-toxic!!! This is a safe non-toxic antifreeze to use in drinking water systems.
Winter RV Motorhome Tips- Battery winter storage & care
First, make sure both your leisure battery and your engine battery are fully charged.
Engine batteries tend to fare better in winter, but leisure batteries, especially those housed in external lockers, often fail in cold weather.
This can be caused by the age of the battery, but can often be caused if the temperature drops very low. Try and avoid this by leaving the leisure battery on a trickle charge, such as from a solar panel, or you can even remove the battery completely and store it at home for the winter.
NOTE: Even if stored at home, batteries will need top-up charging every 4-6 weeks to prevent problems.
Should you cover your RV motorhome in winter?
If you're storing your RV, motorhome or campervan outside during the winter, the short answer is yes, absolutely cover it- if you can. The more layers of insulation the motorhome has, the better.
If you can't store it indoors, then a full motorhome cover like this is the next best thing. Be warned- they are NOT easy to put on!!
Some people just choose to cover their windscreen- and you might choose to leave your wiper blades hinged away from the windscreen so they can't freeze in place.
Preparing your RV motorhome for winter- other tips
- If you are able to connect to power, leave a small heater on low/ night time setting to guard against freezing.
- Fit exterior vents to fridges
- You can spray a little WD-40 on catches, locks and some electrics to prevent rust or corrosion.
- Ensure all protective systems are working ok- alarms, trackers etc. You may wish to install extra security measures- winter is a common time for thieves to strike.
Don't forget to grab your FREE RV motorhome winter storage checklist
Shutting down your motorhome/ camper for winter?
Grab your FREE winter shutdown checklist here
Protect your motorhome from rodents- The biscuit test!
It's a sad fact that a motorhome or campervan left alone for a while will attract various animals looking for a home. Mice, rats and spiders can all move in during your absence.
One of the best tricks we've heard of is the biscuit test.
Put a tiny piece of biscuit on the floor in the motorhome when you leave it for winter. If it's still there when you return, you don't have any mice or rats as residents!
Sadly, we don't have any good tricks to deter spiders. Conkers, laundry sheets and blocking holes with tissue may help- but don't forget you need to leave some ventilation into the van… which means holes. Vicious circle, unfortunately.
How to store a motorhome for winter- Things to do DURING winter
Once your motorhome is prepared and tucked away for the winter, you need to do the following at least once a month if possible:
- Check on your motorhome
- Start the engine and ideally go for a short drive
- Turn the air-conditioning on (ideally, while you're driving.) I know, it's winter, and cold, but this really helps keep the system ticking over for whenever you next need it.
- Move the vehicle slightly so it's not constantly on the same patch of tyre. Alternatively, use tyre savers to take the weight off, especially if your motorhome is over 3.5 tonnes.
- Tyre covers can be useful too to protect the brake discs.
While we're on the subject of tyres, check (and open) your spare wheel casing if you have one. Many people never do this and the lock corrodes, meaning you can't access the spare tyre when you need to!
I hope the above helps you prepare for winter storage. If in doubt, please do contact a garage or motorhome dealer for advice on your specific model.
Want more motorhome tips? You can find them all here
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