How to De-Winterize a Camper | GoRollick
Written by; Carolyn Jackson
The trees are turning green, the flowers are popping their heads up out of the ground, the birds are chirping again, it’s not pitch black at 5pm! These are all signs of winter turning to spring — which means it’s almost RV season.
If you live in a climate that gets into freezing temperatures throughout the winter months, you likely took some proactive steps to protect your Camper from the harsh weather by winterizing it. Usually winterizing a Camper relies heavily on flushing all your water systems with antifreeze to prevent freezing in the pipes. It also usually includes steps like removing the battery, taking out some filters, and bypassing the water heater.
Once the weather is starting to consistently warm up, you will need to de-winterize your Camper before you can take it out on the road again. No one wants to accidentally shower in antifreeze.
In this article, we are going to take you step-by-step through the process of de-winterizing your Camper so you can get back out there making memories with your friends and family.
● If you winterize your Camper, you will also need to de-winterize it before you can safely use it again in the spring/summer
● Wait to de-winterize your Camper until you feel very confident temperature will remain entirely above freezing for the rest of the season
● Use the de-winterization process for routine maintenance and survey your entire RV for anything that is broken or needs to be repaired professionally before taking it on a long trip
Table of Contents
What is a Camper?
Campers are categorized by their lightweight, economical, and small frame. This type of RV is often referred to as a Class B Motorhome in the RV industry.
Class B Campers are usually well suited for 2-4 travelers and multi-week trips. Class B Camper RVs are significantly smaller than other types of RVs such as Class As, Travel Trailers or Fifth Wheels. Because of their smaller size, they might have less amenities than other types of RVs, but that does not mean they are any less comfortable or capable.
Class B Camper Vans are RVs that you drive, not tow. This gives the travelers more freedom to move about the cabin as they are traveling and they do not need to worry about access to a tow vehicle or learning how to drive a rig with a large RV in tow.
Class B’s are easy to drive as they aren’t significantly different in size from a utility van (think an Airport Transportation Van or a van you would see for an electrician, plumber, or internet worker). They are typically between 18 and 24 feet in length.
Class B’s are maneuverable and notably fuel efficient compared to their RV counterparts. Class B’s offer a living space that is tight but efficient, they do not have slide outs, but still have all the amenities you would expect from an RV. You can expect to see a small galley kitchen, a small refrigerator, a small bathroom with a toilet and shower, at least 1 full bed, a dining area, and AC/Heat.
Pro Tip: Class B RVs can come with either gas or diesel engines. Class Bs generally get 12-25 miles per gallon.
If you are interested in Motorhomes, but are looking for something a little bigger or more robust than a Class B, check out some of these articles on other types of Motorhomes:
If you are interested in a towable RV but are looking for something a little bigger or more robust than an Expandable Camper, check out some of these articles on other types of towable RVs:
The Importance of De-Winterizing Your Camper
Simply put, it is very important. If you winterize your camper, (yourself or have someone else do it) you will need to take some active steps to de-winterize it before you hit the road again. Winterization is preparing your Camper for the colder months when you will not be using it. De-winterization is when you get your Camper back in ready-to-use condition. Usually, this includes reconnecting anything that has been disconnected or left open or unplugged.
The biggest note for de-winterization is to flush all the antifreeze that was added during the winterization process. The antifreeze is essential for keeping your RV safe and in good condition throughout the colder months, but it is essential to get it all out of your RV’s water system before you use it again.
Antifreeze is used to protect your RV’s plumbing and tank systems from cracks, bursts, rust, or rot. Essentially, antifreeze prevents any liquid from freezing. If there is liquid remaining in the RV’s water system when it freezes, it expands, which can cause pipes, hoses, drains, or tanks to crack under pressure. And then when the temperature spikes and the frozen liquid melts, that water leaks into unwanted areas, causing major and potentially costly damage. The entire goal of winterization is to avoid this from happening through the use of draining water and replacing it with antifreeze.
In addition to removing any antifreeze from your Camper’s water system, tanks, hoses, and drains, de-winterization also is a great time to perform regular maintenance and health checks for your RV. Usually, you can use the de-winterization process to check your battery, tires, appliances, plumbing, roof, electrical system, etc.
Can I Pay Someone to De-Winterize My Camper for Me?
Yes, you can! Most RV maintenance and repair shops will gladly take your money to perform the de-winterization processes mentioned above. However, we can confidently say these are all tasks you can learn quickly and easily through a little research and practice.
As long as you have the time and physical ability, we recommend doing it yourself if possible. You will learn a lot about your RV, keep a good pulse on its health and stay on top of any potential problem areas. You will get better and better at de-winterizing your RV as you do it multiple years in a row as well.
However, if you do discover any issues such as water damage, broken pipes, leaky tanks, cracks, etc. This is a good reason to bring your RV into a mechanic. You can still perform the routine steps of the de-winterization process, but if you are not a skilled mechanic, we recommend leaving the diagnosis of potentially serious problems to the professionals.
When Should I De-Winterize My Camper?
Once temperatures are consistently above freezing, it is safe to begin de-winterizing your camper. The exact time of year will depend on where you live and the weather patterns and predictions for that year. If you are at all worried about a late freeze and you do not have a temperature-controlled or indoor location to store your Camper, it is best to wait a bit longer.
The main goal for winterization is to ensure your Camper stays dry and that no water freezes in the pipes or plumbing system. Freezing water expands and can crack, damage, or burst pipes and tanks. Then, when the water melts, it can leak and cause even more damage. This is why the winterization process relies heavily on antifreeze.
The de-winterization process flushes your Camper’s plumbing system and water tanks of all the antifreeze, so if you do experience a late freeze and did not have that protection all the effort you put into winterizing your Camper could be futile.
List of Items Needed to De-Winterize a Camper
To de-winterize your camper to get it ready for your next big adventure you will need a few simple supplies to get started:
Steps to De-Winterize a Camper
When you are ready to de-winterize your camper, the first thing is to do a thorough inspection of the entire RV, inside and out. This inspection is the first step and includes a few parts:
Step 1: Do a Full Interior and Exterior Inspection
Take some time to look at the chassis, roof, engine, battery, and any exterior panels, pumps, valves, faucets or other exterior parts on the outside. Then, on the inside, look for any water damage, rust, leaking, mold, mildew, bugs (dead or alive), etc.
Exterior Inspection Steps
● Check the roof for leaks or damage: If you do not store your RV in a covered garage, this is extremely important, even if you have a cover on the RV throughout the winter. Look for cracks, leaks, and rust. Check the AC unit and make sure the sealant is still in place.
● Check the tire pressure: tires tend to lose pressure when it’s cold outside, so use a tire pressure gauge to check each tire and note which ones need to be re-inflated. You can expect the tires to lose approximately 2-3 PSI per month of sitting in the cold. Also, make sure to give your tires a general survey for any cracks, tears, or other issues — including the spare tire!
● Check any exterior appliances: If your Camper has an outside grill, griddle, electric awning, or shower, make sure you spend some time examining each of these appliances to A) make sure they still work and B) they do not have any damage from the cold weather.
Interior Inspection Steps
● Turn the power back on and make sure all the appliances work, the ac works, the electronics work, etc.
○ Ice maker
○ Any awning slides
○ Anything else that uses electricity to run
● Check for any water leaks, damage, mold, mildew, bugs, etc. — take pictures of any damage so you can keep an eye on it in case it continues to get worse or change at all. If you do see any water damage, we highly recommend taking your Camper into your local RV mechanic to have a look and diagnose the problem before you take your RV out.
● Turn on the RV and make sure the engine turns and everything works as expected — check the dashboard and other electronic components that are turned on when the engine is running such as the dash display, heat and AC, headlights and windshield wipers, turn signals, if there is a built-in touch-screen display, etc.
● Check the Generator’s oil level and perform any routine maintenance for the generator as recommended by its owner’s manual. Be sure to take a look at the generator exhaust system for any damage prior to starting the generator.
Step 2: Check and Replace the Battery(s)
You should have disconnected and stored the battery in a cool, dry place over the winter. You can check its charge with a voltmeter. The reading should show a voltage anywhere between 12.4 and 12.8 (for a 12-volt battery). If it shows a voltage above 12.8, you will need to drain some of that excess power by doing something like turning on your high beams for a bit. If your voltmeter has an output lower than 12.4, you will need to charge your battery.
How to Check Your Battery’s Voltage:
To check the battery, take off the battery’s positive terminal cover and attach the voltmeter’s positive lead to the positive lead on the battery and the voltmeter’s negative lead to the negative lead on the battery.
How to Know When to Replace Your Camper’s Battery:
● Check the level of fluid (electrolyte) inside. If there is low to no electrolyte inside the battery, you will need to replace it. You can replenish the electrolyte in the battery if it is not completely dried up. If the battery has no electrolyte it has to be replaced. If the battery has very little electrolyte, then you can replenish it.
○ Pour the replacement electrolyte solution into each battery vent until each battery cell contains enough solution to reach the bottom of the “fill” mark. Then, put the battery vent caps back on.
● If the outside of the battery is enlarged or distorted in any way, the cells are likely damaged and you will need to replace the battery.
● If you see any fluid leaking from the battery, this means your battery has been damaged and it will need to be replaced.
● If you see any signs of corrosion on the battery cells or on the exterior of the battery, this is a sign that you might need a replacement. Corrosion or rust can impact your battery’s power output. You can check it’s voltage and if it is within the realm of a healthy battery, you can keep an eye on it. However, if it is outside the range, you might need a replacement.
Pro Tip: RV owners usually see 5-7 years of use out of each battery, if they are properly maintained and cared for.
Step 3: Flush Your Camper’s Water System
This is the most important step of the de-winterization process. Access to clean water is one of the biggest perks of RV life, especially when you are on the road, you use it for everything from cooking, to cleaning, drinking, and bathing. When you winterized your Camper in the fall, you likely flooded the Camper’s water system with antifreeze to protect it from the cold. Now, you need to get all that antifreeze out so the water is clean and safe to use.
If you added antifreeze directly to your Camper’s freshwater tank, the first step is to drain this tank and then add freshwater back into the tank.
After replenishing the freshwater tank, here is what to do next:
1. Turn the water pump on
2. Open up all the faucets (hot and cold) on the interior and exterior of the camper
a. Showers, faucets, valves, everything
3. Let the water run through the system for 3-5 minutes
4. Once you notice the water running out of the pipes is clear (no pink tint), you can close all the faucets and turn off the water pump
Pro Tip: If you do not want to use your RV’s Water Pump for the flushing process, you can also use a regular garden hose. Just attach the hose to your water hookup instead of turning on the RV water pump and follow the same instructions.
5. Then, you will need to undo the water heater bypass you performed during winterization. Usually this is as easy as turning a handle, but you will likely need to remove a panel to access the water heater.
6. Make sure you replace any water filters you removed and stored for the winter.
7. Lastly, you will need to dump you black and gray water tanks at an official dump site. For more information about how to dump and clean these two tanks, see our article on RV Toilets.
Pro Tip: After you flush the water system, the water may still have a funny taste. If you notice this, try pouring baking soda in the drains and running the water for another few minutes to neutralize that bad taste.
Step 4: Sanitize Your Water System
Next, you will need to sanitize the water system to ensure it is safe for drinking and cooking from the antifreeze that sat there over the winter. Sanitizing your water system also gets rid of any bacteria, mold, or other debris that could have grown or built up over the winter. To sanitize your water system you will need to:
1. Close all the drains and install drain plugs
2. For every 15 gallons of water your freshwater tank hold, measure out 1 quarter cup of bleach.
a. Example: Freshwater tank capacity = 30 gallons. You will need 30 ¼ cups of bleach, or 7.5 cups of bleach
3. Pour the bleach into a large bucket and fill to the top with water
4. Add the bleach mixture to the freshwater tank
5. Then, fill the freshwater tank to the top with regular drinking water
6. Turn on the water pump and open up all the interior and exterior faucets, valves, and hoses
7. Run the water until you can smell the bleach from the faucets
8. Let this sit for 6-12 hours in the Camper’s system
a. Make sure no one uses the Camper’s water at this time
9. After the waiting period, drain all the water from the Camper
10. Now, refill the freshwater tank with regular drinking water
11. Flush the system once again (all internal and external faucets, valves, and hoses)
12. Let the water run until you no longer smell bleach
Pro Tip: An important part of this process is the waiting period. This allows the bleach mixture to sit in your water lines and to eat away at any harmful bacteria or buildup. But be careful, letting the bleach mixture sit too long can damage your plumbing lines and hoses. Do not let it sit for more than 12 hours.
Step 5: Do a Once-Over for Any Damage
After the big ticket items in step one, do a second once-over to inspect you entire RV for any non-essential damage. Check for things like:
● Chips in the paint
● Cracks in the windshield
● Check to see if any exterior window seals are loose
● Check the inside again for any signs of water damage (old or new)
Step 6: Do a Full Clean of the Camper’s Interior and the Exterior
This step isn’t super fun, but it also isn’t super difficult. After sitting in storage for a while, your Camper is in desperate need of a good scrub down.
● Clean all the surfaces on the inside to get rid of dust, build-up, rust, mold or mildew, dirt, grime, etc.
● Clean out the fridge, check the oven/stove/microwave for build-up, check washer and dryer for any bad smells or dirt/grime
● Vacuum the floors
● Mop hard surfaces with warm soapy water
● Dust the ceilings, walls, and surfaces for cobwebs and dust
● Windex the windows, shower doors, mirrors, etc.
● Wash the entire exterior of the RV (this RV cleaning kit gives you everything you need in one place to give your Camper the best wash yourself)
○ Don’t forget to wash the wheels!
● Wipe down the dash, steering wheel, driver and passenger seats, etc.
● Make sure you clean the roof of the RV too
Now you can pat yourself on the back because you just de-winterized your Camper! Barring any major problems uncovered, you are now ready to get back out there and hit the open road for your next getaway.
If you are looking for some exciting places you travel, check out our Top 10 RV Parks in the USA.
Where to Buy a Camper
If you are interested in purchasing a Class B Camper RV, you have quite a few options for where to purchase your dream RV. If you are interested in a new Camper, finding a RV dealer in your area or reaching out directly to your manufacturer of interest is the best place to start.
If you are open to new and used, you can check some of these places for available inventory:
Just like cars, motorcycles and boats, new RVs are sold through franchised RV dealers. Simply head to google and search for Class B RV dealers in your area. Remember, most dealers will only sell one or two brands, so consider deciding which brand you want to purchase before visiting a dealership.
If you are feeling ready to search inventory, we recommend you start with GoRollick’s nationwide network of new and used inventory.
GoRollick works with the best dealers in the country who are dedicated to price transparency and a great buying experience. With GoRollick you can get an upfront price and a special offer on your next golf cart, plus savings on after-purchase products. Then when you’re ready, you can shop at one of our Certified Dealers. GoRollick also ensures that you get access to all available manufacturer incentives. If you’re curious about what’s currently available, you can check out our incentives page here.
Not quite sold? Maybe this will help. Use our guide on How to Take Advantage of Powersport and RV Manufacturer Incentives on Your Next Vehicle Purchase to get the most bang for your buck, and when you are ready to buy, check out our list of the latest available manufacturer incentives to ensure you are getting the best price available for your camper.
● See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
● Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired Camper
● Receive special offers on both the Camper as well as additional accessories
● Take advantage of Bonus Savings plus the option to Buy From Home from select Certified Dealers
● Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience