Summer in Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding wilderness of northern Idaho makes for some pretty awesome camping. As the weather starts to warm up, you are probably thinking about your first camping expedition of the season. Before you go out, it’s essential to make sure your camper is prepared, or “dewinterized”. Follow these steps to make sure your rig is clean and prepped for a summer of camping!
How to Dewinterize your RV or Camper
Your camper has been sitting in storage since the fall. You flushed, cleaned, and filled the water system with antifreeze, changed the oil in your RV’s engine, and parked it in a safe space to wait out the cold winter months. When you pull (or drive) your rig out of storage in the spring, there are several important services and checks you need to perform before hitting the road.
Check, Charge, and Install Batteries
The batteries in your RV power essential systems like water, lights, radio, and TV. Some campers utilize an AC power system that plugs into an external source, but if you spend a lot of time dispersed camping, you rely almost entirely on your RV’s batteries. When you pull your camper out of storage and re-install the batteries, there are a few things you need to check.
- Ensure batteries remain above an 80% charge to prevent sulfation, which can drastically decrease the life of a battery.
- Use a voltmeter to check the charge of your RV batteries in the springtime.
- A fully charged 12-volt battery is 12.73 volts, and a fully charged 6-volt battery is 6.37 volts.
- A 12-volt battery at 80% charge will read 12.4 volts
Ensure your batteries are reading above 12.4 volts before installing them. Ideally, hook them up to a battery charger and bring them to full charge before heading out on your first trip.
Check RV or Camper Tires
Sitting for months on end can cause abnormal wear and tear on your RV’s tires. Additionally, because campers and RV’s are typically used for only half of the year, the tires are not replaced frequently and can expire before the tread is worn down. Older tires succumb to rubber oxidation, which will lead to both internal and external rubber cracking. Cracked or old tires are unsafe and can lead to accidents.
If your tires are over six years old, be sure to replace them. For tires less than six years old, perform a visual inspection. Check for visible cracking, look at the tread depth, and check tire pressure. Tires sitting in storage all winter can lose up to three psi of pressure per month.
If your tires are old or show signs of wear and tear, replace them. Not only are they dangerous on the road, but running into tire issues when camping in the wilderness can leave you stranded.
Dewinterize the Water System
Your camper or RV brings many of the amenities of home on the road with you. Most campers and RV’s have a freshwater system with running water, a toilet, and a shower. In the fall, the water system is flushed and replaced with non-toxic antifreeze to prevent damage from frozen water during the winter months.
When getting ready for summer, the water system in your RV needs to be purged of antifreeze, sanitized, and replaced with fresh water.
- Begin by opening all taps (both hot and hold) and pump water into the system from a hose.
- Pump water through the system until the water coming out of the faucet runs clear. The antifreeze in the system will end up in the holding tank. This can be emptied at a dump station.
- Flush the toilet several times while the water is still pumping.
- Replace water filter cartridges.
- Remember to drain antifreeze from the water heater if it WAS NOT put into bypass mode when you put your RV up for the winter.
After a few minutes of flushing, the water will be clean and safe to drink. Use baking soda to remove any unpleasant antifreeze taste that may still be present.
Sanitize your RV’s Water System
After purging the antifreeze from the water system, it’s important to sanitize it. While the antifreeze you used to prevent freezing isn’t toxic, mold and other bacteria can still grow while the system is in storage. Sanitizing the water system can be done with water and household bleach.
- Close up all drains in the water system.
- Use ¼ cup household bleach for every 15 gallons of water your tank holds (a 60-gallon tank would use one cup of bleach).
- Pour the correct amount of bleach into a gallon jug and mix with water.
- Add the bleach/water mixture to your freshwater holding tank.
- Fill the rest of the tank with freshwater.
- Turn all water fixtures until bleach can be smelled coming out of them.
- Turn off all water fixtures and let the bleach/water mixture sit for 12 hours.
- Completely drain the water system and flush until you no longer smell bleach.
- Refill the system with freshwater, it is now safe to use.
Check for Leaks in the Water System
This step can be performed while you prepare your water system. An easy way to check for leaks is to pressurize the water system and wait to see if it loses pressure.
- With a full water tank, turn on the electric water pump and let it run until the system has adequate water pressure.
- Turn the pump off and wait several minutes.
- If the pump kicks back on or does not shut off, the system is unable to sustain water pressure, indicating a leak is present.
If the system holds pressure, it is unlikely there is a major leak. Regardless, it is still a good idea to check the pipes under the sink and around the toilet for seepage.
Look Over the Exterior of your RV
This is particularly important if you stored your RV or Camper outside. Exposure to the elements can cause damage to your rig’s exterior, especially if you live in an area that sees harsh winter weather.
Check the roof of your RV, especially if it saw snow. The weight from heavy snowfall can cause structural damage. Use caution when working on the roof of your rig. On towable campers, look over the hitch and associated components for signs of rust or other damage.
Be sure to check all windows and air vents as well.
Replace Propane Tanks and Check Propane Appliances
Some RV’s and campers use propane to power appliances. If your rig uses propane, install new tanks and ensure all gas lines are securely connected. You can apply soapy water to the lines and look for bubbling, which can mean you have a propane leak.
On RV’s with refillable propane tanks, get them refilled at the start of the season. Follow all the laws in your state related to propane tanks in RV’s, they can vary.
Ensure all Appliances Work
Once you have propane tanks filled and connected to your RV, check and make sure all appliances are working as they should. If you encounter any issues, have a professional take a look. Propane is explosive and can be extremely dangerous.
Check 120-Volt Outlets
Make sure all the appliances that get power from 120-volt outlets are working as they should.
Start and Test the Generator
Not all RV’s use a generator, but if yours does it’s important to make sure it works as it should. Check the oil levels and inspect the exhaust. If the generator is not properly venting exhaust fumes, it can be dangerous.
Start the generator and let it run for a few hours to ensure proper function.
Check and Change RV Air and Water Filters
Change out any air and water filters in your RV to keep your air and water bacteria and contaminant free. A good time to change the water filters is when servicing your camper’s water system.
Check the engine and brakes on your RV
When you take your RV out of storage, check all fluid levels in the engine.
- Do an oil change, especially if you did not do one in the fall.
- Check coolant levels.
- Make sure there is enough transmission fluid, and it doesn’t smell burnt.
- Check the engine air filter and replace it if it’s dirty
- Jump in the driver’s seat and start the engine. Listen for anything abnormal, and ensure all gauges are reading as they should.
Be sure to check your brakes as well. Your RV is big, and the brakes are subject to a lot of stress bringing all that weight to a stop. They must be in good condition before you head out on a camping trip.
Before you head out
If your rig is ready to go, there are a few more things to remember before going out on the first camping trip of the year. Be sure your RV or Camper has First Aid gear, bottled water, nonperishable food, and tools just in case of an emergency.
Visit Lake City Auto Care before your next trip!
If you want to be extra sure your RV is ready for adventure this summer, schedule an appointment with Lake City Auto Care. Our team will make sure your rig is mechanically sound and perform any repairs or services it may need before you head out into the northern Idaho wilderness!