After staying cooped up inside during the cold winter months, the arrival of spring can spark the desire to finally get out into the fresh air and explore in the warmer weather - and what better way to do that than by hitting the open road in your RV in search of adventure? Sadly, it’s not as simple as just jumping right into the driver’s seat and setting off - there’s often a lot of work to be done before your RV is ready to roll again.
If you’ve properly stored your RV away for winter to avoid any damage in the cold, wet months, then you’ll have to put in the work to de-winterize it in spring. And no matter how carefully you’ve stored it, there may still be some minor maintenance to be done to fix any leaks or damage it might have sustained.
Follow these top tips, though, and you’ll be ready for RV adventuring again in no time!
1. Clean your RV's exterior
Depending on where you keep your RV in winter, it might need a good clean to get rid of any dirt, grime or debris it’s picked up over the winter. This is a good place to start when preparing your RV for spring, as washing it will make it easier to spot any leaks or damage than if it’s covered in a layer of dirt. Check what detergents or cleaning agents are suitable for your RV - some materials require different cleaning care - and give it a decent wash, and then you can get started on the exterior maintenance work.
2. Inspect your RV’s exterior
Once it’s cleaned off, do a thorough check of the RV’s exterior for any damage - in particular, make sure the seals on doors and windows are watertight, check exterior metal or fibreglass for signs of delamination or punctures, and keep an eye out for any damage to exterior appliances such as air conditioning, solar panels or satellite dishes.
If you have an awning, you should extend it to check for any rips, tears, mould or water damage. Make a list of any issues you find, and decide what you can fix at home and what you might need to take your RV to a specialist for.
3. Check your RV’s roof for leaks or damage
You need to take particular care of your RV’s roof, as roof leaks will quickly ruin your trip as soon as it starts to rain. Check any caulking to make sure it hasn’t loosened or cracked.
If your roof’s sealant has loosened, cracked, separated or otherwise been damaged, then you’ll need to add new Self Leveling Caulking Lap Sealant. Typically, you need to do annual roof maintenance every year depending on the product you use. If you want to save yourself having to apply new sealant again in the future, you should try RV Flex Repair Self Leveling Caulking Lap Sealant - it’s easy to apply yourself and guaranteed to last the life of your RV, and it’s also a lot cheaper than having an RV service centre replace or repair your RV roof.
4. Inspect your RV’s interior
Once you’re done with the outside of your RV, it’s time to head inside. As well as cleaning away any dust or grime that might have built up, you should check for signs of insects, rodents or other pests that might have taken shelter from the winter cold in your RV. Another thing to keep an eye out for is mould or dampness, as these could point the way to a leak that you might have missed while inspecting the exterior.
5. Make sure your RV’s battery is in working order
An RV battery will lose charge over a few months of storage, it will need recharging. If it’s a lead-acid battery, check its water levels before recharging it - if the plates are exposed then you’ll need to top it up to about an 1/8th of an inch of distilled water first.
Otherwise, charge it up fully and then top up the water if needed. If you took the RV’s battery out for storage during winter, you’ll also obviously have to reinstall it before your RV can go anywhere.
6. Check your RV’s tires are ready to roll
Just as your battery might have lost charge over the winter, your tires are likely to have lost air pressure while your RV has been in storage. You should check each tire’s air pressure and pump them up to the recommended PSI range if needed - check your RV’s owners’ manual if you’re not sure how much pressure is needed. Usually on the driver’s door, you’ll see recommended pressure.
You should also check for any other signs of wear and tear, such as cracked or separated treads, or bolts and fastenings that are worn or loose. Don’t forget to check your spare tire as well - the last thing you need if a tire is damaged on your travels is to get your spare tire out and realize that it’s just as unusable as the tire you want to replace.
7. De-winterize your water system
If you decided to winterize your water system with non-toxic antifreeze before storing your RV away for winter, then you’ll need to flush the system out before it can be put to use again. If you added antifreeze directly to the water holding tank, you’ll first have to drain this entirely before refilling it with potable water.
Next, turn on the water pump (or attach a garden hose to your city line water hook up and turn it on) and open all your RV’s water faucets, including sinks and showers, and flush the toilet a few times as well. This should run the fresh water through the system and flush out any remaining antifreeze. Once you’re sure the water is coming out clear, you can close all the faucets and turn off the pump.
You can then take your water heater out of bypass mode (if it wasn’t in bypass mode, you’ll also need to drain the antifreeze from the water heater tank) and dispose of the newly flushed water at an official disposal site. You should also replace any water filters that you removed during the winter.
8. Sanitize your water system
You’re not quite done with the water yet - next you’ll need to sanitize it, not only to get rid of any lingering antifreeze chemicals, but also to clean away mould or bacteria that might have had a chance to build up while your RV sat in storage over winter. Begin by making sure your water heater is turned off and cooled down before draining the water system, as you could damage it otherwise.
Next, measure out ¼ cup of bleach for every 15 gallons of water capacity in your tank and add it to a gallon of water before pouring it into your tank, then fill up the rest of the tank with potable water. To make sure the mixture reaches every part of your water system, turn on all your faucets again, then turn them off once the bleach has had a chance to run through.
Leave the bleach/water mixture in the system for at least 12 hours (or overnight), then drain the tank again and refill it with fresh water before opening all the faucets again to flush the clean water through. You may have to repeat the flushing-through process a few times until the smell of bleach is completely gone, at which point you can replace the system’s water filters and turn your water heater back on, leaving your water system all set for your travels.
9. Check your LPG system is running safely
It’s important to make sure your LPG (Liquid Propane Gas) supply is functioning properly after months of disuse, not least because a damaged or improperly functioning LPG system can be very dangerous. If you’re not sure what you’re doing when it comes to your RV’s LPG supply, it’s advisable to get a qualified service technician to carry out the necessary checks to be absolutely sure it’s safe to use.
However, if you have the necessary equipment and know-how to confidently deal with the LPG system yourself, here are some of the steps you can take to ensure it’s in full working order:
- Carry out a timed pressure drop test to check for leaks in the supply
- If a leak is detected, you can use soapy water to check for leaks
- Check the date stamps on your LPG tanks, as these need to be re-valved or replaced at least every ten years to continue working safely
- Ensure you have a propane leak detector installed and that it is fully operational
- Once certain there are no leaks in the system, check your gas appliances work - start by lighting your stove burner to get rid of any air that might be trapped in the system, then test each of your remaining appliances to make sure they’re operational
This is also a good point to check other safety measures are in place as well as your propane detector - ensure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors fitted and that they’re working properly, and replace any old or used fire extinguishers if necessary. It should also be noted that if you smell propane at ANY point while testing the LPG systems, you should turn off the supply immediately.
10. Make sure your RV or tow vehicle is roadworthy
To be able to enjoy your adventures, you need to be able to get to your destination safely in the first place. Particular components to test before setting off are your RV or tow vehicle’s brakes; headlights, indicators and brake lights; steering; transmission; and windshield wipers and washing fluid.
Once you’ve gone through all these steps, then you’ll be well on your way to being able to hit the road in your RV and enjoy all the warm weather and fresh adventures that spring has to offer. If you’re unsure about any of the required maintenance at any point, however, don’t be afraid to send your RV for a professional service - it’s better to be safe than sorry, and you don’t want any unexpected issues to get in the way of enjoying your travels!