RV Winter Maintenance
Winter maintenance of your RV is essential if you want to be sure that your RV is ready to run when you want to use it next spring. The general maintenance items I share with you here apply to all RV’s. However, trailers and 5th wheels are slightly different because they don’t need to maintain the ‘rolling chassis’ like you do in Class A, B’s, and C’s. For every type of RV, you should check the following items at least monthly!
The rolling chassis maintenance items I detail below are also important if you are a snowbird and sit parked living in your RV waiting out the cold winter at home. You should follow the steps below for rolling chassis maintenance monthly while you are parked static.
Check on the RV regularly
Yes, it would be best if you visited the RV at least monthly. Make time to go and check on your RV. Finding a problem early can prevent major damage and alert you to a problem you may need to resolve before you can use the RV again. This will give you time to fix the issue and not ruin your next RV trip when an issue or problem comes up at the last minute.
Like all real estate, it’s about location, location, location when it comes to storage. Try and get a storage lot reasonably close to your home. That will make it easier to visit the RV winter maintenance on a no less than monthly basis. You may need to visit the RV more often to check on your RV in a humid climate. A friend who stores his RV in Florida visits his RV every other week to change his desiccant packs. He has two sets, so he can take one home and recharge them. Thinking of location rodents, insects, and other critters can be a particular problem in RV storage lots, even in urban areas.
Rodent and Insect prevention is not a one-time thing
In a companion article on my website about preparing your RV for winter storage, I cover 18 things to do in your RV for winter storage. Among those items was placing desiccant packs for humidity control, rodent traps and repellants, spraying for insects, etc., when you put it to bed for the winter. As part of your winter maintenance on your RV you should check every one of those preventative maintenance items when you visit and replenish or replace them as needed. Most of the repellants need to be re-sprayed or re-treated monthly to maintain their effectiveness.
In addition to the above, it is a good idea to lower and raise the jacks. This makes sure that they have not settled and are putting more weight on the tires. Remember that sitting with weight on them will create pretty bad flat spots and damage the tire beyond repair.
It is also a good idea to open all the cabinets and closets and check for mold or moisture. Finding and remediating mold early pays great dividends.
Also walk around the outside of the rv looking for signs of rodents or insects. They can create a big problem that is difficult to clean up if left unchecked.
Class A, B & C RV’s have special needs
Self-propelled RV’s have special needs. You need to maintain the rolling chassis along with the living space. Again, I refer you to my detailed article about properly storing your RV for more details. It is vital to do occasional winter maintenance during those idle months to assure that your RV will be ready to go come spring. I like to call this my maintenance visit.
A winter maintenance visit is a practice around regularly maintaining your rolling chassis during winter. It is simply a check list that you want to run through during winter storage.
Jacks up and down
It’s always a good idea to extend and retract your jacks during your maintenance visit. This will help make sure the seals are lubed properly to extend their life. Also, with a clean towel wipe the jack tubes off prior to running them up and down.
You need to make sure they have not settled and are putting extra weight on the tires. It is important to keep as much weight off the tires as possible to prevent flat spots.
If you want to support the tires use plastic leveling blocks. But, again, be sure and jack the RV up far enough to remove as much weight as possible from the tires to prevent flat spots in your tires.
Slides in and out
It’s good to exercise the slide mechanism. Be careful though that you have enough space to fully extend your slides and that there is not a lot of snow and ice on the body seams. Even if you cannot fully extend them it’s a good idea to ‘crack’ the slide open as far as you safely can.
If you have a generator run it for 15 minutes under load
The idea behind exercising your generator is to put it under load, not just run it to warm it up. I have a video on how to maintain your generator on YouTube. You can check it out below
Check the oil and water level before you start the generator. The best way to exercise your generator is to start it and let it warm up a minute or two. Then turn on some 110 appliances and lights. I go so far as to make sure I start both my AC’s to add additional load when I am exercising the generator. Be careful that you don’t overload the generator, but try and put 70-80% load on it.
Start and run the engine up to operating temperature
It is best if you can get the engine up to operating temperature. It’s better to drive it around if possible to help keep the seals and running parts like the transmission and differentials lubing up. Getting the engine warm monthly is particularly important if you store your RV in a humid environment.
Moisture will accumulate inside the engine, transmission, differential, exhaust pipes, etc. and cause premature aging and expensive damage. Driving around gets oil moving. This helps drive off the water and moisture in the engine and transmission.
Keep in mind although the water temperature may read 190 degrees the engine and transmission are much warmer. Warming up the engine and transmission properly helps evaporate the water into a vapor that can be vented through the normal venting process.
If you can’t drive around, pull it in and out of your parking spot a couple times or drive it up and down the driveway a couple of times. Every little bit helps keep the seals lubed up and working properly and the moisture out of those expensive to fix drive train items.
Newer Diesel Motorhomes don’t like to be idled
If you can’t drive your RV around like we recommended, idling the engine for at least 5 minutes will help greatly. Many newer diesel RVs do not like to be idled for much longer than 5 or 6 minutes! There are warnings in the owner’s manuals, and most will have an alarm that sounds in the dash to indicate excessive idling! You can void a warranty by excessive idling, so beware!
Keep in mind that if you have a vehicle that uses DEF and are in a freezing climate, DEF freezes. This does not change the DEF’s chemistry, but you don’t want to store it with the DEF tank full. If the tank is full, the DEF could expand enough to break the tank. You don’t need to worry about it when you start the vehicle because there are systems that warm the DEF rapidly to flow where needed without damaging the exhaust system.
Doing these simple steps monthly will assure you of a trouble-free start to the new RV’ing season. It will help you identify problems that might come up early and have them repaired if necessary. Preventing rodents and insects from getting into your RV will make spring cleaning much easier and greatly reduces the chances of getting a rodent-borne disease like Hantavirus or something similar. Getting the jump on mold, mildew, and excessive moisture will make it easier to remediate! It will also protect the value of your RV from going down because it is present! Finally, mold can be a health hazard as well!