As we move further into fall, memories of our summer RVing excursions may still linger in our minds. But with the coming chill, so too does the thought of putting our faithful RV into storage mode. Though a seemingly mundane task, there is a correct methodology for getting your coach ready for any period of non-use; especially if you are contemplating utilizing one of the available private or public storage facilities. Certain precautions, correctly applied, will guarantee your coach will stand a better chance of surviving its secluded hibernation.
The first necessary decision is whether to store your rig at home or off-site at a dedicated RV storage facility. If you have a relatively level space at your residence, there’s no need to spend the bucks at a facility unless security is an issue. But keep in mind, many municipalities are cracking down on stored RVs within residential areas, even those parked on the street. It is your responsibility to learn if your home base has any new RV restrictions. Also check your existing Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R’s), if applicable.
RV Storage Locations
Everything from a vacant dirt lot to an indoor five-star, temperature-controlled facility can be considered for parking your rig for any period of non-use. When deciding which level of sophistication (and subsequent degree of expense) to evaluate, the primary concern should always be the overall security and welfare of your RV. A nicely paved, inexpensive level lot behind a locked gate might sound appealing, but if its location is remote, it might not be a wise choice. An isolated location might be susceptible to vandals or break-ins. Do your homework when considering such a location.
Preparing the RV
Flush and drain every holding tank. The fresher the tanks, the better the chance of minimizing sewer odor build-up and blockages. Don’t forget to flush and rinse the sewer hose as well! If possible, lubricate the termination valves, but leave them in the closed position.
Some RVers remove every drop of water from the fresh water plumbing system, but if below freezing weather is anticipated, I recommend the wet method of winterizing, whereby RV anti-freeze is pumped throughout the fresh water piping system and poured into every P-trap. Enough anti-freeze should also be flushed down the toilet and sinks; just enough to cover the bottom of each holding tank.
Ensure the propane container is turned completely off and that all the appliances are off. Check the integrity of the cover over the propane regulator.
If outdoors, cut cardboard inserts to position inside the water heater and refrigerator exterior access panels to keep the dust and dirt accumulation to a minimum. Cover the furnace intake and exhaust assemblies with blue painter’s tape to keep insects from entering.
Place an opened box of baking soda or an appropriate desiccant/absorbent inside the refrigerator food compartments and prop open the refrigerator door(s).
If possible, remove the batteries when expecting sustained below-freezing temperatures or if the coach will be in a remote, unsecured location. Always fully charge all batteries before storing the rig. Once fully charged, employ the battery disconnect device, if so equipped, or at the very least, remove the ground terminals from the batteries to disconnect them totally. Remove all dry cell batteries too!
Turn off all 120-volt (AC) circuit breakers and unplug any device that plugs into a receptacle, such as the refrigerator, microwave/convection oven, washer, dryer, entertainment centers, icemakers, televisions, etc. Rogue lightning strikes, even a couple hundred yards away, can cause problems. Expensive problems!
Thoroughly inspect the underneath portions of the RV. Look closely for any cracks or openings into the floor or interior of the coach. Seal around drain piping, propane tubing, and electrical harnesses that extend through the floor into the living areas of the coach.
When parked on asphalt, use non-absorbing, synthetic blocks under the footprints of the tires. If stored outdoors, cover the tires to minimize UV and ozone contamination and obscure the windows to avoid sun damage and the fading of fabrics. In high moisture locales, place absorbent desiccant inside the two major living sections of the RV.
Consider using a total coach cover, but take precautions to keep the cover from rubbing on the roof or at the edges. This can be damaging to synthetic roofing materials such as EPDM rubber or TPO. At the very least, it’s a wise decision to install a rooftop air conditioner cover if a coach cover is not used.
If possible, leave a roof vent cracked open slightly at one end of the RV and a window cracked open at the opposite end. This will induce a bit of convection airflow inside the coach to minimize the progression of mold and mildew.
Check all window, roof vents and door seals and weather-stripping. As I often mention, moisture intrusion is the biggest cause of RV damage. Also, treat all exposed exterior surfaces with the appropriate protectant.
When possible, visit your hibernating rolling home from time to time; especially if the period of non-use extends past just a few weeks. It’s a wise RVer who changes the position of the RV at least once a month, moving it forward or backwards slightly, to alter the footprint of the tires to prevent flat spots from developing. Just a foot or two is usually all that is required.
It is also recommended to periodically start a gasoline motorhome engine and to exercise a gasoline generator, when so equipped. Consult the owner’s manual for your make of chassis and generator for specific instructions, but the general consensus is to run the generator for a couple of hours at half-load, at least once a month, in order to prohibit varnishing of the fuel. One single two-hour run at half-load is much better than a bunch of short runs. Diesel-powered RVs and generators will likely require different procedures, so be sure to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer to avoid performance issues when it’s time to awaken your resting rig from its respite.
Once a month, carefully inspect the roof for entry points of water intrusion if a total coach cover is not employed. Always perform roof repairs as soon as leaks are discovered. Do not wait until you remove the coach from storage! Any damage will only get worse over time.
When it is time to remove your RV from storage, always consult with the facility manager to absolve any dispute or damage issue possibly incurred during the storage period before moving the RV. Be sure to re-activate your full insurance coverage!
By carefully determining and acknowledging your requirements ahead of time, and wisely choosing the best-suited storage location, your RV will safely endure its period of non-use and present itself ready for the next step, the spring shakedown! And remember, RVing is more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle!