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Winterizing and storing your motorhome

After summer vacations and fall rallies, many motorhomers rest their vehicles during winter. To keep the motorhome in good working order and protect it from freezing temperatures, preparing it for storage is necessary.

Any motorhome owner can purchase the necessary materials to winterize their vehicle, according to Charles Christy, national service manager for Workhorse Custom Chassis. "If you can clean your kitchen, you can winterize your vehicle,” he said, adding that the entire winterizing process can take less than a day for one person to complete.

As a first step, Christy recommends that motorhome owners review all of their owners manuals — the motorhome manufacturer’s, the chassis manufacturer’s and the appliances manufacturers’ — for vehicle-specific winterizing instructions.

Water tanks
Drain and blow out water lines to prevent damage to the motorhome’s water system. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) suggests draining the fresh water tank by turning on the hot and cold valves and letting them run. Once the fresh water tank is empty, drain the holding tank(s).

Next, clear the lines with air pressure not exceeding 40 to 50 p.s.i. (open all faucet valves and hold the toilet valve open to allow water to clear from the regulator). Clear the lines by using blow-out plugs, which typically cost $3 to $5, along with small unit air compressors designed for tires and air mattresses. The air compressors at neighborhood service stations also will work.

As a final step, pump non-toxic antifreeze (see owners manual for proper specifications) through the entire water system to keep any remaining water from freezing. (Remember to shut off the hot water tank bypass to prevent antifreeze from filling the tank.) Never use automotive antifreeze.

To pump the antifreeze through the water system: Disconnect the water supply line from the water pump; connect a temporary supply line to the water pump and put the other end of the line in the antifreeze container; start the water pump. Once antifreeze begins to pump through the water system, close all open valves.

It's also a good idea to fill all drain traps with antifreeze. Refer to the coach owner's manual for specific instructions.

In many gas-powered motorhomes, the oil and oil filter should be changed before winter storage. This can prevent acids from accumulating in the oil and corroding the engine bearings.

Disconnect/recharge batteries
Surprisingly, batteries can freeze at temperatures as high as 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which can lead to permanent damage, Christy said. To avoid battery problems, the negative battery cable should be disconnected on vehicles that will not be driven within a 30-day period.

Even disconnected batteries can lose their charge, so they should be checked every four months and recharged as necessary. If the green dot on an AC Delco battery is not visible, then it must be recharged. To prevent overload or damage to electrical components, the ignition switch should be in the "off" position when connecting battery cables or a battery charger.

If your motorhome is equipped with an auxiliary generator, read its manual for winter storage guidelines.

Park and pay attention
When parking the motorhome for the winter, be sure the vehicle is not too close to trees, where it could be damaged by tree sap, bird droppings or falling branches. If parking in a rural area, remove high weed growth, which affects paint by attracting insects or causing stains. Park on a level surface or with the front chassis higher than the rear if a level surface is not available.

It's also a good idea to top-off the fuel tank to avoid condensation. Add a fuel stabilizer to keep the fuel from breaking down and leaving deposits. Diesel and gasoline fuel stabilizers are available at most auto-parts stores.

Clean it, close it and cover it
Before covering the motorhome, clean the interior and remove all perishable food from the cabinets and refrigerator. Turn off the refrigerator, making sure the circuits are off, and leave the refrigerator door open. Remove all clothing and bedding to prevent mildew. Close all windows, and pull the shades and close the blinds if desired.

Make sure the regulator on the propane cylinder is covered, and tape the furnace vents. Ensure that the range hood is closed, and clean the rooftop air conditioner filters. If the motorhome is stored outside, it should be covered. Opening the roof vents a little may help to reduce moisture accumulation. If not covered, rinse, wash and wipe horizontal surfaces at least once per week to remove accumulations that settle on the flat surfaces.

Exterior
Check the tires and keep them inflated to the recommended tire pressure. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause tires to dry rot. Tire covers are available from RV supply stores. Or, cut pieces of plywood to fit under the wheel wells and stand them against the side of each tire.

Secure all caps to prevent water, snow and dirt from entering the engine.

Make a list of the winterizing tasks and refer to it so the vehicle can be quickly prepared for the new season when warm temperatures return in the spring.

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