Tips for those who put their home on wheels into storage for the winter.
Just as preparation pays off when embarking on a motorhome adventure, a few hours spent at the outset of the off-season will pay big dividends when the weather turns nice again.Here are some ways to save money and avoid headaches by properly winterizing and storing your motorhome.
Covering Your Investment
You’d be surprised how much a motorhome can suffer from idle exposure to sunlight, wind, and rain, not to mention dust, tree sap, and bird droppings. So, before storing your motorhome, be sure it is washed and waxed. Unless you’re storing your motorhome in an enclosed garage or other facility where it will be protected from the elements, covering it is a good idea as long as you’re careful not to let moisture build up between the cover and the motorhome.
Using a tarp may be an easy and economical option, but odds are moisture will collect underneath it and not be able to evaporate. This can result in mold or mildew, discoloration, or even rust. Plus, no matter how well a tarp is secured, it will move in the wind “” which over time can damage your motorhome’s finish. That’s why it’s smart to rely on a cover that is specifically designed to protect a motorhome.
Two basic types of motorhome covers are available: universal and custom-fit. Universal motorhome covers are more economical than custom-fit ones, but the quality of a universal cover can be just as good as a custom cover. However, a cover made to fit the exact contours of your motorhome can offer increased protection, because it may billow less in the wind and block more dust and dirt. Custom covers also may feature hook-and-loop fastening material or zippered panels that provide easy access to the motorhome without removing the entire cover.
Whether you choose universal or custom-fit, be sure your cover is made from a breathable material. Breathable material helps keep moisture from being trapped against the motorhome’s finish. A breathable cover also will keep the inside of your motorhome cooler, which can help prevent heat-induced deterioration of interior trim. The best motorhome covers often are constructed of multiple layers of strong, water-repellent polypropylene.
Avoiding moisture on the inside of your motorhome is just as important as avoiding it on the outside. This is especially true during the off-season, because condensation collects in cool weather. An easy way to help keep the motorhome interior dry is to use a chemical absorbent, which usually comes in a plastic container designed to prevent collected moisture from draining out. Depending on the product, simply open the container and place it inside your motorhome. While your motorhome is off the road, it’s a good idea to check periodically for any moisture buildup or odors, and to refresh and position the moisture absorbent accordingly.
An electric dehumidifier is one of the most effective ways to protect a motorhome from interior moisture buildup. However, electricity bills and the need to periodically check on the unit are things to consider. Depending on the type of dehumidifier you choose, you may have to empty a moisture collection receptacle and clean or replace a filter. Units with a drainage tube can help mitigate the hassle of disposing of collected moisture, but be sure to keep water from collecting in your pipes because . . .
Protecting Your Plumbing
… Your motorhome’s pipes could burst if leftover water freezes in them. It’s important to winterize your plumbing, and your local motorhome dealership or repair shop can do this for a nominal fee. There is no shortage of advice on the best way to winterize motorhome plumbing, and we don’t want to cover it all here, especially because procedures vary depending on your motorhome. But do-it-yourselfers have two basic options: (1) draining all water out of the system, or (2) treating it with RV antifreeze made for potable water systems.
The first method involves draining all the lines, systems, and tanks and then forcing any additional water out of hard-to-reach places such as fresh water tanks, pumps, and drain traps. There usually is a “low-point” valve on your motorhome’s undercarriage that you can open to drain the pipes. Once you’ve opened it, turn on the faucets and the shower (including any exterior plumbing, if so equipped), flush the toilet, and drain the water heater (be sure to open the relief valve on the water heater to speed up the process).
Once the system has drained, using high-pressure air usually is the easiest method for ensuring that any remaining water is flushed out of the system, but this requires an air compressor and a widely available blow-out plug. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell whether you’ve removed all of the water. (Note that the manufacturer of the Aqua-Hot system advises that motorhomes equipped with these heaters should not be winterized using the compressed-air method, as this does not effectively evacuate all of the water.)
The second method of winterizing RV plumbing involves draining the water from the system and then filling it with RV antifreeze. An antifreeze installation kit will simplify this process. Be extra careful to use the pink-colored antifreeze for potable water systems, NOT the green antifreeze you use in the radiator “” the green antifreeze is highly toxic, and you don’t want it anywhere near your motorhome plumbing!
Also, you should keep the RV antifreeze out of the water heater by means of a water-heater bypass valve. Without it, you’ll have to fill the water heater with six to 10 gallons of antifreeze before you can pump it through the system. If you’re uncomfortable installing a water-heater bypass, it’s probably worth it in the long run to have your local motorhome dealer or service technician do this one-time install for you. If you have a water filtration system, be sure to disconnect it before running antifreeze through the system or you will need to replace the filter(s). You’ll also want to keep antifreeze from getting into the ice maker, so be sure to disconnect it, too.
Tires And Suspension
Find a winter parking spot that is as level as possible so that the weight of your motorhome is evenly distributed. If your motorhome does not have a leveling system, you may need to use blocks. If you’re not parking on a solid surface such as pavement or concrete, be aware that the tires could sink into the ground “” definitely something you want to avoid, especially during the spring thaw when the ground gets soft and wet. So, place wooden planks or concrete blocks underneath the tires. To help mitigate tire sidewall fatigue, be sure that the load on each tire is evenly distributed across each block or plank, and ensure that the tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s maximum cold pressure. Don’t forget to chock the wheels, front and rear, and cover the tires to prevent damage from ultraviolet rays.
Batteries And Electrical
You can either leave the battery in your motorhome, or remove it and store it in a cool, dry place where it won’t freeze. Your choice will depend mainly on climate, storage location, and whether you want to periodically start your motorhome and drive it to scare away critters and ensure that everything is in working order.
Either way, it’s a good idea to clean the battery terminals with a wire brush and a 50-50 mix of water and baking soda if needed. If your battery is not maintenance-free, check the electrolyte level and add distilled water if necessary. Remove the negative battery terminal cable first if you’re taking out the battery. If it’s going to stay in the motorhome, leaving the negative terminal disconnected will help ensure that nothing drains the battery, although it’s a good idea to turn off the main breaker and unplug all appliances.
But, remember that a stored battery will lose its charge, so either plug into shore power once a month for about eight hours, or use an external battery charger per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Remove dry cell batteries in clocks, flashlights, and other items to avoid corrosive leakage into battery compartments.
Cleaning House And Closing Up
It’s important to remove all consumables that could attract insects and rodents. Clean the refrigerator thoroughly, defrost the freezer compartment, place opened boxes of baking soda inside to absorb any odors, and leave the refrigerator doors open. Close all of the window blinds to avoid sun exposure to the carpet, drapes, and upholstery, and clean the interior before closing up the motorhome.
Be sure to turn off all LP-gas appliances and to close the main LP-gas supply valve. Keep insects and rodents out by closing vents and sealing all holes or openings. Aluminum duct tape can come in handy for this. Filling the fuel tank will help prevent condensation from building up in the fuel system. If the motorhome will be stored for a few months, add a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil. Diesel engines will benefit from the addition of a biocide. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that you have the proper concentration of antifreeze solution in the engine cooling system and windshield washer reservoir, and spray locks and hinges with a graphite spray lubricant.
Off-Season Insurance Savings
There’s a seemingly endless list of recommended chores when it comes to properly winterizing and storing your motorhome, so it’s no wonder that many of us forget to check with our insurer regarding possible off-season savings. The FMCA Motorhome and Auto Insurance Plan, for example, features a unique Storage Option that allows you to save an average of 53 percent off your premium when you’re not using your motorhome.
Since you’re not at risk of having to file a collision or liability claim on a vehicle that isn’t being driven, the FMCA Motorhome and Auto Insurance Plan lets you suspend collision and liability coverages when you’re not using your motorhome. Your comprehensive coverage stays in force to fully protect your motorhome against threats such as fire, storm, wind, and theft. With just six months of this exclusive Storage Option, you could save up to $400.
For more information, or to get a free rate quote from the FMCA Motorhome and Auto Insurance Plan provided by GMAC Insurance, visit www.gmacinsurance.com/fmca. Or, call 888-571-2759 and mention Preferred Customer Code YS-8A.
Eligibility, benefits, discounts and coverages may vary.
Underwritten by these member companies of the GMAC Insurance Group, Winston-Salem, NC: National General Ins. Co., National General Assur. Co., MIC General Ins. Corp. and GMAC Ins. Co. Online Inc. Coverage not available in HI and MA. Coverage in NJ provided by High Point Property and Casualty Ins. Co., which is not affiliated with GMAC Ins. Some features may not be available.
Underwritten by National General Assur. Co. in TX and National General Ins. Co. in WA.
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