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Storing an RV for the winter

With winter fast approaching, many are planning on storing an RV for the off-season. This week, we talk about the most efficient ways to do that and what procedures should be followed so that when spring comes, the RV is ready for the road again.

Our guest on RV Podcast Episode 419 is Master Certified RV Technician Todd Henson. Director of Education for the National RV Training Academy. Also known as “the Beard,” Todd is the lead technical instructor for a very popular home study RV tech training course that teaches everyday RVers how to do basic maintenance and repairs.

In Episode 418, Todd passed along RV Winterizing Tips. We continue with the second part of that conversation – all about storing an RV.

You can watch the video version of the podcast from our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel in the player below.

If you would rather listen to the audio-only version, you can catch it on your favorite podcast app or by clicking the arrow in the box below.

What’s involved in storing an RV during the off-season?

storing an rv

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Todd Henson:

Mike Wendland:

Todd Henson from the National RV Training Academy is back with us, and Todd, thank you for agreeing to do two of these back-to-back interviews for us. We sure appreciate it. We got the RVs winterized last week and now we’re going to put it away. Where do we go from there when we talk about storage?

Todd Henson:

You go south.

Mike Wendland:

Store it in warm weather, yeah. I like that.

Todd Henson:

I mean, that was one method of winterization and storing we didn’t talk about, and that’s to go south.

Mike Wendland:

Yeah, yeah.

Best Practices for Storing an RV in the winter

Todd Henson:

If you can do that. All right, so first and foremost, I’m from Texas, and so we winterized and then we store it in our yard, but let’s go over a lot of the considerations. I mean, we have a large investment sitting in the cold weather, and the one thing we don’t want to do is just simply just leave it out there, and in all cases, so let’s look at some of the best practices.

So number one is, if it’s possible, to store it indoors, right? Store it indoors.

The worst thing that we can do is leave this out in the field by itself, okay, but I know that in some cases, we’ve got no option, so how do we protect that investment?

Store the RV away from Trees

If you can’t store it indoors, I would recommend storing it even outside of trees. I know some people would say, “well, if I sit it next to trees …” The problem with that is that most trees, of course, they go into winterization mode as well, and that’s when we get a lot of foliage that drops, and then of course we get limbs that drop, and guys, most of our roofs are either some type of rubber membrane or PVC membrane and falling objects are not desirable, so, I would recommend storing it in an open air situation.

photo of a dispersed campoing boondocking and rv dry camping spot
Our dispersed camping boondocking spot in the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern Michigan

Get the tires off concrete

Now from there, what are some other things that we can do? Okay, now we know that these RVs, the tires are just sitting there. There are a couple things that I want to look at. One is, of course, if you can, roll them up on some wooden boards, especially if it’s going to be on concrete. Go ahead and roll them up on wooden boards.

Check the tire pressure regularly over the winter

The second thing is that as the air gets cooler, and there’s really not much going on, the tires can deflate, so I’m going to ask you to look at that every once in a while because we’ve had several situations, even with FEMA, where we would store these, and of course we had survivors living in them, but the tires would begin to actually decrease their pressure, right?

And, the frame would lower, and our survivors couldn’t get out of the door because the frame was lowering, so we want to make sure that we’re keeping an eye on it.

Check for rodents and mice

Storing an RV

So, what we want to do is just make sure that we’re checking on this every once in a while. Checking the pressure of our tires, but also maintaining for, or looking around for any signs of rodents, any other type of wild animals because they’re looking for a place that’s warm, and they will chew their way in and get outside of the cold weather.

Now, to me, because people ask this all the time. How can we prevent mice, and if I could come up with a surefire way, I would be a gazillionaire, I think. We’re on their property. We’re on their turf. Most of us, we’re on their turf.

The best that we can do is to do whatever we can to try and stop them, but all we can do is maybe limit what happens. I have heard of lights, I’ve heard of putting soap down, and while there is some, I guess, good effects from that, I’ve seen where it doesn’t matter, so the best thing that we could do is keep our eyes on it and try to mitigate it as much as possible.

Honestly, having a good feral cat. That could be the best.

We got you covered Bonus Posts: How to Get Rid of Mice in a Camper (5 Effective Ways) and How to Keep Mice Out of Camper (5 Best Ways)

Should an RV be covered while in storage?

Mike Wendland:

So, we have it stored. A big question that I get all the time is, particularly those in really cold climates where they get a lot of snow is, should they put a cover over the RV?

Todd Henson:

I’m going to say I would like for it to be covered simply because of UV damage. If I have it covered, I don’t get the UV damage that’s going on top of that roof because now I’ve got something at least blocking it or blocking much of it.

But I also know that also causes some potential problems.

We can get air up under there if it’s not set right, we get puddles, because of course, now we’re putting a fabric up there, and sometimes when it rains, it’ll puddle, and now I’ve got water puddling, whereas if I didn’t have a cover, there wouldn’t be a puddle factor, so while there’s some benefits to it, there’s also a lot of considerations, and having that puddle of water sitting up there, it isn’t terrible until it freezes, and now we’ve got a frozen block up there and it’s just going to rip that, so where one, we’re saving something too, there’s just more consideration, so I’m going to say on that as well, that is a preference matter when it comes to that. I like the idea of not putting UV damage, up there on the roof, because that’s where the most expensive parts are.

Mike Wendland:

It’s got to be water-resistant, but it also has to be breathable, and they’re just buying these blue tarps at the big box stores.

Todd Henson:

Oh, no.

Mike Wendland:

Yeah, so I’m glad to hear you say…

Todd Henson:

I didn’t imagine that whenever you asked the question. Don’t put a tarp over the RV.

Caring for RV batteries while in storage

Storing an RV - lithium and agm batteries

Mike Wendland:

What about the batteries? Should people trickle charge the batteries? Should they remove the batteries? Should they keep the RV plugged in if they have a hookup? What kind of things should they do when storing an RV?

Todd Henson:

So a lead asset gel or AGM battery is going to self-discharge its voltage, roughly one volt every 30 days. So the best thing that we can do is keep it on charge.

If you have access to run power out to your RV, the simplest thing you can do is just simply plug it in. It doesn’t have to be the full amperage. In other words, if you have a 50 amp RV, you don’t have to plug it into 50 amps, providing that you don’t turn anything else on because the converter that we have, or the battery charger in the RV, is a maintenance or a maintainer, battery maintainer. So the best thing that we can do is keep those batteries charged up.

The best way to explain it is whatever your favorite frozen drink is, where you’re mixing your ice and your liquid of choice, adult beverage, whatever, and then you add whatever flavoring you have. You stick it in a blender, so you get it all blended up.

Well, it’ll stay blended for a little bit, but after a time, when you turn that blender off, things begin to separate, and that’s what’s going on inside the batteries because they have electrolytes in there, kind of a salt. If we don’t use them, the salt’s going to basically stratify and set down because we’re not keeping it charged.

We’re not keeping the blender on, so if you have power to it, yeah. Go ahead and connect the RV to power. If you don’t have power, yes, if you can remove the batteries, bring it to your home location and put it on a battery maintainer, that would be great.

Mike Wendland:

What about lithium batteries? They’re supposedly maintenance-free. Is that true?

Todd Henson:

That is true. They have very little electrolyte in them, and they don’t off gas, so they are maintenance-free. There’s not much we have to do. Hallelujah.

I know a lot of people will say, hey Todd, I do know that lithium, the consideration is, of course, when it gets really cold. Well, when it gets really cold, we don’t want to charge them, so lithium batteries, when we get right around the freezing point, that’s when lithium batteries, the consideration is not to charge them heavily, so if you are winterizing, and you don’t have anything else on, even with the lithium battery, you can leave it there in the RV with a small maintainer charge because it’s going to drop it down to five amps anyway to charge it, so you’re fine there.

If you want to take those back to your home, place of residence or whatnot, you can just simply get those and let them set, and most manufacturers say up to six months.

You don’t have to charge them back up. It’s ideal. You don’t have to keep them on a charge.

What about solar panels when storing an RV?

image of our 400 watts of rv solar panels
We had 400 watts of flexible solar panels on one of our RVs.

Mike Wendland:

What concerns should we have about solar panels when storing an RV? Can they handle snow on top of them? They’re obviously not going to be very effective in charging, but do we have to do anything special with our solar panels when the RVs in storage?

Todd Henson:

So, most solar panels are going to have a longer warranty than your roof. So your roof is supposedly 10 years. Come on, best at two, but solar panels are good for about 25 years. Depending on which ones you buy, they’ll have even a rating for hail, and I tell you, I’d much rather have hail damage to a solar panel than my RV.

Solar panels are a heck of a lot cheaper to replace. They can definitely can handle snow.

The consideration is when you come back to de-winterize, you may want to get up there and clean them. They won’t be very efficient.

In other words, it’s a 200 watt panel that you have, and if it’s all dirty, you may only see 60 or 70 watts, so we have to get up there and clean them, just like you would say, your windshield, and really one of the best things after you clean it, just with regular Windex or Rainex, or something like that where it gives a very thin film wax film, so that way when the water hits, it rolls off.

So, treat it just like you would a windshield.

Mike Wendland:

I think the most valuable advice you gave is, go south until it’s warmed up.

Todd Henson:

So, after that it was all downhill.

Mike Wendland:

It was all downhill. Well, we have now winterized our RV. We now know what to do with keeping it in storage. Todd, we want to give another pitch for the home study course that you guys make. It’s really one of the finest courses I’ve ever seen that teaches us all how to maintain our RVs.

Now, I know a lot of people just go have their RVs winterized at a dealer, and that’s the easy way to do it, but as we wrap all this, talk about the importance of people being able to do their own maintenance.

Todd Henson:

I think what happens is we get deflated. We go in, brand new, to the RV lifestyle. We think, well, we’ve worked on homes, we’ve done some stuff in the house. RV’s are not going to be that much different.

There are things that just don’t operate the same as they do in the house, and because of those little nuances, a lot of us, we just totally don’t know what to do with the RV. So having this course, the course that we put together was to help you get past all those nuances because most of this stuff, once it’s fully explained, you’re like, I got this.

This is now not that hard, and that’s our whole goal, is to make RV’ers achieve what they’re their goal is, and that’s to go experience life. Not to worry about why isn’t this working or what do I need to do here? That’s a lot of stress that you don’t need, and it’s not because, you know, you’re not smart enough.

It’s just simply because it hasn’t been explained to you, so that’s what we’re actually covering in that home study course.

Mike Wendland:

We’ll be having you back in the spring to talk about how to get our RV out of winterization, and how to get it out of storage. Meantime, Todd Henson, thank you so much for making the time with us today.

Todd Henson:

Thank you for having me.

Where to next?

Check out this Southwest Adventure Guide Bundle (Arizona, Utah, & Colorado)

Storing an RV for the winter 1

When Jennifer and I travel to the southwest, we are continually amazed at the majesty and beauty this country has to offer. And it’s really hard to stay in just one state! So we created this Bundle for you in case you like to travel as we do. 

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Storing an RV for the winter 2

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4 Responses to “Storing an RV for the winter”

October 28, 2022at7:33 pm, Dr. Mike said:

We keep our coach in a climate control garage with electric when not in use. Our winters do get cold (for us) down to 40 degrees and it may hit freezing once or twice during January, but in the 70’s by February.
One thing- our tires are on the concrete floor.

Reply

October 29, 2022at8:39 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Keeping it in the climate control garage with electric sounds like a great set up! Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

October 26, 2022at8:17 am, Robin Ciulla said:

Since I have solar on my trailer, I discovered that leaving my battery hooked to my trailer keeps the battery charged all winter long in Ohio. When spring comes, it is ready to go, so this girl no longer has to lug a heavy battery back and forth. I love my solar so much that I will never have another trailer without it!

Reply

October 26, 2022at2:59 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

That is awesome! Thanks for sharing, Robin – Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

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