For many people, recreational vehicles (RVs) or motor homes are meant for warm weather fun. But not everyone puts them away when the temperatures begin to drop. Winter RVing can be a fun way to get around in the colder weather, and you’ll miss the hustle and bustle of the airports and other forms of transportation that are so common during the busy holiday season.
Of course, there are differences between hitting the road in the wintertime and enjoying a summer getaway.
“One of the biggest differences is road conditions,” says Pamela Kay, director of communications for the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA). “You really have to watch the weather and be aware of the road conditions all along the way.”
Many RV owners who take their vehicles out for winter driving will have them professionally prepped to make sure they are up for the challenge.
“When you’re using it to go skiing or do other winter activities, [the weather] can get pretty brutal, so you want to make sure you’re prepared,” Kay says.
Know before you go
Preparation takes many forms in the wintertime, from making sure your vehicle is up to the rigors of winter weather to ensuring you’ve stocked plenty of food, cold weather gear and emergency supplies. That includes swapping out the bug spray for tire chains and cold weather-rated sleeping bags.
Getting the RV itself properly stocked – with extra warm clothing, emergency rations (in case you get stranded), an electric blanket and extra bottled water – is extremely important. But so, of course, is making sure the vehicle itself is ready to face wherever you’re heading.
If you’re traveling into temperatures that will be consistently below zero, it’s a different story than going to a climate where the nights rarely dip below freezing.
“If you’re in a warmer part of the country, one night of freezing temperatures isn’t going to do harm,” Kay says. “It’s the sustained low temperatures that you need to really be concerned about.”
FMCA suggests winterizing the water system of an RV that’s going to be traveling in freezing and, particularly, below-zero temperatures. Such conditions can cause the water lines to freeze which, Mark Polk of RV Education 101 points out, could result in “costly repair bills and ruin your wonderland RV trip.” It means blowing the water out of your lines or draining them and adding RV/Marine antifreeze to keep any residual water in the system from freezing.
Unless they’re already heated, Polk recommends using RV/Marine antifreeze in the RV’s holding tanks by adding it through the toilet and shower to keep them from freezing. Also, he suggests emptying them more frequently to reduce the chance of freezing.
If you’re purchasing a new RV and know you’ll be taking it out for the winter, ask the sales staff if they offer an arctic package, which will include such cold-weather comforts as thermal pane windows, additional insulation in the roof and floor, and even pre-installed heating pads for your wastewater, freshwater and possibly even the sewage tanks. Such packages come with different weather guarantees, which means you can select one that is right for your planned travel.
After the trip
Like all great summer getaways, eventually your winter travel will come to an end, and you’ll need to make sure that your RV is ready for hibernation. Again, one of the biggest concerns you’ll face is frozen water lines, so it’s important to make sure all the water is blown out of the lines or that RV/Marine antifreeze has been added to prevent freezing.
“If you’re doing it for the first time, it’s a good idea to take it to a professional and have them show you how to do it,” Kay says. “That way you’ll know you’re doing it right and that your motor home has been properly taken care of.”
Putting the RV up for the winter means more than just parking it in the driveway. Kay recommends taking all of the following precautions:
- Remove all food from the RV. Rodents and other critters have a way of sniffing out food, and any food left in the vehicle can serve as delicious dining for an unwelcome guest.
- After you’ve cleaned out the vehicle entirely, seal all the openings as best you can. (Your RV dealer can recommend options.) This is another way to prevent unwelcome visitors inside your RV; rodents looking for a warm place to stay during the winter will be looking for entry points.
- Add a fuel stabilizer to your gas tank to prevent condensation inside the gas tank, which can lead to corrosion.
- Keep your tires off the ground. Put the vehicle on wooden blocks to create a barrier from the ground as some surfaces can cause tires to age faster.
- Finally, take cover. If you have a building for parking your RV during the winter, that’s preferred; at the very least, get a cover to protect the exterior from the sun’s harmful rays and harsh weather.
If you are storing your RV for the winter, make sure you check out these powersport vehicle winterization tips.