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How to Dewinterize Your RV: Everything You Need to Know

It’s finally spring! The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, the days are getting longer, and you’re getting excited about all the wonderful adventures ahead that the warm weather will bring.

But, if you’ve spent the winter hunkered down at home, there’s some work you need to do to make sure your RV is as ready to take on camping season as you are.

If this is your first time dewinterizing an RV, or you just need a refresher, here are a few simple steps you need to take to make sure your RV is good to go.

Keep reading to learn how to dewinterize your RV!

An RV motorhome on the road.  RV camping season starts with knowing how to dewinterize your RV.
RV camping season starts with dewinterizing your RV!

What You Need Before Dewinterizing an RV

Before you start dewinterizing your RV, you’ll need a few tools on hand to accomplish these steps.

Many of these tools you’ll likely have in your tool kit or garage, such as wrenches or a flashlight.

However, you may need to pick up a few items to have on hand, including some household bleach, a tire pressure gauge, a battery charger, baking soda, and sealant.

Dewinterizing your RV shouldn’t take too long, but will take longer if you aren’t prepared at the outset!

How to Dewinterize Your RV: 8 Steps

To dewinterize your RV, you essentially need to do the exact opposite of the steps you took to winterize your RV.

But, if you want to be extra sure you’ve hit every step or need a quick crash course on what to do, check out the simple steps outlined below.

1. Flush Water System

Filling an RV water tank to flush the system.

Dewinterizing an RV’s water system is arguably the most essential and extensive step to dewinterizing your RV and ensuring you’re ready to trek the great, rapidly thawing outdoors.

You can’t be without fresh, potable water to support you throughout all your adventures to come!

Depending on the choices you made when winterizing your RV, you have some options on how to best flush out your water systems.

(If you didn’t use anti-freeze and used an air compressor to blow the lines out, you can skip this step and move directly on to the next one.)

If you used anti-freeze to winterize your water tanks, you’ll need to take extra care in this process as it needs to be completely flushed out of the system.

To do this, you need to first add potable water back into your fresh water holding tank. Next, you’ll want to turn the water pump on.

During this step, you can also check for any leaks that may have developed while your RV was hibernating.

Let the pump run and pressurize. If it shuts off when reaching full pressure, you’re good to go! However, if the pump cycles back on, you likely have a leak that needs repairing.

After you’ve turned the pump on, open all water faucets both inside and out and allow the potable water to run for several minutes, and flush the toilet a few times.

Typically, anti-freeze is pink in color, so when the water runs clear, you can close the faucets and turn off the pump.

If you can’t quite tell if the anti-freeze has been fully flushed out, it’s okay to taste a little bit of the water to double-check.

If the chemical-y taste persists after the water runs clear, add a touch of baking soda to each drain and flush the water systems again.

Next, you’ll want to take your water heater off of bypass mode (if you bypassed it in the first place when winterizing your RV).

Replace all the water filters and cartridges you removed when winterizing, dump your black and gray holding tanks at a dump site, and you should be good to go!

However, if you didn’t bypass your water heater, you’ll need to drain it to dump out, too.

2. Sanitize Water System

A fresh water tank opening for an RV water system.

After dewinterizing your RV, you need to sanitize your water system before using it for drinking or showering. This is necessary regardless of the method you used to keep your pipes from freezing.

To do this, you first need to close all the drains and re-install the drain plugs you opened or removed during the first step.

Next, measure out a quarter cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons your water tank holds. Pour the bleach into a one-gallon bucket and fill it the rest of the way with water.

After you have your bleach mixture, add it to the fresh water tank fill and fill the tank up with potable water again.

Now you’ll want to repeat some of the above actions: close the drains, turn the pump on, and let it run. Once you can smell the bleach in your drains, turn off the pump and close the faucets.

After the bleach has made its way through your water system, you’ll want to let it sit and sanitize for up to 12 hours maximum.

You want the bleach to have enough time to kill off any bacteria or mold but not long enough to eat away at any fragile parts of your water system.

After the solution has sat for a few hours, drain the water, refill the tank with more potable water, and let it run until the water no longer smells like bleach.

3. Check Pipes

Man inspecting the underside of an RV motorhome.

If you’ve completed the first two steps of dewinterizing your RV, you should already have a good indicator if any of your pipes developed a leak over the winter.

However, you’ll also want to do a scan underneath your sinks, toilets, shower heads, or any other faucet areas.

Leaks can waste water (and money!) and cause extensive damage if not treated quickly and properly.

If you don’t feel comfortable addressing the problem on your own, any RV servicer will be able to do it for you.

4. Check Propane Tanks and Appliances

Closeup of a 5-gallong propane tank valve and hose.

To winterize your RV, you likely removed your propane tanks and took great care to shut off all appliances.

To dewinterize your RV, you now need to reinstall the tanks, connect the hose, and check that all your propane appliances are working properly.

If you suspect a leak in your propane tank hose, you can add some soapy water to each end of the hose and see if it bubbles.

Propane leaks or issues can be dangerous, so if you have an indicator that something is wrong with your hose, tanks, or appliances, take your RV to a professional to get it checked out!

5. Check Engine and Generator

Man inspecting an RV motorhome engine.

Dewinterizing an RV motorhome also means making sure you can get to your camping destinations and have power if there are no hookups available.

The first step to ensuring your engine is ready to roar back to life is to check all engine fluid levels (including coolant and windshield wiper fluid) and make sure all your lights, switches, buttons, and warning signals and working properly.

If everything appears in working order, you can give your rig a quick test drive to check that the power steering, windshield wipers, and lights are all good to go.

Any malfunction, no matter how small, is cause for concern, and it’s a good idea to get a mechanic’s eyes on the problem before embarking on your next trip.

If you have an RV generator, you’ll want to check the oil levels and check the exhaust systems for any damage.

To be extra sure, let it run for a little bit. It should start up easily and not surge.

Again, any issues warrant a professional eye!

6. Check Exterior and Tires

Man holding tire valve cap for an RV tire.

The most important aspect of dewinterizing your RV’s exterior that should be checked is your tires.

When stored away, your tires will rapidly lose pressure. Use your pressure gauge to test them all, including your spare, and inflate them accordingly.

When adding air back in, it should be easy to notice any leaks, tears, or extensive wear that need to be repaired.

After your tires are in good shape, do a once over (or twice over, for good measure) and check that the exterior is free of damages, leaks, cracks, or rust, especially on the roof and make repairs as necessary.

7. Check Windows, Vents, and Safety Devices

Closeup of an RV window.

Next, check your windows, doors, vents, and safety devices for any issues.

Its possible that the weatherstripping, insulation, or sealant could have worn down while in storage or exposed to cold weather.

If you removed any filters from your air vents, now would be the time to replace them and ensure your ventilation system is in working order.

Your smoke alarm, fire extinguisher, and carbon monoxide detector are crucial parts of your RV, and checking them is one of the last but not least steps to dewinterize your RV.

Replace any batteries that need it and test out all the necessary devices.

8. Restock

Closeup of a shopping card with groceries.

Finally, you’re done dewinterizing your RV and you’re ready to hit the road.

Not so fast, though. Part of your winterizing process likely included cleaning out your fridge, cabinets, toiletries, and other supplies.

Before you take off on your next journey, you’ll want to have everything you need on hand before you need it.

Toilet paper, paper towels, first aid supplies, bottled water, and tools should always be on hand and fully equipped!

How to Dewinterize Your RV for Travel Season!

Beautiful mountain view from the interior of an RV.

The changing of the seasons can be one of the most exciting times in any avid camper’s life. But there are just a few steps you need to take before you’re ready to go! Knowing how to dewinterize your RV is the official start of a great RV camping season.

If you follow this guide, you should be more than prepared to dust off your hiking boots, start your engine, and go go go!

For great RV camping ideas, including the best locations to take your RV, visit the RV Camping page on our website!