The leaves have already turned and, in many places, you’re waking up to frosty mornings. If you’re an RV owner, that means one of two things—you’ve taken your final RV trip of the year and need to help it hibernate safely for a long winter’s nap. Or you’re ready to hit the road for a winter camping trip.

Whatever your style, here’s how to prepare your RV for the next steps!

If you’re storing your RV for the winter

There’s more to this process than just taking out your hiking boots and emergency campfire marshmallows (but yes, remove all the food to avoid pests or rodents). And remember, refer to your RV manual to confirm you’re doing all the right steps for your specific vehicle.

First, you’ll need to go through a process to ensure your water lines are properly treated with antifreeze. Choose a high-quality, non-toxic RV anti-freeze rated to -50 degrees.

  • Remove and bypass your inline water filters since the antifreeze can damage them.
  • Then start draining and flushing — the freshwater holding tank, gray and black holding tanks, water heater, and hot and cold faucets.
  • Bypass the water heater so it doesn’t fill up (and waste) the antifreeze going through the water heater.
  • Install a water pump converter kit. Turn it on and pressurize the system. Run the hot and cold valves until antifreeze appears. Repeat with all faucets, moving closest to farthest. And don’t forget the shower. Then flush the toilet until antifreeze appears.
  • Turn the water pump off and release the pressure by opening a faucet.
  • Remove the small screen on the city water inlet and push in on the valve until you see antifreeze. Then replace the screen.
  • Pour a cupful of antifreeze down each drain and into the toilet. Flush into the holding tank.
  • Close all faucets.
  • Follow indicated procedures to winterize appliances, like ice makers or washing machines.

Then take care of the exterior. Give it a good wash and check for any potential leaks. Inspect seams on the roof and windows to make sure they’re sealed properly. And inspect vent covers and skylight covers.

If you’re ready to hit the road this winter

Feeling like a hearty camping trip in the frozen tundra? The good news is that most newer RVs are equipped to handle any type of weather conditions. But just as you would prep your car before a winter road trip, there are a few steps you should take.

  • Check doors, windows, and other seams, and recaulk if necessary to keep the interior cozy from blustery weather. You also might consider installing RV vent cushions in roof vents or skylights to ward off leaks. You may even want to add insulated curtains on the windows.
  • Empty black and gray water tanks and add a quart of pink RV antifreeze to each. You also should wrap your sewer hose in electrical or heat tape to keep ice dams from forming.
  • Install a heated water hose if you have a fresh water hook-up to prevent it from freezing or bursting. And when you reach your destination, keep hoses out of the snow.
  • Protect the refrigerant! In most propane or electric refrigerators, it can turn to a gel when outside temps dip below 20 degrees. And that can cause it to plug up the refrigeration system’s coils. An easy fix is applying duct tape on the inside of the cover over the top two of the three vent slots. Then check to see if your ice maker water line’s insulated. If it’s not, wrap it with heater tape.
  • Test your furnace. Then clean it to remove dust and debris — you want it to be working at top capacity. You also might want a space heater to stay extra cozy.
  • Turn your attention to the mechanics of the RV: check that the battery’s fully charged, which’ll make it less likely to freeze. And check your fluids to ensure you have a concentration of at least 50% antifreeze.
  • Pack plenty of warm clothing and include blankets, a sleeping bag, gloves, and anything else you need to make sure that you stay toasty no matter what the weather brings.
  • Cover all the bases with the right supplies, such as a shovel, tire chains, and an extra propane tank. Always have extra food and water just in case.
  • Finally, check the weather conditions and keep your plans flexible in case a certain route isn’t safe.

Your most important step before you hit the road? Confirm that your RV is protected with proper insurance. Because nothing feels colder than an unexpected, unpleasant surprise while you’re on the road.

Safe and smart | Car safety

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about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.