The Travel Trailer Winterizing Checklist: How to Prepare for the Off-Season

There comes a time in every travel trailer owner’s life when they take a break from their driving adventures for the winter months. Unless you have an arctic package installed in your trailer, then it’s not going to be able to withstand the chilly temperatures that winter often brings.

That means that from about December to March (and sometimes later depending on where you live), you’re going to have to leave your vehicle at an RV park. There it will sit unused, accumulating dust, dirt, and debris. Freezing is also an issue, especially depending on the climates in which you live. Your battery could drain, and the lights in the vehicle could burn out.

You definitely can’t expect to drop off your trailer for three or four months and come back to it in the same condition in which you left it, especially without any maintenance. It’s just not feasible.

Instead, you’re going to want to winterize your travel trailer. This will safeguard all the important parts and components while they sit idle for the next few months. You’ll remove some parts, unplug others, and maybe even take a few with you.

Of course, you want to be totally sure that you don’t forget any steps in the winterizing process. After all, doing so could mean some costly repairs in the springtime. That’s where this helpful travel trailer winterizing checklist comes in.

We’re going to cover all the important jobs and duties you must take care of before you leave your trailer for the winter. Let’s get right to it.

1. Wipe down the awning and check its quality.

If your trailer has an awning, you’re going to want to clean it before the off-season begins. Buy an special awning cleaner (such as this one on Amazon) and use it. Make sure you avoid cleaning the awning with dish detergent, though. Otherwise, it will crack and dry out due to the de-greasers in the detergent.

Before you roll your awning up for the spring, make sure to check its condition carefully. Are there any tears or holes big or small on either side of the awning? If so, it’s a good idea to patch these up before leaving your trailer for the winter. Otherwise, you could come back to much bigger holes in the springtime.

2. Seal every faucet.

No one likes leaks, whether at home or in your travel trailer. That’s why you should ensure every faucet is sealed off completely as part of your winterizing. Forgetting this can lead to pesky (and, let’s be honest, expensive) repairs. Not only that, but the pipes could freeze over the winter, which will be much more difficult and pricy to get fixed.

3. Give your trailer a nice bath.

You might be thinking, why bother cleaning your travel trailer when it’s going to be sitting outside in the elements for three or more months? Well, the cleaner it is at the beginning of the off-season, the less dirt, dust, and other junk that can accumulate. That means you’ll have to put forth less effort in the springtime.

So go ahead and wash down the entirety of the trailer’s exterior, getting every nook and cranny. Give it a nice waxing too before you leave it at the RV park.

4. Power down any electric heating elements.

Some travel trailers use electric heating elements to provide warmth to passengers. If that’s the case for yours, you don’t want to leave the heating element on all winter. The risk of burning it out is incredibly high. You really don’t want to come back to your trailer in a few months only to have to get major repairs. Plus, springtime isn’t always warm right off the bat, so you could spend a few weeks shivering. Not fun!

5. Clear any leftover fluid remnants in the holding tank, toilet, and drains.

You can do this job with antifreeze, but make sure it’s a brand that’s made for RVs and is non-toxic (here’s a good choice from Amazon that has a four-star rating).

It may take a few cups to fill the holding tank, but you should only need about a cup or two for the toilet and drains. Next, you will have to manually flush the antifreeze through the holding tank as well as the drains.

As for the toilet, you can just flush the liquid the way you normally would any other time when using it. This will naturally pass the antifreeze through.

6. Keep your trailer stabilized when empty.

The items you put in your travel trailer increase its weight as well as contribute to its stability. We’ve talked about about the importance of keeping everything balanced in the trailer on either the rear or front axle in a prior blog post.

Of course, once you take out all your belongings, gear, and passengers, that balance and stability may disappear. Remember, you’re leaving your travel trailer for the winter, when winds are often rough, cold, and constant. You want to make sure your trailer doesn’t accidentally tip over, which could cause permanent damage.

Do what you can to stabilize the trailer, whether that’s moving furniture or other items you’re keeping on board for the off-season.

7. Don’t forget your wheel chocks and emergency break!

Wheel chocks and an emergency break can help tremendously with stabilization. Wheel chocks are little wedges that will keep your trailer tires from moving even an inch. An emergency brake should also be deployed to prevent unwanted movement.

8. Pressurize your water pump.

This is a crucial task you don’t want to forget. Begin pressurization by running your water pump. Add in antifreeze, at least a gallon at a time. Then, going to the faucet nearest to you (so do this before you close your faucets for the season), turn the cold-water valve on and the hot-water one as well. You should see antifreeze in the water.

9. Inspect, clean, and close all vents.

Particularly, focus on the air conditioner vents, the roof vents, and the plumbing vents. None of these vents should be left open during the off-season, as dirt and dust can get into them and potentially clog up important components within your trailer.

If you don’t do it already, get into the habit of cleaning these vents at least once every few months. Wipe them down before you close them for the season, too.

10. Make sure the water heater is empty.

Above, we mentioned how you need to flush the water heater with antifreeze. That’s not the only job you have to worry about. Before you leave your water heater for the next few months, you must make sure it’s totally empty.

To make this job easier for you, open the pressure relief valve and the drain plug. Water should flow faster. Of course, for the sake of your safety and that of your passengers, always make sure the water heater is unplugged and cooled down completely before touching it.

11. Buy a bypass water heater kit.

A bypass water heater kit is used to control the amount of antifreeze in your water heater at any given time. Without these kits, the antifreeze will sit in the water heater all winter long. It won’t ever seep down to the water lines, which means you’ll have essentially done all that work for nothing. You can misplace up to six gallons of antifreeze without a bypass water heater kit, which is not cheap!

12. Look for roof leaks as well as window and exterior door seal damage.

If the roof of your travel trailer has started to warp, bend, or leak, you absolutely cannot ignore this until the springtime. This is a problem that must be dealt with immediately. Otherwise, you risk the entire roof caving in. Even if no one is in the trailer when this happens, it’s still a huge danger. Also, you’re now going to have to buy another travel trailer. This can be catastrophic.

Once you’re done inspecting the roof, check the window and exterior door seals. Look for any small holes, tears, or otherwise loosened seals. If you do find these, they’re easy enough to fix with caulk. Now you know there will be less cold air that can get into your trailer over the winter.

13. Get a water pump converter kit.

This is also a must-have for winterizing your travel trailer. You’ll use a water pump converter kit for filling the water pump with antifreeze. Camco pump converter winterizing kit from Amazon comes complete with brass valve, siphon hose, Teflon tape and pump adapters.

If you can’t get a water pump converter kit in time, you can always do things the hard way. You’ll have to first find the water pump’s inlet side. This is near the fresh water holding tank.

Then, pass clear tubing from your antifreeze container (at least one gallon of the stuff) to the pump’s inlet.

14. Clear the refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets.

You can’t leave food for months and have it be edible when you come back. For that reason, you will have to remove all the food in your refrigerator, freezer, and any cabinets. Remember to go through every corner in your kitchen area so you don’t miss anything.

You don’t necessarily have to throw away all this food. Quickly put the items that must be kept chilled or frozen in another fridge or freezer. Then replace the pantry items at your leisure.

If you’ve ever accidentally left food in the fridge for too long and it spoiled, you know how unpleasant the smell can be. It can take many fridge scrubbings to get rid of it. Now imagine that instead of a few days, your food has been spoiling for months. You do not want to deal with that if you don’t have to.

Also, rotten food is also very attractive to rodents, insects, and bacteria. It’s just a bad situation all around.

Make sure you give the fridge, freezer, and cabinets a double-check before you leave so you know you didn’t miss anything.

15. Empty the black and gray holding tanks.

Not every travel trailer will have black and gray holding tanks. In fact, some RVs don’t even have them. If your trailer does, though, you have to empty these out before the off-season begins.

Some of these tanks will be installed into the vehicle while others will be removable. If the black or gray holding tank is removable, cleaning it will be easier. You can buy a Flush King reverse flush valve from Amazon to save yourself a lot of manual labor.

Also recommended for the job is a simple bathroom cleaning wand. Whichever you prefer, make sure you end your time with the holding tanks by spraying or applying a lubricant to each termination valve. That’ll make it much easier for your holding tanks to work without a hitch in the springtime.

16. Wipe down the dinette area.

This includes the dining tables, refrigerator and freezer, the oven and stovetops, and food storage cabinets. Now that everything is empty, you should have a much easier time with this job.

Remember, the cleaner everything is before you leave your trailer for the winter, the less cleaning you’ll have to do in the springtime. Not everyone gets the fever for spring cleaning, after all.

17. Take your RV battery with you.

Most trailer and RV batteries are removable. We’ve written extensively about your vehicle’s battery, so check out that article for more information about how to find the battery and charge it.

As a refresher, you will have to charge your battery each time it reaches the 80-percent mark during the off-season. This is different from how often you’d charge the battery when it’s in use, as then it can drain to 50 percent without damage.

Of course, since the battery is sitting idle, you shouldn’t have to charge it nearly as often.

18. Unplug everything.

Also in the article about RV batteries, we discussed what’s known as parasitic load. This is when items like radios, interior lights, and other devices hog up extra power even when they’re unplugged.

If you have these devices in your travel trailer, give them a once-over to make sure they’re not draining power.

19. Clean the interior thoroughly.

With a vacuum cleaner (if you have any carpeting in your trailer), a duster, glass cleaner, and some cleaning cloths, give the interior of your trailer the same treatment you gave the exterior. You should do this towards the end of your winterizing so you can ensure you removed everything you need to take out.

20. Watch where you park.

Have you ever had a beloved item become the victim of sun fading? Maybe it was a nice backyard chaise lounge or outdoor throw pillows. Gradually, all the color was sucked out of them.

Well, the same thing can happen to your travel trailer. The exterior paint job—not to mention some interior items like wallpaper or wall paneling, couches and other furniture, appliances and countertops, and more—can fade depending on where you park your trailer for the winter.

Space is often a premium at RV parks, so make sure you get there early to get the best possible parking spot. You want the shade of a building or a tree to protect the looks of your travel trailer.

Conclusion

Owning a travel trailer is a joy, but you can very rarely drive it all year long. Instead, you’ll have to park it for a couple of months and wait out the winter. During that time, your travel trailer is going to be sitting out in the elements, such as strong winds, bright sunlight, harsh cold, and even snow and hail, all of which could put it at risk of damage. You have to protect it the best you can.

Not only that, but you have to think about the interior of your trailer as well. There’s water in holding tanks, faucets, heaters, and toilets that will need to be drained. Filling these with antifreeze will prevent the water from getting cold enough to break pipes or tanks.

Also inside the vehicle, you must unplug everything, remove the RV’s battery, and clear out any leftover food. Giving all interior and exterior surfaces a good cleaning doesn’t hurt, either.

Of course, if you follow each item on this winterizing checklist, you can be sure you won’t forget anything that could damage or break your travel trailer. This way, once springtime arrives, you’ll be ready to hit the road without any problems.

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