Storing your RV is easy (and sad). But miss these prevention steps and you're likely to end up with problems.
Marshall and I both recently parked our RVs. They will remain parked for a few months.
Meantime, we couldn't simply park and walk away from our rigs without doing some important maintenance. Nor should you.
When you store your RV, there are things you'd better do in preparation so that it remains in good shape for your next adventure.
Don't worry, it's a pretty simple process and shouldn't take up TOO much of your time (Except for winterizing. That's a bit of a pain). That said, not doing these things can cost you big time AND money in the future!
So let's dive into the steps you'll take if you're smart.
RV Plumbing Care
If you are going to leave your rig in an area that gets below freezing, draining your lines (or winterizing them) is a MUST.
Otherwise, you will end up with sad cracked pipes and possibly even water damage (unless you plan to keep it indoors and/or plugged in with an awesome 4 seasons package).
Check your owner's manual for how to do this process. Don't have one? (Sigh)
Then here's the most thorough explanation of how to blow out your lines we have found, and know we won't can't top this explanation.
So watch this video if you don't have a manual.
You can also add RV antifreeze to winterize your pipes without blowing them out. (Do NOT use regular antifreeze!) Here's some RV antifreeze for your buying convenience.
Refer to your owner's manual for how to add antifreeze properly to your system. Different RVs have different inlets/outlets, etc.
What To Remove
You don't want to leave anything that can even be REMOTELY appealing to rodents when storing your RV. There can be things you may not think about such as toothpaste, bottles of cleaner, etc.
If the things you leave freeze (or get very hot), they may not work the way they are supposed to. Or, they can also crack their housing and cause a leak.
FOOD is an obvious one. Food WILL attract mice. Mice are THE LAST issue you want to have with your RV. They can cause devastation, spread disease, and urine, and feces all around your RV.
Take all of the food out.
Remove anything that might suffer from mold, especially if you live on the East Coast. This includes linens and clothing. The more 'airy' you make the space, the better.
Vent the RV for air circulation if you can.
House Battery Care
If your RV is plugged into shore power while stored, you can keep your house battery connected.
You can also keep it connected if you have solar keeping them charged.
If not, certain items in your RV will slowly draw down your house batteries and you'll be left with a dead battery. (Unless you have an 'off' switch for your battery(ies)).
If you just let them draw down, your batteries will eventually die, as you probably already know that you cannot let them get down under a 50% charge without doing damage to them.
For example, a wired propane detector will slowly draw them down.
You need to connect your battery to a trickle battery charger while it's stored. You can take your RV's battery home and put it in your garage to be maintained if you please.
Lithium batteries should be stored NOT fully charged.
It's best to disconnect them at around 50-60% of a charge. This is because it is not good for lithiums to be kept at 100% charge.
So, if you are on solar, or if you are connected to shore power, they will be kept at 100% or close to it all of the time (thanks, Steve!)
They do not draw down quickly when disconnected from all loads so you can safely store them without using any type of charging device.
Before storing, open up your awning and if it's wet, dry it or allow it to dry before putting it away. This helps prevent mold from forming. Park it somewhere where you CAN open up the awning IF it is parked in the elements.
Your awning will still collect water even when it's rolled up. Then it will start to mold.
So if your awning isn't covered, make sure you can open it up and dry it out after a rain (If it rains often, aim to open it up and dry it once a month).
By the way, CA Kelly just figured this one out by making the mistake of not being parked where she could open her awning. She parked it right next to Marshall's rig! He has to put his slide in for her to open her awning enough to dry until she moves it.
Motorhome Engine Preparation
If you have a motorhome, there's more to care for. You also need to see about your engine battery. Either disconnect it or put it on a trickle charger.
Add a gas stabilizer to your engine (be sure to run the engine with the stabilizer in it before storing it). This may be helpful for your generator as well.
It's still best to run the engine every couple of months or so if you can't hit the road.
UV light slowly deteriorates tires if they aren't covered. You should plan to cover all four and your spare if it's on the outside of your RV.
If your storage is under complete cover, you can get away with not covering the tires. Otherwise, you will end up having to replace them prematurely of them losing tread.
If you are parking on dirt, it's not a bad idea to place something in between the tires and the dirt. Make sure the item is flat and is larger than the footprint of the tire.
It's best to move your camper every few months to avoid flat spots on the tires.
You will obviously unload the fridge and freezer before storing your RV. Then, let the freezer defrost if it has buildup. Then towel the water out and make sure you can keep the doors open or lodge something into them so that they cannot shut.
Fail to do this and you'll have a moldy gross mess on your hands.
Use covered or, better yet, enclosed storage if you are able. Again, UV light can mean the premature death of much of your RV.
It deteriorates tires, ruins your blinds/curtains, fades your furniture, prematurely 'kills' the exterior caulking, fades your paint, etc.
Covering your camper with an enclosed building is the best bet. You have less chance of a rodent infestation with a fully enclosed space. This protects from the sun as well as rain, heat, tree sap, etc.
Then, a carport will be your next best bet. Be sure to close all your blinds/shades and such. You might even put up some Reflectix in the windows to insulate a bit and block more UV light.
Finally, you can cover it with an RV cover. Though we aren't big fans of covers. Still, many choose to protect their RVs this way.
Cover or not, try your best not to store it under any trees. Sap, bird droppings, tree litter gets everywhere, and worst of all, a falling limb can damage your unit.
Portable Heater Care
If you have any portable heaters, like a Buddy Heater or a Wave Heater, be sure to cover them to keep dust off when storing your RV.
This especially rings true with the Wave. It's a catalytic heater using a sensitive pad. If this pad gets dusty, it ruins the pad.
Leaving a Buddy uncovered can have a similarly negative effect. The dust buildup on the heater element can cause a fire hazard and the dust that lands on the heating element can clog it.
Covering portable heaters easily protects them from dust issues.
If you have one or more slides, it's a good idea to have them in when storing your RV. This protects the seals from the elements.
You'll also have less chance for leaks. Additionally, if you have slide toppers, they will be in. This way they are protected from the wind and from the sun.
Clean all the seals and lubricate your slide track and motor gear.
If you have a portable OR an onboard generator, make sure to drain the lines of gasoline. Otherwise, next time you try to start it up, you're going to be disappointed. (Best RV generator.)
Gas sitting in the lines will likely ruin the carburetor. If you are not planning to use it for more than a month or so, go ahead and run it dry. If you have a generator that will stop the flow of gas with the flip of a switch, let it run until it stops due to drying out.
Whatever method you use, it will save you hassle and headache when you go to start your next trip.
When storing your RV, as long as you aren't keeping your refrigerator on (which you wouldn't do during long-term storage), it's a good idea to disconnect your propane tanks.
At the very least, close the propane on/off valves so no leaks can happen.
This one is so important. NOTHING will ruin your plans to hit the road than opening up your RV to find it infested by and, likely, damaged by mice.
Cute as they are, they can destroy your trailer or motorhome quickly. They eat almost anything, and they like to chew on wires. Not to mention they leave feces and urine everywhere they go and can spread hantavirus.
To prepare your RV for storage, get underneath, and look for entry points. This is harder to do with a motorhome than with a trailer. Some trailers have a flat bottom.
This allows you to have complete visual access to any small opening or gap. These must be filled with expanding foam or you could use aluminum tape for smaller gaps.
IF you CAN'T see all the areas that could allow access, get inside your RV at night/in the dark. Light up the underneath with work lights.
Get inside without turning on the lights and inspect EVERYWHERE you can get to. Look for light. If there is even a gap the width of a few centimeters, FILL IT.
It wouldn't hurt to set some traps.
Prevention is the key to controlling rodents. (Learn how to keep mice out of a camper.
You'll have even better luck if you can keep the RV in an enclosed, rodent-proof space.
Regular Checkups After Storing Your RV
It's a VERY good idea to put your eyes on the inside of your RV regularly when storing your RV. It won't take long.
Walk in, open some cabinets, make sure there are no signs of mice, leaks or mold, a flat tire, break-ins, etc, and off you go.
Catching problems sooner than later is extremely beneficial.
However, if you DO want to keep water in your fresh tank, at least you could use a MarCELL device to keep tabs on the temperature, humidity, and to alert you if there's a water leak.
MarCELL Discount Code
Save $20 on your MarCELL device! Go to their site (here) and during checkout, enter discount code camp20
MarCELL has 'pucks' you put under your sinks or around pipes to detect a water leak.
Storing an RV is not about walking away from it after you come back from camping and not check on until your next trip.
Set it up properly, check on it frequently, and keep it as protected from the elements as possible.
RVs are fun when you're on a trip. But they do require a good amount of money (and time) to buy, maintain, and store.
Then you have to watch it for problems while stored.
Is owning an RV worth it? That's up to you to decide.
The more you use your RV, the better. Otherwise, make sure you can commit to watching it and maintaining it, and paying for storage and maintenance when you can't use it.
Author: Kelly Beasley
As a seasoned and passionate RVing expert, I have dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 5.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road. Join me on this journey and let's make some unforgettable memories.
Regarding battery storage protocols; Storing lead-acid (LA) batteries vs. lithium (LFP) is not the same and is actually pretty nearly opposite.
In order to remain healthy, an LA battery MUST BE KEPT FULLY CHARGED. The hazards of parasitic drain from ‘detectors’ and the self-discharge inherent in the battery are both equivalent critical problems. LA batteries self discharge around 10-15% per month. The key problem is NOT having them become fully discharged (although that is a problem, it takes a while) it is that a LA battery cannot STAY fully charged (and remain healthy) without being charged frequently (every couple of weeks). It is complicated but LA left at less than a full charge for weeks, experience ‘hard sulfation’ which is an irreversible loss of capacity. When in storage, it is effectively required to connect a ‘battery maintainer’ (because we forget), that will automatically turn on periodically. If you have solar, and it receives even a little sun, this will do the job. Shut off your battery disconnect (to prevent parasitic drains) and verify that the solar or converter still charges the battery (it probably will). If you do not have some source of charging, remove the batteries from the RV and store them where you can hook them up to a battery maintainer.
In order to keep a lithium iron phosphate battery (LFP) healthy, it MUST NOT BE KEPT FULLY CHARGED. It should be discharged to about 50-60% state of charge (SOC, ~12.8-13V) and disconnected. Lithium suffers from ‘high voltage corrosion’ if kept at a high SOC and would in fact be healthier if it were NEVER fully charged. Lithium has a very low rate of self-discharge and needs no additional charging during storage (if not drained by parasitic loads). It is best to run it down to half charge and remove a battery cable. The reason for removing the battery cable is that most solar chargers and converters are not disconnected by a battery shutoff switch and will always charge the battery (which in the storage of LA you want but not if it is LFP).
Welp, dangit, Marshall didn’t catch what I didn’t mention about storing lithium batteries (to not store fully charged), and I didn’t know about it. We’ve been essentially storing our RVs with their lithium and our normal solar keeping them charged.
But with as little draw as they get right now, it might be better if we let them run down a bit and then disconnect them.
Thanks for the input! I’ll add that bit to the article and we may have to make an adjustment to how we are storing our trailers.
It’s always hard to get people trained to understand how to keep LA healthy, then we upend everything with LFP (and the training starts over again). Since they think they have been well trained to care for their LA they ignore any new info and keep doing what they did for LA….. and end up killing LFP…….Oh well…..the battery guys love to sell a new set of batteries every couple of years so they are happy if people remain ignorant….
It’s true! When I first got my RV with its pretty much already dead lead-acid battery, I knew to keep it above 50% but I didn’t have a good way to read the battery. Someone sold me a gadget to plug into my 12v outlet (cigarette lighter style). What a joke!
So pretty quickly, that battery died. Then I got myself, I believe, two sealed lead-acid batteries. They lasted me a while as I’d learned to read them using my multimeter, STILL not knowing that it wasn’t the best indicator. But it was all I had. (Better than the 4 red lights, the ‘battery level indicator’ that my RV came with that I first depended on, yikes!)
Finally I got a portable solar panel with the charge controller on the back that I could read. But nothing beats having an on-board system with a real battery monitor.
But wow, was lithium an INCREDIBLE upgrade, not having to worry about the 50% rule anymore! Hallelujah!
But yep, those battery sales will always be doing alright from those who don’t yet know how to take care of their lead-acid batteries. And I used to be in that club. 😛
People (including me and evidently you) need automation to ‘save them from themselves’ where repetitive maintenance is concerned. The fact lithium is relatively insensitive to how much and how often they are charged is a tremendous ‘self-defense’ mechanism that is only reinforced by the BMS but no system is completely ‘fool proof’ (its not ‘full proof’). You’d think that with the use of an embedded microprocessor running the BMS and increased use of Bluetooth battery monitoring, they could put more intelligence into the battery and stream it directly to the user’s to improve battery health (and performance). Such as pinging them that ‘the battery has been at max charge for 10 days and should be discharged to 50% and disconnected if its not going to be cycled’, or similar words….
Unfortunately, providing like features offers the manufacturer little ‘uplift’ in the sales price where the sale of a new battery due to ignorance/apathy is much more attractive (plus its failure is YOUR FAULT and does not reflect negatively on them)…..I’m am definitely a cynic….I worked in manufacturing high tech products too long where I witnessed these exact discussions….(‘don’t give the customer too much, they will only want more and want it cheaper’ and the there is….’save that for next time so we can show product improvement’).
OBTW, I designed a commercial LA battery-based product with a ‘self-defending’ battery charge controller specifically designed to prevent user abuse…..I was replacing a product with a history of very expensive battery failure by user abuse so my corporate client (Wal-mart) was very aware it was happening and how expensive it was. It works by force (prevents their improper use by shutting off), not by messages….and they wanted it for free….
Gawd… companies will be companies. It’s too bad. Most do have a built-in system for keeping the money flowing to them. Guess that’s just how it is.
I’ll tell you one thing… I don’t know if it was a ‘rogue’ employee or what, but I had bought 2 Costco golf cart batteries, and right after a year, they were kaput. I went to return the ones I had just to turn them in and have them dispose of them, but the employee, on his own accord, said ‘let’s call these under a year’ or something to that effect, and he GAVE ME MY MONEY BACK!!!
THAT was a shocker! I friggin love Costco!!!!!!
I recommend people who want lead-acid to go there just for the customer service and return policies. They are above and beyond.
Hi, I’m getting ready for winter storage outdoors (about 4 months) for my 16 ft travel trailer and I read your your comments on RV covers. After checking the reviews on many of them I really don’t see the value in them. Here in Bend, OR we’ll get minimum rain and usually much less than a foot of snow on any day in winter. I’ll put on wheel covers and an air conditioner cover. Most RVs in the storage lots around here do not have covers.
Give me a shout if you are going to be in the area.
Thanks for the comment and for visiting Camp Addict!
I am in total agreement with you on this. Wheel covers are all I do on my rig when it’s sitting here at home base.
Bend is one of my favorite Oregon towns! Though I/we don’t get up that way very often. It’s a really long drive from Tucson (where we are based).
I recently got back after spending the summer out and about in my rig. Spent most of the time in Colorado, with a couple of weeks in southeastern Idaho.
Now my rig is sitting outside and I’m slowly putting it into sleep mode. Just washed it this morning and once I figure out where I’m going to park it on the property for the winter, I’ll throw the tire covers back on and call it good.
Let’s have some fun. Let the speculation begin with the reason (that you plan to reveal in a future post) why you have parked your RV homes for a few months. The storage tips were good, but overshadowed by the intrigue. My guess is Kelly is pregnant and going to have a baby soon. Kelly left the door open, so a few others need to jump in with their best thought. And Marshall if I am right , congratulations to you both. It would clearly give you a new topic to write about.
LOL! Sorry about the intrigue! I didn’t expect that to happen. No, I am not pregnant, and FYI, Marshall and I are not a couple. We are just good friends, travel partners, and business partners who happen to be of the opposite sex.
I guess I have to make sure I do write what has happened since I mentioned it being a future post, LOL! Guess that’s going to be my next one.
Hope I at least cleared some things up for you, Bob! Thanks for guessing!
Edit: The post is live. No more great mystery!