While snowbirds seek the warmer climates during the winter, there are other RV owners who choose to face the winter head-on. RV’ing in the winter can be a wonderful experience, as long as you take simple steps to ensure you stay warm and your RV stays safe from damage.
In terms of the coach, try to determine whether it has an “arctic package”. This generally means that there is extra insulation in the ceiling, sidewalls, and floor, and that the fresh water and holding tanks are fully insulated and/or heated. Whether your RV is so equipped or not, you can use it by following these recommendations.
Make sure you are carrying propane onboard and not butane. Butane has a boiling point of 32 degrees F., whereas propane is -40 degrees. Therefore, in cold weather, butane may not properly vaporize, causing combustion problems with the appliances. If you have problems getting your appliances to function, you should re-fill your container with propane.
If the RV park has insulated/heated spigots, they are likely offering water service. In this case, use a heater or cold weather wrap on your water hose. Make sure your fresh water tank is empty, your drain hose is connected, and the gray water valve is open. Using park water is not recommended in extremely cold temperatures, but if the park is offering water service, it is usually safe to do so. You may choose to leave a cold water tap open in the RV at all times. This ensures the water is always flowing and will help prevent freeze-up. For the black-water tank, do not leave the valve open, but ensure that there is RV anti-freeze in the tank at all times.
If the park is not offering water service, check the location of your fresh water tank. If it is below the floor and you don’t have an arctic package, do not use the fresh water tank. Use the park facilities for your water needs. If the tank is inside the coach, you may partially fill it with water as long as you keep the inside of the coach warm. Keep your water heater on at all times.
Make sure you don’t keep anything in the outside storage compartments that can’t withstand the cold temperature. Conversely, you may opt to use the outside compartments as cold-storage areas.
If you have a motorhome, make sure your coolant protection level is sufficient for the temperature. If you have a block heater, plug it in. Other items, such as battery wraps, can also be utilized. Ensure your other chassis and engine fluids and components are prepared for cold weather operation.
It is extremely important that exterior seals are inspected for cracks and damage, especially in cold wet weather. If water enters the coach seals and freezes, joints can expand, causing more damage.
In terms of your own comfort inside the RV, be sure to pack plenty of winter clothes and footwear. You may choose to pack electric blankets and even electric heaters to supplement the coach heating systems.
Note that your coach may require additional steps to those I have outlined in this article. Consult your owner documentation or contact your local service dealer for specific assistance with cold weather operation, as this article should not be considered all inclusive.
Following these simple steps will allow you to enjoy the beauty of winter from the comfort of your RV while keeping your unit safe from the elements.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.