We were lucky. Although our Tourmaster coach’s previous owner had stored it in Texas for several months, when we took possession of it, it had just been checked out and prepared for travel by trained professionals. Therefore, we didn’t have to do many of the things that ensure a motorhome that has been off the road and unoccupied for a while is still up to par. Most people aren’t as fortunate.
When placing an RV in storage for a few months, it’s necessary to properly set it up, especially if it will be stored during the winter. There is an entire set of processes required to ensure that the rig doesn’t sustain any damage due to the cold, the damp, or the vermin. You want it to be in good shape when you’re ready to use it again.
When a motorhome is in storage, it is a good idea to periodically check its condition. Depending on the owners’ location and level of knowledge, this may not happen. When getting it out of storage, there is a different set of processes. These are the steps the professionals did for us that we otherwise would have done ourselves.
*Note: Please read through the entire article before attempting this. Some of the steps must be done in the order specified to avoid damaging your rig.
1. Check the Exterior
The first thing that you should do is a quick visual examination of the exterior. Check the roof and the body for any cracks or signs of separation along the seams. Pay attention to the areas around the wheel wells, doors, and windows for any peeling paint or rust that will need to be handled. Look at the ground or floor underneath the vehicle for any puddles or other signs that the RV has been leaking fluid, such as diesel, oil, or water, etc. If there are any, it is a good idea to consult a professional.
2. Check Fluids and Connections
The method for dealing with the fluids and connections depends on how the rig was set up for storage. The process for storing a motorhome in cold weather is much more elaborate than for warmer climates. After following the appropriate process, check to make sure the brakes and lights are in working order.
Warm Weather Storage: Fluids and Connections
When your motorhome has been prepared for warm weather storage, you should check the battery connections, as they may have corroded during winter. If they have, remove the connections, clean them, reassemble, and treat them with an anti-corrosive product. Then, check the fluid levels and change them or top them off if necessary.
Cold Weather Storage: Fluids and Connections
With cold weather storage, you need to reinstall the battery (which should have been removed to avoid drainage) and check all the connections. If the connections have corroded, remove and clean them before reassembling and treating. Change the oil and oil filter. Even if the mileage indicates an oil change isn’t required, cold weather can affect its quality, making this a good idea.
3. Check the Tires
An RV’s tires can wear out faster during periods of inactivity than during normal use. To reduce UV damage, it is important to cover them when you are parked for extensive periods of time, especially during the summer and when stored. In fact, due to normal aging, it is recommended that tires be replaced every seven years.
After a period of storage, examine the tires for cracks and any other damage. Check the tire pressure for each and make sure they are properly inflated. Then check the lug nut torque and tighten them as needed.
4. Clean and Fill the Water System
The same as step two, the way the water system is prepared depends on whether it is stored in a cold or warm environment. After following the appropriate process, turn on the water pump to pressurize the system and fill the water heater. Once the pressure has equalized, it will shut itself off.
Note: Never run your water pump and water heater when they are dry. Make sure the system is ready for use and the water heater is full before moving to step 5 to avoid accidentally burning out the heating element or burning down your RV.
Water System Process for Warm Weather Storage
If there is no chance that a freeze will occur, the waste tanks were probably just flushed out before being placed in storage. All of the tanks — even the fresh water tank — and pipes have been sitting “dormant” during that time, so it is imperative to sanitize the system before using it for drinking and cooking water.
To sanitize the water system, pour 1-cup of bleach mixed with 1-gallon of water into the empty tank. Fill the tank with fresh water and open all of the faucets, letting the water run until you smell the bleach. Shut them off and let the water system sit for around 24 hours. Drain the tank and refill it with fresh water. Rinse the bleach out by running that water through all of the faucets until you no longer smell bleach. This usually takes a few tanks of water.
*Note: By adding the bleach and water mixture to the water in the system before putting the RV in storage, you can simplify this step. Just leave the mixture in the tank while it sits and then thoroughly rinse it out as mentioned above to get the tanks clean and the RV road ready.
Water System Process for Cold Weather Storage
After emptying and cleaning out the waste tanks, many people add RV antifreeze to keep the tanks, lines, and water pump from freezing and breaking while the motorhome is stored in a cold weather area.
Therefore, when you are preparing the motorhome for the road, make sure to fully flush out the system to avoid ingesting any of the antifreeze in your potable water. This may be a good time to sanitize the water system with the method mentioned above to thoroughly remove the threat.
5. Plug in the Electricity
Plug your RV into an appropriate shore power source to charge your house batteries. Make sure the refrigerator is turned on to “automatic” so it can start cooling. Then, check the lights and outlets to ensure they are all working. If not, check the corresponding breakers to make sure that the cause is merely a flipped breaker switch and not a larger problem that will need to be addressed.
6. Turn on the Gas Appliances
When preparing the motorhome for storage, the main valve for the propane should be closed for safety reasons. Therefore, before turning on the gas appliances, you need to open the valve and then check all of the appliances. If your stove runs on propane, turn on each burner to make sure they work. Turn them off, check the water heater, and adjust the thermostat until the furnace turns on.
*Note: After being stored for a while, gas appliances can be tricky. Be patient and consult a professional if you are unsuccessful after multiple attempts.
7. Check the Home Safety Systems
Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Some feature a series of warning beeps or blinks to alert you to a low battery. Otherwise, you should test them and install new batteries if necessary. You may need to consult the manual to fully understand how to assess their conditions and replace the batteries. Additionally, some units are plugged into the 12-volt battery bank and only require those batteries to be charged. Lastly, assess all fire extinguishers to ensure they are in good working order and place them in locations that are easy to access.
8. Do a Thorough Exterior Cleaning
Working in the shade to avoid the streaks that washing a hot vehicle can cause, use a power nozzle to spray your RV. Although it doesn’t have to be, this can be done at a truck and RV washing station for convenience.
Use clean sponges and towels to scrub the surface. It may seem easier to use your normal household cleaner, but these often contain chemicals that damage the paint or the glossy coat. It’s better to use a detergent formulated for use on a motorhome’s exterior. Then, you can use a specialized cleaning agent to address the trim, rims, and tires to make those details look brand new again.
*Note: Since this entire process may take a couple of days, after a preliminary cleaning, a more thorough exterior cleaning can be seen as a work in process to be done as time allows.
9. Do a Thorough Interior Cleaning
When a motorhome has been stored for a period, especially during the winter, it gets a “disused” musty smell. This may be caused by lack of ventilation, excess moisture, or the presence of pests. When cleaning the interior, it’s a good idea to start by airing it out while you determine the cause. When we first got our Tourmaster, this was the method I used.
Steps for Normal “Spring Cleaning”
Start at the top and work your way down. Use an anti-dust spray like Pledge or Endust and an extendable duster to reach the ceiling and overhead vents to remove any cobwebs.
Clean the interior of the windows with glass cleaner. Wipe down the walls, cabinets, and window blinds, and then use a sanitizer to clean the showers, sinks, toilets, as well as the refrigerator and stove. Depending on what type of upholstery you have, protect the dashboard and interior seats with leather conditioner or a wipe-on product for vinyl. Vacuum the carpet and use a carpet deodorizer and fabric refresher to remove any lingering odors. Then wash all bedding, removable cushions, curtains, and drapes.
Removing Mold and Mildew
Excess moisture can cause mold and mildew to form. You can remove this by spraying the area with distilled white vinegar and wiping it off after an hour. You can also use a commercially prepared formula; just follow the provided directions. Then, before storing the RV again, take steps to ensure this is no longer a problem.
Removing the Pests
Different areas are prone to different pests and RVs and trailers are notoriously prone to these uninvited visitors. For example, in Georgia, we had to deal with flying roaches (surprisingly a thing), which were quite easy to handle. We just got roach traps that we placed in out of the way places like inside bathroom cabinets and under the bed, etc. In Missouri, however, we experienced our first mouse problem and that was a whole other story.
When your coach has been in storage, there is the possibility that something has taken the opportunity to take up residence and whatever it is, it’s likely to have made a mess. Check the out of the way areas, such as under the stove range, in the cabinets and drawers, and in the underneath cargo compartments for signs of mice. Remove any nests or droppings and vacuum them out. Check the plumbing, the wet bay, rooftop vents, and windows for bugs, and clean them out. Making sure that all areas are covered, filled, screened, or secured can eliminate — or at least reduce — these threats.
10. Check Appliances and Supplies
Systematically test all of the appliances like coffee makers and toasters that have been left in the RV while it was in storage. Take stock in your cooking and bathroom supplies. Then make a list of what you need to add.
Next, do a quick inventory of your emergency and first aid kits. There are many commercially prepared options available or you may have assembled your own. Either way, an emergency kit should include bottled water, bungee cords, duct tape, a first aid kit, flares, a gas can, jumper cables, reflective triangles, and both a standard and Phillip’s head screwdriver.
Bringing your RV out of storage can be an exciting time since it means you are likely beginning your travel season. Although you probably want to just get in and go, it is really important to properly prepare your motorhome before heading down the road. It decreases the risk of expensive and potentially life-threatening calamities, as well as irritations and disappointments on the go.