Even though we now live in our RV as our only home there have been times in the last few years that we have had to place our Cougar fifth wheel trailer in storage for a little while. Luckily we have found a nice secure storage yard to keep our baby in. We really love our RV and would hate to see anything happen to it while in storage, so I’ve done a lot of research about RV storage and the best ways to prevent any damage. Below you’ll find my 11 Helpful Tips for RV Storage.
1. Clean and Check all Seals
Before placing the rig in storage give it a good wash and wax. The wax will help protect the RV from sun damage and keep dirt build up down. A good coat of wax also makes cleanup after storage much easier. When washing pay special attention to the roof. Most of those evil black streaks come from dirt and road grime on the roof, so the cleaner the better for the whole rig.
After the rig is all clean have a close look at all silicon seams, caulking and rubber seals. If anything is cracked or worn looking now is the time to repair it. As they say “An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure” or in the case of an RV a ton of money. One of the most expensive RV repair bills you can get is from water damage and most times it happens during time spent in storage.
Keeping moisture out of the RV is a major concern. If any moisture develops it can lead to mold growth and musty smells when you retrieve your RV from storage. I find by far the best way to keep the interior of the RV dry is to leave the rooftop vents open. We have installed special vent covers on our three roof vents allowing us to leave them wide open all the time.
They are designed in such a way to stop rain from getting inside but at the same time allowing for lots of air flow. Equalization of air temperature inside and outside the RV seems to be a big key to stopping moisture problems and the open vents do the job well. The proof is in the pudding as I have had to store the Cougar trailer several times on Vancouver Island in the fall. If you have never been to the west coast of Canada in fall, let’s just say it rains! When we walk inside our stored trailer everything is dry as a bone. I also leave open the interior cabinets, closets and prop open the refrigerator door.
The first time I stored the RV I goofed big time. My first mistake was I thought the fridge was completely empty but had missed a package of frozen chopped spinach in the freezer door. Second mistake was I failed to prop open the doors. Let’s just say I’ll never, never make that mistake again. Arrgghhh! – Ray
3. Blinds and Curtains
Another way to combat mold growth is by not using the full night time shades. I store the RV with the translucent daytime shades drawn which still allows daylight to penetrate. I learned this lesson when I stored my old camper van for 6 months and decided it would be a good idea to close all the curtains. Well the van had a bit of a leak and moisture got into it. The whole back area that was curtained off was full of mold spots but the front driving area which had no curtaining was spotless.
4. Slide Outs
I like to have all my slides retracted when storing the RV. This way the mechanical parts, roof, slide toppers and rubber seals are not exposed to the elements and there is less chance for leaks. Before placing the RV in storage I will clean the rubber seals, roof and mechanical parts underneath. Then I apply some Protect-All rubber seal conditioner and slide rail corrosion protector. On the inner seals I rub on some baby powder to keep the them from sticking when we go to open the slide again.
5. Bugs and Rodents
Different parts of the country will have different problems with pests, and most of them can cause some sort of grief when storing the rig. First thing to do is make sure all external openings are blocked off or screened. Popular spots for bugs to set up shop are rooftop plumbing vents, inside the exterior fridge panel and vent, the furnace exhaust and air intake piping. Most RV parts outlets sell made to fit screening for these openings.
The worse pests I think are rats and mice as they like to chew electrical wiring which can be very difficult to locate in closed up RV walls, plus they crap everywhere, yuck. The best way to limit them picking your RV as a happy home is to make sure to remove all possible food sources and nesting materials. Even things you wouldn’t think of like soap, toothpaste and paper towels. They generally won’t hang around and nest if there isn’t a good supply of food. I’ve heard stuffing steel wool and spray foam into possible underbelly access points may also help.
* For more tips and tricks for rodent control check out this interesting Mice Thread over in theLove Your RV Forum forums. 🙂
When I leave the RV in storage I turn off all electrical using a battery disconnect switch located right beside my batteries. This way there will be absolutely no drain on the battery bank and I won’t have to worry about dealing with a dead battery bank when I go to pick up the RV. Thing to remember though is to make sure the batteries are fully charged first. A fully charged battery will be OK in cold weather and usually not freeze. I say usually because I’ve never lived in ultra-cold places where maybe that can be a problem. But I know for sure a weakly charged battery can freeze much easier and damage it. Also you don’t want to be the rig in the storage yard with the weak battery alarm beeping all day long. 😉
If your lucky and have solar power on the rig then leave that hooked up as it will maintain the batteries at full charge. It doesn’t take much. My old camper van only had a 15 watt panel on it but kept the starting battery in great shape. Even after storing the van all winter the battery fired up the engine on the first few cranks.
7. Plumbing and Tanks
The temperature plays the biggest role in how we prep the RV for storage when it comes to plumbing. If there is no chance of freezing and I’m only storing for a few weeks I do very little. I’ll generally flush out the waste tanks real well and then add back a ¼ tank of water to keep them from drying out inside. For the fresh water I fill it and add a ½ cup of bleach and then run it into all the pipes. That way I get to disinfect the water supply plumbing as it sits and nothing can grow in it.
If there is any chance of below freezing weather I remove all water from the plumbing system including the water heater tank. Then I will add antifreeze into the piping, valves, drain “P” traps and a little bit into each waste tank. There are many great articles online on winterizing and several viable methods. Last year I needed to do it very fast so opted for my own very quick method. It uses a lot of antifreeze but worked well. Also remember to remove any other liquids that may freeze and crack their containers to avoid unanticipated messes in the RV. An example would be dish washing soap.
Motorhomes are a little harder to break into and steal but fifth wheels such as ours are an easy target. I attach a special hitch lock to the king pin. Some folks will also chain the wheels or use a wheel lock. The best thing to do is leave it in a location that has some type of onsite security or at least someone that keeps an eye on things. The storage yard we use has an owner who lives on the premises and a Rottweiler guard dog. I make sure to get the spot close to the doggie.
Making your RV a difficult target is the best defense. Thieves are generally lazy and will move on looking for an easier score. Another thing I’ve done to make the rig a bit more secure is change out the storage bay locks. Many folks don’t realize that a majority of RVs use the same key but criminals sure do! If they can walk up to an RV and open things with a key they won’t look too suspicious to a casual observer. Check my recent blog post for details of my storage door lock replacement.
9. RV Insurance
Make sure to contact your RV insurance company and see if you have the proper insurance in place. Don’t trust that a storage lot is going to cover any losses. Most policies for “storage only” coverage are very cheap and well worth it for piece of mind.
Improper storage of tires causes a great many of those blow outs you hear RVers talking about. Leaving the motorhome or trailer parked in the same spot on the tires for extended periods weakens the tire and may lead to sudden catastrophic failure. Here are some tire storage tips I found in the Goodyear Recreational Vehicle Tire and Care Guide
Storing your vehicle properly helps protect your tires.
- Keep your vehicle in a cool, dry storage area out of direct sunlight and UV rays.
- Unload your vehicle so that minimum weight is on the tires.
- Inflate your tires to recommended operation pressure plus 25%, but don’t exceed the rim manufacturer’s inflation capacity.
- Thoroughly clean your tires with soap and water before storing them to remove any oils that may have accumulated from the road.
- Move your vehicle at least every three months to help prevent cracking and flat-spotting, but avoid moving it during extremely cold weather.
- Place your vehicle on blocks to remove the weight from the tires. If the vehicle can’t be put on blocks, make sure the storage surface is firm, clean, well-drained and reasonably level.
Most articles and manuals I’ve read also state not to store with the tires on the bare ground but to put something like a plank of wood under them.
11. Go Check on it
Finally, we can all get lazy or forgetful, out of site out of mind, but it’s well worth stopping by and checking in on our RV from time to time. Problems can be nipped in the bud before they go from minor little problems to larger, more expensive issues. Two big things to look for are signs of rodent droppings or moisture intrusion, each can cause expensive damage.
The best thing is not to have to store the RV. In a perfect world we would always be RVing, but if you do have to store it I hope these 11 Tips for RV Storage come are helpful. If you have any handy tips to add please leave a comment below, by using the contact link at the top of the website or share it in the RVHH forums. We love sharing RVing advice and tips.
Follow our RV adventures! Sign up for the free monthly Love Your RV Newsletter – Receive the eBook “Tips for the RV Life” as a gift. – Cheers Ray