Prepare your Boat, RV, or Trailer for Long Winter Storage

Jan 14, 2024 / Laura Bolt

Owning a boat or RV can be a fantastic opportunity to explore, have some active adventures, and make memories with your family. However, long winter storage for your boat or RV is an optimal choice, but it’s vital to do it properly.

Once the temperatures drop and the time comes to retire those leisure activities for the season, you’ll likely be looking for a temporary home for your large vehicles and watercraft—that’s when it’s time to weigh your long winter storage options.

Always winterize your vehicles before storing to avoid costly repairs caused by moisture, freezing, cracks, dormancy, or other damage. Taking the time to winterize may seem like a lot of work, but for such a valued piece of property as a boat, RV, or trailer, it is worth it.

“A primary must is to winterize a trailer,” agrees Randy Worzalla of Greeneway RV, a family-owned dealership in South Wisconsin Rapids, WI. “Be sure all water is drained from the hot and cold lines, water heater, and water tanks. Many people will use forced air to drive water out of pipe angled fittings and appliances. We recommend using an RV antifreeze; this will stay in the lines, and while it will freeze, it will not expand like water does.”

Inspect the trailer’s exterior for gaps around the slide-out seals, windows, doors, and seams, as well as roof seams. You need to avoid unwanted water intrusion. Be sure to reseal any gaps found.

Check out our handy checklist for a rundown of more RV winterizing tips:

RV or trailer long winter storage checklist:man cleaning rv preparing for long winter storage

  • Consult and follow your owner’s manual for storage instructions that apply to your RV or trailer’s specific model or make.
  • Take everything out that can be damaged by the winter frost or that may freeze, such as any liquid containers. Remove electronics.
  • Discourage pests by cleaning thoroughly, getting rid of any food residues. Clean the kitchen area meticulously and remove cooking grease. Worzalla also notes that you should “NOT put baited traps or rodent poison in the camper, as this will still attract unwanted critters. There are products on the market that have a mint base that will deter the little nibblers.”
  • Wash all bedding and linens and store properly. Clean and vacuum carpeting, floors, and seat cushions.
  • Remove the water heater plug and put it somewhere safe. Drain the water heater tank. If your water heater has a bypass system, turn the valves away from the tank.
  • Drain all water tanks and treat the entire water system with antifreeze.
  • Drain all water hoses.
  • Remove your battery if possible and store away safely.
  • Keep your propane tanks full for possible winter usage.
  • Re-caulk and seal peeling or cracked exteriors.
  • Wash the exterior thoroughly and wax if necessary.
  • Oil and lubricate stabilizer jacks and slide-out units.
  • Clean tires and apply tire sealer to prevent dry rot.

Feel like some more DIY? Check out our small trailer tips for micro storage options.

If you choose to use an RV cover, Worzalla cautions you to install them properly: “If the cover is not secured, it can get damaged, or leave strapping marks on the side of the trailer. A trailer should have a ceiling vent or window open just a bit so as to not allow condensation on the inside walls and cabinetry.”

We’ve also got more RV tips for successful year-round storage.

Similarly, boats also need to be winterized before storing to prevent potentially expensive damage. No matter how much time you’ve spent on the water before lowering your sails, you’ll want to give your watercraft some extra attention before you store it.

Boat Storage Checklist:

cleaning boat for long winter storage

  • Consult and follow the instructions in your owner’s manual for proper storage relevant to the specific needs of your boat’s model and make.
  • Clean your boat well. Cleaning your boat will prevent residue build-up or accumulation of odors from messes or dirty areas.
  • Apply rust inhibitor on your metal, as well as steering and control cables.
  • Repair all damaged areas; allowing them to sit in disrepair may only worsen the problem over time.
  • Remove electronics and store in a dry, warm place.
  • Avoid moisture; utilize climate control to keep away mildew. Prop open drawers and cabinets to allow air to move through them.
  • Clean fabric items and store them properly.
  • Baking soda placed throughout the boat can help to absorb moisture.
  • Drain fluid from manifolds, engine blocks, water pumps, coolers, port-a-potty, freshwater tank, and hot water heater.
  • Put non-toxic antifreeze into the port-a-potty, water tank, and heater.
  • Lubricate gearcase.
  • Fill the gas tank and use antifreeze.
  • Change the oil when the engine is warm.
  • Change the transmission fluid.
  • Remove spark plugs.
  • Use “fogging oil” on each cylinder. Wipe down the engine with fogging oil or WD-40.
  • To prevent rust, consider sanding the boat bottom and repainting.
  • Disconnect the battery, clean it properly, and apply grease to the terminal ends. Use a trickle charger to keep the battery charged and store it in a dry place and away from concrete.
  • Remove plants or barnacles from your stern drive, and then investigate for cracks or holes.
  • Clean your bilges and keep them dry. Lubricate them with moisture-displacing spray. Add antifreeze.
  • Use a boat cover with good ventilation as an extra precaution.

Be sure to check out more boat storage tips on our blog.

While these recommendations may seem overwhelming, the most crucial item on your winterizing to-do list is to consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions applicable to your model and make.

As Worzalla says, “Keep in mind that these vehicles are designed to be outdoors, so if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for exterior cleaning and waxing, you’ll be fine.”

You’ll be thanking yourself when your boat, RV, or trailer is in great condition and ready for fun once the weather is warm again.

Public Storage offers large vehicle and boat storage units across the country. Whether you need Seattle storageDenver storage, or Milwaukee storage, Public Storage offers great services for storing your boat or RV during the long winter months or year-round.

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