Mark My Words: October – Time to Talk Winterizing your RV

SWKrullImaging/istockphoto/thinkstock Winter Camping in Pike National Forest

Mark My Words - Easy Fixes to Common RV Problems - Mark NemethHi folks. It’s getting later in the RVing season, and it’s time to start talking about winter storage. The lead-off piece this month is about winterizing. Then, I’ve got some general RVing answers for you. Remember to send your RVing questions to [email protected].


To save some money I want to winterize my Class C rather than pay a dealer to do it. Can I adequately winterize my system by putting antifreeze in the fresh water tank and pumping it through the system?  Do I need to unplug and drain the hot water heater first?  How many gallons of antifreeze would I need to do the job properly?  William

Hi William

It’s really not that hard to winterize your RV, and there are many sources for step-by-step instructions. Here are a few links;

Basically, what you want to do is first remove as much water from the rig’s plumbing as possible. Drain the fresh water tank, the water heater, and empty the holding tanks. Then, you can use the rig’s 12V water pump to pump RV safe antifreeze through the plumbing system. It’s a bad idea to just put the antifreeze in the fresh water tank, because it’s almost impossible to get it completely flushed out of there in the spring. That first link above, from Gag’s Camper Way, is a really comprehensive guide, with pictures and explanations of the process and special equipment you might need, like a water heater bypass, or a diverter kit. These items are inexpensive and easy to install. Your RV may already have them! For most RVs a couple gallons of RV antifreeze will do the job. If you don’t have a water heater bypass, then you’ll need a lot more, as you’ll have to fill the whole water heater with antifreeze. The bypass is a lot cheaper than all that extra antifreeze, even if you have to get it installed by an RV shop.


I want to trade for a newer model. Everything works, the awning doesn’t work, no outside damage, color is good (white), new tires, cushions recovered. NO hardware damage. What it’s worth? Thanks, Bucket

Hi Bucket

Well, it’s worth whatever you can get someone to pay for it! You can add lots of $$ to the price by doing a very thorough cleaning inside and out. Clean and completely intact RVs sell for more. To get an idea what it’s worth, cruise some of the used RV sale sites and see what similar rigs are going for. Craigslist can be helpful. To get an estimate of the rig’s resale value, go to the NADA website at . Enter your RV’s info and see what they say. This can give you a starting point. Be aware that a 20-year-old RV will not usually be worth big bucks. Good luck with your sale and upgrade!

Hi Mark,

I have not put a wax or “Protective finish” on my RV for several years. I have a 2001 Bounder and wonder what to use. that will protect. I am thinking of doing it myself. I called an RV service and asked what they would charge for a wax job and they said that is not done anymore. Is this true? Your help is greatly appreciated. Mary

Hi Mary

I think that service place just didn’t want to do it. You can do it yourself, just use any good automotive wax, but it’s a lot of square footage to rub and buff! I like to do it in small sections, and stretch it out over a few days. I have used a waterless cleaner called Dry Wash and Guard ( on all my vehicles for many years. I like it because it leaves a layer of protection that lasts for months. You can use it on a dirty vehicle, but I prefer to wash the vehicle and let it dry first. You just spray it on and wipe it off. I find it easier than automotive wax. They make several formulas, I use the “classic” for most of my stuff.


I am experiencing a pulsating, bright to dimmer, condition, with my lights.  It appears that the cycle time is shortening. In addition, I am experiencing stray voltage, not only feeding back to my motorhome exterior, but also anyone who is using the same breaker box. When I check my 110 outlets, I see voltage bleeding back, on the neutral. Could this be a bad converter?  It is the original. Thanks, Doug

Hi Doug

It sounds like you may have a serious electrical wiring issue in the rig’s AC breaker box, or possibly elsewhere in the rig’s wiring. If you are sensing any detectable voltage on the skin or frame of the motorhome, it is a very dangerous condition. We’re talking the possibility of a fatal shock hazard here. The first thing to check is all of the wiring connections in the AC breaker box in the RV. A loose or disconnected ground, or a short from a hot wire to the neutral bus could possibly cause those symptoms, so you’re looking first for anything loose or incorrectly wired. Obviously, unplug the rig from AC power before you open that breaker box! The problem may not be in the breaker box itself, it may be somewhere else in the RV. If you aren’t sure you have the skills to evaluate it yourself, call in an electrician, and please do so immediately.

Once you have corrected the AC power issue, the converter may be fine.

A word to all: A hot skin condition in an RV is very dangerous! If you ever experience even the slightest shock or tingle when standing outside and touching any part of your RV’s frame or body, that is a clear warning that there is a serious, and potentially fatal malfunction in the RV’s AC wiring. Do not ignore it! Immediately have the RV’s AC power system inspected by a qualified person.


  1. How do I tell if my 95 Chinook has a single stage or a 3 stage charging system?  I would like to keep it plugged in but am afraid of cooking my batteries. The previous owner did not mention this upgrade and I can find no paperwork. As you can tell I’m a newbie, any advice would be appreciated. Best, Doug

Probably the easiest way is to monitor your battery voltage under charge, using a digital voltmeter. Unplug the rig from AC power, and turn on some lights and fans. Run the furnace. The idea is to run the batteries down a bit. Once the voltage has dropped to about 12.4 volts, plug the rig back in to AC power. If the battery voltage rises to about 13.5 volts and stays there, you have a single stage converter. If the voltage rises to 14 volts or higher, then tapers down to 13.2 or so over time, you most likely have a smart 3-stage charger. Given the age of your rig, it’s likely to have a single stage converter unless someone has upgraded it in the past. 3-stage chargers were pretty rare in the 90s. You can live with the old converter, you’ll just need to check the water levels in your batteries monthly, and add distilled water as needed.

  1. Same question about the Dometic 3 way refer, how do tell if it has the later dinosaur (I think that’s the name) board?

That’s easy! Open the outside fridge compartment access panel and look for a circuit board mounted to the back of the fridge. This board will have a cylindrical coil on it, and a single thick wire leading from the coil to the burner assembly. That’s the ignitor wire, and the board will be either an OEM (original) board, or a dinosaur board. Dinosaur clearly labels their boards with their name. Dinosaur has been making replacement ignitor and control boards for furnaces, fridges and water heaters for many years, and they are much smarter, and longer lived, than the original manufacturer’s boards.  I always carry one as a spare.

  1. Just how critical is the need to have the refer absolutely level?

Your fridge will last longer, and operate more efficiently, if it is reasonably level. It doesn’t have to be perfect. “Half a bubble off” on a spirit level or RV levelling gauge is usually close enough. Generally, if you can walk around inside the RV without bouncing off the walls, it’s probably close enough, but the closer to level the better. Never run your refrigerator if you are significantly off-level. These fridges operate on gravity and convection, and if they are operated off level, the circulation of the coolant stops, and damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes. To learn a lot more about how these fridges operate, visit  On the home page are links to a series of articles Paul wrote for Escapees magazine covering many (if not all!) aspects of RV refrigeration. While you’re there, check out the ARP control, which actively protects your fridge from damage in case of off-level operation or other failures. It’s a great little gadget, and if you have one, you’ll never need to worry if you’re level enough!


EscapeesThis stuff also works great on stuck jar lids and other places where you need to “get a grip”.

Founded in 1978, the Escapees RV Club provides a total support network that includes a wide variety of services and opportunities:

  • Mail Service- Escapees offers the largest private mail service in the country. Members are able to personalize their mail delivery with multiple options. Custom sorting options, delivery schedule and even mail scanning. We make it easy!
  • Mapping Tool- Plug in your starting point and destination, and let us do the rest! Our mapping tool will show you discount parks along your route, as well as trusted commercial members and endorsed vendors to help you with all of your needs along the way.
  • Education- From our annual Escapades to our discussion forum, we help you connect with fellow RVers to share experience and knowledge. For the hands-on learner, RVers’ Boot Camp is a great way to learn about RV operation, safety and maintenance. Our award-winning magazine is also a great resource for peer-to-peer advice from fellow RVers and industry experts.
  • Community- When you see an Escapees sticker on a rig, you know you’ve found a friend. Escapees hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including convergences, excursions, chapter rallies and Escapade. Each of these offers the opportunity to connect with other RVers and make new friends.

A complete listing of all Escapees events and a comprehensive list of member benefits are found at

Leave a Reply

1 comment

  1. This is informative and a big help to those who are looking for a solution this winter season…