youtubeAn article a number of weeks ago posed the question to readers, “Do I winterize my RV or not as there is still a lot to see and do in an RV during the fall and winter in Western Washington?”

If you do choose to winterize your RV, remember winterizing is more than protecting the plumbing system from freeze damage, it also includes prepping your RV for storage along with proper storage. Tips for doing so were discussed previously in this entry.

In this installment we are going to take a deeper look into items #14 and #15 of that entry which involve the decision to cover your RV or not. This subject has been a long running debate among RVers, especially here in the soggy Northwest.

Storing Your RV Under an Overhead Roof

This is the one thing that virtually all RVers can agree on. If you have the luxury of storing your RV under the cover of an overhead roof (carport, pole building, metal cover, barn, garage, etc.), then you need not read any further. This is the gold standard of RV covers.

If you don’t have availability to one of the structures mentioned above or the means to build or purchase one, then you will have to decide if you want to cover your RV or not?

Covering Your RV – Plastic Tarps or Fabric RV Covers

blue tarp on rvPlastic tarps are available at most hardware stores and home improvement centers. They are good at preventing the transfer of moisture. That’s good for keeping rain, snow and tree debris off the roof of your RV. Unfortunately, they are also excellent at trapping moisture within your RV and preventing air flow. Proper ventilation is key to protecting the inside or your RV while in storage, so tarps may not be the best choice. In addition, if tarps aren’t well secured over your RV, the tarps will wear the finish off your RV as they flap in the wind.

Here is what an RVer writing under the name of Capucine on a Forest River Forum has to say regarding the use of tarps.

“Don’t use a tarp. You will be sorry to go this way at the end of the winter. The results are. Gloss gone on the finish of the trailer and decals replacement because of the flapping in the wind from the tarp.”

If you must use a tarp, devise a way to suspend it over your RV, allowing unobstructed air flow around your RV and preventing it from rubbing against the RV.

Fabric RV Covers are better options than plastic tarps as they are made from material that is breathable, yet water resistant. Plus, they are sewn to fit your RV and have straps to keep it tightly in place reducing the chance of the cover wearing the finish on your RV. They are the next best option for protecting your RV from the elements, if you are unable to store your RV undercover. The problem is they are heavy, bulky and require considerable effort to put on and take off. This adds the potential of damaging yourself (falling) or the RV when donning or doffing the cover.

Here is what NM Wildcat advises on Forest River Forums regarding the use of RV Covers

I've done it.. but it is a major PITA!!!! First you have to haul the cover up on the roof. That is the fun part. Then you have to unroll the cover in the center of the rig and start spreading it toward the sides. Once you have it dropping off the sides you have to carefully walk back to the ladder without stepping on any skylights or vent covers which you can't see anymore Then you get on a ladder and pull it completely over the sides putting in foam and such so you don't break off any drip guides. Then you have to tie down the cover tight enough to prevent wind from leaving rub marks, which is impossible. Then if you want to use your rig before spring, you look at having to remove the cover and put it back on, so you decide not to use the RVThen in the spring, you remove the cover which is also a giant PITA, and you have to wax/de-oxidize your rig to get rid of the rub marks. DON'T DO IT!!! LOL!!!!!

For those of you who don’t know what the acronym PITA stands for, you will encounter it in many places when searching online posts for RV covers and they aren’t referring to round flat bread of Mediterranean origin!

RV Cover Scaffold Ladder Amazon PhotoIf you want to use an RV cover, you will want to develop a method of hoisting it onto the roof of your RV, portable scaffolding or folding ladders to ease in pulling it down the sides while making sure to secure it tightly. Recruiting several friends to help is a good idea too. You should also consider an RV cover with a zippered opening that will allow you to gain access through the entry door to the RV. This will allow you to periodically inspect the interior of the RV making certain things are not amiss inside.

An additional winter storage tip for our readers on the snowy east side of the Cascades

If you live in an area that receives substantial snow and ice and are unable to store it under a roof, consider placing a wood cover over the roof vents, skylights, and the absorption refrigerator roof vent, if so equipped. All of these are vulnerable to cracking as the weight of snow and ice accumulates through repeated winter weather cycles of snow, freezing and thawing. In addition, if left uncovered, light snow can drift into the refrigerator roof vent since there is no way to close it.

Build simple covers using some short lengths of 2×4 or 2x6 lumber to build a rectangle box with a piece of sheet metal or plywood to form a top. When storing your RV for the winter, place the completed covers over the vents or skylights to carry the weight of the snow and ice. Remove when you prepare your RV for its first spring outing. The covers also protect the vents and skylights from becoming brittle due to UV damage in fall and spring when there is no snow protecting them from the sun.

As for myself, I don’t cover my RV when I am not using it in the winter. I inspect the integrity of the roof in the spring and fall making sure there are no points for water intrusion, make sure ventilation is being provided in my RV by leaving a roof vent cracked and the cabinets open and check the exterior along with the interior after major weather events. Since it is not covered over the winter I do have to get up and clean the roof in the spring which provides another opportunity to inspect the seams and seals.

Plus, as noted in previous entries, there are many winter activities for RVers to enjoy in Western Washington. My wife and I use our RV over the winter (currently two trips planned between now and the New Year), so covering the RV doesn’t fit our RV lifestyle.


Lots of Winter Activities Using Your RV

The question of whether to cover your RV or not is not is an easy one to answer as an RV is an expensive piece of equipment and needs to be taken care of. You need to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision as to what works for you.

Questions? Comments? Please leave your thoughts below.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

Comments   

0 #4 Dave RH 2021-12-14 21:51
Quoting Mike McCarty:
Hi Dave,

I always enjoy reading your column. We live in the Spokane area and rent a covered RV storage space for our 30' class C motorhome. There is 15amp electrical service available as well. What are your thoughts on keeping the RV plugged in all winter and keeping the refrigerator on and batteries charged? Monthly I run the generator, check tire pressure, etc. Any other winter storage advice is appreciated!
Mike, There is no benefit that I know of to leaving the refrigerator on all winter. I suggest you turn it off and leave the doors propped open a crack. Providing you have a quality 3 or 4 stage charger in your RV you are fine keeping it plugged in to maintain the batteries. If the batteries are flooded lead acid batteries make sure to add distilled water as needed. Probably a good idea to start the motorhome monthly as well. If it is properly winterized you should be good to go.
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0 #3 Dave RH 2021-12-14 21:44
Quoting Mike:
Is there any way to prevent moisture from getting in your my RV after it's been rolled up
Mike, please define "rolled up" ?
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0 #2 Mike 2021-12-01 14:39
Is there any way to prevent moisture from getting in your my RV after it's been rolled up
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0 #1 Mike McCarty 2021-11-30 16:35
Hi Dave,

I always enjoy reading your column. We live in the Spokane area and rent a covered RV storage space for our 30' class C motorhome. There is 15amp electrical service available as well. What are your thoughts on keeping the RV plugged in all winter and keeping the refrigerator on and batteries charged? Monthly I run the generator, check tire pressure, etc. Any other winter storage advice is appreciated!
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