Ready or not, the shortening days, cooling temperatures, changing leaves, and pending holidays signal that winter is right around the corner. If you’re like many warm-weather enthusiasts, you’re probably hesitant to put away the boat, lock up the camper, and prepare other summer toys for the long and grueling season. However, by neglecting to winterize these types of machinery, you can cause them more harm than good and risk permanently damaging them over the winter.
What Happens When You Don’t Winterize Your Engines
To understand how harmful cold weather can be on un-winterized engines, let’s take a quick look at the scientific breakdown of ethanol enhanced gasoline.
Ethanol is a type of alcohol made from fermented sugar, corn, wheat, or cellulosic feedstock, that provides extra oxygen in the fuel. Not only does ethanol improve combustion, but it also burns cleaner and drops harmful carbon monoxide (CO) levels. In short, E10 optimizes large-engine performance.
Unfortunately, one of the challenges with E10 is that it is highly susceptible to moisture. When combined with water, the ethanol separates from the gasoline and sinks to the bottom of the tank which can cause corrosion in the aluminum fuel system and oxidize the fuel, causing it to break down when stored for more than 30 days. Come springtime, when you go to startup the engine, the fuel injection system accumulates the corroded particles of aluminum oxide and damages the internal metal, plastic, and rubber components of your motor’s fuel system.
Steps To Winterize Your Boat
With today’s popular steel and cast iron 4-stroke engines, nothing is more important than protecting the motor with fogging oil, a fuel stabilizer specially designed for gasoline-powered motors which are stored for more than 30 days at a time. Similar in design to WD-40, fogging oil should be sprayed on valves, rings, and cylinder sleeves prior to storage. This provides a layer of lubrication that protects the valuable components from rust and corrosion, especially in areas where high humidity and salt water are prevalent.
As you’ll come to find when winterizing most motors, here are some important steps to follow:
- Flushing the cooling system is an absolute must. Build ups of salt, sand, and mud have a tendency to retain moisture which can spark a chemical corrosion inside the aluminum cylinder block when exposed to different metals like a brass thermostat.
- Remove the battery from your boat over the winter. Though a fully-charged lead-acid battery won’t freeze, it will self-discharge over time and the more the battery’s charge weakens.
Before you put your boat away for the winter, be sure to take the battery out and keep it in an area where the battery can remain charged and protected from the cold weather.
How To Winterize Your Motorhome, RV or Camper
There are three key parts to preparing your motor home, RV or camper for winter: draining the water and drying water lines, antifreeze the plumbing system, and stabilizing the interior and exterior.
1. Drying out water lines
Start first by following these five steps to drain and dry out the water lines.
This will help prevent valuable pipes and lines from cracking in freezing temperatures.
- Drain the water system by locating the three low-point drains, one for cold water lines, one for hot water lines, and one for the fresh water tank. Open the petcocks and let as much water drain as possible. Also, open the water taps at each faucet and shower, and flush the toilet to drain any remaining water.
- Drain the hot water heater.
- Attach a compressed air adapter to the water intake fitting to force any remaining water out of the tanks and lines. A compressed air adaptor, or “blowout plug” can be found at any hardware store.
- Using a standard air compressor, blow air through the water lines to facilitate the drying process. Though this isn’t mandatory, it will ensure that the antifreeze you’ll put in later won’t become diluted.
- Remove the compressed air adapter and air compressor and replace the caps on all the drains. Close all cold and hot water faucets, and securely close the petcocks.
2. Protect the plumbing system with antifreeze
With the tanks and lines drained, protect the plumbing system with antifreeze. Because the plumbing system is vulnerable to freezing temperatures, it’s imperative that you use antifreeze before storing your RV. To help make the process easier, here are five simple steps to follow.
- Install a water pump converter kit and connect it to a one-gallon jug of RV antifreeze.
- Turn the water pump on to pressurize the system. Beginning with the faucet closest to the pump, slowly open the hot and cold valves until RV antifreeze appears. Repeat this process on all faucets, including the outside shower, using additional antifreeze as needed. Be sure to flush the toilet repeatedly, too, until you see antifreeze appear.
- Pour a cupful of antifreeze down each drain. Also, pour a cupful of antifreeze into the toilet and flush once to line the pipes and tank.
- If applicable, turn off your water heater’s electric heating element to protect it while in storage.
- Finally, ensure all faucets are securely closed and disconnect the water pump converter kit.
3. Winterizing your RV’s interior and exterior
Go through the interior and exterior of your RV to ensure you’ve completed the final details.
- Remove all food from the refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets to prevent mice and rodents from nesting.
- Fix anything that is broken prior to storage.
- Cover all vents and holes with a mesh guard or plug. Vents on the roof are an open invitation for birds, pipes welcome rodents.
- Take the weight off the tires by raising your RV on blocks or stilts.
The final step in winterization is to cover your RV with a breathable material. Along with protecting your RV from wintery elements like snow, ice, wind, and rain, a breathable cover also prevents any mold or mildew from forming under the tarp. Consider putting rags or buffers on sharp corners and objects prior to covering your RV so that the breathable material doesn’t rip.