When the dazzling fall colors start fading away, it’s time to prepare your Airstream for winter storage. Winterizing your Airstream will protect it from the effects of freezing temperatures, falling snow, UV rays, and sneaky gnawers, while ensuring it’s ready for adventure when the camping season rolls around.
Although storing your Airstream for the winter takes some careful and thorough work, the process is not as complex as it might seem. Whether you’re a proud owner of the iconic silver bullet or a modern Airstream touring coach, this guide will go through everything you need to know about winterizing your shiny rig.
First, What’s the Best Time to Store Your Airstream for the Winter?
To be on the safe side, it is best to winterize your Airstream as soon as the temperatures begin to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If they plummet below 32 degrees Fahrenheit before preparing your camper, you risk having water freeze in your pipes, fittings, tanks, or water heater. This can cause expensive damage, like broken pipes and cracked tanks.
So, don’t wait until it’s too cold to prep your Airstream for winter hibernation. Keep an eye on the local forecast to avoid being caught off-guard. Notably, Airstreams travel trailers and motorhomes are not exactly 4-season RVs, so they are not equipped to handle extreme winter camping. Plan to winterize yours if you live in an area where temperatures drop significantly.
Materials You Need to Safeguard Your Airstream Against Winter Weather
Here are the items you’ll need for your Airstream winterization project:
- Non-toxic antifreeze
- Wand to clean out the black tank if the Airstream doesn’t have a built-in sewer flush
- Compressed air adaptor, also known as a blow-out plug
- Water pump converter kit or pass kit
- Basic hand tools, including a wrench to remove and refit drain plugs
- Tire cover
- Baking soda
Below are 15 tasks to do before storing your Airstream for the winter:
Start With the Necessary Repairs
After pulling the plug on your camping season, your first step is to inspect your rig for damage. The rigors of the road and the intense summer heat could have caused some components to fall apart, break, or leak.
Fixing these issues before storage is essential since the harsh winter conditions could exacerbate the neglected problem. Inspect your camper to ensure the plumbing, engine, electrics, and bodywork are in great shape.
Open all Faucets
The most critical task when storing an Airstream or any other RV is getting rid of all the water in the plumbing system. First, level the travel trailer from side to side and front to rear, then open the hot and cold water faucets for a minimum of 15 minutes. Also, open the shower, flush the toilet, and don’t forget the outdoor shower if you have one.
Dump and Flush Your Holding Tanks
After the kitchen, shower, and toilet water drains into the waste tanks, you’ll need to empty the grey and black water tanks completely, as they could also freeze and crack. Take your rig to a dump station, empty the black and gray tank, then clean and flush them to ensure there are no residues inside. Most Airstream’s come with a sewer flusher, but if your model doesn’t have one, use a black tank cleaning wand.
To properly drain the fresh water tank, consult your owner’s manual to locate and open the low-point drain valve. In the Airstream touring coach, you’ll find it underneath the camper, around the front of the roadside wheels. Leave the fresh water tank valve open so it can continue to drip.
Drain Your Water Heater
Before emptying the water heater, turn off its power supply and allow the hot water to cool down. Next, turn on the water heater bypass valve. This will stop fresh water from flowing through your water heater. Now locate the heater’s drain plug and loosen it with a hand wrench.
Finally, open the pressure relief valve located on top of the unit to let the water drain out. Since Airstream models vary, refer to your user manual to find the exact location of the bypass valve and drain plugs. You should also disconnect any water filters in your camper.
Use an Air Compressor to Blow Out the Remaining Water in the Lines
To ensure that the lines are completely free of water, you’ll need an air compressor. Fit a compressed air adapter to the city water inlet of your Airstream. This adapter can be purchased in most RV stores. Now attach the air compressor to the adapter and blow air. Use a minimum of 60 psi to avoid damaging the internal systems of your RV.
You’ll want to have someone go inside and begin opening each faucet, one at a time, starting with the closest to the city water inlet. You should also flush the toilet and blow compressed air through the black tank flush system to get rid of all water. Next, run your water pump briefly to allow the air to remove any water trapped inside. Turn the air compressor off when you see that only air is coming out of the faucets and shower.
Pour Some RV Antifreeze into Your Sink Traps and Toilet
Pour one cup of non-toxic RV antifreeze into each sink drain. This will settle in the P traps and keep them from freezing. Pour some more into your toilet to protect the toilet valve. After performing this step, your Airstream’s plumbing system is ready to handle the brutal winter temps.
Alternatively, Flood Your Plumbing System with Antifreeze
Another option for winterizing your Airstream’s water system is running antifreeze throughout the lines. If you opt to go this route, you’ll need to get a pump converter kit from an RV shop and around 2 gallons of non-toxic RV antifreeze.
Make sure the water pump, faucets, and shower are off and that the water heater bypass valve is on to keep out antifreeze. Hook the pump convertor kit to the inlet side of the water pump, then switch on the pump to flood your water system with antifreeze.
One at a time, turn on the hot and cold faucets, open the shower, and flush the toilet until you see red-colored antifreeze flowing. Once the lines are flowing with antifreeze, close the valves and shut off the pump.
Shut Off the Propane at the Tank
All Airstream trailers come standard with LP tanks. The tanks are usually mounted in the front of the camper on the A-frame tow bar. It’s a good idea to shut off the propane to prevent leaks. If the flammable gas leaks when the RV is in storage, you won’t know about it. Simply take the propane cover off and shut the gas valve.
When you’re getting ready to store you Airstream is also a good time to check to see if the certification on you propane tanks is about to expire before next camping season.
Remove all Food
Many pests seek shelter indoors during the winter. And a hibernating RV can be a perfect nesting place for rodents. Remove anything that may attract gnawers and bugs, from food items stored in the fridge to hygiene products and medicines in the bathroom. Even nonperishable canned goods should be kept elsewhere.
Defrost and Prep the Fridge and Freezer
After removing all foodstuffs in your fridge and freezer, clean it with mild soap, then leave the door open to allow everything to dry. You can also crumple up newspaper and place it in the fridge and freezer for a day or two. It will help absorb all moisture. To keep the unit smelling fresh for months, place pen boxes of baking soda inside.
Remove the Airstream Batteries
Another key step that should feature in every Airstream winterizing checklist is removing the batteries and storing them in your garage. This will make charging and monitoring easy. Batteries lose charge during prolonged storage, and extensive discharging can damage them permanently. Hook them up on a trickle charger to prolong their life. While at it, remove all batteries in your detectors, alarms, clocks, radios, and remotes.
If you Have a Class B Airstream, Take Care of the Engine
Self-powered RVs are meant to be driven frequently and not left stationary for extended periods. If you own a motorized Airstream, top off the fuel tank to stop corrosion and add a quality fuel stabilizer to prevent the gas from degrading. Your engine oil, transmission, and brake fluids will also need to be filled up.
Give Your Airstream RV a Thorough Wash
Dirt marks, spills, and stains in your RV can become a permanent fixture if not cleaned before storage. First, rinse the exterior to remove debris that may scratch the surface, then use mild cleaning solutions, sponges, and soft-bristle brushes to clean the body from the roof going down to the tires. You’ll also want to vacuum, sweep, wipe down and properly dry the interior. This is also a good time to plug all holes that pests may use to access your rig.
Protect Your Airstream Tires
Start by inflating your tires to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Next, use a tire cover to protect them from the sun’s rays. To prevent flat spots from developing, consider blocking or jacking the weight from your tires. Jack up the trailer at the axle mounting plate.
Store Your Airstream Indoors
Airstream’s manufacturer doesn’t recommend using any type of cover for your camper. It could scratch the shiny aluminum coat, especially in windy conditions. Simply store it in a secure shelter, on a gravel or concrete floor. The best option is to store the camper somewhere indoors to protect it from the elements.
Button Up Your Airstream for Winter Storage
When the camping season winds down, start prepping your shiny Airstream RV for storage. Proper winterization will guarantee that the camper is in great shape come spring. And when you aren’t sure about the Airstream winterization process, you can always refer to this guide.