Don't skip this easy 5-point Airstream winter inspection

Is your Airstream winterized for the season? Not going anywhere soon?

Here's a simple, 5-point inspection that will protect your Airstream while it's in storage. It takes only a few minutes and requires no tools or special knowledge.

Catching a problem early can pay off immensely, because you'll avoid a much bigger problem next spring.

1. ELECTRICAL

If the batteries haven't been removed for storage, check their status. Without a power connection or solar panels, they might be going dead—even if the Battery Disconnect is in the STORE or OFF position. Read this blog to understand why.

Flip the Battery Disconnect to the USE or ON position, then take a look at the Airstream's built-in voltage meter.

  • If you have standard lead-acid or AGM batteries (not lithium) it should show at least 12.2 volts, preferably more. If the voltage is getting down near 12.2 volts they are about 50% discharged and you should make plans to charge the batteries soon. Letting lead-acid batteries stay below 50% charge will shorten their life drastically.
  • Lithium batteries should show 13.2 volts or higher.

If you don't have power available to charge the batteries where you store the Airstream, you should either move the Airstream to a place with power or remove the batteries and connect them to a battery maintainer (not a "battery charger") at home. Letting them go completely dead will usually mean you need to buy new batteries in the spring.

Be sure to put the Battery Disconnect back into the STORE or OFF position after this test.

2. PROPANE

Open up the propane tank cover and check that the propane valves on both tanks are fully closed. Then, look at the hoses. If they're showing cracks, it's time to replace them. You can get replacement hoses from RV dealerships, Camping World, and various online sources.

If you use a GasStop with 90-degree bend hoses, you can find identical 12" hoses on Amazon

3. TIRES

Take a look at the tires. If you see cracks on the sidewall, they're coming due for replacement. Make a note so you remember to get the tires done before your first springtime trip.

Check the air pressure on each tire. If one tire is markedly lower than the others, it may have a leak and either the tire or valve stem may need to be repaired by a tire shop.

4. EXTERIOR

Walk around the Airstream and check for tree branches or other things that may be rubbing against it. Look for bird droppings or tree sap, and plan to remove any that you find soon, because they can be damaging to the exterior finish. Auto parts stores will have good cleaning products for removing sap and stuck-on bugs. 

Look inside all of the exterior compartments, including the storage compartments and the access doors for the refrigerator and water heater. You're primarily looking for wasp nests, spider webs, or anything else that shouldn't be there.

In the storage compartments, notice whether it seems damp inside. If you see or feel moisture, you need to explore further to find the source. Water inside the storage compartments is a big red flag telling you that there's a rainwater leak somewhere. (For more on that topic, read "Finding and Fixing Rainwater Leaks".)

Take a look underneath the Airstream. The area underneath should be clear of debris and weeds should not be reaching to the bottom (they're a highway for insects). Also notice if anything is hanging down from the Airstream that seems like it shouldn't be (loose parts). If the belly pan is loose or you notice missing rivets, our Rivet Replacement Kit will help you fix that quickly.

Look overhead to see if there are any tree branches that may threaten the Airstream. A big snowfall or storm can put an Airstream-killing branch in the worst possible place.

Finally, take a look at the 7-way connector at the front of the trailer. The brass contacts inside it should be free of corrosion, which may be black, dark brown, or green. It should also be off the ground with the head end facing down so rainwater doesn't get inside it. If it's corroded, clean and protect the connectors before your next trip. 

5. INTERIOR

Your last stop is inside. Pause a moment to sniff the air. If you smell something rotten, moldy, damp or otherwise funky, it's a clue that something untoward is going on.

The cause is usually one of these things:

  • rainwater leak
  • rodents
  • leftover food, trash, or other items
  • something wasn't cleaned before storage (like the refrigerator) 

If something seems questionable, check inside every drawer and cabinet for mouse droppings, water stains, dead insects, or leftover edible items. Make sure the refrigerator is completely clean and the door has been left ajar for ventilation. For more tips, check our blog on summertime storage.

Also take a quick glance in the toilet to be sure there's at least a little pink RV anti-freeze in there. If it has leaked out, pour a bit more in the toilet bowl. You can get RV anti-freeze at RV stores, some hardware stores, and Wal-Mart.

If everything looks good—congratulations! Plan to do this inspection once more closer to springtime so you don't have any surprises when it's time to de-winterize for summer travel.

 

Photo by Zane Lindsay on Unsplash

4 comments

Larry McAllister

Larry McAllister

Rich
Your suggested 5 point inspection provides a comprehensive look at possible winter issues. Nice to have these checks all listed in one place. We often focus on preparing our airstreams for winter, just as important to review these points routinely once winter arrives.
Thanks
Larry

Terri

Terri

Regarding the battery disconnect switch…we were told by a mobile airstream repairman that the switch needs to be “on” at all times, even while storing it. We keep the batteries plugged into a Zamp 45 watt trickle charger. Should we be putting the switch on off? I’m confused! 2022 Bambi 22FB. Thanks!

Rich VanOrsdale

Rich VanOrsdale

We also open the battery box and check to make sure everything looks OK. Because we have tire covers over the tires we ensure they haven’t been blown awry. We also check the fore and aft chocks on both sides of the trailer as well as the hitch post to ensure nothing has moved. We do this once a month during the “slumber phase.” 😃

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Terri — Because your Airstream has a mechanical battery disconnect (with “ON” or “OFF” choices instead of “USE” and “STORE”), and you want to leave the Airstream plugged in, then yes, you must leave it in the ON position. In the OFF position the batteries will not charge.

If you don’t have the Airstream plugged in, or connected to solar to maintain the batteries, then you should switch to OFF during storage, to extend the time before the batteries are run down.

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