How to Winterize Your RV

September 19th, 2014 - Filed under General, RV Tips

How to Winterize your RV

The end of the camping season is here and winter will soon be upon us. For all you RV campers out there, you know that means!  You will need to start considering winterizing your RV. It can be a long and arduous task, but these tips from can help make the job easier.

Arguably, the most important step is draining the water and drying the water lines. The last thing you want is to find burst water pipes next spring!

Here are the seven steps you should take when performing this task.

Allow all water to drain from the fresh water holding tank. To drain the water from your RV, you’ll need to open the petcock. What is a petcock you ask? Well, it is a small valve used for draining. Make sure that you don’t drain the water heater yet. This can’t be done until after you add antifreeze.

  1. Next you should drain the black and gray holding tanks. You should also flush the tanks while you are at it. If your RV does not come with a built-in system, you should clean the tanks out with a wand or a product designed to clean both of the tanks. Take all of the tanks’ contents to a local dump station.
  2. Open all cold and hot water faucets in the RV. This includes those for the sinks, toilet and shower. If you don’t air can’t come out the other end. Make sure you flush the toilet a few times to ensure that all the water is gone.
  3. Attach a compressed air adapter to the water lines. Another term is a “blowout plug” and can be purchased at almost any hardware store. The proper place to attach it is the “Water Intake Fitting”.
  4. Use a standard air compressor to blow air through the lines. The air from the compressor will force any water left in the lines out. The pressure should be 30 pounds per square inch. This will help keep your antifreeze from being diluted.
  5. Replace caps on the drains and close all hot and cold water faucets and also close the petcock.
  6. Finally, detach the compressed air adaptor and the compressor from your RV.

The next step is to add antifreeze to the plumbing system. There are three ways you can do this: from the inside using a water pump conversion kit, from the outside with a hand pump, and with or without a bypass. For the sake of demonstration, the water pump with a bypass will be used. Without a bypass you would have to add much more antifreeze. As a reminder, do not drain your water heater before adding the antifreeze.

Disconnect the water line that connects the fresh water tank to the fresh water pump. Attach the pump upstream of the water tank. This means the antifreeze will go in before the tank.

  1. If possible, bypass your water heater. This will save you gallons of antifreeze. This is not necessary, but this makes everything much simpler. To bypass the water heater you need to turn off the water heater and disconnect the water supply. If installing for the first time, disconnect the hot and cold lines going in and out of the water heater. Connect the bypass, following the instructions on the package and close off the same hot and cold lines and open the bypass.
  2. Place the disconnected end of the waterline in a jug of RV antifreeze. Be sure to use the pink kind, not the green kind because the pink kind is for RVs, which is generally regarded as safe. The green kind is toxic. Approximately two to three gallons of antifreeze should be enough to fill the RVs’ entire plumbing system provide a bypass is installed. If you don’t have the bypass, you need as much antifreeze as the water heater can hold, usually 6 to 10 gallons.
  3. Turn on the fresh water pump and allow it to run as it pulls the antifreeze into the plumbing system of the RV. Alternatively, use a hand pump connected to the city water hook up.
  4. Start with the highest and work to the lowest point in the fresh water system. You’ll probably start at the kitchen sink. Turn on the hot faucet and run it until it turns pink, then run the cold faucet until it turns pink, too. The general order is kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower, toilet and outdoor shower. Run each of these until you see a strong shade of pink. You may need to flush the toilet several times until the antifreeze comes out at a steady rate.
  5. Pour about three cups of antifreeze into the toilet and into each drain. This includes the washing machine, ice maker and outside water. Be sure to remember those. The specifics of your RV will need to be considered. Refer to your manual for more specific guidelines.
  6. Take the water line out of the antifreeze jug and reconnect it to the fresh water tank.
  7. Locate the water heater, remove the plug and drain it. This is always done last.

The final step in winterizing your RV is completing the final details. By this time you are probably wondering if you will ever get done. Don’t worry, we are almost there.

Remove all food, laundry and valuable items. This should be an obvious step, but it can be hard to remember with everything else that has to be done. The last thing you want is an exploded two liter of soda all over your refrigerator or your laundry covered in mildew or even your favorite watch missing until the spring.

  1. Fix everything that’s broken. Another obvious step, but also one that can be overlooked. Your RV is going to be sitting and stewing for awhile, not good for any machine or human for that matter. To make sure it makes it through, fix everything now. You will be glad you did.
  2. Cover all vents and holes. Hopefully you already have some type of mesh guard for your exhaust pipe to protect against mice but make sure all the vents and holes are covered now. You don’t want birds, rodents or bugs making your RV home. Check the entire RV for places that critters may be able to get in to. Just because you’re using it, doesn’t mean they should get to.
  3. Take the weight off the tires. If you leave that much weight on one side of the tires, they could grow weak over time, so leave your RV on blocks, which takes the pressure off the tires.
  4. Cover the RV with a breathable material. While you don’t want snow and critters getting into your RV, you also don’t want mold and mildew to start growing underneath your tarp. You may want to put rags on top of the sharp corners of your RV, so the material doesn’t rip.

Here are a few more tips to help you: Most RV part stores will have the supplies needed to winterize an RV. Your owners’ manual will have information about the preferred method of winterizing your particular model. Be sure to open the pressure relief valve when draining the water heater. Allowing the water to drain while under pressure or heated can lead to injuries. Never use automotive antifreeze in the lines of an RV as this can cause damage to the plumbing system.

Some of the items you will need include pumps, bypass kit (which is optional), minimum of three gallons of antifreeze, tank cleaning wand, tarp of breathable material, air compressor, adaptor (blowout plug)

So there you have it, how to winterize your RV. Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?