how to winterize an RV

How to Winterize an RV: Simple Steps to Follow

Whether you’re an occasional camper or a full-time RV enthusiast, winterizing your rig is essential for preparing for the colder months. The RV may suffer mechanical, hardware, and cosmetic damage during winter without proper preparation. To avoid such a disaster, you need to learn how to winterize an RV.

Winterizing a trailer is a process that can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s also one of the most important things you can do to keep your rig in tip-top shape.

How to Winterize an RV: A Detailed Guide

RVs are tough, but they’re not invincible, and winter can be hard on your vehicle. They have plenty of nooks and crannies where moisture can set in and damage valuable components.

Follow this winterizing guide if you want to make sure your RV is ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at it this season.

Necessary Tools for Winterizing a Camper

  • A power drill
  • Anode rod/plastic plug
  • One set of open-end wrenches/2 crescent wrenches
  • Screwdriver/needle nose pliers
  • Socket wrench and 1-1/16″ socket
  • Water heater bypass kit (if the bypass is not installed already)
  • Siphoning kit (if not equipped already)
  • 2 to 3 gallons of non-toxic antifreeze
  • Flashlight

Follow these steps to do the trailer winterization at home:

Empty and clean the black and gray water tanks

The first step of how to winterize an RV is to drain and flush both black and gray water tanks. You don’t want any nasty stuff building up in there over the winter—or worse, freezing in place and causing damage as soon as you start driving again.

How to Winterize an RV: Simple Steps to Follow 1
Cleaning the black tank is the first step of winterizing. Image credit: RVgeeks / YouTube

There are some dump stations where you can empty these tanks for free. Or, you can use your campground’s sewer hookup. After the draining, clean the black tank with a black tank cleaner.

Then, add some fresh water to flush out any remaining contaminants and sediment from inside those pipes. Make sure you let that freshwater run through until it clears out completely.

Some RVs don’t have a built-in flushing system. Using an external system is the only solution in that case.

Flush the water heater

You may think that draining the water tanks is enough. But the water in the water heater can freeze and crack it.
To make sure your heater is safe during the winter, drain all of the water out of it. For safe disposal, turn the heater off and let it cool down and release the pressure built inside.

When it cools down, connect the city water hookup to your camper, remove the anode rod/drain plug from the heater, and open the pressure relief valve to let the water drain out.

After that, switch the pressure on for 2 to 3 minutes to flush out the dirt and sediments. Keep the rod/plug removed and install it again before taking the camper out on the road next time.

Install bypass in the water heater

To prevent the pumping system from freezing down and cracking, you will need to use antifreeze. But it cannot go into the water heater, so you will need to install a bypass system.

Some RVs already have this system installed. If your RV doesn’t have one, use the bypass kit to install one by opening the heater’s access panel.

Drain the fresh water tank

The next step of how to winterize an RV is to drain the freshwater tank. Before proceeding with the task, ensure that the water pressure is switched off. Then, remove the tank’s plug, allowing the water to flow down.

Open all faucets to make the draining faster. Turn off the taps when the tank is empty and plug the low-point drains.

Add antifreeze to the system

Next, you need to add antifreeze to your RV’s plumbing system, including the water lines that run from the faucets and showerheads and any other pipes exposed to cold temperatures while your RV is parked outside.

How to Winterize an RV: Simple Steps to Follow 2
Add antifreeze for proper winterization. Image credit: Berry Meherg / YouTube

Make sure not to use an antifreeze product that contains ethylene glycol—it can be harmful if ingested or absorbed through skin contact. Instead, opt for propylene glycol (PG), which is safer and more environmentally friendly than ethylene glycol products.

Follow these procedures to add antifreeze to the system:

a. Attach the siphoning kit

Skip this process if there is already a siphoning hose. If not, install it as per the instruction and put the hose inside the antifreeze container.

Open the valve and then start the water pump, so it can distribute the antifreeze through the water system.

b. Flow the antifreeze to the external water system

Start the process by opening the valves or plugs of the low point drains and then gradually moving to other drains. The water will run out and turn pink at one point when antifreeze enters the pipes.
If there is any external faucet or shower, run the hot and cold sides one by one and turn off when pink antifreeze comes out instead of water.

c. Run antifreeze through the internal water system

Just repeat the previous steps from all faucets and showers in the kitchens and bathroom. Run the hot and cold sides and stop them after antifreeze comes through the pipes.

d. Treat the P-traps

The last step of how to winterize a camper is treating the P-traps with antifreeze. Just pour some cooler down the sinks of the toilet and kitchen. After everything is done, make sure that you’ve closed all faucets and switched off the water heater.

This is how to winterize an RV without taking professional help. Be careful about following all steps and treating all water pipes and sinks with antifreeze. In this way, your RV will stay damage-free even if the weather gets extreme at times.

In case you find these processes too complicated, don’t hesitate to hire a qualified service professional. It’s better to pay for the service when you don’t have confidence in your skills.

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