How To Winterize Your RV

Is it time to winterize your RV?  If your season is done, as is ours, then it’s probably time.

End of Season

Our camping season is finished.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish out as we usually do.  The state park we go to does it up during weekends in October.  There’s a haunted house.  They arrange a parade and trick or treating.  They organize arts and crafts centered around Halloween.  The campground is always full and our kids look forward to it.  It’s usually our last trip of the year.  We had it all booked for the year but decided last minute to cancel.  What had been forecasted all week to be a few showers suddenly changed to weekend long rain when a front shifted a bit south.  We were bummed, but we knew that a whole October weekend in the rain wasn’t for us.

We have never cancelled a trip before.  We’d brought it home and got it prepped and ready to go, so some time and effort was wasted.

But all was not lost, because we needed to winterize.  We normally would have done it after the end of the trip, so at least the tow home wasn’t all for nothing.

Here are some of the things you need to know to winterize your RV.

Empty All Tanks

Make sure that all of your holding tanks are empty.  This includes your fresh water tank as well as your gray and black tanks.

Empty Your Water Heater

Most RVs come with a six gallon water heater.  You want this empty for the year.  Turn your water pump off and open up the hot water faucets.  This will depressurize the lines.  Then find your water lines.  Near the water heater will be three valves.  Switch the position of each of them.  This will cut off the water supply to your water heater.  Next, go outside and open the drain valve to your water heater.  This will empty out the water that’s inside.  We leave the drain valve off.

Empty Your Water Lines

Get rid of as much water as you can.  If you have an air compressor, get it set up.  There’s a connection somewhere on each camper.  Open up all your faucets (don’t forget your outside shower if you have one).  Make sure your pump is off.  Turn on your compressor.  This will push water out of the lines.  You can also look for labels for your low point valves.  Open these up to drain them.  Close them when you’re done.  Go inside and pull the flush on your toilet to get that water out too.  Remove the air compressor.  Turn off all of your faucets.

Note: Some people skip the emptying of the lines, and just move to the next step.  I’ve done this and have never had any problems.  It’s personal preference, though many in the RV world have strong opinions.

Run RV Antifreeze Through The Lines

Next you want to fill your water lines with antifreeze.  You want the kind that’s safe for RV.  It will be pink.   Locate

image from morguefile courtesy of xololounge

your water pump.  There will be a hose that runs to the water holding tank, and another that you can pull out to the camper.  Each will have a valve.  Reverse both.

Then, take the hose that you can pull out into the camper and stick it in your jug of antifreeze.  Turn on a faucet and then go turn on your pump.  This should start drawing the antifreeze out of the jug and through your lines.  When anitifreeze starts coming out of your faucet, turn it off.  Then turn on every faucet and repeat.  Make sure you get your toilet as well.

Now that this is done, all of your lines should be filled with antifreeze.  Walk around and look at every single point where water comes out.  Shower hoses, toilets, make sure you’ve had pink come out of them.  Miss even one thing and you could be in for an awful surprise next spring.

And, remember earlier how you flipped the valves around your water heater?  That means that you just saved yourself six gallons of antifreeze from flowing into the tank!

Flip the two valves back into their normal position.  This way, in the spring, the pump will draw off the holding tank as you’ll want it to do.

Put Some Antifreeze In Your Tanks And Traps

Pour a couple of cups of antifreeze down one of your sinks.  This will get it into your gray tank.  Pour some into your toilet and flush so that there’s a little in your black tank.  You shouldn’t need any in your water holding tank if you’ve emptied it completely.

Now, make sure that you pour a little in every sink so that there’s some antifreeze in each of the traps.  Finish off by pouring a little bit in the toilet.

Clean Out All Food

If you leave any food in your camper, get it out.  During the season, we’ll leave some stuff in a storage bin.  But, for the off season, everything comes out.  Also, anything that might have food particles should come out.  Camping stoves and camp pie makers.

Get Rid Of Potential Rodent Beds

During the winter, rodents will look for somewhere to stay warm.  We take out any towels, paper towels, kleenex, etc.  There’s no need to make your camper any more attractive to them than it might already be.

Remove Cleaning Supplies and Liquids

We take out all cleaning supplies and liquids just to make sure nothing freezes and breaks.  You can put a lot of the stuff from the last few categories into a bin that you can unpack in the spring.

Check Your Caulk And Seals

Take a look around places where water might get in.  Chances are you won’t be seeing your RV all that much during the winter.  A small leak can add up to big problems.  Fix any areas where things look cracked or rotting.

Remove Your RV Battery

Once you have your RV in place, disconnect and remove the battery.  We put ours in the basement.  First I check the water levels, and fill with distilled water if needed. Then we keep it connected to a trickle chargers.  RV and marine batteries should not be allowed to fully discharge.  It will dramatically reduce their longevity.

Remove All Batteries

Your main battery isn’t the only one to remove.  I find that it’s helpful to take all batteries out of the camper.  Remote controls, flashlights, smoke alarms.  I take them all out and put it in a storage bin that goes in the basement.  Leaving them in during cold weather seems to shorten their life.  Not to mention, they often leak if they’re left in.

Open Your Fridge

Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are not sealed.  Otherwise, if there’s any moisture, then you’ll end up with mold and mildew.

Consult Your Owners Manual

These are the steps that we take, and that I know are pretty common.  You’ll want to take a look at your manual before you’re done.  They might have something specific to your model.

Keeping your camper safe and snug over the winter is important.  It doesn’t take that long to do.  By following the proper steps, you’ll ensure that your RV will be ready to enjoy next spring.

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3 thoughts on “How To Winterize Your RV

  1. Useful post. What type RV do you have? We have a Winnebago Journey 34Y (diesel pusher).

    Thankfully we don’t get below freezing much here in Charleston. When we do it tends to be in January or February. We have a week trip planned first week of December, so definitely not winterizing yet. 🙂

    I’ve read that some people will blow out the lines and skip the antifreeze part. Would make de-winterizing a LOT easier, but not sure how safe it is.
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    • We have a Jayco Jay Feather 23B.

      As far as what to do for the water lines, I think it really boils down to personal preference and making sure that you know what you’re doing to get the water out of the system. I walk around inside and out and touch every faucet, drain, and spigot to make sure that antifreeze is where it needs to be. I probably ‘waste’ several cups of antifreeze pulling it through the system and out the faucets, but I’d rather that then have to replace a bunch of plumbing come spring!

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