How To Winterize Your RV
When camping season ends—at least in the snow belt states—and before the thermometer drops below freezing, it’s time to get your RV ready for winter. You can always take your rig to the local RV maintenance shop, but if you’re handy you can do this important task yourself. Here’s how to winterize an RV.
Note: The instructions given here are general in nature and may differ for your RV. Consult your owner’s manual for specifics before starting any winterizing procedure.
Drain the Plumbing System
This is the most important part of getting your RV ready for winter. Even a little water left in pipes, faucets, valves or pumps can freeze, expand, and split apart. And since most plumbing is buried inside walls and cabinets, repairs can be expensive.
Draining the water lines isn’t enough; you have to purge the entire system. There are two ways to do this:
#1 Blow Out the System With Compressed Air
This is perhaps the easiest method, but it requires an air compressor and a special “blow out plug,” which can be purchased at most RV part suppliers.
The major drawback to this method is that you can’t be 100 percent sure that all the water has been expelled from the system.
1. Disconnect your rig from the outside water source.
2. Turn off all power in the rig. Don’t forget to shut off the propane as well.
3. Bypass your water heater. You do not want to drain the water heater at this time. Some RVs come with a factory-installed bypass valve. If yours doesn’t, you can install a cheap kit.
4. Consult with the owner’s manuals for your refrigerator, ice maker, washing machine and dishwasher (if so equipped) for winterizing instructions.
5. Open all faucets, including tub and shower and the outdoor shower if you have one. Then open the system drain valves and let the water empty. See your owner’s manual for valve locations.
6. Flush the toilet to clear any water from the line.
7. Connect the “blow out plug” to the city water inlet—not the fresh water tank.
8. Adjust the air compressor to no more than 30 psi to avoid damaging the water lines.
9. Connect the air compressor hose to the blow out plug. Turn on the compressor and let it run until all water is blown from the faucets and drain valves. Shut off the air compressor and disconnect the blow out plug from the water inlet.
Clean and flush your black and gray water tanks, drain the fresh water tank completely, then close the drain valves. Pour one quart of special RV antifreeze into the gray and black tanks to protect the drain valves and seals. Do this through all sink and shower drains—you want antifreeze in the pipe traps as well. Add about a pint to the toilet bowl to protect its flush valve and seals.
Note: RV antifreeze is PINK.
Open the water heater drain plug/valve and empty the tank. Flush out any sediment using a water heater tank rinsing wand. Leave the drain plug open until spring.
#2 Fill the System With RV Antifreeze
A more reliable way to ensure that all water is removed. You’ll need at least 2 to 3 gallons of RV antifreeze depending on the size of your rig.
There are two ways to pump RV antifreeze through the system:
a) Use an external hand pump
b) Use your RV’s internal water pump. If you use the water pump, you’ll need to install a pump bypass kit if it’s not already equipped since it draws from the RV’s fresh water tank and you don’t want antifreeze in there.
If your rig has a water filtration unit, bypass it as well.
Note: Even though you will fill the system with RV antifreeze, you should still blow out the lines with compressed air first.
Using an External Hand Pump
1. Follow Steps 1 to 6 above to drain all the water. Blowing out the system with compressed air is preferred but not mandatory. What is mandatory is that the water heater be bypassed; otherwise, you’ll need an additional 6 to 10 gallons of RV antifreeze to complete the process properly.
2. Attach the intake siphon on the hand pump to the RV antifreeze bottle (follow manufacturer’s instructions). Then connect the output hose on the pump to the city water inlet.
3. Close all faucets and drain valves. Open the hot side of the highest faucet first (usually the kitchen sink). Pump the antifreeze into the system until it runs out the faucet a bright pink color.
4. Close the hot side, open the cold side and repeat. Close the cold side.
5. Do this for all the other faucets. Usually the bathroom sink is next, then the shower, and then the toilet.
Using the RV’s Internal Water Pump
This method is virtually identical to the external hand pump. The only difference is that the water pump bypass valve is used to draw RV antifreeze into the pump and distribute it throughout the water system. Consult the RV pump bypass valve instructions for details.
Your tires can develop flat spots after several months because they’re under thousands of pounds of weight. If your RV has leveling jacks (not stabilizing jacks), follow the manufacturer’s instructions on raising your rig off the ground for extended periods. Outside jacks are an alternative method. If neither is available, then move your RV about one-half tire revolution one or two times a winter to re-distribute the weight.
Your rig should be parked on a paved or concrete surface to prevent the tires from sinking into ground made soft by winter thaw. And be sure to set the parking brake (motor homes) and use wheel chocks.
Your stabilizing jacks should be lowered to keep your trailer or 5th-wheeler steady while you’re walking around inside. Use wooden blocks beneath the jacks’ feet to prevent them from getting frozen to your storage pad. Coat all pivot points with silicone or graphite spray to prevent rust.
For a motor home, top off the fuel tanks to prevent condensation from forming. Also, add a fuel stabilizer. Let the engine idle for several minutes to allow the additive to make its way through the system. Make sure the radiator is filled with automotive antifreeze. Check the oil, brake fluid and windshield washer solution. Make sure the windshield washer solution is factory formulated with antifreeze. Top off as needed.
Fluid levels in maintenance-style batteries should be topped off (wear eye protection and rubber gloves). Batteries should be fully charged. In freezing climates, remove batteries of any type and store in a dry warm location. Otherwise, disconnect the cables (negative side first) for safety.
Flip off the RV’s main circuit breaker to protect the 120V AC system. Disconnect your rig from shore power. Remove batteries from clocks, radios, detectors and alarms. See manufacturer’s instructions for onboard or portable generator storage. Be sure to block the exhaust pipe with steel wool or aluminum foil to keep out pests.
Fill all propane tanks. Where winters are harsh, external propane tanks should be removed and stored in a sheltered location—but never inside the RV. Cover the tank connection fittings on the RV with plastic bags and rubber bands to keep out insects
Clean the oven, stovetop, refrigerator and cabinets. Remove toiletries and then vacuum interior. Prop open refrigerator doors. Open a fresh box of baking soda and place inside. Make sure freezer is completely thawed and dried.
If your RV is stored at a storage lot, remove any valuables such as TVs, portable video games, MP3 players and tools.
Food and Drink
Remove any food and beverages. Canned or bottled foods and drinks can freeze and burst, making a mess that can attract insects and wildlife. Packaged foods are also attractive, so it’s usually best to just remove everything.
Clothing and Bedding
Remove all clothing, bedding and linens for laundering.
Rodent and Insect Control
Check for any gaps or openings into which rodents, birds or insects might enter. Cover any holes with screening. Cover any vents with cardboard or aluminum foil.
Close all roof vents. Check plumbing vents and the air conditioner shroud (special air conditioner covers are available). Examine roof for any damage or leaks and repair.
Check seals around exterior doors and windows. Re-caulk where needed. Clean and store your sewer hose and place bumper caps back in position. Wash and wax.
Fully extend and clean the awning using special awning cleaner (do not use dish or laundry soap). Let it dry completely and stow. Rigid slip-on awning covers are available to protect the fabric from the elements.
One of the last steps before closing up—open a container of moisture absorbent and place it on a flat surface inside your RV. As the name implies, it will remove dampness from the air and help prevent corrosion, mold and mildew formation. Available at most RV supply stores.
Protect From Weather
Keep your rig protected from the weather, either under a shelter or a fabric cover made especially for RVs. If you live in an area where freezing rains or snow occurs, consult with an RV cover manufacturer for the best solution for your climate.
Winterizing an RV can be a lot of work, but it will be worth the effort when you get ready to go out on your first camping trip of the new season.
Ask For Help
If you need assistance winterizing your vehicle because you don’t have the time, the equipment, or the know how – we are here to help!
At RV Northwest we are your RV & Trailer experts.
We can winterize your vehicle and ensure that it is ready for you next season.
Originally posted By Jeff Adams – ReserveAmerica.com
Jeff Adams is a California-based freelance writer, contributor to ReserveAmerica.com and an avid camping enthusiast. He’s been dragging his trailer and willing family around the western U.S. for more than a decade.