Whether you’re a seasoned pro or brand-new RV adventurer, you likely take time to make sure your mobile vacation home is in tip-top shape. During winter months, this means properly winterizing your RV (including winterizing RV water lines) to prevent thousands of dollars in damages. Even if you’re opting out of season-long storage and taking your RV on cold-weather adventures, it’s important to keep your RV properly protected against freezing temperatures while it’s not hooked up. The following RV winterizing checklist will keep your RV stored safely or running smoothly through the winter so it will be ready for fun summer adventures!
Before you begin winterizing your RV, make sure you have the following items:
- If you haven’t already installed one, a water heater by-pass kit.
- A holding tank cleaning wand.
- A water pump converter kit.
- Non-toxic RV antifreeze. The amount will vary depending on the length of your plumbing lines, but 2-3 gallons will typically get the job done.
- Wrench to remove drain plugs.
The following steps should apply to most RV makes and models; however, consult your user manual before winterizing to familiarize yourself with any specific requirements your RV has.
Step 1: Draining Your RV
- Remove and bypass any inline water filters.
- Drain fresh water, black and gray holding tanks.
- Flush black and gray holding tanks with built in flushing system or use a cleaning wand. Lubricate termination valves with WD 40.
- Drain water heater by removing the drain plug and opening the pressure relief valve. NEVER drain water heater when it’s hot or pressurized.
- Open all hot and cold faucets (don’t forget outside shower and toilet valve!)
- Open low point drain lines (there will be one for both hot and cold water lines.) You can use a water pump to help move water out– turn it off as soon as the system is drained.
- Close all faucets and recap all drains.
Step 2: Winterizing RV Water Lines with Antifreeze
- Bypass the water heater. (If a bypass kit is not installed, the water heater will fill up with antifreeze before it goes through the water lines; this wastes 6 gallons of antifreeze!)
- Install a water pump converter kit or disconnect the inlet side of the water pump (the line coming from the fresh water holding tank) . Connect tubing from the water pump inlet into a 1 gallon container of antifreeze.
- Turn on the water pump and allow system to pressurize. Starting with the closest faucet, gradually open hot and then cold valves until antifreeze trickles out. Replace the antifreeze jug as required. Repeat this step on all faucets from the closest to the farthest away (including the outside shower, if applicable).
- Flush the toilet until antifreeze appears in the bowl.
- Turn off the water pump and open a faucet to depressurize.
- Pour a cupful of antifreeze down each drain and a couple of cups in the toilet bowl and flush into the holding tank.
Step 3: Preparing for Storage
- Make sure any electric heating elements are turned off. This will protect the heater if the unit is plugged in while being stored.
- Double check that all faucets are closed.
- If your unit contains a washing machine and/or ice maker, consult your user manual for winterizing specifics.
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to be familiar with proper winterization steps, even if you plan on using your RV through the winter. Longtime RVers recommend traveling with water lines winterized when temperatures will be below freezing and using jugs of water for cooking, drinking, and showering. If temperatures won’t be too extreme, you can bypass full-on winterizing and add about a quart of RV antifreeze to black and grey holding tanks.
Winter RVing with Propane
If your RV relies on propane tanks for heat, winter weather poses a special challenge. Cold temperatures will affect your tank pressure and cause you to go through propane fairly quickly. This means you should either camp close to a propane refill station or bring extra tanks with you. Alternatively, you can utilize a safe tank heating option such as PBL30 from Powerblanket. This saves significant time and resources by keeping your propane tank functioning at optimal pressure and minimizing refills.