Most of us have had a pretty decent RVing season. We’ve enjoyed time to relax, explored some of our surrounding areas and made memories that will last a lifetime. But, now it’s the beginning of November and, for those of us who live in colder climates or places where there may be a risk of freezing, it’s time to winterize and for some, it will be the first time and they are wondering if they can do it themselves. We should also know a little about the antifreeze we are using and why we need to use it but, more on that later.
For you, the answer is “Yes, you can do this”. It’s not hard to do at all. My owners manual has a step by step winterizing section and I’m sure that if you check yours you will find that it has something similar as well.
There are also information sources on the internet. That said, this is a pretty straight forward exercise and the first time I did this I actually found it quite easy and it didn’t take an afternoon to complete. In fact, it shouldn’t take more than an hour, not counting if you have to find a dumping station.
That said, this is a pretty straight forward exercise and the first time I did this I actually found it quite easy and it didn’t take an afternoon to complete. In fact, it shouldn’t take more than an hour, not counting if you have to find a dumping station.
So Lets Get Started
The best way to winterize our RV is to first blow the water out using compressed air and then pumping RV Antifreeze through the system. This can be done quite easily with the right equipment which may include a water-pump winterizing kit and a water heater bypass kit.
Although many RVs already have these components installed, if yours doesn’t, these kits are available at your local RV dealership and are easy to install.
So, here’s what you’ll need to do the job.
- You’ll need 2-3 gallons of RV antifreeze. Make sure that it say’s RV Antifreeze. DO NOT use Automobile Antifreeze. There are also two different levels of protection available, -50 degrees Fahrenheit and -100. If you live in places like Southern Canada and the USA where temperatures don’t exceed -50 then that level of protection will do but, If you live in Siberia or the northern reaches of Canada where the temps can reach below -50, then I would suggest using the -100 protection level.
My research also revealed to me that there are two types of RV antifreeze. One contains PROPYLENE GLYCOL and the other contains ETHYLENE GLYCOL and both will protect your water system from the ravages of the cold winter months.
The ethylene glycol is more toxic (2-4 ounces ingested can be fatal), and has a stronger taste and odor. It will also leave dark pink stains on any surface if its left on and will be very hard to remove them. It is less expensive than the other.
Propylene Glycol is a food additive and is not harmful to humans if ingested in moderate amounts. It has no odor and there is less of a chance of dark stains. It costs a bit more but I and many other RVers think the safety benefits to our family and pets is worth the extra cost and clean up takes less time.
- You will also need a socket wrench with an extension, or an open end wrench, big enough to unscrew the hot water tank plug or anode rod.
- You will also need an air compressor set at 40-PSI and a male garden hose/Schrader valve adapter to hook up to the city water inlet.
- Lastly, you will need a screw gun with the appropriate screw bit in order to unscrew the access panel at the back of the water heater.
The first thing we have to do is make sure the city water source is not connected and the water pump is off. Are all the holding tanks empty (black, gray, and fresh), and rinsed as clean as possible? If you still have stuff in your black and gray holding tanks you will have to find a dumping station in order to empty them properly and safely.
The fresh water holding tank can be drained anywhere. It is fresh water and there is no direct link to the sewer drains anyway. Check under the RV for the drain plug. On my trailer, the plug is positioned about the center of the tank and is easy to undo.
When you drain the hot water tank don’t forget to turn off the hot water breaker switch, (at the panel) before draining the Hot Water Tank. Now you can unscrew the drain plug/heating element. Opening the pressure release valve will help speed up the draining process.
The next thing to consider is whether or not your RV has a water filter as part of the system. If there is one, remove it. If antifreeze gets in this component it will have to be replaced.
After you have removed the water filter the next thing to do would be to open the low point drain plugs. In my RV they are located under the trailer near the entrance door side of the trailer between the rear axle and the rear door. There is one for the hot and one for the cold. The hotline is red and the cold line is blue.
Unscrew these, or if you have wing valves just turn them to the open position, and then open all the hot and cold water taps. Don’t forget the outdoor shower taps, washing machine, shower, and the icemaker if you have one. Opening all the taps will allow all the water to escape out through the low point drains.
This would be a good time to use the compressed air to blow out any remaining water but turn off all the taps first and then open them one at a time to allow any excess water to escape, just make sure NOT to use any more than 40-PSI as you could damage your pipes with a higher pressure.
Now close the drains, turn off all the hot and cold water taps, (outside too), and make sure the hot water tank bypass is in the bypass position. As I mentioned above, some RV water systems are equipped with a water pump bypass and a line to put into the antifreeze container. Again, switch to bypass mode and place the line into the antifreeze container.
Some RVs are not equipped with the water pump bypass but that’s OK, you can just pour enough fluid into your fresh water holding tank and pump it through the system that way. When done pumping the fluid through the system you can drain the rest and rinse the tank well before the next time you use it.
The next step is to disconnect the compressor from the city water inlet and, of course, put the cap on. Now it’s time to pump the antifreeze through the system. If you have the feeder tube kit in place or you have poured some fluid into the fresh water tank, turn on the pump and, once again, go around your RV and turn on the individual taps one at a time until the pink fluid comes out the nozzle.
Once you have done the taps, (including the outside and the indoor shower), then you can look after the ice-maker, dishwasher, and washing machine.
Now it’s time to turn off the pump and pour a full cup of antifreeze down each sink and the shower drain as well.
Once you have done the taps, (including the outside and the indoor shower), then you can look after the ice-maker, dishwasher, and washing machine. Now it’s time to turn off the pump and pour a full cup of antifreeze down each sink drain and the shower drain as well.
The last thing you will want to do is check and make sure there are no leftover fluids in the holding tanks. If they are empty you won’t have to put any antifreeze in them.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Just a few more things to say and then I’ll end. I just want to encourage you to make sure that your RV is “Food Free” because, as we all know, mice and other sorts of vermin really like free food and if they can find a way into your unit they will. So, be sure to take as many or all food items out of your RV and clean your appliances and under the lower cabinets where crumbs and other food debris might accumulate.
Prop the fridge and freezer doors open so they will stay dry and mold won’t form inside. Our trailer came with small blue door opener locks that keep the doors open about 1 inch which is enough to let air circulate inside. If you don’t have these you can get them at your local dealer and they are pretty cheap. Camping World also sells them.
Clean the floors and vacuum the carpets, (if you have them). It would also be a good idea to check under the RV to see if there are any holes in the protective covering and, using spray foam, plug them. Rodents are pretty flexible and can get through some pretty tight spots if they smell something good.
It is recommended that you cover your RV if it’s going to be stored for long periods but, before you do that, remove your batteries and store them in a cool place but not a place that is subject to freezing temperatures. The best place would be your garage at home. Don’t place them directly on the concrete. Put a block of wood under them and they won’t loose power. If you have a small trickle charger you could attach that to the batteries which will keep them charged and warm enough not to freeze.
When you cover your RV don’t use a tarp. They’re waterproof and won’t allow moisture to escape and, due to their rough surface, may cause wear on the painted surfaces (Metal surfaces are baked on powder-coated, solid panels are a gel-coat type. Both surfaces will wear when friction is applied). A proper RV cover is made to allow for the escape of moisture and the softness will not scuff or scrape the surface of your RV. They keep the dust off your RV and, overall, do a better job.
Clean and cover your tires and if you’re parking your trailer on dirt or asphalt get them off the ground by putting them on a wooden board (wide enough for the whole tire) or plastic leveling blocks.
Everything you need to complete the winterizing process, (antifreeze, bypass kits, plastic wheel blocks, covers, cleaners, ?), is available at your local RV dealer and if you unsure about your needs just ask the at the service desk and they should be more than happy to he5lp you sort things out.
Ask them about ways to keep moisture to a minimum over the winter months as well. Keeping a handle on this issue will help keep mold and smelly air from developing in your RV. A product called “Dri-Z-Air” works well for this. It’s the one I use and it does pull a fair amount of moisture out of the air.
Your dealer should also have products for keeping you trailer clean inside and out as well as flushing wands, black water holding tank deodorizing pods and liquids, and hydro flush valves. these holding tank products will help keep the tank monitoring equipment working and the smells away.
Well, I think that just about does it. I really hope this was helpful in making the job easier. As always, thanks for reading my post and I hope you all have great camping experiences.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below. I would really like to hear from you. I will reply ASAP. Happy Camping and please, drive safe.