Winterizing Your RV

We're all familiar with that time of year. The weather turns cooler and Winter is just around the proverbial corner. My wife breaks out her fleece TV comforter and even yours truly has to migrate toward clothing of a somewhat warmer variety. The leaves are beautiful (funny how they aren't so pretty as we're raking them into piles isn't it?), the mornings are crisp and the evenings are becoming downright chilly. Yeppers, old man Winter is just around the corner and he's taking dead aim at your beloved RV.

Unless you're one of those intrepid RVers who loves having coffee under the awning when it's 25 degrees outside, you're probably going to want to winterize your unit to prevent the interior waterwooks from performing the dance of the fountains come next Spring. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this task, air pressure or antifreeze. Either one can be tricky unless you know what you're doing, so work out your own winterization with fear and trembling!

Method 1. Air Pressure

The first step in this process is to completely drain your water heater's tank. Remove the plug at the bottom of the water heater (outside of course), open the pressure relief valve and stand back. You'll get a real gusher when you release the vaccuum on the tank and, speaking from first hand experience, wet feet are bad enough ... COLD, wet feet is a miserable combination!

After the water heater is empty, replace the plug and close off the pressure relief valve. Attach a bicycle air fitting (available at your friendly, neighborhood Jody's RV Store or at at the city water inlet for use in admitting compressed air into the system. Open each faucet in the camper and blow the water out of the lines using an air compressor or air tank. When no more water exits each open faucet, move on to the next area and repeat. By the way, this is a good opportunity to bond with a friend or family member! Regardless of whether or not you actually bond with your helper of choice, it sure beats the heck out of running in and out of the RV to pump air or operate faucets!

Don't forget your toilet!!!!

The toilet flush valve will be the very first thing to freeze in intensely cold weather since it retains a small reservoir of water after each flush. Spend extra time on this to be sure that you've removed as much water as possible from the flush valve. Prop it open or have your helper hold it in the flush position and throw the air to it until NO water exits the orifice.

Method 2. Non-Toxic Antifreeze

This method is what most manufacturers recommend. First, drain and bypass the water heater so that no antifreeze is pulled into the tank (6 -10 gallons of antifreeze ain't cheap ya'll!), then draw non-toxic antifreeze into the water systems. To accompish this, locate the end of the feed tube (usually somewhere near the back of the water heater). It will usually be a clear hose attached to the water pump with one end that goes to nowhere. Open a fresh bottle of NON-TOXIC RV antifreeze and insert the loose end into the bottle.

Proceed inside the camper, turn on the 12V water pump, then open one faucet at a time (hot and cold) until the pink fluid begins to run from the faucet. Remember to open ALL of the faucets including the toilet and run them until the antifreeze flows through and DON'T FORGET to also winterize the outside shower and any spray ports if applicable.

Your owner's manual has full instructions as to how to accomplish this task but my best advice is to bring your unit to your local RV dealer and let the pros do it for you. Their service departments have the tools and the know how to make sure that you're all set to weather the deep freeze. Besides, it's late in the camping season and the techs are starting to twiddle their collective thumbs. (Remember, Only YOU can prevent deadly boredomitis technicianicus.) Please do your part and keep the techies busy and contented!! The prices range from $49.95 to $79.95 for full winterization. For those of you in the SC UpState, our tech's at Jody's RV will take good care of you!

Think that's too pricey? Just wait until next Spring when you have to bring your unit in to replace all of the lines and fittings that blew out in January. Bet you're rethinking that $49.95 now, huh?

Tags: antifreeze, freezing, heater, water, winterizing

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Barry, great article for us! I'm always on pins and needles when I winterize wonding if i did it correctly and what I forgot... like the outside show hose in the bay, which, of course, alerted me with a huge spray of water in the fact when I unwinterized this spring. And, I almost always seem to forget the water pump (mostly plactic and full of water) using the "air tank" approach.

Hope you get in some more good old rving before the big freeze! Pat, Linda and Lady dog
Hey Barry, I got a new rv this summer and this will be the first time to winterize it for me!!
Can you run the air into and out of the water pump? And do you mean to open all water outlet at the same time?

How about a little ant-freeze in the drain lines?

Thanks for any and all info,

Excellent review.

Prepping for winter isnt something I've given much thought to, living in San Diego.

My winter preparidness usually means putting on long pants. (Yes, you can hate me now)

Our winter season is actually when I get more camping in as thats the only time I dare head to the sand dunes.
Yep, winter prep in San Diego use to be grabbing a cervesa (beer) and heading to point Loma!

Any good campgrounds you can post for our folks for snowbirding in So Cal?

thanks, buddy. pat

PS. For you folks who might not know, Jim is the inventor of the sci-fi WiFi thingy that really sucks in the signals, even at crummy KOA's!
see his articles and pics on the home page.

Now, off to put some decon in the bays for those pesky Colorado mice we picked.
Actually, Jim, I do not hate you. I live in SC and 90% of the time, we don't have to worry about winterizing either. I do, however, have a friend who lives in San Diego and he used to rub my nose in it right regularly when I lived in Niagara Falls, NY.
Typically, you will not utilize the water pump when using the air pressure method of winterizing. I do, however, recommend that if you have used your water pump during the season, you should always turn it on and pump out all of the remaining water in the lines (after, of course, you have drained your holding tank). I don't recommend opening all of the faucets at once since it can become a bit hard to monitor each exit point and the air pressure may not be sufficient to blow all points out at once. I normally will have someone to help me with winterizing. I control the air input and they open each faucet (or shower, or flush valve) and monitor the flow of water exiting the system.

I'm not too worried about the drain lines (P-traps), although I certainly don't think it hurts to add a little non-toxic antifreeze to them. Freezing water expands into the space available until it meets resistance, at which point, it begins to exert pressure against the offending surface often resulting in broken pipes. In a drain, however, the water can always expand upward or downward within the pipe so I've not seen many broken p-traps. Still, I would not recommend that you take the chance. A bit of NTAF can't hurt.

Happy Camping!




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