Winterizing Tips for 1st Time RV Owners
RVing in the fall is mesmerizing. Some of the best nights I spent with my family in my RV were September and October. But unfortunately, that’s where the warm and cozy feeling ends, at least for most seasonal campers.
Most beginners also tend to pack away their RVs at the onset of winter. And I understand; RVing in winter isn’t for everyone. Now, if it’s your first year with a travel trailer, I imagine the upcoming winter season will also be your first year of winterizing.
RV winterization is important to avoid damage. It also ensures your RV is ready to go when spring arrives. While winterizing may sound like a Herculean task, it’s easy, and after a couple of times, you can do it in 15 minutes or less.
I had it “professionally” done for my first RV, and after $400, I decided I’d start doing it myself, and it has never been easier. Of course, it requires some elbow grease, but nothing to worry about.
In the guide below, I’ll share my annual RV winterizing habit. I’ve composed a list of steps I perform when winterizing my RV.
The RV plumbing system, in my opinion, bears most of the brunt of the winter harshness. If the water in the plumbing system freezes, it expands, and there’s a likelihood of a burst in your water pump & lines or breaking of faucets, valves, and fittings. There’s so much at risk.
The good news is that you could use a couple of options to winterize your RV’s plumbing system.
1) RV Anti-freeze Method
This method uses antifreeze to push the water out of the RV plumbing lines and protects the small areas where water doesn’t drain properly.
Here’s a step-by-step method of winterizing your RV’s plumbing system using the RV antifreeze method.
- Drain all the tanks, including the water heater
- Ensure you bypass the water heater
- Hook up a separate feed line at your pump and use it to push antifreeze through the plumbing, including the valves, faucets, and waterlines
- Turn on the different RV fixtures and wait for the flow to turn pink (antifreeze flowing). Don’t forget the outside shower and the low-point drain underneath
- If there’s remaining antifreeze, pour it down the P-traps
Some folks usually run the antifreeze through the freshwater tank, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s wasteful and requires a lot of flushing to get the antifreeze out.
Running anti-freeze through your freshwater tank will also likely ruin your freshwater supply. It’s not toxic but will leave a bad taste.
So, simply drain the system, reclose the valves and pump pink antifreeze through. And this way, you could winterize your RV in less than 10 minutes.
2) Blow-out Method
The second method, aptly named the blowout method, entails blowing air through your RVs plumbing system to get any water in the plumbing system out.
Blowing your RV’s plumbing line is easy & safe, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. You only need a cheap air compressor, a hose, and a fitting.
The only concern with the blow-out method is the bursting of the plumbing pipes from excess pressure. The ideal pressure should be 40 psi (recommended plumbing pressure).
Here’s a step-by-step guide to winterizing using the blowout method:
- Drain all the water tanks
- Hook an air compressor to the feed fixture and set the regulator at 30-40 psi
- Run each faucet until you’re satisfied that all the water has been drained out from inside and only air comes out. Don’t forget any outside shower or toilet sink. The pressurized air will eliminate any water slugs inside the plumbing system that may freeze and burst the pipe.
- Pour a couple of cups of RV antifreeze into every drain and P-Trap for added protection.
Generally, the blowout method is way easier than filling your plumbing system with antifreeze. And the best part is it won’t require you to flush it out when spring arrives.
Whatever method you choose, there’re several disclaimers to keep in mind.
First, you should never empty your black tank, even if you rinse it.
See, regardless of how much you drain your blank tank, the odds are there’s still a bit of poop in the bottom. And when you store the black tank empty over time, the poop solidifies to the point it can’t rehydrate, and now you’ve a concrete poop in the bottom that never cleans out.
So, I’d recommend storing the dump tank with some antifreeze and a gallon of water to protect the dump valves and keep the bottom of the tank wet.
The other thing to keep in mind is the choice of your antifreeze should be specifically marketed as RV antifreeze. It’s usually a mixture of propylene glycol.
It’s different from automotive antifreeze, which contains toxic Ethylene Glycol. Drinking even traces of automotive ant-freeze is fatal and could even kill you.
Returning to Use:
Returning the system filled with antifreeze requires flushing the system with clean water until all the pink coloration is gone. You then need to flush more to eliminate the bad taste.
Returning the blowout system is much easier. Simply add water and vent the air.
Generally, a charged RV battery won’t freeze until temperatures drop to minus -70C. Even then, storing your RV batteries in optimal conditions is important for their longevity and overall performance.
Personally, I always remove my RV batteries, not even in the winter alone, and take them home with me. If batteries are left unattended in an unplugged RV, they discharge automatically over time, and the lead plates sulfate and generally lose their efficiency.
You may keep the batteries plugged in, but that’s wasteful. Even worse, some RV battery chargers are usually hard on batteries and can overcharge until they’re boiled dry and can’t hold a charge anymore.
I recommend charging the batteries all the way up and then bringing them into the house for storage for the winter. It takes minimal effort to remove the battery from your RV.
But that’s half the battle; you also need to tend them. Keep them in a float charger, smart charger, or battery tender to keep the charge level topped up.
Tires and Wheels
A house is only as strong as its foundation, so your RV will be as reliable as the condition of the tires and wheels. Winter storage of your RV may affect the overall quality of the wheels and tires, so it’s necessary to store them appropriately. There’re a couple of things to do on the RV wheels to extend their longevity in winter storage.
- Clean your RV wheels and tires. Use non-abrasive chemicals (dish cleaning solution) and water to eliminate all the dirt and gunked-up mess.
- Next, slightly over-inflate the wheels so the down part doesn’t become a little flat, which could give a rough ride. All rubber goes flat, so overinflate your wheels by 5 psi.
- Find some leveling blocks, lumber, or plastic big enough to support part of the tire resting on the ground. Support the whole tread and not partially. Lumber will keep the tires up and above the water or whatever might accumulate in the area you park your RV.
- Finally, consider your parking location. I’d suggest you keep off parking on asphalt because the oils in the asphalt can affect the tires. I would also certainly not park directly on the sand, especially if you’ve potential for standing water that can do long-term damage.
Jacking up your RV isn’t necessary and is a bad practice. Stabilizer jacks can take some weight, but if the tire loses air pressure over time, the winter weight transfers to the jack. The jacks aren’t designed to hold that much weight; in some cases, they may bend or even damage your RV trailer frames.
RV propane tanks are generally easier to store during winter. Propane gas doesn’t expire, so you shouldn’t have a reason to worry about its longevity. It also doesn’t freeze unless the temperatures reach extremely low temperatures.
Your main concern with the RV propane tanks should be the holding cylinder. If the tank is exposed to snow or moisture, it may rust and cause a leak.
Therefore, your main priority when wintering your RV is to store the propane tanks in a cool, dry place away from moisture. It’s also important to keep the tanks from heat sources.
Keeping the Rodents Out
The other important RV winterization tip is removing food from your freezer and refrigerator. Ensure you clean the interior thoroughly. Otherwise, you want to invite “winter guests” into your RV.
Keeping the rodents out is important as they may wreak havoc in your RV. I also like to go the extra step of filling any openings with steel or wool to keep the little devils out of my rig.
The final winterizing tip is covering your rig, especially if you don’t have a shelter overhead. Don’t cover it with a tarp because it’s unbreathable and could result in mold build-up. There’re appropriate rig covers that protect your RV against wind, sunlight, and snow.
Q: How many gallons of antifreeze do I need to winterize my camper?
A: It depends on the camper size, but 2 to 3 gallons is generally standard for most campers.
Q: Can I use antifreeze in my freshwater tank?
A: Technically, yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It takes a lot of antifreeze and is not very efficient. Plus, even when the tank is drained, there remain traces of the antifreeze, which may affect the taste of your water.
Q: What happens if RV is not winterized?
A: When your RV’s plumbing isn’t winterized, water may freeze inside the lines and expand, thus causing extensive damage to the valves, pipes, tanks, faucets, and fittings.
Here’s everything you need to know about winterizing your camper. Doing it the right way ensures your RV is protected during the harsh winter conditions and is ready when spring arrives. And as you can see, winterizing your RV is not hard!