how to winterize your RV

How to Winterize Your RV in 10 Easy Steps

Winterizing an RV isn’t only about winterizing the plumbing system, but it’s also about preparing the chassis, interior, and exterior of the vehicle to withstand the three frigid months of winter. It’s understandable, however, why most RV owners tend to focus mainly on winterizing the pumping system, as damage to the system could result in the breaking of costly lines and fittings.

There are a lot of intricate steps involved in the process of winterizing an RV, which tempts a lot of RV owners to just tuck their vehicles under a cover for the duration of winter, only to find their vehicles severely damaged upon uncovering them in the spring. If you want to enjoy camping in your RV next year, then stick around as we’re about to explicate how to winterize your RV.


1. Stabilize Your Vehicle

Before even attempting to winterize your RV, it’s imperative that you park your vehicle on a level surface. Additionally, you want to use leveling blocks or wheel chocks to stabilize the tires. If the RV is towable, you can utilize a stabilizer or camper jack to stabilize the vehicle. If not, then you must make sure you position the tires in such a way that there are no edges hanging off.

When the tires of any vehicle are stabilized for a lengthy period of time, they tend to develop flat spots. To prevent this issue from happening, you want to jack your RV off the ground so that the tires are not pressured by direct contact with the ground. Lastly, if your RV is motorized, it’s ideal to engage the emergency brakes just to make sure the RV is stabilized in every possible way.

2. Clean the RV Thoroughly

Clean the RV Thoroughly

Now that your vehicle is stabilized, it’s time for you to empty it completely. All valuables must be taken indoors, and if you have any tools or accessories, just store it in your garage. Then, you’ll need to start cleaning every quarter of your RV. Remove any food crumbs and give the RV floor a good wipe. Thereafter, wipe all other surfaces like closets, cabinets, countertops, and such.

After having cleaned all of the surfaces inside your RV, it’s time to remove and cleanse all of the fabric. This includes sheets, curtains, bedding, and things of that nature. You may be tempted to leave these things behind, but just keep in mind that anything left unclean will attract bugs. This will result in more uncleanliness and might damage or render your belongings totally useless.

Yes, pests like mosquitos and gnats tend to perish in the winter, but don’t you forget about those seemingly immortal creatures called cockroaches. They always seek shelter in the winter, and if you leave behind anything that can attract them, your RV is guaranteed to be their shelter. Make sure the refrigerator and freezer are completely emptied, defrosted, cleaned, and propped open.

Next, you want to make sure the water tanks within your RV are entirely drained and your sewer hose is washed out properly and stored. You can store the sewer hose in the rear bumper, like a lot of campers do, or you can store it in the external compartment of the RV. To ensure the hose is clean throughout the winter, close the loop by connecting one end of the hose to the other.

3. Winterize the Plumbing System

Winterize the Plumbing System

Winterizing your RV’s plumbing system is where things get a little tricky and time-consuming. To put it simply, to winterize an RV’s plumbing system is to completely drain its pipes from water so that it doesn’t freeze when the temperature drops. Why is that important? Because frozen pipes can easily break and start leaking, and replacing these pipes can be quite expensive.

There are two ways you can go about winterizing your RV’s plumbing system. You can resort to antifreeze or you can use compressed air. Both methods are fairly easy to adopt. The only issue is that the process of winterizing a plumbing system is pretty time-consuming due to the number of steps that must be taken. The easier method of the two, however, is certainly antifreeze.

Winterizing an RV Using Antifreeze

Peak Antifreeze - Ideal for RVs
  1. Manually flush and drain your RV’s black and grey water tanks.
  2. Completely drain the fresh water system as well as the water heater.
  3. Make sure all existing inline water filters are removed.
  4. If there’s a water heater bypass, turn on the bypass valve
  5. Start pumping antifreeze into the RV’s water system and let it spread.

How to Properly Pump Antifreeze

Before pumping antifreeze, make sure the antifreeze you have is intended for RV water systems specifically. You don’t want to pump toxic antifreeze into your drinking water system. Alright. You now want to close all low point drains that you’ve opened as you were draining the water. Find a hose and connect one of its ends to the inlet of your water pump and the other to the antifreeze.

How much antifreeze do you need exactly? Well, if your system features a water heater bypass, then you’ll only need about 1-3 gallons. If not, you’ll need 6-10 extra gallons. Next, you’re going to turn on the water pump in order for pressure to kick in. Subsequently, open the faucets inside your RV and wait for the antifreeze to flow. Start with the nearest to the water pump.

After running antifreeze through your water faucets, begin opening all other water outlets, from toilet sprayers to showerheads. Additionally, you want to make sure the toilet is flushed so that the antifreeze runs through it. Before turning your RV’s pump off, make sure the antifreeze has gone through the entire plumbing system. Thereafter, simply close all of the inlets.

Winterizing an RV Using Compressed Air

Winterizing your RV’s plumbing system with the aid of compressed air requires more steps than with antifreeze, but it’s much more cost-effective, as it doesn’t require you to purchase as much antifreeze as the previous method, and so you don’t need to pump as much antifreeze when it’s time to uncover your RV in the spring, which reduces its harmful effects on the environment.

You still require a single cup of antifreeze per fixture, though, as it’s very hard to get rid of all the water in your plumbing system using just compressed air. This method is optimal for RV owners who live in areas where winter is mild. For this method, you’ll need an air compressor that has a pressure regulator, some RV-specific antifreeze, and a blowout plug for the city water inlet.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Make sure the black and grey water tanks are flushed and drained properly.
  2. Drain your entire freshwater system as well as the water pump.
  3. If you use inline water filters, make sure you remove them.
  4. Use the blowout plug to connect your air source to the city water inlet.
  5. Turn on your air compressor and limit its pressure to a maximum of 40PSI.
  6. Open all the fixtures and faucets close to the air source followed by the rest.
  7. Carry out the previous step for both hot and cold water settings.
  8. Wait until only air is coming out of the faucets then turn off the compressor.
  9. For each fixture and faucet, pour a single cup of antifreeze.
  10. Lastly, remove the hot water heater drain plug and all low point drain plugs.

4. Shut Off Your Propane Tanks

Shut Off Your Propane Tanks

After having winterized your RV’s plumbing system, you’ll need to turn the shutoff valve on your onboard propane tank all the way to the right (clockwise) in order to shut it off. If you don’t have an onboard tank and you utilize portable propane tanks instead, remove them out of the RV and then cap the gas lines so that nothing gets into them like bugs, dirt, and so forth.

5. Unplug All Electronic Devices

Unplug All Electronic Devices

The next step is to disconnect all your electronic devices by unplugging them from the electrical outlets. This includes your TV, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker, just to name a few. In case some of your devices run on batteries, you want to take out these batteries and store them at regular room temperature. If you leave batteries in the cold, their lifespan will decrease.

6. Cover All External Outlets

Cover All External Outlets

It’s time for you to step outside of your RV to cover all external openings like the exhaust guard. This will help prevent bugs and pests from climbing into these openings to seek shelter from the harshness of winter. We also recommend using a mesh screen to cover your battery vents and your water heater. And if you’re looking to insulate your windows, consider shrinkwrap.

7. Look for Leaks in the Roof

Grab a ladder from your garage and climb to the roof of your RV to inspect it for leaks. You may start by inspecting the areas that surround the antennas, vent fans, and air conditions. You also want to examine areas where there are writing or exhaust pipes. If you find any leaks, all you’re going to is apply some lap sealant. If the roof is old, consider sealing it completely.

8. Seal All Doors and Windows

Seal All Doors and Windows

It’s highly likely that you find gaps around the edges of your RV’s windows and doors. If you do, then grab the same lap sealant you used for the roof and apply it over these gaps. Moreover, if there are areas that were sealed from last year, you should consider resealing them, as sealant erodes over time. Sealing these gaps will help prevent water and bugs from entering your RV.

9. Clean the Exterior of the RV

Clean the Exterior of the RV

Hang in there, we’re almost done. All you need to do now is give the exterior of your RV a good wash and some proper waxing. Also, don’t forget to roll out the RV’s awning in order to give the fabric a good wash as well. However, for the awning, you don’t want to use any regular cleaner. Make sure you utilize an awning-specific cleaner, as regular ones can result in cracks.

10. Voila! Time to Cover Your RV

After carrying out all of the above-mentioned steps, you can now consider your RV ready for the winter season. The last step you want to take is to grab a breathable cover and utilize it to cover your RV. You should make sure the cover is winter-specific and that it’s designed specifically for your type of RV. Winter-specific covers tend to be thicker and more rugged than regular ones.

When shopping for a winter-specific cover for your RV, make sure it’s not overly thick that it can trap moisture and air underneath it, or else your RV will be covered by mildew and mold. And to prevent any damage to the cover, make sure all sharp edges of your RV are covered with some sort of thick fabric, like old towels or such. Also, make sure your tires are covered completely.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Water Heater Bypass?

It’s a plumbing component that’s added to RVs so that you don’t have to utilize antifreeze for the water heater. Using a bypass makes it much easier for you to drain your plumbing system when it’s time to uncover your RV. It also helps save money since you won’t use much antifreeze.

What Happens If You Don’t Winterize Your RV?

If you don’t winterize your RV, especially its plumbing system, the water inside the lines or tanks will freeze. When water freezes, it expands, and that expansion might result in your lines getting broken. Replacing broken lines and fittings will cost you a considerable amount of money.

Are There RV Winterizing Services?

Yes, there is. Any reputable service center for RVs can winterize an RV. The cost of winterizing an RV can range anywhere between $90 and $200, depending on the outfitting of the RV.


Final Thoughts

Winterizing an RV isn’t as challenging as you thought, huh? Granted, it can take a while, but it’s not really that hard. With the aid of the information shared in this post, you’ll be able to winterize your RV successfully without any problems. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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