Winter’s hard on all of us, but it can be particularly hard on RVs, including new and used motorhomes. With lots of plumbing and areas for water and moisture to hide, winterizing your RV is a critical step in saving yourself a lot of expensive fixes once things start to thaw in the spring.
In the video above, we list a step-by-step walkthrough of the winterization process. If it feels overwhelming, don’t fret! The trained service technicians at your local Camping World can winterize your RV for you. However, if you want to take on the process yourself, follow along with our step-by-step process. We break down the details of the video in 8 easy steps below.
Please note every RV is different, from fifth wheels to travel trailers and every class in between, and some may have additional items that are harder to winterize, such as icemakers and refrigerators or dishwashers, but our guide covers the basics. Let’s dive in!
Tools Needed Before You Begin
For proper winterization, you’ll need the following tools and supplies:
- cordless power drill with #2 square tip driver bit
- socket wrench and 1-1/16″ socket
- new anode rod or plastic plug
- 3-4 gallons of antifreeze (a little extra never hurts)
- 2 crescent wrenches or a set of open-end wrenches
- siphoning kit (if the pump is not already equipped)
- water heater bypass kit (if not already equipped)
- needle nose pliers or a screwdriver
Steps To Winterize Your RV
If you follow all of the steps as outlined, your RV will be as ready as it can be for winter storage. A properly winterized RV means less headache and stress when spring comes around again.
1. Drain and Flush the Black and Gray Water Tanks
It’s extremely important to not let wastewater sit in your RV all winter long. Not only can those tanks be a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, but the water can also freeze and cause issues. Drain both, starting with the black water tank and then the gray water tank. Once both are drained, clean the black tank with a special black tank cleaner or a cleaning wand.
2. Drain and Flush the Water Heater
You’ll also need to get the water out of your water heater. This means you need to turn it off and let it cool down, and not be under pressure. Hook up city water to your RV with the water turned off. From there, you can use your socket wrench to remove the drain plug or anode rod and open the pressure relief valve.
This will let the water drain out. Don’t drain the water heater if it’s hot or has pressure built up. Wait until the temperature and pressure come down. Once drained, turn the water pressure on and flush out the sediment for 2-3 minutes. Remove the anode rod if old and leave it out during winter; make a note to install a new one in the spring.
3. Bypass the Water Heater
Before adding anti-freeze to your RV, you need to make sure you bypass the water heater. You don’t want any antifreeze making its way into the water heater. Some RVs will have a bypass already installed.
To find the water heater, locate where the water heater service door is on the RV’s exterior and line that up with where it feeds inside. More often than not, there’s an access panel inside that you will need to remove. Using your drill and square tip driver bit, remove the panel to access the valves and adjust them to properly bypass the water heater.
4. Drain the Fresh Tank and Low Point Drains
Be sure the water pressure is off before removing the plug and draining the freshwater tank. It’s a good idea to open the faucets to help facilitate flow. When finished, close all the faucets and plug the low-point drains.
5. Locate the Water Pump
Attach the siphoning kit, or if your RV is equipped, locate the siphoning hose and place it inside your gallon of antifreeze. Open the valve. Turn on the water pump to allow the antifreeze to start flowing through the water system.
6. Open External Faucets and Valves on the Outside of the RV
Beginning with the lowest valve and working your way up, open low-point drains valves or loosen the low-point drain plugs to allow water to run out. Do so until the water turns pink (this is the antifreeze making its way thoroughly through the pipes), then close the valves or retighten the plugs. Turn on any outside showers or exterior faucets, running one side (hot or cold) until it runs pink, then close it and run the other.
7. Open Internal Faucets, Showers, and Toilets
Repeating the process from step six, run the faucets inside (kitchen, bathroom, and showers), starting with one side until it runs pink, then closing it and running the other side. Then do the same thing for all toilets until you see the antifreeze.
8. Pour Antifreeze Down P-Traps
After that, you should pour some additional antifreeze down the drain of each sink, shower, and toilet in the RV to ensure the exterior termination pipes don’t freeze over winter. With all that done, you should double-check that the water heater’s heating element is turned off and all faucets are closed.
Get Help If You Need It
If the steps above sound too complicated, or they’re just not something you want to do this season, no worries–we understand. Simply come into your local Camping World location and have our highly qualified service professionals do it for you. Doing it yourself can be rewarding, but paying professionals to handle your home on wheels is never a bad idea.
For other winterization tips and tricks, check out your RV’s owner’s manual. It’s common for different classes of RVs, such as Happier Camper, and different appliances to have additional needs before you can properly store your RV for the winter. After all, a successful winterization leads to a successful spring when RV season rolls around again.
Want to schedule a winterization service visit? Or consult with a Personal RV Shopper to locate a new, perfect RV for you? Find the Camping World location nearest to you!
Do you have any questions about winterizing your RV? Leave a comment below and we’ll respond ASAP!
I drained all the water out of the tanks then put three gallons of antifreeze in the fresh water tank. I turned on the water pump and nothing came out of the faucets. Where do people in the videos get the water that flows from the faucets before it turns pink if everything is empty?
My winterizing process is somewhat less complicated. Mid October, load up DPtag, hook up one of the Jeeps, shut down bricks’n’sticks, fuel up, take I-70 West to I-35 @KCMO, hang a lazy louie, set cruise on 70, out run the cold. Reverse process about April, or May, or maybe NOT. Easy, peasy, works every year. We don’t camp. We LUXURIATE!!!!!
There seems to be disagreement over whether you open a faucet or close the faucets after winterization. You said, close all faucets. Is it o.k. To leave a faucet or two open for possible expansion? Thanks!
Thanks this was very helpful.
What do we do to keep our RV from freezing during the winter when in use!! We use ours years around.
If I use an air compressor and blow the water out of my lines is it necessary to hook up to my water pump and run antifreeze through my lines. If I blow out the water and pull my water heater plug then run antifreeze down my P traps will I be ok,
I keep an electric heater on in my garage bathroom to keep pipes from freezing over the winter. Is it possible to do the same in the RV.
If all (or nearly all) the water has been drained from the system, why is antifreeze necessary? It seems like even if a little bit of water were left in the system somewhere, it would have room to expand in a mostly empty system.
Where is the switch to turn on and off the therma heat as stated in the owner manual? Class C forester.
I have food trailer with a 20gal fresh water tank, a 50 gal black water and an instant propane water heater. We will be using the water on several occasions maybe every other week or so but while it sits in between events how do we keep the water from freezing? Is this something we will have to do everytime we get ready to store it for a week a or two?
I might be camping in the winter if the temperatures stay above freezing. Is there anything I can do to prevent my pipes from freezing in between camping trips?
Can I winterize the tank and still go camping if I don’t use the water or toilet?
If i use an air compressor to blow all the water out of the lines, do I still need to put antifreeze in them?
What do you charge to winterize a thor ace 27.1
I’d recommend contacting your local Camping World service center directly: https://rv.campingworld.com/rv-service-maintenance
They can give you pricing and info on our two winterization packages!
Hi Judy! If water flows from the faucets before it turns pink (or the color of the antifreeze you use), that tells me there was still water in the system. That might not be a significant issue if the ratio of water to antifreeze is roughly 50/50. But some antifreeze bottles are pre-mixed (i.e., already a 50/50 solution). Did you use a pre-mixed solution or a 100% antifreeze?
Also, are your faucets and low point drains closed again before you turn on the water pump to circulate the antifreeze? If the system is open (i.e., a faucet or low point drain is open), it will be harder for your water pump to build pressure to circulate antifreeze. Feel free to follow up if you have additional questions. I’d love to make sure your RV’s plumbing is safe as we move through these winter months!
Thanks for sharing Scott!
You’re spot on about the possibility of residual water remaining in the lines when using air to blow them out. Antifreeze is a safe bet for long-term winterization.
Great call Joey!
I’ve personally taken this approach myself over the last few years. Do you ever head to any of these snowbird destinations?
I used air pressure for years in Virginia; my first two years in Colorado I lost waters pumps. The technician advised me that blowing out the lines leaves some residual water, even condensation from extreme temperature changes can freeze, expand and blow seals in the water pump. Anti-freeze is a cheap solution when considering the cost of replacing broken pumps. I also leave all the knife switches on the tank outlets open. Even when drained, condensation can build and cause freezing that will prevent the knife switches from opening/closing. (We take out our fifth wheel and the end of February and de-winterize that day before our departure for warmer climes)
I wondered the same thing. It works for our sprinkler system, and I wouldn’t think it would be difficult to do it. Drain the water lines and blow out the gray water drains. It might cause some issues with the gray water tank smell getting into the trailer past a cleared P trap. At a minimum, it would drastically reduce the need for antifreeze. Black water tank would have to stay with antifreeze treatment, so I guess that actually would fill all the lines anyway.
Great question. Let’s clarify:
If you do a basic winterizing, it’s okay to leave the valves open on the faucet and low-point drains. If you do a complete or deluxe winterize with antifreeze, it’s best to leave them closed, so they don’t drip antifreeze on the plastic sinks or shower pans. The antifreeze will get slushy but not freeze solid to be able to expand and crack a fixture. We’ve never seen damage from closing the faucets with antifreeze in the system. If the RV has been properly blown out there is no reason not to close the faucets, as there would be no water to expand and damage them.
Hopefully that clears things up, but let us know if you have additional questions!
What fo you charge to winterize class c 26foot.
Hi Gary, reach out to the service department, and they’ll be able to give you a quote! https://rv.campingworld.com/service
Yep! The storage space underneath the RV is often called a basement. This is where I’d put a small space heater if the plumbing runs through there (most of the time it does). It really depends on the unit. Some travel trailers won’t really have a basement like a motorhome or a fifth wheel.
What do you mean the basement of my RV? Do you mean underneath the RV?
Hey, Paul. Yeah, you can use a small space heater in the basement of your RV that should help keep your pipes warm enough to keep from freezing. Also, there are heating pads you can add to your holding tanks.
Hi Warren, I’m not familiar with your particular model. I’d say give the nearest Camping World dealership a call. They’ll be able to help you out
Hey Don, If the RV is in freezing temperatures you may have to or find a way to keep the tanks and water lines warm. You can buy heating pads for your tanks that should help keep them from freezing.
Hi Sue, if you’re not actually using the water system I would think you’d be okay. The other option is to get heating pads for the tanks and make sure the lines and tanks never get cold enough to freeze.