How To Winterize Your RV 16111

Winter’s hard on all of us, but it can be particularly hard on RVs. 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 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
  • flashlight
  • 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

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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 then 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 exterior of the RV and line that up with where it feeds into 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

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Image from Getty

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 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? Find the Camping World location nearest to you!

How to winterize your RV

15 Comments

  1. If i use an air compressor to blow all the water out of the lines, do I still need to put antifreeze in them?

    1. 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.

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

  3. 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?

    1. 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.

    1. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

        1. 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.

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