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How to Winterize an RV: The Antifreeze Method

How to Winterize an RV

How to Winterize an RV: The Antifreeze Method

As the seasons change and the temperature drops, it's time to bid our precious RVs farewell until spring. While one might think storing a trailer in the garage is enough to get it through the winter, this couldn't be further from the truth.

There's a series of steps we RV owners have to take to ensure our trailers are safe and sound when it's time to explore the wilderness again. So without further ado, here's how to winterize an RV in five steps using the antifreeze method!

How to Winterize Your RV in 5 Steps

By following the steps below, your RV will be in excellent condition by the time you need to use it again.

Step 1: Drain All Water From RV

The first step is to drain your RV's water system. This is necessary to prevent the pipes from freezing. After all, frozen pipes lead to cracked pipes.

Some larger RVs include additional appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers. These trailers will need a few extra draining measures.

However, all units will require the following steps:

    1. Drain Black and Gray Water Tanks

For this, you'll need to drive your RV to a dumping station. We know this isn't the most fun step, but it's necessary to ensure your tanks are clean before storing your RV for the winter.

When you get to the dumping station, take out the sewage hose and connect one end to the black water tank drain on your RV. Connect the other end of the hose to the dumping station drain.

To empty the tank, pull the black water tank valve on your RV and allow it to drain completely. Once you're certain that the tank has been entirely drained, repeat the process to drain the gray water tank.

Lastly, flush both your black and gray water tanks with water to ensure they're free of any residue.

Pro tip: Always empty your black water tank first. If you're using the same hose to empty both tanks, you can take advantage of the gray water to rinse it out. This reduces the likelihood of you coming into contact with any of the "fun water."

    2. Drain Freshwater Tank

Before proceeding to any other step, switch off the water heater and allow the water to drop to room temperature. This is to keep you from getting potentially burned when draining the tanks, interior lines, and water heater.

The freshwater drain is located underneath your RV, just below the freshwater tank. You may have to stoop over to be able to reach it, though.

Once you've located it, turn the valve and let the water drain until the tank is completely empty. This may take some time depending on how much freshwater is in your tank.

    3. Empty Water Heater

Draining your RV's water heater is vital to avoid contaminated water. Stale water can emit a Sulfur odor and can be dangerous if consumed.

If your water heater is fueled by gas, shut off the propane gas supply. If it's powered by electricity, make sure to turn the power off before draining the water.

Now, locate your water heater, which is usually in an outside unit on your RV. Using a wrench, remove the drain plug from the bottom left corner of the compartment. Now that the plug is removed and the water is flowing, release the pressure relief valve.

    4. Drain All Interior Lines

Next up, head inside your RV and turn on the water pump. Place a bucket underneath all the faucets in the RV to prevent any water from reaching the gray tank that you just drained.

After that, turn on all of the faucets in the RV to drain any residual water from the interior line. The water will flow for around 30 seconds. The faucets, however, will continue to spew air for a few minutes after. Once you're done clearing all the lines, turn the water pump off.

Step 2: Bypass Water Heater

Before going ahead and adding the antifreeze, you need to bypass your water heater. This ensures that the water heater doesn't fill with antifreeze. Your water heater won't necessarily be harmed by this, but a lot of antifreeze would be unnecessarily wasted.

Having said that, most RVs include a bypass system. If yours doesn't, you may either buy and install one yourself or hire a local professional to do it for you.

Step 3: Add the Antifreeze

The purpose of the antifreeze is to prevent any water in the pipes from freezing and potentially damaging the pipes.

Some people prefer to install a water pump conversion kit, which enables the RV to pump antifreeze into the system.

Then again, if you don't want to deal with the hassle of an installation, just disconnect the inlet side of the water pump and insert it directly into the antifreeze container. Once the two are connected, switch the water pump on.

It's now time to turn on the faucets. Slowly open the hot and then cold valves until you see the pink antifreeze fluid flowing from the faucets.

Repeat on all faucets, starting with the closest and working your way out. If you have an outdoor shower, don't leave it out of the equation.

Once you're done, pour one cup of antifreeze into each of your RV's drains, as well as the toilet bowl.

Step 4: Disconnect the Battery

When winterizing your RV, remove the battery and store it somewhere warm and dry. This is done because as the temperature drops, the water in the battery may freeze. As a result, the battery may sustain damage or even fail entirely.

Step 5: Cover Your RV

The final step is to cover your trailer with an RV cover. Covering your RV before storing it is crucial to protect the paint, finish, and fabrics from any external harm.

Pro tip: before covering your RV, give it a good wash to avoid dust accumulation.

Wrapping Up

By properly winterizing your RV, you could avoid things like damaged tanks and fractured pipes. This means you'll not only save yourself a ton of repair hassles, but also a lot of maintenance expenses.

If you're wondering how to winterize an RV, you've come to the right place. We've listed five steps to help you have a smoother springtime camping experience.

November 20, 2022
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