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How to Winterize Your RV in 5 Easy Steps

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man getting rv winterize

RVing can be year-round fun, but for some, it’s time to put their recreational vehicles away for the off-season. To prevent serious damage to your RV such as frozen waste pipes and burst waterlines, it’s extremely important to winterize your rig, especially for those who live in areas where temperatures drop to freezing or below. Even if you are planning to travel during the winter months, passing through a freeze could damage your RV.

The easiest way to properly winterize your rig is to visit your trusted RV maintenance shop and have a certified RV technician do the work. However, that may cost you some money – anywhere from $130 to $170 – for a basic winterizing package. Imagine how much that adds up to over the years of owning your RV? If you want to save money on your winter prep, you can winterize your RV by yourself with this guide.

When Should You Winterize Your RV?

rv in snow

The time to winterize your RV is right before temperatures drop below freezing. If a sudden cold snap catches you off guard, it may be difficult to perform the necessary winterization or get your RV to your trusted shop last minute. Play it safe by planning to winterize your rig as soon as temperatures hit the low 40s. Keep in mind, water freezes when temperatures start to dip below 32° Fahrenheit or 0° Celsius. That means the water in your RV’s pipes could freeze and potentially damage your rig!

5 Steps To Winterize Your RV

The most important part of getting your RV secured for winter is draining the plumbing system. Water in pipes and valves will freeze and expand in cold temperatures. So, you need to remove all the liquids and replace them with antifreeze. As you can imagine, repairs can be expensive, especially in RVs where pipes are buried in the walls of the vehicle. This process needs to be done correctly to prevent major problems, so make sure to do a thorough and careful job. Before you get started, be sure to read through your owner’s manual before completing any of the steps below.

Supplies Needed to Winterize Your RV

  • Owner’s manual
  • RV pink antifreeze (at least two jugs)
  • Flashlight
  • New anode rod (if needed)
  • Water heater bypass kit (if not equipped)
  • Basic hand tools (socket wrench, needle nose pliers, screwdriver)

Step 1: Drain and Flush Your Black, Gray, and Fresh Water Tanks

The first step in winterizing is to eliminate any water from your RV. If you are unsure how to drain any of these tanks, follow these directions below:

flushing tanks to winterize rv
  • Fresh Water Tank:
    • Detach your RV from water hook up.
    • Turn off the water pump.
    • Drain the fresh water tank by opening the petcock.
    • Open all faucets, both hot and cold.
    • Open all showers, inside and outside.
    • Flush toilets.
  • Black and Gray Tank:
    • Go to a designated dump station.
    • Prep for the job by wearing rubber gloves and protective gear.
    • Connect one end of your sewage drain hose to the black tank valve. Secure the other end of the hose to the value at the dump station’s sewer line.
    • Make sure the slide valve to the gray-water tank is closed.
    • Pull the valve and drain your black tank completely.
    • Once your black tank is empty, open the gray tank value and let its water flush out completely.
    • Use a hose dedicated to the waste line and flush both tanks with water.
    • Perform a black tank treatment of your choice if desired.
    • Close the valve and clean out your sewer hose.
    • Remove the sewer hose and properly store it. Dispose of protective gear.

Step 2: Drain the Water Heater

Draining a water heater that’s recently been under pressure can be extremely dangerous. Make sure to turn off the water heater to remove the pressure and let it cool down for several hours.

draining water
  • Hook up city water to your RV with the water turned off.
  • Remove the drain plug or anode rod and let the water drain out.
  • Once drained, turn water pressure on and flush out sediments for 2-3 minutes.
  • Use a wand to clean out deposits.
  • Replace anode rod if needed.
  • Plug back drain plug.

Step 3: Drain Low Point

Drain all the pipes in your RV by turning on the hot/cold water faucets and shower. Be sure to flush your toilets too. If you want to thoroughly drain all liquids, use an air compressor to help blow out the water lines. Once all lines and systems are drained, recap and close all drains and faucets.

Step 4: Bypass the Water Heater

After draining all the water, you need to bypass the water heater before adding antifreeze in the next step. Most new RVs are now equipped with a hot water by-pass kit to prevent anti-freeze from going into your heater. If you don’t have one, be sure to install one or have it installed by a local RV facility or your RV dealer.

Step 5: Adding Antifreeze to Your RV

The last step is to pour antifreeze down your RV’s water tanks and drain system. The purpose of the antifreeze is to help raise the freezing point of water, so it doesn’t freeze, expand, and rupture your pipes. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

antifreeze in sink
Image credit: MyBackyardLife
  • Make sure you’re using antifreeze for RVs and not for automotive. It should be pink. You’ll need 2 to 3 gallons of it, depending on the size of your RV.
  • Turn off the water heater.
  • Turn on the water heater bypass.
  • Insert a freshwater hose into a gallon of nontoxic RV antifreeze.
  • Turn on the water pump. This will pull antifreeze from the container into the system.
  • Open hot and then cold-water faucets to make sure it’s running pink.
  • Check toilets at the end to make sure it runs pink.
  • Add a few cups of antifreeze to each drain (sink, shower, toilet) to ensure the exterior pipes don’t freeze over winter.
  • Double-check the water heater is turned off and all faucets/values are closed.

Seasonal RV Insurance

Remember that you want to protect your RV not only with proper maintenance but also with the right RV Insurance. Seasonal Insurance plans are available through QRV. If you have any questions about getting the right policy that fits your lifestyle and needs, speak with an RV Insurance Specialist today at (866) 501-7335.

The information in this article is obtained from various sources and is offered for educational purposes. It should not replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.