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How To Winterize An RV and Save Money – A Complete Guide with Video

Are you worried that the winter freezing temperatures might damage your RV?

Whatever may be the model of your RV, the steps to winterizing are the same! Firstly, remove any residual water from the tanks and drain pipes of your RV. After that, you can blow out the water lines to remove any remaining water. Finally, fill your water lines with a good quality antifreeze.

I will also provide some miscellaneous details on RV winterizing so you can do it the proper way.

Why Do You Need To Winterize Your RV?

You must winterize your RV to protect the water lines and pipes from bursting. The pipes of a non-winterized RV will be damaged at the very least during winter due to the freezing and expanding of water.

Summer is about to end and it’s time to store your RV in a nice and safe place. Certainly, you are not planning to go on a tour with your RV during the chilly winter. Besides, you can’t even take out your car during snowstorms. Moreover, traveling with a camper can be harder than it looks.

We all know how frosty it can get around mid-December. When everything starts to freeze, all the water bodies turn into ice. Your camper has its drainage and water supply system too. Even if you are using or not using your RV, the freezing temperatures will have a similar effect on your RV water system.

This is a piece of general knowledge to everybody that water turns into ice below zero degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water in the pipes and tanks starts to freeze, as a general rule the volume of water expands. This expanding ice may ultimately burst the RV pipes and water lines.

That being said, a stitch not taken in time can later cost you thousands, to get the damages repaired. No wonder, the plumbing system of your camper can get destroyed! Therefore, if you live in someplace where it can get real chilly during winter, you must winterize your RV in time.

When Should You Winterize Your RV?

If you live in places where the temperature hardly falls below zero degrees, then you may not need to winterize your RV at all. But in cold places, winterizing is compulsory just before winter arrives.

Even if your RV is plugged in all winter, you must winterize. Because the freezing temperatures ultimately cause the residual water to turn into ice. And by now, you understand how this damages your camper.

In most of the states of the US, the temperature falls to freezing points during winter. Also, there are countries where snow falls occur during most of the year. For instance, in countries like Norway, Switzerland, countries in Great Britain, etc.

But in the too hot places, it’s not that cold during winter. Say, if you live in the Middle East or the tropical countries, winterizing isn’t recumbent upon you. You can travel in your camper all year round. In these climatic conditions, there is no risk of the water freezing to ice. Naturally, you don’t have to winterize your RV.

The best time to winterize an RV is just before winter when spring is about to end. Do it somewhere around the beginning of December when the water is still flowing well. Otherwise when it starts to freeze, soon your RV will turn into cold storage and turn all the water into ice!

Materials Required To Winterize An RV

So, let’s get to work! Winterizing an RV is so easy that you can do it yourself. You can do it for as cheap as 50 dollars, right in your backyard. Just follow some basic steps and it will be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

Before you start, you need to collect all the materials that you are going to need. For this purpose, you will need to start with the most basic plumbing tools and some additional equipment.

Make a list of the things you will need. Almost all of these are very easily available in any super shop. Your list should look like this:

  • A cover for your tires.

  • A battery box for storing your batteries.

  • A solar cell battery charger for the batteries.

  • An adapter, if you want to blow out the remaining water from the lines.

  • 3 to 4 gallons of a good quality Antifreeze.

  • A wand to clean out the holding tanks.

  • A water heater bypass kit. You may also use a water pump converter kit.

  • Some people prefer to use an Air Compressor for winterizing. However, it’s entirely your choice.

  • storage cover for your RV to protect and store it when not in use.

Use of Antifreeze in Winterizing An RV

If you are a beginner at this, let’s get to know first what antifreeze is and how it works. Just as the name says, antifreeze is a non-toxic, inert liquid used in the water lines and its sole purpose is to prevent the water pipes from turning into ice. Sounds magical, right?

Chemically, it may contain Propylene glycol, Ethanol, or combinations. The best antifreeze is Propylene Glycol. It is inert, non-flammable, and non-toxic. These substances reside in your water lines and prevent any residual water in your reservoirs, drainage system, sewerage lines, etc. from freezing.

Different types of antifreeze are available in liquid form and marketed in big bottles. Usually, they cost as low as 30 dollars and the prices can go above 50 dollars as per the brand you choose.

Before you buy, take a look at the features. There are some key points you must observe while buying. For instance, rating of burst protection temperatures, the density of chemicals used, FDA approval for safety of use, preservatives used, etc. These markers can help you choose the best one in the market. Compare the features and choose your favorite one!

A temperature rating of -45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, is considered quite good. But you may need to lower your threshold up to -100 degrees Fahrenheit, considering the climate in your area. You never know how cold it can get! Better to always remain updated on the weather forecasts.

In terms of density, the diluted antifreeze is the best. But they are a bit expensive compared to the highly concentrated ones. The concentrated ones need to be diluted first to use in your RV water lines. Of course, you need to learn first how to prepare the perfect solution.

For the convenience of use, always try to use colored antifreeze. In this way, it will help you to clean out any residual antifreeze during de-winterizing.

The most recommended RV Antifreeze by experts are-

  • Camco Antifreeze

  • Marine Antifreeze

  • Star Brite Antifreeze

 

How To Winterize An RV – 9 Easy Steps

Whichever RV you drive, be it a small truck, a big truck, a pickup, a slide-in truck, or a van camper, the steps to winterizing don’t differ that much. A lot of people think, if you keep your RV plugged in, you don’t need to winterize it. But this is a common mistake. Winterizing is vital even if you keep your RV plugged in and it must not be overlooked.

Winterizing an RV is no less than a cakewalk! Here is a complete stepwise guide on how to winterize your RV. Let’s move on to the steps!

Step One: Cover the tires

First things first, cover the tires and batteries properly. You can buy storage covers from your nearest Walmart or Amazon online, at cheap prices. Firstly, measure the exact size of your tire. Then choose the fabric. You can also make your tire cover at home.

Choose a fabric with the best weather protection that can stand adverse climate and strong UV rays. This will protect the tires from further damages.

Step Two: Care of batteries

If you are planning not to use your RV for long, or at least for the entire winter period, remove the batteries from your RV. Keep them in a well-protected battery box. Don’t put the battery on surfaces where it can corrode easily like on the floor, stainless steel surfaces, etc. Store batteries in a warm place inside your house.

Furthermore, you need to charge your battery to a hundred percent. You may use a solar panel to charge your battery that functions by trickle charging. These are easily available in online stores. Or, you can charge the batteries every month.

Your main purpose is to prevent your battery from freezing or from dying. Also, don’t forget to fill in the fuel tank and use a fuel stabilizer.

Step Three: Empty The Water Heaters

Now empty your water heaters. This step is very crucial because you don’t want to get burnt. Again, you do not want to do it when there is really hot water in the tank. So you can do it in two ways. One way is to turn off the heater and wait for at least a day before starting to winterize. As a result, the hot water gets cooled down overnight.

But if you don’t want to wait that long, you may do it in another way. In this method, you simply turn off the switch of your water heater, take a bucket or a big bowl and place it underneath the faucets you are about to empty.

Repeat this process for every tap in the RV and do it on both sides – hot and cold. Let all the hot water flow into the bucket until there isn’t anymore. Also, pull out the plug and turn on the pressure relief valves. You will need a wand to clean the holding tanks here. After that, when all the water drains out, close the valve.

Step Four: Empty The Freshwater Tanks

Empty the fresh water tanks of any remaining water. Turn on the faucets in your kitchen sink, shower, bathtubs, washbasin, or any outside shower. Let the residual water flow until the tanks are empty.

But if you don’t want to get this collection in your grey tanks, you can use the bucket method. Put the bucket underneath the faucets and collect the water there. You can then throw out this unused water, or use it for any other purpose.

Step Five: Blow Out Remaining Water Using An Air Compressor

A lot of people use this step as a substitute for using an antifreeze. On the contrary, this is an inevitable part of the process. Use a good-quality air compressor.

You don’t need too much pressure to blow out the water. A small scale of pressure such as 30 to 40 Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) is sufficient to get the job done. However, too much pressure may eventually damage your pipes.

First, connect an adapter to the inlet line. Then connect the hose pipe to it. Remove any inline filter in the trailer and put the housing back on. Lastly, connect to the air compressor and start with low pressure.

Keep blowing, this may take about 30 seconds. Then, turn on the faucets and check if water still flows or not. When it becomes empty there will be no more water stream. There will be some bubbling and gushing sounds which ultimately fade out. You can now be sure that there is no more water in the lines.

Step Six: Cross-check All The Plumbing Fixtures

The next step is to cross-check if you have done it correctly or not. Check the shower, bathroom faucets, toilet, kitchen sink, washbasin, any outside shower or sink, and the low point drains.

It is normal if drops of water are still flowing from the taps. But try your best so that no water comes out. Try putting a hand underneath the tap and then observe. If your hand is still dripping wet with water, you may need to continue blowing a little more. But if your hand is dry, you have done it correctly!

Step Seven: Pour Down The Antifreeze

Take the bottle of antifreeze and start pouring it down all the lines and drains. Start with the drains so that the antifreeze gets collected in the P-traps. But you must make sure beforehand that the grey and black tanks are empty.

Then use a hosepipe and put one end of the pipe in the bottle of antifreeze and connect the other end to the mainline. Create the negative pressure gradient so it sucks in all the antifreeze. In this way, the antifreeze shall get distributed in all the water lines. For an entire RV, you may need three to four gallons of antifreeze.

Step Eight: Check All The Lines

It is time to cross-check all the plumbing fixtures again. Let the water from the faucets flow until it turns into the color of the antifreeze you have used. Most types of antifreeze are pink. As soon as the water becomes colored, turn the faucet off. You do not want to waste some of that valuable liquid.

Cross-check the bathroom, shower, washbasin, outside showers, low point drains, and the kitchen sink. Observe, if you see that colored liquid flowing. If you have a city water line, check that too. All the water lines in your RV must now flow antifreeze, exclusively.

Step Nine: Clean And Cover

Your winterizing process has come to an end. Clean if there is any colored stain from the antifreeze on your RV otherwise it may leave ugly unremovable marks. Disconnect all pipes and adapters.

Finally, when you are done with cleaning and everything and don’t want to use your RV anymore for a long time, cover it with a storage cover. These can be bought online as well. Cover properly so that no dust or adverse climate can ruin your camper. There you go, you have a completely winterized RV. You and your RV are all set for the winter!

RV Winterizing Do’s And Don’ts

Being a beginner at this, you must know what to do and what to avoid during this winterizing process. As you understand by now, it is not a hard job to do if you have all the right materials in hand. So here are some dos and don’ts you must be aware of.

Do’s

  • Always remove batteries and store them properly first.

  • You must empty the heaters or you may sustain severe burns while cleaning the tanks.

  • Choosing a good antifreeze is very important. Some types of antifreeze are toxic and react with the pipe materials. These can rather cause damage than protect your RV.

  • Disconnect all the electronic devices-the television, refrigerator, induction, microwave, etc. before closing your RV.

  • It is better to use an air compressor to blow out the water. You may avoid this step if you are sure you have done the other steps correctly.

Don’ts

  • Do not keep the battery open outside. Dust, rust, and the cold may damage it eventually. This can incur huge losses as buying new batteries can be expensive.

  • Do not avoid trickle charging, or at least, charging once a month. You may end with a dead battery despite all the hard work.

  • Before covering your RV, make sure there is no unattended task left. Don’t leave out corrosives or explosives in there. You may lose your RV forever.

  • Don’t be a miser in using antifreeze. Use sufficiently as much as your RV needs. This is common sense that an RV will require a little more as it has a huge capacity.

  • If you can’t do it yourself, it’s always better to get help.

Can You Hire Someone To Winterize Your RV?

Yes, you can hire people to get this done. Some services offer to do it for a good amount of money. Usually, it takes about 150 to 250 dollars to hire someone to winterize an RV.

It can be expensive depending on your location and the services available in your area. But winterizing isn’t a hard task. You should prefer to do it all by yourself. Doing it yourself barely costs 50 dollars. Think about all the money you will be saving!

But that’s not just the hiring cost you have to worry about. There are additional expenses than what meets the eye like – material costs, delivery charges, labor charges, overhead charges, etc. As a result, this may amount to a four-fold rise in expenses compared to what it would be if you did it yourself.

Hiring someone may save you all the trouble and hard work. Nevertheless, doing it yourself is worth all the time and money.

Antifreeze Vs Air Compressor – Which One Is The Best For Winterizing An RV?

A fraction of people don’t prefer using antifreeze for winterizing their RV. On the contrary, they think using air compressors to blow out the water is sufficient for this purpose.

But experts have logically explained the benefits of using antifreeze and the drawbacks of using just air compressors. Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using antifreeze and air compressors.

Air Compressors

When you use only air compressors to blow out your water lines, you cannot blow one hundred percent of the water out. It so happens that the air compressor fails to evacuate the water that remains in the lines between the fresh water tank and the water pump. Because compressed air cannot reach this area.

On the other hand, antifreeze can easily reach these difficult spots. Besides, not all RVs have the same plumbing mechanism.

It is quite difficult to blow out all the lines using just an air compressor. If you observe the pipes you will understand this better. To justify this statement, after you put antifreeze in the water tanks, observe the first few seconds when you turn on the faucets. You will see there is plain water (not colored antifreeze) flowing from the tap.

This occurs because you can never completely clean out the residual water using only an air compressor to blow out the water. Even if you observe the hose pipe used for blowing, you will see droplets of water in the hose pipe.

This proves that only blowing is never sufficient. You must use both. At first, blow the water out, and then, you must use antifreeze.

Antifreeze

Although using antifreeze completes your winterizing process, using antifreeze without blowing by an air compressor can’t ensure a hundred percent efficiency as well. You must do both.

Antifreeze is of course the best choice for winterizing an RV. Using antifreeze can help you store your RV for 3 to 4 months during the winter. You do not have to worry about the freezing temperatures anymore.

But antifreeze has its downsides as well. Some types of antifreeze are toxic. So check for the FDA approval ratings. Because after you de-winterize your RV, any remaining antifreeze in the water lines can get mixed with your water source. It will ultimately contaminate your drinking water and the water for your everyday usage.

Also, they can have added preservatives which can be harmful. Do your research well before your buy. Check for the temperature ratings. Some types of antifreeze leave out stains. These can look ugly.

Despite all the cons, the pros of antifreeze weigh much heavier than their cons. And it is no doubt, the first choice of all RV owners all over the world when it comes to winterizing.

Maintenance Of An RV During Winter

A multifunctional and expensive vehicle like an RV requires good maintenance. You must tend to all its needs from time to time. Especially during winter, when you won’t be able to travel on your RV, you need to take great care so that you don’t get overburdened with additional expenses from further damages.

There are garages and servicing centers where you can get a good look at the infrastructure of your RV. Keep an eye out for any unusual signs or signals. Also, make sure all the other electronic appliances in your RV are in good health. You do not want to end up catching an unwanted fire in your camper.

The most common issues with RVs are related to the plumbing system, the door, and windows, leakage from pipes, or burst pipes due to not winterizing the RV. You must attend to all these issues and take good care of your RV.

Usually, campers are found in the outskirts of the towns. It is kind of hard to get all kinds of services there. Winter is a challenging time. So don’t underestimate the importance of RV maintenance.

All RV owners must have a clear idea about the importance of winterizing. However, most people overlook the role of winterizing as they don’t understand the basic changes an RV plumbing system has to suffer in winter. The frosty ice may be causing major internal damages and you may not even have the slightest idea!

Now you don’t have to hire people and pay hundreds of dollars for winterizing your RV. Surely, you can do it all by yourself and save money.