How To Winterize An RV: What You Need

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Summer is over and colder temps are here. For most RVers, especially if you live in states that see lots of freezing temperatures, it is time to protect your RV investment by winterizing it. Of course if you are a full timer, you’re probably heading to warmer weather. That’s what we did for 6 years, but now that we are part time RVers with a Colorado home base, we have to winterize our RV in the fall.

You might prefer to have winterizing done by an RV repair facility, but this is not a complicated or highly skilled process. So if you’re like us, you may choose to DIY the winterization job, to save money, and avoid the hassle of getting an appointment at an RV repair shop.

In this blog post, and related video, we walk you through each step of the process we follow to winterize our small Casita trailer.  Of course, if you have a larger and more complex RV, you may have a few extra steps, but the steps we outline below should take care of the vast majority of RVs out there.

Watch the video to get a quick overview of the process, and read on below for more detailed information. We include the list of tools and supplies, as well as step by step winterize instructions.

These are some of the supplies and tools we used. See complete list and links below

RV Winterization Tools and Supplies

It is best if you have access to a sewer connection, but if you thoroughly dumped and rinsed your waste tanks on your last trip – but before choosing to winterize – you might be able to just catch the water from the lines in a bucket  while blowing them out.

Marc releasing the pressure of our water heater

Step By Step RV Winterize Instructions

Every RV is a little different, but the steps we followed from our Casita instruction manual steps will get you well covered in most RVs.

Marc removing the fresh water tank drain bolt to empty the fresh water tank

Dumping the gray and black tanks

Step 1: Drain All The Water Out

  1. Open the drain valve, or remove the drain cap from your fresh water tank (and if applicable, the low point water system drain).
  2. Empty the gray and black tanks, 
    • Unless you had already done it at the end of your last trip. In which case, just be sure to avoid letting any of the water from the water lines get into the tanks when blowing out the water lines.
  3. Remove the drain plug from the water heater.  In many cases, the drain plug is also an anode rod.  An anode rod is a sacrificial element that is meant to degrade in order to protect the water tank of your water heater.  Depending on the type of water, and how much of it, the anode rod may degrade faster or slower, but it is not uncommon to need to replace the anode rod every year.
    • Remember to release the pressure from the water heater before removing the plug or anode rod, by opening the pressure release valve. It will have especially high pressure if the water is hot. If you don’t, watch what will happen in this video!
  4. After draining the water heater, this is a good time to use a tank rinser to flush out any other debris or minerals and make sure it is nice and clean.

Lesson Learned! Watch the video below to see what happens when you don’t release the pressure in your RV water heater before removing the drain bolt! 😂

@rvlovetravel

Camping FAIL! TIP: Remember to release pressure in your water heater before removing drain bolt 🤣 ##campingfail ##winterize ##rvlife

♬ original sound - 🚌❤️ RV Love ➡️ Marc & Julie

See the difference between the corroded anode rod (left) and the new one (right)

Winterization kit with regulator is connected to city water connection

We used our Viair air compressor and winterization kit to winterize our RV

Step 2: Blow Out the Lines With Air

  1. Attach a blow out plug to the city water connection.
  2. Connect an air hose from your compressor to the blow out plug and run air through the water lines while drain plugs are still not re-installed.
  3. Open all hot and cold faucets while the air is in the system, to allow the air to force the water out of the lines.
  4. Temporarily stop the compressor, or disconnect the air hose
  5. Reinstall the fresh water tank drain plug or close the value, and low point drain valve (if applicable)
  6. Replace the drain plug or anode rod. You might need to wrap it with new plumbers tape to make a nice tight seal.
  7. Run air through the lines again now that the system can more easily pressurize.  Be sure to open and close all faucets (hot and cold).
    • Bathroom sink
    • Bathroom shower head
    • Kitchen sink
    • Outside shower
    • Toilet
  8. NOTE: The more complex your RV, the more water lines and appliances you may need to consider. Things like:
    • Ice maker in fridge
    • Dishwasher
    • Clothes washer
    • Second bathroom
    • Different water heating systems
    • Water filtration systems

Turn on both the hot and cold water faucets to clear water out of the lines

At this point, if storing in a climate that does not see freezing temperatures, some might consider the water system safe for winter storage.  But, if you live in a cold climate where the temperatures will be below freezing, it is recommended that you add RV antifreeze to the plumbing system. So, please continue.

Marc fills the fresh water tank with RV anti-freeze, using our “funnel hack!” We left ours at home, so we simple cut a hole in a plastic water bottle – it the the job!

This is three gallons of pink anti-freeze in our 25 gallon fresh water tank

Step 3. Getting RV Anti-freeze Into All The Water Lines

  1. Turn the water heater bypass valve, so that any antifreeze added to the system will not end up in the water heater.
  2. Add at least a couple gallons of RV antifreeze to your freshwater tank. The larger the RV, the more you will need, as it will need to fill all water lines.  We generally use three gallons in our Casita. But a 45’ motorhome will have much longer plumbing, and many more systems to fill.
    • Some RVs might have the ability to connect a winterization hose to the pump directly, thereby avoiding putting the antifreeze in the fresh water tank, which reduces the amount you will need.
    • You may also be able to collect some, if not most of  the antifreeze when de-winterizing.  This can be reused next year with winterizing again..
  3. Turn on the water pump to pressurize the plumbing system.
  4. One by one, turn on every hot and cold faucet, and every water appliance until you see the pink RV plumbing antifreeze come out. Remember the toilet too. Make sure you run the taps enough to fill the P-traps of all the drains, and allow a little to go into the gray and black tanks so that it protects the valves and drain pipes outside.
  5. Your water system is now winterized.
 
  1. Before using the system again in warmer weather, be sure to flush and sanitize the water system as part of the de-winterization process.

Other RV Winter Storage Considerations

  • Seal off vents or access points from  pests and water intrusion
  • Wash and wax to protect the finish
  • Add fuel stabilizer for gasoline engines and generators
  • Remove battery to store in a warmer area, and can keep charged through the winter
  • Remove all food, including canned food, if packed in water
  • Cover the whole RV, or at least the tires to reduce UV damage
And that’s it! It was a pretty quick, easy and inexpensive job, and we know our RV will be safe in the cold temps. 

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8 thoughts on “How To Winterize An RV: What You Need”

  1. Very excited to have received the following email message today: “Congrats! You win the Viair and RV Hacks.” Two absolutely amazing gifts which will come in very handy. Looking forward to reading my autographed copy of the RV Hacks. Thank you Marc and Julie for these wonderful gifts. Many blessings to each of you on your travels. P.S. I thoroughly enjoyed your “How to Winterize an RV” video.

    Reply
  2. Good instructional video, however, if you’ve blown the water out with air, you don’t need any anti-freeze except to pour some in to the drains/P-traps. Been doing it this way for many years. (over 30 yrs) Best part is you don’t spend any time getting the anti-freeze taste or smell out in the Spring!

    Reply
    • Depends on where you live. air blow out is fine for milder climates, but in areas with hard, cold winters, it is better to be safer by adding the antifreeze in my opinion. Would rather spend a few extra minutes and a few extra bucks to ensure nothing gets damaged. Glad you have been able to have success without it for years. -M

      Reply
  3. Hi ! Similar to your Casita we have a 23′ Oliver. We have had other RV types before ( all bigger of course ) We were told a long time ago to Never put antifreeze in the Fresh Water Tank !! The Oliver has a simple way to winterize withOut putting any antifreeze in the Fresh tank ….. can’t other types of RVs bypass the Fresh Tank ??
    Just curious, thanks, Nat

    Reply
    • Some RVs have the ability to bypass the water tank by having a hose connected to the pump that can pull straight into the lines. IF you have that option, I agree it is better to avoid putting it in the fresh tank. But for those who don’t, like ours, the tank is fine. You just need to do a good job of flushing and sanitizing the tank in the spring. Congrats on your Oliver by the way. Those are SUPER nice! One of my favorite RVs. -M

      Reply
  4. You really went through a lot of expense to buy that much antifreeze. After you’ve blown all the water out of the lines there isn’t any water left to freeze. I blow the water out of the hot water tank by open the hot water faucets and blowing air through the lines until no more water comes out the faucets. The cold inlet goes into the tank to the bottom and hot comes out at the top, enough water comes out to where if any is left it won’t break the tank. After completely blowing nothing but air I put about a cup of antifreeze into each drain to keep the drain from freezing. After that I open the grey and black tank valves to drain any water that went into them during the blow out. I’ve been doing this over 40 years and haven’t had one freeze and break yet. The pex tubing used today won’t break when it freezes but the fittings may.

    Reply
    • Glad you found a solution that works for you. Anti-freeze is cheap – only a few bucks a bottle – and we are able to recycle most of it from the year before. We spent more on fuel driving to the campground to winterize it! LOL We followed the recommendations in our Casita manufacturer’s instruction manual – and speaking with some RV techs we know who said they have to fix a lot of RVs that are NOT winterized properly, and often skip the anti-freeze. Sounds like you have had success with winterizing yours without anti-freeze, but we feel more comfortable doing it the way we did…. for us. Cheers!

      Reply

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