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Winterizing Your RVThis is the time of year where many of us prepare to put our motorhomes and trailers away for winter.  In this column, I will review the steps required to properly winterize your RV.

Before starting, make sure you know the locations of your fresh water tank drain valve/cap, water heater bypass valve(s), water pump winterizing valve and tube, as well as the low point drains. This information can be found in your owner’s manual or visit an RV service center for assistance. If your unit does not have a water heater bypass or water pump winterizing tube I highly recommend installing them, as they make the winterizing process much easier. For this procedure, I will assume these components are present.

The first step is to completely empty the black and gray water holding tanks. This likely requires a visit to your local dump station. It is a good idea to have a sufficient volume of fresh water on board to flush the black tank after dumping.

The remaining steps are presented in the order I recommend, although slight modification may be required for your unit:

  1. Ensure the water pump is turned off.
  2. Open any cold and hot water tap.
  3. Drain the fresh water tank by opening the drain valve or removing the drain cap.
  4. Open the low point drains on both the cold and hot water lines. Close them when water no longer flows.
  5. Turn off the water heater (propane and AC).
  6. Drain the hot water tank by removing the plug (for aluminum tanks) or anode rod (for steel tanks). Note!  Be extremely careful during this step, as personal injury may result from scalding if the water is still hot. Ensure you are standing out of the flow path.
  7. Once the hot water tank is completely empty, replace the plug or anode rod. It is a good idea to use Teflon tape (PTFE) on the threads. Do not use a steel plug in place of plastic, as this can result in galvanic corrosion between the two metals, possibly causing the plug to fuse to the tank threads. Inspect the anode rod for wear and replace if required. Do not use an anode rod in an aluminum tank such as an Atwood, and always use an anode rod in a steel tank such as a Suburban.
  8. Turn off all water taps.
  9. Close all water filter shutoff valves, drain the filter bowls, and remove the filter elements.
  10. Close the water heater bypass valve(s).
  11. Winterizing ValveOpen the winterizing valve for the water pump and insert the tube into the antifreeze bottle.
  12. Turn on the water pump.
  13. Starting with the tapset furthest away from the water pump, open the cold water tap until antifreeze flows out of the faucet. Repeat the process with the hot water tap. Let the antifreeze run long enough to fill the P-trap.
  14. Repeat this process for all tapsets in the RV, including all outside faucets. Periodically check the antifreeze bottle and replace it if the level goes too low for the pickup tube.
  15. Flush all toilets until antifreeze flows into the bowl.
  16. If you have a dishwasher or washing machine, winterize it according to manufacturer instructions.
  17. Once all plumbing fixtures have been winterized, close the water pump winterizing valve and remove the antifreeze bottle.
  18. If there is antifreeze left over, pour some into each drain and toilet bowl to ensure the P-traps are filled with antifreeze.
  19. Antifreeze does stain, so be sure to wipe up any spills.

To ensure you have easy access to this handy checklist every year, feel free to download, print, and share with your RVing friends.

About the Author:

Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and  Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.

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