New RVer, RV tech tip, RV winter maintenance, Tech Tips, technology, winter camping, Winterizing
At a previous RVIA California Show in Fontana CA, I had to explain to my seminar attendees what winter actually was! It was 100+ degrees in California and most of them stared at me like a dog staring at a ceiling fan when we discussed cold weather camping. Being from the Midwest (Iowa) we only have two seasons, winter and road construction so we have become very good at winterizing our rigs. So even though most of the attendees were not going to store their rigs in sub-freezing temperatures, they might go to the mountains where temperatures could reach below freezing over 6 months out of the year.
So weather (pun intended) you are storing your rig for the winter in areas subject to freezing temperatures or might venture to such areas, it’s good to know the basics of how to protect your rig from damage due to a longer storage period and freezing temperatures.
Develop a checklist
It’s important to identify what appliances, water systems, dump tanks, and other accessories your rig has and customize a list to make sure everything is verified. Your rig may have a refrigerator ice maker, toilet shower, chassis battery, or other items that need attention before storing the unit.
This is the first step in winterizing, you need to make sure water in your freshwater tank, water lines, water pump, and dump tanks are either protected with RV antifreeze or removed completely as frozen water expands and will split water lines and rupture water heater tanks. This causes tremendous damage when the temperatures rise and the water soaks into the carpet, floor, and other parts of the rig.
Non-toxic, “pink” RV anti-freeze can be used to replace all the water in your rig. It will not harm any of the plastic components and has no residual taste or toxic effects on your freshwater system.
- Start by draining your freshwater, greywater, and blackwater tanks completely.
- Next, you will need to drain the water heater by removing the drain plug from the outside at the water heater vent panel.
The water heater typically holds 6-10 gallons of water and most manufacturers have installed a water heater bypass valve to reduce the amount of RV anti-freeze needed for the system.
3. The next step is to introduce the RV anti-freeze into the water system.
- If you have a winterizing kit/valve, it’s as easy as putting the winterizing hose into a jug of RV antifreeze and letting the onboard water pump fill the lines.
- Turn on the water pump, then open the faucet or showerhead the farthest away from the pump until the pink antifreeze comes through.
- If you do not have a winterizing valve, you will need to fill the freshwater tank up with 5-6 gallons of the antifreeze and run it through the pump in the same manner.
- Continue with all the faucets in the rig, toilet, toilet sprayer, shower, and exterior shower if applicable.
Remove Water With Compressed Air
Some RVers opt to remove all the water in the system rather than use the pink RV antifreeze.
- Once again, drain all the water out of the fresh water tank, black, and grey holding tanks, and water heater.
A special air fitting can be purchased and threaded into the city water fill, or you can make a DIY tool pictured here and attach it to the city water fill.
2. Attach the air compressor and make sure you turn the pressure (psi) down to 40 psi and turn it on.
3. Then go to the farthest faucet and open it up until all the water is pushed out and only air comes out.
4. Do this to all faucets, showerheads, toilets, toilet sprayers, and outside shower.
5. Keep in mind you may have low-point drain valves that will speed the process, check your owner’s manual.
Refrigerator Ice Maker
If you have an ice maker in the refrigerator, both Norcold and Dometic recommend draining the water out.
- First, close the water supply line to the ice maker and push the ice maker arm to the off position.
- Remove the water supply line at the solenoid, usually located in the outside lower vent compartment.
- Drain all the water from the water supply line and the ice maker lines.
- Place both ends into a plastic bag and tape it shut.
- For more specific information on your type of refrigerator, consult your refrigerator owner’s manual.
Shut off the LP at the DOT cylinder valve or ASME tank on your rig rather than individual appliances.
The deep cycle batteries in your rig will naturally lose a charge during storage even if everything is shut off. It’s important to keep them charged or maintained so they do not sulfate or even freeze. If you do not have access to electricity, remove the house batteries and bring them into a garage or other storage facility and connect them to a battery conditioner. Another option would be to install a solar panel just large enough for conditioning such as the Zamp 20 amp maintainer.
As the battery drains, sulfur attacks the plates and coats them reducing storage capacity. A multistage charger or conditioner breaks up the sulfation and extends the life of the battery. If you do have access to electricity, keep the unit plugged in or install a conditioning charger. Just using a conventional converter in a distribution center will not condition the batteries. You will need a multi-stage charger or a larger inverter with this function.
Before storing your rig, remove all food from the refrigerator and cabinets inside and out. As stated earlier, develop a customized list for your rig which could include taking precautions for rodents, skirting underneath the rig, or using a cover.
About the author: Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles authored an RV handbook reference guide, and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
RV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair, and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.
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Wolfgang Stiller said:
If you do blow out your water (as I do), don’t forget to put antifreeze into all the p-traps (drains).
H DOZIER said:
Even if you do blow out your lines with compressed air (as I do), you may still leave low spots in the water lines where water will collect and freeze.
Listen for “burbling” at the faucets and shower heads. This indicates that there is till water in the system, albeit low amounts.
So following up a “blow out” with RV antifreeze is a good safety measure in any event.
I have done this religiously for the last 25 years here in Michigan and have had zero issues with the water system.
I also remove the batteries from both the house and cab (of a C-Class) for remote storage and charging.
Previous 5th wheel had the battery also removed.
Very good reminders of what to do!.
June Snelling said:
When we did our winterization this year we used the compressed air method and then added 2 gallons of antifreeze to the fresh water tank. Then we turned on the pump to pump through the system. However, although the pump sounds like it is working it did not pump any fluid. Do I need to have more antifreeze in the tank. We never had this issue before.
Have you used the fresh water tank and pump this past season, or just “city” water?
If you haven’t and you previously had someone else winterize your rig, then maybe the water valves were left in the winterization positions.
That would cause the pump to not use the fresh water tank supply.
You would need to close the valve(s) that allow the pump to suck antifreeze from the jugs and open the valve(s) that allow the pump to draw from the tank.
Note: You may just have ONE 3 port 2-way valve that switches between the supplies.
Larry N. said:
A pretty good description for most units, but not good (in the blow out with air section) for those with Aqua Hot or Oasis type systems. The Aqua Hot manual specifically states that it is not possible to get all the water out with air pressure, so you MUST run the pink stuff through at least ONE hot water faucet to get the internal twisties and crevices protected. Blowing out the cold water side is fine, though.