Now that the summer RV season is coming to a close, it is time to prepare your RV for the cold winter months. Whether you decide to take on this job yourself or hire an RV service technician, it is always good to know the ins and outs of winterizing your RV to ensure that you are all set for the spring.
What is winterizing your RV?
When you "Winterize your RV", you are preparing it to be stored throughout the cold winter months. It can be very easy to make the mistake of just parking your RV in storage for the winter without preparing it - especially if you are new to RVing. There are a few simple but extremely important steps that you will need to take to prepare your RV before you store it in the winter.
Why is it important to winterize your RV?
The waterlines in your RV tend to be narrow and are usually filled with water. If you just store your RV without winterizing it, the water in the thin waterways will freeze and expand, which can cause them to burst open and damage your RV. Winterizing the water system of your RV will help protect it from freezing over and will save you from the high costs of repair that you would receive once the winter months are gone.
There are several ways of winterizing your RV. You can choose to use antifreeze or blow out your water lines. The goal is the same - get the water out of the lines! Here is a step-by-step guide to get this done efficiently.
1. Bypass your hot water tank
This is the first step. It is important that you bypass your hot water tank to avoid contaminating it with antifreeze. What you will need to do is shut off the water going into the tank and shut off the water coming out of the tank. Next, you will need to open the valve connecting those two water lines - often called a bypass valve. This will ensure that the hot water tank is now disconnected from the rest of the water system.
Many larger RVs simply have a bypass valve that makes it much easier, but where these valves will be located will depend on the make and model of your RV. If you are unsure, you can always refer to your RV's owner manual.
2. Drain your hot water tank
This step is very important and can be easily overlooked. It is likely that your hot water tank is completely full when you go to store it. To avoid a costly repair, you will need to drain the water. To do this you will open the hot water tank cover on the outside of the RV and unscrew the drain plug that is located on the bottom. Once the water is drained I recommend lightly screwing the plug back in to avoid misplacing it over the winter months.
Avoid this costly repair!
3. Drain your water reservoir
Prior to running the antifreeze through your water system, it is important that you drain your fresh water reservoir in the RV. You will need access to the pump on the tank side of the line so without it being emptied, you will make a big mess!
4. Anti-Freeze Time!
Once you have emptied the fresh water and bypassed your hot water tank you are ready to run the anti-freeze through your line. This is the lovely pink stuff that you can pick up at your local Canadian Tire, Walmart or RV parts store. To do this you will need to have access to the pump on the fresh tank side of it. I have installed a permanent winterizing line which makes life a little easier. If not, no worries, simply unscrew the fresh water line that connects to the water pump.
Once you have your antifreeze and pump all ready to go, it is time to turn on your pump and fill those lines with antifreeze. I like to start with the furthest faucet in the RV which is usually in the kitchen. Open your faucet and let it run until you see a healthy flow of antifreeze coming out. Continue this process for everything that uses water, the shower, sinks, toilets etc. It is very important to make sure you do the hot and cold taps so that everything is properly winterized.
I personally find sink faucets that have a single hot/cold lever more difficult. This is where I recommend that you double-check your work and take a look at the water lines to be sure they are full of pink.
Make sure to double check your work!
5. You're done!
Once you are comfortable that the entire water system has been winterized you are done! Be sure to reattach the fresh water reservoir to your pump if needed. I generally will use two full bottles of antifreeze per RV. This gives me some left over that I will dump into the black and grey water tanks and leave a healthy amount in the toilet.
Once you get good at this you will find it quite easy and for most RVs can be accomplished in under 15 minutes!