As winter approaches, you may be wondering how to winterize your RV or camper properly. It’s actually not as complicated as you would think, and there are several ways to do this. In fact, I have winterized my camper several times now, and it takes no time at all.
In most cases, you will blow air through the water system to flush it. You can also flush the lines with anti-freeze to protect the water lines from freezing or breaking. There is a kit that comes with tubing you can buy, but it is not necessary.
Charge your batteries occasionally, and consider covering the tires of the vehicle. The most important part of winterizing a camper is to flush the water system, but tires and batteries are equally important. In the event that you fail to maintain or protect them, you risk damaging or destroying them. On the other hand, tire covers and occasional charging are relatively simple fixes.
Winterizing a Camper
If you can park your RV in a shed or some type of covered area, you may not need the tire covers. Indoor storage is obviously ideal but not always possible. The next step will be draining the water heater tank and the fresh water pump to complete the winterizing process.
I was pretty nervous my first time trying this myself, but I ended up being surprised by how simple the process really was. Not only was it relatively simple, but it also took nearly no time at all.
If you prepare your camper for the job in advance, it should only take you no more than 20-30 min. That’s faster than watching a show on Netflix. Below is a list of a few tools you may need for the job:
- Air compressor
- Valve and hose kit
- Water adaptor for air compressor hose
- Tire covers
- Water hose
A good idea to prepare for the task is to turn your water heater off the night before. Shutting off the heater will save you a lot of time. When you do this, you won’t have to wait for the water to cool before draining it. Draining the water heater will be the first step to the winterizing process. This step is required to winterize properly.
Also, be sure to drain and flush the gray water and black water tanks.
Drain and Flush the Water Lines
You do not want to just leave your water system for your camper filled with water. Doing this will cause the water to freeze and possibly break or crack the water lines. Not only will this cost you money, but this will be a whole process in itself and will take a lot of your time.
Maybe it slipped your mind, and you forgot to drain the water heater, or perhaps you could not drain it because you needed it on. Either way, you will have to turn the water heater off and then run it until all the hot water cycles through, and you no longer have hot water.
Trust me; you don’t want to try it with hot water still in the water system as you will get wet. Now it is time to put the main valves in the proper position.
You should have three valves for the water heater—one valve for cold, one valve for hot, and one valve that connects the two. First, you must close the valves for hot and cold coming from the water heater, and you will open the valve that connects the two. Once you have completed this step, you are ready to move on to the following process.
Assuming you have an air compressor, we will start with this process first and then use a water hose to flush the system with anti-freeze.
You don’t want to damage your lines by blowing air with too much force out of the compressor. Using a compressor to clear the lines can be scary to an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer, but not to worry as long as you are sure to keep the PSI reasonably low.
Usually, around 35-40 PSI is plenty to safely get the water blown out of all the camper lines.
1 First, you will remove all the water filters but make sure the housing remains in place. This step is vital, so you don’t damage the water filters.
2 Now you’re ready to blow air through the system by connecting your adaptor for the air compressor to your water inlet for the camper. The water inlet is normally found on the same side of the RV as the water heater itself.
Once you hook up the compressor to the water inlet, you’re ready to turn it on and start blowing air. As the compressor runs, go throughout the whole RV and open the valves for all the fixtures such as sinks, toilets, showers, etc.
3 Allow these to run until you no longer have water coming out. If done correctly, you will feel and hear the stream of air pushing through. You will do this for both cold and hot to ensure you are entirely clearing all the lines.
Draining should only take a few seconds at the most per device. Do not forget about the drains below the RV; this would be the underside.
4 Next you will want to pour anti-freeze down all the drains to keep any undrained water from freezing, although this is optional. Before you can do this, don’t forget to turn off the compressor.
Congratulations, you have successfully winterized your camper. Who would have thought it would be so simple and take less time than doing a load of laundry.
Flushing with Water
For those without an air compressor, not to worry; the process is simple to do using water. This time we will be using anti-freeze to flush the system along with water.
The first steps will be the same to prep for flushing with water; if you have the kit that comes with the adaptor, great. If not, again, not to worry.
This process can be done with just a hose, a bottle of anti-freeze, and tubing with an adaptor to connect to the water pump. We will again have to drain the hot water from the water heater.
Ensure valves are in their correct positions, hot and cold closed, and the connecting valve opens.
Just so you have an idea, this process will take around 3-4 gallons of anti-freeze. If you have the kit, the first step will be connecting the adaptor to the water pump. The tubing will then connect to the adaptor, and the hose will go to the bottle of anti-freeze. You will then connect the water line to the adaptor.
Once you complete this, turn on the water pump and allow the water to cycle. Now you’re ready to turn on the pump and cycle the water through the lines. As the pump runs, go through the RV once again and turn on all the fixtures until you can see anti-freeze coming out of the pipes.
Additionally, this will need to be done both for hot and cold water. If you did not have the kit, that’s ok too. We will just have to put the tubing from the anti-freeze directly to the pump.
It is best to have two people for the final process. Having the additional set of hands will save time, so you do not have to run back and forth from inside the RV to the location of the pump. Also, if you have someone helping you, they can stand by the pump and let you know when the anti-freeze begins to run low.
Once you have completed this step, you may remove the adaptor and tubing and reconnect the RV hose to the pump. Now you can go through and pour anti-freeze in all the drains again and in the toilet.
It is essential that you use anti-freeze that is intended for RV or campers. This type of anti-freeze is non-toxic and will not harm steel, plastic, copper, or brass fittings and plumbing.
Protect the Camper Tires
It is also essential to protect your tires. Some tire covers should do the trick, but you can go a step further if you like and get some other protective products.
The tire covers should be helpful if it snows or rains a lot. The covers should help from any corroding and help the lugs from getting stuck. Tires and batteries don’t seem like a big deal, but you don’t want them to go bad as your RV sits.
Plan ahead to Prevent Mice
Finding a mouse infestation in the spring can be very frustrating! Consider removing any items that may draw rodents or bugs into the camper.
1 Linens & Towels- mice, squirrels, and other rodents will chew through these items to make nesting materials in your duct work and within closets, drawers, and bedding. Be sure to either remove them entirely or place rodent deterrent bags in the camper.
2 Toothpaste & Toiletries- rodents will also chew on tubes of toothpaste, lotions, some brands of soap and other toiletries. Many of these items shouldn’t be frozen. Consider removing them prior to long-term winter storage.
3 Food Items- remove all food items from the camper prior to storing it for the winter. This includes canned items, as they can freeze, causing the food inside to spoil.
As you can see, winterizing your camper isn’t complicated, and it’s fast and easy. I prefer flushing the system with anti-freeze using the water pump, but this is just a personal preference.
Feel free to do what works best for you. Flushing your water system is the primary way to winterize your RV. Of course, all of this is assuming you live in an area with freezing temperatures during the winter.
We must remember the importance of winterizing your RV if you live in this type of area. If you fail to winterize, you can find yourself spending money on repairs that you could have prevented.
In most cases, this will be issues such as broken or cracked water lines. It may also be helpful to run the batteries from time to time or keep them on a charger of some sort.