How to Quickly Winterize Your RV


30 minutes and done!

 

Hello everyone – in this video, I show you how I winterize our RV, Das Bus.  We go out frequently in the winter, so I came up with this sequence of steps.  There are a few caveats though.  First, I wouldn’t call it “completely” winterized.  It’s thorough enough that no damage occurs when it gets below freezing, but I don’t do things like take the batteries out and put them in the garage – or cover the AC unit.  And the second caveat is that you’ll need a good, high-volume air compressor to do it this way.

Pay Attention to your Air Source!

The inside of an air compressor can be a nasty place – rust, oil, and condensation can all find their way into your compressed air. And if you’re going to use it to winterize, that means they can find their way into your water system, which probably isn’t what you want. The compressed air in my shop is dried and filtered, and I maintain the compressor regularly. If your compressed air isn’t clean, then you’ll need to consider other ways to winterize. Scuba divers don’t fill their tanks from just any compressor, and you should take just as much care with your water system.

 

But the most important thing for me is how quickly it goes, and how quickly I can get her going again when we head out next.  I’ve laid out the steps in order below, and you can see me run through them all in the video:

1.  Empty fridge, take anything else in that might freeze or spoil
2.  Drain fresh water tank from valve inside – close valve
3.  Connect city water and fill grey and black tanks to 90%
4.  Disconnect city water
5.  Drain water heater and close back up
6.  Engage water heater bypass
7.  Set air pressure regulator on compressor to 45 psi
8.  Connect compressed air to city water
9.  Open each faucet, one at a time, including toilet, until they run dry
10.  Disconnect compressed air
11.  Verify whole-house filter is empty
12.  Head to dump
13.  RV antifreeze down all traps and some in toilet to cover seal
14.  Take batteries out of smoke detector
15.  Kill power at battery cutoff switch
16.  Cover windows

 

Nothing revolutionary, but it may help you. Enjoy!



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    10 thoughts on “How to Quickly Winterize Your RV

    1. Jim

      To me, this is a huge weakness with class b RVs. One reason I want to sell my 25′ travel trailer and get a class b is so I can just get in’er and go! Anytime, any weather. When I do get a class b, I’m going to try to figure a way I can insulate and heat the pipes and tanks. Keep it plugged in at home and have some kind of low voltage heating thingamajig pipe wrap whatchamacallits. Any ideas?

      Last time we used our trailer, hooked to city water at campsite in florida in January, water came running out! Had to use bath house. And I’ve been using RVs since our first trailer in ’77! Dagnabbit.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I installed UltraHeat pads on the tanks and pipes underneath Das Bus. I suppose you could leave those on all the time if you were plugged in, but I’ve never checked the instructions to see if that’s recommended. I also don’t keep her plugged in unless we’re planning to use her soon.

        If we ever get a new house, I’m taking the easy way out and making sure we can fit our RV inside a heated garage! Never winterizing again sounds pretty good to me, too. I’ve got it down pretty well, but I’d still rather not have to do it.

        Reply
        1. Jim

          Now, that’s the ticket James! Drive’er right inside garage. My garage is too low. But, I have plenty of land. A man can never have enough roofs on his place. I’m one shy.

    2. Jeremy

      Could you give me some specifics on what you used to create the hose extension from your water heater drain?
      I use anti-freeze due to the harsh winters in MN and my hot water syaytem is such that I have to fill the heater tank to winterize the hot lines. I’d rather not have the mess of antifreeze all over when draining it.
      I fashioned something from a piece of drinking water hose and some fittings, but I have my doubts it will hold up over time.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        No problem. There is a plastic barbed fitting threaded into the tank. It was the same type of plastic that the original plug was made of, so I wasn’t worried about corrosion or heat deformation. I found it at the local home center – get one that fits your tank.
        I pushed some high-temperature braided hose over the barbs, and secured that with a hose clamp. (Again, all from the home center.)
        On the other end of the hose, I added a brass ball valve. This had a barbed end as well, and I secured that with a hose clamp too.
        I did remove the rubbery handle coating from the ball valve, since it sits near the burner.
        That’s pretty much it. I haven’t had any troubles with this set up for a few years now.
        Hope this helps!

        Reply
    3. Bob

      Nice video. Not as informative as some of your others. You only demonstrate what you do to prep your RV for the winter. You can obviously drain and bypass your hot water heater and your fresh water tank. This leaves only your plumbing, water filter and water pump to be protected. If your fresh water system is designed in a manner that it can be fully evacuated with air pressure, meaning all water lines are sloped in a manner that would not trap any water in low areas or your pump, then your technique is adequate. Check your service manual to see if this is a recommended procedure. I am sure they have no financial interest in you purchasing rv antifreeze. Be aware that it only takes a few ounces of water left in a vulnerable spot during a hard freeze to damage, crack or split a water line. Over one winter I had a 2-way water connector that was left in my fresh water storage compartment bust on the side that the valve was closed. It must have had all of a tablespoon of water left in it at the time. Easy fix, but still cost me $20 to replace. That’s almost 4 jugs of antifreeze. Murphy’s Law however; predicts this will only occur at a location which is almost impossible to get to or your water pump, You don’t get to choose. Resulting in a very costly repair. For the cost of one jug of antifreeze I can protect my entire plumbing system from winter damage. And no; I have no financial interest in you purchasing rv antifreeze; which by the way should be a good quality food grade product.
      Your issue, with you, using antifreeze is not environmental, as you use it to fill your p-traps. Which you did not explain the reasoning for the novice. You could have just as easily blew them out with air as well. Then put stoppers in them to keep the smell out.
      I have tried the compressed air method in my Coachmen Concord, after which I used the very convenient valving system which has a winterization port on it that allows me to connect a clear rubber hose and with the use of the water pump draw antifreeze directly from a jug into the pump and plumbing system. When doing so, what I found was the first thing out of my faucets was clear water. Obviously the compressed air had not fully evacuated the system. Needless to say I don’t bother with the compressed air anymore. I just run the winterization system long enough till pink fluid flows out each faucet (shower, toilet) long enough to displace any water in the p-traps. I like to think I have let enough antifreeze flow into my waste water tanks to protect the gate valves as they are left closed. One jug of protection, less than $5 equals no winter worries and no costly repairs. Cheap insurance.
      When it comes time to use the RV, I flush the system with fresh water set on city pressure to expel the antifreeze, then use the winterization port with a jug of water containing several ounces of bleach, peroxide or vinegar. Fill the system and let it sit for awhile or overnight, then flush again with fresh water for several minutes after no odor is detected.
      As for my under the sink water filter; if it is due to be replaced I just leave it in place and replace it before our next rv trip. If it is fairly new, I pull it out and replace it with a section of clear plastic tubing with the proper fittings which I have assembled. There is a shut off valve which I could use to close the line but I fear if I do that when winterizing, it could trap water in a section of the plumbing and could freeze. I bring the filter in the house and rinse out with a peroxide water mix to destroy any bacteria, let it drain and dry then bag it up for next time.
      If your concern is with digesting some amount of antifreeze then what might be of interest to you and your followers is to research other safer forms of antifreeze. Long ago they used alcohol. Some sugar solutions won’t freeze solid either. Oh ya, their both bad for you also.
      I would be more concerned about some of the water sources I have hooked up to while rving. Even though I use an external whole house water filter and the drinking water filter I will not fill my fresh water tank from a questionable source. I will just use that water sparingly through the city pressure valve and not top up my tank till we get to a reliable source. But then again, who knows if you happen to be in an area that has contaminated water from fracking.
      I have a air pressure connector I am giving away. One only has to pay the $25 shipping and handling fee. Please allow 6 – 18 weeks for delivery. Oh and I only accept bitcoin.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hi Bob. We did this video a while ago. We’re improving as we go, so if I were to do it again, it would be better.
        The big driver for me winterizing with compressed air is that we go out several times in the winter. I need to be able to get winterizing done (and UN-done) quickly. Having to stand outside and rinse out and then sanitize our 30 gallon fresh water tank in February isn’t any fun – so I avoid the pink stuff in the water lines. As you point out, I’m OK with it in the traps though. Yes, we could bring jugs of water and live like it’s a tent on wheels; but I didn’t heat the water lines and add tank heaters so I could do that. The compressed air has been working fine for us. (Famous last words, I know…)

        You do point out one thing though – the pump. I do run that dry, and maybe I forgot to show that in the video. The very first time I did that, I disconnected it to see how much water was left in those lines and it wasn’t enough to worry about. I could be jinxing myself here, but it’s always been OK. OH, and our water filter – it actually gets blown water-free when I use the compressed air! (My compressor is a beast.)

        Thanks for the comments. I’ll have that bitcoin to you any day now… 😉

        Reply
    4. Marc Taylor

      On the later model Airstream Interstates that come w/ a macerator pump won’t gravity drain. So after I empty the black and gray tanks, I add some RV antifreeze and pump it out thru the macerator pump. Also put some in the fresh water tank and pump out to get any water in the pump out. Just not sure if air alone can get it all out of the pump. I do blow out the black water flush/clean pipe since it has a check valve that prevents easily draining any trapped water.

      Great website!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hi Marc! We don’t have a macerator, but for those with a permanently mounted macerator, your procedure to winterize it makes great sense. I would do the same.
        I’ve not put the antifreeze into the fresh water pump – I’ve run it dry for short periods to get most of the water out. My thinking is that if there is only *some* water left (pipes and chambers are only, say, half full), it won’t freeze large enough to cause bursting. Plus, I just don’t want to mess with antifreeze in my fresh water, because we winterize and un-winterize so frequently. But of course, by putting antifreeze through your pump, you get yourself an extra margin of safety. Thanks for reading!

        Reply

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