How To Winterize An RV Trailer

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Winter is an important time for RVers. For many, this is a time to get off the road, get home, and spend time with family that you have missed during the camping season. This is also a time to store your RV long-term.

Winter can be a challenging time for RVers. Properly winterizing your RV can save it from costly repair bills once the camping season comes back around, but it also requires some prep work.

To winterize your RV trailer properly, you will need to make sure you have the correct supplies, such as antifreeze, tank cleaning equipment, and a place to store your batteries (especially if you plan on keeping your RV plugged in).

Equipment To Winterize Your RV Trailer

Before you tuck your RV in for the winter, you will need to double-check that you have a few items. These can be found in most RV stores.

  • Air compressor
  • Blowout plug adaptor
  • RV/Marine-grade antifreeze (not automotive)
  • Screwdriver or screw gun

Once you have all of this, you are ready to get to work winterizing your RV.

Remember to always check your RV owner manual. Not all RVs are the same, and you might have some unit-specific guidelines for winterization. Only follow the steps below if they apply to your RV.

Winterizing Your RV: Step-By-Step

First things first, drain that water heater. You will probably find the valve on the outside of the RV, near the kitchen.

Then, open the low-point drains. You will probably find these near the water heater.

Open all the faucets, both hot and cold. This includes the ones outside the coach if you have any.

Open the freshwater drain. This should be on your RV’s undercarriage. It is usually a valve or just a cap.

Turn all of your faucets off, or close them.

Find your city water connection. This is usually next to the freshwater fill access. Connect the compressor and turn it on.

Now, go to your taps one at a time. Keep each open until no water is running, then go on to the next faucet.

Disengage the air compressor from the city water connection. You are almost done!

Now, turn on the water heater bypass valve. It should be labeled “on” or “winterize.” This might be connected to the water pump. Or, it might be on the back of the water heater. To find the water pump, turn on the pump and listen to it working. If you need to, you can always remove the access panel or check your owner manual.

Next, connect the antifreeze to the pump using a pick-up tube. Some RVs come with these, but you may have to purchase one yourself. Open each faucet and flush your toilet (or toilets) until the pink antifreeze is flowing.

And that’s it! You are all set and ready for winter.

Further Steps For A Successful Winter

RVs are complex machines, and there are other things you can do to ensure your RV is safe over the winter.

Cover your RV. This is a great way to protect the paint and prevent any minor damage from accidents or unexpected weather hazards. You don’t want a surprise hail storm damaging your RV.

Take out the batteries. RV batteries don’t like the cold. This is especially true if they are not fully charged. They might freeze, which leads to expansions, which leads to damage, which leads to leaks. That would be no good for anyone.

Check your tires. Tires can become damaged in winter since the cold causes the material to stiffen. This reduces traction but also causes the tire to lose elasticity, its ability to bend and absorb shocks. This could cause chipping and even cracks. 

Check your other amenities. Make sure your freezer has been thawed correctly so that you don’t open up your RV in the spring to find a smelly puddle in front of the fridge. Also, take the opportunity to change out your filters, so you have clean air and water ready to go when you head back out on the road.

Additional Questions

Should I Keep My RV plugged In For The Winter?

This is a cause of debate among some RVers and will depend on what you plan to do with your RV over the winter.

Some RVers like to keep their RV plugged in to keep the batteries topped off. Others like to keep the RV plugged in as a “guest house.” Winter is the holiday season, after all, and it can be nice to have the extra space for any visitors.

However, keeping your RV plugged in also has its downsides. Overall, this is not best for battery health. The trickle-charge to the batteries depletes the electrolytes and lowers your batteries’ potential power capacity.

Additionally, keeping your RV powered on all winter causes wear and tear to your amenities. Your fridge, AC, and heater are all running, and they will need to be maintained once camping season comes around again.

Will My Batteries Be OK If Temperatures Dip Over The Winter?

Winter can be hard on batteries, and RV batteries are not immune to the cold. RV batteries can freeze when the temperature gets low enough for the electrolytes to freeze. When this happens, the electrolytes expand, and this is what causes batteries to leak or fail completely.

Now, for a fully charged battery, this point is around -80 degrees Fahrenheit. But for a depleted battery, the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This is reason enough to make sure your batteries are fully charged before they get stored for the winter.

In Summary

There are plenty of steps you can take to properly winterize your RV. This allows you to avoid possible maintenance issues down the road, whether it be from water tanks freezing, spoiled batteries cracked tires or some other unforeseen malfunction.

So enjoy your holiday season with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your RV is safely tucked away for the winter.

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