Easy Step by Step Guide to Winterize a RV

It is the time of the year that many of us need to winterize our beloved RVs and put them in storage. You may have your RV Tech on speed-dial, but before you give them a call check out this article and video. The reality is you can save a ton of money and winterize your Camper yourself. Anyone with some tools and basic mechanical skills can do this.

Winterizing a Motorhome is not as difficult as it appears. I will walk you through step-by-step on how I winterized our Grand Design Momentum 397TH that has 2 full bathrooms and a Splendide Washer, but the procedures are basically the same for any Motorhome, Fifth Wheel or Travel trailer.

Passion Highway How-to Winterization Video

Step by Step How-To Winterize a RV Video

RV Winterization Steps

  1. Gather the Required Tools

When starting a project like winterization we need to make sure we have all of the tools we need so we can complete the project in one session:

  1. Turn off Hot Water Heater, Holding Tank Heating Pads and Water pump

We need to verify that all of the water systems are turned off in the coach. A water heater will be damaged permanently if it is drained with the electric heating element on.

LCI Monitor Panel

Check your monitor panel and verify that the Electric Water heater, Gas Water Heater, Water Pump and Water Tank Heater are turned off.

  1. Bypass Water Heater and Configure Coach Water Systems for Winterization

RV Manufacturers all have different ways of configuring the water systems in their campers. The main thing we need to do is bypass anything that we do not want antifreeze to run through such as a drinking water faucet or Water Heater.

In our Grand Design 397TH, the water heater and all systems are bypassed in the main water compartment. They use a system called Nautilus that has knobs that are turned to the winterization setting.

Nautilus P4 System Winterization Settings
  1. Flush System With Air to evacuate the majority of water

It is impossible to get all water out of the system, but we want to do everything we can to get as much out as possible. The only reliable way to do this is to use an air compressor with a fitting that connects to the water inlet of the RV. That said, however, we cannot push high-pressure air into our coaches. Most cap out around 50 PSI. We need to have a reliable step-down air regulator. I use a Viair Portable Air Compressor, a Viair Step-Down Regulator and pair it with an RV Air Line Hose that is designed for winterizing a RV.

Viair RV Winterization Components
  1. Connect Antifreeze Holding tank to RV

RV winterization fluid is sold in 1 gallon bottles. One gallon emptied fast in a large coach. I found a perfect 5-Gallon Food Safe Water Bottle that I use to siphon the antifreeze from. I also use a Drinking Water Safe Garden Hose that is long enough to get to the water bottle.

The connection process is simple. One end of the garden hose drops into the 5-Gallon Bottle and the other end connects to the RV Fresh Water Inlet. The on-board RV Water pump is used to siphon the antifreeze and pressurize the system.

  1. Turn on Water Pump and Prime Antifreeze through the System

The Motorcoach water pump will do the work to pressurize the water lines with antifreeze. All you need to do is go to the furthest most water faucet in the coach and open the water valves one side at a time (e.g. Hot first, then cold). When turning on the faucet you will initially hear air flowing out. When the fluid comes through the end of the faucet watch out! It will blast out quick and spirt the fluid all over the place. I try to cover the faucet with my hand to help direct the fluid down toward the drain.

Go step by step through the coach one faucet at a time. Don't forget to prime water into the toilets and any outdoor water outlets you may have (e.g. Showers, Outdoor kitchens, etc).

Bathroom Sink Faucet with RV Antifreeze Flowing
RV Toilet with Antifreeze Flowing
  1. Winterize Splendide Washer

Most RV Washers are designed to be installed in a RV, but some aren't. It is very important that you look at the washers owners manual to ensure that you know how a particular model is winterized. In our Fifth Wheel, we have a RV Specific Splendide Washer. It has winterization procedures that are easy to follow.

I always save the washer to the last device to flush. I do this so I am sure that as much of the water as possible has been evacuated from the coach. If water were left in lines of a washer it could cause catastrophic damage and be very difficult to fix. The Splendide Washer alone weights over 200 LBS! We don't want to remove it for repairs, so we need to make sure we take our time and insure that our washer is properly winterized.

I walk though the steps in the video above. I would recommend watching our video if you have a Splendide Washer. The process works by starting and stoping various cycles. For example, I start a wash cycle with cold water only. I then turn to the B – Spin Only cycle that engages the washer water pump to evacuate the water from the system. I then stop the spin cycle, start another wash cycle on Hot. I let the water fill up so I can visibly see it in the tub and then stop it and change to the B – Spin Only cycle. I do this a couple of times to ensure that all I see in the tub is the pink antifreeze.

  1. Fill all Drains with about 1-2 cups of water

The sinks in the RV are similar to what one would find in a house. They have 1/2 U shaped drain pipes under the sinks, showers and washer that trap water in them. The traps are called J or P traps because they are somewhat shaped like a J or P depending on how you look at them.

P or J Trap under a Sink

Water is held in the U section on the right of the picture above in order to keep smells from the holding tanks from coming up through the sink into the RV. It is important that we dump some antifreeze into the sinks, bathtubs, showers and areas where we have drains.

Don't forget about kitchen sinks that have two drains! Both sides need to be filled with antifreeze!

Fill Drains with RV Antifreeze
  1. Close up the Water Heater and put away all of the tools

The final step is to make sure everything is ready for winter. Install the drain cap, close the pressure relief valve and reinstall the water heater cover. Remove all hoses and make sure the water panel is left in the winterization mode.

I also like walking around and putting painters tape over toilets and places that could accidentally be used by someone. It is a good reminder that this toilet, sink, etc. is not safe to use.

Final Thoughts

Yes, it really is this simple. The key is to take your time and follow the process. You can always run more antifreeze through a fitting than you need. It is cheap insurance. The key is to make sure that the entire coach has antifreeze in the lines and the water is pushed out of the system.

Jim Kerr

Jim Kerr is a entrepreneur that has founded several businesses including Orbitz, Team Convergence, Assure Flight, and Passion Highway. He is an airplane pilot, PADI SCUBA Dive Master and adventure traveler. Along with his wife Lisa, they travel North America in their 2020 Grand Design Momentum 397TH Toy Hauler with their cat Dexter. To find out more about Jim, visit JamesNKerr.com

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