Is the RV in constant use?
An RV that is lived in full-time will be able to withstand slightly lower temperatures for a slightly longer amount of time than an RV that is sitting empty. This is because the people in the RV will be running the furnace, which helps keep the water lines warm. In fact, many RVs come equipped with enclosed underbellies that are designed to be kept warm when the furnace is run.
If your RV is being used constantly, you can probably wait a little longer to winterize it. If you live in a relatively mild climate and the RV will be lived in full-time, you might even get away with skipping the winterization process, but this can be risky. If you go this route, make sure the underbelly is kept warm with work lights, and consider adding some sort of skirting to the rig.
Is the RV stored indoors?
As mentioned above, if your RV is stored in a climate-controlled space, you don’t need to winterize at all. But what if you store your RV in a space that is enclosed but not climate-controlled, such as a garage? In this case, you can delay winterization a bit, as the RV will stay a little warmer than if it were outdoors. However, you will likely still need to winterize the RV before it gets too terribly cold.
It might help to keep a thermometer in your garage to see how much warmer the space actually is, making sure to winterize the RV before the garage temperature drops below 30°F for more than half an hour.
How to Winterize Your RV
By now you should have a pretty good idea of when to winterize your RV. The next question? How do you winterize a trailer or motorhome?
Fortunately, the process is fairly simple and the vast majority of RV owners will be able to take care of this bit of maintenance themselves:
- Turn off the water heater.
- Disconnect from water.
- Dump the freshwater tank.
- Turn on your water pump and run all faucets until the lines are empty.
- Close faucets.
- Dump and clean the waste tanks.
- Drain the water heater tank by removing the plug. (Be sure the water is cooled completely first! You don’t want to burn yourself.)
- Replace water heater plug.
- Open all exterior low-point drains.
- Close the drains again.
- Remove any inline water filters.
- Turn the water heater bypass valve to close the water heater tank off from the rest of the system.
- Drop the end of one of your water pump intake hoses into a jug of RV antifreeze.
- Turn on the pump.
- Open the cold side of the faucet nearest the pump and let it run until it runs pink.
- Close the cold side.
- Run the hot side of the faucet until it runs pink as well.
- Close the hot side.
- Repeat this process on every faucet in the RV, working your way away from the water pump and making sure to replace the bottle of antifreeze as needed.
- Flush the toilet until you see antifreeze.
- Pour a cup of RV antifreeze down each sink, the shower, and the toilet.
- Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for information on winterizing ice makers, dishwashers, clothes washers, etc.
It’s also possible to winterize your RV water system without antifreeze if you have access to an air compressor.