Ah winter. Some love it. Some hate it. Regardless of which way you fall, it’s hard on everyone. But, it can be especially hard on your RV. Your RV is a huge purchase, and the care you take of it should be extensive. Just like stationary houses, RVs have lots of plumbing areas that are vessels for water, so preparing it for winter is a critical step in taking good care for your rig. It could get expensive if you don’t!


How cold is too cold for my RV?

You may wonder if you even need to winterize your RV, depending on where you live. Any time the temperature stays 32 degrees or under for more than a few hours, you should winterize. However, if it only gets that cool at night but warms up during the day, it might be fine. To be safe, several begin to winterize once the temperature reaches down into the 40s.


In order to thoroughly winterize, you’ll need to consider all parts, and not just the plumbing.
It can seem overwhelming, but we’ve made a list of how to prepare the interior, exterior and chassis components of your RV so she’ll be waiting with open arms when spring arrives. Follow these steps to get your RV as prepared as possible for winter!


  1. Remove any water filters. This should be the first thing you do before anything, because any winterization chemicals will damage the filter anyway. This is also a great time to see if any of those filers need to be replaced for next spring.
  2. Drain the gray and black water tanks. It is so important to not let any water sit in your rig over the winter for many reasons. Water is grounds for all types of bacteria, and water expands when it freezes, which could cause catastrophic damage. Starting with the black water tank, drain both and then clean them with a special kind of tank cleaner.
  3. Bypass the water heater and any water lines. To remove the water from the water heater, you’ll need to turn it off, let it cool and wait for it to be not under pressure. You can remove any pressure by opening a hot water faucet once you have the 12-volt water pump switched to “off.” Once it cools down, you can open the pressure relief valve to help water drain quicker. Then open all your faucets and any drain lines. Don’t forget the toilet, shower, ice maker and washing machine! You can use the 12-volt water pump to help force any remaining water out, but close it as soon as it’s all drained to prevent damage to the pump.

Most RVs come with a water heater bypass kit. If yours doesn’t, the antifreeze will fill up your water heater before it gets to the water lines, wasting several gallons. Here, you can choose to install one yourself or have a local RV maintenance shop install one for you.

  1. Antifreeze. Once you’ve done all the above, and not a second sooner, it’s time to add antifreeze to your rig. From here, you have a few options. You can install a water pump converter kit, or you can disconnect the inlet side of your water pump (the line that comes from the fresh water tank) and put that inside your antifreeze jug. You’ll then want to turn on your 12-volt water pump which will pressurize the water system and start pumping out antifreeze. Beginning at the faucet closest to the 12-volt pump, open each one until antifreeze begins to run, replacing the jug as needed. Repeat this process until each faucet and water line has antifreeze pumping through it. Only open one faucet at a time. You’ll also need to flush the toilet until antifreeze appears, and pour antifreeze down each drain. Make sure all faucets are closed after you complete these steps.


Get help if you need it. If you aren’t comfortable doing all of these yourself, don’t fret! Simply take your RV to your local dealership or maintenance shop. They’ll be more than happy to take care of the process for you so it can be done correctly.


Along with preparing your water pipes for winter, be sure to winterize the whole rig itself. The following is a short list of things to consider:


-Remove any food in the pantry, cupboards and refrigerator
-Clean from top to bottom, wiping any surfaces
-Check for leaks or any damage
-Park your RV with the emergency brake on and use wheel chocks.
-Clean your sewer hose
-Before storing, consider a deep wash and wax to the exterior

You’ve just winterized your RV! It can seem a bit extensive and even a bit obsessive, but it’s necessary to take these steps to prevent any serious damage to your RV during the winter months. Winterizing your RV is a lot of work, but it will be worth it to have it waiting on you in mint condition when spring rolls around.

For other tips on winterizing for your specific RV, it’s a great idea to look through the owner’s manual. Different types of RVs have other needs before you can completely store it away for the winter, or it may call for specific techniques unique to that rig.

Are there any specific steps you take to winterize? Let us know in the comments!