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Thread: Winterizing an RV, Camper or Travel trailer

  1. #1

    Default Winterizing an RV, Camper or Travel trailer

    Well after years of tent camping I now have a travel trailer to camp in.

    Now that it's getting close to winter can anyone tell me what all I need to do to winterize my travel trailer?
    I have a ll the conforts of home and I need to keep from getting winter damaged or frozen.
    Toilet
    bath tub
    2 sinks
    AC
    onboard water supply
    gray water and black water tanks.
    Batteries
    gas stove, oven, frige and freezer


    What do I need to do this fall to make sure it all still works next spring?

    Thanks for your suggestions

    Jim King

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    If you're in the Valley, bring'r by and I can help you do it right here; we could do both ours side by side. It's easy once you get the hang of it.

    Your profile doesn't mention where you are.

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    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    Hey Jim, The manual is also pretty clear on how to do it. I end up using more of the RV antifreeze than is called for but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    Run the water out and drain all tanks, put several gallons of RV antifreeze (stuff's cheap enough to put in quite a bit more than required), run it through all your lines (sinks, shower, toilet, external shower) until they run pink (if using pink AF). Run a bit more for good measure, then mothball it. I pull the batteries and set them inside my garage.

    It's an easy process.
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    Default find the hidden water

    You use the pink stuff called RV antifreeze, and ya the back of the bottle does say replace water with pink stuff, but that's just enough info to hurt ya.

    You have to find the hidden water:
    - Likely you have a tiny little drain low somewhere under; opening that will allow hidden water to escape.
    - Water sits in your hot water heater unless you find its specific drain plug. Mine is 1" white plastic, on an external wall of my RV; flip open the water heater compartment and look.
    - Opening all spigots in bath and kitchen better allows drainage too.
    - Your water pump must be operated, pumping the pink stuff, to eliminate the water that is resident in it too.
    - After adding pink stuff to your water tank, you must then visually see pink stuff come out every hot and cold water spigot you have, and the toilet, and the bottom drain, and.... you get it.

    Some people blow air through their water lines to help clear out the H2O; I don't though.

    Missing one little section of water resident in your system means the line will burst this winter. RV places sell a lot of water pumps each spring.

    Don't forget to dump your black and grey tanks either. Then when you do let the pink stuff flow through every spigot/etc., let that little bit of pink stuff that went down the drains/toilet stay in your black/grey tanks through the winter.

    Batteries come into your heated garage and don't get set directly on a concrete floor. I leave my propane tank in and attached as is, but do turn the tank's valve off.

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    You really need to be careful using the pink stuff. It's not at all like regular antifreeze where a 50/50 mix gives you good protection. You have to have almost 100% with no dilution. So if you have a couple gallons of water still in your fresh water tank like you COULD have unless you're parked "just right" and you mix in a couple gallons of pink stuff you could still have freezing problems. Some people siphon directly from the bottle through the water pump with an adaptor so they know they are getting 100% strength.

    I use the compressed air method and have never had a problem in over 20 years. I bought a cap that goes right on your fresh water intake (like you were hooking up at a campground). Drain your fresh water tank. Drain the hot water tank as pointed out, replace the plug (for now). I then run the water pump briefly through all taps to get rid of the majority of the water. I then use compressed air to blow out each tap (hot and cold) until only air is coming out. I start with the highest tap (shower for me) to the lowest (outdoor shower for me). Don't foget to run the toilet. This has always gotten rid of all the water in my lines. Now go back and remove that hot water heater plug again. (If you had left it out your air would escape through that hot water tank). NOW take a gallon of the pink stuff and pour a cup or so into each drain so you displace the water in the trap. Open all your taps to eliminate pressure buildup, and you're done. I think this gives you BETTER safety than adding the pink stuff to your freshwater tank and pumping it through the lines unless you are willing to use a LOT of pink stuff and insure it is coming out with NO DILUTION. Another benefit is there's no anti freeze in your water lines when you fill er up again in the spring.

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    Member MRFISH's Avatar
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    One trick that I've been meaning to do is install is a couple feet of tubing on a "T" at the outlet of the freshwater tank (you'd need some kind of switching valve, too) that would allow you stick the pickup tube directly into the jug of rv antifreeze for pumping the pink stuff thru the pipes. This solves the dilution problem that gottago mentions.

    Running pink stuff through the faucets usually puts enough into the drain traps...but I usually dump another cup or so into each drain to be sure.

    Also, before draining your hot water heater, make sure the breaker/power to it is turned off (yeah...kind of a no-brainer, but every reminder helps).

    Additionally I put some dehumidifier in there. I like the stuff called "damp rid" sold in the closet organizer section at Fred Meyer. It also helps to put a little bit of it into the fridge and prop the fridge door open to help prevent mold/mildew from growing in there.

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    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    My fridge molded over the winter last year. That's a big thing to take care of as well.
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    Member Stanly's Avatar
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    Go on to YouTube and search winterize rv or rv winterization, a bunch of videos will come up that are pretty helpful...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phish Finder View Post
    My fridge molded over the winter last year. That's a big thing to take care of as well.
    I'll second this. It sucks to have to scrub the mold out of your fridge and freezer in the spring. Make sure the doors are left open, or at least make sure you have an open container of baking soda in both compartments.

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    One area that I did not see was the P-traps in the sinks and outside shower. You can get a T fitting at any RV dealer that allows you to hook up a hose and put it right in the bottle of RV anti-freeze and run the pump. It saves on how much anti-freeze you need and you do not need to add any to the water tank. Just simply drain the tanks and your are set. ALSO I put two buckets of CAMP DRY just to collect any moister it may get inside.

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    Member MRFISH's Avatar
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    Default definitely install a water bypass, if you don't already have one

    Quote Originally Posted by FishKing View Post
    You can get a T fitting at any RV dealer that allows you to hook up a hose and put it right in the bottle of RV anti-freeze and run the pump. It saves on how much anti-freeze you need and you do not need to add any to the water tank. Just simply drain the tanks and your are set. ALSO I put two buckets of CAMP DRY just to collect any moister it may get inside.
    That's exactly what I did when I had my water tank out during my flooring project. Right where the water line connects to the tank, I installed a bypass valve that has a length of vinyl tubing that lets you draw pink stuff straight from the jug using the water pump. Got it at Mobile Trailer Supply here in Anchorage. The water lines in my RV barely need a gallon of antifreeze this way.

    Also, figure out where your water line draws from your water tank and park your RV on a slope when draining. If I drain mine on flat ground, and then park it on a good slope -- with the front right corner aimed downhill (for mine), I can get another gallon or so of water to drain from the tank. I still pour a little pink stuff into the tank just to make sure, but it's not that much and it's easier to rinse out in the spring.

    In my older RV, I don't even use the hot water heater anymore (if it even works). I've kept it in permanent bypass and have been meaning to take it out to save weight and free up a little more storage space. Heating water on the stove, when needed for dishes or spit baths works just fine for us, saves propane and/or power, and makes winterizing/de-winterizing much easier.

    And, as has been pointed out already, pour a little of the pink stuff into each drain to get the traps. Between the water lines and traps, I don't need more than 2 gallons of pink stuff each fall.

    Fish King has another good suggestion about using camp dry. I get something similar called Damp Rid from Fred Meyer (in the closet stuff section), that works very well. It's just calcium chloride, same as camp dry. For your fridge/freezer, you need to let it dry with the doors propped when you defrost it...then put a little of the damp rid in both the freezer and fridge sections, and it'll absorb any leftover moisture over the winter. I've never had mold problems since doing this. I also leave a damp rid container in the bathroom and in the cabin to suck up any moisture. If you can leave the fridge doors propped open all winter, you don't even need to use damp rid inside the fridge...but it's still a good idea to put some in the cabin and bathroom.

    I always make sure to fill the RV's gas and propane before winter and am ready to use it as a lifeboat, of sorts, if things hit the fan. Last week, for me in east Anchorage, was a good wake up call. I was well prepared for the loss of electricity...but wonder how an earthquake in the winter that could cut off electricity, water and gas would shake things up, lol. Be Prepared, say the scouts.

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    I guess I am lucky, my fifth wheel has pex tubing for all the water lines. I drain the water tank by removing the drain plug and opening all the faucets, I pull the plug on the hot water tanks as well, then I disconnect the water pump input and output, dump the pink stuff in all the drains and walk away. I also dump all the waste tanks of course. The batteries go home with me and sit in the garage on a shelf with a battery tender hooked to them. The fridge/freezer get propped open after a good cleaning. The propane tanks stay in the camper with the valves shut.
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    Default Winterizing an RV, Camper or Travel trailer

    Open any and all drains. Pull the rod from the water heater and flip the t&p. Alve open to let it all flow out. Invest in a water heater bypass kit, it will save you about 6 gallons of antifreeze. If you live up north get the -100 antifreeze, -50 doesn't cut it in north pole/fairbanks. I use 4 gallons with the bypass kit. Disconnect the intake from the water tank to the water pump. Connect a hose that you can pick up at any rv shop to the water pump and stick it in the antifreeze. Turn on your pump after you close all drains and faucets back up. Starting from the faucet the furthest away from the pump open it until antifreeze flows. Do this to all faucets, shower, toilet, etc. done.


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  15. #15

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    Okay, so I winterized my rv a few days ago; still unclear though on do I leave the water heater drain plug out or in? I did flush the entire water system with rv antifreeze; the manual says to replace the drain plug/anode with just a 3/4" plug (no anode as the manual said the antifreeze is corrosive to the anode). There is antifreeze present in the water heater and I do have just a plug ready to install. So, leave it plugged or plug out & empty for the winter? Thanks

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    Default Winterizing an RV, Camper or Travel trailer

    I'm not sure how you have the water heater with antifreeze in it if you have the anode out and no plug in. Before i installed a water heater bypass kit i left my anode in and didn't have any issues. You should replace it once a year anyway so i usually replaced it after winter. I would buy a bypass kit and install it if i were you. In the interior, the -50 antifreeze doesn't work and the -100 isn't that cheap. You can save yourself about $60-$70 a year by not filling the water heater with antifreeze.


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    Quote Originally Posted by AKHunterNP View Post
    You can save yourself about $60-$70 a year by not filling the water heater with antifreeze.
    I've never used compressed air or anything but water to flush it out in the spring, but I found that when I did put that pink stuff into the hot water heater, it took a half dozen rinses in spring to get my water tasting right. Why don't RV mfgrs put that bypass kit in new ones? Or, do they now?

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    Something cheap and easy to use to collect moisture, prevent molding or smell take some Kitty Litter put it in a tube sock, tie a knot in it and put it where ever you think you need it. I keep one in my chest freezer, fridge and freezer. I use it in the boat as well in the bow, bathroom or anyplace that collects moisture. Throw them out in the spring.

    For your water just drain all your water from your main tank, then drain your hot water tank and put the plug back in. Run your water pump until you have little to no water comming out of any faucet. Install a blow out plug in your city water intake and use an air compressor you can blow all your water out of your lines. When you do this, open all your water lines and use only 40 PSI. If you buy the right blow out plug, it reduces your PSI to 40 anyways. Leave all valves open. Some RV's come with a Hot Water Tank Bypass valve and bypass with hose to install RV AntiFreeze at the pump but you really don't need it if you blow out all the water and run the pump dry. Last but not least, pour some RV Anti Freeze in all your P-Traps and your good. I use about a gallon in all. I use to run Anti Freeze though all the lines as well, but if you take it to an RV Place and get it done, what I just described to you is all they do.

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    I knew there was a smart way to do it with compressed air. Thanks Chico.

  20. #20

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    Ak, apology for the confusion; I currently have the anode plug installed, with antifreeze in the heater. Sounds like a few ways to skin the same cat all the same. Thanks to all on this topic; very helpful.

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