Step-by-Step Guide on How to Winterize Your Motorhome

winterize campervan and rv

Expert tips and suggestions for preventing damage to your RV during the winter months

In the winter months, temperatures plummet and you may be wondering if it’s time to get your campervan, motorhome or RV winter-ready. “Winterizing” your motorhome means preparing your rig for the potentially damaging effects caused by harsh winter weather such as freezing rain, snow and more. Depending on where you live, winterizing your RV is an absolute must if you wish to avoid expensive repairs and stay warm.

Use the following tips, suggestions and answers on how to keep your van’s maintenance in tip-top shape during the colder months.

How does my vehicle’s water system work?

Before we get into the specifics, knowing a little bit about how your vehicle’s water system works is necessary to properly winterizing.

For starters, the water used in your RV or motorhome comes from either a fresh-water tank or a hook-up (can be from the city or from your campsite). If you’re getting water from your freshwater tank, a water pump is used to push the water through. If you’re having water come in from the city, no pump is necessary.

When water from your freshwater tank or the city is cold, it travels through the water pump to the water heater. In order to winterize your tanks so they don’t become frozen, you will need to bypass the water heater.

Failing to drain your freshwater tank, bypass your water heater (if your motorhome doesn’t have a bypass kit already built in) and not adding enough antifreeze can leave you facing the possibility of freezing your pipes and tanks, resulting in expensive repairs.

When do I need to winterize?

Depending on if you use your motorhome during colder months and what climate you’re in will determine if you need to winterize your home-on-wheels. Keep the following questions in mind when determining whether or not you need to winterize:

  • Does the temperature where your RV or van is stored ever hit below 40 degrees? (Temperatures below 40 degrees can lead to freezing pipes, which can lead to broken pipes if unprotected.)
  • Do you plan on taking a break from using your vehicle for several months? (If so, we highly suggest you winterize. One night of low temperatures in the 30s can freeze and break your pipes and cause other damage.)
  • Even if you use your RV during the winter months, are any pipes exposed to harsh elements?

If you answered “yes” or “maybe” to any of these questions, we suggest you take steps to winterize your motorhome. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry!

What do I need to DIY winterize?

Ready to get your motorhome or RV winter-ready? Prior to starting, you will need to pick up some basic supplies. Many of these products can be found at a local auto parts store or Walmart near you. You can also check on Amazon for RV winterizing kits.

How to winterize my RV or motorhome (a step-by-step guide)

If you have any hesitation about winterizing your vehicle, you may want to find a professional repair shop that can take care of it for you. Learning to winterize your rig may be tricky the first time. But once you learn the process, you can do it year-after-year and keep your motorhome in great shape.

Don’t forget to read your RV or motorhome owner’s manual thoroughly first. Once you’ve done that, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect your vehicle’s outside water source (city water hook-up).
  1. Drain your entire water system. Don’t forget to drain the freshwater tank, hot-water lines and cold-water lines. Flush the toilet and open faucets to get any remaining water out.
  1. Drain your water heater. Do this by either opening up the drain valve or removing the drain plug in the bottom left-hand corner. Using a bendable straw to help drain water can help create a siphon, which removes additional water.
  1. Either locate your water heater bypass system or use a water heater bypass kit* (see step-by-step directions below).
  1. Blow out your lines. This can be done by attaching a blow out plug to your city water intake valve. Using pressure from an air compressor, drain any remaining water (don’t apply more than 30 PSI). This will help your antifreeze avoid becoming diluted. Once this is done, make sure all faucets are in the closed position.
  1. Add antifreeze. This can be done two different ways. The first option is using a hand pump to add antifreeze from the outside. If you choose this method, attach the intake siphon to the RV antifreeze bottle. Next, connect the output hose to the city inlet valve. Close all faucets and drain valves. Start pouring antifreeze into the kitchen sink. Continue pumping antifreeze until the color becomes bright pink. Finish by closing the hot side and opening up the cold side. Repeat and do this for the bathroom sink, shower and toilet.
  1. If you choose to add antifreeze by using the RVs internal pump system, follow the instructions above but instead use the water pump bypass valve. Add at least two pints of antifreeze solution. Remember to get the shower, sink, dish washer, ice-maker, external shower and any other appliances that touch water.
  1. Now, you’re ready to drain your gray and black water tanks.
  1. Don’t forget to remove your vehicle’s battery. (See our battery storage tips.)

Congrats! You have now winterized your RV or motorhome. You can either leave antifreeze inside your system until spring/summer or you can drain antifreeze so nothing is left in the pipes and tanks but air. After winter, before your first spring camping trip, all you will need to is flush out your system to remove the antifreeze.

*Using a Bypass kit

To install a bypass system for your water heater, use the following directions:

  1. Find the location of the water heater access door outside of the RV.
  2. Open the door and find the area that allows access from the water heater to the door.
  3. Count the number of valves on the water lines connected to the water heater. You will find either one, two or three valves.
  4. If you have one valve, turn the valve to the vertical position. This valve should be on the lower line connected to the water heater. If you have a two valve system, turn the valves so they are parallel to the line. If you have three valves, turn both the top and bottom valves to a closed position (perpendicular to the line). Open the middle valve to an open position.
  5. Now you can bypass the water heater.

Talk to the Class B Motorhome and RV Experts

Winterizing your RV or motorhome is something you will be grateful you took the time to do. There is nothing worse than an unexpected and costly repair! Keep your rig in tip-top shape and ready for your next adventure.

Are you searching for a new class B motorhome or RV? Classic Vans is the nation’s largest dealer in new and used motorhomes, luxury conversion vans and wheelchair accessible vans for sale. For over thirty years, we’ve been family-owned and operated. We specialize in delivering quality vehicles to our cherished customers.

Contact our friendly specialists for help finding the van of your dreams today! Finance options available.

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