How to Winterize a Travel Trailer (6 Amazing Steps)

Winterizing a travel trailer involves preparing it for cold weather by safeguarding it against freezing temperatures. Steps include draining water tanks, flushing and cleaning holding tanks, bypassing the water heater, using RV antifreeze in plumbing systems, checking seals, removing or protecting batteries, covering or storing indoors, inspecting the roof and windows for leaks, and elevating tires. These measures prevent potential damage from freezing, preserving the trailer’s integrity during the winter months.

  • Winterize your camper for safe plumbing, electrical, and propane in the winter. 
  • RV manufacturers have made winterizing a camper easy, especially on newer models, even for beginners. 
  • I will share six easy ways to winterize your travel trailer or RV. 

Water Heater Drain

1. Water Heater Drain

That’s it for the water tank and lines. Now, move on to the water heater. You should be able to open a panel outside and get to your water heater. Behind that panel of glass, there will be a big bolt. 

  • It’s a plastic bolt in the bottom left corner. Place your bucket under this bolt and turn it counterclockwise. 
  • These bolts hold the anode rod to most RVs, so winterizing is a great time to do an inspection. 
  • This should happen in about six months to a year. If it does, you can buy a new anode rod on Amazon. 
  • Put the bolt back in place and close the access panel when the water stops coming out.

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Blow out the water lines or pump in antifreeze to keep pipes from freezing.

2. Blow out the water lines or pump in antifreeze to keep pipes from freezing.

There are two things you can do to keep your pipes from freezing. 

When you choose Option 

  • 1, you blow all the water out of your system. When you choose Option 
  • 2, you pump RV antifreeze into your pipes to replace the water. 
  • 3. You can use either method; pick the easiest one for you. The cost of the air compressor is the only significant difference between the two. 
  • Option #1 will be the fastest and easiest if you already have an air compressor, an essential piece of gear for any RVer. 

Choice 1: Blow out the water lines

Pros:

You won’t need to run antifreeze through your water lines.

Antifreeze will cost less.

Cons:

You may have to pay more for this option if you still need an air compressor. Steps for Option #1:

  • Use the suggested adaptor to connect the air compressor to your city water hookup.
  • Limit the air compressor to 30 psi at most to avoid damaging the water lines.
  • First, turn on the air compressor. Then, open all your faucets, including the sink and shower outside. 
  • Each faucet should let out a small amount of water to keep your pipes dry and safe from the cold. 

Someone must hold down the flush button for the toilet while the air compressor blows out any water in the line.

Once the drains are clear, pour about 4 cups of RV antifreeze down each one, including the toilet bowl. This will keep the seals and drain valves from freezing.

2: Put antifreeze in by pumping it in

Pros:

There is no need for an air compressor.

There won’t be any water still there, that’s for sure.

Cons:

Drinking water lines need to have antifreeze pumped into them.

For Method #2, buy 4 gallons of antifreeze instead of 1. This method is more complex and challenging, but it works well if you don’t have an air compressor. 

Having someone else open and close the faucets inside while the other person pumps makes the job go much faster.

RVs sometimes have a built-in water pump bypass valve that makes sure RV antifreeze gets to all parts of the system automatically. Reading the manual for your RV will tell you if your trailer does.

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Possible choices Two Steps:

Avoid going through the water heater and water filter (if your RV has one) because you do not want antifreeze to get inside them. 

I’ve included a picture showing where the bypass valves are on our water heater. 

The hose’s other end should be in your RV’s antifreeze. Connect your hand pump to your city water hookup. 

Turn off all the faucets and drains. 

Start with the hot side and open one faucet at a time. Keep pumping until you see the bright pink antifreeze from the faucets. 

After that, close the hot side, open the cold side, and do it again.

Do step 4 again for every faucet in your RV. Remember to repeat the steps for the toilet, shower, and faucets outside. One person will hold down the bathroom’s flush button while the other pumps antifreeze into the tank.

Once the drains are clear, pour about 4 cups of RV antifreeze down each one, including the toilet bowl. This will keep the seals and drain valves from freezing.

Remember that this method will add antifreeze to your water lines, which can make them freeze. When you’re ready to take the RV on a trip again, you should run water through the lines several times before you use them. 

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Empty the fresh water tank and all the water lines.

3. Empty the fresh water tank and all the water lines.

Low-point valves are now standard on most RVs. There should be three water lines coming down from under your rig. 

Two are usually together (the hot and cold water lines), and one is separate (the freshwater tank). We will drain all three lines, so don’t worry if you can’t tell them apart. 

Please turn off the water pump and open all the faucets before we open the valves. This lets the lines’ pressure drop, making it easier for the fluid to flow. 

If you have a bucket and don’t want water to spill, put it under the first low-point valve and remove the cap. 

Also, remember that your fresh tank might have more water than your bucket can hold. Check the level of your tank and make plans based on that.

Empty and clean out waste water tanks

4. Empty and clean out waste water tanks

It’s the last day of the season to dump. It’s both bad and good. Please do the same things you would on any other dump day, but make sure you do them all the way through. Wait a few months before going back to your travel trailer. You don’t want to find mold growing in the black tank. 

  • Let your black tank flush until the water in your waste hose is explicit. 
  • How we deep clean a 44-gallon black tank:
  • For five minutes, flush the black tank with the valve open.
  • Run the black tack flush with the valve closed for 5 minutes or about one minute for every 9 gallons of black capacity.
  • Do one last 5-minute water run through the black tank flush when you open it.

If you don’t have a black tank flush, you can use a hose to flush your toilet. There is a better way to break up stuck things than using the toilet, but it’s still easier. 

Some people also put a bag of ice down the toilet and drive around for a while to make it sloppy and loosen anything stuck to the walls. It looks gross, but it works. 

5. Take the batteries and solar panels apart.

It would help if you didn’t let batteries, especially lead acid batteries, lose all of their charge. 

  • You may believe that turning off your lights and the water pump will keep your batteries fresh. However, even a small amount of static electricity will drain your batteries after a few months. 
  • Like the picture above, most RVs have a battery disconnect switch that you can turn to turn off the power from the batteries. 
  • Unplugging the cables allows you to store your batteries without a disconnect switch.
  • You might want to take the batteries out and store them inside if you are keeping your RV where the temperature often drops below 0°F. 
  • It’s easy to take care of lithium batteries, and they won’t break down for months. 

To keep lead-acid batteries from rusting, clean them with baking soda and water before putting them away. If your lead acid batteries are healthy, you won’t need a trickle charger to store them for a few months in cold weather. 

6. Clean and check the outside and inside

When the spring comes, your RV will be ready to go if you clean it inside and out before putting it away. 

  • Cleaning your RV before putting it away for the winter is another way to keep pests from moving in. 
  • To keep moths away, remove any extra clothing or bedding; to keep rodents out, take out all the food. 
  • Remember to look out for mold if you have been in a humid place. If you store something long, even a few small white mold spots can become a big problem. This is very true for your fridge in particular. 
  • Please don’t put your fridge away until it’s off, empty, defrosted, cleaned, and completely dry. 
  • You can go one step further and put a fresh, open box of baking soda in the fridge. 
  • Doing one last check for the year while you’re cleaning is a good idea. 
  • Ensure no cracks in your seals or weather stripping are coming loose by getting on top of your house. 
  • Check your awnings and slides to ensure they are clean and not broken. 
  • If you see any problems with your RV that need fixing, winter is a good time to do it. 

RV repair shops have long wait lists, and you’d rather have your camper broken down in the winter than when it’s camping season.

The Wrapping Up

Ensure your travel trailer braves the winter unscathed with these six essential steps. From draining water tanks to using RV antifreeze, this guide covers plumbing, electrical, and propane safety. Learn how to winterize easily, even for beginners, and discover tips like water heater maintenance and battery care. FAQs address common concerns on methods, costs, and the importance of a pre-storage check, providing a thorough winterization blueprint for your travel trailer’s longevity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Winterizing Your Travel Trailer

1. What are the two options for preventing frozen pipes, and what factors should I consider in choosing between them?

Options include blowing out water lines with an air compressor and pumping in RV antifreeze. Consider cost, equipment availability, and personal preference.

2. How do I properly drain the water heater and conduct a thorough inspection during winterization?

Open the water heater panel, locate the plastic bolt (anode rod), and drain the water. This step is crucial for inspection and potential replacement.

3. Is there a recommended air compressor pressure for blowing out water lines, and why is it important?

Limit the air compressor to 30 psi to prevent damage to water lines during the blowing-out process.

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of blowing out water lines versus RV antifreeze?

Blowing out lines doesn’t require antifreeze and is cost-effective but may necessitate an air compressor. Antifreeze is a straightforward solution but comes with additional costs.

5. How can I efficiently flush and clean the black tank before winter storage, and why is it essential?

Use a black tank flush system or a hose through the toilet to clean the tank thoroughly. A clean tank prevents mold growth during storage.

6. What precautions should I take with batteries during winterization, and is a disconnect switch necessary?

Use a battery disconnect switch or disconnect cables to prevent battery drainage. Consider removing batteries in frigid temperatures for indoor storage.

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