!!! Before you read this article !!!
1. Are you a recent camper trailer owner?
2. Are you an experienced camper trailer owner?
3. Do you want to be a camper trailer owner?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions then this post is for you.
Tip: Prepare your camper so you don’t repair your camper.
I bought a camper trailer with a minimum amount of camper trailer experience. I was hopeful for an amazing spring camping experience for my family… It all came crashing down on our first outing.
That led me to write the article below on “how to winterize a camper trailer” so that YOU don’t have an awful experience outside with your camper from not winterizing it properly.
Basic maintenance is necessary to keep RVs running
Whether you are new to the RV and Camper life or you are a seasoned veteran, following this guide will prepare your camper for storage. Every year you will need to winterize your camper. This will prevent damage from freezing cold temperatures. Continue reading to either learn HOW to winterize your camper, or get a solid refresher on how to do it. Owning a camper gives you some amazing opportunities to explore the world we live in. Let’s learn together how to take care of it!
What is a Camper?
You may think “this article isn’t for me because my camper isn’t a trailer” but don’t worry. The following article applies to both camper trailers and campers that go in the back of a pickup truck. There are many different kinds of campers. Below I have all the different styles of campers. This list SHOULD include your camper but if it does not, please let me know, and I will add to it!
Types of Campers:
- Truck campers
- Camper van
- Camper trailers
- Travel trailers
- Motor homes
- Tent trailers
- 5th wheel camper trailers
Depending on your budget and your needs, there are camper options for everyone. If you want to camp off the grid, or travel long distances, a camper offers all the amenities of home. There is a camper for you and the world is your oyster. Below we’ll show you the best step-by-step guide on how to winterize your camper regardless of what kind of camper you have.
First lets talk about your camper water system
Let’s Save Your Water System
Winterizing is important, so you don’t break and repair stuff. It’s pretty simple. If you leave water in the pipes of your RV or camper, it can freeze, crack water lines, damage the hot water tank, and cause other water leaks. You need to winterize BOTH the Fresh water system as well as the grey and black water systems.
First let’s understand the parts of your camper trailer that actually need to be winterized to withstand freezing temperature.
Sections of your camper trailer water system
The gray water portion is for the sinks in your camper or RV. This includes the drain pipes, p-traps, sink drains and the gray water holding tank.
The black water section is for the toilet and show. The drain pipes, p-traps, toilet, shower and the holding tank for all that waste.
The fresh water is the clean water that goes into Fresh Water Tank as well as all the water lines that connect to the faucets, toilet and shower. The “fresh water” is what comes out of the faucets, shower and toilet and turns into the gray and black water once it is used.
Hot Water Tank
The hot water tank is technically part of the “fresh water” system, but you can bypass it when you are winterizing. We’ll get into this a little bit later.
The water pump is an electric pump that moves the fresh water through the plumbing pipes in your camper trailer.
Refrigerators and Freezers
Refrigerators and freezers aren’t necessarily part of your main “winterizing process” but it is important to take care of them, so they stay in working order.
Tools needed to winterize your camper:
- Needle-nose pliers or screwdriver
- Two crescent wrenches
- Cordless Power Drill
- Air compressor (optional)
- Water heater bypass kit
- Water pump converter kit
- RV winterizing kit
- Plastic Plug
- 3-4 gallons of RV antifreeze (12-16L)
- 2-3 5 gallon buckets
Protecting your camper’s plumbing system during the cold winter months is mission critical. Whenever water freezes it expands and if it doesn’t have room to expand it can lead to disaster. Hence, when the temperature is too low to travel on a camper, make sure you have properly winterized it.
How much will it cost for me to winterize my Camper RV?
Fortunately, most of the tools needed are available at the local hardware store and are pretty affordable. Anything you can’t find at the local hardware store I have listed below with links to where you can purchase them. On average, the tools listed above can be purchased for under $200.
Collect all the tools listed above, so you can get started winterizing your camper.
Easy step-by-step process with photos that you can follow to winterize your camper’s water system
DO NOT under any circumstances put antifreeze in your fresh water tank. It will be really challenging to get out and your water will taste nasty for a very long time. There are environmentally save water treatments that you can use in the fresh water tank in case of odor or taste.
1. Turn Off Water Heater and Propane
Make sure your water heater switches are turned off.
2. Get Rid of Water Filters
Not all campers have water filters, in fact, most don’t. BUT, if yours does then take them out. They make flushing the system harder, and this way you can clean any inline filters, so they are ready for next year’s camping adventures. Be sure to check their expiry date in case they need replacement.
3. Fill Black and Gray Tanks With Water
The Black and Gray water tanks often have residual waste left in them. It is a good ideal to fill them with water before draining them. You can drive around for a bit to get the water sloshing which will help with the “clean” the tanks.
4. Drain the Black and Gray Water tanks
Once they are full you can take your trailer to a sani-station and dump them.
5. Open Faucets and Taps for Hot and Cold Water
With the faucets open, you drain all the hot and cold water out of the lines. DO NOT CLOSE THEM.
IMPORTANT: Bypass Hot Water Tank
6. Drain Water Heater Tank
Next we want to drain the hot water tank. Water tanks always have a drain plug that you can remove or a valve you can open. LEAVE THE VALVE OPEN.
7. Run the water pump
Run the water pump with the faucets open and the drain out of the water tank to ensure you get the MOST water out of the system. Once you notice the water pressure drops then turn the pump off and close the faucets.
IMPORTANT: Bypass Hot Water Tank
8. Install a water heater bypass system
Since the water heater is empty, you can put a bypass kit in, so you can use less antifreeze (most water heaters usually hold approx. 6L of fluid) for winterizing and not need to “flush” extra antifreeze through the tank.
9. Install a Water Pump Converter Kit
This water pump converter kit can be easily installed to help your water pump move antifreeze. This saves you from having to fill up your fresh water tank with gallons and gallon of antifreeze to pump it through the system.
10. Put intake like from pump converter kit into the antifreeze jug
Put the intake hose that you just installed into a gallon of antifreeze, so it goes from the antifreeze jug to the pump.
11. Turn On the Kitchen Faucet to “Cold” setting
Now that you have the antifreeze just is hooked up, you can turn on all the faucets to the cold setting.
12. Turn on the water pump until antifreeze comes out of the faucet
Now you want to run the water pump until you have start seeing your antifreeze come out of the faucets. Then turn off the pump.
13. Repeat the previous step for all faucets using cold and hot settings.
The antifreeze jug will start to empty as you pump antifreeze through the lines. Make sure you keep an eye on the antifreeze level so you can swap out the jug when needed.
14. Pour antifreeze into all sinks and toilets
Pour 1 or 2 cups of antifreeze into each of the sinks and toilets. This lets us get some antifreeze into each of the drains and plumbing lines. We can leave it there for the winter.
15. Close all faucets
You can go ahead and close all the faucets now so nothing will come out of them. You should have some antifreeze left in the pipes at this point.
16. Close the water heater drain
You can go ahead and close the drain from the water heater now and leave it for winter. There should be none or almost no water left it in.
17. Release the pressure relief valve
Releasing the pressure relief valve is REALLY IMPORTANT. Do not forget this last step.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have a washing machine or ice maker please refer to your owners manual. Every RV washing machine and ICE maker has a different winterizing process.
How to winterize the interior of your camper
There aren’t a lot of steps to winterize the inside of your camper. Below we have listed a few things we recommend as ways to winterize the inside of your camper.
1. Prop open your fridge and put a box of baking soda in it
Propping open your fridge and leaving an open box of baking soda in it will help the fridge thaw and control the odor inside it over the winter.
2. Prop open your freezer
Like with your fridge, propping open the freezer door will help prevent your freezer from getting musty and stinking over winter.
3. Make sure the propane is turned off
Turn off the valves for the stove and any other appliance that runs on propane on the inside of the trailer.
4. Close the window curtains
Close the curtains. This keeps the sun and heat out and helps keep everything in the trailer in great shape.
How to Winterize the Exterior of Your Camper
1. Tires and Wheels
Either purchase tire covers or cut out some wooden boards that block the sun’s UV rays from breaking down the rubber.
2. Camper Siding and Windows
Wash the exterior really well. Re-seal all the major seams with a good sealant to help prevent any leaks from forming while the trailer sits for extended periods.
Check the roof for any cracks or splits in the rubber coating. If there are, re-coat the roof right away with a high quality camper roof sealer.
4. Hinges and Locks
Lubricate hinges and locks so nothing freezes or breaks over the winter.
5. Vent Covers
Ensure all vent covers are open just a little bit, so there is a little ventilation. This helps prevent the trailer from getting too musty as it sits.
Remove and replace or clean any filters that you have in preparation for the next season.
Remove the batteries and put them on a winterizing trickle charger to make sure they are maintained and stay charged all winter.
Camping is a great way to spend family time and a camper makes it that much more enjoyable, especially with kids. Understanding how your camper works and how to maintain it will let you enjoy it for many years to come.
Let us know what you think of the article and give us your feedback so we can continue to improve it!