Skip to content

Change font size

Winterizing How-To

RV related plumbing issues Q&A

Winterizing How-To

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Wed Oct 22, 2008 9:15 pm

Special thanks to Skip N Char for writing the bulk of this FAQ.

Unfortunately for many of us it's that time of year again and we thought it would be useful to our membership to have a thorough "How-To" for the process of winterizing your RV's plumbing system. Although it can seem daunting for the new RV'er, it's really not difficult and there's no reason to pay an RV dealer a signifigant fee to do it (not to mention needing to take your RV to and from the dealer and wait in line) when you can do it yourself.

So, let's get going!

Winterizing the RV plumbing system.

We all know there are a fairly wide variety of Recreational Vehicles in use but for the MOST part they are all very similar when it comes to plumbing, and as such, similar to winterizine. Getting yours ready for cold weather storage can have several distinct sections depending on just WHAT is being prepared. This one deals mainly with the plumbing system.

First and probably MOST important is winterizing the plumbing and related systems. There is nothing that can be more frustrating than opening up in the spring to find broken pipes or tanks that leak water everywhere. Not only is it frustrating but extremely expensive to repair since critical plumbing joints are often located in places that were never designed to be accessed after your RV was built, meaning that it may be necessary to remove parts of your interior walls or furnishings to access them. Typically you will require the services of an RV dealer to accomplish these sorts of repairs and the costs can quickly spiral to the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

A sometimes overlooked step of winterizing your plumbing system is the "end of the season" handing of your holding tanks. Much contreversey lies around what to do with holding tanks at the end of the season but it's typically essential that they are at least fully emptied.

When it comes to the black water tank some RV'ers do a thorough flush at the end of the season. Typically one fills all of the RV's holding tanks to about 50% capacity and takes the RV for a drive with lots of turns and stops/starts - this will slosh the water around and loosen any solids still remaining in the tank, especially in the black tank. Proceed to your local dump station and dump as you normally would. If a source of fresh water is available at your dump station (and nobody else is waiting in line!) you may wish to fill and subsequently dump your black water tank a few times to provide a "Super-Duper" end of season cleansing. After your last black water dump, empty your other holding tank(s) in your normal sequence.

These steps will ensure that any remaining solids (Especially waste and toilet paper in the black tank) are fully removed. Such waste can harden over the winter months and become difficult or impossible to evacuate from the tank in the future.

Allow as much time as possible with all sewer valves open to ensure that as much water as possible is drained. A small amount remaining will not damage your RV's holding tanks, but the less the better.

With that done, lets move onto your fresh-water plumbing system.

There are two distinct methods for winterizing:

1/ Blowing out with compressed air
2/ Pumping in the "Pink" plumbing antifreeze (With or without using the "Blow out" process first)
3/ Doing both.

The procedure for using compressed air and the procedures for using RV Antifreeze are below.

Compressed air alone is usually considered adequate for climate whee freezing temps do occur but do not get extremely cold.

I usually start by getting the water out of the hot water tank. Make CERTAIN that you relieve any pressure on the water system before you remove the drain plug and ALSO make certain that the water is not heated. It's not unheard of for someone to remove the drain plug only to have it “doink” them between the eyes because the water system was pressurized, and of course having your system full of hot water when removing the plug can also have extremely negative outcomes.

Once you get the drain plug out it's a great time to make sure the threads are cleaned and lubricated. I use a little cooking oil on the threads after taking an old tooth-brush to them to clean them up. If you have a water heater with an anode rod attached to the drain plug, you need to take a good look at the anode rod now. If it's at least half gone, it should be replaced before the RV is put back into service next spring.

If your water tank does NOT have an anode rod attached to a metal drain plug then it should have a nylon drain plug. In this case your tank is all aluminum and no anode rod is necessary. It's a good idea to replace the nylon plug once a year so it doesn't twist off and cause a lot of work digging it out.

Once you have removed the plug most of the tanks water will drain out by gravity alone. It's possible that some sediment may also flow out of the tank - if a large quantity is seen you may wish to introduce water back into the tank either via your RV's city water connection or through your RV's fresh water tank and water pump. Flushing additional water back into the hot water tank (while the plug is still removed) will cause any remaining sediment to be flushed clean.

After the tank is empty, the threads on the plug are cleaned and lubricated, replace the plug into the hot water tank. It's time to operate the by-pass valves - these valves isolate the hot water tank from the rest of your RV's plumbing system allowing you to winterize the system using RV plumbing antifreeze without the need to fill the hot water tank with the fluid which is not only unnecessary, but expensive due to the quantity of antifreeze required. More than likely your water tank will have either a single valve system or a double valve system. You may need to remove an interior panel behind your water heater inside your RV to gain access to these valves, but in many RV's where the hot water tank is easily accessible (such as underneath a bed) accessing these vales is easy. In either case all valves should be turned to the alternate position now so that liquids will "Bypass" the hot water tank itself, yet still flow through the remainder of the RV's plumbing. If you want to test the system to be sure the by-pass is correctly set you can do so now by running some water through hot water faucet while the hot water drain plug is still removed. If it comes out the faucet, great, but if you hear it running into the hot water tank itself (and then draining out the drain hole) something is incorrect - No water should be entering your hot water tank if the valves are set to bypass correctly. If this accidentally happens be sure correctly set the valves (and confirm) and then ensure that you drain out the water that was accidentally introduced to the hot water tank.

Some hot water tanks (particularly in older RV's) may not have bypass values fitted. If so, you can have them installed by any RV dealer, or do it yourself. Of course you can still winterize your system even if you are not equipped with a bypass, but be prepared to consume much more winterizing fluid as you will need to fill your hot water tank in order to complete the task. If you have a five gallon hot water tank you will need to ensure you have at least 5 *extra* gallons of plumbing antifreeze on hand as you will need to pump your hot water tank full of the antifreeze before it will flow out to the rest of the hot water system in your RV to complete the winterization.

Once you have confirmed that your hot water tank is bypassed correctly (if so equipped) it's now it's time to drain the fresh water storage tank as fully as possible. Some tanks do not easily drain completely and leaving a gallon or two of water in the bottom can easily occur. Opening the drain valve and taking a short drive with lots of stops, starts or turns can help in draining more of the residual water from the tank. If the drain is on one end of the tank you can also drive your trailer up onto blocks to cause the water to pool at the same end as the drain, and exit the tank. A small amount of residual water in the tank is acceptable and will not cause damage, but you should try to get out as much as possible.

Time to attach the adapter to the city-water connection now. The necessary adapter is available at most RV stores, or you can do what many people do and make your own using an old male garden hose end with an adapter to hook your air compressor to the adapter hose.

Be sure that your air source is set to the correct air pressure. Many older RVs are rated for a maximum water pressure of 40 PSI so these should only use 40 PSI of air pressure to blow out the lines . Some newer units are rated for a maximum of 60 PSI of water pressure and they can handle that same amount of air pressure, but more then 30 to 40 PSI is mostly unnecessary so it's best to be safe then sorry - Using too much pressure can cause leaks that may not show up until next summer. If you use a compressor that does not have a regulator that allows you to set the pressure you need to take extreme care to ensure that your compressor does not accidentally over pressurize the system. A proper pressure gauge on whatever compressor you use is ESSENTIAL. Remember, blowing plumbing lines because of using too much air pressure can be just as damaging as frozen lines, so take care!

It's BEST to have a helper available to assist you in blowing out lines. One can hold the air hose on the adapter (and monitor the pressure) while the helper moves from one faucet to the next, opening it until nothing but air comes out, then closing it and moving on to the next one. If you use a compressor with a regulator that allows you to select the pressure you want, (and has a guage to confirm it) and have also constructed a blow-out adapter that stays secured by itself one person CAN do this job alone, but a helper never hurts!

It's important to open and close ALL taps in your RV including ones you may forget about such as the outside shower, your toilet, and your tub/shower. If your fridge is equipped with an ice-maker it's also very important to ensure you follow your manufacturers instructions to properly evacuate the ice maker system of all water as well. If it consumes or flows water, it must be winterized properly!

After all faucets throughout the RV have been “bled” it's time to blow out the low point drain plug if you have them. Some drains have caps that are removed, usually from under the RV while others have valves to open, usually from inside the RV. In either case these drains (one for hot water and one for cold) will be located at the lowest point in the plumbing system. The low point drains are easy to find, usually blatantly sticking out of the bottom exteropr floor of the RV. The hot and cold drains are usually immediately next to each other but they may be separate depending on the layout of your RV plumbing system.

Again, many older RV's do not have low point drains - if this is the case with your RV it's imperative you take extra care and extra time during the blow-out process to ensure as much water is evacuated from the system as possible - you may need to leave some taps open (under air pressure) for extended periods of time to get as much water out of the lines as possible. Without low-point drains it's also imperative to use plumbing antifreeze even if it seems like you have blown out all the water successfully - water can pool in the lines and cause damage.

If you're using only the “blow out” system you are almost finished now. Just make sure you replace drain plug in the water heater (to keep insects etc. out) and close the low point drains and drain valve on the fresh water storage tank.

If only using the blow-out method (with no intention of introducing antifreeze to the system) it's suggested that all taps be left in the OPEN position - this prevents any small amount of water left in the tap mechanisms from expanding and damaging the taps when it freezes. It should be unnecessary if you have blown out your plumbing adequately, but it's an extra step of potential protection that costs you nothing.

It's important to ensure that you either blow-out the P-Traps underneath sinks and your shower (use low air pressure for this purpose) or add a sufficient amount of plumbing antifreeze to displace ALL water. These P-Traps can and will freeze and break if not winterized properly, and some can be difficult to repair if hidden under floors as can be the case with showers/tubs. A few dollars worth of plumbing antifreeze can save you a great deal of hassle in spring. Be sure to flush any remaining water from the toilet bowl as well and pour a cup of plumbing antifreeze in the toilet to keep the seal from drying out over the winter.

Contrary to some suggestions windshield washer antifreeze is NOT acceptable to winterize P-Traps - the alcohol in it can evaporate leaving only water, which of course will then freeze.

Using RV Antifreeze for winterizing:

RV Antifreeze is a bit more expensive than simply blowing out the lines but it's less likely to be botched. When weather is colder or the cold lasts longer it is often considered a safer method of winterizing than blowing out lines. Doing both methods is all but a guarantee for no problems come spring.

It should not need to be said, but NEVER use anything other then proper plumbing antifreeze to winterize your RV's drinking water system. All other types of antifreeze are unsafe for human consumption and even the traces that will be left in your water system in the spring can lead to serious illness or death. USE ONLY PROPERLY MARKED PLUMBING-GRADE ANTIFREEZE FOR WINTERIZATION OF YOUR RV! The anti-freeze used in your vehicles cooling system is NOT ACCEPTABLE for winterizing your RV's plumbing system as it is highly toxic! Plumbing antifreeze can be obtained at many hardware and large chain stores, or found at virtually any RV dealer in the fall. Although you should flush your system in the spring to remove as much of the plumbing antifreeze as possible, traces that left are left in the system are non-toxic.


The initial steps to be taken are the same as above - drain you hot water tank, empty your fresh water tank as much as possible, remove and drain low point drains (opening all taps while the covers are off to let water drain-back to the drains) and if you choose to do so, follow the above steps to "Blow out" your water system using an air compressor. Always remember ALL taps and sources of water including your toilet and outside shower. Blowing out your water system ahead of time is optional if using plumbing antifreeze, but it will help ensure that the antifreeze isn't overly diluted by standing water in the RV's plumbing system, thereby possibly rendering it less effective against extreme cold temperatures.

If you have a fresh water tank by-pass kit installed you can winterize using antifreeze using about half as much antifreeze as those who must put the antifreeze in the fresh water storage tank to pump it through the system.

A fresh water tank bypass allows you to use your RV's water pump to actually pump the antifreeze throughout the RV without the need to actually pour the antifreeze into the tank first - a hose from the bypass simply draws directly from the bottles of RV antifreeze directly to your water pump. If you do not have one installed you will be forced to add a considerable quantity of plumbing antifreeze to your fresh water tank in order for your pump to be able to draw it and then pump it through the system for you. If you must use this method it is also very important to ensure that you remove as much water as is physically possible from your RV's freshwater tank FIRST - any water left in your fresh tank before introducing the plumbing antifreeze will severely dilute the antifreeze solution, possibly resulting in insufficient strength to provide freeze protection.

If you have a bypass kit, switch the bypass valve to draw from your bottle of antifreeze and you are now ready to proceed - It's now time to put the hose into the antifreeze bottle and hold it there while a helper turns on the water pump switch so the pump will pressurize itself.

If you do not have a bypass kit you can obtain a piece of hose that will fit your water pump and craft one of your own - simply disconnect the feed side of your water pump (the hose that leads to your water tank) and place the hose you obtained onto the inlet side of your water pump, and then place the end of this line into your antifreeze bottles - your water pump will now draw antifreeze directly from your bottles of plumbing antifreeze instead of your water tank. With that done, only a few steps remain, and your water pump does almost all of the rest of the work for you!

The assistant will go to the first water faucet and open it to allow the pump to pull antifreeze from the bottle until it comes out the faucet. Turn that faucet off and follow the same procedure for the hot water side. When the water coming out turns the same color as the antifreeze it's done. After you've done this with all water lines in the RV you should be finished. It may not not be necessary to put any antifreeze in the traps using this method as it will have already flushed some down each sink, tub and stool, but it does not hurt to add some additional full strength antifreeze in the drains if you have any concerns.

Be sure all faucets are closed, the pump is turned off, water tank drains and hot water tank drains are all closed and the system should be good for the winter. Turn off your water pump bypass (if equipped) to prevent any plumbing antifreeze from accidentally flowing back onto your floor/carpet.

Some people recommend leaving taps open (to provide for any accidental expansion) but it's typically unnecessary if the plumbing antifreeze in your system is of adequate strength.

Don't be concerned about the pink plumbing antifreeze staining plastic or porcelain sinks, toilets or tubs. It will rinse right off next spring with little effort.

Check back in the spring for our How-To on "Un Winterizing" your RV. The good news is that it's even easier.

Happy winterizing!
User avatar
PrivatePilot
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 717
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2008 11:34 pm
Location: Courtice, Ontario, Canada

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby fla-gypsy on Thu Oct 23, 2008 7:40 pm

Great job guys!
2006 Keystone Hornet 29RLS
09 F-250 SuperDuty Crew Cab 6.8L
http://community.webshots.com/user/flagypsy57
St Andrews State Park cult member
User avatar
fla-gypsy
Senior Member
Senior Member
 
Posts: 288
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:47 pm
Location: North Florida

Florida winterizing

Unread postby fla-gypsy on Mon Oct 27, 2008 9:45 pm

This is the Florida version of winterizing.

Open camper door

Add 1 pair of long pants

Add 1 jacket

Lock camper door
2006 Keystone Hornet 29RLS
09 F-250 SuperDuty Crew Cab 6.8L
http://community.webshots.com/user/flagypsy57
St Andrews State Park cult member
User avatar
fla-gypsy
Senior Member
Senior Member
 
Posts: 288
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:47 pm
Location: North Florida

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby beddows on Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:46 pm

Pretty good, one other piece of advice, pour 1/2 gallon into the black tank & the gray tank. Momentarily open & release the flush drains. This will ensure the seals have pink stuff around them, not moisture. These valves are difficult to replace if the seals get damaged by icing, especially those operated by cables and located to the front. You will end up with a bit of guck when you open the main drain after, but if you've already dumped the tanks first it will be minimal.

I also open up the fresh water & hot water drain and drive around, preferably on a bumpy road before putting the RV away for winter. This tends to get rid of any water residue in both those tanks.
2008 SnowRiver 10.8 Signature edition with Command Seating
2004 Chev Silverado Dmax dually
http://www.natcoa.org

Image
beddows
Member
Member
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:00 pm
Location: Abbotsford, BC Canada

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby rick on Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:35 pm

My sink P-traps are very easy to remove and drain. I place a pie tin underneath to catch the inevitable overflow and unscrew both nuts. Then I slide the trap down the drain pipe and off. I even find I can wash the traps thereby removing gunk and food particles that don't get flushed to the grey tank with the low water flow rates. No uncertainty about remaining water and no need for antifreeze in them. Shower is a different beast and antifreeze is a must.

I completely disconnect the inlet and outlet to the water pump (simple snap connections) to ensure no water is trapped in there as I don't trust blowing air through the pump.

I appreciate the hint about a small amount of antifreeze in the tank valves and toilet seal. They do dry out way too much otherwise.

Rick
rick
New Member
New Member
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:43 pm

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby skipnchar on Sat Nov 08, 2008 5:47 pm

Draining the traps would certainly protect them from freezing but how about odors? Seems like MOST gray tanks can have as much odor as black tanks and I wouldn't want that pathway open all winter.
2007 Rockwood 8314SS Travel Trailer
F-150 HD OR F-250 PSD SCREW (whichever I feel like driving)

Image
User avatar
skipnchar
Senior Contributor
Senior Contributor
 
Posts: 886
Joined: Wed Mar 12, 2008 1:20 am
Location: Topeka Kansas

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:21 am

skipnchar wrote:Draining the traps would certainly protect them from freezing but how about odors? Seems like MOST gray tanks can have as much odor as black tanks and I wouldn't want that pathway open all winter.


I agree. I usually blow out all my traps with compressed air to get the water out, but I immediately top them up with antifreeze to create the vapor seal again.
User avatar
PrivatePilot
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 717
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2008 11:34 pm
Location: Courtice, Ontario, Canada

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby mopar1973 on Sun May 29, 2011 9:47 am

So far I've been using the blow out method and working much better that the dealer did with anti-freeze...

I've got another trick for the water heater since Atwood's tend to hold about a quart of water I got a piece of vinyl tubing and a shop vac to draw out the last tidbit of water.

As for the p-traps I blow them out as well with air and leave empty. Never had a odor issue last winter.
Attachments
DSCF4189.JPG
Michael Nelson - aka: Mopar1973Man
2002 Dodge Ram Cummins Towing 2000 Jayco Eagle 296 FBS
Image
mopar1973
New Member
New Member
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 11:02 pm
Location: New Meadows, Idaho

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby swneligan on Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:33 am

Look carefully around the exterior and interior of your home and decide what needs to be done. Write it all down to create a checklist. This essential “plan of action” will come in handy when it’s time to open up the place again, because without it, you probably won’t be able to remember all the things that have to be “un-done.” To help you develop your own checklist,

1.Water, outdoor items, plants, and external fittings all need some attention when winterizing.
2.Turn off the water at the main supply point. make sure that the water supply is turned off completely at the mains
3.Drain all water that can be drained.
4.Protect the garden and outdoor plants. Cover any plants that are frost intolerant and would benefit from covering.
5.Bring in outdoor furniture, hammocks, seats, delicate garden ornamentation, hose pipes etc.
6.Close flues and dampers.
7.Lock away all pleasure craft such as boats, ATVs, bicycles, canoes. kayaks, cars etc. Block window views into this storage space.
8.Take all the trash out of your home before you leave, #* Leave nothing outdoors that can be blown about by a strong wind
swneligan
New Member
New Member
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:26 am
Location: Sydney, Autralia

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby frank on Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:59 pm

When I winterized my RV all I do is drain all my lines drain the hot water tank turn the bypass valve and run and freeze through all the lines and also the outside shower I do not blow air through the lines I read a long time ago that you do not have to do both and I also, dump a little extra freeze down the toilet and shower and that's about it for winterized of course I make sure there's lots of air in the tires and all the little extras that we do

So that's about it it works for me I have not had any problems
User avatar
frank
Senior Member
Senior Member
 
Posts: 379
Joined: Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:15 am
Location: Ontario

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby pwall on Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:14 pm

All this talk about winterizing our trailers and summer isn't over yet!

For me, I use the compressed air method, but do put plumbing antifreeze down the drains.
Patrick.
Image
User avatar
pwall
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 701
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:50 pm
Location: Ontario

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby frank on Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:44 am

The pink stuff will definitely not heard anything and Labor Day weekend is coming up. Lots of people will be camping and then the winterizing will start :cry:
User avatar
frank
Senior Member
Senior Member
 
Posts: 379
Joined: Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:15 am
Location: Ontario

Re: Winterizing How-To

Unread postby EPDMLiquidRoofRV on Wed May 17, 2017 6:37 am

Excellent professional effort guys. You people shared great winterizing tips, I really appreciate your efforts. Thanks for sharing.
EPDMLiquidRoofRV
New Member
New Member
 
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2016 3:31 am


Return to Plumbing

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Up Login   Register Up