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Beginner’s Tips: How to Winterize Your Motorhome

There comes a point each year when many motorhome owners have to winterize their rig. 

It can be an intimidating and overwhelming process for those new to RVing. If you don’t do it correctly, you could cause severe and costly damage.

Today, we’ll walk you through how to winterize your motorhome so it’s ready for spring and summer adventures.

Let’s kick things off!

A woman writing on a pad of paper. Make yourself a checklist to follow every time you winterize your motorhome.
Make yourself a checklist to follow every time you winterize your motorhome

What Does it Mean to Winterize a Motorhome?

When you winterize your motorhome, it involves draining and protecting the plumbing system during cold winter weather. This process includes all of the tanks, lines, and faucets. Completing this critical task helps to safeguard the system from damage due to expansion during freezes.

You can also use this opportunity to inspect your rig and perform annual maintenance. It’s an excellent time to examine the seals closely and complete any items the manufacturer recommends.

You’ll likely avoid unpleasant surprises on your next trip by taking time with the winterizing process. You don’t want to start the camping season with a hefty repair bill.

When Should I Winterize My Motorhome?

Knowing when you should winterize your motorhome is essential. Typically, the two most common scenarios are when you’re storing your unit for the winter or when you’re expecting freezing temperatures.

If you’re like most owners, your RV will sit unused in storage for several months. Protecting it is still a good idea even if you live in an area that doesn’t experience extreme winter conditions. 

Water sitting in your plumbing for months may result in harmful bacterial growth. It can lead to odors and cause digestive issues when consumed.

Additionally, it’s wise to protect your camper if temperatures remain below 20 degrees for long periods during the coldest months. Most manufacturers skimp on insulation, leaving components vulnerable to the elements.

Even if you’re actively using your motorhome during the winter, you’ll still want to winterize it to protect it from the elements. However, you’ll have some limitations when using the plumbing system.

So, the best time to prepare your RV for winter will be in the late fall for most regions in the US. You don’t want to put it off until the last minute, especially if it’ll be your first time doing it. 

Do you have a trailer instead? How to Winterize Your Travel Trailer – Tips for Beginners.

What Items Do I Need to Winterize My Motorhome?

Like any project, the first step is to gather the tools and equipment you need to complete the job. One essential item required is RV antifreeze. You’ll want to buy two to three gallons. How much you’ll use will depend on the size of your motorhome and the number of sinks, showers, and toilets.

You’ll also need a way to siphon the antifreeze into your system. Some units have a siphoning feature where you only connect a hose. Unfortunately, not every camper has this option, so you may need to purchase a converter kit.

Having several other tools on hand is also a good idea. Wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, and a socket set may all be helpful during the process. They can help loosen and disconnect your plumbing system’s lines, drain plugs, and other fittings.

Do you know What Happens If You Don’t Winterize Your Camper?

7 Steps for Winterizing Your Motorhome

The following steps will help you efficiently winterize your motorhome. Again, take your time so you don’t accidentally overlook anything. 

#1 Remove Water Filters

The first step is to remove the water filters. Moving the antifreeze through them can cause permanent damage if you leave them in place. 

When storing the filters, ensure they’re in a safe space protected from cold temperatures. Depending on their condition, you may need to replace them anyway. It’s a good idea to order new ones now, so you have them ready for the next season.

#2 Drain and Flush Wastewater Tanks

Next, you’ll want to drain and flush your waste tanks. If you can’t do this step at home, book a campsite with full hookups. This will give you access to a water source and sewer connection. 

Many rigs come with a black tank flush port. Connect your hose to this connection and fill the tank about three-quarters full. Once at this level, dump it into the sewer. Repeat until the contents are clear and debris-free.

While the gray tank isn’t nearly as gross, it still needs draining and flushing. Run the faucets until water fills the tank, then pull the valve to dump it. There’ll likely be food particles and other gunk stuck to the bottom. Again, this may require you to repeat this step multiple times.

A man is emptying the RV sewer in his motorhome in preparation for winterizing it.
Be sure all your waste and water tanks are empty

#3 Drain and Flush Water Heater Tank

Once your waste tanks are empty, move on to your water heater. Unfortunately, this is one step many overlook when winterizing their motorhomes. It can be an expensive lesson. If you follow these tips, you won’t have to learn the hard way.

To complete this step, turn off the water heater and let its contents cool. If you rush, you’ll end up with scalding hot water pouring out when you remove the drain plug. Depending on the temperature, it could result in severe burns and a trip to the emergency room.

After it drains completely, use a wand attachment with a hose to clean the inside. Calcium and other deposits can build up, causing clogs and other issues. Giving it a good rinse once or twice a year can help you avoid potential problems.

When complete, if applicable, inspect your anode rod. You can leave it out to help ensure nothing remains throughout the winter. If the rod needs replacing, order a new one now. This ensures you have it on hand for the next camping season.

#4 Bypass the Water Heater

The next step is to bypass your water heater. Skipping this step could require purchasing up to twelve additional gallons of RV antifreeze. This will drastically increase the overall cost of winterizing your motorhome. You can avoid the expense by adjusting a few knobs.

However, the bypassing process varies between units. It’s best to consult your owner’s manual for instructions on how to do this step. Or contact the manufacturer’s customer service department. They’ll likely be able to assist you.

#5 Drain Freshwater Tank

Another step required to winterize your motorhome properly is draining the freshwater tank. Many models feature a valve you can pull that quickly dumps it onto the ground. The goal is to get as much out as possible.

An alternative way to drain it is by opening the faucets individually to drain into the gray water tank. Turn on all showers and sinks until they run empty. When finished, close all connections and empty the gray tank again. 

#6 Add Antifreeze to the Plumbing System

Use a siphoning kit or the features built into your motorhome for this next step in winterization. Attach a hose and place the other end into a gallon of antifreeze. Turn on your pump and then open each valve.

If all goes as planned, the pump will suck the antifreeze from the gallon and run it through the plumbing system. Open each faucet’s cold and hot sides until you see the distinct bright pink color. Once you notice it, close the tap and repeat on every toilet, shower, and faucet.

This is one of the more popular antifreeze brands for RVs: Splash RV/Marine Antifreeze.

#7 Pour Antifreeze Down Drains

Plumbing systems often use P-Traps to reduce the chances of smells entering the living space. As a result, it’s a good idea to pour some RV antifreeze down each drain. Doing so will protect these pipes from issues if any remaining liquids inside of them were to freeze.

You won’t need much antifreeze for this step. A cup or two in each drain is enough to keep them safe.

Can I Pay Someone to Winterize My Motorhome?

Of course, you can pay someone to winterize your motorhome. There’s always someone willing to take your money for tasks you can easily do yourself on your rig. 

But if you don’t have the time or feel uncomfortable with the process, hiring someone is an option. Professional service will likely cost you between $125 and $175. On the other hand, doing it yourself will only set you back approximately $35. 

Winterize Your Motorhome to Avoid Costly Repairs

You likely paid a pretty penny for your camper. As a result, you want to keep it in good condition as long as possible.

While winterizing your motorhome may sound complicated or lengthy, it‘s not as bad as you might think. By doing the necessary maintenance on your rig, you’ll be able to enjoy many years of fun adventures.

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