A step-by-step guide to Winterizing your RV

Tis the season,
Pipes will be a freezin'

Winterizing your RV is an essential part of RV ownership. As with any major investment, house, cottage, boat, or vehicle they all require maintenance and upkeep. Some require more than others, but the basics in each of these investments is much the same and as the seasons change in Ontario, so do the maintenance requirements. 

An RV is likely one of the largest purchases you’ll make, next to a house. Something that you’ve likely put lots of thought into. Ideally, it will provide you with years of enjoyment if properly cared for. So, you may be wondering if winterizing your RV is necessary?  And the answer is, Absolutely, yes, it is!

Winterization is no joke! Get it done.

Winterizing protects the pipes and tanks from damage due to bursting. When temperatures drop and water freezes, it expands and it’s this expansion that can cause major problems to the pipes, tanks, and fittings. Pipes and fittings can break, and tanks can crack and suddenly your entire plumbing system could be damaged. 

Causing you thousands of dollars in repairs. Additionally, winterizing your RV will prevent against infestation of rodents and unwanted pest. With frigid temperatures in Ontario during the winter months it is imperative that winterizing your RV be taken seriously and that the necessary steps followed to ensure your trailer is properly stored. 

There are two options when it comes to winterizing your unit.

  1. 1. Do it yourself.
  2. 2. Hire a local RV company to do it for you. 

The cost to hire an RV company will run you roughly $150 – $200 and take approximately 1 hour. 

Doing it yourself may save you a few dollars, however the upfront cost if you’ve never done it before may be the deal breaker in the beginning. 

Although in the long run will save you big bucks over the life of RV ownership.

Below is a list of tools and supplies you will need to get the job done.  

Cordless power drill with #2 square tip driver bit. 

Socket wrench and 1-1/16″ socket


New anode rod or plastic plug

3-4 gallons of antifreeze (a little extra never hurts)

A set of open-end wrenches

Siphoning kit (if the pump is not already equipped)

Water heater bypass kit (if not already equipped)

Needle nose pliers or a screwdriver

9 key Steps to Winterization

1. Drain and Flush the Black and Gray Water Tanks.

It’s extremely important to not let wastewater sit in your RV all winter long. Not only can those tanks be a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, but the water can also freeze and cause issues. Drain both, starting with the black water tank and then the gray water tank. Once both are drained, clean the black tank with a special black tank cleaner or a cleaning wand.
2. Drain and Flush the Water Heater.
You’ll also need to get the water out of your water heater. This means you need to turn it off and let it cool down, and not be under pressure. Hook up city water to your RV with the water turned off. From there, you can use your socket wrench to remove the drain plug or anode rod and then open the pressure relief valve. This will let the water drain out. Don’t drain the water heater if it’s hot or has pressure built up. Wait until the temperature and pressure come down. Once drained, turn the water pressure on and flush out the sediment for 2-3 minutes. Remove the anode rod if old and leave it out during winter; make a note to install a new one in the spring.


3. Bypass the Water Heater.
Before adding anti-freeze to your RV, you need to make sure you bypass the water heater. You don’t want any antifreeze making its way into the water heater. Some RVs will have a bypass already installed. To find the water heater, locate where the water heater service door is on the exterior of the RV and line that up with where it feeds into inside. Often, there’s an access panel inside that you will need to remove. Using your drill and square tip driver bit, remove the panel to access the valves and adjust them to properly bypass the water heater.

4. Drain the Fresh Tank and Low Point Drains.
Be sure the water pressure is off before removing the plug and draining the freshwater tank. It’s a good idea to open the faucets to help facilitate flow. When finished, close all the faucets and plug the low point drains.

You're half way there...

5. Locate the Water Pump.
Attach the siphoning kit, or if your RV is equipped locate the siphoning hose and place it inside your gallon of antifreeze. Open the valve. Turn on the water pump to allow the antifreeze to start flowing through the water system.

6. Open External Faucets and Valves on the Outside of the RV
Beginning with the lowest valve and working your way up, open low point drains valves or loosen the low point drain plugs to allow water to run out. Do so until the water turns pink (this is the antifreeze making its way thoroughly through the pipes), then close the valves or retighten the plugs. Turn on any outside showers or exterior faucets, running one side (hot or cold) until it runs pink then close it and run the other.

7. Open Internal Faucets, Showers, and Toilets.
Repeating the process from step six, run the faucets inside (kitchen, bathroom, and showers) starting with one side until it runs pink then closing it and running the other side. Then do the same thing for all toilets until you see the antifreeze.

8. Pour Antifreeze Down P-Traps.

After that, you should pour some additional antifreeze down the drain of each sink, shower, and toilet in the RV to ensure the exterior termination pipes don’t freeze over winter. With all that done, you should double-check that the water heater’s heating element is turned off and all faucets are closed.

9. Contact your Insurance Broker and let them know you’re storing your RV.
Advising your Broker that you have stored your RV may seem a little bit like overkill. But the reality is that Insurance coverage against fire, theft, vandalism, or other incidents that may occur during storage is necessary and often requested by the storage companies – after all even a stored RV is not immune to fire!

Congrats, you're done!

And just like that… You are done! Now that it’s done, It wasn’t so bad, was it?

Your RV is now winterized and you can rest knowing your RV is protected from the winter elements. But, there is one more thing worth mentioning – Do not use automotive antifreeze, it is toxic and not meant for potable sources. Also do not attempt to use the plumbing systems or water heater after winterization is complete.

If you’ve read thru the above and you just cannot bring yourself to winterizing your unit on your own, contact your local RV shop and arrange for a Winterizing Service.

As mentioned above it will run you a couple hundred dollars at most and may chew up 1/2 of your Saturday but you’ll thank yourself in the long run. 

Remember a properly winterized RV means less headache and stress in the spring when it’s time to De-winterize. De-winterize? (Yes, it’s that’s a thing!) Be sure to check back in early March for our De-winterizing blog and step by step guide to getting it done.