Your Complete RV Winterizing Checklist: How-To Guide

RV Winterization Checklist!

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As the leaves start falling and the days get shorter, RV enthusiasts start accepting the end of the camping season. This time of year is when winterizing your RV becomes a top priority. Having an RV winterizing checklist is the first step toward success. In this article, I provide all the steps needed and downloadable checklists!

This process is crucial in ensuring your RV lasts longer and is ready for more adventures come spring. These preventative measures can help avoid costly damage.

Preparing for Winter: The Essentials

Before delving into the step-by-step guide, ensure you have all the essentials. Collect the following items before starting the process:

  1. Non-toxic RV Antifreeze: The amount you’ll need depends on the size and layout of your RV’s plumbing lines, but generally, 2 to 5 gallons should suffice.
  2. Water Heater By-pass Kit: Confirm whether your RV has a water heater bypass; if not, consider buying and installing one.
  3. Holding Tank Cleaning Wand: If your RV does not have a black tank flush system, a cleaning wand is crucial for maintaining its sanitation system.
  4. Water Pump Converter Kit or Tubing: Confirm whether you have one. If not, consider buying and installing one.
  5. Basic Hand Tools: Pliers and a ratchet will come in handy for removing drain plugs.

Now, armed with these essentials, let’s start winterizing your RV to shield it from the harsh effects of winter.

Step 1: Protecting the Water System

Begin by referring to your RV’s owner manuals for specific winterizing guidelines. The following steps should generally apply:

  • 🔲Close the city water and remove any inline water filters (store these indoors).
  • 🔲 Open all hot and cold faucets, including the toilet valve and outside shower, if applicable.
  • 🔲Drain the fresh water holding tank thoroughly.
  • 🔲Drain and flush the gray tanks and black tanks. For RVs without a built-in tank flushing system, consider using a wand or a product like Flush King to clean the black tank thoroughly to keep the tank flushing system clean. Remember to lubricate the termination valves with WD-40 to keep everything working.
  • 🔲Turn off the water heater and allow it to cool. Remove the water heater drain plug and drain the hot water tank thoroughly. Inspect the anode rode. WARNING – Never drain the water heater when it is hot or under pressure! Drain the water heater once it is cooled.
  • 🔲 Locate and open low-point drain lines for hot and cold water. You can use the water pump to help speed this process up. After the draining is complete, turn off the water pump.
  • 🔲Some RVers will use an air compressor to blow out residual moisture in the lines.
  • 🔲 Recap and close all drains and faucets.
  • 🔲Bypass the water heater unless a bypass kit is present to prevent wasting antifreeze. If you do not bypass the water heater, you will waste several gallons of RV antifreeze.
  • 🔲If needed, install a water pump converter kit or disconnect the inlet side of the water pump. Connect a clear tube to the inlet side, leading to a gallon of non-toxic RV antifreeze.
  • 🔲Pressurize the system by turning on the water pump. Go to the closest faucet and slowly open the cold valve until you see antifreeze. Then, close the valve. Repeat this process for all hot and cold valves for every faucet. Do not forget the toilet or the outdoor shower or sinks.
  • 🔲Flush the toilet until antifreeze is visible.
  • 🔲Turn off the water pump, open a faucet to release pressure, and head outside to the city water inlet. Remove the screen, push in on the valve with a small screwdriver until antifreeze is visible, and replace the screen.
  • 🔲Pour a cup of antifreeze down each drain, including the shower, and add a couple of cups to the toilet, flushing it into the holding tank. Ensure you pour antifreeze in the black water tank and gray water tanks.
  • 🔲 Ensure the water heater’s electric heating element is off and all faucets are closed.
  • 🔲 Consult your owner manuals for additional steps related to winterizing ice makers and washing machines.

The above steps will assist you in winterizing your RV water system. Always consult your RV owner’s manual for any winterizing guidelines specific to your RV.

Step 2: Other Crucial Systems to Consider

Winterizing isn’t solely for the water system; several other aspects of your RV demand attention to ensure comprehensive protection against the winter elements.

Waste Water System:

  • 🔲 Inspect and lubricate termination (inlet) valves.
  • 🔲 Check the sewer hose and seals for any signs of wear or damage.
  • 🔲 Drain the freshwater holding tank, ensuring it’s completely emptied.
  • 🔲For the gray and black water holding tanks, drain and flush them thoroughly. Make sure that all valves are fully closed.

Electrical System:

  • 🔲Remove the RV battery and store it in a cool, dry place.
  • 🔲Recharge it every three months or use a trickle charger. Remember never to store a battery on a concrete floor, as it can discharge quickly. 
  • 🔲Cover the battery cables with plastic bags to protect them from the elements.

Propane (LP):

  • 🔲 Close the propane tanks.
  • 🔲 Cover the regulator assembly with plastic bags to shield it from winter weather.

Prepare the Inside:

  • 🔲Empty all drawers and cabinets
  • 🔲Wash and sanitize surfaces
  • 🔲Vacuum the floors
  • 🔲Scrub the shower and sinks
  • 🔲Clean the toilet
  • 🔲Clean the stovetop and oven
  • 🔲Empty and defrost the fridge
  • 🔲Clean and store all dishes
  • 🔲Dry the inside of the fridge, sink, and showers
  • 🔲Leave the refrigerator door open
  • 🔲Empty trashcans
  • 🔲Lock all windows and hatches

Final Touches:

  • 🔲 Remove all dry-cell batteries from devices such as lamps, clocks, gas, and smoke detectors.
  • 🔲 Give your RV a thorough wash and apply a coat of high-quality wax or protectant to shield the exterior from winter’s harsh elements.
  • 🔲 Clean and let the awning dry, lubricating all moving parts with silicon spray.
  • 🔲 Inflate all tires to their maximum pressure rating, and consider using tire covers to prevent weather and sun damage.
  • 🔲 Clear your RV of any freezable foods and liquids.
  • 🔲 Lower the radio/TV antenna if necessary.
  • 🔲 Install plastic bags or covers on outside vents to prevent critters from nesting.
  • 🔲 Remove, clean, and replace your air conditioner filter(s).
  • 🔲 Consider using an air conditioner (A/C) winter cover – opt for a proper A/C cover rather than a plastic bag to avoid condensation damage.
  • 🔲 Inspect the roof and re-caulk where necessary, installing roof vent covers.
  • 🔲 Inspect the underside of the RV thoroughly, sealing any potential entry points for rodents.
  • 🔲 Some RVers use dryer sheets under mattresses and cushions to keep mice away.
  • 🔲 Use excess moisture absorbers like DampRid throughout your RV, especially in restricted airflow areas.  
  • 🔲 Close all windows. Consider leaving one sheltered window and one roof vent cracked open to provide minimal airflow. Leaving one cracked may help prevent musty odors or mildew.
  • 🔲 Minimize sun exposure on interior surfaces by closing all window blinds. Leave interior doors, drawers, and cabinets open.
  • 🔲 Service all locks with a graphite spray lubricant and lubricate all hinges and moving parts with WD-40.
  • 🔲 If you decide to cover your RV, only use a breathable, high-quality cover. Covering your RV with plastic tarps can cause moisture buildup.
  • 🔲If your RV will be outside, consider installing skirting around the base and tires to prevent snow and ice from getting underneath.

By diligently following this expanded winterizing checklist, you’re ensuring the longevity and health of your RV and paving the way for a seamless return to adventure when the warmer days of spring arrive. Remember to consult your RV’s specific manuals for unique requirements. Winterizing your RV may seem meticulous, but the peace of mind and potential savings in repair bills make it worthwhile.

Click below for a printable RV Winterizing Checklist.

When the snow starts to melt, it will be time to take your RV out of storage. Don’t worry! We have an RV de-winterizing guide! There is also a RV Inspection Checklist and an RV Maintenance Checklist you should review.

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out our disclosure for more information.

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