How To De-Winterize Your RV

June 30, 2020

How To De-Winterize Your RV. Pulling Your RV out of storage to prepare get ready for spring and summer camping. Unique Camping and Marine

Disclaimer: This article is meant to provide an overview of the RV de-winterization process and give you general information on how it works. If you do not feel completely comfortable and competent with everything that is covered in this article, we recommend that you do not attempt to de-winterize your RV at home; instead, please have a certified technician at a service center or dealership properly de-winterize your RV.

Key Points:

  • There are a few things you’ll need before you begin de-winterization. You’ll need two tools: a screwdriver and a socket + torque wrench. You may need to purchase a new anode rod, freshener for your water system, a tube of silicone or caulk for your RV’s window seals, and a tube of sealant for your RV roof.
  • To complete de-winterization, remove all the antifreeze from your RV’s water system by closing all your tanks, turning off the bypass on your water heater, connecting to city water, and flushing all the antifreeze from your system. Check your water pump to make sure it’s de-winterized and functioning properly.
  • Next, clean and sanitize your water system by pouring a half gallon or one gallon of freshener into your fresh water tank, filling the tank the rest of the way with fresh water, and emptying the tank by running your water pump.
  • Check the seals on your roof and windows. Additionally, inspect your batteries, tires, and appliances.
  • If you didn't do a deep clean of your black water tank before winterizing, do a thorough clean-out with Unique Tank Cleaner  to kick off the camping season!

Getting Your RV Ready For Summer

Those cold, cozy days of winter have now passed and the warmer weather is quickly approaching! We know you’re probably itching to get out and enjoy the sunshine, but how do you prepare your RV to get back outside? 

This article will give you an overview of how to de-winterize your RV at home!

If you properly winterized your RV (see our article here) when you put it away for the winter, then the process of de-winterization should be pretty smooth and relatively easy, since it’s essentially the reverse of the winterization process. However, we want to be very clear that if you don't feel completely confident de-winterizing your unit yourself, or you are unsure of any of the steps below, it’s probably best to have a certified professional complete the de-winterization process.

That being said, even if you choose to have your RV professionally de-winterized, it’s still helpful to understand the process, which is outlined in detail below. Also, since most RVs are similar, these recommendations should apply to your RV, no matter what class or type you own. Even so, there are some processes that will be different on some units, so it’s important to check your RVs user manual for instructions about de-winterizing your specific unit.

Supplies You’ll Need

Before you jump into the de-winterization process, you’ll need to gather supplies. First off, you’ll need some tools, including the following:

  1. A screwdriver. A manual screwdriver will work, but an electric-powered screwdriver will make your job much easier!
  2. A socket and torque wrench for your water heater plug. Most likely, you’ll need a 1 and 1/16-inch socket.

Things that you may need to purchase:

  • A new anode rod. These rods wear down over time, and it’s important to replace them in order to keep your RV’s water system from calcifying. The good news is that they’re relatively inexpensive. If your RV doesn’t have an anode rod option, there are other options for drain plugs.
  • Freshener for your fresh water holding tank. A freshener product will clean and deodorize your water tank and lines. You’ll use this product as you wrap up the de-winterization process, but it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and purchase it before you begin.
  • A tube of silicone or caulk. This will help you to reseal your RV’s windows if you need to.
  • Roof sealant. If needed, this will help you to prevent a leaky RV roof or fill in any existing holes.

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The De-Winterization Process in a Nutshell

Now you’re ready to actually begin de-winterization! The process includes two basic steps:

  1. Remove all the RV antifreeze that has been in your water system over the winter
  2. Clean and sanitize your water system so you can use it again

What follows is a checklist of all the steps you’ll need to take in order to complete the two basic steps given above!

How To De-winterize Your Camper

  1. Close all your tanks
    • The first thing you’ll need to do is close or cap your fresh water tank. Next, close your black water and gray water tanks. Also, close the drain on your water heater. This step might include replacing the anode rod or drain cap using the 1 and 1/16 socket. Lastly, make sure to close or cap your low point water drains!
  2. Find the back of your water heater and turn off the bypass
    • On the outside of your RV, you’ll find the front of your water heater. It should be clearly labeled! The back of your water heater is located inside your RV normally directly opposite where it is on the outside. (You may need to use your screwdriver to remove panels or other items on the inside of your RV to access the back of your water heater.) Once you’ve located the back of your water heater, turn off the bypass so that water flows freely through your hot water heater.
  3. Remove all the RV antifreeze from your water system
    • To do this, connect your RV to a city water source and open all the faucets in your RV at the same time. (This includes your outside shower—if you have one!) You can also flush your toilet during this process. The next step is to turn on your water pump until all the RV antifreeze runs out of your water system. Eventually, you should see only fresh water coming out of your faucets. You should run the water for a little while to make sure that all the antifreeze is washed out! Also, make sure to run both hot and cold water so that all the different sections of your water system are completely emptied of antifreeze.
  4. Find and check your water pump
    • If your water pump has a winterizing kit already installed on it, make sure that you open the valve so that water can flow freely from your fresh water tank through your system.
  5. Clean and sanitize your water system
    • Now we’ve reached the final step! The first thing you’ll need to do is disconnect your RV from your city water source. Next, add the freshener product that you purchased earlier into your fresh water holding tank. (In general, between half a gallon and one gallon of freshener should be enough.) After adding your freshener product, fill the remainder of your freshwater tank with freshwater. Finally, open up all your faucets one more time and run your water pump until the fresh water tank is completely empty. 

Congratulations! You’ve now completed the de-winterization process for your RV’s water system! But hold up; you’re not done quite yet! Here are some bonus tips to make sure your RV is completely ready to go for the summer:

  • It’s always a good idea to check the seals on the roof and windows of your RV. You should be looking for any obvious leaks, cracks, or other damage. (You can walk on most RV roofs, but check with your manufacturer if you are unsure.) The sealant on your roof should feel soft and pliable. If it feels hard or has cracks in it, it needs to be replaced. These seals normally consist of silicone or caulk. Use the silicone or caulk that you purchased earlier to repair any areas on your roof or around you windows where you can see damage. It might also be a good idea to clean your sealant seams or apply a UV protector product. Your RV is out in the sun a lot, and your seals can sometimes get damaged from all that UV light!
  • You might need to recharge the batteries on your RV. It’s likely that they’ve lost some of their charge over the winter. If you feel uncomfortable performing battery maintenance, please have a professional RV repair service complete this step!
  • Test all your appliances. This step includes testing your LP gas system. A yearly leak test and gas pressure test should be performed by a professional RV repair service.
  • It’s also smart to check your tire pressure. It’s very likely that your tires have lost some pressure over the winter!
  • If your RV has an engine or generator, perform normal maintenance for these items. This might include changing oil, topping off fluids, etc.

Deep Clean Your Black Water Tank

Before you hit the road for another summer of fun in the sun, it can be a great idea to do a deep clean of your black water holding tank. In general, we recommend that you perform a deep clean on your holding tanks twice per year. So if you didn’t do a deep clean before you winterized your camper, it’s a great idea to perform a deep clean when you de-winterize! To deep clean your holding tanks, follow these steps using Unique Tank Cleaner:

  1. Open your black water holding tank valve and dump the tank.
  2. Thoroughly flush out your black tank.
  3. Close your black tank valve.
  4. Completely fill your black tank with water.
  5. Shake your bottle of Tank Cleaner very well and pour the entire bottle into your black water tank.
  6. Allow the product to work for at least 12-48 hours, but the more time, the better!
  7. Open your black tank valve and dump the tank.
  8. Flush out your black tank. (We recommend flushing for about 20-30 minutes.)
  9. Repeat this process twice per year—once at the beginning of the season and once at the end!

Wrapping It Up

We hope that this article has proved helpful! Here at Unique Camping + Marine, our expertise lies in the treatment of wastewater — not necessarily in de-winterizing or the specifics of plumbing systems, especially because every RV’s water system operates differently. That being said, we have written this basic guide based off of information we found helpful in this article and this article. Both of these sites are recognized experts in RVing, so we believe you can feel safe using their recommendations. If you are still unsure about any of the information contained in this article, we recommend that you simply take your RV to a qualified professional and have them properly de-winterize it!

As you hit the road for another summer of RVing, we hope to be there for you every step of the way, which is why we created The Unique Method to help make your next RV trip go as smoothly as possible! The Unique Method takes the hassle out of RVing, giving you more time to focus on why you’re there in the first place: to relax, explore, and have fun! 

If you happen to have any questions, concerns, or general comments about this post or The Unique Method, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to help you!

Adopt The Unique Method

You bought your RV so you could enjoy life and spend time with family and friends. The last thing you want to do is waste precious time and money on fixing wastewater holding tank problems. Keeping your tanks in peak operating condition doesn’t have to be hard, confusing, or expensive if you follow our proven process: The Unique Method.

The Unique Method is a comprehensive tank care plan that we developed after years of conversations with real customers facing real problems. The Unique Method provides you with simple, preventative steps to stop odors, clogs, and sensor problems before they start so you can spend less time worrying about your holding tanks and more time enjoying the freedom and adventure of RVing. Try it yourself and see why thousands of campers trust their RVs with The Unique Method every day.

If you need more help with anything covered in this guide or simply have a comment, we’re here to help you anytime!

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