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How To Winterize Your RV

September 30, 2019

Learn to winterize your RV and maintain your water systems. Prepare for winter so its easy to hit the road next spring!

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to give you an overview of what the winterization process consists of in your RV and general information on how it works. We recommend that you do not winterize your RV at home if you do not feel completely comfortable and competent with everything that is required to properly prevent freezing in your RV’s water systems. If you are unsure about any of this, save yourself an immense amount of hassle and expense and get your RV winterized by a certified technician at a service center or dealership. Improper winterization of your RV can cause significant damage if done incorrectly.

Key Points

  • To properly winterize your RV, you’ll need RV or Marine antifreeze, a water heater bypass kit, a tank cleaning wand, a water pump converter kit or some tubing, and a few basic tools to remove and reinstall drain plugs.
  • Winterizing is basically removing all of the water from the plumbing lines so it won’t freeze over the winter and cause the pipes to break.
  • You will need to remove any water in your water filters, drain your plumbing lines, and drain all of your tanks - including your fresh water tank, your gray water tank, your black water tank, and your water heater tank . (Caution: never drain your water heater tank when it is under pressure or hot)
  • After you have removed all of the water in your RV’s fresh water and black / gray water systems you’ll need to add antifreeze to go the extra step to make sure the lines don’t freeze in case there is any water left behind that you missed.
  • In addition to following the steps to properly winterize your RV, using Unique Tank Cleaner twice a year at the beginning and end of the season can save you immense amounts of hassle, expense, and embarrassment due to clogs and backups.
  • Tank Cleaner is a safe and effective product that uses specially selected strains of high quality bacteria to break down waste, keeping your holding tank clean and functioning. Essentially it will reset your tank to it’s clean, original condition so you can start from a clean slate.

After a fun summer RVing in the great outdoors, your RV certainly deserves its long winter rest! But if you want your RV to come back next summer performing as well as it did this summer, it is critical that you properly winterize your RV. Not only is this a good practice to get in the habit of doing before you put your hard-working RV to bed for the winter, but it will ultimately maximize the life of your RV and save you money in the long run. In addition to winterizing your RV, we will also cover how to deep clean your RV with Tank Cleaner, which should be completed twice a year.

For many, having your RV winterized by a third party is often a great idea, but whether you decide to do the winterizing work yourself or have someone else do it it’s nice to understand exactly what is being done so you can make sure it’s being done properly.

Before you start, you’ll need to gather some supplies, including the following:

  1. RV or Marine antifreeze. It is best to find a non-toxic RV antifreeze product since it won’t damage your RV or the environment. The quantity that you’ll need will depend largely upon the size and layout of your RV, but in general, you should expect to use about 2-3 gallons.
  2. A water heater bypass kit (if you don’t already have one installed in your RV). These kits are relatively cheap. They allow water to bypass your water heater while still flowing through the rest of your RV’s hot water piping.
  3. A tank cleaning wand. If your RV doesn’t already have a tank flushing system installed, a tank cleaning wand will allow you to clean out your black water holding tank. Again, a tank cleaning wand is very inexpensive.
  4. A water pump converter kit or tubing. A water pump converter kit or tubing will allow you to connect to the inlet end of your water pump and pump RV antifreeze into your water system.
  5. Simple tools to connect and remove drain plugs.

Now that you’ve got what you need, it’s time to get started! Below, we’ve compiled a checklist of simple steps to take in order to properly winterize your RV:

  • Remove in-line water filters (if your RV has any). If your RV does have an in-line water filter, there should be a bypass hose you can install after the filter is removed.
  • Once you’ve connected the bypass hose, the next step on the checklist is to drain all your tanks. First, drain your fresh water holding tank. Second, drain out your black water and grey water holding tanks at an RV dump station. If your RV doesn’t have a tank flushing system already built-in, you can use your tank cleaning wand to help flush out and clean your black water tank. Third, drain out your water heater tank. (Caution: never drain your water heater tank when it is under pressure or hot. Always make sure no water is connected to the RV and that your 12-volt water pump is turned off.)
  • Next on the checklist is to flush out your system, removing any excess water. First, open all the water faucets in your RV (both hot and cold). Don’t forget to open the valves on your toilet and shower. Second, locate and remove the drain plugs on the low point water drain lines. Third, flush your RV’s toilet and use the 12-volt water pump to help push out any water that might have remained in your plumbing. So that you don’t damage your pump, turn it off as soon as your system is empty of water. Remember to recap all your drains and close all your faucets!
  • After you’ve drained out the excess water from your system, it’s time to bypass your water heater. It is likely that your RV already has a built-in water heater bypass kit. This is an important step on the checklist. If you don’t bypass the water heater, all the antifreeze you put into your system will go into your water heater tank before it fills your water lines, and you will end up wasting a lot of antifreeze (not to mention money)!
  • With the water heater bypassed, the next step is to fill your RV’s water system with antifreeze. First, install a water pump converter kit. Alternatively, you could disconnect the inlet end of your water pump and use tubing to connect the inlet to a gallon of antifreeze. Second, turn on your 12-volt water pump. This will pressurize the system and pump RV antifreeze into your water lines. Third, open the water faucet closest to the water pump until pink antifreeze begins to run out of the faucet. Close the faucet. Replace your gallon of antifreeze as needed. Moving from the faucets and valves closest to the water pump to those farthest away, repeat the above process until pink antifreeze comes out of all your faucets and valves.
  • Next, flush your toilet until pink antifreeze appears in the bowl and pour a small amount of antifreeze down each drain in your RV. Additionally, fill your toilet bowl with antifreeze and flush it. This will keep any residual water from freezing in your holding tank.
  • Finally, close all your faucets and valves. Also, if your RV’s water heater has an electric water heater element, make sure this is turned off for the winter. Since every RV is different, it is important to consult your manual for specific winterizing guidelines concerning your particular unit.

You’ve successfully winterized your RV! The work you put in now will save you time and money in the future, and your RV will thank you next summer!

Deep Clean Your Tank Before Winterizing

In addition to taking the above steps, treating your RV twice a year with Unique Tank Cleaner will keep your RV’s waste management system running smoothly for many years to come. By helping to prevent and/or remove pyramid clogs and other backups, Tank Cleaner is the easy solution to solving all the issues that can come from RVing during those warm summer months. The Biannual Tank Maintenance Pack from Unique contains all the products you’ll need to treat your system at the beginning and end of the camping season. Tank Cleaner is a safe and effective product that contains specially selected strains of bacteria. These bacteria are especially powerful eaters, which means that they’ll easily break down the waste in your holding tank and remove any residue and buildup.

You should do a deep clean with Tank Cleaner BEFORE you winterize your RV. When biannually treating your RV with Tank Cleaner, follow these guidelines:

  1. Dump your black water tank.
  2. Thoroughly flush out your black water tank.
  3. Close your black water tank valve.
  4. Fill your black water tank completely with water.
  5. Shake your bottle of Tank Cleaner well and pour the entire bottle into your black water tank.
  6. Let sit for 12-48 hours.
  7. Open your black water tank valve and dump the tank completely.
  8. Flush out your black water tank (we recommend flushing it for 20-30 minutes).
  9. Repeat twice per year, at the beginning of the season and at the end.


You can learn more about Tank Cleaner here.


Here at Unique Camping + Marine our expertise lies in the treatment of wastewater - not necessarily in winterizing or plumbing specifics, especially because every RV is slightly different in how their water systems operate. We have written this basic guide based off information we found helpful in this articlethis 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 this, we recommend you simply take your RV into a qualified professional to have it winterized properly.

We are always here to help, so if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us! You can contact us anytime at support@uniquemm.com

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