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.
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 plastic tubing, and a few basic tools to remove and reinstall drain plugs.
“Winterizing” basically involves removing all of the water from your RV’s plumbing lines so it won’t freeze over the winter and cause the pipes to break.
You’ll 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’ve removed all of the water in your RV’s fresh water and black / gray water systems, you’ll need to add antifreeze. Antifreeze is that extra step that ensures the lines won’t freeze if any water was 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.
Unique 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, Unique Tank Cleaner will reset your tank to it’s clean, original condition, so you can start from a clean slate!
After a long summer RVing in the great outdoors, your RV certainly deserves its long winter rest! But if you want your RV to come back the next summer performing just as well as it did this summer, it’s 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, saving you money in the long run.
In this article, we’ll show you the basics on winterizing your RV, and we’ll also cover how to deep clean your RV with Tank Cleaner, which should be completed twice a year.
As a side note, many people choose to have their RV winterized by a certified technician. But whether you decide to do the winterizing work yourself or have someone else do it, it’s nice to understand exactly how the process works so you can make sure it’s being done properly.
Let’s jump in!
What You’ll Need
Before you start, you’ll need to gather some supplies:
RV or Marine antifreeze. It’s best to find a non-toxic RV antifreeze. A safe product won’t damage your RV or the environment. The quantity that you’ll need will depend largely on the size and layout of your RV, but in general, you should expect to use about 2-3 gallons.
A water heater bypass kit (if you don’t already have one installed in your RV). These kits are pretty cheap. What they do is allow water to bypass your water heater while still flowing through the rest of your RV’s hot water piping. This is a must for properly winterizing your RV!
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 pretty cheap.
A water pump converter kit or tubing. A water pump converter kit or plastic tubing will allow you to connect to the inlet end of your water pump and pump RV antifreeze into your water system.
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.
Drain all your tanks
Drain your fresh water holding tank.
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.
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.)
Flush out your system, removing any excess water
Open all the water faucets in your RV (both hot and cold). Don’t forget to open the valves on your toilet and shower!
Locate and remove the drain plugs on the low point water drain lines.
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!
Bypass your water heater
It’s pretty likely that your RV already has a built-in water heater bypass kit. If it doesn’t, however, you can purchase a 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)!
Fill your RV’s water system with antifreeze
Install a water pump converter kit. Another option is to disconnect the inlet end of your water pump and use plastic tubing to connect the inlet to a gallon of antifreeze.
Turn on your 12-volt water pump. This will pressurize the system and pump RV antifreeze into your water lines.
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.
Flush your toilet until pink antifreeze appears in the bowl and pour a small amount of antifreeze down each drain in your RV. You can also fill your toilet bowl with antifreeze and flush it. This will keep any residual water from freezing in your holding tank!
Close all your faucets and valves
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’s crucial to consult your manual for specific winterizing guidelines for your particular unit.
That’s it! 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 definitely thank you next summer!
Deep Clean Your Tank Before Winterizing
On top of following the steps listed above, it’s also extremely helpful to treat your RV twice a year with Unique Tank Cleaner. This 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 sweltering 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 particularly ravenous eaters, which just means that they’ll easily digest the waste in your holding tank, removing any residue and buildup and eliminating odors!
You should perform a deep clean with Tank Cleaner before you winterize your RV. When biannually treating your RV with Tank Cleaner, follow these guidelines:
Dump your black water tank.
Thoroughly flush out your black water tank.
Close your black water tank valve.
Fill your black water tank completely with water.
Shake your bottle of Tank Cleaner well and pour the entire bottle into your black water tank.
Let sit for 12-48 hours.
Open your black water tank valve and dump the tank completely.
Flush out your black water tank. (We recommend flushing it for 20-30 minutes.)
Repeat twice per year (at the beginning of the season and at the end).
If you want to learn more about Tank Cleaner, touch or click 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 on information we found helpful in this article, this article, and this article. All of these sites are recognized experts in RVing, so we believe you can feel safe following their recommendations. If you’re still unsure about anything to do with winterizing your RV, we recommend you simply take your RV into a qualified professional and have it winterized properly.
There are dozens and dozens of RV holding tank treatments out there, and it can be overwhelming when it comes to knowing which one is the best for you. All of them claim to work miracles, but which treatment types are proven to work the best?
Traditional, “old-school” RVing advice has often promoted information and RV maintenance products that are ineffective, and more importantly, can be harmful to your health. But with the advent of new research into the topic, many RVers have started to realize that a lot of the RV products on the shelves today are either really bad at their job, or even worse, dangerous.