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How to Winterize Your RV’s Plumbing System in 10 Steps

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White RV van parked in the winter
Photo: Louis Hansel | Unsplash

Autumn has just begun, but depending on where you live in North America, it may already be time to winterize your recreational vehicle (a winter storm followed by a cold snap is expected to hit Montana this weekend, for instance).

Because RVs are both a vehicle and a house, the process of winterizing them can be rather involved — and the most important place to start is one everyone agrees on: the plumbing system. If you don’t drain your RV’s tank and water lines, it can freeze and expand, potentially causing major damage that will be very costly come spring.


Looking To De-Winterize? Follow these tips instead

Below are the 10 steps you should follow to winterize your RV’s plumbing system.

  1. If you have any inline water filters, remove them.
  2. Locate and drain all the water from the fresh water holding tank.
  3. Drain and flush the gray and black water holding tanks at an approved RV dump station. If your RV isn’t equipped with a built-in tank flushing system, you can use a tank flushing wand at the station.
  4. Open all of the cold and hot water faucets in the RV, including the sinks, toilet, and shower. Flush your toilet a few times to make sure all of the water is gone.
  5. (Optional). Use a compressed air adaptor and standard air compressor to blow air through the water lines. This will force any remaining water out.
  6. Bypass the water heater. Most RVs have a water heater bypass kit, but if yours does not, get one installed and then come back to this step. This will save you gallons of antifreeze.
  7. Introduce pink antifreeze into the water system. You can do this from the inside with a water pump conversion kit or from the outside with a hand pump. Start at the water faucet closest to the pump and slowly open each valve until the antifreeze appears. Repeat the process at all faucets from closest to farthest away.
  8. Pour about three cups of antifreeze into the toilet and into each drain.
  9. Refer to your owner’s manual for more specific winterizing instructions regarding washing machines, ice makers, and outside showers.
  10. Unplug your water heater and drain it.

Related: Common RV issues you should know about