How to Winterize a Travel Trailer – Easy Steps

How to winterize a travel trailer

Preparing a travel trailer for winter storage involves several steps, which must be done each year to ensure that the cold weather does not cause damage. When temperatures lower to the freezing point, water shall expand to ice and become damaged by the expansion of ice. That, in a nutshell, is what prepares a system for winter properly. It might be super costly for a system that needs to be properly winterized, considering the majority of repairs and replacements. When making a decision to ignore this maintenance element, everything would break down, water tanks would crack, and water heaters would give in.

Letting water hangover through the winter will make it freeze and get bigger, thus bursting and breaking the pipes and tanks. Many more complications arise if antifreeze is not applied, in the descendant case of residual water becoming frozen solid. We might bunch up a lot of repairing for equipment or component replacement before use can be made resumable safely when the spring is here. These costs for such repairs can hardly be called something trivial, skyrocketing from a couple of hundred to a thousand and so on.

This step-by-step instruction is to help you winterize a travel trailer with clear procedures and proper methods. Performing these operations in accordance with the plan guarantees water is drained, and antifreeze is added to the water system, keeping plumbing parts safe. Hence, the cost of fixing damaged freezing equipment will be higher than the cost of an expert who takes the time to winterize a portion of a high investment properly. We will go through each step now to ensure you are winterizing your RV so you can store it securely for the winter months.

Gather the Necessary Tools and Supplies

Under is a list of necessary tools and supplies required: 

  • Non-toxic RV antifreeze 
  • Water pump conversion kit or tubing to connect to pump inlet valve
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrenches to remove drain plugs
  • Bucket
  • Water heater bypass kit (if not already installed)
  • Cleaning wand/flushing system for black water tank
  • RV sewer hose
  • Portable grey water holding tank
  • RV antifreeze
  • Water pump
  • Compressed air or air compressor
  • Rubber gloves
  • Essential hand tools like pliers and adjustable wrenches

Inspect and Clean Your Winterize RV

Before winterizing your travel trailer, inspecting and cleaning the interior and exterior thoroughly is important. This serves a few essential purposes:

Interior Inspection and Cleaning:

  • Inspect all surfaces for mold, mildew, or water damage that may have occurred over the season. Identify any problem areas that need repair before winter storage.
  • Thoroughly clean all surfaces such as countertops, cabinets, furniture, floors, appliances, and fixtures using a mold- and mildew-resistant cleaner. Pay special attention to areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and under sinks.  
  • Open up all cabinets and storage areas. Clean and dry these spaces completely to prevent musty odors later.
  • Check that all drains and sink p-traps are clear of debris. Clean as needed.
  • Take out any remaining food items or garbage from storage areas.

Exterior Inspection and Cleaning:

  • Inspect the roof, walls, awning, slide-outs, and undercarriage for damage, leaks, or areas that need sealant repair. 
  • Pressure wash or hand-wash the exterior to remove dirt, mildew, and other deposits. Pay special attention to crevices and mold-prone areas.
  • Inspect and lubricate all exterior hinges, latches, and locks.
  • Clean out and dry exterior storage areas like compartments under the trailer or awnings.

Drain and Flush Water Systems

To drain and flush the freshwater systems, follow these steps:

1. Drain the Fresh Water Tank

  • Locate the fresh water tank drain valve, usually found on the exterior or underside of the RV/travel trailer. 
  • Connect a hose to the drain valve and open it to allow all water to drain from the tank.
  • Once drained, close the drain valve and remove the hose.

2. Drain Water Lines and Low Point Drains  

  • Locate all low-point drain valves, which allow water to drain from the water lines. If necessary, consult your owner’s manual.
  • Open the low-point drain valves individually to drain water from the lines. A wrench may be needed on some valves.
  • Once water stops draining from a valve, close it and move to the next one.

3. Flush Lines with Compressed Air

  • Connect an air compressor to the city water inlet on the RV/travel trailer.
  • Turn on compressed air to blow the remaining water from each line, starting with the closest faucet or drain to the water pump. 
  • Work from the closest point outward to flush all lines.

4. Drain Water Heater

  • Bypass the water heater first if needed to prevent antifreeze from entering it. 
  • Locate the water heater drain and open the valve or remove the drain plug to empty the remaining water.
  • Flush with compressed air if possible once drained.

This process thoroughly empties fresh water from the tank and lines to prevent freezing and damage over winter.

Bypass the Water Heater

Bypassing the water heater is an essential step in adequately winterizing your RV. 

Here’s why it’s done:

The water heater has drinkable water inside. The storage of this item before the cold months requires draining of the water that holds it to avoid freezing and damage. Tainting the water heater with antifreeze may cause it to convert the freshwater system to a cesspool which could render the travel trailer unusable until the spring when a thorough flush is made.

With this method, you forego flushing through the water heater by rerouting the antifreeze tank’s flow around the heater, ensuring the antifreeze doesn’t get into the tank. It is possible to prevent the rest of the plumbing system from freezing while the tank is adequately drained. Use our AI to write about environmental impact for you.

Nearly all RVs come along with a bypass valve which is part of a factory-installed kit, stating that it isolates the water from the tank as well as the heater in fluid motion. Through this pivoting, an opening is created for the antifreeze solution to flow straight from the pipe with an inlet to the pipe with an outlet in line without the solution getting into the water heater.

It becomes quite imperative to have some bypass kits installed in case this one is not there, and it should be the work of a professional to do so before winterizing. Refrain from bypassing the plumbing of the water heater, or else you’ll have to pay for the costly plumbing again the following season. This is a basic procedure that helps the water heat supply continue in good condition during the whole winter season.

Introduce Antifreeze to Plumbing Lines

There are a few options for antifreeze to use when winterizing RV plumbing lines:

  • RV-specific antifreeze: This is the recommended type, as it is non-toxic, won’t damage plumbing components, and is formulated for RV systems. Look for propylene glycol or ethylene glycol-based antifreeze explicitly made for RVs. 
  • Automotive antifreeze: This should be avoided as it can corrode pipes and fittings over time. It also poses a health risk if it gets into the freshwater supply.
  • Non-toxic RV antifreeze: This is an excellent eco-friendly option as it is biodegradable and non-toxic. Make sure it protects plumbing down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

The water lines need to be drained to introduce antifreeze, and the water pump needs to be engaged to circulate the antifreeze. Options for this include:

  • A water pump converter kit is used, which allows the freshwater inlet to connect to an antifreeze container for pumping through the lines. 
  • Connect the fresh water inlet hose, run it into an antifreeze container, and then turn on the water pump. 
  • Pump antifreeze into the fresh water tank inlet and run the water pump to circulate it. 

Flush Faucets and Toilets with Antifreeze

At this point, antifreeze is poured into the plumbing system, followed by flushing each fixture to guarantee that every corner of the piping system is reached. If there is any applicable fixture, begin by running the hot and cold water faucets, which include outdoor showerheads. Let water run through the nozzles and flash it pink until a strong stream of antifreeze appears. This serves as proof that much of the blood and water was replaced by the solution.

Next, flush the toilet several times. It is essential, therefore, for the process of getting the antifreeze well into the tank and bowl, too. Do the same till you cannot spot the antifreeze in the liquid anymore. Scan for antifreeze evidence in the under RV terrain by draining the pipe directly.

While leakage from usual drains such as the kitchen, toilets, and bathrooms is considered a big percentage of water usage, consider other drains, which include outdoor kitchens and awnings with sink fittings. Split the radiator tank equally, thus permitting the antifreeze through any supplementary drains. After the antifreeze has been admitted to all the plumbing gardens, shut off all faucets and then go under this RV to ensure that there are no leaks from now on. The visible water-clearing in the plumbing system or dripping from exterior valves or connections is a sign of water deficiency.

Disconnect Batteries and Electronics

The components that need to be disconnected for RV storage are:

  • Batteries – Both house and chassis batteries should be removed from the RV and stored in a cool, dry place on a battery tender or charger to maintain their charge over the winter months. 
  • Solar panels – the solar panels need to be disconnected from the RV electrical system by removing the positive and negative cables and covering them to prevent damage or interference during storage. 
  • Electrical appliances – Any appliances plugged into RV electrical outlets, such as TVs, sound systems, etc., should be unplugged to prevent battery drain when not in use. 
  • Converter/inverter – the power converter that changes 12V power to 120V should be switched off and disconnected from the batteries. 
  • Water heater bypass kit – if installed, the water heater bypass valve needs to be set to bypass mode to prevent antifreeze from circulating through the heater during winter.

Winter Storage and Maintenance 

Here are some recommendations for winter storage and maintenance of your RV after winterization:

  • Storage Location: The ideal spot to stow away your travel trailer through winter should be in a warm, covered space like a heated garage or storage unit. It does so in the sense that snow, ice, wind, and other natural factors do not interfere with its performance. If you wish to store it outside, then pick a site that is not windy, high (lumpy), or dry. If you are staying put, chock underneath each tire and ensure the vehicles do not move.
  • Periodic Checks: It is wise to scrutinize your motor home despite a comprehensive winterization. So, it is advisable to check the RV during the winter. Keep an eye on a rot, leak, or any other problem signs every 4-6 weeks. Confirm that there is no termination of weather inside by opening closets and cabinets. Contemplate a space heater with a small power outlet takes up to short periods of time, especially in places that receive little sun to keep the interior of the house warm. Check for any plumbing problems and mechanical defects escaping during the first spring operation of all appliances.
  • Additional Tips: Cover cushions with the same removable and breathable covers. Throw out whatever edibles can’t be stored. Take care to charge or winterize the generator prior to disconnection fully. Fuel stabilization should be introduced to gasoline and propane tanks. To keep the exterior free of harmful UV rays, use an RV cover that is breathable outside. Damage search after weather that is extreme. Carefully charge the batteries to their maximum level before leaving them in storage throughout. Through these actions, you will be able to assist in maintaining your property’s value for the winter period.


Q. How do you flush a winterized camper?

To flush a winterized camper in the spring, hook up fresh water and turn on the pump to circulate water through all faucets and drains until the pink antifreeze is flushed out of the system. Once clear, the camper is ready for use.

Q. What is the best antifreeze for winterizing an RV?

RV/Recreational Vehicle antifreeze is formulated to be safe for RV plumbing systems. Look for an antifreeze rated to -50°F or lower for cold weather protection without corrosion or sealing damage.

Q. What is RV-type antifreeze?

RV antifreeze is a nontoxic propylene glycol formula safe for RV and marine plumbing systems. It won’t damage plastic, rubber, or metal components like conventional antifreeze cans. RV antifreeze is also pre-mixed 50/50 with water for proper winter protection. 

Q. Is it safe to drink RV water?

Drinking water from RV tanks is not recommended as they can harbor bacteria growth, especially if they are not properly sanitized. It’s best to use potable water sources or treat water for consumption when camping.


Properly winterizing your RV by draining water systems, adding antifreeze, and storing it safely can prevent costly repairs from freezing damage. Following the steps outlined ensures your plumbing and appliances will be protected throughout the winter. When done correctly, spring will arrive without any unwelcome surprises. Thank you for reading through our winterization guide. It helps you keep your winterize travel trailer in top shape season after season.

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