How to Winterize a Camper RV | GoRollick
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Maybe you just got your first camper (congrats, btw!) or maybe you’ve had one for a long time. Either way, you might find yourself wanting or needing to winterize your camper for the first time. If this sounds like you at all, you’re in the right place. Winterizing is an intimidating way to put it, but prepping your camper for the winter is actually fairly straightforward. The cardinal rule of RV winterization? NO WATER! Honestly, if that is all you take away from this article, then you are better off for it.
The main goal of winterizing an RV is to get rid of any existing water in the vehicle and to pump antifreeze into any part of the RV that typically would touch water. Most RVs come equipped with built-in pumps and systems to make this process as painless as possible.
In this article, we are going to go step-by-step through the process of winterizing a Class B Motorhome Camper. In just 11 short steps and with a few basic supplies, you will have your RV ready to hunker down for the winter until you’re ready to hit the roads in spring.
- RV Winterization Cardinal Rule = Get all water out and pump antifreeze in. Water is the enemy
- Make sure you bypass the water heater before pumping antifreeze into your water system
- Winterizing a camper is intimidating, but not difficult — anyone can do it!
Table of Contents
What is a Camper?
Campers are categorized by their lightweight, economical, and small frame. This type of RV is often referred to as a Class B Motorhome in the RV industry.
Class B Campers
- Are typically well suited for 2-4 travelers and multi-week trips
- Are significantly smaller than other types of RVs such as Class As, Travel Trailers or Fifth Wheels
- May have less amenities than other types of RVs, but that does not mean they are any less comfortable or capable
- Are RVs that you drive- not tow
- Give travelers more freedom to move about the cabin as they are traveling
- Are easy to drive as they aren’t significantly different in size from a utility van (think an Airport Transportation Van or a van you would see for an electrician, plumber, or internet worker)
- Are often between 18 and 24 feet in length
- More maneuverable and notably fuel-efficient compared to their RV counterparts
- Offer a living space that is tight but efficient
- Do not have slide-outs, but still have all the amenities you would expect from an RV
- You can expect to see a small galley kitchen, a small refrigerator, a small bathroom with a toilet and shower, at least 1 full bed, a dining area, and AC/Heat
Pro Tip: Class B RVs can come with either gas or diesel engines. Class Bs generally get 12-25 miles per gallon.
If you are interested in Motorhomes but are looking for something a little bigger or more robust than a Class B, check out some of these articles on other types of Motorhomes:
If you are interested in a towable RV but are looking for something a little bigger or more robust than an Expandable Camper, check out some of these articles on other types of towable RVs:
Do I Need to Winterize My Camper?
Although RVing is a fantastic year-round activity, some of us prefer to travel in the warmer months when there is more free time from work and school. If you live in an area that gets colder during the winter months (in the 40s or below) and do not plan to use your RV at least weekly, you will need to prep the RV for the cold weather. You have a few options, some more involved than others.
- Store it in a covered garage or paid temperature-controlled facility
- Apply a cover to the RV while it is outside
- Maintain the RV by hand throughout the winter
In this article, we are primarily going to focus on the third option, maintaining the RV by hand and the work you would need to do if you plan to store it outside or in a non-temperature controlled area throughout the winter.
So long as your RV will be outside when it is cold, you will need to do some preparation to keep it in good shape for the winter. Every hour you spend prepping your RV is time and money saved on preventative repairs in the maintenance department when summer rolls around.
Winterizing and storing your RV for the winter will help prevent damage from the snow and freezing temperatures. From storage units to covers and even a full checklist, here is everything you need to know about prepping and storing your RV for the winter.
List of Items Needed to Winterize a Camper
To prepare your Camper RV for winter storage (winterization), you will need a few simple supplies to get started:
● New anode rod (if needed)
● 2-4 gallons of antifreeze (depending on the size of your RVs tanks)
● Water heater bypass kit (if not already equipped)
● Fuel Stabilizer (if needed)
● Cover (if needed)
Can I Pay Someone to Winterize My Camper for Me?
Yes, you can! However, the process of winterizing isn’t nearly as daunting as you might think and you will save a good chunk of money by doing it yourself. As long as you have the time and physical ability, we recommend doing it yourself if possible. You will learn a lot about your RV, keep a good pulse on its health and stay on top of any potential problem areas. You will get better and better at winterizing your RV as you do it multiple years in a row as well.
Steps to Winterize a Camper
When winterizing a camper or really any powersports vehicle or RV, the object of the game is for everything to be A) clean and B) dry. Water is the sworn enemy of RVs in the winter. When water gets cold, it expands and if water expands in a pipe, hose, or tank, it can crack. Then, when the water unfreezes, that water will leak and damage more than just that single pipe or tank, causing serious and costly damage.
Step 1: Clean Everything!
Step one is always to do a full inspection of the RV and to clean up every inside and outside surface. Dirt, grime, or rust can build up over time so it is important to nip that in the bud and do a full survey of the interior and exterior of the RV at this time. Wipe down all surfaces, vacuum any floors, clean out drains and faucets, take out any perishable items in the RV or items that may freeze. Thoroughly wash the awnings, wheel wells, tires, and check all your seals. Make sure your RV is completely dry before covering it or storing it, otherwise you will be in for a mildew mess in the spring.
Step 2. Empty the Gray and Black Tanks and the Fresh Water Tanks
As mentioned, water is the enemy! The main goal for winterization is to get rid of any water sitting in the RV and replace it with antifreeze. Step one of this process is to drain the black water and gray water tanks in your RV. Start by draining the black water tank and then the gray water tank. Once both the tanks are drained, clean the black tank with a special black tank cleaner or a cleaning wand.
To empty the black and gray tanks:
Note: Always dump your black water tank before your gray water tank.
- Find a dump site and connect your hose from the black/gray water tank to the dump site’s hookup.
- Use a designated hose for dumping your black water tank and a separate designated hose for the gray water tank.
- Use a flush valve to remove solids and any build-up in the pipes and tank itself that you need to help flush into the dumpsite.
For more information about gray and black water tanks, you can read our article on RV Toilets that goes into more detail about how these tanks work and how to empty them and clean them safely.
Step 3. Drain and Flush the Water Heater
After you dump the three main tanks you will also need to remove water from your water heater. To do this, first, you need to turn it off and let the whole system cool down and release pressure. Hook up city water to your RV with the water turned off. From there, you can use your socket wrench to remove the drain plug or anode rod and then open the pressure relief valve. Once drained, turn the water pressure on and flush out the sediment for 2-3 minutes. Remove the filter and keep it in a warm, dry place throughout the winter. But remember to make a note to put it back in its place come spring!
Pro Tip: Use the siphoning kit if necessary to get excess water out of the tank.
Step 4. Bypass the Water Heater
You want to pump antifreeze into every part of your RV that routinely touches water (eg: sinks, toilet, shower, etc.) However, you do not want the antifreeze to get directly in the hot water tank, so you will need to set it up so the antifreeze bypasses this area of the RV when you pump the antifreeze. Most Class B RVs will have a bypass already installed and all you will need to do is locate the water heater panel and find the bypass valve and turn it in the correct direction.
Step 5. Drain the Fresh Tank
Make sure the hot water heater is off before draining the fresh water tank. Open all the faucets, including any that are on the exterior of the RV. Then, simply open the fresh water tank dump valve. There should be one for both hot water and cold water lines. Then, flush the toilet until water stops flowing when flushed. Turn the fresh water pump on as needed to remove any remaining water from the lines that are fed from the freshwater tank.
Make sure the pressure is off before emptying the fresh water tank. Once the fresh water tank has been emptied, close all the faucets and plug drains.
Step 6. Pump Antifreeze into the RV Water System
Find the water pump and attach a siphoning kit. Place the hose of the siphoning kit inside the container of antifreeze. Now, open the valve and turn on the water pump to allow the antifreeze to start flowing through the water system.
Step 7: Open all Internal and External Faucets and Valves
Start with external valves, working from valves located closer to the grown and working your way up to higher valves. Then, follow the same guidelines for the internal faucets and valves. You want to turn on each faucet or valve that water comes out of and run it until you see the antifreeze coming through (it will look pink).
After you let each faucet and valve run until pink, then close the valve or retighten the plugs. Also, if the faucet has a hot and cold setting, you will need to run each setting to get the antifreeze through. Make sure you do this for the toilets as well!
Step 9. Pour Antifreeze in Every Drain
In addition to pumping antifreeze into the water system in your RV, you will need to pour some additional antifreeze down the drain of each sink, shower, and toilet in the RV to ensure the exterior pipes don’t freeze!
Once you have finished with all the antifreeze steps (steps 6-9), make sure every faucet and valve is closed and re-check the RV’s water heater to ensure it is turned off and bypassed.
Step 10: Turn off Electricity and Exercise the Generator
Make sure all switches are set to off, such as the air conditioner or electric water heater. Then, you’ll want to remove the battery. Make sure you fully charge the battery before removing it from the RV.
Pro Tip: A fully charged battery will freeze only if the temperature dips to 55 or 60 degrees below zero, while a discharged battery may freeze at or near 20 degrees above zero.
Detach the battery so it is not running during the winter when the RV is not in use. We also advise you to bring the battery inside or into a warm, dry place so it does not lose its charge from the cold.
Secondly, if you have a generator, it is best practice to exercise the generator once per month throughout the winter. Try to run the generator 2 hours every month at a 50% load. For example, exercise a 4000-watt generator with a minimum 2000-watt load. This is roughly equivalent to running one RV air conditioner, or a small portable electric heater.
Step 11: Finishing Touches
- Feel free to add some air fresheners so the camper smells nice when you visit it throughout the winter to check-in or when you de-winterize it come spring.
- Feel free to leave the fridge doors open so no mold grows and no foul smells get trapped in there.
- If you are leaving the camper outside for the winter, you can get an RV cover and drape it over the vehicle to protect it from snow, rain, and wind throughout the winter.
Buying a Camper
If you are interested in purchasing a Class B Camper RV, you have quite a few options for where to purchase your dream RV. If you are interested in a new Camper, finding an RV dealer in your area or reaching out directly to your manufacturer of interest is the best place to start.
If you are open to new and used, you can check some of these places for available inventory:
GoRollick Buying Experience
Just like cars, motorcycles, and boats, new RVs are sold through franchised RV dealers. Simply head to google and search for Class B RV dealers in your area. Remember, most dealers will only sell one or two brands, so consider deciding which brand you want to purchase before visiting a dealership.
If you are feeling ready to search inventory, we recommend you start with GoRollick’s nationwide network of new and used inventory.
GoRollick works with the best dealers in the country who are dedicated to price transparency and a great buying experience. With GoRollick you can get an upfront price and a special offer on your next golf cart, plus savings on after-purchase products. Then when you’re ready, you can shop at one of our Certified Dealers. GoRollick also ensures that you get access to all available manufacturer incentives. If you’re curious about what’s currently available, you can check out our incentives page here.
Not quite sold? Maybe this will help. Use our guide on How to Take Advantage of Powersport and RV Manufacturer Incentives on Your Next Vehicle Purchase to get the most bang for your buck, and when you are ready to buy, check out our list of the latest available manufacturer incentives to ensure you are getting the best price available for your camper.
When you’re ready to find your next Camper, be sure to check us out at GoRollick.com.
- See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
- Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired Camper
- Receive special offers on both the Camper as well as additional accessories
- Take advantage of Bonus Savings plus the option to Buy From Home from select Certified Dealers
- Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience
Check out and Subscribe to the GoRollick YouTube Channel to watch reviews, test rides, and more!