De-Winterizing your RV Water System

Now that the warmer weather is approaching, you need to de-winterize your RV so you can enjoying the long, warm days to come at your favorite campsite, whether you’re camping locally in the Shuswap and the BC interior, or going further away. Here we’ll give you a brief overview of the de-winterizing process and a few additional tips to avoid some of the more irritating issues that can sometimes occur.

Preparing to De-Winterize

De-winterizing your camper should be relatively easy if you winterized your RV properly before you put it into storage for the winter. In a nutshell, its the reverse of the initial winterization process, and the steps are virtually the same for almost any class or type of camper out there. Be aware though, that some processes will vary slightly, depending on your camper’s exact specification and design, so remember to check your RV’s user manual for specific instructions about de-winterizing your unit.

To outline the process, you need to flush the RV antifreeze from your plumbing, sanitize the fresh water system, and check the working order of other items such as appliances, seals, and the gas system. It’s also a good idea to perform a deep clean of your black water tank using quality black tank cleaner.

Before you start, make sure you have all the tools and supplies you need to complete the de-winterization process.

Tools and supplies for De-winterizing

Your RV de-winterization and checks require the use of specific tools and products. Make sure you have the following to hand before you start.

  • Screwdrivers: manual or powered
  • Socket wrench with a range of sockets
  • New anode rod for the hot water heater (unless the old one is uncorroded still good)
  • Freshener for your fresh water holding tank
  • Silicone sealer or caulking: for patching up any deteriorating seals on windows, doors, hatches, etc.
  • Roof sealant: for re-sealing your roof seals if they are looking in poor shape

Contact Tri Crown RV in Salmon Arm for supplies; we carry everything you need to de-winterize your camper..

How to De-winterize an RV

The first and most important part of dewinterizing an RV is clearing your plumbing of antifreeze. Before starting, you’ll need to make sure you can access the front and back of your water heater. The front of the water heater is always located on the outside of the RV and is the access point for checking the anode rod and inspecting the overall heating system for damage. The back of the water heater is located somewhere inside the RV; often inside a closet or inside the lower kitchen cupboards – occasionally, a water heater may be hidden behind a drawer, paneling, or elsewhere. This is where you will turn the water heater bypass on and off.

Flushing Antifreeze out of the Water System

The exact order for doing this might be slightly different if, when winterizing, you decided to bypass the water heater and not fill it with antifreeze. In this case, you can access and inspect the anode rod and drain caps before flushing the system, but if you did add antifreeze to the water heater – which you shouldn’t really do since it can cause corrosion or damage to the heater or heating components – flush the system before inspection.

  1. Close your black and gray water valves.
  2. Decide if you need to flush the system before inspecting the water heater:
    • If there is antifreeze in the water heater, be sure your low point water drains are closed, and move on to Step 3.
    • If you bypassed the water heater when winterizing, find the exterior water heater panel, and inspect the anode rod for calcification and other damage. Replace if necessary.
    • Use plumbing tape on the anode rod when you replace it into the heater to prevent leaks. Once you are finished, carry on to Step 3.
  3. Locate the back of the water heater inside the RV and turn off the bypass so that water flows freely through your water heater.
  4. There are two different ways you can flush out the water system with fresh water:
    1. If you have access to a city water hook-up, you won’t need your RV pump to circulate water through your system; this means if you have a winterizing kit installed on the pump, you can remove it any time before or after the system flush.
      • Connect your RV to the city water.
      • Open all the faucets (hot and cold) at the same time, including your outside shower.
      • Turn on the fresh water.
      • Hold the flush pedal down on your toilet until the water runs clear.
      • Proceed to Step 5.
    2. If you are filling your freshwater tank and flushing the system using the on-board water pump and you have a winterizing kit installed, you’ll need to remove the winterizing kit before performing the flush.
      • After removing the winterizing bypass kit, fill your freshwater tank with water.
      • Turn on your pump and open all the faucets, including your outside shower.
      • Hold the flush pedal down on your toilet until the water runs clear.
      • Proceed to Step 5.
  5. Once the water running out of the faucets is completely clear, close them.
    • If you are connected to city water, turn off the water and disconnect from the source.
    • If you used your pump, fill the rest of the tank with fresh water.
  6. If you’re using a freshener product, add it to your fresh water holding tank.
    • Note that optionally you can add a quarter-cup of bleach per 15 gallons of tank capacity to your water tank, and flush it through the system as an extra cleanse. If you have a sulfur (rotten egg) smell coming from the hot water taps when you turn them on, you may need to leave the bleach in your system overnight to kill the bacteria that has grown in your hot water tank over the winter.
  7. Open up all your faucets one more time and run your water pump until the fresh water tank is completely empty
    • This will allow the freshener or bleach to flow through all the pipes as well; refill the tanks and flush until you can no longer smell the freshener or bleach.
    • You may need to do this several times.

This completes the de-winterization process for your RV’s water system. But there are some additional checks to make to your camping unit to make sure your RV is completely ready for your camping season, and you can read about them in this previous post.

Note: Please contact Tri Crown RV if you do not feel comfortable de-winterizing your camper.