How To Winterize a Camper

To winterize a camper is a must especially if you are planning to minimize damages caused by cold or freezing temperatures.

In this article, we’re to look at everything you need to know about taking care of your vehicle in the colder months of the year.

Before we can look at how to winterize a camper, it’s important to know what temperatures you should look out for.

How cold can it get before I have to winterize my camper?

Generally speaking, you should winterize a camper or RV when temperatures fall below 10 degrees celsius or 50 Fahrenheit.

This gives you ample time before the water starts contracting (freezes) which starts at 4 degrees celsius or 39.2 Fahrenheit. 

how to winterize a camper

How To Winterize a Camper In 10 Easy Steps

With these 10 easy steps, you will have your camper or RV winterized before the cold starts rolling in.

Emptying the black and gray water tank

If you didn’t know already, a camper or RV doesn’t just hold a freshwater supply but also tanks that hold the drain water of the sink and shower (gray tank) and the wastewater from the toilet (black tank).

It is highly advised to clean/flush these systems and drain the water appropriately, since these systems are not inside the vehicle they are prone to burst in cold weather conditions as mentioned above since they are open to the elements.

Using organic bleach to flush the system will kill the microbes that can cause odor and organic bleach is also less harmful to the environment when you spill it.

Emptying the freshwater tank

The freshwater tank is another system that is not housed inside the camper or RV so it is also advisable to drain the system, luckily there is no flushing or cleaning necessary unless there are signs of algae in the water. In that case, using the same organic bleach to flush the system will remove the algae. 

Most of the draining points will be found underneath the vehicle and for a cleaner working experience, a drip tray or bucket can be used to catch the water.  

Clearing out all the water lines can be done at the same time by just opening all the faucets and letting them drip dry.

Remember to do the hot water as well by locating the pressure relief valve and draining it, and to prevent any damages to the water heating element please make sure the power is turned off to the heating element.  

Filling all the camper/RV water systems with RV antifreeze

Now is the part where you preserve your water system by putting antifreeze into it.  Please make sure you are using non-toxic RV antifreeze since you will use the system again to store drinking water in the summer again.  

If you have a camper or RV with a siphon tube this step is really easy, install the siphon tube to the water system as the user manual indicates and place the other end into the RV antifreeze. 

If your vehicle does not have a siphon tube you will need to disconnect the incoming line from the holding tank to the water pump and install a hose straight from the pump to the antifreeze.

While the drains of the water system are still open, power up the water pump and close the drains as you start seeing the antifreeze coming out of them.

Then you are going to go on the inside of the camper or RV and open each faucet and close it again when the antifreeze starts coming out, thus ensuring that the whole line is filled, remember to do this with the hot side as well and again with the heating element turned off.

This is where the siphon tubed system and non-siphon tube system differ a bit. With the siphon tube system go to the water inlet valve and remove the small screen inside. 

Now you have a clear sight of the valve itself, press the valve with a screwdriver until antifreeze starts coming out of the valve, be aware not to spray yourself with antifreeze since it is under pressure.

With the non-siphon tube system turn the power off to the water pump and connect the line from the holding tank to the pump again and manually fill the holding tank through the water inlet.

Manually pour some antifreeze into the p-trap and shower basin this is more to prevent odor from the gray and black tank to enter the cabin than anything else.

Park the camper or RV in its resting spot

This is an often overlooked step, due to the size of a camper or RV it can block up an area pretty easily.

So if you do not have a spot or garage for your vehicle try to place it where you don’t have to frequently move it since the next steps are going to make it somewhat immobile.

Air up the tires and park on something soft

This will prevent your tires from getting flat spots while standing for a long time. Overinflating the tires to about 0.5 bar of 7.2 psi over the recommended pressure will ensure the tire does not get a flat spot that easy.

Check the tire pressures weekly and inflate if need be. You can also park the vehicle on an old carpet to prevent tire flat-spotting even further.

Turn off all electrical systems inside the camper/RV

Note: You can skip this step if you are planning on removing the battery from the camper or RV altogether.

This is to ensure when you keep your battery hooked up that there is no parasitic loss through the electrical system or unnecessary drain when you hook up a battery conditioner.

The best battery conditioner/ trickle charger is the Ctek Noco Genius 10 

This is a connect and forget charger that keeps your battery in optimal condition when storing your vehicle and can even repair a battery with its desulfator-mode.

Defrost the camper or RV fridge and freezer

While doing this remove any food or items that can spoil from the fridge/ freezer.  Clean out the fridge/ freezer with a cloth to get all the moisture out and use a wedge or cloth to keep the door ajar. This is just to prevent mold and odor from forming.

Remove all food from the camper or RV cupboards 

This is to prevent rodents or mice from coming into the vehicle. This is a crucial step to protect your camper or RV’s electrical system as well since mice and rodents are known to chew through cables.

Rodent proofing a camper or RV

Ensure all the vents doors of the camper or RV are not broken and don’t have a big enough opening for the small critters to get inside.

The engine bay is almost impossible to protect when the vehicle is in storage but you can set up rodent and mice traps around it to stop them from going for the vehicle.

It will be good practice to go look at the traps at least once per day. 

Dehumidifying a camper or RV

Why do you need to dehumidify you may ask, it is to prevent mold forming inside the vehicle, and believe me you don’t want to experience mold inside a vehicle. 

For maximum efficiency open all cabinets and doors inside the camper or RV.  There are two options here: you can either go powered or nonpowered dehumidifiers.

Powered dehumidifiers

This is the best option since you can set the amount of humidity inside a certain area, in this case, the camper or RV.  You will need an extension cable running to the vehicle to power it and once every few days you will need to empty out the dehumidifier. 

Check out this powered dehumidifier on Amazon.

Nonpowered dehumidifiers

These are oversized silica packets like you find inside shoe boxes or other packages. They may not be as efficient but they are at least cheaper than the powered dehumidifiers. So throw a few inside the camper or RV and check up on their water levels every second day or so and replace the silica if needed.

Check out this silica dehumidifier on Amazon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can camper/RV pipes freeze in one night?

At the temperature of 4 degrees celsius or 32.9 Fahrenheit or lower, yes it can happen and sometimes even in a shorter time frame than expected so rather do the preventative steps as mentioned above before it gets too cold.

Can I winterize my own camper?

Absolutely, the hardest or worst job is emptying the grey and black tank. If you are a bit squeamish there are companies that can help you empty and flush them. 

There are even companies that will winterize the whole camper/RV and provide the storage for it as well.

How cold can it get before I have to winterize my camper?

When it is still above 10 degrees celsius or 50 Fahrenheit. When it starts getting colder than that it isn’t fun to work on anything because it is so cold and most of the stuff you are going to touch is going to be metal, and flesh sticking to metal is not fun.

How much RV antifreeze do I need?

It depends on the size and model of the camper or RV and if you want to fill the holding tank as well. Only filling the system from the pump to all the faucets/showers/toilets will be 2-3 gallons or 7.6-11.3 liters.

Final thoughts on how to winterize a camper

After emptying the camper or RV of all its water supply and drain water, flushing the systems as well, parking the vehicle in a good spot with the tires filled with a little more air pressure than required and on a soft surface, battery disconnected or on trickle charge and dehumidifiers installed inside and rodent proofing on the outside, now you are ready for the cold weather to roll in.

Keep in mind to go check on the vehicle ever so often just to make sure everything is still fine.

Hopefully, these tips have been helpful so that when the warmer months come around you’ll be able to enjoy traveling with your camper once again.