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Demystifying dewinterizing your RV

It’s officially RV season in some parts of the country! OK . . . it’s always RV season in some parts of the country, and more and more RVers are spending time RVing during the winter months with their four-season coaches than ever before, but that’s a topic for another article.

For those of us who need to winterize our coaches for the colder months, there comes a time to get ‘em opened back up and ready for the season. Here are a few things you need to do, or should consider doing, at the beginning of each camping season.

The Water System

The potable water system is one of those things we all depend upon in our rigs, and it’s something that makes our vehicles different from most — residential running water on the road. While the system is relatively simple and straightforward for most coaches, there are some things you need to do to ensure a good, clean water system for the season.

  1. If your water system is winterized with antifreeze and the water heater is bypassed, the first thing to do is hook up to a domestic water source and flush the system to get the antifreeze out. Do this before un-bypassing the water heater so you don’t push the antifreeze into the heater.
  2. Turn off the incoming water and relieve the pressure. With the water heater drain plug removed, un-bypass the water heater according to the instructions in your owner’s manual. Then turn on the domestic water and flush the water heater out through the water heater drain. Turn off the domestic water and disconnect it from the RV.
  3. Fill your RVs fresh water tank about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way. Now add about 1/4 cup of plain chlorine bleach for every 15 gallons of water tank capacity to the tank mixed with a gallon or so of water, then finish filling the tank. While you’re waiting, put the plug or anode rod back into the drain of the water heater.
  4. Once the tank is full, shut off the domestic water and then turn on the water pump and pump the chlorinated water through the whole system. You should get the hot water side done first so it purges the air out of the water heater. (Tip: Use the relief valve on the outside of the water heater to speed up this process.) Once you smell chlorinated water through each faucet or outlet on the hot side, do the same with the cold side.
  5. Let the system sit for three to six hours, then drain the fresh tank and flush the whole system with fresh water and you’re done. (Tip: An alternative to this is to use a water system freshener product like that from Camco, which is available from your favorite RV retailer.)
  6. Confused? Don’t worry, the instructions for cleaning the fresh water system are also in your owner’s manual, or you can have your certified RV technician do it for you.

Coach Care

Spring is a perfect time to do the RV maintenance chores that you need to do to keep your rig in the best shape possible for the season. Many folks depend on their dealer or independent certified RV technician to perform these, or if you’re handy, then do it yourself. You’ll learn a lot about your coach!

  1. A clean RV is a happy RV! After winter storage, be sure to clean your RV from top to bottom and outside in. Be sure to look carefully for any damage that may have occurred while in storage. Purists who really love their RV and want to maintain its condition and appearance will wax the coach at least at the beginning of the season.
  2. Service the systems. Each system should be tested and maintenance done. This includes the LP system, appliances, water system, electrical system, etc. Batteries are the lifeblood of your coach, and hopefully you’ve stored them inside so they didn’t get damaged during the winter. Reinstall them and charge them, then test them. Make sure the cells are full of distilled water if it’s a flooded cell battery.
  3. Leaks are one of the major causes of RV damage. Protect your investment and get the roof cleaned, treated and get the sealants checked and renewed as needed. The roof should be inspected at least four times per year. Cleaned and treated RV roofs will last longer and will reduce the amount of black streaks coming down the sides of the coach. Use sealants that are appropriate for the type of roof your have (EPDM,TPO, fiberglass or aluminum). See your owner’s manual, dealer, or contact your manufacturer if you’re not sure which you have.
  4. Service your engines! Your RV engines give you motive power as well as electrical power, so take care of them. Change the oil in your chassis and generator engines. Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance procedures carefully.
  5. The wheels and chassis on your towable RV is what we call the running gear, and it has maintenance needs too. The axle service we’ll cover in further detail in an upcoming article.

By following these recommendations you’ll have more of an assurance of a trouble free, and a certainly more enjoyable RVing season!

Now, let’s go RVing!

To watch a video on dewinterization from Camco, click here.


About Chris Dougherty

Christopher Dougherty, "The RV Medic", offers service advice and maintenance tips. Dougherty is a certified technician who has written for several other RV publications in the past. He also serves as a consultant to the RV Industry Association and other RV groups on service-related issues.

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