10 RV Winterization Mistakes to Avoid

Nov 10, 2021 | Maintenance & Mods, Rigs

10 RV Winterization Mistakes to Avoid

Winterizing your RV? Keep your rig protected all winter long by avoiding these common mistakes.

By Dustin and Sarah Bauer

Photo: Dustin and Sarah Bauer

Along with the beautiful colors of fall comes the closure of a wonderful camping season and the need to prep your RV for storage. While it may not be a fun task, winterizing your rig is imperative to keeping it maintained and preventing damage from freezing temps. Through years of experience, we’ve made a few mistakes and have heard horror stories from fellow RV travelers. We’re sharing a few here to hopefully save someone else from the havoc those mistakes can cause.

When you first purchase your RV, it’s a good idea to record your walkthrough on your smartphone so you have your own personalized resource for winterizing and dewinterizing.

There are a few ways to approach winterizing your RV: You can do it yourself, use a mobile RV maintenance company, or take your rig to a service center. This can cost anywhere from $75 to $200 depending on location and what services are included.

Winterizing Mistake #1: Not Removing Your Batteries

A dead battery consists mostly of water, which can freeze and cause broken connections, bent plates, and shorten the battery’s lifespan. Remove the batteries from your RV and store them in a temperature-controlled area through the winter. We also recommend using a battery charger, so they’re ready to go when you are.

Winterizing Mistake #2: Not Draining and Flushing All Water Lines

We blow out our RV’s fresh water lines with an air compressor and fill the lines with RV antifreeze. It’s important to always double- and triple-check that you’re not forgetting any of your lines, including your ice maker and washing machine lines. One mistake we’ve made is not dialing down the air pressure before starting—you don’t want to put more than 100 psi into your water system. Remember, it’s the volume of air, not the pressure that will push the remaining water out. Read your OEM manual to verify what the maximum pressure can be before you start. Most city water lines are in the 40 to 50 psi range. Always pull your water filters off and install the filter bypass kits before flushing your lines. 

Check your owner’s manuals for specific instructions on winterizing your dishwasher, ice maker, and washing machine. These are all important to protect but will require a different procedure for each.

Winterizing Mistake #3: Forgetting About Your Outdoor Shower 

This can be one of those out-of-sight, out-of-mind mistakes. Every time you’re hooked up to city water, the outside shower is ready for use—even if you don’t use it. Blow out and fill the shower lines with antifreeze just like your interior lines.

Winterizing Mistake #4: Not Closing Low Point Drains 

After draining your low point drains, ensure they are completely closed before filling the water system with RV antifreeze. 

Winterizing Mistake #5: Skipping Important Steps With Your Water Heater  

Bypass and completely drain your water heater prior to adding antifreeze to the water system. If you have an electric water heater, always turn off the switch or breaker before starting this task to prevent damage to the heating element. It’s important not to forget the drain plugs or anode rod if these are features that are a part of your unit. 

Not all RVs are equipped with a water heater bypass kit. Make sure your RV has one installed and you understand how to use it. Aftermarket kits can be purchased and installed if your RV does not have one.

Winterizing Mistake #6: Waiting Too Long to Purchase Antifreeze and ‘Trusting the Weather’ 

Don’t let early winter storms or freezing temperatures catch you off guard. Buy your antifreeze early and be prepared if the temperature takes a sudden drop. 

Several factors play into how fast a problem can occur in freezing temperatures. It’s best to take precautions anytime the temps will get below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temps are dipping down to freezing and you haven’t been able to winterize—don’t panic, just run the heater on low that night. Yes, it will cost you money in propane, but you will save your pipes and tanks.

Winterizing Mistake #7: Leaving Items in Your Cabinets 

Open all of the cabinets and outside storage compartments to remove maintenance supplies, food items, soaps, toiletries, and anything else with liquid in it. It’s easy to forget about those items in the back of the cabinets and because of this, we’ve come back to some sticky situations. We’ve forgotten about a water bottle in a hiking pack before and returned to a frozen bag. 

Winterizing Mistake #8: Leaving Fluids in Your RV

Change your diesel fuel (summer blend) to winter diesel (winter blend), or get a winter additive before you store your RV. If forgotten, you could end up with gelled fuel. We also change our windshield fluid to a winter blend to avoid a cracked reservoir or pump. 

Winterizing Mistake #9: Not Covering Your RV 

Whenever possible, you want to cover your unit. The UV from the sun can be just as damaging to your paint and tires in the winter as it is in the summer. Tire covers are inexpensive in comparison to purchasing new tires before your next trip.

Winterizing Mistake #10: Not Embracing Cold Weather Camping 

We often re-winterize multiple times over the winter so we can go cold weather camping. Make a quick checklist (you can use the Togo RV app for this) from your manufacturer’s manual and keep it handy. It makes running through all the steps easier without worrying about skipping anything. If you don’t feel like winterizing your fresh lines multiple times, we’ve gone on trips using only our black tank and bringing water with us. 

You can camp in a winterized unit and just not use water. A Thetford Porta Potti is a great bathroom alternative in a winterized RV.

Whatever you do, don’t let winterization and freezing temps hinder your traveling experience. We’ve taken some of our favorite trips during the winter months and will always make the extra effort to dewinterize and re-winterize to not miss out on new adventures. 

cold weather campingwinterWinterization

Dustin and Sarah Bauer

Dustin and Sarah Bauer are avid hikers, mountain bikers, pack-rafters who travel all over North America in their Tiffin Wayfarer while documenting it all along the way. With 12 years of RV experience under their belt, they love sharing all about the amazing places they've been and the dos and don'ts of RV care.