Ahhh, the annual tradition of coming to grips with the reality of the season ending and getting the trailer ready for winter hibernation. The process can seem a bit daunting but it really isn’t that difficult. It also is a great time to do some annual maintenance and check things over to make sure they are ready for next season.
When we start the winterization process we first drain the water heater. You will want to make sure that the water has had time to cool and that you turn off any gas or heating elements before you drain the water. You also want to release the pressure in the tank using the valve at the top of the heater. Once the water is cool and the pressure is released you can remove the plug at the bottom. In our Hideout, we have a Suburban water heater, so the plug uses a 1-1/16″ diameter socket.
Probably the two most common RV water heaters are Suburban and Atwood. An easy way (not fail proof) to tell the difference is by the plug. If it is metal you likely have a Suburban; if it is nylon, then you likely have an Atwood. The reason the Suburban water heaters have a metal plug is because they are attached to an anode rod. The rod is a sacrificial part that breaks down over time and is designed to help protect the steel tank from corrosion. Atwood water heaters are made of aluminum and do not require an anode rod for protection.
Near the front of the trailer on the street side there is a single blue line with a screw off cap. Removing this cap will drain the water in your fresh water tank. Near the back of the trailer, also on the street side, you will find red and blue lines. These are the low point drains and removing the caps will drain some water from the lines. It is important to re-cap the low point drains as you will be running the water pump later in the process and if the caps are off you will be pumping the anti freeze right out of the trailer onto the ground.
By now the water heater should be fully drained and we can rinse it out. I use a Camco 11691 Water Heater Tank Rinser attachment for my garden hose. This allows me to insert it into the water heater and shoot a stream of water which breaks up some of the deposits in the tank.
This is just a small sampling of some of the deposits that came out during my rinse. The RV Geeks have a great video where they look in the tank with a borescope so you can see all the stuff. I just did a basic rinse but the RV Geeks go into a much deeper cleaning in their video that you could also do.
Now with all that done, the next step is to bypass the water heater. This will allow us to pull the antifreeze into the water lines in the trailer without filling up the water heater. The bypass is located on the back of the water heater under the kitchen sink. You need to remove the panel in the cabinet by removing the 4 screws that hold it into the floor. Once the panel is removed you can easily reach in and flip the 3-way valve so that the cold water in the blue line will be sent up the red line and not into the water heater.
In our last post, Installing a Winter Bypass Kit, we showed how to install a Camco 36543 Winterizing Kit and now we get to use it. We flip it into bypass mode and insert the clear tube (straw) into a bottle of RV Antifreeze. It is VERY important to ONLY use RV rated antifreeze and NOT automotive antifreeze. Usually, RV antifreeze is pink in color but verify on the label before using. With the straw in the jug, flip on the pump. This will cause the pump to start pulling the antifreeze into the trailers water lines. The pump should fully pressurize the system fairly quickly and shut off. If the pump does not cycle off, you should turn it off and find out where your leak is so you are not waisting antifreeze.
With the pump on, you now go one by one opening up cold water and then hot water one at a time until you see pink. I like to make sure it is good pink and not just a slight shade of pink. Keep an eye on the antifreeze bottle as you go through this process. I can do my trailer with 2 bottles but you may need more or less depending on your setup. You want to also make sure that you get any outdoor kitchens that have water and any outdoor showers. You should also run the toilet until you have pink running into the bowl.
For the last few steps, I pour any leftover antifreeze down each drain to help cover the p-traps and once those are covered I put the rest of the antifreeze in my black tank. I also make sure I return the winter bypass on the pump to its normal operating position so that it is ready for next season. That last part of our process is to pull the batteries and place them on a charger at the house. I put the batteries on my workbench and couple them in parallel (red to red/black to black) and then connect them to a Battery Tender Plus charger. I like this charger because it will not only float but will also charge. A lot of the battery maintenance chargers are only a float and do not have the capability to charge the batteries if needed.
And that is it! There are a lot of steps but none of it is really all that hard. Especially not as hard as saying goodbye to the RV until next season.