Fix-it-Fred: How to Winterize a Travel Trailer

Fall has arrived. And with fall comes winter preparation. One of the new items on my list for this fall was to winterize the camper. I spent quite a bit of time researching the best methods to do so. I talked to some of our friends about how they do it. I did some looking online. I read the sparse manuals that came with the camper. Below is an outline of the steps I took to get our camper ready for first snow.

The first step I did was to connect the blow out valve to the city water connection on the back of the trailer.


Then, with the assistance of my beautiful wife, I blew out the lines to each faucet. I first set the maximum pressure of my air compressor to about 30psi to keep from damaging anything. I next opened the low point drains. I also opened the drain on the fresh water tank to make sure it was empty as well.


One by one my wife opened each faucet until only air came out. She started with the bathroom faucet since it is the closest to the city water connection. She then worked her way through the bathroom and then through the kitchen. Once the lines were clear it was time to move onto the hot water heater. The first step was to open the pressure relief valve (top of the picture below) to make sure there was no pressure in the system.


Once that was done it was time to remove the anode rod. On our unit the rod has a 1″ hex on the end to make it easier to remove (bottom of the picture above). Caution, when you pull this out you may get wet feet if you are not careful. There are likely still several gallons of water in the hot water heater.


Now it is time to bypass the hot water heater. Some travel trailers have built in ones. Other require an aftermarket one to be installed. Ours happens to have a factory installed bypass. Unfortunately it is under the lower bunk. I needed to remove the mattress and half of the sheeting under it to gain access to the shut-off valves.


I closed the valves in the hot and cold lines so that when I filled the lines with antifreeze it would flow through the bypass instead of the water heater. Not only is antifreeze corrosive to the water heater, but it would take several gallons to fill it.


Now the water lines were empty. Time to fill them with antifreeze. I did some looking before heading to the store to see how much antifreeze would be required. I could not find any definite number for our model, but I did find some information that a good rule of thumb is 1 gallon for every 10 feet of trailer length. A lot depends on the water line routing, so this may not work for everyone. I bought 2 gallons and figured  could go back for more if I needed.

In order to efficiently fills the lines with antifreeze I wanted to use the on-board water pump. To do this I needed to remove the inlet hose (to the pump) from the fresh water tank. Of course the clamp used on the hose was one of the crimp on ones. So I needed to cut that off.



Once I had the hose off, I measured how long it was and where I would need to place the bottle of antifreeze so the hose would reach to the bottom of it. I found enough blocking to raise the bottle to the correct height. I inserted the hose into the jug and set it on the blocks. Then it was into the camper to finish the job. Yes it does get very cold around here on occasion so I bought the low temperature stuff!


I turned on the water pump switch and then opened the hot water faucet in the kitchen. I let it run until it ran completely pink (the color of the antifreeze). I shut that faucet and opened the cold water one. When that ran pink I closed it and moved to the bathroom. I followed the same procedure for the bathroom sink and bathtub. I also flushed the toilet until that antifreeze filled that as well. I checked the level of the antifreeze in the jug under the camper after each faucet. I did not want it running empty.


Once all faucets were run and full I went back outside and grabbed the antifreeze bottle from under the camper. I poured about 1 cup in each of the sink drains. There was a little  more than a cup left in the bottle so I poured all that into the tub drain. I wanted to make sure there was antifreeze in the p-traps as well as the water lines. It only took me 1 gallon of antifreeze to winterize the entire system.


After I was done adding antifreeze to the system I wiped out the sinks and tub. I did not want the antifreeze to stain while sitting over the winter.


I also put a container under each faucet just in case they were to drip while the camper was idled. Some people use special containers for this. I found some containers in our recycling bucket that would work. Why spend the money if not necessary? Ours can be rinsed in the spring and recycled just like they were going to be.


When everything was done inside, I climbed back under the trailer to reconnect the water line to the fresh water tank. Since I had cut off the old clamp I needed a replacement. I purchased a worm-gear clamp so it would be easier to install and remove in future years. I also checked to make sure there was antifreeze in the city water connection. To do this I removed the filter screen and pushed the white button in the center of the connection.



There you have it. The water system is now ready for freezing temperatures. Total cost for the 1 gallon of antifreeze used, the blow out plug, and the new clamp was $6.67. I still need to treat the seals one last time and install the cover over the roof vent, but the time sensitive part is done.

I hope this was helpful to someone out there. I really wished I would have had some pictures and guidelines when I went through this process. Next year it will take me a fraction of the time.