Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Winterizing Your Travel Trailer!

Winter is once again upon us.  It's sad for most of us: the end of yet another year, the days get shorter, heavy winter coats, ice, snow, larger heating costs, etc.  It's even sadder for us RV'ers that don't have the luxury of being snow birds.  It means it's time to winterize our baby and put her to bed for the winter!  
Unfortunately for us, we winterized our Travel Trailer in September.  Our work schedules increase during the winter months preventing us from using our Jayco.  In New York we even had some freezing weather in October (and some 80 degree days!) so it was a wise decision.  
Here's how I winterized our Travel Trailer, and hopefully it helps you!  

STEP ONE:  DRAIN THE PLUMBING SYSTEM!  
This is often considered the most important part of the winterizing process as any water left in the pipes to freeze could expand (as ice) and cause damage or completely ruin your trailers plumbing.  Since most of our plumbing is under the floor or behind walls, it could be difficult or costly to replace.  Locate your fresh water drains and crack those suckers open!  Our trailer has 80 gallons of fresh water capacity so it might take some time to do so.  Also, if you aren't parked on private property (as we are in our backyard) make sure the campground is OK with you doing this.  Some places don't like it, even though it's clean water.  
Also, make sure the grey and black tanks are FULLY drained!

Crack open the fresh water drains!  

STEP TWO:  MAKE SURE THE WATER IS COMPLETELY OUT OF THE SYSTEM!
Draining the fresh tanks isn't enough.  The hot water heater also stores water, as do the water lines.  First we'll start with the hot water heater!  
CLOSE THE HOT WATER HEATER BYPASS VALVES!
Locate the hot water heater and open the access panel.

Close and open the hot water heater valves as described by your owners manual.

DRAIN THE HOT WATER HEATER!
Locate the hot water heater on your trailer and open the access panel.  Then, locate the drain plug.  You can use a run of the mill every day wrench or pair of pliers, but, on our Jayco's hot water heater, we require a special tool to access the plug in a tight space.  You can easily get it on Amazon or any RV supply store.  
I purchased the RV Water Heater Drain Plug Kit by Camco.  It easily slips into the tight space that my fingers and a wrench could not.
 Open the access panel to your rig's hot water heater.

Open the drain plug and allow the tank to empty.

Let the water drain out and then re-insert the plug.  Use a rag or paper towel to clean up any excess water so it doesn't sit inside the access panel and freeze over winter.  

STEP THREE:  FULLY REMOVE ANY WATER!
You could go with a few options here.  One option is to purchase RV/Marine specific anti-freeze and insert that into your plumbing system using a special "winterizing kit" (if your trailer is newer, it likely came with one!)  You could also go with the "blow-out" method using an air compressor and a special adapter "blow-out" plug.  My personal preference is the use of special RV anti-freeze, so that's what I did.  
 Be sure to purchase RV or marine grade specific Anti-Freeze.
Run all faucets to ensure the lines are full of anti-freeze.

Make sure to run both hot and cold lines to ensure all water is purged and replaced with anti-freeze.
For a typical travel trailer, you'll most likely need 2 to 3 gallons of anti-freeze.  Your owner's manual will tell you what you need.  You'll need to bypass your water pump's feed from the fresh water tank before completing this process.  If you have drinking water filters, you'll need to bypass those as well.  As mentioned before, MAKE SURE YOUR HOT WATER HEATER HAS BEEN BYPASSED!
It's a fairly easy process.  Open a container of anti-freeze and insert the open end of your trailer's winterizing kit.  It's the open-ended tube connected directly to the water pump.  Turn on the water pump and then open up all of your hot water faucets.  Don't forget the bath tub and any external shower's or faucets!  Once all of the hot water faucets run pink with the anti-freeze fluid, then close the hot and open the cold!  Don't forget your toilet also! 
I run extra amounts into the toilet and down the drains to put a decent amount in the grey and black water tanks.  
Once they've all turned pink close the valves and clean up any excess pink fluid so it doesn't stain over the winter.
CONGRATS!  You've completed the plumbing section of winterizing your RV!  There are a few extra steps to make sure your important investment is safe and sound during the winter.
STEP FOUR:  TIRES!
Your Trailer or RV tires can develop flat spots from sitting so long with thousands of pounds upon the tires.  Since my trailer doesn't have leveling jacks (DO NOT USE STABILIZING JACKS) I plan to move my trailer back and forth a foot or so a few times during the winter.  
Make sure they are parked on a flat even surface (concrete or wood planks) so they don't sink into the mud during a winter thaw.  I use wheel covers to prevent any sun damage.  Always make sure to use wheel chocks to prevent any unwanted movement, too!
STEP FIVE:  BATTERIES AND ELECTRICAL!
Batteries should be fully charged and if they are of the wet-cell type, they should be topped off.  Since we can get VERY cold weather here in New York, I removed my batteries and stored them in our climate controlled garage.  If your garage isn't climate controlled, make sure you store them in a location that won't freeze or get wet.  
If you remove the batteries, it might be a good idea to label the wires so that you know how to easily reconnect in the spring time!  I also covered all connections with a plastic shopping bag and duct taped them shut to protect from any water damage.  
My wires covered and labeled.
Disconnect your trailer from shore power.  I flipped off my main circuit breaker also, but, that might be overkill.  
STEP SIX:  CLEAN OUT THE INTERIOR!  
Clean the interior!  Dust, sweep, vacuum... whatever you would normally do for a good deep cleaning!  It's been a long, fun, enjoyable season of RVing and your trailer is likely a little dirty from all that good use!  A nice deep clean not only helps prevent mold and mildew, it makes spring cleaning that much easier.  
Prop open your refrigerator and freezer doors.  Make sure your freezer is thawed and completely dried.  
Remove any bathroom towels, blankets, pillows, and bed linens that would get moldy or musty after being closed up all winter.
If you don't store your RV at home and use a public or private storage lot, remove any valuables such as TV's, radio's, or tools.  
Give a good look around.  If there isn't anything around your house that you'd leave outside during the winter, then take it out of your trailer!
Remove any food and beverages.  Bottled or canned food can freeze and burst, which is not only messy but can attract insects and rodents.  
Lastly, close any roof vents.  Lower your TV antenna.  Bring in your awning.  Lock all compartments, doors, and windows.
STEP SEVEN:  MOISTURE CONTROL
One of the final steps before leaving the trailer for the winter is controlling mold and mildew.  I opened two containers of moisture absorbent crystals (commonly known as DAMP-RID, available at grocery stores and Bed Bath and Beyond) and placed them on opposite ends of the trailer on even flat surfaces that won't move.  
It's a good idea to change them out halfway through the winter season if you can.
LASTLY, CHECK YOUR ROOF!
Check vents and air conditioner shroud.  Examine the entire roof for damage that could lead to leaks.  Repair any seals or Dicor sealant.  
FINAL THOUGHTS:  
I gave the trailer a good wash and wax before I closed it up for the winter as well. . It's a good idea to protect the finish and once again to make spring cleaning easier.
It's best to protect your RV from the weather and other elements (branches, leaves, animals, etc)  I purchased a RV cover.  DO NOT use a basic blue tarp on your rig as they do NOT breathe and will lead to moisture.  The RV cover I purchased has vents along the roof line that allow air to move through the cover but does not allow much water or any debris to hit the roof.
Our baby all wrapped up for the winter. 
One thing to note is to make sure the cover is tightly secured to the rig as any heavy winds could cause "rub-rash" from the constant movement of the fabric against the body of your trailer. 
It might take some time and effort, but, as with most things, how you treat your property is how it treats you.  Taking care of your investment is important, so a few hours of work will make sure you're all set for a fun and enjoyable camping season next year!