How Do You Winterize a Camper Without the Bypass


Winter can be tough if you don’t prepare and it can be particularly tough for your camper. There’s a lot of plumbing and places for water and moisture to sneak in. Therefore, winterizing your camper is very important if you want to avoid unnecessary costs when things start to dissolve.

Typically, winter camping is something you’d want to avoid. Especially if you‘ve had most of our spring and summer camping trips. And you’d certainly like to do it next spring. While you may be tempted to just leave your camper away under a cover, it’ll be better to take the necessary steps to avoid all sorts of damage that can happen unless you don’t.

Apart from being time-saving, knowing how to winterize a camper properly will also save you unnecessary expenses. The damage caused by incomplete or improper winterization can be repaired, but it’ll be good to avoid it in the first place. But how can you winterize a camper without the bypass?

Having a bypass valve in your camper makes the winterization process incredibly easy. You just need to drain the freshwater tank, blow out all lines with air compressor, put RV antifreeze, start the pump, drain the tank and blow out the lines again. 

In this article, we’re going to explain the process of winterizing your camper step by step. Read on for more information.

Table of Contents

Winterizing Camper Step by Step

Whether you’re an RV newbie or you’ve been through many winters as an RV owner, it’s useful to know useful tips for winterizing your RV. It may look difficult and certainly requires time, but you’ll be rewarded once the new season begins.  And it will certainly make your RVing experience a more pleasant and fulfilling one.

Moreover, you’ll certainly want to avoid opening up your camper after winter and be welcomed by moisture and a bad smell. Moreover, the water lines may be fouled. Here’s the entire process of winterizing your camper.

Park Your Camper And Stabilize It

Before you start preparing your camper for the winter, you need to find a place to park and store your camper. Ideally, it’ll be a level surface where you’ll stabilize the tires using levelling blocks or wheel chocks. If you have a towable camper, you’ll need a robust camper jack or stabilizer to fix the vehicle.

You can even use concrete blocks and this will keep your tires from developing flat spots. For a motorized RV, you’ll need to park it with the emergency brake engaged.

Clean the Camper Properly

Once you’ve unpacked your camper and removed any food or crumbs, you can wipe down floors and surfaces. We recommend that you be meticulous and thoroughly clean countertops, cabinets, oven and range, microwave, refrigerator, toilets, showers and cabinets. Don’t forget curtains, sheets, and bedding. You don’t want bugs or rodents to settle in.

It’s boring and time-consuming but doing it before winter will allow you to get back on the road once the season begins.

Prepare the Sewer Hose

Before the winter season, you should drain your camper’s black and grey water tanks and wash out the sewer hose. Then you can store – optionally in the external compartment or rear bumper. To keep your hose sanitary and contained, you can connect one end of the hose to the other.

To get rid of the water in your water heater, you’ll need to turn it off and let it cool down and not be under pressure. Then you should remove the drain plug and open the pressure relief valve to let the water drain out. Once you take care of this, open all of the faucets, as well as the hot and cold drain lines. This will help you get the remaining water out of the system.

Winterize Your Camper Plumbing System

Winterizing the plumbing system is a time-consuming, but necessary step to keep your camper functioning properly the next season. You need to remove all the water in your pipes to prevent winter freezing. Otherwise, your pipes may burst and start to leak, thereby causing unnecessary expenses once the season begins.

How to Winterize Camper Water System?

You can winterize your camper’s water system using either compressed air or antifreeze.

Winterizing a Camper Water System with Compressed Air

This method has its advantages because it doesn’t require much antifreeze. Moreover, you don’t need to get the antifreeze out after the winter. This makes the entire process more budget-friendly. However, it may be challenging to remove all the water from your water system using only compressed air. Some water could collect at the bottom of your camper and freeze. Therefore, we recommend using a cup of antifreeze per fixture.

Here’s the list of the things you’ll need if you decide to winterize your vehicle using this method:

  • Air compressor with an adjustable pressure regulator
  • Blow out plug fitting into the city water inlet
  • RV antifreeze

To winterize a camper water system using compressed air, you’ll have to:

  • Cleanse and drain the black and grey water tanks
  • Drain the freshwater system and water pump
  • Remove inline water filters
  • Drain the water heater and turn on the bypass valve if there’s one
  • Use a blowout plug to connect your air source onto the city water inlet
  • Turn on the air compressor (up to 40PSI of pressure)
  • Open each faucet (both hot and cold settings) and fixture
  • Turn off the compressor
  • Pour about one cup of antifreeze into each fixture
  • Remove all low point drain plugs and water heater drain plug
  • Disconnect the electric system once you’re ready to store your camper for winter

Winterizing a Camper Water System with Antifreeze

Should you decide to winterize your camper using antifreeze, you’ll need to manually drain the water tanks. Most campers have 2-3 low point drains you can easily open to clear the tanks. To winterize your camper using antifreeze, you’ll need to:

  • Cleanse and drain the black and grey water tanks
  • Drain the water heater
  • Drain the freshwater system. Start by opening all exterior low point drains, as well as hot and cold faucets and showerheads inside the vehicle. To get rid of any remaining water in the system, press on the toilet pedal
  • Remove inline water filters
  • If your camper’s system has a water heater bypass, turn on the bypass valve. A water heater bypass can be added to the camper so you don’t have to fill the water heater with antifreeze. It is less expensive and allows you to drain the system faster in the spring.
  • Close any low point drains you have opened and look for the inlet valve on your water pump.
  • Pressurize the system using the water pump.
  • Finally, you’ll need to open all faucets, starting with the closest to the water pump, as well as showerheads and toilet sprayers until there’s pure antifreeze flowing. Do this with the toilet, as well.
  • Pump antifreeze throughout the water system. You’ll typically need 1-3 gallons of antifreeze if you have a water heater bypass installed. And some more antifreeze to fill up your water heater (6-10 gallons) in case you don’t. You should only use antifreeze that is designed specifically for RV potable water systems!
  • Once the antifreeze has reached all parts of your water system, turn the pump off and close the inlets.

RV Water Heater Bypass

Today, water heater by-pass systems can be found in most RVs. The system is used to separate the water heater from your camper’s plumbing system. It can also be used to drain the water heater and to winterize your camper’s water system. Basically, it takes the cold water going to the water heater and routes it to the hot water plumbing line by preventing anti-freeze from going into the heater.

The bypass system is commonly used for winterizing the RV using antifreeze. It allows you to drain the water heater tank and store it safely for winter. This way, you’ll reduce the cost of filling the water heater tank with 6-10 gallons of RV antifreeze.

There are three types of bypass systems available in the market – with one, two or three bypass valves.

  • One-valve system. The valve is located at the cold water line and the bypass line. You operate it by turning the valve at right angles to the line on a one-valve system.
  • Two-valve system. One valve is located at the cold-water inlet and the other in the bypass line. Operated by turning both valves to lie parallel to the line.
  • Three-valve system. One valve is at the cold-water inlet, one is at the hot water outlet, and the third one is in the bypass line. You need to ensure that the valves on the cold and hot water line are turned perpendicular to the bypass line. Then turn the bypass valve to be parallel to the line. The anti-freeze will pass straight through and bypass the tank.

Winterizing a Camper Without the Bypass

If you’re an RV newbie, winterization can be rather challenging. While it may vary depending on the model of the camper, some aspects are standard for all vehicles. Such as the water heater bypass. Having a bypass valve in your camper makes the winterization process incredibly easy. This is why you are highly recommended to install it if you don’t already have one.

In case you don’t have a bypass in your camper, here’s what you can do to properly winterize your vehicle:

  • Drain freshwater tank
  • Use an air compressor to blow out all lines, starting with the water heater, then the cold water lines and the hot water lines.
  • Put RV antifreeze in the freshwater tank. Optionally, you can just drain the freshwater tank instead of putting antifreeze into it. Even if there’s some water remaining, there’s enough room for it to freeze and expand without damaging the tank.
  • Start the water pump
  • Use the pink antifreeze in the furthest away cold service, get back to the tank, and do the same with hot water service.
  • Drain the freshwater tank and blow out all the lines again.
  • Once the winter’s over, flush everything with fresh water before firing up the water heater.

While we recommend installing a bypass, there are certain steps you should take to protect your water system (and your own health) in case you don’t. Such as avoiding putting antifreeze into freshwater or hot water tank. Experienced RVers argue that the scent and flavor of antifreeze stay forever in your system once you have put antifreeze into the hot water tank.

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