Winterizing a Camper… It’s Not That Hard


Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Grant

Unless you live in a part of the country where it does not freeze often, you will need to winterize your camper. Winterizing a camper basically consists of draining all water and/or pumping anti-freeze through the water lines so that when temperatures drop below freezing, the “pipes” don’t burst.

It’s Not That Hard

When we first looked at winterizing our camper, we thought we would need to have our local shop do it for us. We live in a condo and don’t have a ton of tools or garage space to work. We had to take the camper in for service anyway, so why not?

So, we checked at our local Camping World and they wanted to charge us about $130 to winterize the camper. That said, the folks behind the counter said we could easily do it ourselves with the purchase of a bypass valve which would all you to pump antifreeze into the system. Sounds easy, right?

Well, not so much. Accessing the water pump was not an easy process and after taking a look at the manual, we realized there are a couple of ways to winterize the camper without installing the bypass valve.

First and foremost, FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS IN YOUR MANUAL. Your camper is 99% likely not to be the same model I own. That said, this is our experience following the instructions for the Keystone Passport Elite 23RB.

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Winterizing A Camper – Options

Pump Antifreeze

The first option is to pour several gallons of antifreeze (be sure you are using RV/Marine anti-freeze!) into the freshwater tank and then run antifreeze through the entire system. We didn’t like this option for a couple of reasons: One, antifreeze is fairly expensive (about $20 per gallon at Camping World)… We know we will have to do this twice this season since we are taking the camper down to Disney World in February and then bringing it back. Two, even though the anti-freeze is inert, we would prefer not to have that running through the drinking water lines.

Use an Air Compressor

Option two was to use an air compressor to blow out all of the water lines and add anti-freeze to the drains and gray and black water tanks. We liked this option because we would use a minimal amount of anti-freeze, which would keep recurring costs down. The problem? We don’t own an air compressor, which aren’t cheap and typically are fairly large.

Just like you, I hit the Internet and found one, a compact air compressor (similar to this one) and, two, an adapter from Camco (of course!) which will screw right into a standard water inlet. The reviews on Amazon had several folks who use the air compressor for RVs and it suited the purpose I need it for just fine. An added bonus is I can use it to top off tires on the camper were they to get low.

Craftsman Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (CMEC6150K) and Camco Blow Out Plug With Brass Quick Connect (36143)
  • The portable pancake air compressor has a 6 gallon capacity and is made in the USA with an oil-free pump for no maintenance.
  • It provides 150 max PSI air pressure for a variety of applications with a quick 2.6 SCFM recovery time at 90 PSI (Craftsman).
  • The blow out plug screws into the RV water inlet to connect to the air compressor and aids in flushing out water from RV water lines (Camco).
  • The air compressor accessory kit includes 13 pieces for multiple applications (Craftsman).

The compressor did not come with a quick attach/detach adapter, so we went to Home Depot to pick up one for about $4. After attaching that to the hose on the compressor, we were ready to go. We packed up the camper and headed to a nearby campground for a quick weekend.

Compressor Adapter
This quick release compressor adapter costs very little and allows your compressor to quickly switch between tools.

Winterizing A Camper – Down to Business

First things first, make sure you turn off the water heater and let it start cooling down.

Next, I disconnected the city water at my campsite and started my normal tank draining and flushing procedures and here is where I could have saved some time. What I should have done is started draining the hot water tank, freshwater tank and lines while the black and gray water tanks were draining.

Hot Water Tank Bypass Valve
This small valve (in the up or bypass position) prevents water from passing into the hot water tank.

Next, I flipped the hot water tank bypass valve and I toggled the pressure release valve on the hot water tank to take off some of the pressure. Then I got out an adjustable wrench and removed the hot water tank plug and started it draining.

Hot Water Tank Toggle
Bonnie flipping up the pressure toggle on the hot water tank while I work on the plug.
Hot Water Tank Drain Plug
Getting to the drain plug was a bit of a pain. Once I loosened the plug, it unscrewed by hand fairly easily.

My camper is equipped with drains for the freshwater tank and the water lines. I opened those up to let those drain.

Fresh Water Tank Drain
My camper came equipped with a freshwater tank and line drains. I suggest draining those before you start working on everything else. It will save you time in the long run!

With my black and gray water tanks drained and flushed, I connected my air compressor to the black water flush line. I let the air compressor blow out the line at 30 PSI (per the camper manual).

Blowing out the tank flush line
Don’t forget to blow the water out of the tank flush lines!

Then I ran the water pump to pull any remaining water out of the pump and fill lines.

Once that was complete, I moved the air compressor to the city water line and opened up all the faucets. Don’t forget the outside shower if you have one! I blew out the lines with 30 PSI with the drains open. Then I closed the drains (leaving the faucets open) and blew out the lines again. Nothing much came out of the drains except the exterior shower.

Connecting to the City Water Connection
Using the Camco adapter made connecting the air compressor to the city water connection very easy!

In the meantime, I replaced the plug on the water heater.

After shutting down the compressor and closing all the faucets, I poured some antifreeze into the drains and into the toilet. Make sure to leave a small amount in the actual toilet to keep the seal from freezing. We used about 1/3 a gallon of antifreeze.

Anti-freeze for the drains
Making sure the p-traps and drains all had a little antifreeze prevent freezing.

All told, it took us about an hour to complete the winterization process and the normal takedown process. That is a bit longer than normal. It is not so onerous we wouldn’t do this as a normal part of camping in the late Fall.

Final Thoughts

The purchase of the compressor, the adapters and the antifreeze was about $100. The compressor I bought is no longer sold. That said, the one I linked is a good compressor, has the blowout plug and the ability to winterize every year without any additional expense is a serious value to us.

The compressor is very compact and easily stores under the bed with the rest of our tools.

Being able to winterize the camper ourselves and the added utility of the compressor is an advantage. It really helps if we decide to take the camper out in the middle of the winter to southern locations.

Travel Resources
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We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. You can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
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If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
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We recently partnered with Stay22 to add interactive maps to each of our destination posts. This will allow you to see a plethora of hotels and vacation rentals all in one responsive map of the area.

What if I need more space than I can get at a hotel?

We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
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Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
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How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices for booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
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What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
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What do you use for booking tours?

We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viator first.
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Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.
We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.
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