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Seasonal Campers de-Winterizing Guidelines

Updated 04.24.2020

One of the more common questions we get each spring is, how do we de-winterize the plumbing in our trailer. While the process varies slightly depending on the trailer you have, these guidelines will give you a general understanding of the process. This document is intended to be helpful, but may have errors. Of course we can’t guarantee that these steps will work for your trailer, so please keep in mind you should use them at your own risk. As always, if you have any questions we are happy to talk. Advice is always free.

  1. Run faucet on water rizer coming out of ground for a few minutes to get clear water. Do this before you hook the hose up to the water rizer. This is to get all air out of the system.

  2. MAKE SURE POWER IS OFF TO WATER HEATER. This is the area where you are most likely to do damage. If your water heater has an electric element for heating (most Park Models do, and about half of Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels do), this element needs to be off when you turn the power on to the trailer. Because there won’t be any water in the water heater when you arrive the first time in spring, if you turn on that element accidentally you have about 10 seconds to realize your mistake before the element is destroyed. If you accidentally destroy the element, it is not a terribly expensive part (perhaps $20 or so), but it takes a bit of work to replace it, depending on the trailer. The bill can easily be over $100.

    1. If Lake Arrowhead winterized your camper, we should have turned off the element. Nevertheless, you should check to make sure. The best way to ensure the element is off is to go into the main breaker panel in the trailer (not outside on the pedestal, but the one inside the trailer) and look for a breaker labeled “Water Heater” or “WH”. It will usually be a 20amp single breaker. Make sure it is in the off position before turning on power to your trailer at the pedestal outside. There is always a second switch somewhere also for the electric element. Sometimes it is in the water heater access compartment on the outside wall of the camper, and sometimes it is a wall switch inside the camper. It never hurts to keep this one off at this stage also!

    2. If you do not have an electric element, but run your water heater solely off of propane, you should also make sure that the water heater switch for the propane is in the off position at this time. While it won’t happen as quickly, you can damage your water heater if you run the propane burner without water also.

  1. Make sure all plumbing fixtures in the trailer are off except the tub cold water. Before you even start, go inside the camping unit, turn off all faucets, showers, etc. If you have a house type toilet (with a tank above the bowl like you would at home), turn this off also via the valve by the floor. The purpose of turning off all fixtures in the trailer is to keep as much antifreeze as possible from going into the water heater. The bathtub should be turned on to cold only. This is where we are going to send the antifreeze from the outside hose. If you don’t have a tub, but rather a shower only, then we recommend you use the bathroom faucet instead.

  2. Make sure GREY WATER VALVE(S) UNDER TRAILER ARE TURNED ON. This is a very important one. As a seasonal in one of our campgrounds, you will have a sewer connection (some campgrounds have holding tanks on seasonal sites, all our sites have sewer). This means that your grey water valves should remain open all the time, but your black water valves should remain closed except when emptying the tank. (Note that most park models and some destination trailers do not have either grey or black water valves, so this may not apply to you.) The reason you need to make sure you grey water valve is open, is because in step #10 below you will be flushing a significant amount of water through your water heater, and you don’t want the tank to get full and cause your trailer to flood!

  3. Connect the hose and turn on water riser outside the trailer. After you turn on the water outside, go immediately inside the camper and make sure that water is coming out in the tub. It should be pink initially, then foamy, then clear. Once it’s clear you can shut off the water on the cold in the tub.

  4. Turn on the hot faucet in the tub (or bathroom sink if you don’t have a tub, only shower). Now here is the important part: You should see some antifreeze, then mostly air coming out of the tub faucet while you have the hot water on. This air should last for MINUTES (NOT FOR SECONDS). If you only get a few seconds of air and then water, SOMETHING IS WRONG AND YOU SHOULD NOT TURN ON THE WATER HEATER ELEMENT. If water comes after only a few seconds of air, your water heater is not full of water, and there is some kind of a problem with the winterizing valves most likely. The minutes worth of air is the water coming into the water heater, displacing the air that was in the water heater over winter.

  5. Once you have seen minutes (not seconds, see #6 above) worth of air and then clear water, your water heater is full and you can turn off the hot in the tub.

  6. Listen for leaks. Turn off all faucets in the camper, then listen carefully for the sound of water running, both form inside the camper and outside at the water riser where you hose connects. No sound is good news! (Note that this test only works after you have filled the water heater as described in #5 thru #7 above.)

  1. Turn on each faucet/fixture in turn to get out the remaining antifreeze. Be sure to turn on hot and cold in sequence (either order) at each faucet you have. Also flush the toilet, and run the shower. At each fixture, once the foam goes away and you have clear water you have completed this step.

  2. Turn on the HOT water faucet in the tub. You are going to let this run for 15 to 20 minutes to fully flush out any remaining antifreeze in the water heater. (Park models should do 20 mins, travel trailers should do 15 mins) This helps avoid that smell that your water heater can get later in the season. This is the step where it is super important that you make sure your grey water valves are open under the trailer so your trailer doesn’t flood. Most park models don’t have grey water valves (so they are always open). If you aren’t sure if your trailer has these valves get in touch with us. Also, don’t just walk away and let this run while you rake your yard. Keep checking on it and make sure your tub doesn’t fill up and overflow for any reason.

  3. Turn off the HOT on water faucet in the tub (after 15 minutes for travel trailers/fifth wheels, ~20 mins for park models).

  4. Flip the water heater circuit breaker to ON.

  5. Turn on the other switches controlling your water heater (might be in the kitchen on the wall, in the bathroom, or near the front door on a panel, etc.)

  6. Check for heat approximately 30 mins later. You can just wait to see if your water gets hot, or you can also have someone watch your electric meter when you turn on the switch. The meter should start spinning quickly when you flip the switch.

As always, if you have any questions at all don’t hesitate to reach out! Thanks!

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