How to Winterize A 5th Wheel For Winter Living

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What is a fifth wheel? ​

A fifth wheel is a type of recreational vehicle. Fifth wheels are campers with a hitch that allows the camper to attach to a capable vehicle for towing. The fifth wheel offers a hitch with the ability to swivel. The design of the connection provides more balance and stability while driving. Not only is the fifth wheel safer but it uses less gas than the motorized version. 

What does it mean to winterize a fifth wheel? 

What does it mean to winterize a fifth wheel

Winterizing a camper is the process of flushing out your tanks and water lines and filling them with RV antifreeze. Winterizing the fifth wheel prevents any water in the system from freezing during the winter months. Frozen water will expand and crack your pipes. Upon thawing, water will free flow through the cracked pipe. This can create a very expensive and messy situation.

A Guide to Winterizing Your Fifth Wheel

What kind of antifreeze do I buy?

How much antifreeze will I need to buy?

Buy RV antifreeze. RV antifreeze is non-toxic. This is important for winterizing a camper because the antifreeze will fill all your water lines. There is a chance you could accidentally consume some.

How much antifreeze will I need to buy? 

Most campers require 2-3 gallons of antifreeze for winterization.

In the absence of a water heater bypass, it requires that you purchase an additional 6-10 gallons of RV antifreeze just for the water heat tank. The bypass kit saves you a lot of money in the long run. Make sure the bypass kit matches the size of your water heater.  

Water Heater

  • Locate your water heater and water pump from the exterior of your fifth wheel. If you do not know how to access these, consult your camper’s manual. 
  • Drain the hot water tank by pulling the plug. Make sure you release the pressure ring while draining. Do not ever drain hot or pressurized water. 
  • If your water heater has an electrical component, turn it off before this process. If you keep the camper plugged in to maintain your battery, the electrical element will attempt to heat an empty water tank over the winter. 
  • Remove the water anode rod and use this time to inspect the rod for corrosion. The water anode rod keeps your water heater from rusting. Consistently check its condition and replace it when necessary. This will extend the life of your water heater by up to two or three times. 
  • Locate your hot water heater bypass and open the valve. Close the valves for the water heater. Your water heater should be empty, and the system is now routed to bypass your heater’s tank.
  • Again, if you do not have a water heater bypass, consider purchasing one. It is a one-time purchase that is far less than the cost of filling your water heater with antifreeze. 

Water Filtration System

  • Remove the cover. You may need a tool for leverage when removing the cover as they are often too tight to remove with your hands. 
  • Have a towel handy for the discharge. 
  • Remove the filter and replace the cap.

Circulate the Antifreeze

How much antifreeze will I need to buy?
  • Use a clear hose to connect the antifreeze to the antifreeze inlet. Make sure you do not connect it to the black-tank flush or city-water connector. 
  • Close all faucets and valves. 
  • Turn the water pump on and slowly open the valves and faucets closest to the pump. It will drain the remaining water from the line and eventually, antifreeze will begin flowing from the faucet. Only open hot and cold valves individually. Once you see antifreeze, close the valve. 
  • Repeat this process with every valve, from closest to farthest from the pump. 
  • Replace antifreeze supply as emptied. 
  • Flush the toilet until antifreeze appears. Do not forget the showers.
  • Turn the water pump off and open the valve to release the pressure. 
  • Locate your city-water connector. Use a screwdriver to open the valve on the exterior of the camper. Keep it open until you see the antifreeze.  

Black and Grey Tanks

Make sure to drain the tanks and allow antifreeze to run to the tanks. The tanks have a p-trap leading into them. This trap will have water in it. If you fail to run antifreeze through the trap, it could mean a big mess for you. 

Appliances

Winterize every appliance with water flow. For example, a dishwasher will need to run for a cycle to ensure antifreeze has reached the lines. If your refrigerator has an ice machine you will need to turn it on until you have antifreeze through the line. Again, flush any appliance that has a water line and fill with RV antifreeze. 

Consult Owner’s Manual

All fifth wheels are not created equally. This is a general guide and should help if you have never winterized a camper before. Please consult your owner’s manual for steps that are specific to your make and model.

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