Well, I’ve been meaning to write this up… mostly as a reminder to myself of the process I went through to winterize our Rockwood Mini Lite 2104S. To be sure I knew how to do this the first time correctly, I used the services of Sean Mack of Quality Mobile RV.
Quality Mobile RV
I used Sean because he was recommended by the folks where we store our camper on the outskirts of Denver, CO.
Sean was a very helpful guy and offered to give me a how-to tutorial so that I could do this myself in the future. Sean also does just about any repair you can think of for campers (gas, electric, heaters, pumps, lighting).
Since learning the ins and outs of how to winterize from Sean, I have done this myself twice. Granted, in between winterizations it never really did get sub zero, so… we’ll have to update you as to how this goes when we take the camper out for the first time in the spring of 2018.
Caution / disclaimer : as far as I know, these steps are accurate and worked to protect our camper from the cold Colorado winter, your results may vary… proceed with your own common sense and caution all y’all
The method described is the “standard” way of winterizing which uses RV antifreeze which is formulated for drinking water systems (its basically just alcohol). The gist is that you want to get any and all water out of your water lines and replace it with antifreeze so that you dont break any valves, pipes or pex tubing when the camper is in extreme cold and not in use.
There is another winterizing method which uses compressed air. Here is a vid from the RVGeeks that describes how that is done. If I ever get a nice compressor, I definitely want to try this method in the future.
The steps below are in a “loose” order, and re-summarized in an audio recording by Sean (lower down in this post)
note : before starting this procedure, naturally, you need to dump your Gray and Black tanks, and ideally if possible, drain your fresh water tank (as this takes some time to complete)
Step 1 : Set the bypass for the hot water tank and the pump, remove the inline water filter
The point of the two bypass maneuvers is :
- have the pump bypass the fresh water intake so that the pump pulls from the external winterize intake connection (on the outside of the camper)
- have the tank disconnected from the water system so that antifreeze doesn’t just fill up the hot water tank, and instead gets circulated through the trailer plumbing
Note about the special bypass valves in the Rockwood Mini Lite 2104S (and likely very similar for any of the mini or micro lite models)
Below are some clips from a YouTube guy named Trapsis (on a slightly different Mini Lite, but the info is more or less the same for a 2104S)
How to do the hot water tank bypass
How to do the water filter removal
How to do the pump bypass
Step 2 : Tank Pressure release /Drain the Hot Water tank
If you have a water heater tank like the 2104S (Suburban style) you’re going to need a special socket and perhaps even a socket extender so you can make more than 1/10 of a turn at a time
As you turn the drain plug, water will just come gushing out all over the place, so if you are wearing your favorite pair of shoes or its cold out, you might want to watch your toes.
Step 3 : Connect a short hose and your antifreeze to the winterize inlet
Step 4 : turn on the camper water pump and run all fixtures that have a water connection (run antifreeze through all water lines / pipes and drains)
- run the kitchen sink hot and cold (in the Mini Lite 2014S, the P Trap is shared between both sinks, so you dont really have to winterize both sides of the kitchen sink)
- flush the toilet
- run the shower head hot and cold (note : some anti freeze can stain the plastic shower tub, so to avoid a mess, use the bathroom sink drain to drain the shower head)
- run the bathroom sink hot and cold
- run the outdoor shower hot and cold
- pour some antifreeze down the Shower drain (if you didnt drain the shower head in the shower drain as mentioned above)
- pour some antifreeze into the toilet bowl, this will help the flapper rubber seal from drying out over the winter
- turn all the bypass valves on the hot water tank side about a 1/3 of a turn each to be sure to get any water out (note about this in the audio summary)
Step 5 : winterize the city water inlet line
this step is a little funky and easily forgotten and supposedly an easy way to damage your city water spring valve so…
- turn off water pump
- reduce pressure in camper by running a sink for a short bit
- remove screen from city water intake
- poke the spring valve with your finger (do not do this under high pressure or you might damage the spring valve)
- you should see a little bit of pink antifreeze come up and out of the city inlet
here is another video from the same dude about how to do the city inlet maneuver however, the youtube video does NOT mention anything about high pressure damage
Step 6: Open the low point drains
These are kind of a pain in the butt to remove for a few reasons :
- they are in a very hard to get to spot
- my hot water drain swivels when you try to loosen the cap, so doing it by hand isnt possible ( i need two wrenches / tools to get it off)
- you are likely going to need to “get up in there” with two hands, and therefore you WILL get antifreeze running down your arm / shoulder maybe even your ear / head if you are in a bad position
- it would have been really nice if Rockwood would just put a simple on off drain switch here, probably costing them a total of $2.00.
- i plan to add an on/off valve for my low point drains next season
Step 7: Open the fresh water tank drain
Step 8: Put the Hot Water tank and Pump bypass valves back in “Normal Mode”
Step 9: Replace the Drain Tank plug / anode
Summary ! Here is an audio clip with a great run down of everything covered above and some extra tips
If you plan to dry camp your first trip out AFTER winterizing the camper… remember, you are going to need about 5 gallons or maybe even more to De-Winterize (aka : flush out ALL of the anti-freeze). If you have a small camper like the 2014S, this kinda sucks ! why :
- you are going to burn 5+ gallons of good fresh water to displace the anti-freeze
- you are going to fill up your gray tank with 5+ gallons of waste water
- you are already in the hole wasting water and filling your tanks upon arriving to camp on your first night 😦
Therefore… if you can… do this at your RV storage facility (if they have a water fillup AND a dump) OR… do this on the road on the way to your destination OR do this at an RV park / Campsite that has water fill and dump facilities
Late Season Tips and Tricks to avoid a full Winterize
If you’re like us, you want to keep camping well into Late Fall (November) and / or get out in Early Spring (March / April)
To avoid the whole rigamarole listed above in the full winterization of the camper you have a few options.
If you are out camping and you have enough Battery power / electricity… you can turn on the heated holding tanks, keeping an eye on the outside Grey and Black Drains. One suggestion we have heard is to pour liberal amounts of rock salt water solution down the toilet and down the sink. This is sorta like an quickie anti-freeze specifically for the portion of the drain pipes that are exposed to the outside (potentially freezing a block / puck at the bottom low point of the drain)
If there is a cold snap but not a full on sub-freezing weather event, you can just turn on the furnace/heater in the camper and set it to something like 65-68F. This will keep your camper from freezing for a few days of very cold weather. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure you have Full propane tanks and you’ll want to check on the camper and turn that off as soon as the weather warms up. Be sure your camper has enough battery capacity or electricity hookup to run your furnace fan. Those fans can pull ALOT of amps and kill a battery in just one night.