If you're an Airstreamer who lives in northern latitudes where it regularly freezes in the winter months, winterization is an essential process to protect and preserve your Airstream investment. Proper winterization involves flushing all the water out of your Airstream's plumbing system, and then removing batteries and cleaning out any food that might attract pests. Read on for the hows and whys of winterization, plus step-by-step instructions for doing it yourself.
Why Should I Winterize my Airstream?
When done correctly, winterizing your Airstream travel trailer removes all the water from the plumbing lines, the holding tanks, the faucets, and water heater. Water that remains in the plumbing system can freeze when the temperature drops below freezing, and can potentially damage pipes, valves, and sensitive mechanical equipment. The typical process for winterizing begins with draining all plumbing lines and then using an air compressor to blow any remaining water out of the system. An optional, additional method involves pumping non-toxic RV antifreeze through the system. Instructions for both methods are outlined below.
Keep in mind also that – while the main consideration in winterizing your travel trailer is to guard against freeze damage – proper winterization for long-term storage also involves removing batteries, cleaning out cupboards and removing any leftover food or crumbs to help deter pests.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Winterizing Your Airstream Travel Trailer
1. Level the travel trailer from side to side and front to rear. Open all faucets.
2. Turn the water pump switch to the ON position to expel water from the storage tank
3. Open all drain valves including drain plug or valve on water heater and exterior water service valve.
4. While the water is draining from the system, open and flush the toilet-flushing valve. Depress hand spray lever while holding the spray head down inside the bowl. Depress hand spray thumb button on the telephone shower head while holding down inside the tub and drain all water from the flexible hose. Unscrew the heads on both spray units and store.
5. Turn the pump switch OFF after all water has been removed from the storage tank.
6. Disconnect outlet hose from water pump.
7. If your unit has a winterization kit installed, open valve to the winterizing position and remove plug. If your unit does not have this valve, disconnect the water pump inlet connection. Turn the pump on until all the water is expelled. This water, about 1/2 cup, can be caught in a towel or rag.
8. Lower the front of the travel trailer as far as the jack will allow until water ceases to drain, then crank the jack up as high as it will go and allow any remaining water to drain out.
9. After the water has stopped running from the drain lines, apply 50 lb. of air pressure at the city water inlet. An air-to-city water adapter (often referred to as a "blow out plug") is available from our official store, Airstream Supply Company. Be sure the toilet valve, all drain valves, and faucets are open and pump outlet hose is disconnected. This can be done at a service station or at home if you have an air compressor (be aware that you may need to purchase additional adapters), and will force any remaining water from the water heater and remove any water that may be trapped in low areas.
10. Pour a cup of non-toxic RV antifreeze that has been approved and listed by a recognized testing authority such as Underwriter Lab into the lavatory, sink and tub drains to prevent trap freeze-up.
11. Be sure to open the waste-holding tank dump valves and drain and flush the tanks thoroughly (this is very important as the sewage in the tanks, if frozen, could seriously damage the tanks). Plan ahead and have this done at a dump station.
12. Remove the batteries from your travel trailer and store in a cool, dry place where there is no danger of freezing. It is very important for optimum life of a battery to check it periodically and to keep it fully charged.
13. Remove any items (food, cosmetics, etc.) from travel trailer interior that might be damaged by freezing, or that might damage the travel trailer if containers should break.
Remove all RV antifreeze spillage from all drain and faucet parts after winterizing. Failure to do so could result in damage to the plumbing fixture’s finish.
Winterizing with Non-Toxic RV Anti-Freeze
An Optional method for winterizing protection, is to add a non-toxic antifreeze (approved for drinking water system) to the water lines using the following procedure:
1. Reconnect all lines except the hose to the pump inlet port. If you have the winterization kit installed, just reconnect the outlet hose. Close all drain valves.
2. Turn water heater bypass valve to bypass position. Refer to Water Heater Bypass Valve illustration.
3. If you do not have the winterization kit, attach a length of hose to the pump inlet port. This piece of hose should be long enough for the free end to be inserted into and reach the bottom of the antifreeze container.
4. For antifreeze usages follow manufacturer’s instructions found on label of container.
5. Open all water faucets.
6. Insert hose length into the antifreeze container, turn the pump switch on, and run the water pump until the antifreeze solution fills all water lines. Flush toilet. Work hand shower spray while holding down in tub.
7. Shut off the pump and close all faucets.
8. Disconnect the hose length from pump inlet fitting and reconnect water system inlet line. If you have the winterization kit, turn valve back into normal use position and reinstall hose plug.
Video Guide to Our Winterization Kit
More on Airstream Winterization
Ask an Airstreamer: How, When, and Why to Winterize
We sat down with some seasoned Airstreamers to learn the basics of winterization. Enjoy this two-part Ask an Airstreamer session and learn more about this essential part of RVing. Part 1 focuses on winterization basics, while part two updates the information with Model Year 2022-specific information, as well as info on how to winterize an Airstream Touring Coach and a discussion of how to winter camp.