The simple guide to winterizing an Airstream

Winterizing is a topic Airstream owners love to hate.

Autumn is the time of year that online forums and social sites fill up with questions about how to do it, what to avoid, and how to make sure things don't go wrong.

But in my experience, most people overthink the process and make it unnecessarily complicated.

So this year, we decided to create The Simple Guide to Winterizing an Airstream, which explains 11 practical steps to getting the process done. 

The Simple Guide to Winterizing an Airstream

What "winterizing" means

If you're new to Airstreaming, “winterizing” is an annual procedure that’s necessary for Airstreamers who live in cold-weather climates. Mostly, it ensures that the plumbing system does not freeze over, but there are other steps to take as well.

Here's an overview of what's included in the process:

  1. Drain all water from the freshwater tank and plumbing lines, and replace it with RV antifreeze to protect the plumbing system from freezing.
  2. Disconnect the negative battery cable or remove the batteries.
  3. Remove all food, liquids, and trash from the Airstream.
  4. Put a bit of protectant on the 7-way plug end and top off the air in the tires. (Optional but recommended.)

If you live in a climate where the Airstream won’t endure sub-freezing temperatures for the winter months, you don’t need to winterize the plumbing but you should consider the other steps during periods of long storage.

Our recommended method

There are two common winterizing methods. Our guide recommends and explains the RV antifreeze method.

We also make the assumption that your Airstream came with a winterization kit, which Airstream has been including on all units in recent years. Alternatively, you will need to purchase and install a winterization kit yourself, which is easy and inexpensive. 

The 11 simple steps

Below are the steps explained in The Simple Guide to Winterizing an Airstream. We include a list of tools and products you need to complete the job, and you'll need to have your Owner's Manual available.

Step 1. Dump the gray and black tanks using your normal procedure

Step 2. Level the trailer

Step 3. Drain all the water from the fresh water tank

Step 4. Open (turn on) all the faucets and showers and let all the water in the plumbing lines drain out of the low-point drains

Step 5. Drain the water heater – the procedure varies depending on whether your water heater has a tank, or is tankless.

Step 6. When water stops draining (which might take a long time!), close everything that you opened

Step 7. Engage the winterization kit and prepare to put the RV antifreeze through the system

Step 8. Turn on the water pump and let the antifreeze flow through the system 

Step 9. Remove all food, liquids, and things that could be damaged by freezing

Step 10. Disconnect the negative battery cable–it’s not enough to flip the Battery Disconnect switch. This blog explains why 

Step 11. Perform final maintenance tasks

Happy winterizing!

 

 

 

27 comments

Linda

Linda

What happens if you plan on using your AS during the winter for every other weekend camp trip? Do you have to go through this process each time before you take it out and after you come back? This is my confusion about “winterizing”. What is the winterization process for streamers who still want to be on the move a few times a month for a couple of days?

Ric Jones

Ric Jones

I’ve been using this method of winterizing on 5 Airstreams over 22 years. Never had a leak in the Spring (touch wood). But one thing I always questioned: nothing in this method accounts for the water in the line from the fresh water tank to the pump. The fresh water tank is empty – but nothing is specifically dealing with any leftover water between the tank and the pump itself. Never had any issue but it seems like it could be a problem.

Also an observation that many people with tankless water heaters now have a device called a shower miser. So that has to be dealt with. There is an extra line that goes from the faucet/valves on the shower and/or sinks back to the fresh water tank. Using RV Antifreeze to protect these lines would result in a little Antifreeze getting into the fresh water tank. I plan to just fill the fresh tank in the spring and then pump it out once or twice but it is a new wrinkle.

Ken Williams

Ken Williams

I have a 2022 with a Girard Tankless Coil for hot water. The coach has what looks like a bypass valve, but I believe that the valve only allows the pump to pull in anti-freeze. I believe, but want to make sure, that the coil needs to be filled with anti-freeze to prevent damage – not just drained like a hot water heater with a 6 gallon tank.

Cheryl

Cheryl

Have done the winterizing process as above. the question came up about how to get the antifreeze into the City water Intake? or maybe that’s not necessary after opening the low point drains…thoughts?

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Linda: In your case, you have 3 choices: (1) Re-winterize the Airstream between trips; (2) Store the Airstream somewhere above freezing; (3) Put a space heater in the Airstream between trips, assuming you have a power connection.

Ric: If you follow the instructions as I’ve listed them, there should be little to no water in the line from the water pump to the tank. Any remaining drops won’t be enough to hurt the PEX plumbing. Regarding your second point: a little RV antifreeze in the fresh water tank isn’t a bad thing, and will quickly be displaced when you de-winterize in spring.

Ken: These instructions take into account the Girard tankless heater. Girard says the coil does not need anti-freeze but it won’t hurt.

Cheryl: Yes, if you drain the lines as described, there won’t be much residual water in the city water fill, so it should be fine.

Tom Lowe

Tom Lowe

Why bother opening the pop-off valve in a tankless water heater when you will be pumping antifreeze through it? I’ve often made it a leaking pop off valve (RV or not) after messing with it.

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Tom: Opening the pop-off valve allows air into the tankless heater, which helps water drain out of it. It’s a practice recommended by Airstream, but you are correct that the anti-freeze will displace any water anyway. All of the steps regarding draining the lines are designed to make it easier to fill the lines with 100% anti-freeze. If you prefer not to touch the pop-off valve, just be sure that you’ve run plenty of anti-freeze through the tankless water heater.

John Lange

John Lange

We have a 2018 Classic with the Alde water heater. Do you need to bypass it before pumping the antifreeze into the lines? Thanks!

Jo Bode

Jo Bode

How do I know I have run enough antifreeze through the tankless water heater? I did run every fixture on both hot and cold position till antifreeze showed up. I did not let water out of the Girard tankless water heater pop-off valve … actually, where’s that valve located on my Flying Cloud 25 FBT? Thanks in advance!

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

John L: There is no bypass installed for tankless water heaters such as yours.

Jo B: Once pink/red anti-freeze comes out any of the hot water faucets, your tankless water heater is all set.

Mark

Mark

Hi Rich
Thank you for all the helpful articles!
My question is regarding the batteries. I’ve got a solar panel that’s always charging them since it’s almost always sunny here. (Colorado)
I’m thinking that I could just leave them hooked up?

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Mark: Sure, you can leave your solar panels connected all the time, as long as you’re not worried about theft. Make sure to check once in a while that the batteries are staying charged. The panels could become accidentally disconnected, or there might not be enough sun (or too much snow).

Nancy

Nancy

How does this method account for the water remaining in the black tank flush?

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Nancy, the black tank flush drains down into the black tank, so most of the water is already gone just from gravity. There shouldn’t be enough water left in the line to cause a problem.

Rob (Norton) McBride

Rob (Norton) McBride

Thanks for making it simple Rich. We are on Vancouver Island which is pretty moderate for Canada but you have offered some great suggestions. Best regards Norton Comox.

Eric Rodriguez

Eric Rodriguez

I wanted to do the Anti Freeze method however the water pump on the 2022 20FB Bambi isn’t easy to find or use. It is in a compartment under the microwave however it is in a metal box(I presume since there nothing else there). The screws are very hard to access. Would be nice if they have a video showing how to access it in the box. Any comments will be greatly appreciated.

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Eric — the owner’s manual for your 2022 Bambi 20FB states: “The 20 ft. model has the pump and filter located under the microwave. The bottom panel below the microwave is held on by pressure catches. Remove this panel to get access to the water pump and winterization kit.”

It sounds like no screws need to be removed. If you can’t figure out how to remove the access panel beneath the microwave, I suggest you call Airstream Support at 937-596-6111 for assistance.

Eric Rodriguez

Eric Rodriguez

Thanks for your response Rich. I got to the pump however is inside a metal container with perhaps 15-20 screws. The book gives you the impresión that when you remove the panel the pump is exposed but it isn’t. I’ll will try Airstream Assistance, many thanks Rich!

Steve Wood

Steve Wood

Newbie here. We got a 2021 Globetrotter 23FB last spring, so first winterization coming up this weekend (ahead of sub-freezing temps predicted here in Nashville next week). The rig has a tankless water heater, but how do I know whether it’s acceptable to use RV antifreeze in it versus bypassing the heater and just draining it? Also, any suggestions on which RV antifreeze to use?

Richard Kovash

Richard Kovash

Hi Rich! Thank you for taking the time to run these blogs, I really appreciate it. I live in Colorado. Why do we need to draw antifreeze into the water lines if we have been really careful blowing all the water out of the water lines and low point drains with an air compressor?

Jonathan Levin

Jonathan Levin

Thanks Rich. About use in winter: it sounds gross, but a large heavy duty bag in toilet. Bring bottled water. When done camping, we take batteries home and place on trickle charge for a week and then once a month. I also inflate tires ~5 pnds over what I normally run them in case presure drops during winter. In spring I usually let a little air out. I’m in the no anti freeze in water lines camp. I really spend a lot of time doing that. U “know” my Airstream.

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Steve Wood: Tankless water heaters don’t have bypasses, so the only winterization technique is to drain it and/or pump in anti-freeze. I recommend using anti-freeze so that you’re sure there’s no water left inside.

We don’t have a recommendation for a particular RV Anti-Freeze brand; they’re all about the same.

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Richard Kovash: If you’re sure that you’ve gotten all the water out with your compressor, you don’t have to pump in Anti-Freeze. But if you’ve missed a little bit in the water pump, toilet valve, sink faucet, or other sensitive spots, you may find those items leak or don’t work in the spring! We (and Airstream) recommend Anti-Freeze because it adds redundant protection.

Jeff C.

Jeff C.

RV Tips and Travels on YouTube has great videos on both the compressed air method and the antifreeze method:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luBM8Ml6Ezs
Blowing air into the fresh tank fill pushes much more water out the tank drain than gravity alone. Also a good tip is to blow air into the winterizing hose to blow out the water pump and the line after it. Turn the pump on briefly while you do it. Don’t forget to empty the strainer cup, too. I also blow out my black tank flush line. When I opened the cap there was water there, so now I leave it loose enough to drain. Add some antifreeze to your p-traps and black and gray tanks, too.

Steve C

Steve C

I’ve researched these questions and it’s not at all clear what the correct answers are. The airstream has 300W rooftop solar and is stored outdoors, the temperature gets below freezing but rarely/never below -15F I’m winter. (1) It’s not clear if I’m supposed to disconnect the negative battery terminal cable on lithium iron phosphate batteries when winterizing or if the batteries should be removed and placed in a warmer location. (2) If the battery is disconnected or removed do I need to do something about the current coming from rooftop solar (by disconnecting the solar panels on the roof)?

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Steve C: Your LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) batteries won’t charge below freezing, and eventually parasitic loads will drain them during winter storage if they are left connected. For that reason, you should make sure the batteries are fully charged at the end of the season, and then disconnect the negative cable when winterizing. This will eliminate any possible drain on the batteries, and they’ll be fine all winter.

People with lead-acid batteries (including AGM) should consider removing the batteries and putting them somewhere warmer (like a garage) for the winter.

You don’t need to do anything about the solar panels.

For more, you can read these articles:

https://battlebornbatteries.com/faq-how-to-winterize-your-batteries/

https://www.airgear.store/blogs/airstream/why-are-my-batteries-dead

Juliet Green

Juliet Green

Such a helpful board- – thank you!
Despite wintering in AZ, there are still overnight freezing temps! In your book, Complete Guide to Airstream maintenance, you mention “field winterizing” . Perhaps this is obvious, maybe disconnecting H2O hose & keeping furnace on, but is there anything else you might do to tide the TT over for a night or two in below freezing temps? Thanks in advance for any/all observations, information,
clarifications.

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