How do you winterize a tent trailer?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How do you winterize a tent trailer? We will tell you how to protect the outside and inside of your tent trailer during winter. 

How do you winterize a tent trailer?

Winterizing your tent trailer is slightly different based on whether you are storing your tent trailer outside or inside. 

  • For inside storage of a tent trailer: There are several specialized companies that offer indoor storage of recreational vehicles of all types: RVs (motorhomes), fifth wheels, trailers, tent trailers. You can also rent a warehouse, opt for your neighbour’s garage or your cousin’s barn. The place may or may not be heated, but certainly not too humid and well ventilated. 
  • For the exterior storage of the tent trailer: Do you own or have access to a large lot, parking lot or even a field? You can certainly set up your tent trailer there for the winter. For small recreational vehicles (ditto for trailers and tent trailers), a temporary shelter, like the one used for cars, will do the trick.
  • The importance of camper covers: Whether you are storing your tent trailer inside or outside for winter, you need a trailer cover. For older tent trailers, get large tarps from the hardware store. Be careful, don’t wrap your trailer like a baked potato! Place a large canvas under the vehicle and another above to allow good air circulation and prevent condensation. 

The covers will reduce the risk of water infiltration and facilitate snow removal, which will also be necessary once the snow has reached a height of about 30cm (one foot). There are also adjustable height poles that you can install inside the tent trailer to solidify the ceiling.

More tips on winterizing a tent trailer

Some companies offer tent trailer winter preparation services, but you can also do it yourself (see your owner’s manual for recommendations). Here is an overview of the steps, which are similar for trailers or fifth-wheel trailers equipped with the same equipment:

  • Clean the interior of the vehicle, go around every corner.
  • Empty food cabinets and empty trash cans.
  • Redo sealants and gaskets as needed.
  • Drain and purge all tanks and pipes (shower, dishwasher, washer, sink, water heater …) and add non-toxic RV antifreeze. Don’t forget the drains!
  • Set up repellents and traps for rodents and other pests, both indoors and outdoors. Do not block the exterior entrances and exits, this could encourage the formation of mould.
  • Turn off the power supply, shut off the propane supply, and store all batteries in a dry place indoors.
  • Close the blinds to avoid drastic changes in temperature and store cushions, curtains and other removable fabrics inside the house.
  • Leave all doors open, including those in the fridge and freezer.
  • Inflate the tires according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Elevate the vehicle and place it on blocks.

Your tent trailer should get just fine through the winter if it has been properly prepared and if it has been cleared of snow throughout the season. One thing is certain, these tasks will have a direct impact on the proper functioning and safety, but especially on the resale value of your trailer.

How to winterize a tent trailer water systems

To winterize your tent trailer water system and prevent the pipes from freezing you must:

  • Clean the black water tank.
  • Drain and wash the black water tanks with the flushing hose until the water flowing through the elbow is clean and clear. The cleaning can be done by the “Black Tank Flush” system for RVs equipped with it.
  • Pour in the desired amount of black water tank deodorant. The recommended amount depends on the type of deodorant and the size of the tank, we recommend approximately 8 ounces of deodorant per 40 gallons of capacity.
  • Open the hatches of the grey water and black water tanks and place the vented plug on the outlet of the wastewater tanks. Leave the hatches open to ventilate the tanks.
  • Lubricate the stems of the grey water and black water valves with silicone spray. This will prevent them from sticking during the winter.

For winterizing the tent trailer plumbing:

  • Find and close the circuit breaker (braker) connected to the water heater in the fuse panel.
  • Access the water heater from the outside by opening the hatch.
  • Drain the water from the water heater by opening the drain valve located at the bottom where the anode is screwed and the safety valve located at the top.
  • Empty the Fresh Water Tank by opening the valve under the tank.
  • Open the drain valves placed in the plumbing (Low Point Drain).
  • Find access to the water heater or plumbing valves inside the RV or to the docking station in the front trunk on the left.
  • Close the water heater inlet and outlet valves and open the water heater bypass valve. 

There are several possible configurations for the water heater:

  • Three valves, one for the water heater inlet, one for the water heater outlet and one for the bypass pipe. In this case, you must close the inlet and outlet and open the bypass valve.
  • Two valves, one entering the water heater and one leaving the water heater. Access to the bypass pipe will be opened by closing both valves.
  • A water heater inlet valve and a water heater outlet with valve. The bypass pipe will open by closing the inlet valve to the water heater.

All the valves are in the same place and a diagram in the centre of the connection indicates the position of the valves according to the situation. Connect the air compressor nozzle to the running water inlet (City Water Connection). Send 30 PSI air pressure to the plumbing. Plumbing can usually handle up to 45 PSI. Open all hot and cold water faucets until only air escapes from the faucets.

  • Close the taps and remove the compressed air nozzle.
  • Find access to the water pump.
  • Connect the hose to the water inlet of the pump and insert the other end into one of the gallons of antifreeze.
  • If your pump already has a winterization hose, simply turn the valve to change the hose connection from the freshwater tank to the winterization hose. If you want to install a winterization hose valve, a kit is available and easy to install.
  • For fitting centres, the hose is installed in the water inlet or at the location marked “Winterize”.
  • Turn on the pump and turn on all cold and hot water taps in turn. 
  • Turn off the pump and collect the rest of the antifreeze.
  • Pour the remaining antifreeze into the elbows of the P-traps.
  • Wipe off any excess antifreeze and drops to prevent it from staining the bottom of the accessories.

Winterizing the tent trailer amenities

  • Clean the tops of extensions before they close, especially for seasonal campers, unless they have extension awnings. Lubricate the rubber seals and the extension mechanism
  • Clean the awning canvas. This will prevent debris from getting stuck in the rolled-up canvas and staining it.
  • Clean the roof and gutters.
  • Disconnect your battery by unplugging the positive pole wire (s) first and wrapping tape around them to identify them and prevent them from coming into contact with metal, which could damage your converter.
  • Remove your battery. It should be stored frost-free on wooden blocks.
  • Fill up with propane. This will prevent condensation from forming in the tank and causing the interior to rust.
  • Clean the inside of the water heater with the nozzle designed for this purpose. This dislodges the lime protecting the interior of the tank. Rinse until the water flowing from the water heater is clear.
  • Remove batteries from devices left indoors, such as a clock, etc.
  • Half-open the refrigerator door. This will allow air to circulate and prevent bad odours. Arms to hold the door in position are available for sale.
  • Place a “No Damp” humidity sensor in the tent trailer.
  • Make sure that the ceiling fan hatches are closed unless they are equipped with a MaxxAir cover. If your tent trailer is equipped with MaxxAir, you can slightly open the fan cover to circulate the air.
  • Close the RV stabilizers. The ground will move during the months of storage which will force the stabilizers and the structure of your tent trailer.
  • Place the covers and protective devices. Do not cover your RV with a cover that is not designed for this purpose. Plastic sheeting does not allow air circulation, which traps moisture inside.
  • You must get a cover for the wheels, the AC, the propane tanks. 
  • Consider using a padlock for the coupling box or a drawbar.

The bottom line

Your tent trailer should get just fine through the winter if it has been properly prepared and if it has been cleared of snow throughout the season. One thing is certain, these tasks will have a direct impact on the proper functioning and safety, but especially on the resale value of your trailer.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the content. 

FAQ on How do you winterize a tent trailer?

Do you store a pop-up caravan with the top up or down?

The correct way to store a pop-up caravan is with the top down to prevent sun and wind damage. Extreme temperatures and adverse weather will affect a pop-top caravan more than other RVs and campers. 

Should I store my camper water tanks empty or full?

You should store your camper with empty water tanks. If you leave water in the tanks for a long period, your tank is likely to fill with viruses and bacteria that can affect health. 

How do I prepare my camper for wintering?

Here are a few tips to prepare your camper for wintering:

  1. Empty the water heater. 
  2. Empty and clean the toilet tanks. 
  3. Remove the gas cylinder (s). 
  4. Put the windows in the ventilation position. 
  5. Open the bathroom door. 
  6. Do not unscrew the feet. 
  7. Do not put plastic sheeting on the caravan. 
  8. Put the clean trailer in the garage.


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