It’s about time to winterize your van!

When the weather gets cold, so does your van! Don’t get caught with busted pipes in the springtime. Keep your water system functional and leak free year after year -- simply follow the steps below to drain your Vansmith water system.

1. Drain your water tank

Step one is to drain your entire water system, this means your water tank, water heater, water lines, shower, and portable toilet, if they are installed of course. To do so, open the wheel well water box access panel in the back of your van and turn the red nozzle parallel to the water line. This will allow your water tank to drain directly to the ground. To get all the water out of the tank, park on a slight incline with the front of the van slightly higher than the rear.

2. Clear your water lines using your water pump

Turn your water pump on then open your water fixtures one at a time, run the fixture on hot and cold until water no longer flows from the fixture. Turn off the fixture and repeat with the remaining fixtures. Now the water lines are drained and ready for antifreeze. 

3. Pour antifreeze into your water tank

First step is to close the drain valve for your water tank, don't forget this step or the coolant you pour into the tank will flow to the ground. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use an adapter and a small length of garden hose. You can find the adapter here, and a small length of hose here. Make certain to use an RV specific antifreeze that is non-toxic and non-hazardous, the coolant we use can be found here. Simply attach the adapter to the bottle, attach the hose to the adapter, then screw the hose into the water fill of your van. Turn the bottle upside down and lift the bottle as high as it will go, pour the entire contents of the antifreeze into your water tank. One gallon should be sufficient to do the job, but if you want to play it safe a second gallon won’t hurt. 

If this is a project that you do not wish to do, swing by the shop and we can winterize your van quickly and get you back on the road. 

4. Pump antifreeze through your water system

Turn your water pump on then open your water fixtures one at a time, run the fixture on hot and cold until pink antifreeze flows from the fixture. Turn off the fixture and repeat with the remaining fixtures. Remember to do this process with all the fixtures on hot and cold if applicable.

5. Go above and beyond

 I like to take it one step further and drain the system entirely once again. Drain the water tank, turn on the water pump, and run each fixture until they are no longer spitting antifreeze, turn off the water pump and leave your fixtures open. Your lines are all drained and ready for the coldest of cold! Unscrew the fittings going in and out of the water pump, remove the strainer cap from your water pump as well. Empty your gray water tank and keep the drain valve for your water tank open.

6. REMINDER: Run your heater on high for one half hour each month

As the winter time approaches and you begin your winter camping, you’ll want to make certain your Webasto heater is running properly. Remember, your heater runs BEST on high. Make certain to run it on high for 30 minutes each month (at least) to burn soot out of the combustion chamber. A couple of extra notes…

  1. Never run your heater for less than 20-30 minutes. 
  2. When turning off the heater in a low setting, run on high for 10-20 minutes before turning off.
  3. Avoid leaving the heater on low for long periods of time. If you can, try running the heater in cycles on high to maintain a comfortable temperature. 

HEATER PRO TIP - Run the heater on high before going to bed to warm your van. Right when you go to bed, turn the heater on low or medium depending on how cold it is outside. As soon as you wake up, crank the heater to ‘high’ and let it run for a minimum of 30 minutes. That way the heater cleans itself out and by the time  you're ready to get out of bed to make breakfast, the van is nice and warm. The heater runs best on high, it's getting a good balance of combustion air and fuel keeping the combustion chamber nice and clean. When the heater is run on low, more fuel than air is being introduced into the combustion chamber causing a build up of oily soot. A great way to combat this is to simply run the heater on high, burning out any leftover residue!

7. TIP: Use insulated window covers

Winter camping can be a bear (lol) but it doesn’t have to be! To keep your van fully insulated, make certain to use insulated window covers (Checkout This Van Life’s custom window covers). The open holes in your van (windows, Maxxair Fan, etc) are the first places that cold weather can sneak in - and you can prevent this! Believe me when I say these are necessary for winter camping, it's unreal how much cold gets through the glass. Expensive, but very worth it!

8. Storing your van for the winter

If you’re planning to store your van for the winter, complete all of the above steps and then some. Make certain your inverter is turned off and turn off any electrical systems in your van. Flip your main power breaker to the off position to prevent parasitic draw. We recommend driving your van at least once a month if able to keep your systems and your van healthy and happy. Keep your van parked in the sun if possible, this will warm the cabin in the daytime keeping the batteries at a chargeable temperature and your solar panels will keep your batteries topped off! 

With Love, The Vansmith
7209 Valtec Court, Unit B
Boulder, CO 80301

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