Roadtrek RV Winterizing: Part 1 – Draining tanks

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the time to start winterizing our RVs. And when it comes to Roadtreks, it seems there are as many suggested ways to winterize as there are Roadtrek models. Lynn and Roger Brucker have put together a four-part series for us that applies specifically to their 1995 Dodge Roadtrek 190 Popular. Now most of these suggestions will also apply to other models but you will likely find differences in yours. If in doubt, check your manual for your specific RV. I'll do one in a week or so on how to wintnerize an eTrek, for those of you with newer Sprinter models – Mike Wendland)

It is that time of year for many of us.  Temperatures are dipping below freezing at night.  We've already seen snow flakes the size of dinner plates and it is not yet Halloween.

Winterizing your Roadtrek is not hard, or even very time consuming.  And if you travel to the south in the winter and back before spring you will get to winterize and de-winterize on the road.  Be sure to carry the necessary tools with you – especially the socket to remove the water heater anode.

Fresh Water Drain

Fresh Water Drain Pipe Located By Dump Hose

The most time consuming part is draining the fresh water tank.  It seems to take forever.  So that is the first thing you want to do.  The fresh water tank drain pipe is located next to the dump hose on our Roadtrek – under the driver's flip-up step.  Check your manual if you don't know where yours is located.

Remove plug to DrainIf your Roadtrek has this same design you will need an adjustable wrench for the plug and pliers to keep the pipe from twisting as you screw the plug.  Remember, turn counter-clockwise to remove the plug.

 

 

DrainingNow go have a cup of coffee while you wait for it to drain.  Or if you forgot, go to Walmart or your local RV place for 2 gallons of RV antifreeze (if you have a water heater bypass) or 8 gallons of  RV antifreeze if you don't.  And be sure to get RV anti-freeze.  It is non-toxic and is safe to use in a fresh water system.

 

Breaker Bar & Socket for Anode

24 inch long Breaker bar (1/2″ zize), Extension, 1 1/16 inch socket

The next step is to drain your water heater.  We're assuming a Suburban water heater, not one of those fancy schmacy things like Mike has.  This is where you need some special tools.  If you don't have them, get them and carry them with you.  You can get decent cheap hand tools at Harbor Freight.

Open Water Heater Cover 2

Removing Water Heater Access Panel

You need these to remove the anode and drain the water heater.  First take the cover off the water heater.  You twist the latch at the top to line it up with the slot and tip the cover forward.  It sits on two pins at the bottom.  Set the cover aside in a safe place.  You don't want to step on it.

 

Anode Location

Anode Location

Now find the anode.  It is at the bottom center.  The job of the anode is to “sacrifice” itself to save the tank from corrosion.  So you need to check the anode annually to make sure it still has enough material left to do its job.  If all you see is a skinny wire, you have waited too long to replace it.

 

Counter Clockwise to remove Anode

Counter Clockwise to remove anode. This can difficult, which is why a 24 inch breaker bar on the socket is best.  Put a pipe over the bar if needed.

Before you attempt to remove the anode you want depressurize the water system.  The water pump should be off.  Open both the hot and cold water at the sink to make sure nothing comes out.  If there is any pressure, not only could the anode come flying out, but so will six gallons of water – and it will happen too quickly to get out of the way (don't ask how we know).

 

Pull Out Anode

Pull out the anode.

Now pull the anode out, but stay clear of the water that will follow.  This anode looks good.  It has some crud on it, but that can be cleaned off, but it is only somewhat pitted.  Fine shape for another year.   There are too types of anode rods, aluminum and magnesium.  Generally it seems that magnesium is preferred unless you get sulfur smelling water or the anode is used up in less than a year, then switch to the aluminum rod.  The aluminum rod will last longer, but the magnesium one may protect the tank better.  This rod is aluminum and shows little corrosion.  Perhaps we should  switch to a magnesium rod?

Water Draining from WHOnce the water has drained from the tank use a hose to flush any deposits out.  There is a special wand you can get at Camping World, but you can manage with a standard hose nozzle to generate some high pressure water.  Once you stop getting crud out of the tank, you can put fresh Teflon tape on the anode threads and reinstall.

If the water has stopped draining from your fresh water tank you can replace the drain plug.  You are now ready for Part 2 of our series on RV winterizing.





  • Campskunk

    now THAT is an old school fresh water drain – real metal plumbing. my early 2000s Roadtrek has a hexagonal gray plastic cap to drain the front tank, and the newest RTs have a little valve that looks like the water heater bypass, with a black plastic handle, but no matter the type of plumbing, it takes a long time to drain.

    Roadtreks with two tanks usually have no drain on the internal tank – you have to move the tank selector valve to the internal tank and use your water pump to empty the tank down the sink, or use the outside shower faucet if you have already dumped and don;t want to fill up your fresh water tank again.

  • Angelique

    I have a 2006 RT Adventurous. I live in Central Texas will be using throughout the fall and winter at least once a month. Do you recommend draining the water heater periodically (other than during freezing weather) to avoid “smelly” hot water? The dealer drained it in July when I bought it and said the water was pretty nasty. I have used the hot water since and the smell has gone away. Would like to keep it that way.

  • Mary

    I would love to see some photos of the valves in the 210. The valve setup looks very different than what is in the manual, especially around the hot water heater. If anyone has some photos of how the valves in the 210 should be set I would appreciate it. I think I have it figured out by tracing the waterlines. I wish Roadtrek would show the 210 instead of another model in the manual for the 210. Photos of the valves near the water pump would also be helpful, summer and winter settings.

  • Brenda

    I own a 2014 E-trek so I am looking forward to what you will have to say about winterizing that particular model. Living in northern NH, I have already had to do this and given that Roadtrek provided no manual with this rig, I thought it best to bring it back to the dealer and to pay them to do it. Well, they were in the dark as much as I was. I thought it a bit ironic that I was the one to provide the tech a copy of the draft of the manual that Roadtrek is working on for the E-trek which the dealer secured for me. It included a basic outline of winterizing but not enough information (and some of it inaccurate.) When it comes time to drain the Webasto heater, owners will find that the valve is in the most inconvenient location. The tech had to scoot under on his back to the middle of the rig – a tight fit for a very small guy. I have been disappointed in Roadtrek for not providing a manual that is specific to the vehicle. I have been given an opportunity to comment on the draft which I appreciate. That opportunity has come as a result of the dealer and the consultant hired by Roadtrek. Given that there are significant features that are unique to the E-trek, owners of this model should expect to encounter some head scratching when they bring this into a dealership for any kind of servicing. I was told that the dealership where I purchased my E-trek has sold more of them than anyplace else and yet they were stumped. Roadtrek has been inexcusably slow to provide training to dealerships and to provide necessary information to owners. All of that being said, I love this rig.

    • Arl Williams

      Speaking as a 2013 E-trek owner, this is a great post. The E-trek documentation I received in May 2013 is simply pathetic. Glad to hear that RT is attempting to remedy this. I’d especially appreciate advice on the recommended method of winterizing with the Webasto water heater, which does not have a bypass. Fill it with pink stuff then dump it via the drain valve (which can be activated from the Webasto control panel)? I chose to blow out the system at about 25psi, but I do recognize that many avoid using the compressed-air method.

      • Arl Williams

        Same goes for what to do with the Insinkerator instant hot-water tank that does not have a drain valve as far as I can tell. Fill it with pink stuff all winter? Keep it heating at very low setting? While I too have come to love my E-rig, it should come with a “welcome to the bloody cutting edge entry mat”.

        • Sorry we can’t help with an eTrek. However, Mike should be able to tell you what to do with your instant hot-water tank. I would think there is a way to drain it, but it may not hold that much, so filling it with anti-freeze is not a big deal (unlike with the Suburban that holds 6 gallons).

  • Steve Swift

    You mentioned the use of Teflon tape on the threads of the anode. At no time should Teflon tape, grease, pipe dope or any other non-conducting material be applied to the threads. The anode must be in intimate electrical contact with the metal of the heater in order to protect it. The anode works by sacrificing itself through the process of corrosion thereby preventing corrosion from occurring to the water tank. Making the threads shiny using a wire brush enhances this process. An anode that is working will show significant withering away after 1 or more seasons of use. An anode that looks good is a bad sign that something may be interfering with its preferential corrosion.
    Take heart, even some professionals do not understand how a sacrificial anode works. Any book about marine corrosion will explain how this process works.
    I have recently become an avid reader of your blog. Thanks for all your efforts to keep us informed.

    • Steve,
      I am just repeating what a Suburban Rep at the Tech Rally said. He did acknowledge that many people argue against using teflon tape, but he said there is no reason not to use it – it will not prevent the anode from working correctly. Since it is a Suburban Water Heater, I assume they know what is best. And it is clear when the anode is removed that the tape did not prevent a good electrical connection.

      I’m not sure how we ended up with an aluminum anode – probably the store was out of the magnesium ones. It is true that we did not see major loss of material in the anode this year. We will try magnesium for next year. I understand how much material is used up is a function of both quality of water and volume of water going through the water heater as well as the anode material.

  • Are you in the southern hemisphere? LOL

  • Hal DeVera

    Would also like to hear about winterizing the Alde heating system. I know it has an automatic dump of water when the ambient temperature gets to around freezing, but is there anything else we need to do?