Winterizing Your Vanlife Water System

Are you a camper van enthusiast who loves to hit the open road and explore new destinations, no matter the season? While winter can offer stunning landscapes and quiet roads, it also brings frigid temperatures that can wreak havoc on your entire water system. To ensure your van conversion stays in top shape during the colder months, it's crucial to properly winterize your vanlife water system by reading this complete guide.

Winterizing involves taking steps to protect your water system from damage caused by sub- zero temperatures. This not only saves you money on costly repairs but also ensures that you have access to clean and safe water when you need it. With proper preparation and a bit of know-how, winterizing your camper van is a simple process that anyone can do. So whether you're a seasoned vanlifer or just starting out, read on for ways for keeping your water system performing properly during long periods away from the road.

Winterization of Your Vanlife Water System

Don't risk damage, lose functionality, waste money or compromise safety by neglecting to properly prepare your water system for the cold season. Frozen temperatures can cause serious harm to your vanlife water system, including cracked pipes, frozen water lines or water tank damage. You need to take preventive measures before the temperature drops below zero.

One of the most important steps in preparing your vanlife water system for winter is draining any water line or water tank. Even a small amount of water left in the fresh tank or water line can freeze and damage it or the pex tubing. You should also disconnect any external hoses, tanks or pump that are unneeded during winter months. Additionally, it's important to keep your lithium batteries and electrical system fully charged as they tend to drain faster in colder weather.

Proper winterization of your van's water system not only protects your investment but also ensures that you have all the comforts of home if you do decide to venture out during frigid temperatures. In this guide, we will discuss step-by-step instructions on how to get your vanlife water system ready for winter use.

Vanspeed Sprinter prepped for winter.

Vanspeed Sprinter prepped for winter.

Steps to Winterize Your Vanlife Water System

Preparing your van conversion for colder temperatures is like putting a warm winter coat on your beloved companion. Follow these steps to ensure your van stays cozy and protected.

The first step in winterizing your van's water system is draining all of the water from your van's water system in the freshwater tanks, grey water tank, water pump and any hot water heater. Make sure to open all faucets, showers and drains to allow all the water remaining to completely drain out. You can use a wet/dry vacuum or air compressor to remove any residual water from the pipes.

The second step is bypassing the water heater to prevent antifreeze from entering it. Bypass kits are typically available for most models and can be installed following the manufacturer's instructions.

Once this is done, you're ready for step three: adding non-toxic RV antifreeze specifically designed for when the temperature drops. Pump antifreeze into the fresh water tank and turn on the water pump to circulate it throughout the system. Open each faucet, shower head and drain until you see the antifreeze flowing out, and then close the drain valve. This process ensures that the fresh water tank, all pipes and fixtures are protected from becoming frozen.

To further protect your vanlife water system, insulate any exposed pipes and fittings using pipe insulation or heat tape. Ensure that the insulation is securely attached and covers the entire length of the pipe to prevent freezing during those sub-zero temperatures. By taking these steps, you'll be able to rest easy knowing that your van's water lines won't freeze during those chilly winter months while also protecting your fresh water tank against damage caused by harsh temperatures.

As important as it is to prepare your van for colder weather conditions by winterizing its plumbing system with RV antifreeze, there are other tips worth considering if you're getting ready for winter camping in your van during the cold winter months without running afoul of any seasonal differences. Tips for readying your water system for winter camping can also include using a space heater, insulating windows and doors, using an electric blanket or heating pad to keep warm while sleeping, as well as installing a skirting around the bottom of your vehicle to help trap heat underneath.

Tips for Getting Your Camper Van Water System Ready for Winter

Get ready to cozy up in your mobile domicile for the winter season with these essential tips to keep your beloved vehicle protected from the cold and harsh weather conditions. The first step is to drain all water from the system, including the fresh water tank, gray water tank, black water tank and water lines. This is crucial as freezing temperatures can cause damage to water tanks, the water pump and or water lines.

Next, you'll want to use a non-toxic RV antifreeze to protect any remaining water in your system. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for adding antifreeze into your van's pipes, faucets, shower sprayer, water strainers and pump. This will prevent any leftover liquids in your system from freezing during any extreme winter weather.

Lastly, consider investing in additional insulation for your vanlife setup or using draft stoppers around windows and doors. This will help keep heat inside during colder months and reduce energy consumption. With these simple tips in mind, you can enjoy cozy winter van camping trips without worrying about potential damage caused by freezing temperatures.

Moving forward into our next section, additional winter van conversion considerations, we'll explore other important factors such as maintaining the lithium batteries and heating options for optimal comfort during cold weather adventures.

Additional Winter Van Life Considerations

As the winter season approaches, it's time to equip yourself with the necessary tools and knowledge to brave the cold in your camper van. Apart from winterizing your water system, there are additional considerations to winterize your van that will make your wintertime van experience more comfortable and safe. Here are some tips to help you navigate the cold temperatures as water freezes.

  • Insulate your camper van: Proper insulation is crucial for maintaining a comfortable interior temperature and reducing energy consumption. Consider using materials such as foam board, spray foam, or wool insulation.
  • Use a high-quality heat source: Invest in a reliable and efficient heating system, such as a diesel heater or propane heater. These heaters are designed to operate in low temperatures and will keep you warm during even the coldest nights during freezing conditions. The difference between diesel and propane heaters is that with a diesel van like a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, you can run a heart directly from the fuel tank. The downside with propane is that you'll have to use an external storage tank. Since most Sprinters have an auxiliary tap on the fuel tank, no drilling is needed.Diesel fuel is more readily available and less expensive than propane, plus diesel heaters for camper vans are small and highly efficient. Since diesel heaters vent externally, they produce drier heat with little condensation. Carbon monoxide is also less worrisome, although you should have a CO detector in your van.Select the right size heater for your van. A 2kW diesel heater is enough for a small camper van, while you may need a 5kW unit to gain efficiency in a larger van. Diesel heaters require a 12-volt power supply and power from your batteries to get started, up to 15 amps from a cold start so you'll want to ensure you have sufficient power in your auxiliary lithium batteries. Later, the power draw drops to about 4 amps, and once the heater warms up, it will only consume about 1 amp an hour.The Webasto STC 2000 produce 7,000 BTUs and uses one gallon of fuel every 22 hours. It is available in both gas and diesel versions, but the diesel variant is more powerful and efficient in keeping your van warm. It features a low-maintenance design and recirculation and fresh air modes.
Webasto's STC 2000 diesel heater.

Webasto's STC 2000 diesel heater.

  • Monitor your battery: Cold weather can affect your van's battery performance. Keep an eye on your battery levels and consider upgrading to a more powerful starter battery, auxiliary batteries or adding a battery heater if needed.Dakota Lithium batteries are designed to endure. They harnessed the power of lithium chemistry and combined it with a best in class, eleven year warranty. Built for use in van builds, or any vehicle where you are camping or working off grid, they have twice the run time as an AGM or lead acid battery while lasting four times longer, providing exceptional lifetime value. Dakota Lithium’s signature LiFePO4 technology is also the best chemistry for use with solar panels, will perform at temperatures down to -20 F and weighs half as much as a lead acid battery, providing superior performance while shedding pounds off your rig.
Dakota Lithiums 200 AH 12V LiFePO4 deep cycle battery.

Dakota Lithiums 200 AH 12V LiFePO4 deep cycle battery.

  • While solar panels are designed to be outside in hot or cold temperatures, here's what you can do to boost solar production and care for your solar panels. Too much ice and snow on your van's roof can hurt the efficiency of your solar panels. Even though solar panels are associated with bright, sunny summer days, they work just as well in the winter. While cold temperatures actually help solar panels work more efficiently, other features of winter such as cloudier or shorter days, snow and ice on the solar panels and the sun sitting lower in the sky mean that solar panels will produce less during the colder months with less sun to go around.

  • Solar panels require minimal maintenance, and none of the pointers below are things you're required to do, but with just a bit of extra work, you can produce a bit more electricity even when the sun is scarce. The angle of the sun during the winter is different than during the summer. As a result, you may want to adjust the angle of your solar panels to make the most of them during the winter. Most people won't be able to, since solar panels are often mounted on fixed racks to your van's roof but for those who can, adjusting the angle can get a bit more sun to your panels. Sometimes it may mean parking your camper van at a slight incline to make the adjustment to your solar panels.While changes of 10 to 15 degrees may not be possible even with adjustable racks, small changes can result in a bit more electricity.

Remember to regularly check essential components of your van like tires, brakes, and other parts before heading into winter driving conditions. Additionally, carry an emergency kit with extra blankets, warm clothing, non-perishable food items, water supply along with a fully charged phone and portable power bank for any unforeseen circumstances.

Winter van life comes with some added challenges but equipping yourself so that your van is in tip top shape will ensure that you have an enjoyable experience while embracing freedom on the road.

Four season adventuring at its best.

Four season adventuring at its best.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to winterize a camper professionally versus doing it DIY?

Winterizing your camper can be done professionally or DIY, and the cost varies depending on the method you choose. If you decide to hire a professional, it can cost around $100-$200, while doing it yourself will only set you back $50-$75 for supplies. Winterizing is essential for protecting your investment and ensuring longevity in colder climates, as failure to winterize correctly could result in hefty repair bills come spring. By following a comprehensive checklist and taking necessary precautions such as disconnecting lithium batteries and propane tanks, closing vents and windows, and covering the van with a winter camper cover, you can winterize your van from freezing temperatures and other potential damage during long periods of storage.

What is the best way to winterize a composting toilet in a camper?

If you're looking for the best way to winterize your composting toilet in a camper, there are a few important steps to follow. First, make sure to empty and clean the portable toilet before storing it for the winter. Next, switch off your camper's electrical system to prevent the toilet fan from working. If you're using antifreeze to winterize your water system, be sure to bypass the freshwater tank and remove any filters before pumping antifreeze into the system. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your composting toilet stays in good condition throughout the winter months.

How can you ensure the longevity of your lithium batteries during winter storage?

You've invested in high-quality lithium auxiliary batteries for your vanlife adventures, but now it's time to store them for the winter. To ensure their longevity, the best way to protect lithium batteries is by disconnecting them from all parasitic loads before storing and using a trickle charger to maintain their charge. It may seem ironic that you need to take extra care of your lithium batteries during a season when they aren't being used, but this step will pay off in the long run. As someone who values resourcefulness and self-reliance, taking these precautions will give you peace of mind knowing that your van will be ready for another adventure come spring.

What is the best way to protect the exterior of your camper from the elements during winter storage?

When it comes to protecting the exterior of your camper during winter storage, there are a few things you can do. First, make sure to wash and dry the camper thoroughly before storing it. Next, consider using a winter camper cover instead of a plastic tarp to protect against snow and ice buildup. It's also important to fit tire covers to protect the wheels from frost if the camper is parked outside. Additionally, attaching RV skirting for an additional layer of insulation to the underbelly can help protect your camper van against weather damage. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your camper stays protected during the winter months and is ready for your next adventure when spring arrives.

How can you prevent pests and rodents from invading your camper during winter storage?

When it comes to winter storage for your camper van, one of the most important things to consider is how to prevent pests and rodents from invading. These unwanted guests can cause damage to your camper's interior and electrical systems, as well as leave behind unpleasant odors. To keep them out, start by thoroughly cleaning your camper including the kitchen sink and drain before storing it and removing the entire contents of your refrigerator/freezer or any scented items. Seal up any potential entry points such as vents and windows, and consider repellents or traps installed inside as a preventative measure during these long periods of inactivity. Regularly checking on your camper throughout the winter will also help catch any signs of infestation early on. By taking these steps, you'll be able to protect your investment and enjoy a pest-free camper come springtime.


Congratulations on taking the necessary steps to winterize your camper van water system. By doing so, you are ensuring the longevity and functionality of your vehicle, while also saving yourself from potential costly repairs in the future.

As a resourceful and self-reliant vanlifer, you know that taking care of your vehicle requires constant attention and maintenance. While winterizing your water system is an important step, don't forget to also consider other aspects of winter van life, such as insulation and heating. So take the time now to prepare for the colder months ahead, and enjoy a worry-free winter on the road.

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