Tips for Using and Maintaining your RV Water System

We rely heavily on our RV’s water system, for personal hygiene, washing dishes, and in some cases for doing laundry or drinking. So it’s worth taking a few minutes to give this vital system some attention.

Pressure Regulator

To protect your RV’s plumbing from damage due to excess pressure, use a water pressure regulator when connected to any external main water source. These are available at most RV dealers and supply stores and online. Many of them can be simply screwed onto the water supply hose going from the campground tap to the coach. Other larger regulators can be permanently mounted to the coach.

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Adjustable water pressure regulator. Photo courtesy Valterra.
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Aqua Pro RV water pressure regulator with gauge. Photo courtesy Etrailer.com

Related video: When and Why to Use a Water Pressure Regulator for RV

Prevent Freezing

To prevent damage to your RV water system from freezing weather, completely drain the system. You can do this by turning off the water pump and opening all the water faucets, hot and cold. Next, open the low point drain valves. Leave the faucets and valves open to allow all the water to drain. Do not forget to drain your water heater. This can be carried out by removing the plug in the water heater situated at the bottom of the tank. Keep the plug inside the water heater compartment so it’s not lost and reinstall it before reactivating the system.

Related video: Overview of RV Fresh Water System

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Heated fresh water hose. Photo courtesy Camco.

Run the water pump briefly to purge it of water, to prevent freeze damage to it and the inline filter. Pour some RV antifreeze down the toilet and all the other drains (basin, sink, and shower) to ensure that the “U” traps are protected from freezing. Unscrew the shower hose from its fitting on the faucet and allow it to drain. Check ice makers. Leave the system empty and drained to prevent the build-up of micro-organisms in the water in mild weather, and to prevent pipes bursting in freezing weather.

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Inline water filter. Photo courtesy Camco.

Some owners prefer to use compressed air to blow out the lines; there are special adapter fittings which connect the campground water inlet connection to an air compressor fitting.

Related video: Handy DIY Tool for Winterizing an RV Water System

Another way to protect the water system from freezing is to use special RV antifreeze, which is designed for potable water systems. It’s drawn in by the RV’s water pump and circulated through the system by opening faucets and valves until the colored fluid emerges, which indicates it has reached that component.

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RV fresh water antifreeze. Photo courtesy Camco.

Draining Fresh Water Tanks

To drain the fresh water tank, locate the drain valve. This is usually located outside near the water tank. Open this valve and let the water drain until empty (remove the fill cap to let air enter for a faster drain). If the tank has no drain valve or plug near the bottom, you’ll have to empty it by running water out of faucets. If you do this make sure that you do not let the water pump run dry for more than a few seconds.

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TastePURE fresh water hose. Photo courtesy Camco.

Cleaning the Fresh Water System

To clean out the fresh water system follow these steps:

  1. Fill the water tank half full.
  2. Add a solution of 1/4 cup bleach and 1 gallon water for every 15 gallons tank capacity.
  3. Open all the faucets until the air has escaped from the system and the solution has filled the water system.
  4. Let the RV sit for several hours.
  5. Drain the water system and refill with fresh water.
  6. Run the fresh water through all faucets and drain the system again.
  7. If the water still has an unpleasant smell or taste, add a box of baking soda mixed with water into the system. This will freshen the water.

Related video: Tips for Filling Your RV Fresh Water Tank

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Fresh water system dewinterizer. Photo courtesy Camco.

When preparing for a season of RVing, pressurize the fresh water system with the onboard pump and with all faucets closed, allow the pump to stop when it reaches full shut-off pressure. Listen for the pump coming on after a while. If it comes on frequently with all faucets and valves off, you have a pressure leak somewhere. Check the system over for this and repair as needed.

Final Thoughts

Most trailers and motorhomes come with specific instructions on how to maintain the water system and prepare it for freezing weather. Always follow factory recommendations when they are available. This generic procedure is intended as a general guide to be used by experienced do-it-yourselfers, and if it differs from the factory information, follow those procedures.

Discussion
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35 Responses to “Tips for Using and Maintaining your RV Water System”
  1. Larry

    RV Make: 5th Wheel, RV Model: Sea Breeze, RV Year: 1998

    Our r v water fill is by an actual valve just like your city water valve. Can you give me any ideas how to add the bleach and water to clean tanks as we can not just pour this mixture in like most r V’s do. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      To sanitize black and gray water tanks, simply pour the solution down the toilet and shower drain. For fresh water I use a garden hose that I cut off the male pipe thread end at about 24” and insert a funnel in the open end. Check to see how far inside the compartment your valve is to determine how long to cut the hose. Screw the hose into the valve, insert the funnel, and start pouring. Your connection should have a “check valve” but it’s designed to keep water from coming out when the on-board water pump is running and let normal water flow come in.

      Reply
  2. Joe

    RV Make: Holiday Rambler, RV Model: Endeavor - 40 SFT, RV Year: 2007

    Not long after hooking up to a camp’s fresh water supply, I notice a steady flow of water coming from just in front of the right rear wheels from an inboard drain of some sort. It is not the A/C water drain, but after a night in the camp, my parking area is soggy from all the water draining from this spot. Should I not be using the pressure water but only the onboard water pump?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Joe. If you have water coming out the underside from a drain, it’s more than likely a water tank drain, typically a 3/8” pipe coming down through the floor designed to drain a tank. Locate the drain and go inside and there should be a shut off valve, either a lever valve or a pull valve with a metal ring that will push down or pull up and this should stop the leak.

      Reply
  3. Steve Middleton

    RV Make: Rockwood, RV Model: Pop up Freedom 1950, RV Year: 2015

    Can you recommend a good travel guide fir driving/ camping the Lewis and Clark trail?? I’m planning a trip for this summer. Thanks. Steve.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      First, I’d be happy to talk with your member about their trip. My info is below.

      The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is about 3,700 miles long (from Camp River Dubois, Illinois to Fort Clatsop, Oregon), so there are lots of places along the trail where people can connect and see the sights and experience the history of the Expedition. I’d recommend that they start with a phone call to the Trail’s headquarters in Omaha — 402-661-1804. Until the end of April, they’re only open M-F, 8-4:30 CDT.
      Their website is http://www.nps.gov/lecl When they call, they want to ask for a trail brochure/map, which gives a good overview of the history of the Expedition, all the key dates, etc. On the back is an overview map of the entire trail, with key sites along the way. Of course, most of the trail is the Missouri River, but there are lots of roadways that follow on one side or another of the river. Then on the western side, much of the Trail follows the Columbia River.

      On the website (under Plan Your Trip, Directions & Transportation), are several “Story Maps” — interactive maps which tell the different stories of the Expedition — Animals, Plants, National Historic Sites, Water Trails, Volcanoes, etc. These are great planning tools, especially the Interactive Trail.

      If they’re starting at St. Louis, they should know that the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the Museum underneath in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial are both being renovated. I think the tram rides in the Arch will resume in late April. Not sure when the museum will re-open. Some of the items have been moved to the Old Courthouse nearby. The movie “Monument to the Dream” is being played somewhere in the complex. Some of the other sites, especially in the Dakotas, Montana and Idaho, may not have regular hours yet until April or May — they should check in advance. There are so many sites along the Trail, that it’s nearly impossible to see them all — some are NPS operated, but many are state, local or privately managed. The Trail is essentially a giant “cooperative” of organizations, all preserving the story and history of the Expedition.

      The Facebook Page has lots of posts about the historical aspects of the trail and some of the sites. (www.Facebook.com/lewisandclarknht/.) We post almost every day, at least once (usually at 7:00 a.m.). There are some interesting videos on the page, too (Videos tab on the left).

      There are several books on traveling the trail — “Lewis and Clark Road Trips” by Kira Gale (awesome and detailed), or “National Geographic Guide to the Lewis and Clark Trail,” as a few examples. There are lots of others, too, focusing on everything from hiking or biking the trail to canoeing it. If they have the time and interest (and haven’t already read it), the best complete overview of the Expedition and all the characters is “Undaunted Courage,” by Stephen Ambrose. Or if they prefer videos, I’d recommend either “Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West” by National Geographic, or “Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery,” by Ken Burns.

      Hope this is helpful. As I said, they’re free to give me a call if they have any specific questions. I’ll try my best to help.

      Also, Forgot one thing…
      They may enjoy reading a blog that a friend of mine has started: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/18889. He’s retiring next month and will be bike riding all summer from NJ to Camp Duboise, IL, on the “eastern” portion of the L&C Trail (at this point, it’s still not an official part of the Trail), then picking up the “official” current Trail in St. Louis and riding to the Pacific.

      His name is Kent Schlawin. If you would like to contact him, send an email to: kschlawin@icloud.com

      Reply
  4. Carol

    RV Make: Gulfstream , RV Model: BT Cruise, RV Year: 2003

    I recently purchased this RV. It is winterized. This is my first experience at de-winterizing. What do I do to get the antifreeze out and potable fresh water in?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Carol. We would be happy to assist you; we just need some more information. What is the make/model/year of your RV?

      Reply
  5. Ira

    RV Make: Rockwood, RV Model: 2104s, RV Year: 2018

    Do you recommend by-passing the water heater when sanitizing the water system?

    Reply
  6. Bob

    RV Make: Laredo, RV Model: 271RL, RV Year: 2008

    The water heater in our camper heats the water too hot. Eventually the T&P valve opens up and we lose water. I’m just trying to get some help as to what to look for or tips as to how to correct this problem.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Stephen Dunafin

    RV Make: Jayco, RV Model: Eagle lite,5er, RV Year: 1999

    What is the best place to install a inverter

    Reply
  8. william

    RV Make: coachman, RV Model: freedom express, RV Year: 2008

    our water pump seems really loud every time it comes on ,is this normal or a sign of an upcoming problem? we just got this RV and are pretty new to the whole lifestyle. thanks

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello William,

      Welcome to the wonderful world of RVing! Some of the older water pumps are a little noisy, so it depends on the year and model water pump you have. Shurflo has been one of the more popular models and there are some things you can do to quiet them down, depending on what noise you are hearing? If you have hard plastic water lines coming in and out of the pump, Shurflo has a kit that has soft plastic to replace about a foot of line on both sides so you don’t get the “thumping” during start up and shut down. You can also remove the pump from the mounting area and put a piece of rubber or soft foam underneath to cushion the vibration while it is running. You can also remove the pump and check the filter and diaphram for lime and calcium build up. Check out the videos on the site for these procedures.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  9. james marks

    RV Make: travel supreme, RV Model: river canyon, RV Year: 2005

    i need a manuel or diagram for the plumbing system the whole system

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello James,

      What is the year, make and model of your RV?

      Thanks
      Becky RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  10. Emmitt Bryant

    RV Make: Coachmen, RV Model: Freedom express ultra 192rb, RV Year: 2018

    New to owning, excited to experience this life… should you turn on the water pump, only when hooked to water? Is it safe to turn on with only the water in reserve tank? Because when I turned ours on it made a very loud noise thumping noise. I turned the sink water off n haven’t used it since. Afraid I messed it up

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Emmitt,

      You only need to turn on the water pump if you are not connected to a city or outside pressurized source. The pump will draw water from the fresh water holding tank and supply the rig. When you are connected to pressurized water, it bypasses the pump and provides pressure to the faucets. If it thumped when you started it up, it probably had some line in the air and what you heard was the output hose pressurizing and thumping again the floor or wall? I do not think you messed it up just turning it on even if you were connected to pressurized water?

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.rvrepairclub.com/C9317

      Reply
  11. Lynne

    RV Make: Four Winds, RV Model: Hurricane 30, RV Year: 2006

    When we turn on the bathroom facet it sprays below the sink. What to do?
    Lynne

    Reply
  12. Edmund

    RV Make: Leprechaun, RV Model: Class C, RV Year: 2015

    Valves under shower; only accessible by removing screw on access cover.

    Reply
  13. Mark

    RV Make: forest river, RV Model: crusader, RV Year: 2017, Brand: Camco

    I went to great lengths to be ready for the winter and installed this CAMCO heated water hose. It didnt even last me 2 months. Now I’m out in SUBZERO freezing weather replacing and re-insulating the water connection. I used the exact hose shown in your picture. I also installed a ZeroTemp hose next to it wrapped in heat tape. That one seems to be holding up.

    Reply
  14. Dennis

    RV Make: Montana, RV Model: Hi Country, RV Year: 2013

    How do I know what kind of water softer to buy.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Dennis,

      I assume you are referring to a water softener device for your RV? There are a few portable water softeners used for RVing such as “On The Go” and Watts.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  15. Walter D. Rockwell

    RV Make: 26.5 Jayco trailor, RV Model: 2102 , RV Year: 2011

    We’re would you recommend the gray and black tanks clean.

    Reply
  16. Herschel

    RV Make: keystone, RV Model: mountaineer, RV Year: 2015

    my mountaineer does not have any place to add tank cleaners or sanitizers. how do I add them?
    Thank You H. Sinclair

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Herschel,

      Tank cleaners and sanitizers can be added directly to the tank by dumping them down the toilet for the black water tanks and the shower drain for gray water. Flush them good after adding.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  17. Doug

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Berkshire, RV Year: 2011

    How do you winterize the wash machine and ice maker?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Doug,

      Proper winterization depends on the type and model of appliances. Splendide is one model that recommends adding RV antifreeze this way:
      To winterize your washer-dryer:
      1. With the machine power OFF, pour ½ quart of RV-type antifreeze into the washer drum
      2. Close the door. Advance the Program Selector knob to a SPIN position
      3. Press ON/OFF Button (IN). Wait 1-2 minutes
      4. Press ON/OFF Button (OUT). Unplug the washer-dryer from the electrical outlet (or
      disconnect power)
      5. Turn the water supply faucets OFF. Disconnect the inlet hoses from the faucets. Drain any
      remaining water from the hoses.
      Finished!
      For the Ice Maker Norcold recommends this procedure:
      Close the vehicle water supply valve to the ice maker.
      Push the ice maker arm up until it locks into the off position.
      Remove the garden hose adapter from the water solenoid valve.
      Remove the ice maker water line from the water solenoid valve.
      -Do not unwrap the water line heater wires from around the water solenoid valve.
      Drain all the water from both the water supply line and the ice maker water line.
      Put the end of the water supply line, the end of the ice maker water line, and the water solenoid valve each into a clean plastic bag
      Use tape to close each plastic bag around the water lines and the water solenoid valve.
      Note; If you have an undercounter filter, remove and drain the filter and open the bypass valve.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Memberhsip

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first-year membership.
      https://go.rvrepairclub.com/C11081

      Reply
  18. Richard

    RV Make: Thor, RV Model: Ace 27.2, RV Year: 2018

    My first time owning a RV with slide outs and automatic hydro levers. Is it recommended to drop the levers first and leveling the RV or sliding out the slide outs.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Richard,

      Yes, you should always level and stabilize the coach before extending the
      slide rooms. If not, the ground could be unlevel which makes the
      chassis twist and then the sidewall. The room will run much smoother
      and with less binding if it is stable and level.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  19. BERNEIL J

    RV Make: Durango, RV Model: 2500 Gold, RV Year: 2018, Brand: Durango, Model Number: 2500 Gold

    RV Water System

    Reply
  20. Jerome

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Storm, RV Year: 2016

    Ticket#17683 RV low water pressure, With a new Rainbird water pressure gauge, I get 30 PSI at water line going into tankless water heater. Pump is rated as maximum 55 PSI. I removed the pump, and removed diaphragm and cleaned, only had one very small pc of white plastic. I had removed the filter and cleaned before checking the water PSI. Could the problem be in the pressure switch on the pump??? If I hook up to water from the house the PSI with limiter on water line is 50 PSI.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Dear Jerome,

      Thank you for your patience. In regards to your question-

      I would suggest removing the pump and bench testing to see what it gets with a good water supply from a residential hose? If you get a higher psi on the bench test, then you have a restriction in the hoses going to the pump. It could be rated at 55 psi, however if you have a 3/8” water line or it has a kink in the line, you will have low pressure. Otherwise, it could be the pressure switch, but a bench test would verify that.

      I hope this helps!

      Sincerely,

      Dave
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  21. klcpete

    RV Make: Starcraft, RV Model: 18BHS, RV Year: 2019

    I’m trying to winterize my camper and cannot locate the hot, cold, and bypass water valves. I also see only one low point drain (freshwater tank). Where are the low point drains for the hot and cold water?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello,

      It depends on your RV, most travel trailers will have the bypass valves on the back of the water heater. On trailers or motorhomes with a manifold water setup, there will be valves by the water connections. Some smaller and older RV’s may not have bypass valves. If you have the owners manual, a lot of times there will be information on where the valves are located. Low point drains can be in many places, again depends on the RV. If you can’t see any valves underneath try looking for just open water lines. The valves could be inside. I have seen them around the wheel wells, rear corners, above the termination drain, below the water heater and by the water pump. The can be between the metal skirt and frame but can also be in the center of the unit. Check around the axles as well, they can be hidden there too. On some smaller RV’s there may only be 1 low point for the water lines and some units may have 3 or more depending on how they run the water lines. Sorry I can’t give you an exact location but I hope this helps!

      Thanks,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply