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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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45 Responses to “Tips for Using and Maintaining your RV Water System”

  1. William Lebowitz

    I cannot get my system to drain...AT ALL. I have all faucets open and the low point valves ARE open as well. There is no indication that the pump is running and I do not know where it located but I dod not understand how that would impact the drainage of the system. Please please help if you can! Thank you...


    Just purchased used 5th wheel. Water is cloudy white with foul odor. Filled and drained per manual; refilled with bleach water per manual; drained after 12 hours; refilled with potable water. hot water tank still has odor. Any way to get ALL the crud out of hot water tank?

  3. Shonny Beavetd

    I connected my hose to my home water outlet and connected it to fresh water tank. I didn’t have the water pump on or generator, just the RV running. The water started coming out after 1/3 fill underneath

  4. Jennifer Garrison

    Got a camper and I need to hook up the holding tank up to the water line and outside line


    Ihave no pressure when trying to pump 5 gals of antifreeze from fresh water holding tank and have tried both positions of vale. ???? of how to get pump switched to holding tank.

  6. Dominic Consolino

    How do I locate the fresh water tank drain. I see the tank but no plug? Where are the circuit breakers or fuses for the 110 outlets? I see the fuse box under the dash but can't tell what is what

  7. Gary Towne

    Galley faucet takes a lot of water until the hot water arrives, due to the rear location of the hot water tank. Any fixes since its wastes water and fill the gray water tank

  8. Michael Myers

    how do I drain the water heater?

  9. Ron Wroblewski

    For some time I have had an occasional floor water leak on the right side of the rig starting below the wardrobe and cabinet section. After watching it for some time I know that it happens after taking a shower, and at no other time. I assume it is not the hot water heater itself, but a line coming off the heater. I can't see any water on the floor when I take the panel off under the wardrobe/cabinets. Can you give advice?

  10. Blaine Benjamin

    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?