Sunday, September 15, 2013

RV Maintenance - How to De-Winterize Your RV and Sanitize the Fresh Water System

In the spring when your RV comes out of winter storage, you will need to de-winterize it and sanitize your fresh water system.  Following are the steps for the procedure.

1.  Fill the fresh water tank with water.

2.  Remove the holding tank cap and put a large bucket under it to catch the antifreeze.  Open your grey tank dump valve if it has one.  Our camper is so old there is no grey water holding tank, it goes directly out of the pipe.

3.  Turn on the switch to the water pump.

4.  Turn on the taps until all the antifreeze has been cleared from the system.

5.  Turn off the power to the pump and hook up the city water.

6.  Open the bypass valve on the hot water heater.

7.  Turn on the city water and open all the taps in the RV to thoroughly flush the lines.  Don't forget the shower diverter.

8.  Flush the toilet.

9.  Check the system for leaks.

10.  Fill and drain the holding tanks (in our case, only the black tank).

11.  Lubricate dump valve handles with silicone spray.

12.  Put your black tank chemicals in.

13.  Disconnect your city water hook-up.

Now that the system is cleared of the RV antifreeze, we want to sanitize the fresh water system.  Follow these steps:

1.  Take 1/4 cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons of water that your fresh water tank holds. Mix the bleach, with water, into a 1-gallon container and pour it into the fresh water holding tank. Our fresh water tank is 20 gallons, so we would use slightly more than 1/4 cup.

2.  Fill the fresh water tank. Turn the water pump on, open all hot and cold faucets and run the water until you smell the bleach at each faucet. Close the faucets. Let it sit for at least 12 hours.

3.  Drain the entire system again and re-fill the fresh water tank with potable water. Open all of the faucets and run the water until you no longer smell any bleach. It may be necessary to repeat this process again to eliminate all signs of bleach from the water system.

4.  Go camping!

Below are links to all of my posts about the Scamper:

RV Maintenance - How to Winterize Your RV

Winterizing your RV is not difficult and it can save you about $100.00.  Every year I have to look up the procedure on how to do this as after a year I can never remember, so I thought a blog post on the procedure would be helpful to both me and Jeff for future reference.  Since our RV is 42 years old, some things are different than a modern one but the process is basically the same.  If your RV has black tank flush for instance (ours does not) you will need to ensure these lines are cleared of water, and if there is a washing machine there is a separate process for that as well which I won't discuss here as it doesn't apply to our RV.

Note:  You DO NOT need to put RV antifreeze in the fresh water tank, water heater, and black/grey tanks.  The tanks are being drained, and what little amount of water may be left in them there is plenty of room for expansion if it freezes.  Antifreeze in your water tanks will take forever to flush out and you will smell and taste it for a long time.  So do not put the antifreeze in your water tanks.  The water lines however have very little room for expansion and that is why they need to be cleared completely of water and/or filled with non-toxic RV antifreeze.

This year I bought a winterization kit for our water pump which has a bypass valve that will allow me to pump antifreeze through the plumbing lines without disconnecting the line from the pump.  This is the kit that I bought, which was around $15.00:

Below is a pic of the water pump with the kit installed:

The way it works is you first turn off the power to your pump and switch the bypass valve to the bypass position.  Next unscrew that brass knob on the top, and screw on the hose seen in the pic above.  Then you put the end of the hose into a bottle of RV antifreeze.  Next you turn the pump back on, and it will start drawing antifreeze from the jug.  Lastly open all of your taps until the pink antifreeze comes out and let it run for about 20 or 30 seconds to make sure it flushed out all the water.  

You can use two different methods to winterize, or a combination of both.  The first method is the compressed air method, in which you hook up an air compressor to a blow-out plug and blow the water from the lines.  The second method is the RV antifreeze method, where you drain your lines and run RV antifreeze through the lines.


You will need a blow-out plug, air compressor,  and an air pressure regulator.  Be sure the holding tanks have been emptied at a dump station prior to winterizing.

1.  Turn off power to the water pump.

2.  Open all the taps to drain the lines.  Newer RVs should have hot and cold water line low point drains.  Ours does not have these, and that is one of the reasons I choose to blow out my lines with compressed air as well as put antifreeze into the lines.  It's just extra insurance against a burst line.

3.  Drain the fresh water tank.  There should be a drain valve near the fresh water tank.  Ours is located inside the cupboard where the water pump is, and there is no outside cap to remove (newer RVs probably have to remove a cap from the outside as well).  So just turn this valve to the open position and the tank will start draining.  It will take awhile.

4.  Make sure water heater is turned off and the bypass valve open, and remove the drain plug.  Our hot water heater has a hose attached to the drain hole so the water drains outside of the cabinet, which helps prevent rust.  So in our case the hose clamp at the end of the hose would have to be loosened first and then the plug pulled out.  If your water heater is fairly new, opening the pressure relief valve will relieve pressure and allow air into the tank to make it drain faster but with an old one like ours, doing that may cause the pressure relief valve to leak after it is closed.  So in our case, we open a hot water tap at the kitchen sink instead, and this does basically the same thing.

The water heater bypass valve should be in the open position during draining.  If your RV does not have a bypass valve, this is an inexpensive upgrade that will save a lot of money in antifreeze (if you winterize using the antifreeze method instead of compressed air).  If there is no bypass valve, the tank will fill with antifreeze and depending on the size (ours is 9 gallons), that's a lot of antifreeze.  Also it will take forever to get the tank flushed and not smelling of antifreeze in the spring.  So get the bypass valve - they're cheap and easy to install.  This is the "open" position:

5.  After draining the tank move the bypass valve to the closed or "bypass" position.

6.  Turn on the water pump for 30 seconds to remove any water from the pump and lines (taps still turned on).

7.  Attach the blow-out plug to the city water connection on the outside of the camper.

8.  Attach the air compressor hose to the pressure regulator and set it for 30psi (some compressors have a built-in regulator that you can preset for 30lbs).  Never go above 30psi or you could damage the plumbing. Attach it to the blow-out plug.

9.  Keep the taps closed and turn on the compressor to build up 30lbs of pressure.  Then one by one, open each tap and blow the lines clear of water.  Don't forget about the shower diverter, and flush the toilet until it's line is clear.  The close all the taps, build up the pressure again and repeat.  Keep blowing air into the lines until there is no longer any sign of water coming out.

10.  Pour about one litre of antifreeze into each drain (p-traps) and the toilet.  Pour some antifreeze in the toilet bowl so the seals do not dry out.

11.  Remember to close the fresh water tank drain valve and replace the drain plug in the water heater.  Also make sure the pressure relief valve is closed if you opened it.

12.  For extra insurance, I also like to run antifreeze through my plumbing lines even though they have been blown out with compressed air because I do not have low-point drains and I worry there is some water left behind.  So if you're a worry-wart like me and want extra insurance that nothing is going to freeze and burst, continue on with method #2.

That's it for the compressed air method - this method will take about one jug of antifreeze.


Not everyone has an air compressor at home, nor a pressure regulator.  In that case this method is for you. This method will require about two jugs of antifreeze.

First, follow steps 1 through 6 above.

7.  Turn off the power to the water pump.

8.  If you have a winterization kit installed on your pump like in the pic at the top of this post, you simply unscrew the brass cap on the bypass valve, thread on your hose that came with the kit, and turn the brass lever to the bypass position.  Then put the end of the hose into a jug of RV antifreeze.

9.  If you do not have a winterization kit installed, you will have to disconnect the hose that goes from the pump to the fresh water tank, and connect a secondary hose to the pump, secured with a hose clamp.  The problem with this method is that it's very difficult to get the water hose off the pump fitting.  The hose clamp compresses it tight against the pump fitting and every year I could never get it off and ended up cutting it off.  That's why I decided to get the winterization bypass kit.

10.  Turn on the power to the pump.

11.  Individually turn on your hot and cold taps, (don't forget the shower diverter) until antifreeze is coming out.  Let it run for about three seconds to make sure that the antifreeze flushes any water out of the lines and doesn't become diluted.

12.  Flush the toilet until you see antifreeze.   Flush for about three seconds, and then pour some antifreeze into the bowl to prevent the seals from drying out.

13.  Pour about a litre of antifreeze down all the drains (p-traps).

14.  Turn off the power to the pump, close the bypass valve on the pump and remove the bypass hose.  (Reconnect the hose to the fresh water tank if you had to remove it).

15.  Make sure your fresh water tank drain valve is closed, and your hot water tank plug is re-installed.

That's it, you're done!  My next post will be how to "de-winterize" your RV.

Below are links to all of my posts about the Scamper:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Home Weather Station in Springhill, NS

This is live weather data from our home weather station in Springhill, NS.

More detailed info as well as historical weather data can be found on our Weather Underground page:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

RV Maintenance - Caulking, Vinyl Trim Inserts, Rubber Roof Coating

The cabover bunk showed signs of leakage in the corners, with some wood rot in corners of the bunk floor.  The way to repair this properly is to first eliminate the leak, then replace the bunk floor with new plywood.  However that is not something that we wanted to do this year so the repair I did to the bunk floor was probably unheard of and would probably raise some eyebrows.  However I did this repair a month ago and it's holding strong with not a sign of moisture.  If it lasts for the long haul I will reveal what I did next year. :)  I will say that I ran a dehumidifier for days to dry it out and applied wood hardener to the rotted wood before I did the repair.  This type of repair I call a "buying time" repair, simply because we do not have the time or money to do a repair of this extent properly and just want to buy some time so we can keep using and enjoying the camper.

First, I had to stop water from getting in by sealing up all the seams, windows, etc. with butyl tape and RV caulk. The seams where the siding join together are common leak spots.  Over the years the putty tape develops gaps or is missing entirely in some spots.  I've read that you should never use regular silicone on an RV.  It is not meant for things that move.  It dries too rigid, and doesn't have enough flexibility for an RV.  It also does not adhere well. We purchased an RV caulk called "ProFlex RV".  It was developed specifically for RVs, is more elastic than silicone sealants, and has superior adhesion as well.  It is supposed to displace water that might be hiding in seams and joints, and ensures a watertight seal.  It bonds to every RV material, even when damp, oily or frozen.  It is long lasting, durable and paintable. 

Everywhere that the aluminum trim joins together is a potential leak spot.  The screw holes in the trim look like potential leak spots as well, especially since 90% of the vinyl trim inserts which covered the screws were missing.  Since the aluminum trim holds the seams of the siding together, if there are gaps in the butyl tape that is a potential leak spot. Another common leak spot is the clearance lights - so they got sealed up as well.

I bought new black vinyl trim inserts and did the entire camper.  It was a lot of work!  

At the joints, I made sure they were sealed completely with caulk, including the vinyl trim inserts.  It may not be pretty but no water is getting in here!

Here is a pic of the passenger side cab-over before the caulking and trim inserts:

And this is the "after" pic.

This is the driver's side, "before":

Driver's side "after":

Under cab "before":

Under cab "after"

To re-seal the trim, the first thing I did was used an Xacto knife and went around all of the trim and cut off any old putty tape. The old squished out putty was no longer pliable, it was hard and brittle from years of dirt and UV light damage.  Next I took some new butyl tape, and squished it into all the gaps.  I did not want to remove the trim for fear that the screws may not hold as they have been out before, and the holes may end up wallowed out if they were removed again.

After filling in the gaps with butyl tape, I went over all the trim and sealed it with the ProFlex RV sealant.

Here is a picture of the camper with the sealing work completed and new trim inserts:

The camper door, back window and side window all looked like they had trim inserts at one time as well but didn't have any now, and the screws were exposed.  So I had enough trim left to do these as well and they look much better, and more water-tight.  Here is the door, before and after:

And here is the back window:

The fridge access panel looked like it had foam weatherstripping on it at one point but it was completely gone so water would flow right in there when the camper was being driven down the road in the rain.  I replaced that weather-stripping, doubling it up where the gaps in the siding were:

All the windows, door frame, furnace exhaust hatch, water spigot and hot water heater access panel were all caulked with the ProFlex.  

The next thing I wanted to do was roof maintenance.  The roof does not leak, and it is made of galvanized steel with a rubber coating.  Age cracks were showing in the roof in a few places:

First step was to get up on the roof and wash it using a large brush.  Then I let it dry for about a week.  I wanted to make sure there was no moisture in those cracks before I added the new roof coating.  The "proper" way to do this would be to scrape the roof down to the metal and then apply the new coating.  However I didn't really want to get that involved in it, especially since the roof showed no signs of leaking.  I just made sure it was completely dry before adding the new coating.  It sat out and baked in the sun for about a week before I started to paint it.

I did not know how far the container of rubber roof coating would go so I put a generous amount on all the cracks and all around the edges first. 

Then I started to fill in everything in between.

Then I ran out. :(  Jeff said he likes doing this type of thing so he is going to get some more stuff and finish it.

That's all for now.  This thing should be sealed up so tight now we might need an air exchanger! lol 

Below are links to all of my posts about the Scamper:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

RV Maintenance - Appliances

Oven Maintenance

Our oven/stove unit is a Clare Magic Chef 747-4.  While our oven worked, it sometimes took a long time to get to temperature and the burner would go out before it got to temperature.  I took the burner assembly apart and cleaned up the burner tube. Next, I adjusted the thermocouple to make sure it was right in the pilot flame.  Then I brought it up to temperature, and it worked much better.  Since I had the oven heated up I thought I may as well make cookies!

Stove Maintenance

All the burners on our stove work fine so I didn't do much than regular cleaning.  Regular maintenance of the burners would be to make sure they are clean, and use a toothpick to clear any obstructions from the burner holes.

Hot Water Heater Maintenance

Our water heater is a 9-gallon National Travel Mite made by Traco Manufacturing in Calgary, AB. Most RV parts stores and dealers have never heard of it.  After doing some research it appeared that this company (or just the rights to the water heater) was bought out by Atwood so hopefully Atwood parts will fit it when we need to replace them.

While the pilot light lit no problem and remained lit, the main burner wouldn't always start and when it did it would take forever for the water to heat up, probably about two hours.  The burner tube is rusty and probably full of soot and spider webs, and the orifice is probably dirty too.  The air shutter was rusted off, so I used two metal hose clamps to make a new shutter.  If the burner receives too much air, it will roar like a jet engine.  Ours did sound like a jet engine until I made the new shutter for it.

This is the water heater with the collector box, combustion baffle and burner tube/pilot assembly disconnected from the gas control.  I used a flue brush to clean out the burner tube from both ends, and took out the orifice and soaked it in carburetor cleaner.  Next I adjusted the thermocouple to make sure it was centered in the pilot flame.  I also adjusted the pilot light as there was barely a flame until I turned it up a bit. The large grey screw on the front of the gas control is just a plug that hides the pilot light adjustment screw, so you have to completely remove that plug first.

Here it is all put back together.  Note the hammer in the corner.

The hammer is how I start this thing.  While the pilot is lit, when you turn the gas control to "on" the main burner doesn't light.  I think it's a stuck gas valve or something.  Anyway tapping the gas control with the hammer frees the valve and the main burner fires up.  I ran it to see how long it would take to get hot water, and this time after the maintenance it only took 20-30 minutes.

My mom, sister and I went on a trip in August in the Scamper and we all took hot showers back to back one night and had nice even-temperature hot water and never ran out.  At some point in the future we might replace the gas control, burner tube and pilot assembly.  The tank itself appears fine with no leaks.

One other thing I did to the hot water heater was I insulated the tank and hot water pipe.  I had some of that foil-type insulation in the shed so figured I may as well use it for something.  We now have warm water up to 24 hours after the hot water heater has been shot off.


Since our fridge is brand new (Norcold N300.3), it does not currently need any maintenance.  

In years to come however, the flame should be checked in the burner.  If the flame is burning poorly, if there is a yellow flame, or if the refrigerator isn’t operating properly in the gas mode it’s possible that the baffle inside the flue is covered with soot. Soot, rust and other debris can fall down and obstruct the burner assembly. When this happens it will be necessary to clean the flue and the burner assembly.

To do this, turn the refrigerator off and locate the burner. Directly above the burner is the flue. The baffle is inside the flue. Wear a pair of safety glasses and use an air compressor to blow air up into the flue. After the flue is clean, use the compressed air to remove any debris from the outside of the refrigerator compartment.

Now, turn the refrigerator on in the LP-gas mode to make sure it is working properly. Look for the bright blue flame. For a thorough cleaning of the flue and baffle it's quite a bit more complicated and is a topic for a future post as it is not something I have taught myself how to do yet.


Our furnace is a Hydroflame RC-16.  It is a radiant heater powered by propane.  This is the best type of furnace going for boondockers (dry campers) because it uses no electricity from the batteries (no fan, circuit board, etc.).  

Outside exhaust:

The following is maintenance that I performed on it:
  • Removed cover and vacuumed out area around furnace.
  • Cleaned the thermocouple with emery paper.
  • Used compressed air to blow dust and soot out of combustion chamber and flue.
  • Ran furnace and made sure thermostat cycled it on and off.
  • Ran furnace for three hours with a carbon monoxide detector to make sure there were no leaks.
It worked perfectly.

Since the instructions on starting it are difficult to read as they are posted on the inside of the furnace cover, I am posting them here.  That way if Jeff is ever without me on a trip he will know how to start it by pulling up this blog post on his phone.  One thing I might note though, is that although it says to hold the pilot button depressed for one minute, I've had to hold it up to three minutes - any less time and the pilot will go out.

That covers all of our appliances.  They are all working as they should with the exception of the hot water heater needing help from a hammer.

Below are links to all of my posts about the Scamper:

RV Maintenance - Propane System

My whole life I have been afraid of propane.  I wouldn't even light a propane barbecue.  However since we got the Scamper I had to overcome that fear because every appliance in the camper runs on propane.  I have read so much about propane systems, how to maintain them, test them, etc. I can honestly say I no longer fear propane.  I certainly highly respect it, which is why I have been quite anal about testing for leaks.  I purchased a propane leak detector, or "sniffer", for about $25.00.  It's quite simple and works.  You push the button to turn it on, and the green light flashes for about 30 seconds while it heats up.  Then when the green light is on solid, it's ready for testing.  Just put it near any connections you want to test.  If it detects a leak, the red light starts flashing and an audible alarm sounds.  I always check it first to make sure it's functioning properly before doing a leak test by holding it near a stove burner and turning on the gas for a few seconds.  If it goes off I know it is functioning properly and the batteries are good.

So as mentioned in a prior post we upgraded our propane regulator this year to an auto-changeover regulator.  I also decided to buy a couple of tank gauges to monitor propane levels.  The regulator doesn't tell you how much gas you have left, just that there is gas or that one tank has run out and it's running off the reserve tank.  The gauges also provide a quick way to leak test the system.  With the system pressurized and all the appliances turned off, turn off both tank valves.  Watch the gauges for 3 minutes.  If the needle in the gauge drops at all, there is a leak.

As part of routine maintenance of the propane system it is good to run the following tests once yearly, or whenever the system has been opened up for any reason.  The three tests that should be performed are: 

1.  Operating pressure test; 
2.  Regulator lock-up pressure test; and 
3.  Timed pressure-drop test.

In order to complete these tests you will need a manometer.  There is a tutorial on YouTube ( where a gentleman shows you how to make a home-made manometer, and that is what I did.  It was quite simple actually.  All it required were two pieces of wood, 7' of clear plastic tubing, some water with food coloring and a drill. Below is the finished product:

1.      Operating Pressure Test

The ideal operating pressure for the propane system in an RV is 11 inches of water column.  An RV's appliances are designed to operate between 10 and 14 inches of water column, so 11 is the ideal pressure and are what all new regulators are set to.  But over time, the springs can get weak and the regulator may need adjustment or replacement.  Since our regulator is new, it should test at 11 inches of water column.  

To test your operating pressure, you need to hook up the manometer to a test port downstream of the regulator. Our new regulator has a test port on it but I do not have a test port fitting for it.  The simplest place to connect the manometer hose was to a burner valve on the stove.  Newer RVs have a secondary regulator in the stove, so operating pressure would show around 9 to 10 inches of water column if it has one. Our stove is 42 years old and does not have a stove regulator, so it should read 11 inches of water column directly from a burner valve.

I first turned the propane tanks off, removed the burner valve and connected the hose.  I used a hose clamp to ensure a tight connection.  Then I turned the propane tanks back on, and then slowly turned on the burner that my manometer was connected to.  It read 11 inches of water column, right where it's supposed to be.

Then I turned on some other propane appliances to put a load on the system.  The level of the manometer dropped to about 10 1/2 with other appliances running.   Acceptable pressure is 10 to 11 inches of water column so the pressure was good.  When I turned on another burner on the stove the water level in the manometer bobbed up and down a lot.  Not sure if there is something up with the burner valves in the stove or not, but this was the only appliance that affected it that way.  It remained steady with all other appliances except the stove.  On doing some research about this, I discovered this symptom could mean that there is oil in the lines (a normal byproduct of propane).  It has probably accumulated in these 42-year-old lines.  Jeff's Jeep is off being repaired right now but when he gets it back I'll use the air compressor on it to blow the lines out.  This will involve disconnecting the main propane feed line to the stove, and the line at the regulator. Then I will blow compressed air through the line to clear out any accumulated oil.

2.      Regulator Lock-Up Pressure Test

Lock-up pressure is the pressure contained in an RV gas system that has an open valve on the propane container, and all the appliances turned off.  So there is pressure in the system, but no flow of propane. In a properly adjusted system, the lock-up pressure, that pressure required in a gas system to close the seats inside a two-stage regulator and stop the flow of gas, is typically 1.0 water column inch above the set pressure.

The maximum allowable lock-up pressure is 14.0 inches of water column. Typically the pressure will only rise one-inch under a regulator lock-up condition. It should certainly stop at no higher than 14.0 water column inches. If it continues to creep upward after about three minutes, the regulator is faulty and should immediately be replaced.

Our lock-up pressure test passed, with the water column only rising about an inch.

3.     Timed Pressure Drop Test

The next thing I did was use the manometer to do a timed pressure drop test to test the propane system for leaks.  First, I turned off both propane tanks.  Then I turned on one of the burners to release some propane from the system to bring it down to 8 inches of water column.  Reducing the pressure to 8.0 inches of water column removes the lockout condition of the propane regulator.

On our stove this was tricky - it keeps bobbing back up, and then you have to release more, and then sometimes you release too much and have to start over.  I suspect it may be related to the oil in the lines. Once you finally get it to 8 inches of water column and it stays at 8 inches, you time it for 3 minutes and watch the water level in the manometer.  If the level drops, you have a leak somewhere in the system.  My level did not drop at all after 10 minutes so the system is tight.