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How Do You Winterize A Sprinter Camping Van?

Two Class B RVs parked side by side

If your camper van adventures are limited to summer excursions, then you will need to winterize your Sprinter camping van. With proper winterization, your van will stay in pristine condition and not experience issues such as busted pipes from cold temperatures.

So, how do you winterize a Sprinter camping van? Follow these steps:

  1. Drain all liquids that may freeze, including the water heater, water lines, and water tanks.
  2. Bypass the hot water tank and pump RV antifreeze into each water line until the faucets run with antifreeze.
  3. Test the engine coolant mixture.
  4. Keep the vehicle battery charged.
  5. Add a fuel additive to your tank.
  6. Store in a safe place, preferably covered.
  7. Check on your camper van occasionally to check for damage or pests.

By following these steps, your Sprinter camping van can easily make it to the next season. Winterizing allows you to care for the van that provides you with so much enjoyment during the camping season. This post will inform you of everything you need to do to winterize your Sprinter camping van correctly.

Winterizing a Sprinter Camping Van

As fall descends, the camping season begins to draw to an end. The turning leaves often signal that it is time to winterize an RV or van, although many of us try to sneak in a few final nights in the great outdoors.

When you are preparing to winterize your Sprinter, make sure to have all the tools and items you need:

  • 2-3 gallons of RV Antifreeze (dependent on piping length)
  • Gloves & Sponge
  • Water Heater Bypass Kit (if not already installed)
  • Plastic Tubing
  • Tools for Disconnecting Water Lines
  • Tarp or Van Cover

Being prepared with these items should make the winterization process quick and painless. By doing the work yourself, you will not only save money, but you will also learn to take care of your equipment that much better.

Winterizing will keep you from needing costly repairs from broken lines, or busted reservoirs come spring. This allows you to spend more money on improving your van or gives a little extra fuel money for that next road trip.

The following are the steps that will help guide you through winterizing your Sprinter van. Before starting the process, read your owner’s manual for any instructions that are specific to your particular model.

1. Draining Any Freezable Liquids

In a Sprinter camping van, the parts that are most susceptible to freezing are the ones that hold water. Whether a water tank, water line or any part that holds water can easily burst when frozen. To ensure that no parts become damaged because of water freezing, you should do the following:

  • Turn off the water pump and remove the drain plug on the freshwater holding tank and let it drain.
  • If your vehicle has gray and black water holding tanks, drain and flush them.
  • If your van has a water heater, it must be drained of water as well. Make sure the gas or electric is off, and that the water heater is not hot. There is no need to pump antifreeze through it, so this will save you multiple gallons of antifreeze.
  • Remove the drain plug to drain the water heater, open the pressure relief valve to let the water drain completely.
  • Then, open the cold and hot water faucets, don’t forget the toilet, shower, or any other item that needs draining. Then open any drain valves at the lowest point in the lines. Draining should remove most of the water.
  • Close all the faucets and drains that you opened. Next, if you don’t already have a bypass kit installed on the water heater, do it now.

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2. Pumping the Antifreeze

Next, you need to replace the lines that had water with RV antifreeze. Make sure you purchase a non-toxic RV antifreeze. This non-toxic antifreeze is much different than automotive antifreeze, which is incredibly toxic. RV antifreeze is usually pink and can be purchased online or at your local auto or RV store.

You have two options for pumping the antifreeze: directly from your freshwater tank or from the bottle.

  1. To pump directly from your freshwater tank, pour a couple of gallons of antifreeze into your freshwater tank, and follow the procedure below.
  2. If you’d rather pump from the bottle, you will need a short hose, a Y connection, and a valve or purchase a pump converter winterizing kit that includes all the necessary components.
  • Connect to the water pump with one end of the hose in the RV antifreeze; this will let you use the water pump to push the antifreeze through the system without getting it in your freshwater tank.
  • This method will leave the hose between the freshwater tank and the pump without antifreeze. So, make sure the line doesn’t contain any water that could freeze.

Whichever method you use, go to the closest water fixture and turn it on until it flows pink with antifreeze. Usually, this will be the sink. Make sure to do both the hot and cold sides. Then, move on to your shower, toilet, and any other water-using items, from closest to furthest from the pump. Once everything flows pink, it’s ready for winter storage.

It is advisable to use antifreeze rather than just draining the water and letting it sit. Even if you think you removed all the water, there may be residual water that may collect at the lowest point of plumbing over time; if there is enough water to gather and freeze, it could burst the line. Choosing to use RV antifreeze is the safest way to ensure a damage-free winter.

3. Test the Engine Coolant Mixture

Using a test strip or a hydrometer, test a sample of the engine coolant mixture from the coolant reservoir. Make sure the coolant is adequate for the lowest expected winter temperatures. Without the proper amount of antifreeze to water mixture, the coolant could freeze and cause significant damage.

Also, fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter formula with the appropriate freeze rating for your area. Available in gallon jugs with a freeze rating of -20 all the way down to -50 Fahrenheit.

4. Prepare The Batteries For Storage

Your vehicle’s battery, if left unattended for an extended length of time, will slowly become discharged. You may want to consider using a battery tender to keep the battery from discharging. This device plugs in a standard AC outlet and supplies enough electrical power to prevent the battery from discharging over time.

If your camper van has one or more house batteries and you remove them, store them somewhere cool and dry, like in the garage, where the temperature is above freezing and below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, never store these batteries for extended amounts of time without the proper charge.

For winter storage, keep (FLA) Flooded Lead-Acid and (AGM) Absorbent Glass Mat batteries charged near 100 percent capacity, and Lithium-ion batteries charged to approximately 40-50 percent of their capacity.

Keep the batteries charged by checking on them monthly and charging if needed. You can accomplish this by periodically hooking them up to a standard battery charger or by using a battery tender like the one mentioned above. Keeping the batteries adequately charged will maximize their life and ensure peak performance when you need it.

5. Adding A Fuel Additive

Diesel fuel can begin to form gums and sediments over time, which can, at the minimum, impair fuel economy and performance and may clog fuel filters, fuel lines, injectors, and cause engine stalling. So, you will want to put a diesel fuel additive into your tank before you put it away for the winter.

It’s the same scenario for gasoline engines. The fuel, depending on the blend, begins to deteriorate after a few months. Adding a fuel stabilizer to the nearly full tank helps protect the gas for oxidation and chemical decay. Just remember to run the engine to circulate it through the fuel system.

The main three elements that cause fuel (gas or diesel) to go bad are water, air, and heat. While winter is usually cold and dry, it is still good to be careful and add an additive to your vehicle’s tank.

6. Storage of Your Sprinter Camping Van

Keeping your Sprinter camping van out of the elements will help keep the tires from rotting and the van safe from hail damage or trees falling during an ice storm. Consider parking it in a garage or carport if you can. If not, try to rig up a tarp. Another option is to purchase a van cover to keep it safe.

More importantly, you will need to take all the food out of the van. Empty the fridge and pantry of anything edible. Removing all food will reduce the likelihood of critters like squirrels and mice wanting to make your van their home for the winter. If any appliances seal shut, like the refrigerator, leave them propped open for air to circulate. When open, it will keep them from growing mold or getting musty.

7. Checking on Your Sprinter Van

While your van is all tucked away for the winter, it is well worth it to occasionally do a walk around and look inside if you are able. Look under the van for any signs of mice, rodents, or squirrels trying to get in. They love any small opening or wire that they could climb up and get inside.

Next, check the air pressure in all the tires and make sure the fridge is still propped open. Little things like this can make a big difference in the long run. By taking five minutes to make sure everything you did to keep your van in tip-top shape come spring is still working, you avoid any surprises and repairs in the spring when you’d rather be camping.

Final Thoughts

From the water lines to the wiper fluid, there are quite a few things that need accomplishing before your van is ready for the offseason storage. However, in just an afternoon, you can have your Sprinter van prepared for winter.

Take special care to get all the water out of every tank and hose, and you will have no problems draining the antifreeze and getting on the road again come springtime.

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The western part of the country draws me with its mountains, deserts, and red rock vistas. Still, there are numerous other wonders I'm ready to explore., from Maine's rugged coast to California's Big Sur cliffs and everywhere between.