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Winterizing Your RV: Antifreeze vs Blowing Out Water Lines with Compressed Air

| Updated Jan 15, 2024

Antifreeze vs blowing out water lines with compressed air: which is better when winterizing your RV?…

The most important part of winterizing your RV is ensuring your water lines won't freeze. You don't have to worry about this if you store your RV inside a temperature-controlled unit or in a temperate location that never drops before freezing.

However, even southern regions in the U.S. often experience freezing temperatures at some point in the winter. And even a few hours of freezing temps is enough to wreak havoc on your RV water lines.

So, it's important to know how to winterize your RV water lines. There are two main methods, and some controversy over which is better. We'll discuss both methods and answer other common winterizing questions.

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The Broad Definition of Winterizing Your RV

Antifreeze vs Blowing Out

First, we must clarify that “winterizing” is often used as a broad term in the RV community. In its simplest form, winterizing is preparing your RV for colder months but is often used to describe getting an RV ready for storage in the off-season.

So, “winterizing” can include anything and everything from emptying your RV pantry to removing your battery to post-season cleaning to protecting your RV from severe weather.

However, the most accurate definition of winterizing is preparing your RV for extreme cold, especially freezing temperatures. That is the definition we're using, as this article focuses specifically on winterizing your RV water lines so they don't freeze.

If your RV water lines freeze or liquid freezes in your tanks, they can crack or burst from the pressure. When they unfreeze, you'll be left with an instant big water damage problem or a slow leak that will gradually wreak havoc on your RV. Either way, water damage is something you want to avoid at all costs!

When Do You Need to Winterize Your RV?

Winterizing Your RV: Antifreeze vs Blowing Out Water Lines with Compressed Air 1

If your RV will be exposed to freezing temperatures for more than a few hours, you need to winterize your water lines. You may get away with several hours of freezing temperatures since water lines can take a while to freeze through; however, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

So, if you live or are storing your RV in cold regions, winterizing is a must every autumn before freezing temperatures hit. If you live or store your RV in temperate regions, you must keep a steady eye on the weather and act immediately if freezing is in the forecast.

Do I Need to Winterize MY RV If I'm Using It in the Winter?

Winterizing Your RV: Antifreeze vs Blowing Out Water Lines with Compressed Air 2
Winter fun

If you RV full-time or travel often throughout the winter, “winterizing” will look different for you. If your RV is kept at “living condition” temperatures, then you won't need to winterize. Basically, if it's warm enough for you in the RV, it should be warm enough for your RV systems.

HOWEVER, that's only a rule of thumb, and anytime your RV is exposed to below-freezing temperatures, you should take serious precautions to prevent your water lines from freezing. In those cases, you should follow these 10 Tips to Keep Your RV Pipes From Freezing While Camping.

If you camp during the winter but store it at any point in freezing weather, it needs to be winterized between camping trips. For you, the best option may be to “winterize” it by keeping it plugged into shore power (or propane power) to keep the heat on full-time at your thermostat's lowest setting.

Winterizing with Antifreeze vs Blowing Out Water Lines

There are two main methods for winterizing your RV water lines. The first is running non-toxic antifreeze throughout your water system. The second is using compressed air to blow all the water out of your water lines.

Let's start with the compressed air option and then move on to the more popular antifreeze option.

Blowing Out RV Water Lines with Compressed Air

Blowing out RV water lines is a logical solution for winterizing your RV. After all, water lines can't freeze if there isn't any water in them! You can watch the above short video by Keystone RV Company to see how it's done.

This method uses compressed air to push all the water out of your RV water systems. In most cases, RVers open all their faucets and connect an air compressor to their water line. They blast air through the system, flush toilets, etc., until no more water comes out.

Use Low PSI

Compressed air works well in many cases, but there are some important considerations. First is the potential damage an air compressor can cause. Too much air pressure can cause the same cracks and breakage you're trying to prevent in the first place.

Be sure to set the air pressure to around 30-50 psi, depending on the system you're blowing out. Otherwise, you risk damaging your system.

Please note that some owner's manuals for certain appliances or your RV as a whole state that you should not use compressed air. So, checking ALL of your owner's manuals before winterizing with compressed air is important.

Be Wary of Leftover Water

The second big concern is how effective blowing out the water is. Some appliances and water lines are coiled or don't run in straight lines. That means some water will likely settle into these troughs (like sink J traps), even after blowing them out.

This remaining water can be negligible, but it's impossible to tell how much is really left in there. You may be tempted to blast it with more air, but remember, too much air pressure can damage your plumbing system.

Many RVers still add some antifreeze to their systems after blowing it out, especially where you know the pipes bend (like sink J traps).

Those two concerns are why many RVers opt for antifreeze instead of compressed air…

Using Non-Toxic Anti-Freeze

The second and arguably more popular winterizing method is running non-toxic antifreeze through your water system. This “pink stuff” (or “Orange Stuff” for the non-toxic version) is specially designed to protect your RV water lines down to -50 degrees F and is safe to use in potable water systems.

You run undiluted antifreeze through your water system by connecting to your RV's water inlet port or wet bay. You then open faucets and run water through all of the lines until pink/orange stuff starts coming out.

Preview Product Price
RV Non Toxic Antifreeze RV Non Toxic Antifreeze $37.69

The challenge is to not forget about any water lines! Methodically ensure the pink/orange stuff comes out of every water line (i.e., ice maker, washer, dishwasher,etc!) and/or drain the water from certain appliances (i.e., the ice maker!).

You can learn more about how to do this by reading this podcast transcript or watching the following video.

Like what you see in these videos? We'd appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!

Don't Forget to Drain Your Holding Tanks!

Water lines aren't the only things that can freeze! The liquids in your holding tanks can freeze in severe cold, too.

So, it's important to drain all your holding tanks, including the black water tank. Here are some helpful resources:

Just Remember: Keep Your Water Lines From Freezing While Camping

How to Winterize an RV: The Complete Guide

We love winter camping! It's freezing cold… but so much fun! It's an entirely different experience and a great way to enjoy typical summer destinations in a whole new way.

However, RV owners must take the necessary precautions to protect their RV from the cold weather. Don't risk frozen pipes, which can cause serious damage to your RV's plumbing system!

What Method Do We Use to Winterize Our RVs?

We've used both. Last year, when our fifth wheel was kept in Tennessee during November and December, we chose to blow out the pipes with compressed air. Tennessee gets cold but not as cold as it does in northern states.

When we headed to Florida in January, all we had to do was hook up a hose, fill the freshwater tanks and hook up to city water and we were “dewinterized.”

This year, when the RV will be stored on our Michigan property, we will blow out the lines and also winterize it with antifreeze. We'll still head to Florida and a warmer climate in January, but because temperatures in Michigan can easily get below zero Fahrenheit, we feel the antifreeze will give us better protection.

We Are Huge Fans of Winter Camping!

Winterizing Your RV: Antifreeze vs Blowing Out Water Lines with Compressed Air 3

Now we say that knowing many people are not. Indeed, you need to actually enjoy snow and cold. But we know there are thousands of RVers out there who just need a little coaxing and some tips to get out there and have fun in their RVs year-round.

So that’s why we wrote The Winter RV Camping Guide.

In this 36-page ebook – (NOT a Print book) we’ll walk you through what you need to do before you leave home to get your rig winter-ready, and we’ll cover what to do when setting up camp.

Last update on 2024-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-10-19

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

5 Responses to “Winterizing Your RV: Antifreeze vs Blowing Out Water Lines with Compressed Air”

October 23, 2023at9:14 pm, Keith Fouts said:

Remember when blowing out the lines to add antifreeze to the J-traps. I like what one commenter mentioned. I might just use a wet/dry shop vac on my J-traps this winter.

Reply

October 24, 2023at10:59 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for sharing, Keith! Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

October 20, 2023at12:29 pm, Karl Tacheny said:

I live in Northern Minnesota and I always use a shop vacuum to remove the water from my RV. Don’t forget to remove the sacrificial anode from the water heater and replace it when it shows about 50 percent loss of material. Sucking out all of the water is very easy with this method, and we experience temperatures of minus 40 every winter. I have never had any problems with the water pump or tanks. Use the cheap pink stuff in your holding tanks, not the water lines!

Reply

October 20, 2023at7:42 am, Raymond Spencer said:

I live in the Northeast where it gets below zero at times through the winter. I feel better blowing lines out and antifreeze after. None of this takes a whole lot of time and way better than having water line breaks in the spring.

Reply

October 20, 2023at5:33 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Makes sense! Thanks for sharing, Raymond – Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

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