New RVer asks: How do I keep my water lines from freezing?

New RVer asks: How do I keep my water lines from freezing?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

When winter heads toward your parked RV, it’s surely susceptible to the ravages of Old Man Winter. An area that can hurt you the most: Water. RVs are full of water, both in fresh water systems and in the back end, too. If you don’t get the water out, expansion can break pipes and create misery.

winter camperGet The Water Out: First, shut down the gas and electricity to the water heater. BE SURE THE TANK IS GOOD AND COLD BEFORE YOU START THE NEXT PROCESS: Open the drain cock (or remove the plug if no drain cock is available). To make the drain quicker, open the pressure relief valve to break the vacuum. After the tank has drained out, close the drain cock and safety valve.

While the water heater is draining, locate and open the fresh water tank drain valve. It too, should be drained completely, then the valve closed. By now you’ll have also disconnected your fresh water hose, drained it, and stored it away.

Antifreeze Method: Next, you can either inundate the entire water system with RV antifreeze, or blast water out of the lines with air. The latter is less expensive and effective. To use antifreeze, pick up “the pink stuff” at your RV part store–NEVER use automotive antifreeze which is toxic.

Set your water heater bypass valve to “bypass,” else you’ll need a whole lot more antifreeze to unnecessarily fill the heater–calling for six gallons or more. Now you can either dump a couple of gallons of antifreeze in the fresh water tank, or you can buy and install a special plumbing connection that allows you pump antifreeze directly out of the jug–ask your parts guy, he’ll be happy to sell you one.

With antifreeze at the ready, turn on the RV water pump. Move through the RV and open each water fixture and run it until the pink stuff flows out. Don’t forget the shower, toilet, and the outside shower. Start at the fixture closest to the pump and work out. If you’ve got a washing machine, following the manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing it, too. Once you’ve got all the lines thoroughly “pinked up,” shut off the pump.

The method we prefer skips the antifreeze and doesn’t require a water heater bypass. Instead you equip your “city water” inlet with a blow-out plug that allows you to pump pressurized air into the water lines and blast the water out. Blow-out plugs are another RV part store item.
If you can set your air compressor pressure, set it for 40 pounds to keep from blasting your plumbing lines. If not, it’s best to have a helper available to disconnect the air line between fixture visits. The idea is opening each fixture and pressurizing the line until all water is driven out of the line.

And don’t forget to dump both your gray and black water tanks. Some RVers find this an advantageous time to use a tank cleaning wand to clean out any of the more disagreeable memories of summer from the black water tank. Be sure to dump a few ounces of RV antifreeze down each of the drain traps, and leave a bit spilled in the toilet as well.

photo: R & T De Maris

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