Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Do You Know When To Begin Winterizing?

    Yesterday I spent a couple of hours cleaning the RV in preparation for winterizing it for the cold weather to come. It's been getting colder recently. Especially on the overnights. Of course, it's going to be almost 80 degrees today and won't cool off again until next week or the week after. So how do you know when to begin the actual winterization process without a weather crystal ball? The short answer? You don't. Every year I go through the same conundrum, will it get below freezing for long enough at night that my water pipes will freeze and crack? You have to balance the fear and risk with the rewards. How?

Well, that's the many ten's of thousands of dollars question (could be more than that!) If you Winterize too late, you risk lots of damage and VERY expensive repair bills. If you begin too early, then you may miss out on a fantastic, late season trip. Fall foliage drives and camping is particularly beautiful. Of course, you COULD winterize and then take the trip without your shower and your bathroom, but what kind of civilized RV travel is that? I love being inside my RV when it's "brisk" outside. Sipping a coffee or other beverage with the furnace keeping things toasty. Those Fall mornings are amazing in general, but from the inside of an RV. even more so! If you use some common sense, you can prevent any kind of freeze damage from occurring in the first place. Remember, most RV's are NOT designed for very cold weather, but with a few things in mind can usually be used for three seasons (There ARE 4 season rated RV's...but mine REALLY isn't!) without any trouble at all.

I Use Compressed Air To Winterize
Contrary to popular belief, your RV water pipes won't freeze the minute the weather dips below freezing. It takes a while to cool everything down before ice crystals begin to form. If you've ever used an old fashioned ice tray, you know how long it takes to get that first batch of cubes. What you should try and figure out is how long it takes for your RV's water system to actually get below freezing and stay there long enough to cause freeze damage. I've read lots of advice to keep the water from freezing. Leave a small trickle coming out of the faucets, heat the underbelly tanks, insulate the whole underside of your RV and MANY more. They all work to some degree, but to be completely safe....I hate to say it....Winterize.

Typical RV Water Line & P-Trap Anti-freeze
Lately, the weather forecasting in my area of the North Eastern United States has been terrible. It seems that the weather  folks have about the same chance of guessing the next week's weather as our old friend the Ground Hog. (Great Trip destination BTW..Punxsutawney, PA, home of the most famous ground hog) What do you do without truly accurate forecasting. In my humble opinion, better safe than sorry. When the weather really gets below freezing for a day or two for more than 4 hours at night AND the weather during the day has been around 50 degrees or less it's time to winterize. I use compressed air to blow out most of the water from my pipes and fixtures. Then make sure you pour RV water line antifreeze down each sink and shower drain. Don't forget some on the seals of the toilet valve. This way all the water is displaced and none can freeze and break your drains or water lines. Believe me...I had my shower p-trap crack because of freezing was bad. Hard to fix and taught me a valuable lesson.

 I know it would be a pain in the...well, you know, but you could always fill up with water again if you were wrong. But imagine if you weren't and you saved yourself a lot of grief.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


  1. I too winterize when I have ANY doubt - bypassing/opening the heater takes seconds, a freshwater blowout from the compressor takes at most a couple minutes with practice. I swapped my P-traps for ones with drains, so under 3 minutes to drain 3 of those dry while the last water mists out. 5 minutes to air-winterized is free insurance against expensive damage!

    Since we get -20 here, once winter starts in earnest, I flip my injector valve and pump in antifreeze to FILL all the freshwater pipes "just in case." 2/3 gallon of pink fluid (enough to fill my 35' trailer @ 100% strength) is under $2 here, and supposedly good to -50. At that price, even "wasting" that AF with a surprise trip is very acceptable!

    Of course, all of this is weighed against the fact that we winterize *ourselves* - it's foolish for US to not winterize conservatively, but people who pay a shop for the service may have a greater $ debate to consider.

  2. Wolfe,
    I sure wish I could access all my traps directly. The shower one is boxed in under the coach and i would need to build a box with a "trap-door" for the p-trap just to make that work!

    Pouring in a sbout 2 cups of RV water line antifreeze works fine...although not as "sure" a solution to draining them!

    Excellent points!!

    Rich "The Wanderman"

  3. I access my Jayco's tub drain via a wall-panel in the next room, and my last Puma trailer had a less-obvious screwed-into-place inset-panel. I didn't know there are trailers that don't give access, even if you need a screwdriver?! In your case, unless you have a non removable grill in your shower, maybe you can shopvac with a narrow tube?

    Even with antifreeze, I like to get my lines mostly dry first - it uses less AF and keeps it full strength. When I dewinterize, I can even recover most of the pinkstuff at 99% strength. My traps (AF filled from AF filling the sink/shower lines) is really the only antifreeze I lose in a winterize & restore cycle.

  4. I last winterized my rig in 2003-God Blessed Texas.

  5. Since we're lucky enough to be able to park our trailer next to our house, we winterize as soon as it dips down to the low 30's. If we see an opportunity for a quick trip, we simply 'unwinterize' and head off. When we return, I break out the compressor and we winterize. Kind of a pain, but worth it when we feel the urge and good weather shows up. We're luckier than some who have to store their RV somewhere else.


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