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How to Use RV Antifreeze to Winterize Your Rig

How to Use RV Antifreeze to Winterize Your Rig

Using RV antifreeze can save you thousands of dollars in repairs and damages. Subjecting your RV’s water lines to freezing temperatures can be incredibly risky, especially if your RV is in storage. When water freezes, it expands, which typically isn’t a big deal unless it freezes inside an enclosed container, like a water line, then it can be catastrophic. Let’s check out how RV antifreeze can keep your RV safe.  

What Is RV Antifreeze?

RV antifreeze is a liquid substance put into an RV’s plumbing system at the end of the camping season. Adding antifreeze may not be an issue if you live in a climate that doesn’t often see freezing temperatures in the winter. However, most of the United States gets freezing temperatures, so you can find this product at most big-box retailers that sell RV materials or camping supplies.

The Best RV Winter Setup: How to RV in Winter and the Gear That Will Keep You Cozy Warm!
If you are using your RV in winter weather you do not need to winterize the lines, however, there are quite a few things you should know.

By putting the RV antifreeze into your plumbing system, it replaces any water in the system. If there’s water left in your water lines or other locations, you risk damaging your water lines and other connections. You typically won’t know there’s damage until you pull your RV out of storage to de-winterize it. So do yourself a favor: buy RV antifreeze before storing your rig for the winter.

Is RV Antifreeze Toxic?

No, RV antifreeze is non-toxic. Because you put this liquid into your plumbing system, it’s understandable why this would concern many RVers. However, manufacturers can create RV antifreeze to be non-toxic so that it won’t harm pets or people consuming water from your RV.

Non toxic RV antifreeze

How Much RV Antifreeze Do You Need to Winterize Your Rig?

A typical RV water system will require two or three gallons to do the job. You’ll most likely find this product sold by the gallon, which would mean buying two or three jugs. Expect to pay $20-$26 per gallon online and at most big-box retailers for the name brand and less than $5-$10 for generic.

Pro Tip: If you’re using more than three gallons of antifreeze, verify you’re bypassing your water heater. Filling your water heater with antifreeze isn’t necessary, and as water heaters are typically 6-12 gallons, you’ll substantially increase your cost.

How to Winterize Your RV

Now that you have your RV antifreeze, let’s consider the necessary steps to get your RV ready for Old Man Winter.

RV Shower Faucet
Drain water lines before adding RV antifreeze to your water system.

Bypass Appliances and Drain Tanks

Check the documents that came with your RV to learn how to bypass your appliances, especially your water heater and fresh water tank. Putting antifreeze into your water heater won’t do any harm, but it’ll use much more antifreeze. Adjust the various knobs on your water heater or plumbing system according to your manual to bypass your water heater.

Once bypassed go ahead and drain your water heater per the manufacturer’s instructions. Leave the drain valve open for the winter.

If your RV has a hydronic heating system like Aquahot follow the manufacturer’s instructions as well.

RV water management system with a winterizing setting.
Source: nucamprv.com

Add RV Antifreeze

The next step is to add antifreeze to your system. Have several gallons of RV antifreeze ready to go. How you add antifreeze to an RV will vary from one RV to the next. Consult your RV’s documentation for the most accurate information regarding your water system.

How to Add RV Antifreeze to Your RV

There are a few typical ways that RVers add antifreeze to their RVs. One of the most common is via a water pump conversion kit, which lets RVers use their built-in water pump to push water to the faucets and bypass the fresh water tank. 

Camco 36190 RV Winter Readiness Kit - Includes...
  • Essential RV Winterizing Kit: 10 piece kit contains all the...
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Many RV manufacturers are making this process even easier on their RVs by adding a winterizing setting on their water systems. This process uses color-coded knobs to adjust how water flows. This means you won’t have to disconnect your water pump, but the system will automatically bypass the water heater and fresh water tank.

rv antifreeze sucking into lines
In most RV’s there will be a tube you can place directly into the antifreeze jug like this, then just run the pump!

Whichever method you choose, place a hose into the antifreeze to pump into your lines. Open each faucet, toilet, and shower head in your RV until you see the pink liquid coming out, and then move on to the next one. Be sure to run enough antifreeze into the drains as well so that it fills the traps.

If you have an RV dishwasher, be sure to run a partial cycle to get the antifreeze into the unit. Do the same with washing machines or any other appliances connected to the water system.

At this point the RV water system will be safe for winter, however, you can take one more step if you want to minimize antifreeze use.

From the kitchen to the bathroom, learn the basics of RV water systems here: How Does an RV Water System Work?

Optional: Blow Out or Drain Water Lines

Blowing out the waterlines is a way to recapture some of the antifreeze to be reused next year. It also minimizes the amount of antifreeze in the lines that can add a bitter taste to the water the next spring.

To do this connect an air compressor hose to the city water input attachment and start the air. Set the air compressor to 35-50 PSI to avoid damaging your RV’s plumbing.

Herytee RV Winterizing Kit Sprinkler Blowout...
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Open each faucet and put a bucket under them to recapture the antifreeze.

Alternatively you can just drain the antifreeze. You will not get as much but you will recapture some. To do so open the low point hot and cold water drains and recapture the antifreeze in a bucket.

It may seem strange to do this after adding the antifreeze, but the antifreeze is still critical as it will sit in low points and traps even after draining. This will prevent damage.

At this point your RV will be ready to hibernate for the winter and dream about many great adventures when the weather warms up.

How to Get Rid of RV Antifreeze

Once the temperatures rise above freezing regularly, and you are ready to use the RV simply hook it up. With a sewer connection hooked up just run lots of water through all faucets and appliances to flush out the antifreeze. Because its non toxic and biodegradable RV antifreeze is ok to flush into a sanitary sewer.

fifth wheel in winter
RV antifreeze prevents your water lines from freezing and bursting in cold weather.

Will RV Antifreeze Hurt My Septic System?

To get the antifreeze out of your RV, flush your entire water system. This will inevitably mean emptying your RV waste tanks, which will likely contain a mixture of water and antifreeze. The water will dilute the antifreeze so much that it will not affect your septic system.

However, don’t dump a lot of straight antifreeze into your septic system. It can kill the good bacteria living in your septic system that help break down septic materials. 

Can I Reuse RV Antifreeze?

Some RVers reuse their RV antifreeze. Only reuse antifreeze when using the methods for blowing out the lines or draining the system mentioned above. The antifreeze needs to be undiluted to reuse.

The more it comes in contact with water, the more diluted it becomes. When it’s too diluted, it’s ineffective, so we don’t recommend it. RV antifreeze isn’t overly expensive, and it’s likely more trouble than it’s worth to attempt reusing it.

Other Tasks for Winterizing Your RV

Protecting your water lines is a major part of winterizing your RV, but there are a few other things you shouldn’t overlook. 

RV Wheel Covers
RV wheel covers help protect your tires while your rig is sitting in storage.

For starters, cover your tires if you’re storing your rig for a lengthy period. Extended exposure to the sun and elements can harm the rubber material and increase the risk of tire blowouts once you hit the road again. 

Take care of your batteries as well. They’ll likely lose charge just by sitting in storage because essential components may still slowly use battery power even when shut off. You can purchase a battery tender to keep your battery topped off while it sits in storage.

It’s a sad day when you have to winterize your RV–like saying goodbye to a good friend. However, properly winterizing your RV will help ensure that the next time you take your RV out for an incredible trip, it’ll be in good working order. 

Go North Truck Camper in Snow

If you plan to camp throughout the winter, find our best tips for staying warm here: Cold Weather Camping: How to RV in Winter

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
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Dalton

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

We used RV antifreeze from Camco in our sump well to keep the line from freezing in extreme temps. I especially like that this is in concentrate form, so it's lightweight at only 36 oz/jug. I just pour it straight into the sump well and it dilutes itself. It's non-toxic, even in large quantities, and so is entirely safe indoors and out. In addition, it can protect the piping system even if the temperature drops to -50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dalton

Thursday 25th of November 2021

If used properly, this antifreeze concentrate can save you from all the trouble of having to replace your piping system (and, in my case, the flooring) of your RV.

Samantha Nichols

Wednesday 22nd of September 2021

The Camco antifreeze is working well we have had cold temps in Colorado 15 to 20 below and my RV pipes are just fine. I winterize several RV's and like to keep enough on hand to complete the process without running out, this just makes it easier as its half the weight until I use it.

Samantha Nichols

Saturday 25th of September 2021

I really like your article, It is useful and interest. Thanks for sharing!

john+urbas

Saturday 7th of August 2021

Thank you for your posting. It reminded me of a questionable incident. Last winter, I purchased a gallon of RV anti-freeze rated for -50 and placed it into the back of my truck. When I went to get it, I found a pink expanded gallon jug. When I went back to the dealer, I was told that it was normal because the anti-freeze does not expand like water and the plumbing would be fine. True or false? Thanks, again

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