Every good thing must come to an end, and that includes camping season. Winterizing your RV is one of the most important things you can do to protect your RV while it sits in storage. The good news is you can avoid messy antifreeze and instead winterize your RV with an air compressor. Let’s learn how its done.
There’s More Than One Way to Winterize an RV
One of the most common and popular methods for winterizing an RV is to use RV-safe antifreeze. However, this can be incredibly messy and unnecessary. Instead, you can skip the mess and still do the job if you have access to an air compressor.
Supplies Needed to Winterize RV With Air Compressor
While an air compressor is an easier and cleaner way to winterize your RV, you’ll need other supplies too. In addition to an air compressor, you’ll need a blowout plug and a water pressure regulator. You can find these items at your favorite big-box retailer.
Once you’ve gathered the proper supplies, you can start winterizing your RV so it’s ready for the next camping season.
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- Thermal Overload Protector
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- Primary & Extension Air Hoses
How to Winterize RV With Air Compressor
If you’re unfamiliar with winterizing your RV with an air compressor, let’s walk through the steps required to protect your RV.
1. Drain Your Tanks and Lines
First, drain all of the water from your tanks and lines. You’ll want to locate and open the low-point drains on your water system. You’ll also need to connect your RV to a sewer connection to empty your tanks. Make sure to clear every tank completely. This can take much longer than you might think, but you want to make sure to get all the liquids out of your tanks and lines. Leave your grey tank connected to the sewer for the entire process.
Don’t forget to drain your water heater as well. It’s best to turn it off the night before so that the water is not scalding hot when you open it.
2. Open and Drain All Faucets
Next, open and drain all of the faucets in your RV. We are not blowing air at this point but allowing gravity to drain as much water as possible. During this step, you should remain connected to the sewer connection to make sure all the water leaves your RV plumbing system. You’ll want to double-check any faucets in extra bathrooms, outdoor kitchens, or other water connections.
Any remaining water can cause a leak or even a burst pipe in your RV’s plumbing system. Take your time during this process, and make sure you allow the faucets to drain thoroughly. You want to get as much of the water out of your lines as possible.
➡ While you’re draining your faucets, you may notice some look a little worse for the wear. If your RV needs a faucet makeover, we’ve got you covered: 6 Great RV Faucet Replacement Ideas (and How-To)
3. Close All Drains and Faucets
Now that you’ve got the bulk of the water out of your system, you can close all the drains and taps. This will help direct airflow when you start to pump air from your compressor into the system.
4. Set Proper PSI for Your Air Compressor
You then want to set the proper PSI for your air compressor and the pressure regulator. This comes first in the process because if you connect your air compressor to your plumbing system and it’s unregulated or too high of a PSI, you’ll likely do more damage than good. When you de-winterize your RV in the spring, you might discover a much bigger problem.
You can do this by using an adjustable pressure regulator or the standard RV water pressure regulator you’d use at a campsite. Put it on after the trigger on the air compressor hose to prevent the air compressor from running continually.
5. Blow Air Out of Water Heater Lines
The first thing we want to do is clear the water in the lines going to the water heater. With the heater drain open (and the pressure release valve closed) connect your air compressor and begin blowing air into the system. You should see some more water drain from the water heater and hear the air entering it. Continue to blow air until the water becomes a trickle. This will clear all the air from in the lines leading to the heater.
Once the lines are clear it’s time to bypass the water heater. Find your access to the back of the water heater and turn the valves so that no more water (or air) enters the heater. Sometimes usually the valves are labeled bypass.
6. Turn One Faucet on Warm and Blow Air
With the water heater bypassed it’s time to blow air out of the hot water lines. It may be beneficial to have a second set of hands during this process, or you’ll be doing a lot of running back and forth. Start by opening the warm water at a faucet and blow the compressed air through the line. You’ll want to continue blowing air until you see no more water coming out of the drain.
7. Repeat with Cold Water Faucet
Now close the warm water and open the cold water side and use your air compressor to blow out water on this side. You should leave it open until there is no more water coming from the tap. You can turn off the cold water once it’s complete. Congratulations, you’ve successfully winterized this faucet!
8. Repeat the Process with All Faucets, Showers, and Toilets
You’ll want to repeat the process for every faucet, shower, and toilet in your RV. Don’t forget any outdoor kitchen faucets or outdoor shower connections. You may use these less but they need winterizing too.
9. Follow Instructions for Appliances
Be sure to consult the instructions for winterizing any other appliances in your RV. Your water heater, washing machine, dishwasher, and even ice maker may require specific steps to protect them during freezing temperatures.
Not taking the proper precautions might void a warranty should an issue arise. If you have any questions, consult the manufacturer for clarification. One bad freeze could mean replacing several expensive appliances in your RV.
10. Pour Antifreeze Down Drains and Toilets
While you won’t need antifreeze in your water lines, you will need to pour a bit down the drains and toilet. All drains have a “trap” that holds water to prevent smells from coming up from the tanks. These traps need to have antifreeze in them or they could crack your drain pipes.
This step will help keep these important pipes and tanks from freezing when the temperatures drop. You don’t want to start your next camping season with a busted or cracked black tank.
Pro Tip: If you’ve never used RV antifreeze before, read this first: How to Use RV Antifreeze When Winterizing Your Rig
Don’t Rush While Winterizing Your RV With an Air Compressor
Don’t rush this process! Mistakes happen more often when we feel rushed. Overlooking a water line, faucet, or drain leaves it unprotected and vulnerable to freezing temperatures.
It may be worth walking around your rig and taking an inventory of all of the items in your system. This list would include outside showers, black tank flushes, washing machine connections, sink sprayers, water pumps, and your water heater.
Ending the Season
If you use your camper seasonally, winterizing your RV means the end of the camping season. However, this can be a great time to reflect on the adventures of the previous season and start making plans for the next. With your water lines winterized, you’ll be off to a good start no matter where you travel next year.
Do you prefer using an air compressor or antifreeze to winterize your RV? Let us know in the comments below.
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Wednesday 30th of March 2022
After you've completed draining all of the water from your RV, the final thing you should do is go over the rest of the contents, including food, clothing, and any other valuables. Remove any liquids, such as juice and water, from your cabinets and refrigerator. Also, any food should be removed because mice and ants may be attracted to it.
Mortons on the Move
Friday 1st of April 2022
Thanks for sharing these additional tips! :)
Wednesday 30th of March 2022
You should refill the RV's fresh water tank before bleeding the air out of the RV's water line. You will use this to exhaust all the air in the entire water system. Turn on the motorhome's water pump and open the faucet farthest from the pump. Close faucets and other water fixtures. Let the water run for a few minutes to a few hours or until you notice a steady stream of water. You won't hear any sputtering sound. Steady or solid flow is always a good indicator of the absence of air in your water line.
Thursday 21st of October 2021
Do you also run the water pump at the same time when blowing air through the lines? I finished blowing everything out this way, but even still could hear some minor gurgling when I ran the water pump afterward. Is that a bad sign?
Mortons on the Move
Sunday 24th of October 2021
There will always be a little water caught in the lines, but usually, its such a small amount that the expansion won't hurt anything.
Monday 6th of September 2021
I think this is a good idea if you have a tankless air compressor like a Viair but I am reluctant to do it with a compressor that has a tank. Those tanks often have contaminants (water, rust, oil) that you do not want to have in your RV water system.
Monday 30th of August 2021
I have used a small sump pump to pump antifreeze through all lines since 1980. It has worked well and I don’t have to worry about air pockets in lines and all that antifreeze goes into the holding tanks where it gets drained thru sewer hose. 4 to 5 gallons is all I use with water heater bypass.