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Can you winterize RV without antifreeze? Is this possible? And why is RV antifreeze pink?
Winter is coming. It’s that time of the year when RV owners have to accept that summer is over, and it’s time to put your big toy away. Unless you’re one of those who RV all-year-long, then a little snow shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the great outdoors.
Still, you should prepare your RV for the winter. You don’t want your pipes bursting when the temperature dips below zero. For some people, having access to antifreeze is the easiest and most convenient way to do this. For more environment-conscious minded people, antifreeze is a no-no.
So, is there a compromise between ensuring your RV is safe come Christmas time and reducing the likelihood of damaging the environment?
You bet there is! And that’s what we’re going to discuss here. But first, let’s discuss why you need to winterize your RV.
Why Do I Need To Winterize My RV?
Anyone who’s owned an RV knows just how harsh the cold season can be on your system. The water inside your pipes or tanks can freeze when the temperature drops. This leads to pipes bursting when the water expands. At the very least, it can deform your pipes, which will impede its operational capacity when it’s time to take your RV out on the road again.
Winterizing your RV isn’t just about placing antifreeze into your plumbing system. There’s more to it than just that. You can winterize RV without antifreeze during the preparatory stages.
Draining all of the fluids inside your holding tanks and plumbing system is the first step. Insulating everything is next. Lastly, preparing everything inside for storage to avoid mold and fungus build-up is just as crucial as preventing your pipes from bursting.
So let’s get started on winterizing your RV. Here’s what you need to do:
- Remove and bypass existing inline water filters.
- Drain the fresh water holding tank.
- Drain and flush the gray and black holding tanks. Completely clean the tanks out and lubricate the termination valves with WD 40
- Turn the water heater off and wait for it to cool down. Drain the water heater by removing the drain plug and opening the pressure relief valve.
- Open all hot and cold faucets. Locate and open the low point drain lines. Force all the water out and shut the system off. Recap all drains and close all the faucets.
- Bypass the water heater before putting antifreeze in.
- Turn the water pump on and pressurize the system to feed the fluid in. you’ll know when to stop when antifreeze drips out of the faucet when you turn it slightly on. Repeat the process for all outlets.
- Flush the toilet until antifreeze appears.
And that’s it, your RV is winterized.
Other Things To Check When You Winterize Your RV
Once you’ve completed winterizing the plumbing system, it’s time to shift your attention towards other parts of your RV. This is where you can winterize RV without antifreeze because there won’t be any need for it yet.
Since your RV will be in storage for a few months, this is the best time to change the engine oil. You’ll also want to lubricate points on your chassis where movement is expected. This is the best time to do these things because the contaminants found in the used oil and lubricants can result in pitting and can damage your engine. Doing this ensures you’ll have a fresh vehicle to drive off in when the sun is finally up.
Check the tire pressure and inflate them to the maximum rated level. You’ll see this information on the tires’ sidewall. Clean the tires to remove any contaminants with a tire protectant spray. To prevent flat spotting, lift the vehicle up and keep it elevated with floor jacks.
This is also the best time to clean your RV’s interior. Use a vacuum to suck up all the dust and dirt. Clean the toilet and remove built-up grime. Place desiccant sacks all over to prevent moisture inside the cabin.
Last but not least, take out anything that can attract rats and mice from taking residence inside.
That’s it, now you can rest assured that your RV is safe within your garage and ready for you when the snow has melted away.
Now let’s talk about antifreeze.
What Is AntiFreeze?
Ok, so we’ve been throwing the term antifreeze around. But what exactly is antifreeze? Can you really winterize RV without antifreeze?
Simply put, it’s an additive that increases the boiling point/reduces the freezing point of liquids it comes in contact with. This is also used in HVAC systems and solar water heaters for heat transfer applications. Adding this into an enclosure filled with water reduces the risk of water expanding when it freezes.
There are two types of antifreeze—pure concentrate and mixture antifreeze. Both work in all kinds of situations. The only difference is the amount you put into your system.
And because RVs are specialized systems, the antifreeze used for these vehicles is colored pink to ensure you’ll use the right solution for winterization.
Pure concentrate antifreeze is toxic. Therefore, careful handling and disposal is a top priority to minimize your impact on the environment. There are non-toxic varieties, but these cost more than the regular type of antifreeze.
Diluted antifreeze is just as toxic as the pure concentrate, so handling and disposal should be done as if you’re using pure concentrate.
Because of its toxic quality, storage of the material is a high priority, especially if you have children and pets running around. Store this material in a cool, dark place that’s away from sunlight. You also need to take the necessary steps to ensure that the likelihood of antifreeze catching fire is low.
Antifreeze is rated as highly flammable and is categorized in the same way as alcohol, ethylene, and propane. Despite how dangerous it is, you can’t live without it. You can’t winterize RV without antifreeze completely.
Needless to say, care should always be taken when using this product.
Should I Use Compressed Air Instead Of AntiFreeze To Flush My System?
Can I use compressed air as an alternative if I want to winterize RV without antifreeze?
You can winterize RV without antifreeze if you’re planning on storing your RV in your garage during the winter. Since you won’t be using it, you won’t need your tanks and pipes to hold water. Expelling these liquids is an excellent way to prepare your system for the changes it will experience during the cold months.
Here’s how to winterize RV without antifreeze by using compressed air:
- Drain all of the holding tanks.
- Use the tank flushing tool or in-tank sprayer head to thoroughly clean the black tank and remove deposits that can harden or cause odors during storage.
- Use a clear sewer hose fitting, so you know when the flush water is clear. Drain the fresh-water tank at the same time.
- If you have a tank-type water heater, drain the tank by removing the drain plug.
- Open the pressure-relief valve near the top of the heater to allow air to enter the top of the tank for a smoother drain through the lower drain port.
- Connect an air compressor to the incoming fresh water port. Use a pressure regulator to adjust the air pressure between 20 to 30 psi. Don’t force the system as excess air pressure can damage your pipes.
- Repeat the process until all of the pipes are devoid of water.
This will mostly work for pipes if you only need to evacuate water.
Using air to winterize RV without antifreeze has its pros and cons. For one, air is easy to use. A short burst of well-directed air can push a lot of water out. Air is also free. You won’t have to spend a lot of money to use air pressure to eliminate the moisture inside your pipes.
The only problem is that air won’t push all of the moisture out of your pipes, and some will stay in your system, which can still damage if they expand. So, for other appliances, you might need antifreeze. To conclude, you can winterize RV without antifreeze completely.
Using antifreeze is still the best method for preventing freeze damage. Antifreeze pushes the majority of the water in your plumbing system out. What remains mixes with the fluid preventing it from expanding when the temperature drops to freezing.
The next section will discuss the proper application of antifreeze into the system.
RV antifreeze is different from the antifreeze you use in cars. It is non-toxic and does not solidify. Instead, it turns into slush, making it easy for flushing when the time comes to empty your plumbing system again.
Another great thing about RV antifreeze is that you can place it inside your fresh water tank, and it will be safe to drink. The only downside is that there will be a bitter aftertaste. You can flush the entire system out when fair weather comes around and enjoy clean, drinking water again.
The best way to use antifreeze in your system is in combination with the air pressure method. Blow all the water out first before putting antifreeze in. You’ll need three to five gallons of antifreeze for a good-sized RV.
- Locate the inlet and pour antifreeze into the receptacle.
- Turn all faucets and fixtures off before turning the water pump to let the antifreeze cycle through the entire plumbing system.
- Let the antifreeze settle in before turning the faucets on to check for pink fluid. Once you see the pinkish tinge, that means the antifreeze has reached that point in the plumbing system. Repeat the process for all faucets and fixtures.
- You should also pour some antifreeze into the drains to seal and freeze-proof the P-traps.
- Lastly, flush the toilet until you see the antifreeze coming out. Leave a little amount in the bowl before you seal it to prevent it from drying.
And that’s it. Now you can spend the entire time not worrying about your RV while it’s in storage. I hope this answers the question if you can winterize RV without antifreeze.
If You’re Planning On Taking A Winter RV Camping Trip
Now, not everyone is content to tuck their RVs away in the garage at the first signs of snow. Some people want to live life to the fullest and go on a camping trip even when there’s a blizzard outside. Well, if you have your snow tires on, this shouldn’t stop you.
Here are some tire-related articles:
- Do RV Tire Covers Really Help?
- Caring For SUV Tires: What To Do, Why And When
- The Best SUV Tires To Buy For 2020
But don’t just go out without a proper plan. After all, this is still a camping trip, and you need to be well-prepared.
So let’s prep your RV for the winter and make sure it stands up to the rigors the open road will bring. Don’t worry, most modern RVs are already fitted to handle driving in cold weather and have the insulation to protect all the inhabitants from freezing. This is one way to winterize RV without antifreeze partially.
First, let’s check the exterior. This is one of the few sections where you can winterize RV without antifreeze. Check the window seals and caulking for cracks, drying, rips, and tears. Next, examine the weather stripping on all doors. If you have to replace them, do so. If not, apply some rubber and vinyl treatment fluid to keep them soft and pliant.
You should also insulate the underside of your RV to protect the tanks, pipes, water lines, and other exposed components. You can also install RV skirts to keep as much of the snow out of your underside. All of these you can buy at your local hardware or RV specialist shop.
If you have a roof rack or a hitch installed, make sure you place a protective jacket on it to keep it safe from too much exposure. The elements can be rough on these components if you don’t maintain them properly.
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Empty Your Holding Tanks
If you haven’t done it yet, empty your black and gray water tanks. You should also fill up on antifreeze to prevent your dump valves from freezing. As an added measure, insulate your pipes to avoid too much exposure to the cold. You can also add holding tank heaters, which are available in 12V DC and 120V AC models.
Buy A Heated Fresh Water Hose
To prevent bursting or freeze-ups, consider buying a heated fresh water hose. You should also keep your hose from coming in contact with the ground or snow. Better yet, drain all the water out when it is not in use.
Insulate Your Water Pump
Keep your water pump from freezing by insulating it properly. You can also use a small space heater to keep it warm.
Insulate Your Windows
A large amount of heat escapes through windows. This is another section where you can winterize RV without antifreeze. Seal your windows to keep as much of the heat inside. Not doing so will rack up your heating bills. Keep them closed at all times. Install insulated curtains to add more surfaces to absorb heat. This will help you save on electricity and propane costs.
You can also use foil-backed foam insulation, which is available in most RV specialty shops. Alternatively, you can use insulating film to reduce condensation and heat loss. All of these will come in handy when trying to keep the inside of your RV warm.
Pad Your Ceiling Vents
Here’s a basic lesson on how hot air acts: it is lighter than cold air. So, to keep your RV warm, look up. Do you have roof vents or skylights? That’s where most of your heat escapes. Make some custom-size vent cushions out of thick foam padding to slow this down. You’ll find this material in hardware shops everywhere.
Use Wood Blocks For Your Stabilizing Jacks
Keeping your tires off of the ground is a good way to keep them in tip-top shape. You’ll need a floor jack and stabilizing jacks for that. But before you place those stabilizing jacks on the ground, make sure you put woodblocks. This will help prevent your stabilizing jacks from freezing onto the road.
When it’s time to go, all you have to do is free the blocks with a hammer or a chisel. A small amount of antifreeze can also speed up the melting process. A more environmentally safe solution is to pour hot water on it to melt the ice. Or, if you’re parked in a safe, secluded area, you can just leave those woodblocks there and get replacements somewhere else.
Clean Out Your Refrigerator
The refrigerant in propane or electric refrigerator can be affected when the temperature drops. Insulate your pipes to keep this from happening. If it gets too cold outside, place a small space heater inside the compartment. Set the heat level to low and keep it away from flammable surfaces.
If you’re planning on defrosting your refrigerator, use baking soda to absorb foul odors.
Do The Same For Your Furnace/ Space Heater
Make sure your furnace is working properly. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere freezing with no options to warm yourself. Clean your furnace regularly to avoid any buildup within the compartment.
Keep Your Propane Tanks Warm
Propane tanks are often situated outside the RV for safety purposes. This means it is exposed to the elements and can easily be affected by the cold. The best solution is to have a ready tank replacement and a nearby service center to supply you with the propane you need.
You can also bundle it up with a thick blanket to keep most of the cold away.
Warm Your RV Up With An Engine Block Heater
Always remember to turn your engine block heater on at least a couple of hours before you drive off in cold weather.
Mind Your Awnings And Slide Outs
Ice and snow can work its way into your RV slide-outs’ railing. This can prevent it from working properly. Brush the excess build up off and spray some antifreeze on the gaskets to clear that out. You’ll also want to make sure your RV slide outs are fully retracted before settling in for the night or driving off.
If you have an RV awning, make sure those are rolled up properly and safe inside a protective before you leave.
Always Prepare For The Worst
If there’s one thing RV owners and doomsday preppers have in common, it’s the ability to adapt to rapid change. Luck doesn’t play any part in this. When a situation comes up, you don’t want to be left empty-handed and unable to appropriately deal with it. So have a prepper’s mindset and have these things in your RV if you’re planning to head out on the road.
- 5 to 10 gallons of drinking water kept in a heated storage space
- A rechargeable radio or one you can operate by a hand crank
- A small gasoline-powered generator
- Blow dryer for defrosting frozen pipes
- Extra blankets and warm clothing
- An extra RV battery or two
- Extra propane tanks
- Insulated sleeping bags
- Snow tires or tire chains
- Solar panels
- White gas camping stove
Check the Weather Before You Go And Call Ahead To Make Sure The Campgrounds Are Open
You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a blizzard without a plan, so check the weather updates and plan accordingly. You want to enjoy your camping trip and not turn it into a struggle for survival. You’ll also want to call ahead to make sure the campgrounds are open so you can safely park your RV when you tuck in for the night.
That’s it. If you’ve got everything squared away, then it’s time to go!
In theory, you can winterize RV without antifreeze. Some of the preventive maintenance tips in our checklist does not require the use of antifreeze. Using insulation material is enough to keep your components from falling victim to the effects of the temperature.
We’ve also shown that you can use compressed air to winterize RV without antifreeze. But to completely remove all of the water, you will have to use a small amount in your plumbing system. So can you winterize RV without antifreeze? Sadly, no. But you can take extra steps to minimize the use of the substance to keep your RV in tiptop shape.
Can I Use Antifreeze To Clear My Driveway?
Yes, but understand its environmental impact before you do so. While most people are content to just shovel their driveway, some have found that antifreeze can make the job faster and easier, although it can also be costlier. If you want to do this, make sure you buy non-toxic antifreeze. After all, we all have to do our part to take care of the Earth.
How Long Will AntiFreeze Stay In My System?
The antifreeze will stay in your system for at least one year. This is a good thing since winter and fall only happen once per year. This means you’ll only have to apply it once and not worry about it until the next fall. There are also antifreeze brands that last 2-3 winters without any issues. Just remember to completely drain your pipes before refilling the system the next time the cold season approaches.
How Dangerous Is It To Drive RV On Snowy Roads?
It can be dangerous if your tires aren’t fit to drive on this terrain. Before driving off, install snow tires. If you can avoid patches of snow and ice on the road, do so. And if you don’t have to, don’t drive in the snow. You’re better off parking your RV in a safe place and enjoy a warm cup of coffee as you view your pristine surroundings.