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Last Updated on June 22, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine
Figuring out how to winterize a camper without antifreeze might be on your list of things to do before the season ends.
Once the fun and relaxation of the camping season are finished, your final act as an RV owner will be to winterize your camper. When it comes to winterization, you have two basic options: with antifreeze or without antifreeze. Antifreeze is the more traditional winterization method, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best.
Winterizing your camper without antifreeze is just as easy as doing it with antifreeze once you know what you’re doing. It may take a little time to follow all the necessary steps, but it’s a proven and safe winterization method. To winterize an RV without antifreeze, you’ll need an air compressor and the proper compression fittings.
If you don’t want to deal with the mess and hassle of using antifreeze while winterizing your camper, you’ve come to the right place. This article will show you a cleaner and easy alternative to antifreeze that will make your life much easier. Let’s get started!
Don’t You Have to Use Antifreeze to Winterize a Camper?
Traditionally, antifreeze was believed to be the only way to winterize a camper. However, thanks to a little ingenuity and forward-thinking, you now have the chance of winterizing with compressed air rather than antifreeze.
Advantages of Winterizing a Camper Without Antifreeze
- Most types of antifreeze contain harmful chemicals that are dangerous if they get into your eyes or body. Winterizing your RV without antifreeze is a way to circumnavigate this potential problem.
- You also won’t have to worry about trace amounts of antifreeze getting left behind in the pipes and making your water taste funny.
- Once you use antifreeze for winterization, there’s no way to reuse it later. It’s a one-and-done deal that can be slightly costly depending on the amount and type of antifreeze you use. Compressed air, on the other hand, is free.
- To winterize using antifreeze, you must have a working water pump. This means that the only way to winterize without a water pump is by using compressed air from a compressor.
Winterizing Your Camper Without Antifreeze
If you think that winterizing your camper without antifreeze is the way to go, here’s what you need to do.
Gather Your Materials
First and foremost, you’ll have to gather your tools together before you can start the winterizing process. All you need is an air compressor, an attachment from the compressor to the water inlet port, and your sewer hose. To avoid making a mess, you should winterize your RV at a dump station or a campground with a full hookup because you’re going to be dumping all your tanks and appliances.
Dump Your Tanks
Once your supplies are gathered together, the first step is to dump your grey and black tanks. Start with the black tank first, followed by each grey tank. Make sure to dump these one at a time so you don’t send liquid or waste from one tank into another.
It’s also a good idea to perform a black tank flush. Here’s how to do this.
- Connect a garden water hose to a water supply on one end and the black tank flush port on the other.
- Make sure your black tank drain valve is open like when you dump the tank.
- Open the water supply and allow water to run through the black tank until you see clear water coming through the sewer hose.
- Turn the water supply off, but allow water to drain from the black tank until it’s empty.
- Disconnect the garden hose and proceed with the winterizing process.
Turn Off Your Water Heater
Next, turn the water heater off and allow the water inside to cool for several hours until it’s at least room temperature. It might be a good idea to do this step first and start the dumping and flushing while the water heater cools.
Drain Your Lines and Freshwater Tanks
While the water heater is cooling, you can start draining the water lines and your freshwater tanks if necessary. If you don’t use your fresh water tank, don’t worry about this step.
Bypass the Water Heater
Next, you will want to bypass the water heater so that you don’t blow compressed air into it. Compressed air in the water heater could potentially damage the appliance, which is the last thing you want to do. Depending on your RV type and age, a bypass valve should be installed near the water heater. All you need to do to bypass it is turn the valve sideways to bypass mode.
If you don’t have a bypass valve, you’ll need to install one. You can purchase bypass valve installation kits with directions and everything you need on Amazon or at your local RV store. Installation isn’t too difficult, but it will help if you have at least a little plumbing experience and the necessary tools.
With the bypass kit installed and activated, you can safely proceed with winterization, knowing that your water heater is out of jeopardy.
Open All Faucets
Your next step is to open all the faucets in your RV. Start with your kitchen sink and proceed to the bathrooms. Make sure to open both the hot and cold sides of every faucet, including your vanities and showers. If you used your RV recently, a small amount of water should leak out.
Flush the toilet or toilets in your RV until water no longer drips out of them. Do the same with the outdoor shower if you have one, and leave those lines open. The only water line that you won’t be able to have opened during the compression process is your toilet. However, enough of the air pressure will get directed toward the open valves that you don’t have to worry about ruining the valve to the toilet.
Dump the Water Heater
Next, drain the water heater from the outside by removing the valve at the bottom front side of the heater. You’ll need a socket set or a channel lock to loosen the plug and remove it. Step back because water will flow freely for several minutes. If you’re worried about making a mess, you can set a tub or barrel underneath the plug so that water doesn’t run about uncontrollably.
Blow Out the Water Lines
With the water heater bypassed, all the lines open, and your tanks dumped, you’re ready to blow out the water lines. Here’s what you need to do.
- Keep the grey, and black tanks open so that any extra water or air will shoot through them and out the sewer hose.
- Hook the air compressor up to the water or city inlet port on your RV, where you would normally connect the water hose to supply water to the camper.
- You’ll need a special adapter or series of adapters to attach the compressor hose to the water inlet port.
- Set the air compressor to somewhere between 30 and 50 psi, but no higher than 50 as this is overkill and could damage your lines and valves.
- Turn the air compressor on and let the air run freely through the lines.
- Shoot air through the lines for 30-second increments. Go inside your RV periodically and watch for water to squirt out your lines.
- Continue these 30-second increments until you no longer see water coming out of the faucets or showers.
- This is also a good way to clean out your drain lines, as compressed air will force any clogs out of the drains if there are any present.
Close Everything Up
Once you’re satisfied that the lines and pipes are clear and empty, close your valves back up. Wait another 30 seconds for all the air to exit the lines before closing the valves so that nothing gets trapped inside them. Ensure that both sides of every water fixture are closed, including your outdoor shower. You can leave the water heater unplugged through the winter and install the plug next year.
You should also go back into your bathrooms and flush the toilets once more to ensure no water or air gets trapped inside of them. You can also close any open drains and the sewer valves to each of the black and grey tanks.
Do You Always Have to Winterize Your Camper?
Because winterization is a decent amount of work, it’s tempting to try to find a way around it. However, winterization is an absolute necessity if you plan to store your camper in an area where temperatures drop below freezing.
Any water left behind in your water lines will freeze and expand during the winter months. Rather than thawing out naturally, the more likely result is that water will expand so much that it will cause your pipes to burst. Not only will you have a massive mess on your hands, but you’ll also have excessive water damage if you don’t notice the problem until the start of the next camping season.
RV Winterization Frequently Asked Questions
You may have some other questions about RV winterization and we’re here to help.
Is it dangerous to use antifreeze to winterize your RV?
Yes. Antifreeze is toxic and if you don’t get it out of the system before using it, it can make you sick.
Why do people use antifreeze to winterize their RVs?
For a long time, people believe that antifreeze was the only way to winterize their RVs. Now, we know there are other ways to go about it.
Is there a way to avoid winterizing your RV?
Yes. If you take your RV to a warmer climate or put it in a temperature-controlled storage facility, that could help you avoid winterizing your RV.
As you can see, winterizing your RV without antifreeze is surprisingly easy. All it takes is a little time, patience, an air compressor, and taking things one step at a time. As long as you follow the instructions in this article to a T, your RV will be safe and winterized until you’re ready to take it out next year.
Before you head off to have more fun before RV season ends, go ahead and check out some of these great articles.