How long a camper can stay winterized depends on the winterization method used.
In other words, whether you used RV antifreeze or used compressed air to blow the lines out will directly impact the length it can safely stay winterized.
How Long Can a Camper Stay Winterized with RV Antifreeze?
An RV winterized with antifreeze can stay winterized for at least two years as long you regularly check and maintain the rig while it’s in storage.
Why roughly two years? RV antifreeze typically has a shelf life of between 1 and 4 years, though, in my experience, many brands don’t post this information on the bottle or in their safety data sheet. Plus, RV antifreeze will slowly evaporate over time. Not as fast as water, but it still evaporates.
So, using this information, it’s a good bet that your camper will safely stay winterized over a two-year period, with some regular checks and maintenance, before it would be a good idea to re-winterize it if you plan to keep it in storage over the colder months.
Did you know…
The effectiveness of RV antifreeze is not measured in terms of time but rather in terms of temperature. As long as the temperature outside your camper remains below the burst point of the antifreeze (usually well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for most brands), the antifreeze will continue to protect your water system throughout its shelf life.
Understanding RV Antifreeze
RV antifreeze, typically composed of propylene glycol (not to be confused with ethylene glycol), is a non-toxic coolant used extensively in the RV industry to prevent water systems in campers from freezing during the cold winter months.
Unlike the toxic antifreeze used in car engines (ethylene glycol), RV antifreeze is specifically designed to be safe for use in systems that supply water for human consumption.
The primary function of RV antifreeze is to lower the freezing point of water in the camper’s plumbing system. When winterizing your camper, drain the water from the system and replace it with antifreeze. This method ensures that even when temperatures drop below freezing, any water left in your system doesn’t turn into ice, which could cause significant damage to your pipes and tanks.
Precautions to Take When Using RV Antifreeze
While RV antifreeze is non-toxic and safe for use in your camper’s water system, there are still some precautions you should take when using it:
- Drain the System First: Before adding antifreeze, completely drain the water from your camper’s plumbing system. This includes the fresh water tank, the water heater, and all the pipes and faucets. If there’s any water left in the system, it could dilute the antifreeze and reduce its effectiveness.
- Use the Right Amount: The amount of antifreeze you’ll need depends on the size of your camper’s water system. A typical travel trailer might require 2-3 gallons, while a larger motorhome might need 4-5 gallons. Make sure to check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations.
- Bypass the Water Heater: Most RVs have a bypass valve for the water heater. This allows you to fill the rest of the system with antifreeze without filling the water heater tank.
- Don’t Forget the P-Traps: The P-traps in your camper’s sinks and shower drain can hold water even after you’ve drained the system. Make sure to pour a little antifreeze down each drain to prevent this water from freezing.
- Check for Leaks: After you’ve filled the system with antifreeze, check for any leaks.
Check out our guide on how to winterize a camper with antifreeze for the exact step-by-step process.
How Long Can a Camper Stay Winterized When Blowing Out the Lines?
A camper winterized by blowing out the lines with compressed air can stay winterized indefinitely as long as you perform regular maintenance.
It’s important to understand that even when blowing out the lines with compressed air, RV antifreeze is still commonly used in the drains to fill the p-traps and to cover the ball valve on the toilet to keep the seal from drying out over winter.
So, while your RV can stay winterized for many years, it will still need the RV antifreeze topped off, as well as other regular maintenance.
Understanding the Process of Blowing Out the Lines
Blowing out the lines is a common method of winterizing RVs, travel trailers, and motorhomes. This process involves using an air compressor to force air through the camper’s plumbing system, effectively pushing out any remaining water in the pipes, tanks, and faucets. The goal is to remove as much water as possible to prevent freezing and potential damage to the plumbing system during the cold winter months.
The process typically involves the following steps:
- Drain the System: Start by draining all the tanks in your RV, including the fresh water tank, the hot water heater, and any grey or black water tanks. Open all the faucets and let the water run out.
- Connect the Air Compressor: Next, connect an air compressor to the water intake line. Most RVs have a city water inlet that you can use for this purpose. You may need a special adapter to connect the air compressor to the water inlet.
- Blow Out the Lines: Turn on the air compressor and let it blow air through the system. Start with a low pressure (around 30 psi) to avoid damaging the pipes. Open each faucet one at a time, starting with the one furthest from the water intake, and let the air blow out the water.
- Repeat as Necessary: You may need to repeat the process a few times to ensure all the water is removed from the system. Don’t forget the ice maker, outside shower, or washing machine if your camper has them.
Potential Issues and Precautions to Consider
While blowing out the lines is an effective method of winterizing your camper, there are some potential issues and precautions to consider:
- Residual Water: Even after blowing out the lines, small amounts of water may still be left in low spots or bends in the lines or appliances like water heaters or pumps. This residual water could potentially freeze, so some people choose to also use RV antifreeze as an extra precaution.
- Pressure Concerns: Be careful not to set the air compressor’s pressure too high, as this could damage your camper’s plumbing system. A pressure of around 30 psi is usually sufficient.
- Don’t Forget the P-Traps and Appliances: The P-traps in your camper’s sinks and shower drain can hold water even after you’ve blown out the lines. Pour a little RV antifreeze down each drain to prevent this water from freezing. Also, don’t forget to winterize appliances that use water, like your washing machine or dishwasher.
Tips for Maintaining a Winterized Camper
Regular Checks and Inspections
Even after your camper has been properly winterized, it’s crucial to conduct regular checks and inspections throughout the winter months. This is especially important if your camper is stored outdoors and exposed to the elements.
Here are some key areas to focus on:
- Exterior: Check the exterior of your camper for any signs of damage or wear. Pay special attention to the roof, windows, and tires. Look for any cracks, leaks, or signs of rust that could worsen over time.
- Plumbing System: Even though you’ve drained and protected the plumbing system, it’s still a good idea to check for leaks. If you use antifreeze, check for any signs of it leaking out. If you blew out the lines with air, check for any signs of water intrusion.
- Batteries: If your camper’s batteries are stored in the camper, check their charge level and top them up if necessary. Cold weather can drain batteries faster than usual.
- Pests: Check for any signs of pests. Mice and other small animals can cause significant damage if they get into your camper.
Preparing the Camper for De-Winterization
No matter how long your camper was winterized, you will eventually have to start thinking about de-winterizing it.
The process of de-winterizing a camper involves reversing many of the steps you took to winterize the camper, such as flushing out the antifreeze from the plumbing system and refilling the water tanks. Here are some tips to prepare your camper for de-winterization:
- Plan Ahead: Don’t wait until the last minute to start de-winterizing your camper. Start planning a few weeks before your first planned trip.
- Check the Weather: Make sure the risk of freezing temperatures has passed before you start de-winterizing. The last thing you want is to refill your water system only to have it freeze again.
- Take Your Time: De-winterizing your camper is just as important as winterizing it, so don’t rush the process. Ensure to thoroughly flush out the antifreeze and check all systems for proper operation.
Does RV Antifreeze Go Bad?
If the antifreeze has been stored properly — in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight — and was tightly sealed, it should last several years. That said, it’s always a good idea to check the bottle for specific expiration dates or storage instructions.
Can I Use My Camper After I Winterize It?
Yes, you can use your camper after it has been winterized, but with some limitations. The main restriction involves the water system. If you’ve winterized your camper by using non-toxic RV antifreeze in the water system, you should avoid using water-based facilities like the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower because the antifreeze is not meant for consumption or regular use.
However, you can still use parts of your camper that don’t involve the water system. For instance, you can use the living areas, and depending on your camper’s setup, you may be able to use the cooking facilities, provided they don’t require water from the camper’s system.
Can I Use the Toilet in a Winterized RV?
Yes, you can use the toilet in a winterized RV. While the water system is generally not used in a winterized RV, you can manually add water (or RV antifreeze) to the toilet bowl for each flush. This allows you to use the toilet without introducing water into the rest of the RV’s plumbing system.