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How to Keep RV Pipes From Freezing While Camping: 7 Steps

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

keep rv water lines from freezing

Spending winter in an RV with the vehicle’s pipes frozen isn’t an enjoyable experience. So now you’re wondering, will my RV pipes freeze in the cold season? If so, how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping?

RV owners can insulate their rigs to avoid this. Different insulation solutions are available, like adding weather stripping to RV doors or applying antifreeze to the rig’s plumbing system.

Take note that different campers may demand different insulation methods. Continue reading to gain practical insights on how to keep RV water lines from freezing.

Table of Contents

Step-by-Step Guide


In this section, you’ll know the things to prepare to winterize your pipes for cold weather RV camping. You’ll also become acquainted with the steps to complete this task with as minimal risks of errors as possible.

But before you proceed, make sure you read your camper owner’s manual. Keep in mind that some rigs may demand specific steps to complete this project. Once you took note of those specifics, you can now start winterizing your RV’s pipes.

What to Prepare

  • Bypass kit: This set of components helps users save on antifreeze while winterizing their rigs’ plumbing lines. These kits may come in three different categories, which are seasonal, permanent, or permanent quick-turn.
  • Antifreeze: A liquid solution that helps in preventing cold temperature buildup in plumbing systems. Take note that you need to pour at least 2 pints of this product to protect the rig’s plumbing system from freezing.
  • Blow out plug: An attachment that connects to an air compressor and a water intake to help drain water in freshwater tanks.
  • Hand pump
  • Sewage hose (for draining tanks)

Step #1: Drain the Water From the RV

Most campers and motorhomes should have three low-point drains. These lines are for the cold, hot, and fresh water.

Ensure that water reservoirs in your RV that are connected to these lines don’t have water in them. Remember, you shouldn’t mix antifreeze with a lot of water.

So disconnect your RV from the outside water source. Then, open all the faucets and drains in the vehicle to remove all the water in its tanks.

Don’t forget to drain the water heater as well. Take note that some RV water heater models may need a siphon for you to drain water from them properly.

Step #2: Bypass the Water Heater

Some RVs will already have a water heater bypass system. If not, you may need to purchase one.

Also, the bypassing method often differs depending on the type of kit used. Here’s a quick look at how to use different water heater bypass systems:

  • Seasonal: Generally uses two male-to-male connections attached to a short hose.
  • Permanent: Typically has two valves to provide efficient water removal from both the cold and hot water lines.
  • Permanent quick-turn: Often requires the installation of one valve and a backflow preventer.

Keep in mind that you may skip using a water heater bypass system to prepare your vehicle for winter RV camping, but it can help you save money from buying more antifreeze.

Step #3: Remove Leftover Moisture From the Tanks

Connect a blowout plug to the city’s water intake, which can be found on the outside of the RV. Then, connect an air compressor to that attachment.

Apply air pressure no stronger than 45 PSI to the system. Doing so will drain the remaining water in your RV’s tanks without the risk of damaging the plumbing system.

Once complete, don’t forget to close the faucets and other water exits in the vehicle.

Step #4: Apply Antifreeze

Use a hand pump to apply antifreeze to your RV’s plumbing system from the outside. Ensure that you frequently check the progress of the fill to avoid over or under-filling.

You’ll know when to stop adding antifreeze when the nearby faucet or drain leaks a bit of the product. Oftentimes, you’ll see some hint of pink coming from these outlets.

Repeat this step as many times as needed to cover the entire plumbing system. Don’t forget to winterize the pipes connected to your RV’s shower, toilet, and other water appliances.

Make sure to add at least 2 pints of antifreeze for each important section of the RV’s water lines.

Step #5: Drain the Gray and Black Water Tanks

At this point, it’s assumed that you already parked your RV at an appropriate water dumping site. First, drain the black water tank. Then, follow up with draining the gray water tank.

You can wear some gloves to keep your hands clean.

Helpful Tips

Remember, applying RV antifreeze is only one of many ways to ensure your vehicle’s pipes don’t freeze while camping. Some additional solutions to prevent ice buildup on your rig’s pipes are:

  • Add or replace weather-stripping around doors and windows.
  • Install heavy window coverings.
  • Add rugs, carpets, and/or foam board flooring.
  • Use heat tape around RV pipes.
  • Take advantage of a space heater or a portable furnace.

At What Temperature Do RV Water Lines Freeze?


RV pipes will often freeze when outside temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In some cases, a rig’s water line may start showing signs of ice buildup once outside temperatures reach about 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Prepare for an RV One Night Freeze?

Rig owners who know that the outside temperature is about to drop can use preventive actions to avoid getting their vehicles’ pipes freezed up. Some of these measures may include (but aren’t limited to):

Install a Lightbulb on the RV’s Underbelly

A typical 100-watt incandescent lightbulb can generate temperatures from 150 to 250 degrees on average. Installing this lighting fixture underneath a rig during the cold season may help prevent the vehicle’s pipes from freezing.

Take note that you shouldn’t put the lightbulb near flammable objects, such as gas lines. It’s also ideal to place an outdoor thermometer near the lightbulb to help you check the surrounding temperature.

Disconnect the Hose

Many campgrounds often tell campers to disconnect their water hoses from the location’s freshwater line. Otherwise, the moisture from the hose can reach the RV’s plumbing system.

If left alone, the hose can also put the spigot at risk of freezing up as well. This event can also lead to unwanted repair and replacement costs for the negligent camper.

If you need to use a water hose in the RV while you’re camping, take advantage of a heated model. A heated water hose can help you fill your RV’s fresh water tank without the significant risk of decreasing the water’s temperature significantly.


After reading this post, you should now know how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping. Remember to consult your rig’s owner’s manual if you find yourself lost in trying to winterize your camper’s plumbing system.

Also, ensure that the rig’s water reservoirs are devoid of significant moisture. Once water’s drained out, applying antifreeze to winterize the RV’s pipes should come without significant issues.

You can also apply other solutions to prevent your RV’s water lines from freezing in the winter, particularly while camping. Methods such as installing weather stripping around the RV door can help improve heat retention in the vehicle.

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