For travel trailer owners, the end of the camping season is always the saddest part of the year. Aside from that, it is also the most worrisome. If you live in an area where the winters can get nasty, like double-digit temperatures below freezing then you need to know how to winterize a travel trailer without anti-freeze so you can still use it come springtime.
Why Do You Need to Get Rid of the Water?
The most important part of winterizing your travel trailer is to determine what you need to do to your water pipes. You should not leave even the slightest amount of water in the plumbing of your recreational vehicle because it will cause the pipes to burst, dealing thousands of dollars of damage.
The peculiar characteristic of water is that, rather than contract, it expands when frozen. Have you ever placed a can of soda in the freezer so it will get cold faster, only to forget about it until the next day? When you check your freezer, there is a mess of frozen soda slush everywhere.
The same thing happens when you leave water inside your RV’s pipes and let it freeze during the winter. The water will increase in volume and the walls of the metal pipes will not be able to take the pressure and just burst.
Why Is It Bad to Use Antifreeze?
The “traditional” way of getting RVs and trailers ready for the harsh winter months is to drain out most of the water and sewage as you can then pour a couple of gallons of antifreeze into the plumbing via the water pump and by pouring the stuff into the drains. Mixing antifreeze with water will greatly increase the freezing point of water.
This means it will stay as a liquid even when the temperature drops to way below freezing point. If the water does not freeze, the pipes will not burst. People have several issues about using antifreeze. The first is that you might not get rid of all of it when you drain it out once the springtime comes.
This means that you might be drinking trace amounts of antifreeze. Even if you use non-toxic antifreeze, it can still negatively affect your health. Furthermore, even if the label says non-toxic, just dumping out the antifreeze when springtime comes and the camper needs to be prepared for the oncoming camping season has negative effects.
When you dump out the antifreeze onto the ground where it can seep into the groundwater, it can kill any plant that it touches. It is also toxic to animals. It also does not help that antifreeze smells and tastes sweet. If your pets were to ever drink the stuff then you need to take them to the vet ASAP.
How to Winterize Without Using Antifreeze?
If you do not want to use antifreeze, there is one way to winterize your travel trailer and that is to get rid of all the water in the plumbing. If there is no water, or at the very least little water left in the pipes, that means that even if the pipes freeze in the winter, there will not be enough water in them to cause them to burst.
You can hire professional services to do this for you. However, if you have access to the tools and you know what to do, it is more economical to DIY this project. If you are not that busy, you just need to set aside an afternoon’s worth of time during your weekend to finish preparing your trailer for the winter.
What Tools Do You Need?
You will need wrenches and socket wrenches since some of the bolts you will need to loosen are hard to reach. It is also important to have a screwdriver because it helps you access the valves of your water heater and water pump. Most importantly, an air compressor should be around.
You do not need something that is overly powerful. One that can provide less than 50 psi of pressure will already work. If you have a friend who happens to have a small compressor, ask if you can borrow it for a weekend.
If you do not know anyone who has it then you can rent one for a day or two. It is also advisable to have a blowout plug. This is a compressor hose attachment that will allow you to connect it to the water lines.
Empty the Sewage Tanks First
Before you start winterizing your trailer, you should empty the black and gray tanks first. Take your trailer to a dump station and once there, you just connect the gray and black tanks to the intakes then pull on the release valves.
Remember to empty the black tank first so that the soapy water from the gray tank will help clean the solid waste residue in the drain hose. Also, carry a heavy-duty garden hose with you so that you can rinse the tanks and the dump station after you are done.
Never use your freshwater hose to clean your holding tanks. There is a good chance of it getting contaminated.
Preparing your Travel Trailer for Winterizing
First of all, you should clean the inside of your travel trailer as thoroughly as you can. Take care not to leave behind any food scraps, food containers, dirty dishes and the like lying around. Any trace of food inside your trailer will attract pests and rodents, like rats and squirrels, and they will gnaw their way into your trailer just to get them.
Also, plug up the air vents and securely close all the windows. Small birds and animals will be more than happy to take shelter inside of your warm and dry trailer to escape the brutal winter cold.
You do not want to open up your trailer come springtime only to find out that it has become a den of different kinds of animals. Lower the trailer hitch just enough so that water will be able to flow out freely from the release valve. You do not have to lower it too much. You just need the trailer to lean to one side a bit.
Letting the Water Flow Out of the Pipes
Now that you have finished preparing, you need to find the main water drain in your trailer, which is called the petcock. It is usually underneath the trailer and connected to the water storage tank. Be sure that your trailer is leaning towards the petcock so that the water will drain out faster.
Once you find the petcock, remove it using a wrench and allow the water to flow out. Go inside the trailer and turn on the hot and cold faucets, the indoor shower (if you have one), the outdoor shower hose, and flush your toilet a couple of times to get all of the water out of the lines. Leave the faucets open until the end.
Attaching the Air Compressor to your Water Lines
You need to connect your blowout plug to the air hose of the compressor then connect the plug into the water inlet of your trailer. Set the strength of the compressor to just pump out between 30 to 50 psi and no more. If the air pressure gets too strong, it will cause a lot of damage to the plumbing.
Turn on the compressor and pump air into the plumbing at 30-second intervals, stopping for a couple of seconds before turning the compressor back on. This will prevent overstressing of the pipes. Furthermore, this is also helpful in clearing out any clogs in the plumbing.
You can stop the compressor completely when there is no more water dripping from the drain. There should only be air coming out of the plumbing. Before you replace the petcock, wrap a bit of Teflon tape around the threading so that it will create a good seal. Replace the petcock. Be careful not to over-tighten it as it will strip the threading and cause it to leak.
You also need to close the faucet, the shower, and the water inlet valve underneath the toilet. There will still be some water in the plumbing as there are many bends and curves in the pipes making it impossible to drain completely. However, there will not be nearly enough water to make the pipes burst in the winter.
If you are averse to the use of antifreeze when winterizing your travel trailer, you can use the method explained above. Aside from ensuring that you do not use harmful chemicals, just using compressed air to empty your plumbing will also make it easier for you to get your trailer ready again for the next camping season.
All that it takes is just to fill up the water tank again. You do not need to drain anything out beforehand. This is the best choice for people like you who do not only love to go camping but also have a genuine love and concern for the environment and want to learn how to winterize a travel trailer without antifreeze to avoid causing harm.
Hi, I am Dane Heldt, a full-time RVer since 2016. I am always passionate about building and joining an RV community where people share their love for RV lives. This blog is a dream of mine, as I can finally share my experiences to help people who want to start living differently. So, feel free to reach out to me!