How to Keep RV Pipes from Freezing While Driving


RV Life | Campers stuck on a mountain road | Unprepared for snow | Snowbound | Winter Camping Tips

Frozen pipes in your RV can lead to serious damage. Many RV owners winterize their RVs when not in use. But what if you drive your RV in winter? Then you’ll want to know how to keep RV pipes from freezing while driving.

Here’s what I know from driving mine in winter:

As with pipes in a home during winter, drip faucets inside your RV while driving. Water is less likely to freeze when it is flowing. Additionally, you can wrap and insulate any exposed pipes or add a small heater to the plumbing areas outside the RV.

Then, of course, you can keep the heat on inside the RV while you are driving if you have a generator to power it.

In this article, we’ll explore the temperature at which RV pipes freeze, whether the motion from driving can help prevent them from freezing, and how long does it have to be below freezing before pipes freeze, and similar themes around preparing your rig for the cold weather.

Let’s get started…

At what temperature will RV pipes freeze?

As a general rule, the water in an RV’s pipes could freeze when the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a day. But in many cases, it would need to get well below 30 for an extended period of time for most RV pipes to freeze.

It is also a function of how long it’s been exposed to the cold. After all, freezing is a gradual process. However, it’s not automatic that an RV’s pipes have been exposed to the cold.

And, of course, it’s not the pipes that freeze, but the water inside.

So as an extra precaution, drain your holding tanks and fresh water tanks and flush the lines. Then, when you get to your campground, just connect to the campground water supply without filling up your freshwater tank.

But how cold must it get before you winterize your camper?

You’re in luck seeing as that’s what I explored in a recent article of mine. I explained that you should winterize it if the temperature drops below 35 degrees during the day or 30 degrees at night, especially if it won’t be used or powered.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Will the motion from driving keep RV pipes from freezing?

The motion of driving an RV can help keep the RV pipes from freezing at temperatures just below freezing. However, if there is water present in the plumbing and that area is exposed to temperatures well below freezing, they could freeze even with movement.

Motion from driving is not entirely dissimilar to the movement that occurs when you drip your pipes. It is the movement of the water flowing that prevents it from sitting still and freezing.

But opinions are divided about whether you ought to worry about the possibility of having your RV pipes freezing while driving.

I suspect this is because folks who write reviews and contribute to forums use different brands. So, some say you should have your heat on inside while you’re driving.

Others believe you’d be fine even if the heat is not on.

It’s better to be on the safe side. So, keep the furnace on. You can’t rely on the notion that the motion will keep the RV pipes from freezing.

That would work for the tanks if they’re not full, but it may or may not work for the pipes.

For me, I didn’t winterize my RV until I knew of a winter storm that was coming and was going to drop the temps well into single digits.

My RV fared just fine parked when the temps were between 28-32. But of course, I’m not telling you what to do; I’m just telling you what worked for me.

How long does it have to be below freezing for RV pipes to freeze?

It has to be below freezing for at least a day for the water present in RV pipes to freeze. Freezing takes time, and the temperature of the water in the pipes and the temperature inside the RV will always be warmer than the outside air.

In general, it takes 24 hours after the temperature has dipped below freezing.

Now, we know that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Your rig’s pipes can freeze at that temperature or a lower one. But, usually, it takes some time before it does.

It’s not a long time if you ask me, especially when one considers how disruptive frozen pipes can be.

It’s something you don’t want to experience. So, you want to be proactive about taking precautions, ideally, long before you ever have to worry about frozen pipes!

“What about my septic system?”… Is RV antifreeze safe for septic systems? This is the theme of a recent article of mine, where I explained that a few gallons of RV antifreeze in a 1,000-gallon tank ain’t no problem.

But, it’s better not to overload the system with antifreeze since that could kill the bacteria in it, which helps it flow and operate smoothly.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How cold is too cold for an RV?

RVs are designed to be used all year long, but if the air temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, that could make it uncomfortable to camp in and present a freezing danger for the plumbing system.

You’ll also use a lot of propane trying to keep the camper warm.

So if you know the weather will get down to 20 or below, winterizing it before parking it or driving to a warmer location are going to be your best bets. But sometimes, none of that is a good option.

Can you live in a motorhome in winter?

That’s the theme of a recent article of mine where I explained that you could live in a Class A motorhome, especially the recently built models. How well insulated it is, the amount of snow and ice, and the temperature are some of the main factors to consider.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What to do if pipes freeze in RV?

You can use any of the following to thaw frozen RV pipes: a space heater, a portable propane heater, heat tape, a heat gun, or a hairdryer. Also, open all the faucets to allow trapped air to escape, which could otherwise risk bursting a pipe.

Let’s check out some of the suggestions above in detail.

Heat Tape

This is one of the best and safest ways to unfreeze your pipes.

But first, make sure that the pipes are not cracked before you use the tape. It’s called a tape, but it’s actually a wire that’s warped around the pipe and then plugged into the outlet. The wire is warmed, then it warms the pipe, thereby unfreezing it.

If your pipes are made of plastic or PVC, be sure to get heat tape with an automatic thermostat so that you do not damage the pipes.

Hair Dryer or Heat Gun

Move the dryer or gun slowly and back and forth over the surface of the affected area of the pipes.

The heat gun is ideal for metal or copper pipes, while the dryer can be used on PVC, plastic, copper, or metal pipes. If the pipes are PVC or plastic, be careful not to keep the heat gun too close to the surface for too long.

And be careful of using the dryer in wet conditions.

Plumber’s Torch

Move the torch slowly and back and forth over the surface of the affected area of the pipes. The torch is ideal for steel or copper pipes.

Be careful not to keep it over an area for too long. Check for cracks before you use the torch.

Are you considering living in your RV full time? I have stayed in ours with my family for 4 weeks, and I have carefully researched and compiled 25 of the most vital pros and cons.

You’d save money, and there’s the freedom to move. Check out a recent article of mine for the full lowdown.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

In the article, we learned about the temperature levels at which RV pipes are likely to freeze and whether the motion from driving can prevent this from happening.

We also checked out how long it has to be below freezing for the pipes to freeze. And, we wrapped up by considering how cold is too cold for an RV and what measures you can take if the pipes were to freeze.


Photo which requires attribution:

Still frame taken from video RV Life | Campers stuck on a mountain road | Unprepared for snow | Snowbound | Winter Camping Tips by Liz Amazing is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, color-adjusted, and had a text overlay added.

Cassandra & Jeff Campbell

Cassandra and Jeff Campbell travel on and off with their 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. They write extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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