How Cold Can It Get Before I Need To Winterize My RV?

When to Winterize an RV

There are a lot of different climates in North America. Up north it can start to get too cold for regular RV camping well before the end of September.

While in the more southern states temperatures never get low enough to technically require full RV winterization.

Related Product: Quickly prepare your RV for freezing temperatures by blowing out the pipes with an RV Blowout Plug Adapter (click to view on Amazon)

Every year can be different as well. Some falls are warm and mild, and others get cold quickly with early frosts and days that barely go above freezing.

The answer to when to winterize an RV is different for everyone.

But one good way to do it is to winterize after the last camping trip of the season, usually Labor Day for many RVers.

That way you don’t have to worry when the temperatures start to drop.

You also won’t be outside winterizing the camper in cold temperatures.

In this article, I’ll go over a few common RV winterization questions so you can make the best decision on when to get your RV ready for cold temperatures.

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How Cold Can Get Get Before I Have to Winterize My RV?

Sometimes winterizing an RV as soon as the regular camping season ends isn’t an option.

Or you might be planning to head south in a few months and want to know how many cold nights your RV can handle.

Some common advice that you will get from most RV dealers and experienced campers is to not worry about it until temperatures stay at or below freezing for 24 hours.

RV plumbing is technically made to withstand some expansion from half frozen pipes. And the entire system isn’t going to freeze the second temperatures dip below freezing.

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rv pex pipes can handle some freezing before needing to be winterized
PEX pipes can expand but the fittings and connections cannot. In freezing temperatures, RVs must be winterized.

But even though the PEX piping can handle it, the connectors, joints, and faucets aren’t as cold weather resistant. So you still need to be careful.

This advice works for most of the climates in the United States where temperatures are pretty stable at night.

But for higher altitudes, the 24 hour rule doesn’t always work.

My hometown sits about 4,500 feet above sea level. In the fall, the day time temperatures can be very different from the night temperatures.

It’s common for it to be well above freezing and even warm during the day, but temperatures can suddenly drop as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

In my experience, the pipes in the RV have frozen on those random nights of extremely cold weather even though it was only below freezing for 8 hours.

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These random deep freezes are the main thing to look out for and the reason winterization time can be different every year.

Some years we’ve been able to keep the RV out all of October. In other years there have been some extra cold nights forecasted so we’ve had to blow out the pipes just in case.

With that being said if you are expecting a few extra cold nights but it still goes above freezing most of the day you can heat your RV during the coldest hours and run water periodically to stop the pipes from icing up.

Or, if you have the option, blowing out the water pipes, emptying the tanks, and pouring some antifreeze down the drains is the more recommended route to go.

You don’t have to put antifreeze in the freshwater system, but clearing out the water is a good idea.

Should I Winterize My RV Before Driving Through Cold Weather?

Mountain passes can be an area with freezing temperatures you should plan for before heading out with an unwinterized camper.

It might not seem like a big deal to drive through below freezing temperatures for a few hours.

But wind chill combined with tanks and pipes on the outside of an RV, you might end up with some cracked plumbing by the time you get where you’re going.

If you are going to be driving through some cold areas, like mountain passes, try and plan it so you hit those spots in the middle of the day when it’s the warmest.

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You can turn off the water pump and open the faucets so they are as empty as possible and keep the water heater on so the tank stays warm.

Dumping some antifreeze down each drain is a good idea as well.

The best option is to have your RV fully drained but if you need freshwater make sure the tank is at least 1/2 full.

It takes longer for a lot of water to freeze, so it’s a good idea to keep the freshwater pretty full.

winterized rv travel trailer in cold winter storage
Winterize the RV after the last camping trip so you don’t have to do it when it’s cold outside.

Conclusion About When to Winterize an RV

There’s really no set date on when you should winterize an RV.

You might go ahead and get your RV ready for winter and end up with more two weeks of prime camping weather that you could have enjoyed.

Or you might take the risk and hold out a few more weeks only to have a deep freeze and end up cracking a faucet or pipe joint.

The best way to go about it is better safe than sorry.

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If you’re done camping for the season you may as well winterize your RV right away so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

If you are hoping to go on a few more trips before winter sets in you could consider blowing out the pipes between trips.

It doesn’t take much time and it’s a good way to ensure nothing will get damaged from any unplanned cold weather.

Remember, taking some time to prevent frozen pipes is a lot easier than having to fix them later on.

Have any more questions about how cold it can get before you need to winterize your RV? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

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