Will RV Antifreeze Thaw Frozen Pipes?

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Will RV antifreeze thaw frozen pipes? Unfortunately, no it won’t. The reason is that its designed purpose is to prepare the RV’s plumbing system ready for the colder temperatures of winter. Water is flushed from the system and non-toxic RV antifreeze is added to prevent the pipes from cracking or become subsequently damaged.

There are different approaches to dealing with a frozen pipe situation in the colder months. In the rest of this article, we detail different ideas for resolving a frozen pipe problem before it worsens.

Will RV Antifreeze Thaw Frozen Pipes?

To supply a more complete answer, RV antifreeze doesn’t possess the chemical composition that allows it to assist in the thawing process. That’s just not what it was designed to do. If you don’t believe us, you could certainly try to use it, but it will be of no use for already frozen pipes.

What RV antifreeze does is adjust the freezing point to help avoid burst pipes during the winter months. Many of the popular brands of this type of product have propylene glycol as a base ingredient, which is not as potentially toxic for pets or plants for that matter.

This does prevent water from becoming frozen inside the pipe, but in fairness, it’s best to drain all water from the system before adding the antifreeze anyway. That’s the correct procedure when winterizing your RV.

Will RV Antifreeze Melt Ice?

Does antifreeze melt ice? Sadly, no. RV antifreeze will not melt ice for you.

RV antifreeze is used to prepare the RV plumbing for winter, including flushing out any remaining water from the pipes, faucets, and other places. When the antifreeze is observed running through all the faucets, shower, and sink, then the plumbing system has added protection.

However, there are various practical suggestions provided later in this article for melting ice outside of RV plumbing systems.


Will My RV Pipes Freeze?

It is a bit of an old wives’ tale that RV pipes will freeze up as soon as the temperature falls to 32 degrees. Nevertheless, better safe than be sorry, so we recommend RV antifreeze in pipes to prevent freezing.

At What Temperature Do RV Water Lines Freeze?

While 32 degrees Fahrenheit (otherwise known as 0 degrees Celsius) is the official freezing temperature, water pipes aren’t quite as predictable.

Variances include factors like an external or internal pipe, whether the pipe is in a heated area or not, what’s inside the pipe at the time, and how quickly the temperature declined. With that said, certainly, there’s cause for concern when the temperature falls to this low level as the risk to the pipes rises exponentially from that point.

How to Keep RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping?

Ensure that the camper, trailer, or RV is heated throughout. Avoid letting heating flame out or getting turned off due to power issues overnight. This is when the RV is more vulnerable when camping. Wrapping the pipes in insulation, foam or similar can help to keep the pipes a few degrees warmer than can be the difference between them freezing or not.

Before heading to the campground, check the overnight temperatures the previous few nights to verify how cold it’s been getting. Then you’ll know what you’re going to be dealing with.

Will RV Antifreeze Thaw Frozen Pipes?

What Happens If RV Pipes Freeze?

Frozen pipes in an RV occur when the external temperature declines so much that water or other liquid inside the pipes becomes solid matter. If you’re wondering how to unfreeze your pipes in a trailer or camper, then fortunately the process isn’t any different.

The risk to the RV plumbing during the winter is that water expands when it becomes ice. Because of this, a pipe filled with water may see that water (now ice) expands beyond the limit of a narrow water pipe. This often leads to a burst at the seams and water leaking either inside the RV or trailer or out onto the ground beneath it.

The cost to replace damaged water pipes is considerable, especially during colder months. Possibly with snow or ice on the ground too, just getting an RV plumber out quickly to replace the broken pipes isn’t cheap either. This is why it’s important to monitor the situation closely.


Will Antifreeze Thaw Frozen Water?

No, the antifreeze will not thaw frozen water. It’s not designed to do so.

Other methods like heating up the frozen water are required to unfreeze it.

How Do I Unfreeze My RV Pipes?

If you’re wondering how to unfreeze pipes in a trailer or RV, here are several methods in this section. This basic process can confirm that you have a frozen pipe and its true location:

Start at the BeginningPinpoint wherein the pipe is frozen up solid. This is achieved by turning on the faucets in your RV, trailer, or camper and waiting to see what happens. Either the water will be free-flowing, it will trickle out or there’ll be no water at all! The degree of this is a good indicator that the pipe is indeed frozen up preventing water from reaching the faucet.

Next Step – Understand that it’s unlikely that only one pipe is frozen unless it’s especially exposed to freezing temperatures outside whereas the heating is providing some warmth elsewhere to prevent other pipes from freezing up. Any exposed pipes on the exterior or underside of the RV or trailer/camper might already have ice or ice frosting on the pipe. This could be true even if the interior part of the pipe under the sink or behind the wallboard isn’t showing signs of issues.

Locating the Blockage – A pipe may bulge out noticeably when it has ice inside it. The ice expands in the space after it’s been filled up with water, often expanding beyond the normal dimensions of the pipe itself. This bulge is a tell-tale sign to watch out for and often indicates the worst affected spot.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes in an RV

Here are 6 methods to thaw out frozen pipes in your camper, trailer, or recreational vehicle.

1.      Use a Heat Gun

A heat gun is a mobile treatment that’s powered once you plug it in. The recommended Makita HG6530VK Variable Temperature Heat Gun Kit with LCD Digital Display (affiliate link) requires 120-volts to operate much as other models do. So, either a powerful generator or full hookups in an RV park will be required to run it.

The heat gun is directed towards the frozen area of the pipe. Is it then moved up and down the worst affected area to gradually defrost the part of the pipe that’s become frozen. Be careful not to damage the pipe itself when doing so though because heat guns can reach up to 1,000-degrees Fahrenheit and deform water pipes as well as the ice!

Makita HG6530VK Variable Temperature Heat Gun Kit with LCD Digital Display

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2.      Heat Tape to the Rescue

Heat tape for RV pipes like the HEATIT JHSF 80-feet 120V Self Regulating Pipe Cable (affiliate link) can only be used on water pipe sections that are not already cracked. It won’t work otherwise.

While the product is called “heat tape,” RV water line heat tape is a wire that goes around the pipes themselves. Once it’s in the right position, it can be plugged into a power outlet to begin the heating-up process (think of it as similar to an electric blanket for water pipes).

The best heat tape for water pipes may be used on curved plastic or metal surfaces. It will require some time to thaw out the pipe’s frozen innards, but it’s safer for your plumbing compared to a heat gun. However, both perform well.

HEATIT JHSF 80-feet 120V Self Regulating Pre-assembled Pipe Heating Cable

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3.      Plumber’s Torch

If your RV or towable uses copper or galvanized steel for the water pipes, then it’s possible to use a plumber’s torch to thaw out frozen pipes. However, if not, never use this method because it will most certainly permanently damage plastic or PVC modern water pipes.

To proceed, locate the frozen section and ensure there are no present breakage points or cracks formed. Once all clear, the torch is moved forward and back over the affected area to increase its internal temperature. Use minimal heat for noticeably short periods to avoid overheating the pipe and damaging it. Even steel or copper is not indestructible using a plumber’s torch!

4.      Piping Hot Machine Rental

A piping hot machine is rentable and ideally used with the RV positioned either on a longer-stay lot or in a friend’s driveway. A plumbing or DIY store is likely to have a piping hot machine available for rent.

The machine includes clamps that adjust using a spring mechanism. They clamp securely right onto the water pipe. From there, once powered up, they will apply heat to the pipe to thaw it. The downsides to this approach are the size of the machine, how heavy it is to move around, and the rental cost.

5.      Space Heater

For frozen pipes on the interior of the RV or camper/trailer, there’s another possibility which is using a space heater. The idea here is to move the heater near to the frozen pipe to warm up that area.

Be aware that space heaters should not be left alone when powered up as they can topple over and pose a fire risk. Therefore, this method must only be used when you can monitor it over the time it requires to thaw out the ice. Also, this is likely to be one of the slowest methods. However, it’s less likely to risk damage to plastic water pipes, so there’s that.

6.      Hair Dryer

The final method requires using a hairdryer, which we do not recommend. Some people think it can act like an amateur heat gun to move over the affected area to warm it up. But the product was never designed for this purpose because electricity and water don’t mix well or safely.  

The risk here is from it being too hot for the water pipe’s material. There’s also a safety risk of a hairdryer coming into contact with the water itself. Therefore, we would avoid this method due to it being potentially unsafe. We only include it here, so people don’t mistakenly try it.

How to Unfreeze an RV Water Hose?

Similar techniques can be used to effectively warm up a frozen hose. Clearly, due to the fact that hoses are made from plastic-type material, they won’t withstand direct heat.

Therefore, care must be taken to introduce warmth to the place where the hose is located without directly applying heat to it. This avoids their melting accidentally. A heated water hose is also beneficial and is covered in the next section.

How to Keep RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping

Different approaches work to keep RV pipes from becoming frozen solid and your water being cut off in mid-flow.

Wall or Pipe Insulation

Not all the walls of an RV or a trailer-camper include enough insulation to handle the colder months. The thought is either that people won’t use their RV during the winter or that it was a cost-saving design choice. Also, insulation becomes less effective as it gets older and more worn out. Anyone who’s purchased a previously owned RV with some years on it should know this well.

Adding additional insulation to the walls won’t go a miss but it may look a little unsightly. However, it also could save you money on heating.

Insulating the water pipes provides a couple of possible benefits. Hot water pipes will lose less heat when the pipe has insulation wrapped around it. Also, the insulation will help keep the pipes from freezing up too.

A Heated Water Hose

A frozen RV sewer hose sucks. A heated water hose (also known as a hose with freeze protection) includes a heat strip. Using the strip heats the water in the hose which gets fed into the pipes. This provides added protection for your RV in colder weather.

Bear in mind that heater water hoses aren’t always long enough and don’t play nice when bending them in different directions. They require some measure of care during their use. They also need to be close to a water supply, so being at an affordable RV park or campground is useful here.

Protect Your Pipes with RV Antifreeze

Applying RV antifreeze to the RV’s plumbing system is an excellent preventative measure to avoid lines getting frozen up in the future.


Camco RV Antifreeze Concentrate

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It’s important to be careful using antifreeze around pets or letting it spill onto the grass in an RV park. Also, if you have an old bottle lying around, ensure it hasn’t turned slushy through a freezing process too.

Closing Thoughts

Will RV antifreeze thaw frozen pipes? No, it won’t. Use the alternative methods outlined above for a frozen pipe problem.

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