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I have to admit – I was skeptical about this one. It took a good old-fashioned experiment to convince me…
Here’s the deal: Every year about this time, I start seeing posts on various internet groups about people “winterizing” their RV using the blow-out method and nothing more than a cheap tire inflator for an air compressor. I had always assumed these people were just lucky in having not damaged their rigs.
The typical advice for blowing out your RV’s plumbing system is to use an air source with low pressure and high volume. The low pressure is required to prevent damaging your RV’s plumbing, and the high volume is needed to carry all the water out of your plumbing system. It’s like driving your car after a car wash: the wind rushing by isn’t at 100 psi, but there’s enough of it that it blows all the water off your car. Same thing inside your RV’s water system. But getting the high volumes of air required for several minutes typically means using a big air compressor – one sized at several gallons or more.
At the complete other end of the spectrum is the lowly 12 volt tire inflator. It moves very little air: It has a cylinder the size of a dime. But it can (eventually) build up to decently high pressures. In a winterization situation though, I just didn’t see how an inflator could maintain airflow for long enough to clear out your RV’s plumbing. So I devised an experiment.
I built this test rig with parts from the local home center. It’s a representation of something you might see in your RV; a faucet, a city inlet, and a low point that could trap some water which could ultimately freeze and burst. Without giving too much of the video away, I’ll say I was able to successfully clear the plumbing of water (to the point it wouldn’t be damaged by freezing) with nothing more than a bicycle pump.
Yep, a bicycle pump. So a tire inflator would do just as well.
I’m not calling this “winterization”. And I’m not recommending this as a permanent solution. It doesn’t meet manufacturer guidelines. And there was still water left in the pipes. The success of this in your particular RV will depend on your rig’s plumbing system and its configuration. But in a pinch, if you’re stuck and worried, this could be enough to prevent damage to your rig. It’s certainly better than doing nothing at all.
It would be tedious. You’d have to pressurize and open one faucet. Pressurize, open another faucet. Over and over again until you had done all the plumbing fixtures in your rig. Including the toilet. But if it saves your bacon… that’s time well spent.
Beyond that you’ll have to watch the video to see what I mean. Enjoy!