RV Antifreeze: The Ultimate Guide

rv antifreeze

Using RV antifreeze on your RV’s water and plumbing systems will prevent any freezing of excess water in the pipes which would otherwise lead to expansion and explosion of pipes.

It may also be used in your RV’s water holding tank or sewer system for the same reason. It will assist you in avoiding costly plumbing problems.

Antifreeze for RVs is highly useful. You may use antifreeze not only in your RV’s water system, but also in your holiday house, swimming pool, boat, and certain formulas can even be used in motors.

The majority of RV antifreeze is sold in diluted solutions that may be used directly out of the bottle. They’re also simple to use and remove the need to blast water out of plumbing pipes.

Most antifreeze compounds are made from biodegradable materials which will not harm the environment if spilled or flushed into a sewer system. The majority of RV antifreeze is safe to drink and won’t hurt your pets.

What is the purpose of RV Antifreeze?

Most RV owners store their vehicles for the winter and take it out in the summer and don’t have much of a reason to worry about any degredation of the vehicle during winter. However the cold weather can actually damage the plumbing and pipe systems in your RV. This is why RV antifreeze is an important consideration (winterization).

One of the biggest causes of RV damage is actually neglecting proper winterization.

The importance of this practice will depend on where you live, for example the winter months in Australia are drastically different to the winter months in Canada. It can also depend on other factors, for example different RV models have different resistance to the cold winter temperatures.

During cold winters, any excess water left in the pipes of your RV may freeze, expand and burst pipes. Causing incredible amounts of damage to the vehicles systems. The absolute best way to prevent this scenario is by using RV antifreeze.

Simply pour this fluid into the pipes of the RV and it will prevent any excess water from freezing during the winter. Using RV antifreeze is actually a very common practice for RV owners before and during every winter. Some RV owners even say that using antifreeze on an RV is much more important than on a car, especially if you compare the cost of damage.

RV antifreeze can even be used in black or gray waste watertanks because waste can freeze too. This will also make it a lot easier to clean later on and prevent any damage from liquid expansion due to freezing.

If you are on a budget and have an air compressor, you can flush water out of your pipes before purchasing an antifreeze.

What is the difference between RV antifreeze and Automotive antifreeze?

Some major differences between these two substances is the toxicity amounts due to the material makeup of the substance. Higher toxicity levels can be dangerous to your family.

Automotive antifreeze is much more dense than it’s RV counterpart and is made from a form Ethylene glycol which is completely different from the RV antifreeze version and is also highly toxic.

Never use automotive antifreeze in your RV’s plumbing as it will cause damage and may also make your water toxic before consuming.

RV antifreezeAutomotive antifreeze
Raises freezing point of waterMaintains engine temperature
Pink or Blue colorGreen or yellow color
Non Toxic formulaToxic substance
Prevents pipe expansion and bursting from freezing waterEffective at preventing pipe freezing
Meant for plumbing systemsCan be harmful to plumbing lines
Should only be used for engine cooling systems
difference between RV antifreeze and Automotive antifreeze

Types of RV Antifreeze

There are 3 main types of RV/Marine antifreeze.

  • Ethanol Antifreeze
  • Propylene Glycol Antifreeze
  • Ethanol and Propylene Glycol Blend Antifreeze

Each type of antifreeze has different purposes, toxicity level, uses and complications.

Ethanol based is the cheapest but is toxic and Propylene Glycol based is the most expensive but is non toxic.

Pricing of RV antifreeze

$2-$30 will get you mainly ethanol antifreeze or propylene ethanol antifreezes which are usually toxic and are often pre diluted.

$30-$50 will get you a non toxic propylene glycol antifreeze

$50+ will get you premium packages of multiple antifreezes that are safe for the environment and last a long time.

Ethanol Antifreeze

This is one of the most affordable and available/accessible RV antifreeze on the market. As the title of the product states, it is ethanol based (alcohol based).

The way this antifreeze works is by raising the freezing point of the water in your pipes to prevent any pipe burstage.

This antifreeze is extremely flammable and should be used with caution due to its high level of alcohol base. It should also never be consumed. Avoid using this fluid around any open flames such as a campfire, grill or cigarette. There have been cases where ethanol based antifreeze has harmed the plumbing system in certain RVs. It should only be used for Quest or Pex plumbing lines.

This type of antifreeze can also cause bad tasting and foul smelling water after winter is over. Due to the alcohol base, rubber seals found in your faucets and toilet can be dried out and require replacing every few years which can be a costly task.

Another consideration with ethanol RV antifreeze is the fact that it is toxic and you will need to fully clear your waterlines come springtime as this can find its way into your drinking, cooking or bathing water. This reason alone makes it a big effort to completely flush the liquid out of your plumbing and water system.

However, the alcohol base is very effective at preventing water lines from freezing solid during the winter.

Propylene Glycol Antifreeze

If you are concerned about toxic antifreeze, propylene glycol antifreeze can be your savior. It is non toxic and will not ruin your fresh water quality come spring. It’s also very good and sustainable for your RV plumbing system. Propylene glycol antifreeze is a step up from Ethanol Antifreeze as it’s not as flammable or toxic and will not cause any foul smell or taste from your water when the winter is over.

This antifreeze is a synthetic alcohol type and prevents pipe freezing or bursting by raising the freezing point of water. It’s also very good at retaining moisture which will not cause any adverse effects to your rubber seals such as drying.

Not only that, it will also prevent any drying out of your rubber seals and gaskets. Propylene glycol is a lubricant and will have an opposite effect compared to the alcohol based Ethanol Antifreeze.

Although propylene glycol based antifreeze has many benefits, the main negative is the cost. Usually averaging 1.5-2x more expensive than regular Ethanol Antifreeze. However, many RV enthusiasts prioritise health over price and go for propylene glycol based antifreeze because it’s non toxic.

One of the main drawbacks of this antifreeze is the fact that Dow Chemical warned against similar products made by other companies because some companies were possibly found to be recycling and reselling used antifreeze.

This is actually a very common practice at airports to recycle antifreeze for airplanes. The issue with recycled antifreeze is the extra bad chemicals you get with the compound and no one would want this in their plumbing systems.

Ethanol and Propylene Glycol Blend Antifreeze

It’s important to check the label of this type of antifreeze to see if it’s toxic or not since it’s a combination of a non toxic compound and a toxic one. Most of these blended antifreezes should be non toxic, however it depends on the ratio of blending the manufacturer produces. A higher ratio of ethanol will mean a more toxic compound compared to a higher ratio of propylene glycol which would be a less toxic compound.

This antifreeze is just as effective at raising the freezing point of water as the other two types of RV antifreeze. It will also keep your plumbing and water systems in good condition, especially when temperatures are below -40 degrees.

If you can find a blended RV antifreeze which is labelled as non toxic, this would be the best bang for your buck as blended RV antifreeze is generally cheaper than full propylene glycol compounds. Although there is nothing wrong with spending the extra money to go for a full non toxic propylene glycol antifreeze to prevent any health issues from the water systems in your RV.

Just like Ethanol antifreeze, this blend is known to have an odour and a unsatisfying taste in your water after the winter is over and it has been sitting in your RV pipes for long enough. It also can dry out your rubber seals from the ethanol.

Top RV Antifreeze brands

  • Splash
  • Star brite
  • Peak
  • Camco

What to look for when purchasing an RV antifreeze

Concentration

Concentrated solutions are very different from pre diluted or prepared solutions. Pre diluted solutions eliminate the risk of you making a mistake when preparing the antifreeze solution. However these types of solutions have a shorter shelf life.

It’s recommended to mix the entire bottle if you have a concentrated solution. Make sure you also follow the proportions written by your manufacturer, this will prevent a solution that is either too strong or weak.

Temperature rating

This is one of the most important factors to consider and will depend on the temperature of your environment. Most RV antifreezes will have a label which tells you the temperautre rating or burst protection.

Usually this is -50 degrees fahrenheit which is good enough for many US locations that have a cold climate. Be aware of your location and opt for a -100 degree fahrenheit formula if need be.

Toxicity level

Non toxic formulas in your water and plumbing systems will prevent any health issues with anyone who consumes the water from your RV. Look for propylene-glycol-based antifreeze if you would like this option. Most of these antifreezes are FDA approved.

Keep your antifreeze bottles away from children and pets, regardless if they are non toxic. These compounds are colorful and smell nice, which can be tempting for consumption.

Compatibility

Read the labels and make sure you purchase an antifreeze which is compatible with an RV. This will prevent you having to clear all the pipes after using an incorrect antifreeze which can clog your pipes.

Extra additives can help increase the preservation time of your water system or sewer system, prevent rust or corrosion and have can also have lubrication properties for rubber seals.

Do not mix multiple antifreezes as this can result in a sludge which clogs pipes. This is why it’s important to flush out old antifreeze before adding a new one to your system.

Grayson Uppington
Grayson loves camping, hiking, snowboarding, gaming and blogging about these hobbies. He wants to share his experiences with everyone.