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Basic Winter RV Survival 101

This is the farthest North the Old Girl has been in 4 winters.Winter Wonderland -- MyOldRV style I guess I have gotten a little lax because I gotta say the weather caught me off guard.

Everything was rockin’ along fine until a few days before Christmas. We were working daylight till dark 6 days a week and I had little time to think of anything else. The 2 biggest problems were the water supply and sewage disposal. The city water hookup here is 200 yds away. We bought some cheap garden hose and ran it from the hookup to a Y manifold to supply both RVs. City Water has lots of water pressure! It looked like a dozen little fountains up through the woods. Every hose fitting was leaking. So I put a pressure regulator at the city water connection. 200 yds of 3/4″ hose later the pressure was so pitiful it was not usable. Little matter to me; I just filled up the onboard tanks and we are good to go for 7 days. Makes my Bro bitch though. He goes through a tank of water in two days. He says his big old Doberman drinks lots of water. Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire! He takes 20 minute showers so it is all on him.

Since my Bro is such a whine baby, I gave him the primo site as far as septic hookup. I just didn’t want to listen to his whining. We did not put in this septic system. We bulldozed an old house out of the way and we are using a 20 year old septic tank. The fall from the RVs to the tank sucks. Bro has just barely enough fall to dump his tanks. I knew mine was suspect when I pulled in here. The first time I dumped, I knew I was in for a workout. It is just basically level to the septic tank inlet. The pressure of the effluent will drain the tanks but it leaves the slinky standing full of disagreeable liquids. So I have to pump tanks with the Flo Jet macerator officially known as the Flojet 18555-000 Waste Water Pump. The macerator doesn’t come out often but when you NEED one nothing else will do. I have used it to pump out into septic cleanouts beside a house, directly into toilets, into porta johns and portable holding tanks. I have even used it to pump poo uphill.

Well, things were rocking along good right before Christmas and we decided to stand down for a week. It rained, rained some more, snowed, got colder than rip and now here it is 2011 plus 11 and we have not hit a lick since December 23rd. I titled this post Winter Survival and I know readers who don’t face frigid temps day in and day out are at a loss as to how to deal with it. FWIW, the Old Girl has never been winterized.

I usually don’t worry about a dip into the mid 20′s overnight especially if the temps during the day were above freezing. If you have your RV hooked to city water, I would fill the onboard rv tank and drain the water hose. It will freeze unless you put heat tape on it. If the temps hover around freezing during the day and then dip into the 20′s at night any of your water lines that run close to the outside skin are gonna freeze. On the Old Girl, this happens where the plumbing runs to the outside shower. The lines are run through a tight spot next to the freshwater tank and they are right against the baggage door. So far, we have had 3 mornings where the lines were frozen. I could probably run the rv furnace all night and prevent this but it is such a noisy propane hog that is not an option. The solution to this is a garage trouble light. You know, the kind with a 40 or 75 watt bulb in that little cage. Just stick it in the compartment and turn it on. No more frozen pipes.

Effed up PEX engineering

F'd up PEX Engineering

Frozen water lines? Frozen PEX water lines! I was blissfully unaware of anything PEX until I bought a motor home. I guess PEX is cheap and flexible and suited for recreational vehicle applications but is sure a pain in the ass. First off, you need special tools to work with PEX. You need PEX fittings and PEX bands and PEX pliers to compress the bands. There really is no shade tree work around. Believe me I have tried it. PEX stuff is expensive! Those pliers are like $50 and I am just not gonna pay it! I have resorted to JB Weld for a temporary emergency fix but it is not a good alternative and it does distress the women.  So if you own an RV you have PEX water lines.  If you have PEX water lines, they are gonna leak at some point.   If you want to accelerate that PEX fitting deterioration two things are guaranteed to do that.  Hooking up to  high pressure City Water with no pressure regulator will spring more leaks than you see in one of those WWII U-boat movies.  Let your water lines freeze and you will have leaks.

And yeah, that is a hose clamp around that amputated PEX fitting in the picture.  It did not one bit of good!  When PEX fittings start to leak,  it doesn’t get better.  You can try reclamping them and it will probably just make it worse.

Sharkbite PEX fittings

Back when I did that temporary fix thing with JB Weld, I sent Miss Kathy off to Home Depot with the instructions to ” find something to fix that damned water leak.” Obviously, I was in a bad mood and taking it out on her but she came through like the trooper she is. She came back with a Sharkbite fitting. As far as I am concerned. Sharkbite fittings are the only thing that make RV PEX water lines bearable.  They aren’t that expensive and by God they work!

To use a Sharkbite fitting, you cut out the old leaker as square as you can.  Then you take a little sandpaper and clean up the ‘fuzzies’ on the ends of the pipe that are left over after you attack it with a hacksaw.  After I clean up the ends, I take a Sharpie and mark the water lines about 1 – 1 1/2″  UP the line from where I cut it.

The frozen water line repair with 2 Sharkbite fittings

The only tricky thing about a Sharkbite fitting is getting it slid up on the water line far enough. That is what I use the marks for. I can tell how far I have pushed the fitting onto the line. It has to be seated as deep as it can or the magic shark teeth cannot grab ahold. If you get on there just a bit crooked, it will feel like it has seated hard but in reality you just have a wee bit of pipe inside the fitting. That is where the Sharpie marks become so important!

I read all the time on the RV forums about what I should pack in my tool box. Christ! Some of those guys pack enough goods to rebuild a ’68 Camaro. I tell you what I got. I have a little tackle box with nothing but electrical stuff in it. Wire strippers, wire, fuses, electrical tape,bulbs and a good multi-meter. I use that box 4X more than anything else. The other thing is one of those all in one socket and wrench sets that you buy in the case about the size of a briefcase. That will take care of about 95% of the wrenching you gotta do. Just in case it doesn’t, I have a large and larger crescent wrench. I have never seen anybody mention anything about tools to deal with a PEX leak. Ever! My PEX lines are 1/2″. I have a 4′ piece of PEX line, a hacksaw and several Sharkbite fittings like a straight connector, a t connector and a 90 elbow. That oughta do it.

End Note: Iron Gate by Scott Miller and the Commonwealth from the For Crying Out Loud Cd. I have seen a butt load of music live –going all the way back to the Ancient Times — 1972 for you young ‘uns. Scott Miller I have never seen; if I had one of those toney Bucket Lists, seeing him would be on it. When I listen to this guy I hear some Eagles, some Creedence, a little Red Dirt and some bad boy Steve Earle. One of these days……

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2 comments to Basic Winter RV Survival 101

  • coal

    Yup frozen water lines, had my share over the years. I am back into a shop and have my fiver inside. If I park outside I am right in the wind and my furnace pretty much runs fulltime. Inside all I need is a little ceramic heater, that keeps the rig up around 75. I keep the shop heat off at night, so the furnace will cycle maybe once a hour.

    Outside today, finally got the forklift fired up, now the welder and air compressor. She is nippy for sure.

    I have that same macerator. Works well if your not using two ply tissue paper. I got a 5/8 id commercial type water hose and run it the 50 feet into the shop toilet, works well.

    What I do for my onboard water supply if I am out in the weather, is mount a 65 gallon tank in my basement storage area where it is heated, as the furnace is close by. Tap into the waterpump and good to go. I usually have to fill the tank every two days, just run a garden hose from a close by tap, when done blow out the water hose and put away. My original on board tank that Jayco mounted is at the most rear of the traier and a couple of years ago the line somewhere midship froze and cracked. Bit of a bear to get it out and repair, maybe one day if I feel ambitious.

    That white stuff on the ground there you have is called snow, guess you guys down there in the south don’t get of that. My best friend is a snow shovel lol.

    Winter rving has its challenges thats for sure. But I still enjoy it.

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  • YOU ARE A GAL THAT JERKS MY HEART A LITTLE..I’VE GOT SOME RV’S THAT I HAVE BEEN TEACHING SOME BUM’S TO LIVE IN OVER THE WINTER..I FOUND THE BIGGEST PROBLEM I’VE GOT IS BAD CASE OF LAZYNESS, & EGNORANTS..I FOUND IF YOU USE SOME VENTED GAS LIGHTS WORK VERY WELL..I JUST DISCOVERED ROCKIT STOVES FOR HEATING AND COOKING, AND I’M GOING TO TRY IT, ONLY I’M GOING TO HAVE AN OUTSIDE FIRE BOX..JUST MIGHT WORK.. WATER IS A PROBLEM WHEN A BODY HAS A ELECTRIC PUMP TO GET YOUR WATER FROM THE TANK..I’M THINKING A HAND PUMP INTO A PRESSURE TANK.. HOPE YOU CAN GET BACK TO ME…SWEED

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