Does windchill affect RV water lines freezing when driving?


Dear editor,
We were advised by a dealer RV technician to winterize our water lines while driving in cold weather. The claim is that windchill would freeze the water lines while driving. When I review a windchill chart driving at 50 mph in 40 degrees F the windchill is 26 F. It sounds like every time we travel we will need to winterize water lines. —Tim Connors

Answer (from Mark Polk, RV Education 101)

Dear Tim,
What I recall from my research, the ambient temperature is the ambient temperature and cannot be changed by the effects of windchill.

For example, if the ambient temperature is 40 degrees with a windchill of 30 degrees, and there was warm water (70 degrees) sitting in the water lines of the RV, the water in the plumbing system would cool down to 40 degrees faster because of the windchill, but it would not go below the ambient temperature.

But, if the possibility exists that temperatures could drop and stay below freezing at some point while getting to your destination, it will freeze.


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Thomas Wenzler
6 months ago

Not sure you are correct. Every single engine airplane pilot knows of carburetor icing caused from fast moving air entering the carburetor so we have to add carb heat to prevent freezing. I don’t think it is likely in an RV unless the water line is exposed directly to the wind. Thanks for the great article.

Sink Jaxon
6 months ago

About 5 years ago we were driving south to north towing a TT, mid-October. We left late morning it was 68 degrees and by 2:00 pm we hit a freak cold front coming down out of the north (good ol’ Colorado!)…By 3:00 it hit 29 degrees and snowing! At one point had to slow it down to 30mph as the snow was starting to stick. Reached home an hour later and still snowing. Climbed under the TT to check the low point lines and they were frozen solid! But the lines INSIDE the trailer were fine and water was flowing from fresh water tank. Thawed out the low point lines with a heat lamp for about an hour, plus turned on the heater in the trailer and everything was fine, no damage to the the lines. My point being, exposed lines froze, lines within the trailer were ok. So that’s MY experience, wind chill? Maybe.

Bob P
6 months ago

As Jerry Clower once said he’d like to get his hands on the guy that came up with wind chill factor. He said his Momma lived 60 years before the wind chill was invented and the last 20 years of her life she’s been freezing every winter because of the weather man giving the wind chill temperatures. Lol

Montgomery Bonner
6 months ago

I believe if the vehicle is moving, the inverter/charger is active, it put out loads of heat in the process of charging batteries and inverting 12DC to 120VAC to run Refer and other AC items. That heat will offset the Windchill/cold temps outside. If not plugged in, or the furnace is used to keep it warm once parked, then you might a problem. In fact, it would have to be in the mid-high 20’s to freeze the water lines if in storage for at least one whole night or for at least 3-5 hours, a dip down and then right back up won’t do it. Time is the answer.

6 months ago

I think you meant if the vehicle is not moving, or you have some load on the inverter while driving like a residential fridge. While driving, the heat from the engine dissipates pretty quickly, and the dash heater doesn’t reach the house plumbing. We run our furnace in sub-freezing weather while driving.

6 months ago

I guess if moisture such as fog or rain was introduced into the wind a refrigeration effect could be produced due to evaporation. Still, I doubt it would make a significant difference to RV plumbing. We have towed our fifthwheel long days (10 to 12 hours) in temperatures in the 20’s F without any problems. We drove the long days in anticipation of arriving at our warm spot in Death Valley in February. I suppose weather below 20 F requires winterization measures. Just my experience.

6 months ago

And the magic words in this article are “…could drop and STAY BELOW

6 months ago

No, windchill can’t take the temperature below ambient, but it can accelerate heat removal from any object.

Thomas D
6 months ago

Wind chill is a formula based on temp and wind speed on EXPOSED skin. If you cover that skin with hat or gloves etc. It is no longer is exposed and only temperature is considered. I for one an tired of hearing about wind chill.

6 months ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Agreed! If it is cold out, I more than likely am not going to expose my skin and have the God given intelligence to put on jacket, gloves hat and whatever else I think is prudent.

Same goes for the so called heat index in the summer time…when it’s hot, it’s hot.

RV Staff (@rvstaff)
6 months ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Hi, Thomas. Sorry you’re tired of hearing about wind chill, but I think this is the first time we’ve discussed this topic regarding it possibly affecting water lines when driving. I thought it was interesting, especially since I hadn’t heard about it in this context before. (No, I didn’t post that article.) Have a great day. 🙂 —Diane at

6 months ago

From Wikipedia: Windchill or windchill (popularly wind chill factor) is the lowering of body temperature due to the passing-flow of lower-temperature air. Wind chill numbers are always lower than the air temperature for values where the formula is valid. It does not apply to inanimate objects like your water lines.