Some Work Under The Rig – Part 3 – Wherein Things Are A Little Of Everything, Pus A Bonus Mystery!

And finally by Mr. Lee.  Hey you guys wanted him to write more! – Trace

For those just joining the saga, go here first, then here, then come back. We’ll wait.

All caught up?

Once I got the fresh tank fixed and tested, I wanted to replace the valve with a cable valve, so it could be opened without having to crawl under the rig, and I also wanted to relocate the outlet, so the water could be redirected instead of just gushing out onto the ground directly below the rig. To start with, I’m not sure if the valve is threaded on or if it’s a spin weld, and I didn’t want to ruin the tank trying find out, so I thought I could just buy a cable valve in the same size from the same company, and then remove the four bolts that hold the fitting on either side of the valve, take out the valve and use the new valve between the original fittings. Sounds logical, huh?

As you can see, at the top where it is attached to the fresh tank, it looks like it’s designed to be turned on with a wrench, because it’s 6 sided, but there’s also a fair amount of dried blue gunk around it, which leads me to believe it’s put on with PVC solvent cement.

Once I got all the expanding foam and gunk off the old one, I couldn’t see any markings of any kind. I tried using my scope camera and my phone to get a look at the other side, but since it was so close to the tank, I couldn’t see anything at all. So I just sort of moved my fingertips around like a person reading Braille, and sure enough, I could feel the little raised plastic telling me all the relevant markings were there. If I ever meet the genius that installed that thing facing up, I’m going to give him a big hug over the top of his head with a folding chair. I still couldn’t see the markings, and I can’t read Braille, and even if I could it wasn’t written in Braille, so I had to remove the bolts and take down the valve just to get the information. Hey, remember in the last post where I filled up the tank to flatten it out. Yeah, all that water had to come out before I removed the valve. So I got a sewer hose and put it just below the outlet and hung it with some tiny bungee cords and pulled the valve handle. The alignment was off a little, so I got drenched. Remember, this is why I am doing this in the first place! Once the water was finally drained, I got to work taking off the bolts that hold the valve to the fittings. Of course those aren’t stainless, and being under the rig and completely unprotected, they were very rusted. The first one came out OK, but the other three all broke when I tried to remove them. Luckily, once they were broken they just fell right out. With the lower fitting and the valve free (the upper fitting still attached to the tank) I was able to get a good look at the thing, to see who made it and model # and all that.

I poke around on the internet and found nothing at all using any of those numbers, so I decided to just call LaSalle Bristol and see if they could me out. I was hoping I could just get one of these cable actuated valves, and really hoping that the form factor was the same and the bolt holes would line up, then I could just bolt the new valve between the old fittings.

After spending the rest of my life on the phone, I finally got someone who said, yes, the form factor was the same on all of their valves, and they were completely interchangeable. Something just didn’t feel right, but I figured if I bought one and it didn’t fit, then I could just return it. I went to three different RV parts stores in the area, and nobody had one in stock. Since I wasn’t completely sure how long we would be where we were, I didn’t want to order one. I did have enough sense to take the old valve with me, and I took a look at the Valterra version, but the holes were a few mm off, so not useful. In the end I decided that I could just put the original valve back on for now, because it just bolts on, and it’s accessible. I did have to get some replacement bolts and nuts since the original bolts were broken. I happened to take those along too, so I was able to match them. They turned out to be 5mm, and I was lucky enough that they had just enough in the little drawer that were the right size and length. After an entire day of driving around San Antonio I was ready to call it a day. I will have to see about getting a cable actuated one later. This is not hyperbole.  When Lee gets his teeth into something he becomes a bit obsessed.  Those of you who know him will think that is a vast understatement! -Trace

The next day I reinstalled the valve and started the process of assembling the new drain extension that would move the water from directly over my face to a more sensible location. When I had taken everything apart I measured the fittings and was unable to find any PVC anywhere that fit with the inside diameter or the outside diameter of the outlet.



After wandering up and down the aisles of Home Depot I finally found something that would work, and here are all the parts laid out ready to be installed.


To start with, a 2″ rubber elbow that would allow me to attach to the fitting, and would have the added bonus of a little flexibility. Then a couple of other elbows that would allow me to rotate the whole thing to move it from near the center of the rig more to the outside, and back up to the level of the valve so it wasn’t hanging too low.


From there, around 5 or 6 feet of PVC pipe to get to the back of the rig where the sewer outlet is. Then I needed to be able to attach a standard sewer hose, so I found a 2″ to 3″ boot that would do the trick. When I could find nothing at all that had the bayonet fittings of a standard sewer hose, I got a male-to-male adaptor and used wire cutters to lop off one set of the bayonet lugs. Once that was in the boot and the boot tightened down, it acts as a standard waste connection for a standard sewer hose. I gotta say here this is why non-mechanical people glaze over during these explanations.  If you don’t understand boot, bayonet, etc these sentences make no sense.  – Trace

Before I could put this new extension in, I needed to put on the new belly pan, so I got started on that. This was first thing in the morning, and as soon as I got under the rig to start taking measurements, I noticed a little puddle of water on the tarp, just below the middle of the black tank. Uh oh. It hadn’t rained, and it wasn’t dew. Double uh oh.

 


My colorful language got me a look of reproach from Jack, who had been supervising from a comfy chair.

I looked at it very closely, and gave it a sniff. Not black water, or gray. So that’s good. It’s location wasn’t necessarily a clue to it’s origin, because water will always go downhill. So I started looking for it’s origin. The spatters and tiny drops around the puddle told me it wasn’t pooling there from elsewhere on the tarp, so it was dripping from directly above. It also couldn’t be a bad leak, because it was such a small amount of water. And it wasn’t black or gray, so it had to be fresh. Directly above it I saw where it was dripping from.

 

You can see where the water is running out from the edge of the hole and then dripping down. This is a “doughnut hole” formed into the black tank (the gray tank has two of them) I’m assuming to give the tank structural strength since it’s a very long rectangle. My immediate thought was, if the doughnut hole in the black tank is leaking, why doesn’t this water smell??? I looked up inside the hole.

It looks like the water is coming from the top, and just following gravity. So I need to follow it back. I used the scope camera and could see, but not very well, so up went my cell phone with a bluetooth remote trigger. (Those are VERY handy, by the way)

I could definitely see it was running along the top of the tank, not coming from the tank. Luckily, I have been over almost every inch of my rig, so I knew what was above and forward of this position. I crawled out from under, and then climbed up inside the crawl space between the rear storage and the kitchen, where the water heater, furnace, and all the water pipes are. Can you spot the next clue??? This is all feeling a little CSI, but pretty cool.  He’s using a scope and phone to see stuff. Gotta love that- Trace

 

So there’s where the water is coming from before it hits the top of the black tank. The pipe to the right is where the toilet goes into the black tank, and that rubber flange around it is there to covert the gap between the hole in the floor and the pipe. You can see where water has evaporated around that flange, which tells me this tiny little leak has been going on off and of for a while, most likely.

I took a closer look at the puddle to the left. Once again, there’s a spatter pattern that tells me that this is where it’s landing, and just above I can actually see a droplet of water getting ready to fall. I sat there for a while just watching it, and a droplet was falling about once every thirty seconds. After a few minutes, it stopped altogether. So that means that whatever the failure is, it’s very, very minor; the water is getting pushed out when a faucet, or the toilet valve, or the washer/dryer valve is opened and then closed, and the pressure is greater than normal standby pressure for just a moment. The good news is that the leak has to be in that crimp to the left, or another one to the right. The bad news is, I couldn’t find it in that moment.


Concern about the larger jobs that needed to be finished because we could get called to a gate at any moment drove me to put a Tupperware container under the drip and come back to it later.

Going back to reinstalling the belly pan, I decided to replace the lousy foil insulation with a layer of Reflectix, which is a great insulator and is also very lightweight and easy to work with. It’s made of two outer layers of foil and two inner layers of bubble wrap.

I measured carefully and used a straight edge to trim the coroplast and then cut the Reflectix and used duct tape to attached it to the coroplast. All of the pieces were more or less the same, but here’s what one of them looked like before I installed it.

 

I installed using self drilling sheet metals and large fender washers, then I used a combination of expanding foam and Lexel sealant on Greg’s recommendation because it’s got great adhesive properties. I sealed up everywhere I could find, including around the washers and screw heads. I also overlapped the coroplast sheets by several inches wherever they met to give them more rigidity. I also put screws anywhere there was structure between the frame beams, in addition to along the frame, so it wouldn’t sag in the middle. Overall I was very happy with the end result, it should last for as long as I need it to.

Once that was finished I got started installing the fresh outlet extension. As you can see in the picture below, the elbow allows some water to get caught in the “P”, but there was no avoiding that unless the pip ended up below the axle, which I did not want. Not to mention that towards the rear the termination would be way too low. We rarely are in situations where this will freeze, and if we are going to be, I can loosen the rubber elbow to drain that small amount of water. Later I can put in a petcock valve if I really want to. I was able to use the two PVC elbows to get the height and angle the way I wanted it so the termination would be where I wanted it.


As you can see, the pipe goes over the axle nicely. If you look just beyond that, you can see the blue Pex lines for the fresh water vent extensions I put in. While I was doing the PVC line I also cut off the current awful valves for those and put in nice sturdy ball valves that I can turn easily and the handles won’t fall off. Plus the position of the handle shows me easily whether they are open or closed. With the old ones I had to get the handle out of a compartment and put it on each one to verify if they were open or closed.


I secured them with insulated cable clamps so they won’t slide around and rotate.


Once I got the PVC pipe to where I wanted it I was able to attach the adaptor boot and bayonet extension, and then secure it all with some galvanized hanging strap. It’s not perfect, but it’s not anything I can’t take apart and tweak over time as I get some experience using it and figure out if and how it can be improved. But for now, when I want to drain the fresh water tank, I can connect a sewer hose to it, and drain it to a sewer hookup or into grass without getting drenched. I am continuing to look for a way to open and close that valve without having to climb under the rig, but again, for now, at least I won’t have to get all the way under the axles since I have the extension rod, and I won’t get wet, either.

Having finished all that, I spent the rest of the day waiting for expanding foam to dry so I could trim away the excess with a razor knife, and using a headlamp to go over every inch of everything to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, then picking up all the tools and scattered screws, washers, and bits of dripped foam and cut up pieces of coroplast. That took a long time.

All of this took about 5 days from when I found the leak in the crawl space, so I crawled back in to see how full the Tupperware was. The 5 cup container was a little less than half full, so around a half cup every 24 hours, with two of us taking showers every day, running the washer every day, and washing dishes every day, causing a lot of pressure hits. That’s manageable for now, and this will have to wait. I went to look for a few fittings, and immediately ran into a problem. I can’t be sure what fittings I need until I take them off, and once I take them off, we have no water until I put them back together. I puzzled on it for a while and finally decided that first I need to completely dry all of the Pex and fittings and then put some paper towels around them and open a few valves and close them and them immediately check the paper towels and then repeat the process until I can find exactly where the leak is.

The “T” that’s part of that bit of plumbing goes to the washer, so in a pinch I can cut out the “T”, and use a coupler to to put the main line back together while I take the threaded fitting to the store to make sure I am getting what I need. Worst case scenario is that we are without a washer for a few days if I have to order the fitting. Or I can just just skip the threaded fitting and put in couplers, but I’m not sure that’s an improvement, so I don’t know that I want to remove the fitting. There’s also a half turn ball valve shutoff about a foot farther down the washer Pex line before that line continues to another set of shut offs where the washer hooks up to the line in the closet. That seems like an unnecessary shutoff to me, but again, I don’t see a reason to remove it. In any case, it’s a good thing I didn’t get started, because we got a call for a gate the next day, and there was no time. Since the leak is slow I put down about 8 layers of large terry towels to soak up and spread out the little bit of water that will leak, and once we get to our gate and get settled in I can start figuring out how to best fix this bonus issue. There will be a Home Depot about 30 minutes from our gate, so I’ll have access to resources.

All in all I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. None of it went exactly how I wanted it to, but it never does. It took a LOT longer than I thought it would, and it ended up costing a LOT more than I thought it would, and WAY more trips back and forth to Home Depot than I thought it would. But that’s also always the case. It was great that we were able to stay at Greg and Cori’s for so long so I could do this, it would have really sucked if I had to do it someplace else, or a little at a time.

I got most of what I wanted; the See Level is installed, the fresh tank is mounted better, the fresh drain is now where I want it, the belly pan is new, secure, water tight and better insulated, the fresh inlet leak is gone, the vent valves are improved, and more secure and more accessible.  Eventually I will find a way to not have to crawl under the rig to empty the fresh tank. And I’ll fix the minor leak in the crawlspace.

So I’m less unhappy than I was before, and that’s all I can really ask for.

I’ll keep you updated on how the other stuff turns out.


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8 thoughts on “Some Work Under The Rig – Part 3 – Wherein Things Are A Little Of Everything, Pus A Bonus Mystery!

  1. What a great series on an evolving set of plumbing repairs. This should be a big help to many RV owners, as I’m sure there is allot of design similarities between rigs, and thus, these plumbing issues are not in common. Thanks for taking the effort to write this.

  2. Wonderful write-up, Lee. The photos really help. Amazing how water leaks can snake around. Glad to hear I’m not the only one that has to make multiple trips to Home Depot.😊

  3. I appreciate all you’ve done to make your rig more user-friendly. 🙂 Another little add-on you might want to consider is a sewer cap that’s got a threaded outlet for a hose. I won’t go into why that might be helpful for fear of starting an off-topic debate. Here’s a link to what I’m talking about: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006MRR2Q/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 It’s been more than helpful on several occasions. I keep an old 20′ water hose (much more flexible than garden hoses!) to use with it, and to clean out my sewer hose. Works like a charm!

  4. Lee, Its not affix by any means ,But ,have you thought of the flex steel for temporary fix, on the leak instead of paper towels? I have a 2010 Cougar 24ft. Fifth wheel. And my fresh water tank is under the couch in rear of coach, When I bought it, There was no plug in the drain. I put a couple of nipples and 90 degree elbows and a ball valve by rear stabilizer jack. I don’t have to crawl under trailer any more., On another note, I followed you on landing gear repair, My son and I replaced gear in lead jack about 5yr”s ago. Well it quit working again. So, we replaced both jacks with a heaver set, and a metal gear that motor hooks to for$288.00 off of Amazon, New, not used and replaced in 2 hours. Camping world wanted$1000.00 to do this. Thank you for your blog. and your sharing. Very Respectfully, Robert Weaver. P.S. Merry Christmas, And a healthy ,Prosperous New Year. God be Astudbiscuit1948with you both.

    • Robert – I wasn’t planning on using the paper towels as a fix, but rather to find exactly where the leak is coming from. I figured if I got everything dry, I could then wrap paper towels around all the fittings and see which one got damp. That would tell me which fitting was where the leak started. Glad to hear you found a solution to your gear problem. And God be Astudbiscuit1948with you as well. I have to say that’s the oddest blessing I’ve ever heard, but I’ll take it! 🙂 – Lee

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