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Old 08-18-2013, 09:43 PM   #1
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Bad camping weekend

This was supposed to be my last weekend out this year, and it was a weekend from HE**. Everything that could have gone wrong did. I was headed to horse show with the Sunny on Thursday when husband comes down with abscessed tooth that resulted in emergency surgery. (He had hauled the camper down in the morning before going to the dentist.) The infection was so severe that it nearly killed him. They got to it in time, but he ended up with a drain in his upper lip (that will be there until Tuesday) and in a massive amount of pain. I didn't leave on Thursday, but spent a rather sleepless night handing out pain medicine and antibiotics.

On Friday, his face was horribly swollen, but he was feeling better, so he kicked me out of the house and promised to call the dentist. I didn't want to leave him like that since cell service at the show grounds is spotty at best, and mostly not existent. I ended up calling my mother to come and babysit him and the farm, and headed to work the show.

I got there a bit late, rushed in the camper, dropped off stuff, grabbed some cereal, and headed to work about 9:15 am. I didn't get back to the camper until about 4 pm when I had a 2 hr break. I went to wash up, and noticed that the wall behind the toilet was wet. I had just repaired a leak in the toilet supply like, so I thought it must have been dripping again, but when I checked it out, that wasn't the case. The line was dry. I went to the other side of the wall, and looked at the fridge/hot water heater cabinet.

Uh-oh. The cardboard around the heater was damp. I poked it a little, and some water trickled out of a corner. Now I was upset.

It either hadn't been leaking for long, or was leaking VERY slowly. I decided to chance it and take a shower before I shut it down. I grabbed a tiny sauce pan (only thing I had that fit in that spot), stuck it under the leak, and went and showered. After I showered, I shut the heater down and put it back on by pass. When I checked the pot, there was only about a cup of water in it. I had kind of taken my time in the shower- I needed to wash my hair.

I spent the weekend with no hot water. Since husband was sick and I had a horse mess to deal with, I called a friend to haul the camper home. When he came to pack up the camper, he told me that there was water on the floor in front of the hot water heater cabinet, and he looked but couldn't find the leak. The heater was still on by-pass and shut down.

So obviously I have a problem. I've heard horror stories about these things blowing out and wrecking trailers. Lucky for me, that didn't happen- it just wrecked a wall that had already been wrecked. Two questions- can a leaky heater be repaired, and if not, how much do these things cost to replace (mine is a gas or electric model)? How do I even go about removing this thing?

Okay, that was 3 questions, so I'll stop there.

Thanks in advance and happy camping,
Jen
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Old 08-19-2013, 07:53 AM   #2
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It's generally cheaper to replace the heater. Some of the units you can buy tanks for but they are only like $40 less then the entire unit and involve more labor then just a replacement. The yuck in the tanks stay on the bottom even after you drain them and they get pin holes in the very bottom of the tanks.
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Old 08-19-2013, 08:37 AM   #3
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Check the underbelly of trailer. The plastic material will hold water like a bath tub. If left on it's own it will rot out your frame and floor. May not be water heater. I had one of the plastic bypass valve crack on mine and totaly soaked the floor and underbelly fiberglass. New gas/electric 6 gal. heater cost $350-$400 + install. Easy to install yourself
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Old 08-19-2013, 05:33 PM   #4
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uploadfromtaptalk1376951616112.jpgJust getting home and starting to investigate the damage. The trailer has been disconnected from water for 24 hours now, but the heater was still wet and drippy. I pulled the low point drains and emptied the fresh water tank. I've added pics of the damage. I have no idea what I am getting in to here.
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Old 08-19-2013, 08:31 PM   #5
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First, hope your husband gets well soon.

If you haven't already, you should empty the water heater too. There is 4 to 6 gallons of water there. The picture looks like maybe the connection(s) to the water heater have a leak and even the cardboard around the upper connection looks stained.

It looks like 2 wet areas on the tank, one around the "Hott Rod" (heating element) and the other around the cold water inlet or it could be one with the water migrating to wet the other area.

A word of caution, don't try to overtighten the plastic water fittings, they will just leak even worse.

Good luck and keep us informed.
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Old 08-20-2013, 06:30 PM   #6
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Got into this mess tonight. The tank is indeed gone. There are 2 very small holes in the bottom of the tank. This was an Atwood 6 gallon unit. A replacement will cost me nearly what I paid for the camper, so I'm looking at all options.

To add insult to injury, there is a good deal of rotted wood all around the hole for the heater. It is fixable, just a major pain in the rear. I believe the water damage came from the vented refrigerator cover. Either way, the floor is still in great shape. There is no major wet stuff there. Time for my husband the carpenter to go to work.

I do have a spare Atwood heater- just don't know what kind of shape that tank is in yet. I'll check it out tomorrow.

I do think that the awful water at the horse show grounds has more than contributed to this mess. I guess I have to get a water filter that can handle rust and sediment. Suggestions before I wreck another water tank?

I have photos and will post when I find the adapter fo the camera card.
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:26 PM   #7
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I've seen campers that have portable water softeners along with filters
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Old 08-22-2013, 07:02 AM   #8
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They make a little wand that hooks to a garden hose that will fit inside of the drain plug hole so you can flush all the yuck out that settles to the bottom of the tank. An inline filter sure can't hurt. No one asked me but I could have told then that stuff laying on the bottom was going to rot out the tank.
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Old 08-22-2013, 09:00 AM   #9
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Traveling down the road with the WH's drain plug out helps to slosh out sediment. The first time I did that, I found all manner of dried minerals on the shelf inside the heater's door.

Teach
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Old 08-23-2013, 08:24 PM   #10
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OK, so I've learned a lot about water heaters this week.

In attempt to fix the water heater, my husband contacted an industrial welder (excellent guy too). Mike the welder said he would take a look at it, so we dropped the heater off on Wednesday. We got a call today saying that 1) the tank was "full of disgusting s***," and 2) that he WAS, indeed, able to repair it. He pressure tested the tank to 120 psi (which is just below the rating on the relief valve). It seems that there were 2 holes, one rather large and one smaller one. Mike went about his business with his big TIG welding stuff, and it looks like we'll get another season or 2 out of the heater.

I've only owned this camper for about a year, yet part of this mess is my fault. THis heater had a Hott Rod electrode (meant to make an LP heater work on electric too), so silly me couldn't find the drain plug because the electric coil was sitting where the drain plug would have been. I just assumed that the only drain in the camper was the low point drain, and I never properly flushed the crap out of the tank.

Last but not least, I learned that the water in the horse show campground is really, really gross. I should have noticed the residue in my Brita pitcher, but I didn't. I plan to invest in an inline water filter that can help reduce the sediment.

I'll post more damage and repair photos later. Thanks to all. Your help and advice has been most appreciated.

Jen
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Old 08-24-2013, 07:33 AM   #11
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Glad to hear that the tanks as been "saved"....yes please post pics I wanna see what "disgusting sh**" looks like! I thought I'd find that in my black tank! LOL
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Old 08-25-2013, 09:53 AM   #12
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Here is one of the clean out wands Mainah was talking about.






The flush should occur at a minimum of once a year, for sure do it in the spring after the winter and before the 1st fill up. I added the brass shut off in the pic as I did not trust the plastic one. The water pressure make the wand sort of bend up until you get it in the heater hole.

And make sure you use a nylon plastic drain plug if your still on the plug. If you cross thread the nylon plug, no big deal the tank is still good, but using a metal plug on the aluminum tank will eventually create a thread problem in the tank.

I also drain the HW heater after each camping trip and blow it out. Made a quick drain setup with a boiler drain valve on it, not pull the plug each trip. This gets each time some of the sediment out that builds between trips and the foul water issue that can build up inside between trips out.

A filter, yes a must. State Parks or older CG's when they refill the system in the spring can be a handful. And even in peak season, using a hydrant that is not used much can create a mess in just 1 tank fill up. Rust and crud lays in the CG lines waiting for an unsuspecting camper to come and drain it out...

For some ugly pics of stuff I have filtered out in only 1 tank of fresh water, see here. Both of these where well into the camping season

Do you use a water filter to fill the camper?

Now what filter to get and what do you do with it after your done for that campout is a topic in itself. If you are looking for basic filter, the Camco Taste pure is a simple one, is 100 micron, carbon filter and has KDF inside it to help retard bug growth when not in use. Walmart sells them and other places on line etc. When I use them, I drain them and let them bake in the sun for about 2 to 3 days to evaporate out everything and then store it in a dry place.

Amazon.com: Camco 40043 TastePURE RV Water Filter with Flexible Hose Protector: Automotive

While I use a finer filter and deal with water treatment, I do use the Camco Taste pure when we are in a CG with high iron in it. The iron will clog my 0.9 micron filter in less than a tank full.

Glad you have your heater back together and hope this helps

John
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Old 08-27-2013, 08:26 PM   #13
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John, That clean out wand is a great idea.. We need to get one of those..

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Old 09-08-2013, 09:13 PM   #14
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And it gets worse....

While the hot water heater is out of its hole, we discovered that the shelf the fridge was sitting on had a bit of water damage. (Fridge is directly above HW machine.) Ok, so thanks to all the folks here and the experience of stripping another Sunline down, Hubby and I bravely removed the fridge. The removal was great- but what we found wasn't so wonderful. At some point in this camper's life, the vent over the refrigerator compartment had leaked.

At some point, a previous owner had done their best to stuff (and did succeed) in stopping the leak, but we did have quite a bit of rot to deal with. The fridge shelf, the hot water heater support, and several other pieces of stud wood and luan had to be replaced. I wish I got photos- but we were a little too occupied with the repair before a rainstorm came at us. Lucky for us, it was a day job of fridge out, cut boards, replace screws, and put fridge back. Since the roof hasn't leaked in quite some time, we simply left old wood alone. If I ever get back in there, it will be a bit of a project. At this point, we're afraid to replace the roof vent for the propane fridge and hot water heater (not to mention the black tank is vented through the same rectangular roof vent) since it is not leaking now, and fall farm chores are upon us. My plan is to tarp the trailer up tight for the off season and hope for the best. I still have axles to rebuild and brakes to repair.

Another word of thanks- Over the last weekend, I had a chance to talk with a young man that has his first camper, and like me, he bought it well used. He has camped in the same places I have, used the same crappy water and whatnot, and thanks to all the help I got here, I passed it along to him and more than likely saved him from the ugly leaky trouble I had.

This is the best camper forum on the internet!
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:53 AM   #15
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Oh dear.... Water is the enemy of a camper, any camper...

The good news, if there is any... our Sunlines are totally rebuild-able. With average wood tools, an amount of materials cost and time (often lots...) we can get them fixed back up.

And to this ", and fall farm chores are upon us". Oh yeh... It's September with October right around the corner. Don't know which type of farm you have, we had fruit and vegetable, and Mother Nature waits all season to get everything off the tree in 3 weeks or else it will get it off on the ground... We use to live in McIntosh country. Harvest season is upon us.

Best of luck to you.

John
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Old 09-09-2013, 09:41 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ahkhira View Post
This is the best camper forum on the internet!
Jen - there are quite a few of us who feel the same way!
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Old 10-27-2013, 01:06 PM   #17
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uploadfromtaptalk1382897187432.jpgAttachment 2102Finally got my baby back together in time to end the season and close up. If I get one more year out of this heater, i'll be lucky. I was fortunate enough to find a master welder, and i'll let the repair photos speak for themselves.
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Old 10-29-2013, 01:33 PM   #18
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Sorry about the "discoveries" on the way to repairing the HWH, but it and the other "discoveries" could have gotten worse if not repaired, and you also now are aware of many things about the HWH and other areas of your camper that you weren't aware of before the tank blew.
I would also add that in addition to flushing out the system as JohnB so aptly describes, you should also siphon out the bottom of the HW tank every winter...to get the dregs out of the bottom of the tank... just poke about a foot of a 3' length of 1/4" tubing in the drain hole and blow until you hear water gurgle...then suck until you either get a mouthful of sludge or preferably, and hopefully, until you feel you've started the siphon action. Hold the hose below the level of the tank and you'll get a steam of water. You may have to move the hose inside the tank a couple of times to get all of the water out, but it's worth it. Lots of folks don't do this when they winterize, because a little water in the tank at the bottom is not going to cause troubles...there's room for it to freeze and expand, but as this thread indicates , there are more issues than just the water, in the water tank to worry about. Hope your problems are now in the past.
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