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Old 06-22-2015, 01:08 PM   #1
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Water Heater leak

This past weekend we went camping and I heard a water drip-drip-drip under where the water heater resides. I checked the 3 plastic lines and all "seemed snug" and no leaks, yet the drip-drip-drip continued.

Today I pulled the water heater out and saw where the bottle of the boiler had been sitting or riding directly on the floor but without buffers for bumps and vibrations.

I peeled back the water soak insulation and saw what looked like old wear marks on the tank.

Based on where the majority of the water was it seems that this is where the leak(s) is.

I used the Permatex Cold Weld (much like an epoxy mix) and filled in 2 of the obvious holes and added some where some holes could be.

Now I have to go to Home Depot or Lowes to get a couple of plugs to cap everything off, filler up and test.

If I did manage to fix it I'll be adding a rubber bumper of sorts.

Q: Has anyone else ever had any similar experiences to these leaks? and if so what was your fix/remedy?

WE all know that stainless is not supposed to leak but given the right parameters I guess anything has its weak points
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Old 06-22-2015, 04:20 PM   #2
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Here's a "so far" update

When I removed the tank and found the worn hole. The 2 holes were not exactly round but more feathered of something happening over time.

I looked for tracks of wear marks especially where the boiler portion was rubbing on that cardboard surround and factory insulation and saw a strange elongated mark almost and indent of sorts. I copied that mark on to the floor, thinking that over time dirt and/or sand had lodge in and rubbed through the years.

Then I noticed a staple, a larger industrial staple, where the tin type floor under the tank was sort of touching the tank. Voila. It had to be that staple that did the damage.
Also noted was that the factory tank insulation had flatted to nothingness over time so there was virtually no insulating factor at play.

I used that Permatex Cold Weld and gave it two coats. Then I bought 3 caps to seal off all the ports on the heater-tank. I filled the tank to the brim with water and went about doing something else. Came back in half an hour and it was all dry.

While I was at Lowes I bought some water heater insulation and some water pipe foam insulation. My plans are to rewrap the tank and use the pipe foam insulation as a buffer pad UNDER the tank so it has something to rest on for future trips. Also a great opportunity to do some clean-up; painting and some new caulking around the outside wall.

I know there was another person on this forum that had a curious leak and claimed their roof was fine. I'm wondering if this might have been his/her problem.
I'll provide another update if needed, maybe to confirm that this was indeed the problem
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Old 06-22-2015, 07:18 PM   #3
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The bottoms rot out it is a common problem. All the yuck sits on the bottom because the drain is higher they make a wand that you can stick in the drain plug hole to flush the tank but few people ever do. I got to be honest with you it most likely will leak you can buy just the tank but it's all most the same price as a complete unit. The new tanks come with a foam clam shell that covers the entire tank top to bottom.
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Old 06-22-2015, 07:29 PM   #4
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I was afraid of something like that.

I was wondering about sloshing some CLR inside just to clean out the scaly stuff. WE actually seldom use the hot water aside from doing dishes. We're always camped near the camp washrooms cuz they have full showers and laundry facilities. I also have a bypass tee fitting I use for the winter so I don't put RV antifreeze in the heater.
Plus we never drink that water even if was deemed safe.

If we had to I can just bypass the heater, as long as the commode is working who cares? (That's from the boss lady)

I think I'll finish this fix and she how she goes, time will tell.
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Old 06-23-2015, 07:14 AM   #5
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The things get dozens of pin holes in them they don't "fix" well. Yes you could just bypass it then drain it and make any hot water you might need on the stove. Been working 6 meters this week? It's wide open had a nice chat last night with a VE3 and made a couple of European contacts the day before, visible aurora last night here. De N3LYT
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Old 06-23-2015, 07:56 AM   #6
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OFF topic

I can't remember the last time I was on 6 meters. Most likely back in the day when the band was garbage, then we tend to forget.
I really have to get back into ham. It's been too long. I've had more projects on my plate than you can shake a stick.

My best, back then, was 40m and 80m
I've been concentrating on my 8 bay UHF for east and secondary 4 bay for north in an honest effort to dump CATV (too expensive), so I've been busy doing that stuff as well as the honey do list. Climbing that tower is a task in itself.
My problem is I really enjoy Discovery and History and H2 and I'll lose those if I go OTA. Then my wife has her girly shows on top.

I know I have to drop my dipole to check things over so it might be a while. I also love gardening and growl at the newest weed. (by hand).

Back to the water heater: I'm not sure of the pricing for replacement units but maybe a marine fiberglass kit might be a good temporary but more permanent fix. keeping the heat factor in mind
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Old 06-27-2015, 09:00 PM   #7
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Hi Jerry,

Bummer on your tank leak.

You mentioned this,
Quote:
WE all know that stainless is not supposed to leak but given the right parameters I guess anything has its weak points
If you were referring to the HW tank with the stainless, most are aluminum on the Atwood units. I did not know they actually made an RV HW heater in stainless steel if that was what you meant. And with it being aluminum be careful on cleaners used in side it does not corrode the aluminum.

Stainless steel and weak points, OH yes I know these well. At work there are tons of stainless everywhere. (yes tons like 2,000#/ton) The stainless of today is not like the stainless of years past. The steel mills have honed their processes so tight to save $$$ it barely meets spec.

And we can bore holes in stainless from corrosion in no time under the right (actually wrong) conditions. And it gets worse when you heat it up with hot water. A home user with stainless cook ware or utensils may never experience stainless steel corrosion but in the industrial world it is not the cure all steel many think it is. Water chemistry must be totally understood or stainless will corrode through or crack through no problem.
Hope your tank fix works. The thermal expansion may play havoc on your repair. Let us know how this goes.

John
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Old 06-28-2015, 01:10 PM   #8
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I think they are just aluminum plated John.
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Old 07-11-2015, 08:04 AM   #9
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I may stand corrected for it being aluminum rather than stainless. Metallurgy was not my best subject in school . The two halves are welded and the weld is 100%

We just got back from yet another camp trip way up north ,beyond Algonquin. Oh No !!! the water heater started to leak again. 20 minutes later my son-in-law and I inserted that bypass "T" pipe that I used for winterizing time, so we bypassed the heater and cold water all week.
Yesterday I pulled the heater, removed the insulation, flipped it upside down and low and behold I saw a pile of (not even visible) pin holes. Not pins hole but obvious light brown corrosion surrounding the alleged pin holes. Kind of like the increasing age spots that we have.

The repair that I did previous, with Permatex Cold Weld, held up great and no moisture was visible. I obviously just didn't see the rest of it. I guess I assumed too much at the time.
However, I bought a fiber glass kit yesterday. Today I will lightly sand the surface so to clean up the new area of leak and then fiberglass all the bottom.

The new fiber glass insulation that I installed was soaking wet. A couple of days in the hot sun on the back deck should dry that out no time flat, so to reuse.

I'll provide an update later after the next test. When done I'll fill with fresh water tank and leave the pump turned on to allow its 100% pressure.

I noticed before that when the pump was on and maybe we'd forget to turn it off that it had intermittent surges. Is that not a sure sign that a leak might be present and the pump is just making up for lost pressure? Due to a leak?

Sleeves rolled up and get it done right this time.....
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Old 07-11-2015, 01:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryJ View Post
I noticed before that when the pump was on and maybe we'd forget to turn it off that it had intermittent surges. Is that not a sure sign that a leak might be present and the pump is just making up for lost pressure? Due to a leak?.....

Yes Jerry that is a sign of a leak and loss of pressure!!!!

Good luck with your repair!
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Old 07-12-2015, 11:08 AM   #11
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Quote:
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I may stand corrected for it being aluminum rather than stainless. Metallurgy was not my best subject in school . The two halves are welded and the weld is 100%
Hi Jerry,

Bummer on the HW heater and more holes... but thanks for reporting back.

If your welder guy welded the tank, that does sound like solid aluminum verses maybe a clad construction of steel tank and aluminum. Trying to weld a clad construction setup would give weld contamination I would think on this thin a metal. Aluminum is tricky enough welding one solid metal.

Do you know by chance if the tank was solid aluminum? This is more from a curiosity question learning from your tank saga....

The pin holes and the fiberglass filler, do report back on how this holds up. I somehow think thermal expansion is going to play havoc on the combo over time. It will work when cold but maybe over several hot and cold cycles, maybe not. Keep an eye out for it.

Good luck

John
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Old 07-12-2015, 06:21 PM   #12
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I finally finished the project.
The boiler portion is aluminum after a closer look. That weld I mentioned was a factory weld for the two halves to be joined.

Admittedly, my first repair using the Permatex Cold Weld did NOT hold up. The product, itself, is great. I've used it many times before for different apps. This time it was the user. I removed the tank and capped the 3 feed ports; opened up the drain plug; put the tank on its end and filled it for a static leak test. The water just oozed out of one of the patch repairs. It looks like I wasn't paying attention when I mixed the hardener and resin. Various colors of the patch showed the inconsistency of the mix. I lightly used my grinder and removed most of the Cold Weld and continued with the orbital sander for a clean surface.
Then. I fiber glassed everything. Covered lots of area where suspected holes are, or could be eventually.

Initially, I did one coat; did another full tank static test. Couldn't wipe the smile off my face. So, if one coat is good, two coats are better. The second coat overlapped the edges of the first coat. I only put the second coat on to add strength and the thought of a thicker layer MIGHT equal the strength of the original aluminum thickness.

For John, solid aluminum? Don't know. I suspect it was just a rolled sheet at factory. I also suspect that since my tank DID NOT have an anode (sacrificial rod) it may have promoted early internal rotting.

IMO, I think the best thing anyone could do that does NOT have an anode rod for their tank is to flush the tank frequently with clean water. For those concerned about the extra weight a 5 gallon tank could add, just drain the tank as you would with the fresh water and gray/black tanks
That's pretty much the only thing bad about the TT.

We're talking about selling this TT and getting a bigger one. Anyone that has, or knows, about the T1350 knows too well how small it is inside. We bought ours originally for the two of us. It turns that we have any number of the grandkids during any outing. Our TT is so small that we have to go outside just to change our mind
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Old 07-12-2015, 07:29 PM   #13
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Hi Jerry,

Thanks for the report back. If the HW heater is an Atwood, that brand does not use or recommend using a sacrificial anode due to the way the tank is made. If you have a Suburban brand, they do recommend using and anode.

Page 26 of this Atwood PDF service manual talks about the aluminum interior of the tank and how it offsets corrosion.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=h...aterheater.pdf

Hope this helps and good luck on your patch
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Old 07-12-2015, 07:52 PM   #14
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Yes, it's an Atwood as is my our stove/oven.
I agree, I read on a few sites where some HW heaters use anode and some don't. Obviously mine doesn't. But, when I drained the tank I saw some weird looking, scaly particles in the drain plug catch cup. That has to be those deposits we all talk about
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Old 07-14-2015, 11:14 PM   #15
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But, when I drained the tank I saw some weird looking, scaly particles in the drain plug catch cup. That has to be those deposits we all talk about
Ah yup, that is what heating hard water leaves behind. Minerals, calcium aka scale etc. That stuff jams the orifices in the sink faucets too. Those aerators in the faucets make real good strainers...
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Old 07-15-2015, 05:42 AM   #16
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Ok, here's a question for you.
As you know we never use the water for drinking even though the park water has been deemed safe, same as our city water at home. WE only use the trailer water for flushing and washing dishes etc.

Are there any chemicals I could use to clean the system such as CLR.
I know I can use bleach to kill bacteria a cup per 30 gallons or so?
I also use those pouches of deodorizers/disinfectants for the black water, so what's the maximum treatment I can do for the fresh (nondrinking)water tank?

I'm sure at this stage it might be like closing the barn door after the horses have left but never to late to learn anything.
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Old 07-15-2015, 05:01 PM   #17
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The problem with the water heaters is the drain is not on the bottom so all the yuck remains in the tank, unless you rolled the camper in it's side there is still water in the tank along with other unpleasant things. Most RV stores have a small wand that you can stick in the drain plug hole fastened to a garden hose that does help wash a good bit of the yuck out. And yes I'm afraid the horse is all ready out. I don't know the average life of a hot water RV tank but I'm guessing 10 years is doing pretty good.
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Old 07-15-2015, 06:27 PM   #18
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I kind of figured that out and agree with your assessment. I just used the garden nozzle on jet mode and gave a good super purge just before I reinstalled the tank and had the tank on that tilt position. Of course a lot of that yuck came out but we wonder what remains stuck to the walls.

It's a 1985 and I'll use the tank until it's no good and maybe get another tank out of a newer model. Just can't justify the cost of a new HW heater for an older trailer. Who knows maybe this fix will give me another 5 to 10? LOL. After all it's just for doing dishes. Coleman does a good job too.
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Old 07-16-2015, 07:20 AM   #19
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Some years ago I bought a tank ended up making a tool to fasten the tank to the housing it has a ring that is pressed on to hold the tank to the housing the housing was kind of ratty but useible. Got it all together making hot water and was pleased with the job--- until I found out for maybe $20 more I could have bought the entire heater!
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Old 07-16-2015, 07:55 AM   #20
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Understood but sometimes the old school in us gives us that warm-n-fuzzy that "WE" fixed it. I'm just so into the habit of fixing things some time I have to be reminded that to replace is better and cheaper. Given the offshore products available today, sometimes, not always, I still feel that way.

The other thing, too, if I had to replace the HW heater it would not have to be exact. It would have to be near the same physical size to fit into that trap door but fittings are fittings.
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