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Old 09-30-2021, 07:40 AM   #1
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I may not have a "Six-pack" but I've sure got ABS! (Pics included)

We were camping along the Bush River (Bar Harbor RV Park, Abingdon, MD) and a couple of days after we arrived, I noticed a water puddle on the door side that had not dried up despite the fine, mid seventies sunny weather we had been enjoying. A close inspection of the camper (2004 Solaris T 280 SR) revealed a slow drip coming off the frame in the area right between the wheels and I could feel the panic rise in my chest because the water pump and the bathroom vanity are right above that location! I had visions of a split/weeping pex line, buried deep in the structure, slowly destroying the floor. I dipped my finger in the puddle for a sniff and the water smelled clean so I ruled out black tank system failure.

I got my Poverty Creeper® (large piece of cardboard box) out of the truck and laid under the camper with a flashlight but there was no sign of water coming from anywhere inside of the frame. I went back out by the wheels and could clearly see water dripping from what appeared to be the frame and also from a spot about two feet farther back. Weird.

I turned on the bathroom sink tap (located midship, as mentioned) and ran water down the drain while I went outside for another look but there was no change in the drip. Then I turned on the kitchen tap (front galley unit) and observed a marked increase in the drip between the wheels and the drip two feet back had turned into a steady stream. This was a huge relief because it meant that I was, once again, dealing with a leaky grey water ABS inch and a half drain pipe instead of a high pressure line. A couple of years ago, I had to seal up a split on top of the bathroom ABS grey dump line so I figured this was more of the same.

Nope. I should be so lucky.

The galley drain runs from the sink to the front grey tank, then down along the inside of the frame and then jigs through a hole in the frame just under the front door. From there, it runs along the OUTSIDE of the frame past the wheels and then ducks through another hole just ahead of the rear door, back under the camper over to the dump valve system. Don't worry, the pictures are coming shortly.

Now, when the Sunline designers decided to use this route, they obviously realized that exposing the relatively fragile ABS pipe to the rigors of whatever the spinning tires might throw at it would result in catastrophic failure of the drain system. "Let's weld a four foot long steel shield to the frame to protect the ABS pipe from rocks and s#!+.", they said! So they did and the pipe ran past the wheels inside of an open top (thank God) trough and emerged from it just beyond the rear tire. The guy who had to weld it on, however, looked at the length of the weld that he needed to run, immediately called bulls#!+ and proceeded to alternate his beads with gaps of several inches. The result of that little fit of anger is what allowed the water to drip from two different places seventeen years later, leading me to wonder just WTF had happened since I couldn't get my big head far enough in to look down into the trough.

As I stared at this immovable impediment to any real access to the drain pipe, I heard it let out a soft squeal as the water squeezed out of whatever new opening had been created. "My sentiments exactly", I thought to myself. I got out my phone and used the camera function to see what the problem might be.



THAT was no help at all. Since we were leaving the next day and I knew the problem wasn't life threatening, I instructed the wife to use the kitchen sink sparingly and we went home without issue.

I did a LOT of research into grey water pipe materials. Did you know that you can heat up an elbow in PVC piping and the glue will melt, the pipe will soften and you can twist the pipe out of the elbow, leaving the elbow intact and ready for a new pipe? Yeah. Too bad the same method won't work with ABS. It deforms and melts. My only option that didn't involve replacing the entire line from the grey tank to the dump valve was to cut the damaged pipe ahead of and behind the shield and replace it with a new pipe using inch and a half Fernco couplers (pictured below).



Cutting the pipe was my first problem. In the picture below, you can see a lip on the bottom of the frame that prevented my fine Milwaukee Sawzall® from cleanly slicing through the ABS pipe like it was butter. Instead, I cut as far as I could and then took the blade out of the saw and hand chewed my way through the rest of the pipe. There was even LESS room for the rear cut due to interference from my leveling board on which I had parked the camper so instead I gouged it out with a small angle grinder as far as it would fit, followed by more hand sawing. Perfect.



With the offending 6 foot section of the pipe out, I could immediately see what the problem was and it was NOT what I was expecting.



I put my hand into the empty trough and discovered the pointy ends of four self tapping screws inside the trough right where the pipe was lying. Wanna see? Here's two of them and there were two more just like these about a foot farther back that were working on a second hole but apparently didn't have the same determination that these little bastards had. Turns out it was the bottom screw that was the culprit but I didn't figure that out until I had held a bare hacksaw blade in my hand for a couple of hours as I clawed at little bits of sharp metal that I couldn't see.



Once the screws were relatively level with the frame (I still have no idea what they were holding on the other side. Probably the bathroom floor with my luck.), I wanted to make sure that the rough edges of the cut off screws would never damage another pipe again. I slid two Ferncos onto the new pipe and tightened them down right where the screws lived to protect the ABS. That's a scratch in the finish of the pipe between the Ferncos, not an actual crack. The pipe scraped against a metal hanger when I was sliding it into place.




Then I used Ferncos on both ends of the pipe to reconnect to the system.
Front connection.




Rear connection.



The two 'protective' Ferncos were a tight fit so I pushed them down as far as I could to maintain the downhill grade to allow the water to drain. Fingers crossed.

Here's a shot of the old pipe to give you an idea of how much (6 feet) had to be removed due to the shield. The hole is just below the bit of grass visible through the Poverty Creeper®.


There was a four foot section of new ABS left over so I slid it into the rear bumper along with two more Ferncos for safekeeping when the next line breaks. I keep my sewer lines and fittings in a PVC tube attached to the underside of the camper. I originally built it for my T-1950 but I moved it to this camper when I bought it. You can read about it at this link, if you're desperate. The Belly of the Beast! (or... How I Moved My Sewer Hose Away From the Bumper)
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2004 Solaris 280SR
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Old 10-03-2021, 05:25 PM   #2
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I had a lot of friends on the Bush river back when most people didn't want to live on the river! I'm kind of glad I haven't seen it in decades. Used to live in Joppa still have family there. My sister owns Olney farm.
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Old 10-05-2021, 10:02 PM   #3
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Hi Dig,

That is some good detective work and good write up.

Those wandering self tapping screws can be a bugger some times.

I had one happen to me about 2 weeks ago. In my case it was the gutter rail screws on a 2006 T276SR. Bad luck had it, the gutter rail screw holes installed at Sunline hit dead center on a 120 VAC Romex cable running down the wall to power up a wall outlet. Here this screw location issue was hidden since 2005 when the camper was made. Sunline just missed the 1/2" EMT conduit sleeve put in to protect a problem from happening and the screw stopped about 1/32" away from the cable dead center on the cable.

Then unlucky me, I use slightly longer screws on a restoration to bite into new wood using the same old hole. Now that extra 1/4" length screw in the same old hole, screws right into the Romex creating a dead short. I backed into what was tripping the shop GFI instantly, and after pulling a fresh new well butyl taped on gutter rail apart, found the issue. Point: When installing screws near wires or pipes, make sure they do not end up finding the wire or pipe. I now put a pencil mark on the siding where every cable goes down the wall to make sure a gutter rail screw is no where near that cable. Just because it worked for the last 16 years, doesn't mean it always will...

Since Sunline is no longer to help us on such things like this, all we can do is help others by reporting what we find in hopes someone reads the issues we found and maybe help them.

Thanks for taking the time to share your saga with us.

John
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Old 10-07-2021, 02:16 PM   #4
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I had a gray tank pipe failure like this on my old 270SR. In that case, the pipe was cracked for a section, so I think it may have been due to freezing.
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Old 10-07-2021, 03:10 PM   #5
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My 1700 had a cracked black tank where the piping meet the tank the entire weight of the piping was basically relaying on the tanks to support the weight and vibration. I built a saddle mount that I attached to the camper frame to support the entire piping. Jacked the camper up on one side waited a few days and went after the crack with a grinder epoxied it pretty good still in good shape after 5 year or so.
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