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.
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)