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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stopping Niagara Falls

Actually, it was more like a little leak.  But it kept getting bigger and bigger.  And I had to fix it or never take another shower in the Journey.

A while back, I noticed the Journey's on board water pump would occasionally bump on for a second every hour or so.  At first I thought it was just the icemaker refilling, but that usually took two two second bumps of the water pump to fill it.  Didn't think too much about it.

Then in September, while camping at Branson, MO, I noticed a little damp spot under the hot water heater compartment.  Ah Ha, thought I, the pressure relief valve has dribbled a bit (which they sometimes can do) and dismissed it as the reason the water pump bumped on every once and a while.

Then, when I went to pick up the Journey from the Freightliner dealer after the engine valves were adjusted, I found a rather large puddle underneath the hot water heater compartment.  Not good, this deserved a serious look.

It was not my pressure relief valve, it was dry as a bone when I checked it.  Crawling underneath, I found a steady drip of water coming from the back side of the hot water heater compartment.  Uh oh.

Now that we're going to move into the Journey mid next week because all the furniture in the house will be gone in the estate sale (we hope!) I had to determine where the leak was.  I was lucky, in the infinite wisdom of the Winnebago engineering process, there was a small panel under the hot water heater compartment that I was able to remove to see where the leak was.

I was hoping (yes praying) that it wasn't the hot water heater tank, but something simple.  My prayers were answered, it was something simple.  Just it was going to take a heck of a lot of doing to fix it.

On the back of the hot water heater tank, there are two connections, with hoses allowing cold water in and hot water out.  The hoses are PEX plastic hoses and they screw into brass fittings on the tank.  One of the plastic hose connections had a tiny crack and that was where the leak was.

 You can see the tiny crack on the large end right about in the middle. 

Now the fun part, being able to reach the plastic connector.  Picture a saltine cracker box with one end open.  Looking inside, picture something the size of a strawberry at the other end.  Now picture yourself removing said strawberry with that much room.  I had to make it work, or I'd have to remove the entire hot water heater tank.  That would not be fun.

My first thought was to tighten the fitting, I could see it was scraped up right from the factory, there were teeth marks from a wrench on it.  Someone over tightened it when the Journey was being built and over the years vibration caused it to crack.  The next problem was to figure out how to get a tool on it to tighten it.

I have a collection of tools that I've purchased over the years.  They went to my son's house yesterday (sniff, sniff) to keep for me.  Fortunately I was able to grab a little pipe wrench I've had for over 25 years.

It fit in that little space and allowed me, millimeter by millimeter to tighten the fitting a bit.  Of course, that didn't work, it made the leak bigger.  So the only other option was to remove the fitting and get a new one.

Easier said than done.  Reverse turning, millimeter by, well, you get the idea and unhook the line from the brass fitting on the tank.  It took a while.  A long while.  And no four letter words were used in the process.  :c)

Once I unhooked it, I was able to pull the PEX line down far enough to remove the fitting.  And then off to Lowe's, my favorite store.  After multiple looks in the plumbing department and two Lowe's plumbing expert's assistance, it was determined that they did not have that fitting.  Uh oh.

Marti suggested I try an RV dealer about 20 minutes from our house that is pretty good with parts.  And more interestingly, they closed in 30 minutes.  We jumped back in the car, dashed down there and made it with 10 minutes to spare.  And, drum roll please...they had the fitting in stock!  $4.98.  Some days you win one for the Gipper, or in my case, the Journey.

Back home, installed the new fitting, millimeter by millimeter and it was Niagara Falls no more.

You can be sure that little pipe wrench will be with us as we travel full time.  As big as motor homes are, they sure have some tiny places to have to fix things.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you weren't handy with tools before you bought an RV, you will be after purchasing one.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


  1. good job on 'plugging Niagra Falls'...and without any 'bad words too'!...nice work!

  2. So glad you were able to fix the problem with the illusive part. Love the small sized pipe wrench, we will have to keep our eyes open for one of them. The countdown continues... Blessings

  3. David always says having the right tool makes a tough job easier and sometimes an impossible one possible. Glad you had the right one. You should be rightly proud of yourself. You had the tool and you knew how to use it. You are the hero of the day in Marti's eyes I'm sure!

  4. Ta da!! Way to go, and way to have the right tool :)

  5. If I ever get a leak in my Adventurer, could you and your wrench come to my aid?? :)

  6. Paul - I don't own this tool, but the right tool might be a plumber's tool designed for accessing the kitchen faucet connections behind the sink tubs from underneath. If you have ever had to do this you know what a nightmare it is. It has the reach to get into the 'saltine box' and do your turning from outside the other end. I saw it at Lowe's.

  7. Ah yes, I've heard it a million times. "You must have the right tool for the job". :)

    Great job!

  8. Well, it is now perfectly clear to us that we must plan our travels to coincide with Paul and/or 'Sometimes' David's travels. That way, we will always have the right tools and the right experts for all our RV issues ;o))

  9. Don't forget anything you might need and get everything you can fixed before you do leave. That's my advice.

  10. Gee, you did not even mention my first choice-glue and gorilla tape:)

  11. glad it was a fairly easy fix for you...not worse than Murphy visiting just before you move in..:) take care..

  12. I'm not sure how this is going to work for Craig. He uses a lot of bad words when he has to fix something. He is loud too! I keep telling him to use his" RV park voice."

  13. Are you sure you weren't a mechanic in the service and not in law enforcement? You are one hell of a handyman.

  14. Everything always takes so much longer to fix than you want it to. I'm just so glad Jim can fix just about anything on our rig.

  15. One good thing about a newer Journey, Winnebago put a nice access panel at the back of the hot water heater. Remove a few screws, and you have access to all the pipes and fittings.
    Found that out last spring because of a noisy check-valve on the supply line to the tank.
    But not all the lines are that easy, did have one stubborn drip, had to drop the gray water tank a bit to get to it. Just needed a 1/8th of a turn on the hose clamp, what a pain on that 'fresh from the factory' error in quality control.

  16. When we were at Petit Jean State park, we came back to a puddle under the rig. Turned out I had opened the fresh H2O tank valve while stowing something. Whew...!

  17. I am hear to tell you that Winnebago does a much better job of making things repairable than a lot of other manufacturers do. Many are the times that I wish I had my old Chieftain and not this new SOB. But all in all it ain't so bad I guess.

  18. Right tool for the job ... the mantra of the handyman.

  19. High Five Paul gota luv when those tough ones are done.

  20. Glad you got it fixed up!!!! Hate plumbing problems...
    Have fun & Travel safe

  21. Howdy Chief,
    DON'T THEY ALLOW YOU TO CUSS IN THE COAST GUARD?? That was our first language in the Navy!!! Your description of the 'saltine box' got my claustraphobia going and I had to stop and get my breath!! Tight spaces are not my forte; thatz why I was on a DE instead of a sub!!

    Wishing you a wonderful trouble
    free trip out west; where diesel is
    now $4++ a gal.. Just for you!!!

  22. We had exactly the same problem a year ago. But, it required so many contortions to reach the connector, that we had to call on the services of a double-jointed professional. It reminded us that it's a good idea to run off the fresh tank from time to time. That noisy water pump will reveal any leaks in the system.

    Good work!