Yes, you read that right! Water, your RV’s kryptonite, is allowed to leak, due to a feature designed to keep it from flooding your living area.
Let me elaborate. Two weeks ago, we were camping without hookup in an otherwise well appointed campground. You may be one of the lucky few that has working tank gauge sensors, but we do not (nor have we on any of the four campers we owned – now there’s a design flaw) so we have to “guesstimate” how full our tanks are. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t and we have to make an emergency pilgrimage to the dump station.
This story centers on the later situation. We came out of our camper, ready for a day of exploring and noticed water pouring out between the axles. Hmmmm… our first impression… this is not good. As the scent of gray water smacked us in the face, we were able to discern that our kitchen holding tank (we have two gray water tanks and they do smell differently) was leaking torrentially saturating the campsite.
Pull in the antennae, wind down the slides, put up the kids and throw the stairs in the truck– we need to get to the dump station stat!
After we “relieved” our camper. We headed back to our site and decided to pretend it didn’t happen. Sweet denial – it may get you through the day, but the payment is hefty.
Flash forward to today. For two weeks now, we’ve had an awful odor in the camper. We stopped feeding the husband beans and cleared the rig of all the unlucky “pets” the kids have been keeping in hopes they may finally wake up, but still the smell persisted.
Like bloodhounds, we tracked the offensive stench down to the cabinet under the sink, but found nothing there that would be causing it. We dug deeper and found ourselves under the camper, staring up at our sealed underbelly. The husband cut away the covering and we discovered sopping wet insulation (never a good sign) but no leaking water (a silver lining).
We closed the kitchen gray water tank, and started filling it up with fresh water. After 30 minutes, the sinks filled up and we knew we were filled to max capacity.
Then we heard it. A bubbling sound. We went back into the camper to find the sink was empty. Water was going somewhere. Back and forth, filling the sink, laying under the camper, we repeated this process for over an hour.
Then we saw it. A puddle under the camper. The leak was coming from a rubber fitting on the gray holding tank inlet (the pipe that connects the sink to the holding tank).
Ok, time to caulk! But what caulk to use? The regular one we use for the windows, or the heavy duty one we use for the roof? It’s time to call in the specialist. We phoned an RV Tech we met in Oregon and explained the situation. And that’s when we learned about the “leak design”.
The rubber fitting was placed on this pipe to release water when the tanks are full so the water will not back up into the camper and cause a flood. This is a great design… if you don’t have a sealed / insulated underbelly.
The RV tech told us he did not recommend we seal it because then we would defeat the purpose of this “fail safe”. So we replaced the insulation and sealed the underbelly back up.
The moral of the story is… don’t let your tanks fill to capacity. Otherwise you’ll find yourself under your camper with a face full of sopping wet insulation at best, and potentially severe water damage at worst.
About the Author:
Kimberly Travaglino is the Editor of Fulltime Families Magazine a monthly multimedia e-mag for families who are interested in the full time rv lifestyle and experiencing these adventures with their children.
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