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Old 02-27-2009, 02:15 PM   #1
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1957 26' Overlander
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Question Whoo boy... splitting in the copper lines

Hey gang!

I finally have been able to really get in and start gutting my 1957 Overlander. Most of it is unsalvageable, the wood rotted through and through, mold & mildew throughout-as well as the floor is pretty rotted.

In working at getting the kitchenette and the kitchen sink out (can save the double sink, thank heavens!It's so cool) I noticed some of the copper had turned green in the piping. Not a big deal right, I thought, I can clean it up...then I saw a split in the pipe. And another. And another. The entire system is riddled with splits. I don't see how I can save the copper piping, except tear it out, bring it to a recycle yard, and start from scratch.

I have some help with installing a new system from scratch, but I don't know a whole lot about it. I will need to do all new electrical (as the electrical is original to 1957), plumbing (the pipes are rusty and disgusting) and propane. I've used my Google-Fu and can't seem to find any owner's manuals or anything to 1957.

My question is this: while I am not looking at installing the actual propane myself, I will take a stab at plumbing and electrical. Where are some good resources (other than the obvious) a girl can go to edumacate herself on such things?

I'm self taught on lots of things, so I am positive I can learn these things too. I'm just a little stumped on where to start.

Sue Howard
1957 Overlander 26' "Kalea"
3 ferrets: Emo, Stoli and Panda

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Old 02-27-2009, 02:40 PM   #2
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1991 34' Excella
Princeton , New Jersey
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If you are willing to tackle the electric and plumbing you can do the propane.

First off don't even consider saving the copper. Copper is far more apt to freeze than plastic, much more expensive, and harder to work with. While compression water fittings are quite easy to work with and a bit less expensive than the newer Sea Tech fittings the Sea Tech fittings are very easy to install and remove if needed.

As for the wiring just try and make a simple drawing as you remove things. The important thing is to try and keep the same load on each circuit as original so your fuses will be adequate. If you add new circuits wire them off a new fuse so you don't overload any of the original circuits. Keep in mind you may have TWO ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS in the trailer, depending on age. The 12 volt DC system and the 120 volt AC system. If you are not comfortable with the AC system you might seek advice but it is not rocket science and you can learn how to work with it.

Propane may have originally been run in Black Iron Pipe. While it may look rusty odds are it is still usable as there is less than a 1/2 pound of pressure on those lines. If you want to replace that system I would suggest flared soft copper pipe. It is easy to work with in that you can bend it into place. The only thing is you will have to get or buy a flaring tool and practice on a few short pieces of pipe. Really the only thing you have to keep in mind is that you have to slide the flared nut on the pipe before you flare the pipe.

Now isn't that easy?

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1991 34 ft. Excella +220,000 miles, new laminated flooring, new upholstery, new 3200 lbs axles

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Old 02-27-2009, 02:53 PM   #3
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1956 22' Safari
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Conifer/Evergreen , Colorado
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Couple of thoughts...

Plumbing - The reason copper water lines split is most likely due to improper winterizing. The water left in the lines froze and broke the pipes. Most people have been replacing their plumbing lines with PEX when this happens - it's easier to retrofit, is cheaper and is less susceptible to freezing, although winterizing is still required. You can use "Shark Bite" or other similar fittings which don't require special tools and are easy to work with. Basically, plumbing-wise just replace the "old copper" with the "new PEX" and it should work just fine. The only other consideration would be wether or not to add tanks (grey/black) while you're at it. That's a bit more involved.

Electrical - You probably have all 110v like our '56 had. If you want to keep it all 120v and it still works, you should be fine. If you decide on adding 12v (we did) for boondocking then either new wires will have to be run for one system or the other. The easiest way to do that is by removing the interior skins so you can see where they all go. The wires are run through grommets in the ribs which makes it pretty impossible to pull w/o removing the skins. Electrical is more complicated than the plumbing IMO...

Propane - should be run in copper and left exposed under the trailer in order to be able to inspect it easier.

Unfortunately, there weren't "Owner's Manuals" for the systems in the 50's - just the appliance manuals.

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Old 03-01-2009, 08:16 PM   #4
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1966 22' Safari
Weatherford , Texas
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Completely replaced our split copper water pipes with PEX last summer, right after the flood that happened when we first hooked up water to the trailer. PEX is easy to work with. We used the crimp-on fittings, but the tool is kinda pricey. I was able to pre-asssemble most sections of the plumbing then move it into place. You have to plan carefully so that the last crimp is in a location where the tool will fit. Drawings of how the copper used to be are a really good idea. Make some sketches of what connects to where before you start cutting the old stuff out.

Good luck.
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Old 03-02-2009, 04:22 AM   #5
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1975 31' Sovereign
1980 31' Excella II
Sprung Leak , North Carolina
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Pex is the only way to go on the plumbing replacement. I prefer the crimped on fittings. I have had some issues with the compression fittings. They can be fussy, if you don't have the ends of the pipe cut square and clean. Also they seem not to like to work on PEX that comes out of a roll versus the straight pieces.

Electrical; now is the time to upgrade if you want to. RV electrics are a bit different from house type in that you have two semi parallel systems the 12 volt and the 120 volt. Best bet, as suggested is to make a sketch as you take it apart, and/or document with a digital camera.

AFAIK they didn't have much in the line of service manuals for a unit as old as yours. I know that some people have found wiring diagrams on the inside of closet doors...

Good luck and keep us posted on the progress!

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Old 03-02-2009, 04:32 AM   #6
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Cuddebackville , New York
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Even better than making drawings - take digital photos.

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