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Old 01-05-2014, 10:07 PM   #1
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Water tank replaced on 2010 Flying Cloud - long

This is a long thread with lots of photos. I will break it up in segments to capture the tale and I apologize up front for the long string. I recently searched for information on this topic without too much success and decided I would put it here for others who may need it in the future:

I recently discovered our freshwater tank was leaking on our 2010 28 Flying Cloud. I had just filled the tank about halfway before I moved it to our new leased garage. A few days later I went to check on it and noticed a puddle of water underneath and an occasional drip of water coming from the black tub which holds the FW tank. Water was dripping from a vent hole in the center of the tub. I opened the access hatch to the FW tank plumbing in the bottom of the pantry. Yes it is crowded down there!

I inspected the pump suction and tank drain lines. The tub was wet and there was evidence that it had been wet for a while. A cell phone camera inserted into the plumbing pit captured photos of a leak around the tank connection for the pump suction. This meant the tank would have to be dropped from the trailer for the leak to be inspected and repaired. I considered taking it to the nearest dealer but decided I had a great place to work on it, had the tools and would do it myself.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:09 PM   #2
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cont'd

The trailer was jacked up and put on stacks of 2 x 12s four high to get the elevation needed to drop the tank. Yes, the tank resides between the axles inside the black plastic tub. I wanted enough elevation to be able to slide under there on a creeper to remove and reinstall the tub/tank.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:12 PM   #3
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cont'd

The water was completely drained and the support flanges and straps were marked to note their position (a tip by another Airstreamer) so they could be returned to their original position when reinstalling the tank. Both low point drains and the pump suction PEX plumbing was cut to allow the tub/tank to drop out when the straps were removed. The Mciropulse connection was unplugged (phone type plug under a rubber boot). The excess wiring from the Mciropulse system was thrown in a heap into the bottom of the tub along with an intermediate connector for all three of the sensors that was soaking in a wet debris heap in the bottom of the tub.

I also discovered the vent off the freshwater tank which is supposed to connect to the filler door was not attached to the filler door. That end of the vinyl hose was laying on top of the tire well and explained some water that I had in the bedroom once upon a time! The hose had been cut too short by the factory and simply pulled off its connection adjacent to the filler nozzle. This is where the little round screen can be seen from the outside when you open the freshwater fill door. The tank vents back out through this screen when the vent line is installed properly.

By necessity, I pulled the freshwater fill hose connection to the tank. This was near impossible and I thought that I was going to have to cut it off. The factory had put a huge wad of plumbers putty or sealer on it, slipped the smooth part of hose beyond the hose barb on the tank fitting, and tightened it down. I fought this for over 30 minutes and finally persuaded it to come off. I took note that it was installed improperly and would not repeat that mistake. The smother part of the hose should have been riding the barbs of the fitting.

With pressure plumbing, drain, fill hose, and Mciropulse disconnected, the tank was dropped. I had a friend help just in case. It turned out with the tank empty, the tub/tank unit isn’t heavy at all and can be removed by one person. If it has water in it, it would be quite dangerous. To be safe I did use a scissors jack to lower it just in case. It all came down and out without a hitch. Now that I know I would simply assure it was empty and drop it out.

With the tank dropped and removed from under the trailer, the leak and its cause was apparent. Both the pump suction and the tank drain tank fittings were cracked and leaking badly. The PEX fittings had been screwed too far in to the threaded sockets of the tank, bottomed out and caused them to crack. Both had fractured and when lightly pushed broke completely off the tank. (So note this issue - when installing a new tank, do not over tighten these fittings to the point where they bottom out. You will cause these tank bosses to crack and leak like a sieve. So a new tank was immediately ordered through my favorite dealer (Foley RV) and I had the new tank in hand in 4 days shipped to my front door.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:17 PM   #4
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cont'd

With new tank in hand, I stripped the old tank and tub. I cleaned the tub up, reworked the insulation in it. I moved the bottom factory installed Styrofoam 1” thick insulation to back wall of the tub to take up some of the extra slack. I put in two sheets of new Styrofoam in the bottom that were nominal 1/2” thick (ended up about 1 1/4" thickness total). I also added additional stacks of insulation on the roadside end to keep the tank fixed a bit more rigidly in the tub. The tub is heated to help with freeze protection and the tank sits on a bed of and is surrounded on the sides by Styrofoam for freeze protection. I made sure the new arrangement of Styrofoam didn’t deform the tub so it wouldn't fit back in its spot when I went to reinstall it.

The low point drains were reinstalled with new PEX piping. (I had always wondered how the low point drain valves were attached.) The new tank was fitted with new pump suction line and a new drain tube configuration. I changed out the drain fittings to use a PVC elbow and a proper hose barb instead of the PEX fittings. The factory installation had installed a vinyl tube on the PEX fitting which is inferior to a proper hose barb in my opinion. I also eliminated the infamous and problematic plastic tank drain valve and installed the flanged hose barb solution that many have gone to. This flange is available through an eBay seller who provides them and gets high marks for his service. I will now be able drain the tank much quicker by simply unscrewing a brass pipe plug using a nut driver. I used quick dry sealant which is compatible with plastics on all plumbing connections.

While I had it all out, I also cut an opening in the end of the tub through which I could remove the Mciropulse sensor if need be. I used a hole-saw to cut the hole and made an aluminum cover plate and secured it using stainless steel, hex head, self-threading sheet metal screws. These screws need to be hex head vs. Phillips head in order to remove the upper ones in the tight quarters when the tub/tank is back in place.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:19 PM   #5
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cont'd

I lucked out and my son visited for the holidays and was a big help in helping get the tub/tank reinstalled in the trailer. He essentially put it back in place by himself. We did encounter two stripped machine screw holes where the support straps connect to the trailer frame. But we drilled and tapped one size larger and also used fine threaded in order to assure some more thread engagement in the thin material of the trailer frame member that the straps attach to. My son also helped reattach the new PEX piping in the sequence I schemed up which worked out fine. I put permanent connections back in place using SS PEX clamps versus the Shark Bite quick connectors. This was possible by using a one handed PEX crimper which is smaller than some of the PEX crimpers and we were able to get it into the plumbing vault to put the new bands on the piping.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:22 PM   #6
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This job was bigger than I anticipated. It is completed, tested, and operating with no leaks, no hidden debris, no over torqued fittings, and no plastic valve to break.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:25 PM   #7
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cont'd

Yes, I did pull out my stash of Makers Mark that I keep in the trailer and have a celebratory drink when I got finished. Or should I say almost finished? I still had to get it down off those boards and clean the big mess of tools strewn around in the garage and the back of my truck. But that was saved for another day.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:38 PM   #8
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Awesome post. Those plastic inserts are kind scary, I've seen a bunch busted open from crank in' to tight.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:41 PM   #9
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Hi, good job. Did your tank come with those low point drain valves or did you change them? Mine came with common pet cock valves. I had a filler hose problem when my trailer was new; The fresh water door had/has so much sealer on it [inside of wall] that I never was able to remove it. I like your new drain valve. Will you be able to remove your inspection cover? My tank cover is too close to the frame. I had planned to make a hole and cover on the bottom somewhere.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBERTSUNRUS View Post
Hi, good job. Did your tank come with those low point drain valves or did you change them? Mine came with common pet cock valves. I had a filler hose problem when my trailer was new; The fresh water door had/has so much sealer on it [inside of wall] that I never was able to remove it. I like your new drain valve. Will you be able to remove your inspection cover? My tank cover is too close to the frame. I had planned to make a hole and cover on the bottom somewhere.
Robert,

1. the low point drain valves are factory
2. the door is a bear to remove. I put blue tape on the trailer to keep from skinning it up and used a putty knife to pry it off. There was an enormous amount of caulk that was extruded inside the skin of the trailer and one has to work it out very slowly but with significant force.
3. Inspection cover is removable with box end wrench for top two screws. Bottom two with socket or nut driver. It is close but more than doable. The Micropulse can then be removed using a 1 1/4' socket.

Thanks for your tips recently on marking the straps and the flanges. You will note that was done and putting the tank back was a piece of cake other than the two stripped bolt holes that had to be drilled and tapped.
Best,
Alan
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Old 01-05-2014, 11:42 PM   #11
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A very nice post, and much appreciated. I hope I never have to do it on mine, but if I do, what you did will be a great help.
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Old 01-06-2014, 12:10 PM   #12
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What caused the failure?

I was asked what caused this failure. So to be more clear:

The PEX fittings were simply screwed in too far and bottomed out in the fitting on the tank. This caused these threaded tank bosses to crack and separate from the tank. This improper installation was clearly done during the build/assembly of the trailer at the factory. Too bad it wasn't caught during the warranty period! The tank has been used very little and the cracks were likely there fairly quickly and as long as there was enough mechanical force to hold the fittings against the bottom of the boss they didn't leak. But one day the thermal cycling moved it enough that the drip began to show and when I stuck my hand in there to check it out, the movement caused the leak to accelerate.

Too often we forget these are hand built trailers and sometimes the folks they have doing it may lack the training or competency required to do the job. I have been told the factory must use temporary labor from time to time. I suspect they had a temp working on mine from the issues I found in this project. (vent hose too short and fallen off; fill hose not on the tank hose barb properly; and two bottomed out PEX fittings that resulted in failure of the tank)

Oh well, I learned a lot about how my trailer is cobbled together and also learned some more about PEX piping that I didn't know before. And let's not forget, as always, I seized the opportunity to add a few more tools to my collection.
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Old 01-06-2014, 01:41 PM   #13
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The same thing just happened to our fresh water tank, but we weren't as ambitious as you. I think Airstream needs to rethink the design here.

Our post on the same issue:
Airstream Los Angeles - Aluminarium
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Old 02-08-2014, 02:30 PM   #14
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Update on repair

Update:
1. the repair has held
2. no leaks
3. the ebay supplied drain fitting is quite handy and works well. Just understand that the larger diameter hose bib section only has two ridges on it and that makes it quite difficult to clamp. The original Airstream clamp that came off the bib of the original plastic drain valve worked better than a new one I tried. The original one is quite small, barely fit, but was small enough to slide on to the bib and engage the limited number of ridges. I would still change out the plastic valve. I do not use a valve at all now but simply use an 1/8" pipe plug. I have had occasion to drain the tank and a nut driver works extremely well to remove the plug and the tank drains as well as the factory arrangement if not better. I tried to send photos and contact the ebay supplier without success. I think he needs to put three ridges on the bib which is standard vs. just two, it would make it a top notch fitting and allowing clamping to be accomplished more effectively.
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