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Old 10-17-2011, 09:42 PM   #1
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Exposed clean out valves

My husband and I are considering buying an Airstream. In looking at the black and gray water clean-out valves, we saw that they are not housed in any kind of casing. Has anyone had problems when temperatures are at freezing or a little below? Also, has anyone had problems with damage to those valves while traveling ie, rocks hitting them and causing damage?
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:11 PM   #2
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Exposed clean out valves

Greetings oogies!

Welcome to the Forums!

While I can't provide information about recent models, I can verify that the sanitary dump valves on both of my Vintage Airstreams have been damaged while traveling. The problem is also aggravated by worn axles that further reduce road clearance.

I managed to get through more than a decade of towing my Overlander before the mishap. On my '64 Overlander, the sanitary dump valve is centered behind the rear bumper and it was subject to being high centered on a county road. The dump valve was drug on the blacktop pavement which shattered the valve and shattered the tank where the valve was attached . . . required a new tank and valve at nearly $1,000.

My Minuet has had even more problems with most of them happening when entering or exiting gas stations. The Minuet's dump valve drops straight down out of the streetside rear corner . . . and it often drags on steep gas station drives. The cap is the most frequent victim, but the entire valve assembly has had to be replaced twice in that past six years. The problem has been greatly reduced with the replacement of the original axle with one having a greater down angle that provided about 3.5" more ground clearance.

I rarely camp during freezing or near-freezing weather so I can't comment on late season camping. The one exception was one season where I lived in the Overlander until November 15. During the last three weeks of that season, the dump valves were exposed to three to five hours of below freezing weather each night but I encountered no particular problems.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:17 PM   #3
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Welcome to the Forums! As far a freezing dump valves go, it doesn't seem to be a huge problem unless the temps are well below freezing for prolonged periods...then there may by an issue and yo might need to take steps to prevent freezing. If it hits freezing or a little below and then warms up the next day, it isn't much of a concern. Some rigs have electrically heated holding tanks which helps a great deal, and also warm air from the furnace is directed to the holding tanks to help prevent freezing.

Anything that is exposed to the elements under the rig is potentially in danger of damage from road debris and rocks, but a bigger danger is bottoming out going over gutters, curbing or sharp angles into driveways from the street. But if you are careful and watch what you are doing, you can usually avoid these pitfalls. But if you are careful and watch what you are doing, you can usually avoid these pitfalls. If it seems like a "steep" incline I try to go at it on an angle to lessen the drop of the trailer. Of course, a Bambi (what we have) is short, which lessens the change of bottoming out.

Another potential source of damage is from a shredding tire in front of the plumbing. We had a blowout recently and lost the entire tread immediately in front of the drains/valves. Happily, they held up against the force and did not get torn off, nor did they leak, but they did get knocked pretty hard which required the fittings to be aligned and resealed, and the handle of the black tank valve was broken ...still operable but with a broken handle. It got replaced.

I'm sure you'll hear of other situations in which folks received plumbing damage.
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:37 PM   #4
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I am happy to be able to report that in 32 years of Airstream travels, with (I think) 17 different Airstreams and Argosy's, both Motorhomes and trailers, I have never had an issue with tow related damage to the sewer outlet of any one of them. I may just be lucky, but that is my story, and I'm sticking to it... grin.

As for freezing up drain systems, I have camped in temps down to 16F with no issues. I may not be able to pull the dump valve handle on a very cold morning, if I want to dump the black water tank, but when the temps go near or above freezing, it frees up quickly. I have had water line input freezups, so I just fill the water tank and drain the input hose, and use things like I was dry camping.
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Old 10-18-2011, 05:27 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oogies View Post
My husband and I are considering buying an Airstream. In looking at the black and gray water clean-out valves, we saw that they are not housed in any kind of casing. Has anyone had problems when temperatures are at freezing or a little below? Also, has anyone had problems with damage to those valves while traveling ie, rocks hitting them and causing damage?

The valves are enclosed in the insulated and heated portion of the underbelly on my current trailer and the same for my previous Airstream which was an 87 model. The part that is exposed to the elements is just the outlet and there is no water or sewage there unless you are dumping the tanks.
This is my second Airstream and I have been traveling and camping in an Airstream for 24 years and have not had any travel related damage to the exposed portions of the outlet.
You don't mention the year of the trailers you are looking at but be aware that some used trailers could have been modified by the previous owners. In that case, all bets are off, as to what you are buying or seeing.
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