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Old 06-19-2004, 09:11 PM   #1
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Bowie , Texas
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leaky sewer?

Hello all,

Just got back from my first weekend camping trip to use the Airstream -- 68 Overlander. Most everything worked o.k. but----

A persistant drip coming out of the metal pan under the holding tank. I have not used the toilet before this weekend so never noticed it before. Do these tanks often leak? Is it more likely the tank or a fitting? (for example can the dump valve/cap dribble a little and run back under the pan before dripping out around the edges.) What is the tank made of? Is it easy to patch? What kind of ordeal am I looking at to try to repair it? How much trouble can a small leak get me into?

Please help as I need information.

BTW, I noticed that the gray water items all dump into the system downstream from the waste valve. It would appear the system is designed to allow you the option of discharging the gray water on the ground while catching only the black water. Is this the case? Is this allowed in some places?

Thanks for your help!

JMG
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Old 06-20-2004, 09:11 AM   #2
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1964 26' Overlander
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
Anna , Illinois
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leaky sewer?

Greetings John!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Greenlee
Hello all,

Just got back from my first weekend camping trip to use the Airstream -- 68 Overlander. Most everything worked o.k. but----

A persistant drip coming out of the metal pan under the holding tank. I have not used the toilet before this weekend so never noticed it before. Do these tanks often leak? Is it more likely the tank or a fitting? (for example can the dump valve/cap dribble a little and run back under the pan before dripping out around the edges.) What is the tank made of? Is it easy to patch? What kind of ordeal am I looking at to try to repair it? How much trouble can a small leak get me into?

Please help as I need information.

BTW, I noticed that the gray water items all dump into the system downstream from the waste valve. It would appear the system is designed to allow you the option of discharging the gray water on the ground while catching only the black water. Is this the case? Is this allowed in some places?

Thanks for your help!

JMG
Your '68 coach (unless it was modified by a previous owner) did not come equipped with a gray water tank. The coach was designed with the idea that the gray water would either be collected in a "gopher hole" or allowed to run onto the ground below the coach. An alternative was outlined in the owners' manual of coaches equipped with the "under floor" blackwater tank in that you could place a "solid" terminator cap on the dump valve and open the dump valve (gate valve) and the gray water would "back-up" into the black water tank. When this method is utilized, it requires that the dump valve be closed immediately prior to removing the terminator cap to dump the holding tank - - it also means that there will be some waste trapped between the gate valve and terminator cap (that usually means having a small bucket below the terminator cap to catch what flows out when the cap is removed).

Realistically, most Vintage coach owners prefer to used the portable "blue-tanks" to catch their gray water. The "back-up" method described in the owners' manual results in a very short time period between necessary dump operations and does increase the "messiness" of the dump operation.

If you weren't providing a means for the gray water to either be "backed-up" into the black water tank or a pathway to the ground, sewer connection, or other collection device; my suspicion is that the leak you observed was the gray water finding its path out of the coach. It isn't impossible to have problems with the black water holding tank - - I have had to have minor repairs to the Thetford Valve on my Airstream, and major rebuilding of the tank itself in the Minuet.

Godd luck with your coach!

Kevin
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1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 06-20-2004, 01:57 PM   #3
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Bowie , Texas
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Kevin,

Thank you for your reply. I have been studying my coach a little this afternoon and determined that the black water tank is indeed under the floor. I will say that evidence of leaking was significantly reduced Saturday after more properly securing the cap on the outlet and opening the black water valve so the gray water could flow into the tank. Saturday a.m. when we got up there was water standing in the tub. This concerned me as I thought it indicated a full tank. I hooked up and drug the coach down to the dump station. I looked like Chief Inspector Clouseau emptying the tank -- I did everything wrong. However, the enviornmental police did not catch me and I learned quickly from my mistakes.

Now, is it likely to have a leak in the black water tank? I made a wet spot on the ground under the rear of the coach, but not a puddle. Is it more likely my problems are related to the valve and cap combination? If necessary, how difficult is the tank to repair/replace? How expensive? Am I likely to do 20 years in the pen for a drip?

Thanks in advance for your assistance!

JMG
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Old 06-20-2004, 09:50 PM   #4
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1964 26' Overlander
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
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leaky sewer

Greetings John!

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Greenlee
Kevin,

Thank you for your reply. I have been studying my coach a little this afternoon and determined that the black water tank is indeed under the floor. I will say that evidence of leaking was significantly reduced Saturday after more properly securing the cap on the outlet and opening the black water valve so the gray water could flow into the tank. Saturday a.m. when we got up there was water standing in the tub. This concerned me as I thought it indicated a full tank. I hooked up and drug the coach down to the dump station. I looked like Chief Inspector Clouseau emptying the tank -- I did everything wrong. However, the enviornmental police did not catch me and I learned quickly from my mistakes.

Now, is it likely to have a leak in the black water tank? I made a wet spot on the ground under the rear of the coach, but not a puddle. Is it more likely my problems are related to the valve and cap combination? If necessary, how difficult is the tank to repair/replace? How expensive? Am I likely to do 20 years in the pen for a drip?

Thanks in advance for your assistance!

JMG
The black tank in your coach likely has a capacity of 8 gallons to no more than 15 gallons. The Black Water tanks in both my Overlander and Minuet are under 10 gallons. It doesn't take long to fill the Overlander's tank up when the gray water is backed up into the Black Water tank, and the evidence of being full is when the drain in the bathtub experiences backup issues.

It is quite difficult to pinpoint the source of such leach as there are a number of potential culprits. The gate valve (dump valve) has seals that can become worn with age, but the good news is that rebuild kits are available - - and unless a previous owner has changed it out, your coach should have a Thetford dump valve. Another possibility (and this has happened to me with both of my coaches) is that the dump valve/terminator plumbing may have been drug on the ground/pavement if the coach was near to being "high-centered" on a bad road - - this can cause multiple damage issues with the plastic plumbing pieces (breaks, shattered componets, etc.), this type of damage is usually readily visible. The two issues above can usually be addressed without dropping the belly pan.

If neither of the two above issues appear to be the culprits, the belly pan will need to be dropped (at least partially). Care must be exercised as it is possible that the supports that hold the tank between the frame rails may have failed due to corossion and the only thing supporting the tank may be the bellypan - - this is admittedly a worse case scenario, but a possibility. If dropping the bellypan doesn't reveal problems with the plumbing near the tank, then the tank itself may need to be dropped to find the leak(s). Dropping the tank will require removal of the toilet which of requires extra long screwdriver/socket set extensions to access all of the mounting bolts (done from inside the coach). Once out of the coach, the tank can be assessed to determine whether it is repairable - -or if a replacement will be necessary. Thus far, the black water tank in my Overlander is still the original which hasn't required repairs beyond switching from the original metal dump valve assembly to a new Thetford unit - - the Minuet on the other hand has had to have its tank repaired as it had multiple cracks along the top of the tank. My Airstream dealer handles virtually all of my maintenance work so I have only observed the repairs so don't know the precise materials used in the tank or in the repairs.

If the leakage isn't obviously black water, there are some other potential sources for leaks at the rear of the coach. The first that comes to mind as it has happened to me as well as several acquaintes is the failure of one of either the pressure regulator (built-in part of the plumbing on the incoming city water line) - - a small pipe or hose discharges the water under the coach when the valve fails or if its pressure rating is exceeded by the incoming city water; the second possibility is a leaking switch valve (your coach may not have one of these) that switches from city water to the demand system (the one on my Overlander was leaking when I purchased the coach in '95). Low point drain valves can leak or partially close allowing leakage to be present - - usually from a tube or pipe under the coach (this is an annual problem with my Minuet). Water heater may be leaking - - from drain valve, the tank itself, or plumbing around or near the tank.

Wherever the leak is coming from, it is advisable to find it and repair. If the leak should happen to be near any frame members or the floor, the resulting potential for rot isn't something to be taken lightly. In addition, the leak may have already saturated the insulation which may provide a breeding ground for mold, mildew as well as providing the potential of harboring insects.

Good luck with your search for the elusive leak!

Kevin
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1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 06-21-2004, 10:36 AM   #5
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Bowie , Texas
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Kevin,

Thanks for your help. What I have done so far is close the dump valve and pour a 5 gallon bucket of water into the holding tank through the toilet. So far, no evidence of leaking. I guess I could proceed to 10 gallons of water and observe. Then I could try pressuring up the fresh water system to check for leaks.

I really am starting to believe you were right the first time and that the problem may be related to gray water. When I first had trouble, I had the cap on the dump valve, but not very well. I wonder if any gray water was seeping around it and following it back up under the pan and then dripping out.

Will keep checking.

JMG
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Old 12-31-2005, 06:26 PM   #6
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1972 29' Ambassador
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Gopher holes--does anyone use them?

In reading through my recently-acquired '72 Ambassador manual, I saw a section dealing with boondocks camping in which what amounts to a privy--politely termed a "gopher hole"--about 20" wide and 40" deep is used as the receiver for black water.
Now, I'm sure this is illegal, and I know that in polite society no one would admit to doing such a thing. But . . .? I'd really like to know.
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