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Old 04-04-2011, 12:07 PM   #1
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1994 25' Excella
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Sewage in Belly - EW!

I decided to make a new thread chronicling my battle with a smelly trailer that has gone from sewage venting questions to a leaky roof and moldy ceilings and carpets. Having fixed all of the above problems, I finally got to the big one (so far): I had faulty valves on both ends of my black water tank. The toilet was leaking water and the flap didn't close entirely on the top. There was a constant drip of sewer water coming out of the belly pan. So this weekend I took a deep breath and cut open the belly of the beast. And it was ugly.

First, I marked lines to cut out a section of the belly pan. I used a Dremel tool to cut around the valve handles and the sewage pipe. Then I had a pair of opposing sheet metal snips ready for the longer cuts underneath. I quickly ditched the snippers for the Dremel tool, which makes surgical quality cuts by comparison.


This is what faced me


All kinds of crap was lodged in the crud on the belly pan, from whole rivets to washers and some metal balls that look like buckshot. Lots of soggy insulation material, soaked in thick, urine-like liquid. Be lucky this picture is not in smell-a-vision!



Up close, you see how the leak from the black tank seeped into the foam core insulation sheets. It looks like a 1/3" layer of rusty sewage sludge that is never truly dry. My stomach is having PTSD as I write this...

Here's the bellypan on the ground, as if you're looking at it from above the valves.


Top right is the area under the black tank valve: Lots of crud/rust build-up indicating years of dripping. Top left is where the gray tank valve is. Again, evidence of long term dripping. Mid-bottom is where the sewage pipe comes out. And I wondered why my trailer stunk so bad?

Here's one of the culprits:


Both valves had the same problem. The flange that clamps into the 3" sewage pipe is cracked at the base. The actual valve is screwed onto this flange with 4 screws. It was a bi**h to remove these, and I had to improvise a little hacksaw to cut the flanges out of the tanks.


A sawzall blade in a vice-grip is becoming my new favorite AS tool. I now regularly have to resist the temptation to just use the old sawzall itself, and just go nuts with my trailer. It makes more and more sense to gut the thing and start from scratch.


Out she goes with a little persuasion.


I also removed the toilet and have a few pictures to chronicle that particular torture. But it's out and apart. Parts are about to be ordered for the whole shabang, and I must say that once the belly pan is opened, the plumbing part is rather straightforward.

But here are my questions:
Will I ever truly be stink-free without removing the whole belly pan?
Can I open up access panels on all 4 corners and clean it out like that?
If I remove all that urine-infested insulation material, what would I replace it with?
Am I the only one who thinks this design from AS is ALL WRONG?
Bonus question: No doubt has this nasty setup been evaporating sewage fumes into the flooring/fixtures above the belly pan area, which is basically the middle 1/3d of the trailer. -shivers- Please tell me that the sewage stink isn't permanently imbued in my timbers!

Cheers,

H.A. in L.A.
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Old 04-04-2011, 01:33 PM   #2
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I think you will have to pull the belly pan to remove all the damaged insulation if you are ever to get the stink out. Is the frame rusted anywhere from all that corrosive crud dripping?
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Old 04-04-2011, 01:50 PM   #3
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Scarey smelly work! Remember to put Vicks vapo-rub on your upper lip.

I can't see how, after so many years of spashing around in there as you (well, actually, the PO, I'm guessing) drove around thousands of miles of lovely countryside, dripping it's gift everywhere, that you can get rid of that smell without taking the belly completely off and washing all the undersides thoroughly. Hopefully with any luck you won't need to replace the flooring.

I would be fairly certain that all the insulation will have been soaked in that mixture, so read up on what various people have chosen. Here's one thread that has lots of alternatives in it, but there are dozens more.

One thing there seems to be agreement on is that the spray-in-place foam insulation is a no-go.

Good luck!
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:19 PM   #4
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That damage can easily be caused by vibration.

Lack of proper running gear balance, and/or bad axles.

If the trailer was not moved for sometime, the rubber rods could have solidified.

Rubber must be exercised to stay alive.

Andy
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Old 04-04-2011, 06:56 PM   #5
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1994 25' Excella
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Andy, it does seem the pipe adaptors cracked slowly over time. And lots of the rubber is cracked and dry, attesting to your statement.

Here's the reason the toilet flap valve never fully closed:


There's a tiny wad of toilet paper that was trapped by a closing valve, and built up over time. A simple fix without removing the whole toilet if I had some knowledge, a mirror and a dentist's pick.

But now, some good news for a change:



My black water tank does look clean on the inside... no stalagmites or stalactites.

Sealing the pipe adapters:



Whoever installed this adapter used a sealer as it was slid into the 3" pipe. Is this correct procedure, and if so, what sealant? This looks like old vulkem or gray sikaflex.



The dump valves are glued to the downstream pipes. I'm presuming none of the rubber parts are glued on, and they just snap into place.

My plan is to get a rebuild kit from Andy & Co. They are guiding me through the parts maze, and I'll keep ye posted.

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Old 04-04-2011, 07:02 PM   #6
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This thread's a keeper! Thanks for posting it.
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Old 04-04-2011, 07:12 PM   #7
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Great pics! A mechanics mirror would have came in handy for you for your flapper. It did on mine. Had the same issue. Keep the pics coming and good luck on your rebuild. It will be well worth it!!
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Old 04-04-2011, 08:49 PM   #8
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Oh, now that's really gross! Poor you..... I'd agree that you'll have smelly stuff embedded in the styrofoam that surrounds your tanks & any other pink stuff that happened to be hanging down in the belly pan. I don't think you'll get rid of it unless you take the entire beast off. Sorry---it's a crappy job!
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:29 AM   #9
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I'm afraid y'all are correct: There's no quick and easy way to get rid of that smell without removing the entire belly section.

Now I've been searching around here for info on belly pan replacement, but many of them are about the riveted aluminum skins, not the square steel pan under the black and gray tanks that is bolted to the frame rails. Is there some sort of distinction, like "Belly Skin" vs "Belly Pan" or something?

Here's the big question of the moment: How are the tanks held in place beyond just sitting on the bottom styrofoam layer on the belly pan? I realize they already "hang" off the entry and vent pipes, but is this enough to hold up an empty tank during replacement without it breaking?

Thanks for your advice and encouragement. I'm about to go medieval on this trailer's butt
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by godaddy64 View Post
I'm afraid y'all are correct: There's no quick and easy way to get rid of that smell without removing the entire belly section.

Now I've been searching around here for info on belly pan replacement, but many of them are about the riveted aluminum skins, not the square steel pan under the black and gray tanks that is bolted to the frame rails. Is there some sort of distinction, like "Belly Skin" vs "Belly Pan" or something?

Here's the big question of the moment: How are the tanks held in place beyond just sitting on the bottom styrofoam layer on the belly pan? I realize they already "hang" off the entry and vent pipes, but is this enough to hold up an empty tank during replacement without it breaking?

Thanks for your advice and encouragement. I'm about to go medieval on this trailer's butt
Since you have the area where the valves are cut away, all you have to do is unbolt all the (I think they are 1/2" head) bolts that hold the holding tank cover up. It will fall down on your head, except for the area held up by the axle mounting flange. The only thing holding the tanks up other than the cover is the plumbing pipes and good intentions, I'd try to get something in there to shore them up when you remove the cover. A jackstand with a small piece of plywood on top of it works well for me.
For sealing the valve brackets back in the tanks, I use a non-hardening plumbing sealer like plumber's dope.
Umm, when you do take the cover down, make sure you aren't at the "low spot" under them, as any undrained contents will come draining out at that spot.
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Old 04-05-2011, 08:18 AM   #11
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Thetford makes a flush valve cleaning tool. I found one in my storage compartment and my grandfather had to show me what it was for. He bought it for $15 but I see a few online from $24 to $30. Below is a picture of this tool.
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Old 04-05-2011, 11:20 AM   #12
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Overlander63, thanks for the methodology. I'll try not to be wheezing with an open mouth under the lowest point of the pan when I drop it. Check.

And ck, that handy dandy valve cleaning tool is a shining testimony to the value of human ingenuity and the passing of knowledge. I wish my grandfather had shown me that!

I shall attack the nether regions of the Star Ship this weekend. Meanwhile I'm scraping off the PO's pitiful attempt at masking the smell from within the trailer by pasting vinyl flooring all around the toilet area with large gobs of adhesive. So when I bought it, the coach had that "freshly floored" smell, which in hindsight should have been a red flag. Now I pay the rookie price with time/$$$, and upon stripping the adhesive off with Jasco, more horrible sewage stench arose from the plywood floor.

The floor doesn't seem rotten anywhere... so far. All I can hope for at this point is that I can slowly fix the problem systematically from the bottom: R/R/ belly pan first, then dry and treat the plywood with some sort of preservative/stain, then seal the gaps around the plumbing better and finish the floor with something light, durable, sustainable, cleanable, and most importantly, breathable.

Thanks again for the advice, guys. W/O this forum, I wouldn't have dreamed of taking this on.
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Old 04-11-2011, 12:22 AM   #13
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The BIG update

Hey there,

I tore into the belly pan and snapped away as I figured it out.

First, I had to free up some copper gas pipe that was in the way of the pan. It was ridiculously hard to unscrew that fitting, and a harbinger of things to come...


Next I scraped off all the sealer that had been put around the outside flange and unscrewed all the bolts. You need a U-joint attachment for your driver to get to the one over the axle flange. Notice that I tied the gas line so it would stay out of the way during the wrestling match.



Now I had to work the pan free around the perimeter because it was kind of glued to the body with the sealer. I had to make yet another AS special tool from a little Allen wrench and a vise-grip to get to the axle side flange. During this phase, I left the 4 center bolts loose but attached, should the pan all of a sudden fall down.



With Jack stands on all four corners, I loosened the center bolts and worked the pan down past the axle flange. This is a tight fit, but the pan will come down... until it stops on the flange like that.



Time to cut corners. I used an angle grinder to open up the corners and electric sheet metal shears to cut as much as I could. Then I finished the cutting with a sawzall, a hackstaw, plus my entire collection of snips. I probably should have made a special AS tool for this... it was not easy.



Now I was able to bend the flange to work the pan down. You actually only need to cut one corner, but I was done with the other side before I figured that one out. But now she's down, and the fun begins:



Can you say "pi**-soaked plastic foam?" It was worst by the deep end of the pan, but some evidence of soaking was half the way across the pan in some places. Here's another look:



I ditched all the old plastic and scrubbed the pan down with some Simple Green, then a round of CLR cleaner with good results. Then I spray-canned it with red Rust Destroyer primer and a layer of Rustoleum high strenth enamel. I went to Home Depot and got two sheets of thermal insulation called Thermasheath in 1/2" and 1" thickness. These are easy to cut and snap. I made a duplicate of basically all the old styrofoam pieces and wedged them around the sides of the tanks to keep them in place. I made it a snug fit, as I think any sliding around in the belly tank cannot be good for the tanks or the fittings.



The Black tank is kind of wedged up over the lower lip of the frame rail with the insulation, so I put one in place with a dab of Vulkem sealer under the tank and let it harden while being held up by a jack stand. The Gray tank has two vent pipes coming down into it from above and hangs better by itself. This tank simply sits on top of the belly pan, so I attached the insulation to the pan itself so as not to weigh the tank down.



Installation was literally backbreaking work, but fairly straightforward. With the tanks wedged in place from all sides by the insulation, (which BTW I think is more there to hold the tanks from sliding around than to prevent freezing) all I had to to was to slip it under there and use the four jack stands to get it up, one corner at a time. I used a screwdriver to line up the center holes first, then attached the bolts halfway all around. This way I could wriggle the pan to line up all the holes without forcing anything. Then I tightened all the bolts using the old rule: Tighten until something snaps, and then back off a quarter turn



And voilá! The belly pan is de-scungified and the sweet aroma of Pine-Sol is now wafting into the trailer instead of the funk of forty thousand miles. This was basically my weekend. My back is bruised up and scratched from all the writhing around under there. I guess when you get into the work, you forget about time, food and pain... happens to me all the time.

But I truly think I have turned the corner on this trailer. This is as bad as it can get and I look forward to the rest of the plumbing assembly. Stay tuned for more pictures and knuckle bruising know-how.

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Old 04-11-2011, 12:51 AM   #14
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When you made your first cuts and dropped the section directly under the valves, was there insulation under the valves. In other words, was there insulation between the valves and the belly pan?
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