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Old 08-20-2011, 10:13 AM   #1
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1961 24' Tradewind
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Repairing 50 year old Bowen water heater

I found the dreaded dripping under my '61 Tradewind last weekend. After reading many other threads about this, I was prepared to replace my otherwise pefectly functioning Bowen. I removed it from the trailer, not too bad, only a couple of hours to get it out. I was about to order the new water heater but after reading a reply from Colin Hyde suggesting someone repair theirs, I decided to pry the cover off. I was surprised to see the aluminum tank was in very good condition. The bracket welded to the bottom which provided a mounting stud for the "foot" of the tank had cracks at the edges of the welds. This would be easy to fix! I cut off the old bracket, ground down the old welds and welded the cracks. Next I leak checked the area with soapy water and compressed air. I fabricated a new bracket out of some aluminum bar stock and welded it back on. I sand blasted and repainted the cover, reinstalled the foot, and leak checked the tank by filling it with water and what do you know? No leaks. No retrofitting with a lesser quality new unit, no plumbing or anything! I replaced the fiberglass insulation on the bottom and added two rigid foam blocks for more support. I suspect this is what happens to many old Bowen's. The design places all of the weight in one small area and it's no surprise that mine was cracked.
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Old 08-20-2011, 11:42 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 61 Streamy View Post
I found the dreaded dripping under my '61 Tradewind last weekend. After reading many other threads about this, I was prepared to replace my otherwise pefectly functioning Bowen. I removed it from the trailer, not too bad, only a couple of hours to get it out. I was about to order the new water heater but after reading a reply from Colin Hyde suggesting someone repair theirs, I decided to pry the cover off. I was surprised to see the aluminum tank was in very good condition. The bracket welded to the bottom which provided a mounting stud for the "foot" of the tank had cracks at the edges of the welds. This would be easy to fix! I cut off the old bracket, ground down the old welds and welded the cracks. Next I leak checked the area with soapy water and compressed air. I fabricated a new bracket out of some aluminum bar stock and welded it back on. I sand blasted and repainted the cover, reinstalled the foot, and leak checked the tank by filling it with water and what do you know? No leaks. No retrofitting with a lesser quality new unit, no plumbing or anything! I replaced the fiberglass insulation on the bottom and added two rigid foam blocks for more support. I suspect this is what happens to many old Bowen's. The design places all of the weight in one small area and it's no surprise that mine was cracked.
The interior of the aluminum water tanks is where the corrosion exists.

I would not be surprised if you found another tank leak in as little as 90 days.

A 50 year old tank, has already served twice it's engineered life.

Andy
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Old 09-12-2012, 08:09 PM   #3
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UPDATE: One year later still not leaking. However, the pilot light became a problem. I had replaced the thermocouple once already but once in a while it would not stay lit. I disassembled and cleaned the pilot valve with limited success. I finally caved and bought a new Atwood (Robert Shaw) control valve. I had to re-make the supply gas line but otherwise it was easy to replace.
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