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Old 05-05-2016, 08:45 AM   #1
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Panoramic Window (center) water leaks

This thread is particularly pointed to front pano windows for my particular generation AS. I understand there are some differences in window frame construction over the years, but I suspect some of this info will carry over to multiple years as well as front and rear panos.

Scenario: I have always had some water show up in the lower channel of the center window after washing or after rain. It is usually a small amount and since the channel is THEORETICALLY sealed by welding, it did not appear to have any effect on water reaching the floor area around the battery boxes or the joint between the c-channel front straight section and the curved corner sections.
(note: I have water alarms installed at each joint of the channel, as this is where most leaks to the floor enter the interior of the AS and display as wet carpet/floor rot.)

There have been times over the years when I get an alarm at those front straight c-channel-to-corner c-channel joints. I search high and low and resealed rock guard hinges, window eyebrow, rivets, running lights, lower rub rail, belt molding, battery door frames....you name it. I would still, very occasionally (maybe once a year) get an alarm and water in those two areas. Scratching my head over and over...where was it coming from? Can't be running lights or anything north of the rock guard rail...because water will run down the INTERIOR skin and appear as runs down the window screen. Can't be the rock guard or window rails as there would be water trails/witness marks on the frame sides.hanging from the top frame. Can't be the window seal itself as there would be water standing between the lower seal and the glass when closed. There have been many other "can't be's" as I water tested and observed over the years.

So last weekend I was camping in the rain....like 24 hours of soft rain. The AS was parked with the streetside up on about 4" of legos. As I was pulling off the blocks, naturally the AS was low on the streetside. I got out of the truck to retrieve the legos and as I walked past the front the water alarm sounded. I knew this was telling me that there was a rush of water coming from somewhere center'ish of the c-channel to that first joint (none of the other 3 front water alarms sounded, so I knew it was defined and confined) I drove home and immediately started tapping into my "strategy based diagnostics" and "water leak analysis" training from the job.

Yes there was water in the window frame lower channel....but NOTHING anywhere north of the channel AT ALL. Everything bone dry. So since the channel is sealed by welding and water will stand in there until it evaporates (many days), how is the water finding its way to the floor c-channel...and why only after a loooong rain?

After drying the window channel, it hit me.

PIC #1

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Water only leaks into the wall AFTER the level reaches the point where the latch shafts pass through the channel wall. See the waterline witness mark indicated by the blue arrow and it's high mark at shaft level, indicated by the orange arrow. Moving the AS off level caused all that water to rush from one side of the window channel to the other, resulting in a rush of water through the shaft opening and down the wall inner skin (inside the wall), along the c-channel to the joint, sounding the alarm.

But still, where is the water in the window channel coming from?

Pic#2

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Water draining from the rock guard ends DRENCHES the window exterior frame area between the side and center windows as it runs off the front of the AS. A goodly amount of that water stands in the area on the exterior of the window frame and the lower edge of the seal (directly below glass edge). Since the window assembly is tilted back slightly, water holds there until it evaporates. (red arrows Pic#2)

Then I noticed several things: 1) no sealer or weld in the corner of the window frame (yellow arrows in pic#2) and...

pic#3

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No sealer nor weld on the vertical seam (interior) of the window frame (indicated as between the yellow arrows in pic#3. The weld is only on the horizontal corner and interior vertical corner. (orange arrows, pic#4)

Pic#4

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This allows for a direct path from the outer sill of the frame (pic#2, red arrows) to the corner gap, (pic #2 yellow arrows, through the frame at the vertical outer corner cut (Pic#3 between yellow arrows), filling the channel and exiting through the latches (pic#1 orange arrow).

FIX???? Once again, Captain Tolley's Creaping Crack cure to the rescue. Apply: Pic#2 between yellow arrows. Pic#2, left red arrow to corner and up the seal-to-frame seam a bit. Pic#3 between yellow arrows. Pic#4, right horizontal yellow arrow, between the seal corner and the outer frame seam. (note, you can see the not-yet-cured milky appearance of the Tolley's in some of the areas, indication a flow-through and indicating the water path as you apply. Remember, "less is more" with Tolley's and syringe application is required.

Of course, do both sides. I also ran Tolleys over all the weld joints to verify no wicking and thus no porous welds.

I verified no water entry to window frame lower channel after repair.
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Old 05-05-2016, 09:09 AM   #2
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I've got rear window leak (25fb). After a lengthy rain, water will drip from the inside upper channel and slowly run down the bug screen roughly above the curb side window latch. I put a towel against the bug screen to intercept the water. Luckily I have covered storage. After washing the Airstream I don't see the leak so it requires a lengthy soak.

I wonder if a pressurized seal test will find such leaks.

Hope your fix lasts after a few road miles of vibration and flexing.

Thanks for sharing

Kelvin
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Old 05-05-2016, 09:20 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by KJRitchie View Post
I've got rear window leak (25fb). After a lengthy rain, water will drip from the inside upper channel and slowly run down the bug screen roughly above the curb side window latch. I put a towel against the bug screen to intercept the water. Luckily I have covered storage. After washing the Airstream I don't see the leak so it requires a lengthy soak.

I wonder if a pressurized seal test will find such leaks.

Hope your fix lasts after a few road miles of vibration and flexing.

Thanks for sharing

Kelvin
Kelvin, my experience tells me that any window leak that appears on the screen is dripping from the inside of the inner skin. That would indicate an entry point above the top of the window where water drips from the outer skin to the inner skin or wicks through the insulation. I would look at area confined by the center end cap section (rivets between the corner sections and center section) center section clearance lights and maybe the awning rail and upper window frame seals and rivets. the awning and window frame are less likely as that water should hit the frame u-channel and run down the sides of the window...not visible anywhere but the floor. The insulation there COULD wick it to the interior skin and down the screen, but probably unlikely, unless you have water at the floor as well. Could be at the the rivet line between the end cap center section and the white roof as well, but typically the rib would interfere and you would see water on the interior seam between the end cap and the ceiling....but wicking of insulation can play there too. Anything east and west of the center section would show up in the corner floors, as the curve of the end cap corner sections would flow the water away from the window.
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Old 05-05-2016, 09:36 AM   #4
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Leaks can sometimes be easy to find, and sometimes they can be downright a major PITA. If I were in the same position, I might be inclined to try this:

http://www.sealtechusa.com/#!untitled/ceps

Many moons ago, soldiermedic came to our annual rally in June and tested a few units with this contraption. I was pretty amazed at what he was able to find with this tool and some soapy water spray. Given that you've tried to find the root cause to no avail, I either try this (they use this device at the factory service center) or you could probably fabricate something similar. Either way, my guess is you'll find a lot more than you bargained for, yet at the same time possibly find your root cause.
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Old 05-05-2016, 09:49 AM   #5
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I discovered the leak last June while at North Rim GC when we had a day of rain. I experienced it again a monthor so later when I left the trailer in my driveway one night and it rained heavy. When I went out in the morning I found, with my Sonin meter, moisture under the rear curb dinette seat and under the table. I cut away all the vinyl under the dinette seats and made cuts in the vinyl along the dinette seats under the table so I could pull back the vinyl and run a fan to dry it all out.

Before last June I would moisture test the same areas after being caught in the rain and the Sonin came up dry. So I think the water from that heavy rain storm ran down from above the window.

Since June before winter I've hit every rivet with Capt Tolley's, checked and recaulked the curbside clearance light above window leak and resealed the top of the lower rub rail, used Parbond on the window corners but all this work didn't stop the leak. Decided to put it off after winter. Trailer was in covered storage. I removed the rear awning.

A few weeks ago I recaulked the top of the window but haven't tested for a leak.

I may pull the trailer home and run the water sprinkler on the rear window. I could direct the water stream directly at the window. If no leaks then I could direct it so it rains on the roof above the window. If a leak shows up then I know the leak is coming from above the window.

Thanks.

Kelvin
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Old 05-05-2016, 10:23 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KJRitchie View Post
I discovered the leak last June while at North Rim GC when we had a day of rain. I experienced it again a monthor so later when I left the trailer in my driveway one night and it rained heavy. When I went out in the morning I found, with my Sonin meter, moisture under the rear curb dinette seat and under the table. I cut away all the vinyl under the dinette seats and made cuts in the vinyl along the dinette seats under the table so I could pull back the vinyl and run a fan to dry it all out.

Before last June I would moisture test the same areas after being caught in the rain and the Sonin came up dry. So I think the water from that heavy rain storm ran down from above the window.

Since June before winter I've hit every rivet with Capt Tolley's, checked and recaulked the curbside clearance light above window leak and resealed the top of the lower rub rail, used Parbond on the window corners but all this work didn't stop the leak. Decided to put it off after winter. Trailer was in covered storage. I removed the rear awning.

A few weeks ago I recaulked the top of the window but haven't tested for a leak.

I may pull the trailer home and run the water sprinkler on the rear window. I could direct the water stream directly at the window. If no leaks then I could direct it so it rains on the roof above the window. If a leak shows up then I know the leak is coming from above the window.

Thanks.

Kelvin
Yes, always start low when water testing and work upwards. Be patient before moving upward, as leaks often take time and volume to run to where they can be detected. Even spread it out over several days between moving upward. Also, tilting trailer east and west...and north an south is very beneficial in isolating sections for narrowing down leaks. Again extreme patience is required.
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Old 05-05-2016, 11:11 AM   #7
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I'm thinking about getting a couple of these water detectors. I could run the cable along most of the rear wall on the floor.

http://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-RWD4...XA8H675HA68GYD
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Old 05-05-2016, 11:35 AM   #8
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These threads about leaks scare me to death. Our '67 family heirloom Overlander has twice leaked at the rear belt line causing rot under the plastic paneling and bathroom fixtures where you can not get at it without removing the entire bathroom. Since the two spots are not in a traffic area, we are letting them be for now. I have made the rear of the trailer ugly with two kinds of caulk and we are dry for now but probably not for long.

I said all this to pose a question: Why doesn't Airstream start putting Aluminum decking in the new trailers like they do in light airplanes? No floor rot worries with that system. I wonder if anyone has tried that in shell off restoration?
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Old 05-05-2016, 11:42 AM   #9
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I use these. I have 8 total, one at each break in the c-channel (except at wheel wells. Shop around...I think I paid $12 or $14 for mine.

http://www.amazon.com/Doberman-Secur...an+water+alarm
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Old 05-05-2016, 12:03 PM   #10
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I found the exact same condition in our rear center pano as described by Rich in post #1. I sealed the corners but as stated the window latches remain a path for water to the floor.

A couple of years ago I had Airstream Service in Jackson Center do the Seal-Tech test with particular attention to this area. They found the window latches needing tightening a bit, and no more air pressure bubbles. (They also found several of the awning lower support bracket screws and rivets making bubbles, and sealed them).

All fine in the usual rain, but when we got heavy rain AND strong wind on this center pano window, the channel would get a little water in it. Not enough to rise and leak down through the window latch openings, but some in there.

There is another source of water in that channel, and that is condensation forming on the window and dripping down. The best solution for us has been to provide plenty of ventilation when heating by opening the two upper vents a couple of inches or so.
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Old 05-05-2016, 12:57 PM   #11
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I recently got to see a new the Bowlus Road Chief in production. They brilliantly designed the floor so the plywood doesn't run all the way to the edge of the wall. If a leak happens, it will never hit any wood. But the limited Windows and the way they have designed the window, leaks are very unlikely.
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Old 05-05-2016, 02:21 PM   #12
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I recently got to see a new the Bowlus Road Chief in production. They brilliantly designed the floor so the plywood doesn't run all the way to the edge of the wall. If a leak happens, it will never hit any wood. But the limited Windows and the way they have designed the window, leaks are very unlikely.
Wellll, there isn't an RV made that doesn't leak eventually.....jus' sayin'.
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Old 05-05-2016, 03:40 PM   #13
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I had a persistent leak at the front windows on my 2007 20'. The cause ended up being the hinge for the middle solar guard. It didn't seem at all logical that the leak could start there, but sure enough, every time, where the hinge was screwed to the body, the sealant had a gap. I resealed it an it fixed the leak. I just had to keep after it.
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Old 05-05-2016, 07:22 PM   #14
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Thanks for this thread, dznf0g! Will attempt with mine this weekend!!
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