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Old 12-09-2013, 07:26 PM   #1
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Frozen black tank

Howdy folks,
We just traded in our 20' Safari for a brand new 2014 30' International signature. It is our 4th year full timing but our first 6 day freeze in the new Airstream. All is well except for one thing. Our black tank froze. The question for you fellow Airstreamers is this. How does a fully insulated black tank freeze? The handle pulls in and out easily which means that we are frozen inside. How far up do you think we may have frozen? The tank is set up in such a way that it can't be wrapped in heat tape. A skirt is in our near future and if we can thaw out we'll pour some antifreeze down there next time the temp drops. Thanks so much for your help!
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Old 12-09-2013, 08:33 PM   #2
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Insulation can not keep things from freezing it can only delay it. If there is not a heat source and the temperature is low enough freezing is the result.

You are most likely frozen just inside the valve and the tank itself may still have liquid because of the aerobic heat generated by the waste. I would put a light bulb, heat lamp, under the valve and hope nothing has already cracked. Not likely as plastic is more forgiving than metal and there is a path of expansion into the tank.
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Old 12-09-2013, 09:09 PM   #3
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You can also use a blow drier. Just be careful that you don't melt the plastic.
Insulation slows the process of freezing. But it also slows the thawing process.
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Old 12-09-2013, 09:40 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Marklar View Post
Howdy folks,
We just traded in our 20' Safari for a brand new 2014 30' International signature. It is our 4th year full timing but our first 6 day freeze in the new Airstream. All is well except for one thing. Our black tank froze. The question for you fellow Airstreamers is this. How does a fully insulated black tank freeze? The handle pulls in and out easily which means that we are frozen inside. How far up do you think we may have frozen? The tank is set up in such a way that it can't be wrapped in heat tape. A skirt is in our near future and if we can thaw out we'll pour some antifreeze down there next time the temp drops. Thanks so much for your help!
Hi, Did you use your furnace to heat your trailer or some other source of heat? I use an oil filled heater in my trailer except for real cold weather, then I only used my furnace to keep my tanks from freezing.
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Old 12-10-2013, 03:12 AM   #5
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A couple of pails of hot water should do it. Unusual though usually it is the valve that freezes.

If the valve does freeze pour a couple of gallons of hot water in the end of the sewer hose and then lift the hose up so that it forces the hot water up against the valve. In a couple of minutes you should be able to open the valve. Don't force the handle or you will have just a handle.

Are you planning on extensive winter use?

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Old 12-10-2013, 03:47 AM   #6
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On the few occasions our tanks or valves have frozen I have dumped a few gallons of auto wiper fluid down the drain. The alcohol will melt any ice and make slush.
Just make certain it is the winter spec fluid. Works like a charm only if not dilluted by too full tanks!
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Old 12-10-2013, 06:37 AM   #7
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Yes, Andrew T, I am a full timer living in Denver, CO so this will be continuous winter use. Today's temp and through the rest of the week will be 40* so I'm hoping the tank will thaw naturally. The water level in the toilet is full, probably due to the freezing, so I can't pour anything down there. I will have to wait it out. I have a space heater out there now to help out, but I work all day, by the tjme I get home its dark out, difficult to troubleshoot in cold temps. I am hoping to come home tonight to a happily draining black tank. Isn't it funny what we take for granted until its gone and find such extreme pleasure in when it returns? Every winter finds us a new lesson to streamline this lifestyle. Loving every minute of it.
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Old 12-10-2013, 04:15 PM   #8
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You may have to build a straw bale wall around the bottom of your trailer and put an electric heater in there.

Here in Canada, where we use a mobile home year round we wrap the pipes with electric heaters. They have a built in thermostat that comes on at 42 degrees. Then wrap with insulation. A stock tank heater can go under your tank. No doubt the local hardware store has the heaters.
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Old 12-11-2013, 03:36 AM   #9
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Skirting the bottom will warm the Airstream up quite a lot and prevent the tanks from freezing. We put dome fasteners on the lower trim insert. That way if you no longer want the skirt someday you can replace the insert and all the holes are gone. A tent and awning place can make this up for you ususally for only 4-500. If you put an electric heater under there that you can turn on when the temps are really cold it helps a lot.

I would not suggest Straw, we had a customer's unit suffer a lot of damage when the straw caught fire.

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Old 12-11-2013, 06:42 AM   #10
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Pour in some antifreeze through the roof vent.

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Old 01-09-2014, 04:26 AM   #11
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On the few occasions our tanks or valves have frozen I have dumped a few gallons of auto wiper fluid down the drain. The alcohol will melt any ice and make slush.
Just make certain it is the winter spec fluid. Works like a charm only if not dilluted by too full tanks!
I can ditto this recommendation. We have been out in this recent zero degree weather and have had frozen tank valves. I tried various measures; the boiling water, heating pads, etc. but the windshield de-icer worked. I dumped 4 gallons of the Windex automotive windshield de-cer down the grey water drain, waited a couple of hours and was able to dump... Great recommendation!!
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Old 01-09-2014, 05:45 AM   #12
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http://www.airforums.com/forums/f459...yon-98031.html

That link shows some photos of the skirt that I built for our 27 Safari and the water and sewer hook ups. It worked well on the rim of the Grand Canyon last winter with temps around zero.
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:04 AM   #13
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Hi Andy et al,
We have skirted just our exterior pipes and valve but with temps in Toronto going so low and staying there so long, we get freezing too. We have solved the issue with a space heater but it tripped the GFCI and then melted the end of the extension cord. I don't know electricity well enough to know, but I'm guessing the heater is too powerful for the extension cord? Thoughts?
Jojo and Rick
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2003 Jeep Liberty
(new to us) 1974 Excella 500 34ft
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:16 AM   #14
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Full Timing while watching our Reno NOT get done

Here's the view from our front door:
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