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Old 05-16-2004, 08:50 PM   #1
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Question Bringing a Plumbing System out of Long Term Storage

Hi all, We are slowly waking up our "new" Airstream and soon will have to check out the plumbing. The trailer plumbing has not been used in about 3-4 years. Is there anything specific we should do before we hook the water up to it the first time? Is there anything we should keep an eye out for when we hook the water up? Like places that leaks are most likely? I know we'll have to flush and disinfect everything, but first I just want to make sure it all works without leaks.

Second, the PO's disconnected the fresh water tank (over 20 years ago!) since they only camped where there were water hook ups. I will eventually need to reconnect the pump (which does run when the switch is turned on) and fresh water tank back to the main plumbing system using a hose section so that we can dry camp if we want to. I see that there are several other sections of hoses connecting plumbing around the pump. Should I replace all of these before hooking up the water? It seems to me that old hoses = chance of leaks or worse yet major hose failure. Am I right?

There appears to be a filter in the inlet hose to the pump. Is there anything special to finding a replacement? Or will anyone from a camping supply place work?

And since the water pump hasn't been used in many, many years, is there anything I would need to do to ensure it is still OK? As far as I can tell it is still the original 1966 pump! Could the seals be dried out (and thus leak) or could they still be OK? Should I consider replacing it with a new pump as preventative maintenance? Or are these pumps rebuildable?

Finally, we have been told that the toilet leaks when "flushed" (flush valve?), but haven't confirmed that yet. We were told that the leaking water was fresh water, not "black" water. Since our '66 has the "built in" Thetford toilet, the leak was down into the belly pan, not onto the floor. The PO's put a "water management" system in place to direct the leak safely out of the trailer. We'd like to stop the leak altogether. Is this type of Thetford toilet or just the flush valve repairable or replaceable? Any other advice? I guess this is one thing we'll have to check out thoroughly as soon as we get the water hooked up.

Sorry for all the questions lumped into one post, it just seems that they are all interrelated. Reply's, opinions, and answers to any or all of our questions are appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Old 05-16-2004, 11:29 PM   #2
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The inlet to your water pump should be connected to the tank. If disconnected, the pipe should still be there so it shouldn't be too much trouble to hook it back up. What I'd suggest is the following:

1) fill the fresh water tank and add a quarter cup plain bleach for every 15 gallons water (mix the quarter cup bleach with a gallon of water so straight bleach doesn't hit the plastic in the pipes or tank.) Let sit overnight and see if the fresh water tank has any leaks. If so, fix, if not proceed

2) close all valves, hot water tank drains, and other drains in your plumbing system. Check the lines connecting the water pump inlet to the tank and the outlet to the fresh water pressure lines. Inspect as much of the plumbing system as you can paying special attention to fittings and connections. Fix anything that looks suspicious.

3) Turn on the water pump. It may take a while to fill the hot water tank but you should get evidence of water from the cold taps pretty quick - if not, replace pump. Let air escape from the hot water taps occastionally. After pressure builds up the pump should stop. If it doesn't stop and you have it pumping water, look for the leaks and repair the plumbing to fix them.

this process tests the pump and allows for quick turn off of water if you see water anywhere it shouldn't be. It also sanitizes the system with the high bleach content in the tank.

If all the leaks are fixed and the pump works, the pump should go on when you open a faucet and shut down shortly after you close the faucet. With all faucets closed, the pump should stay off. If it comes on by itself every now and then, you have a slow leak somewhere.

When that works, then you can hook up city water and see if that works OK. Be sure to use a pressure regulator on city water supplies and maybe a sediment filter.

The filter on the pump inlet is usually a simple screen to keep crud out of the pump. No big deal and not very expensive.

A new water pump can run from under $100 to over $200 depending upon flow rate and features. No need to replace your old one unless it becomes obvious it isn't doing its job.

The easiest way to fix toilet flush leaks is to disconnect the water to the toilet and flush with wash water. But you can usually take them apart and replace seals, gaskets, washers, and fittings if need be. More common is a bad waste seal due to debris in the gasket that you can clean with a toothpick or something similar.

Take one thing at a time and get that working then go to the next. Its all fixable and repairs, parts, or replacements aren't that hard to find or very expensive, and not that hard to do yourself.

If you have copper pipe, look at using PEX and flair-it or equivalent connectors for repairs if needed. The connectors work on the copper pipe and are easy to use and work fairly well.
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Old 05-17-2004, 07:53 AM   #3
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It would also be advised to use a white RV hose to fill the tank. This will prevent the bad rubber taste
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Old 05-17-2004, 07:55 AM   #4
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Exclamation Just a thought...

1) fill the fresh water tank and add a quarter cup plain bleach for every 15 gallons water (mix the quarter cup bleach with a gallon of water so straight bleach doesn't hit the plastic in the pipes or tank.) Let sit overnight and see if the fresh water tank has any leaks. If so, fix, if not proceed
Personally, I wouldn't add bleach to the water until I was sure I DIDN'T have any may bleach any wood, carpet or finishes if it DOES leak.

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Old 05-17-2004, 09:04 PM   #5
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Thanks so far. Bryan seemed to offer a pretty good start up procedure, but I agree I'll skip the bleach until I have confirmed that there are no leaks.
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Old 05-18-2004, 07:47 AM   #6
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Follow the pipes where you can and look under and around them with a light. It something has been leaking "a little" you should be able to spot is on the floor. Usually black mildew( or is it mold?). Inspect the fittings and any patches for dry hose, cracking, loose fit. Tighten any pipe clamps. This intimate knowledge will help you find any leaks that do occur. If you replace the whole thing good with the PEX. For the time I've spent finding leaks, parts and patching I could have replaced the system, and will this summer.
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