2014 19' Sport
Join Date: Jul 2019
Diagnosing and Repairing Leaks in 19' Bambi Sport
After a long day of driving, on the recent shakedown cruise of our new-to-us, 2014 Bambi 19 Sport, we finally arrived at our campsite and began to set up the camper. When I opened the bathroom door I found a good-sized puddle of what I hoped was water in the bathroom. I assured my wife I hadnít missed the mark as I dabbed up the fluid with paper towels. After carefully smelling the paper towels, I knew the leak was nothing more than water (we have pets and kids). That offered small relief because leaks of any kind can quickly damage a camper. I then spent about 15 minutes trying to find the source of the leak around the toilet. I didnít see anything obvious, so I incorrectly theorized the leak was most likely from a bad gasket at the base of the toilet. We decided to stop using the toilet until I fixed the issue. This was unfortunate for me, being a male of retirement age. I take more bathroom breaks than I used too and having this handy (albeit expensive) tow-behind, Port-A-Potty made life a little easier while traveling.
When we arrived at the next stop, we found the puddle returned. While my wife cleaned up the water, I shut off the 12-volt, water pressure pump and then drained the fresh water holding tank. We were exhausted and hit the sack. In the morning I found there was no puddle. Knowing Iíd need water for our next stop, I put water back in the tank but left the pump off. When we arrived at our next destination that evening, there was again no water puddle on the floor. I felt safe in drawing the conclusion the water pressure pump had something to do with the puddle. So in the morning we did the breakfast dishes and headed out for a few hours, neglecting to turn off the pump. When we returned for dinner, we had an even larger puddle in the middle of the floor, running towards the door. This time it seemed to originate from under the closet, rather than the bathroom floor. That was good news, sort of, because at least the toilet wasn't leaking and I donít feel too alone in not enjoying the removal and repair of any toilet.
I cleaned up the water, shut the pump off, and went to bed thinking about the leak. I had already repaired damage to two other campers due to water leaks and I wasnít about to have this happen on the newest camper Iíd ever own. In the morning, even though we werenít using the shower, toilet or either of the faucets, I noticed the water pump would momentarily kick on and off every few minutes. Thatís a definite sign of either a water leak or air in the water lines going to the pressure switch. But, I then started to see the puddle reappear under the closet. I pulled everything out of the closet and the nearby kitchen cabinet and found the four screws securing the false base of the cabinet. Pulling out the base, I was given pretty decent access to the pump and water lines running to and from the pump, as well as those going to the kitchen sink and toilet. When I shined a light into the cubby, I noticed there was a puddle of water under the pressure pump running under the closet wall. I had finally discovered the source of the leak.
I sopped up the water and placed dry paper towels under the pump and plumbing lines. I turned the pump on and ran the sink faucet for a minute or so. When I shined my light back into the cubby under the closet, I could see the paper towels were damp again. I began checking all the connections (there are a lot). The biggest leak was coming from a clear, plastic, filter cap that runs directly into the pump. This is a screw-on cap and it was pretty loose. I tightened it and ran the faucet again. This time, I felt under each of the plastic lines running to the pump. I found two plastic, screw-on elbows running to water lines were also loose. I tightened each of these by hand as they are not meant to be tightened with a tool. I dried all the water out, put paper towels under the lines and again ran the water, this time for about 3 minutes. The pump did not cycle after shutting off the water. That was a good sign. I took a break for about an hour and came back to find no water drips and better yet, no puddles. I was so relieved!
Iím sure these kinds of water leaks are common on the newer Airstream models using this more modern, plastic plumbing. While the lines can be secured to not have leaks, it really comes down to the individual doing the securing. If it was done in such a way that a fitting could jostle around and back off a quarter of a turn, youíll eventually have a leak. If the securing clamp was close to the fitting it would keep it from moving. The water lines on my Bambi were rubbing against each other and clamps were in the middle of the hoses where itís easy to fit them in place, but not the best place to put the clamp because it allows for a lot of movement around the joints and fittings. There is no way the Airstream installer considered this when installing the lines in my camper.
Even though it sounds like a long, drawn out process, it was really wasnít too painful finding the leaks and resolving the issue. Had I taken it to the RV service center we saw on the way and left it in one of their bays (like we almost did), that truly would have been a pain in the butt and very expensive as well. Their technician would have done everything I did, with the time clock running. Plus, we would have lost at least a day of our trip Ė something we couldnít afford to do.
So, if you see a leak, try searching around a little to figure out where it is coming from. Donít be afraid to remove a few screws and take out the cabinet base. Thatís why theyíre screwed in and not glued in Ė there has to be access to plumbing. Also, understand that your leak may not be caused by dripping plumbing. It could be caused by a cracked skylight, a loose door or poor window seal. It could also come from bad caulking around the shower pan or, heaven forbid, an old guy with bad aim. But youíll be doing yourself a favor if you can narrow down the source of the leak quickly before it has a chance to damage your camper. Determine if the leak exists when you have the pressure pump on or off. See if the leak shows up when you have a water hose (street line) connected to the camper. Does the pump kick on even though none of the water outlets (faucets, shower and toilet) are not in use? Performing a few simple tests and making some simple observations may help you determine the cause of the problem. And if you can find the problem, either you or someone else can probably fix it faster and with less expense.