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83Excella 03-21-2002 08:26 PM

Plastic Plumbing
I watched a show on HGTV tonight called House Detectives its about home inspectors doing inspections, the inspector was inspecting a town-house that was built in the 70s-80s and it had the same gray plastic plumbing with the copper collars as many AS's including mine, and he said it was popular stuff during that time because it was low cost plumbing but it deteriorates with age and fails internally from the inside out. He suggested they replace all the plastic pipe because of the age and the unknown when it would fail. He mentioned the name of it but I didnt catch it does anyone know the name of it?. It makes me wonder if I need to consider replacing the plumbing in my 19 year old trailer???. Does anyone know more about this stuff?


PeterH-350LE 03-21-2002 08:55 PM

The 'T's are the first thing to go.

83Excella 03-23-2002 10:12 PM

I found this info on plastic plumbing that confirms what I heard and my suspicions. This info was found at and copyright by Mark S. Nemeth.

Most older RV fresh water systems are plumbed using gray polybutylene tubing. Most connections are made using barbed connectors made of either gray plastic-like materials or brass and either aluminum or copper crimp rings. This plumbing will resemble the picture below. There have been a lot of claims that polybutylene plumbing breaks down and eventually leaks, usually at the connections. I spent some time researching these claims and I'm sad to say that there appears to be a pretty good case against the gray stuff. One thing is certain: they aren't making it anymore! It has been universally replaced by cross-linked polyethylene tubing in most newer RVs. Identified by it's white or red color, PEX is assumed to be safe and reliable. The connections are made either with Qest fittings or the familiar crimp rings.

While scientific evidence is scarce, it is believed that oxidants in the public water supplies, such as chlorine, react with the polybutylene piping and acetyl fittings causing them to scale and flake and become brittle. Micro fractures result, and the basic structural integrity of the system is reduced. Thus, the system becomes weak and may fail without warning causing damage to the building structure and personal property. It is believed that other factors may also contribute to the failure of polybutylene systems, such as improper installation, but it is virtually impossible to detect installation problems throughout an entire system. In most cases it takes years for polybutylene systems to fail. While it may leak within a few years of installation, the majority of leaks start to occur in the 10-15 year time frame.

Throughout the 1980's lawsuits were filed complaining of allegedly defective manufacturing and defective installation causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Although the manufacturers have never admitted that poly is defective, they have agreed to fund the Class Action settlement with an initial and minimum amount of $950 million. Homeowners with houses that were plumbed with polybutylene are eligible to receive payment to replumb their homes.... unfortunately, RVs of all types were specifically excluded from the class action lawsuit settlements. The following is excerpted from the class action settlement documentation:

A "Unit" is any real property or structure situated in the United States with PB Plumbing installed between January 1, 1978 and July 31, 1995. A "Type I Unit" is a single-family residence, and each part of a commercial or other structure occupied by a single tenant or tenant group. A "Type II Unit" means a mobile home (exclusive of recreational vehicles, boats and travel trailers).

Here are a couple of web links if you want to do some research on your own:

Consumer Plumbing Recovery Center - 800-356-3496 -
Spencer Class Facility - 800-490-6997 -
General info site for polybutylene plumbing -
Poly site that references Class Action Lawsuit filed by the insurance industry against the poly resin manufacturers: -

Well, now that I've ruined your day, where do we go from here? One good point is that the gray stuff seems to be pretty reliable in the low water pressure environment of an RV. The other good point is that, unlike the plumbing found in houses, the plumbing in RVs is a lot more accessible. Repairs on your polybutylene piping should be done by replacing the old gray stuff with the newer PEX tubing. Qest fittings and the old style brass crimp fittings appear to be compatible with both types of tubing.
(end quote)


PeterH-350LE 03-23-2002 10:39 PM

Interesting article, John.
I don't think you need to be concerned with each and every one of the gray lines, except the ones that are overly bend. However, the T connectors can cause a bad flood. It would be worth the time to closely inspect all the T's, with focus on the ones that are connected to a gray line with a bend. I had one snapped off completely behind the shower and found one more by the waterpump.

83Excella 03-23-2002 11:03 PM

Yes a very enlightning article, that is a new article on is site the site has alot of good info on it too. I'm going to inspect as much plumbing as I can get to before the first trip this year for sure.

John, whos feeling :o at 11pm.

davidz71 04-29-2002 10:55 AM

I ran across similiar info last May when I developed a leak at an L junction possibly due to water freezing inside this L at a low point. I found that Lowe's carried the white tubing which replaced the gray. I eliminated one of the L junctions further down the line because there wasn't a need for it. I haven't had any problems since then. The only other gray line is a piece of straight tubing appx. 5 ' long that goes to the back of my Excella 500 and I keep a close eye on the condition of that one. I too have heard of the many lawsuits after the gray line broke down inside walls. It bears checking your units out if they have any of this type tubing. Thanks.

FreshAir 05-04-2006 02:16 AM

I am finding this thread most informative. I am 2 weeks into the '66 Tradewind I just bought and I am repairing major leaks which appear to be from frozen copper pipes. I trust the PO who said that the last use was last October (05) and all was fine then. I first believed that perhaps that a sudden burst of water pressure when I hooked up my garden hose may have been the reason. A pipe under the kitchen sink, pipe to bathroom sink and a pipe to what appears to be pressure release valve in the wall behind the bathroom closet all were split. Then a previous repair was blown off under the left twin bed. I had a bit of drying out to do. Perhaps the latter was caused by water pressure but the other problems appear to be from freezing. Plus I discovered 2 more past repairs near the toilet in the rear access panel area. I have since purchased a water pressure control for the city water inlet. And of course I need to read up on draining and blowing out the system for winter. The damaged pipe that goes to the suspected pressure release valve also ends with a air nipple which is also leaking. I cannot quite understand that...air nipple on a line with a pressure release valve. Can someone help me understand that?

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