We’re not fans of thriller movies that scare the bejeebers out of viewers. However, we’ve been suffering a little haunting of our own in the old RV for a few days. It all started when we began readying for our summer tour. When the Arizona monsoon makes the weather unlivable, we move out of the “big house,” and into the travel trailer where we can keep the place cool for a couple of weeks while we tie up loose ends and get ready to travel to cooler climes.
Our little RV is what I like to dub “a project rig.” In the wife’s mind, it’s a never-ending project that constantly throws open new opportunities to expand my repair skills. Lying in bed the first night, our slumbers were disturbed by a periodic “purrummp!” noise. We’d just about get to sleep when that “purrummp!” would punctuate the otherwise stillness of the night.
“You get it!” demands the softer side of our family. The family tech rolls out of bed, mutters words of contempt as his bare feet hit the metal floor heat registers, and paddles into the galley to shut off the water pump. “So what’s leaking?” she asks. “Oh, it’s that dratted city water connection. There’s no check valve on it, and I haven’t been able to tighten down the plug on it. It must be weeping.” Like I felt like doing.
Next day, I attacked the plastic plug that threads into a worn-out brass fitting—neither of which are particularly receptive to a tightening down. If you have one of those old style through-the-wall city water inlets where your drinking water hose “easily” attaches to the side of your RV, you know what a pain they can be, particularly the ones that have a fitting that looks like the faucet end of a garden hose. The knurled part of the brass wears down, and you can’t quite get a tight seal.
Most of these fittings are equipped with a check valve that prevents water from flowing back out of the RV system. Not ours, of course. This is critical when not hooked up to a city water supply, and you flip on the RV water pump. Without a check valve, you can pump out your fresh water tank onto the ground in a hurry. To preclude this on ours, my “check valve” is just a plastic plug that screws onto the fitting to stop the flow. OK, sort of stop the flow.
For the next few days while we waited for the UPS delivery man to bring me a brand-new, fancy, city water inlet with genuine check valve, we ran back and forth, switching on the water pump to flush the toilet, wash hands, water the cat, etc. It was a pain, but at least we weren’t haunted by the spirit of the noise of that water pump, purrummping away.
Installation of a new city water inlet is basically easy. Shut down your water pump, and disconnect the city water hose. Remove the screws that hold the city water fitting in place. Gently pry the fitting loose from the side of the rig. Use a scraper to remove any sealant from the side of the rig. Using the appropriate end wrenches, you’ll simply “un-thread” the old inlet from the supply line. Apply Teflon tape to the threads of the new fitting, screw it into the RV supply line, and tighten it up. Turn on your RV water pump to check for leaks, and when you can sing a refrain of “How Dry I Am,” put a couple of layers of butyl putty tape around the edges of the fixture and mount it in place on the rig with screws.
Having the new inlet in place, I just simply hooked up our city water supply hose, and for a couple of days we seemingly had oceans of fresh water—all without the noise of the RV water pump. That might have been a problem. No water pump—no telltale of water leaks.
Several days later, I was honing up my RV tech skills, checking the torque on my lug nuts after having a new tire and wheel mounted at the local tire shop. Good thing I did—in more than one way. First, I found the lug nuts were practically loose enough to pull off with my fingers. That might be a slight exaggeration, but they were far from spec. As I muttered and grumbled about the lack of competition in tire shops creating sloppy attitudes, I noticed a bit of a wet spot on the ground nearby. “Must be the evaporation from the air conditioner,” says I, hopefully. Nope. Poking around, I found the telltale signs of corruption. The rubber underbelly of the rig had a suspicious sag, and a bit of water in it. Not good!
Further probing led me to the water heater. Nothing was apparent under the outer door. Crawling under the couch inside the rig, sure enough, a small rivulet of water made its way out from under the tank, and down to the rig’s sidewall. Nothing as simple as a bad plumbing connection, the dreaded “inner tank is shot” diagnosis came about. Again while waiting for the UPS deliveryman to bring a new water heater, we survived without hot water. I plugged the water lines running to and from the tank and stopped the leak.
Crawling out from under the couch, I hit the pump switch to check my work. After the initial pressurizing, the water pump shut down, and I was left with a happy smile in the stillness. For a few minutes. Like an evil specter, a muffled “purrummp!” came forth from the rear of the rig. Water pump! I groaned, crawled back under the couch, and rechecked my connections. Dry, dry, dry. “Purrummp!” chirped the water pump.
The water heater being the “farthest out” connection on the plumbing line, I started working back upstream. Galley faucets, bathtub shower control, toilet, bathroom sink, and all the little fittings along the way. It’s no mean feat: While it’s true the RV construction “code” requires you have access to all plumbing lines in the rig, getting at them may require hiring a moving company to clear out closets, and formal training as a contortionist to wiggle into places no self-respecting rat would climb into.
Then I found it. The water pump itself was weeping. Happily I have a backup pump to throw in place until I can get around to rebuilding the offending appliance. Even so, when I lay my head on my little pillow, a slight tremor runs up and down my spine. I keep expecting to be haunted again by that terrible sound of “purrummp!” n
Russ and Tiña De Maris are authors of RV Boondocking Basics—A Guide to Living Without Hookups, which covers a full range of dry camping topics. Visit icanrv.com for more information.