Chasing Water Leaks

Keep the water inside the pipes, tanks, and sinks
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Abie Sea
Weekend Camper
Posts: 37
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:29 pm
B190 Year: 1989
Location: Seattle

Chasing Water Leaks

Post by Abie Sea »

I was wondering if any one had a special process for detecting water leaks that are not obvious.
Last year I hooked up a hose up to the outside access on my 1989 B and turned on the water. Immediately there was water coming out under the house apparently in the area under the cabinets making its way down the chassis and across the piping and the waste tank and on to the ground. It was not a small leak similar to the one from the crack in the water pump we experienced in the past. I was not able to detect a source. There was no obvious dampness in the house, or location of flow source that could be detected from underneath. As we were set up for a short stay, I did not want to chase the problem down at the time. I dreaded exploring the problem during the period of the pandemic, and am now planning to prepare for travel. I would like to avoid hooking up water under pressure to avoid letting water loose in the house. By removing all drawers and opening cabinets, and removing outside covers, I have been able to trace all of the fresh water system behind the cabinetry and can not see or feel any obvious breaks or openings. It was interesting to see all of system detail and various valves to allow draining the system for winterizing
I was considering hooking up air under pressure as one thought, perhaps with some smoke to see if I could detect the leak source. Any other ideas or past experience that would help me find the problem. With the volume of water that came out, it should be a significant failure.
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skater
Site Admin
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 1:00 am
B190 Year: 1991
WBCCI: 13270
Location: Annapolis, MD

Re: Chasing Water Leaks

Post by skater »

Air works in theory. For pipes you can see, some soapy water will highlight any leaks as air escapes the lines.

I kind of like to go for the gusto though and use water. I’m a bit of a nut. Using the pump instead of city water is a bit easier to remove pressure when you’re ready - shut off the pump and open a faucet to relieve the pressure. Water is easy to detect - make sure the outsides of the pipe are dry, apply pressure, see where they’re wet. Have paper towels ready.

Another advantage to using the pump is that once you pressurize it, then the pump shouldn’t run. If it cycles on again, good chance you have a leak. (Note that if you run the water heater, as it cools, the pressure can drop enough to kick the pump for a moment.)
1991 Airstream B190 - bought, 2005; sold, 2011; bought 2017
1995 Airstream Excella 30' trailer

WBCCI #13270, Washington, DC Unit
Abie Sea
Weekend Camper
Posts: 37
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:29 pm
B190 Year: 1989
Location: Seattle

Re: Chasing Water Leaks

Post by Abie Sea »

Thanks. I had been in a rut, thinking only how to control water from the hose while looking for a leak and envisioning substantial water clean up issues. I hadn't thought about using the internal system. Someone can stand by the pump switch while I am checking pipes in those tight spaces where they hide them. A little soap in the water might be an added advantage to locate the leak.
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con5
Weekend Camper
Posts: 47
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2020 8:30 pm
B190 Year: 1998
Location: Fort Worth, TX

Re: Chasing Water Leaks

Post by con5 »

In my 1998 there are a bunch of connections under and around the water tank. I had a big leak there when the tank ruptured, which I fixed by replacing the whole unit. I found other leaks at the screw-on connectors for the sinks and toilet after I disconnected and reconnected them (they have rubber gaskets that deteriorated). I think most of the crimped connections and tubing should last the life of the van as long as they don't take freeze damage.

In practice, I never connect directly to city water. If I only use the pump then I always know if there is a leak because it should not be running if nothing is on!
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