RV Plumbing Leak Troubleshooting & Repair – Practically For Free!

TheRVgeeks Plumbing, Repair 27 Comments

We demonstrate lots of RV repairs. This time, we’ll show you how we diagnose and repair a problem, saving ourselves a trip to the shop.

Special Bonus!! We’ll be answering your questions live on the air on The RV Show USA on November 1st! That’s right… we’ll once again be joining our friend Alan Warren “The RV Guy” on his nationally syndicated radio show – the only one about RVing in the country. Our topic this time will be this video and the tips and tricks we use to diagnose and repair things on our own RV.

CALL US LIVE ON THE AIR on The RV Show USA on Wednesday, 11/1/17 — (855) 296-7469. The show starts at 7 pm Central Time, and Alan will be opening up the phones for you to call in at about 7:30 (we’ll be on for the full hour). We’d love to hear your comments or questions!

We’d love to feature your questions! After watching the video, you can submit a question related to it in the comments section below, or on The RV Show USA Facebook page. Alan will then ask us as many of those viewer-submitted questions as we have time for live on the air next Wednesday evening, November 1, 2017.

We’ll be live at 8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific. Visit The RV Show USA website to find out if your local station carries the show. You can also watch the live Facebook feed, broadcast from the show’s studios in Texas (or view it later on).

If you miss the live show on November 1, you can still hear the archived version at any of the following locations:

If you missed us on the October 18th broadcast of The RV Show USA,
you can listen to both of our segments on their podcast here.

This video is a great example of our very favorite type of DIY project. It was fun to sleuth out the problem, surprisingly easy to complete, incredibly inexpensive, and every bit as good (or better!) quality work than a shop would have done. Best of all, we took what could have been a really challenging problem to figure out, and made quick work of it. Talk about the satisfaction of doing the job ourselves… this is the very definition of it! smile

Some problems are actually easier to figure out on our own than by a trained tech. That’s because some things just take a bit of observation, time, research and thought to diagnose. The last thing you want your tech to have to do is take too much time to figure out the problem, since diagnosis time is charged at the same exorbitant hourly rate that the actual repairs go for.

In this particular case, there’s also a good chance that a tech could have gone for a quick, easy, seemingly obvious (but more expensive) fix…. the wrong fix!

Instead, we did the entire job ourselves, for free! The only costs we might have incurred were a replacement part and the special tool to install it. But since we already owned the tool, and had the small, inexpensive replacement part on hand in our parts bin, we literally got the job done for free!

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Check out our Favorite Gear page for all of our favorite RV equipment that we use ourselves and recommend to friends.

We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.

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Comments 27

  1. We have a 2005 Damon Intruder that we just bought. The floor in front of the fridge and kitchen area became wet in the grout lines of the tile. The fridge and water heater are next to the area but we could not see any source under them. When we dump dish water from the kitchen sink, we smell sewer as well. have you heard of any; common causes for water like this?

    1. Post

      Oh boy, A. On the wet grout front… the water could be coming from any number of places. And, in RVs, it can easily be coming from somewhere further away from where you’re seeing it than you’d expect. Leaking pipes or fittings would be the first place we’d start. But since the grout could be wicking water from someplace unseen, be sure to expand your search area beyond where it might seem logical for it to start from.

      As far as the sewer smell, it sounds like you probably have a failed air admittance valve (AAV), probably under the kitchen sink. Check out this video where we explain what they are, what they do, and how easy theY are to replace: https://www.thervgeeks.com/repair/holding-tank-odor-control/

  2. Hi Guys, I have an 07 Ventana, with a tank fill valve issue, where did you find your replacement valve? I also want to replace the valves on the hot water tank bypass as well as the winterizing valves that isolate the lines, so if you know where I can locate these valves it would be appreciated.

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      Hi Bob! Always great to hear from a fellow Newmar owner. Unfortunately we’re sorry to report that last we checked, Newmar did not have those valves available any more, and they’ve ben replaced with a similar, but not identical part. We just happened to have a couple of spares in our spare parts bin, because we removed the water filter under our kitchen sink when we installed our Acuva system. The bypass for that original filter included a couple of the exact same valves, which we’d kept. So it was just a fluke that we had them available for re-use. We’d suggest contacting Newmar’s parts department to see if there’s been any change in availability, and if the replacement part they offer will work for you.

  3. Post

    Hi Kevin! We have indeed used SharkBite connectors before, and they are excellent and reliable. They are however fairly expensive, especially in comparison to PEX crimp rings. And you probably will still need a PEX cutting tool to get it to the correct length/position to install the SharkBite connector. While the PEX crimping tool is fairly expensive, buying one does allow you to have that in your toolbox. That was a plus for us, as we like having it around since the entire RVC’s plumbing system uses PEX. One of the reasons we went with PEX rings was because we generally prefer to put the RVs systems back exactly as they were whenever possible during a repair. That said, if you decide to go with SharkBite products, you can’t go wrong. They’re pretty cool, and work very well.

  4. We have water dripping off the back underside of our Jayco 27.5. We checked for leaks near the water heater, shower, bathroom sink and kitchen sink. The outdoor shower fittings are not leaking. We are hooked to city water. The water on the underside is dripping near the fresh tank area, but there is no water in the tank. Any suggestions for us to continue? We are camping for two months away from home and the camper is less than a year old!

    1. Hi Shirley & Marv! First off, so sorry to hear that you’re having this problem, especially with such a new unit! Tracking down the source of water leaks can be a bear, as the water can flow and follow hoses and wires and show up someplace pretty far from the source. The fact that the fresh water tank is empty, certainly eliminates that from the equation (assuming it’s intentionally empty… and not because all the water has leaked out of it! ?). Simple question… but since you’re on city water, it bears asking… are you using a pressure regulator for your city water connection? Hooking up directly to a spigot could mean that you are over pressurizing your RV’s plumbing system, and the water could be coming out of a fitting somewhere that can’t take the pressure.

      Unfortunately, we don’t have anything more specific to tell you to do other than to try drying things out and seeing if you can find where the source is coming from. Barring that, since your unit is less than a year old, it should still be covered by warranty… so maybe you can find a local Jayco dealer who’d be willing to take a look at it (not that you want to spend time from your camping trip at a dealer, but if they can fix it, it might be worth it!).

      You could also try posting your question in the Jayco Owner’s forum over on iRV2.com ( http://www.irv2.com/forums/f113/ ). It’s free to join, and free to post, and it’s your best bet to find out if there’s a known issue with your particular floorpan/year/model that maybe someone else has already dealt with, so they could give you some more specific direction on where to look!

      Sorry we can’t be of more help, but please keep us in the loop as the repair unfolds.

  5. hi gents, we’ve enjoyed & appreciate your videos, being new owners of our 2002, 43′, newmar mountain aire tag-axle coach !

    when your faulty valve was causing the water pump to cycle due to pressure loss, did you have any water leaking from the faulty valve onto the pvc tray below your water control panel ? we have been hooked up to city water for 2 months (travel working) & recently noticed the coach was dripping onto the ground in several places along our undercarriage, which we had been attributing to the several weeks of on/off rain & standing water causing condensation on the metal undercarriage. to our dismay, when retrieving items in the through-body compartment, we discovered the carpet, and several items in the basement, were saturated, but the slide-out trays & items have always been dry (fortunately).
    to rule out the water problem being caused by a roof leak making its way to the basement due to the rain, we figured a quick test of the plumbing system would be in order. we turned off the city water & turned on the water pump, since we had a full fresh water tank (we bleach cleaned the fresh water tank/plumbing system during our travel, as you recommended) and the pump worked beautifully, but discovered it short-cycled every 20 seconds when there was no water demand … uh oh.
    since our water control compartment is bone dry, there must be something more significant going on. have you notice water leaks being mostly due to valve failures, rather than pex connection failures ? looks like we’ll have to remove the water control panel to investigate for leaks behind it as what we can touch behind the panel seems to be dry. we did remove the peg board concealing the tanks on the curb side of the coach, since it was wet at the bottom, and the top of the water tank & bottoms of grey and black tanks look to be dry, and dusty.

    we have reached out to a locally recommended maintenance fella, but it may take a few days for him to arrive. at least we have the leak controlled if we depressurize the plumbing system when not needed.
    thoughts ? thanks, jeffrey !

    1. Post

      Hi Jeffrey & Kim. Always great to hear from fellow Newmar owners. We’re sorry to hear what you’re going through. Water leaks, whether from outside or from the plumbing system can be really challenging… and damaging. We have had three total experiences with leaks, one of which equates to yours. The other two are the ones we’ve featured in videos, and not the same problem your having. The first was a drainpipe leak, featured here, again not your issue. The second was the leak in this post. But that was an internal leak within the valve, which was allowing water through even when it was closed. Obviously, your issue is more serious in that it’s allowing water to leak out of the system into the RV.

      So… that third leak we’ve dealt with is more like yours. We didn’t do a video about it because it was such a challenge to deal with it that we simply could not be distracted rolling cameras. It went like this… We were working on something under the refrigerator on a project completely unrelated to plumbing. We had the mesh cover off that hides the area under the fridge, and happened to notice a VERY small amount of water on the floor in there. Of course there shouldn’t be ANY water… so we investigated. Since there was so little, and the area is on the wet wall in the shower, it was easy to see that it was coming from the shower. We couldn’t tell if it was the plumbing or the drain yet, but we knew it was the shower. A look under the shower floor (through the round vent hole below it) revealed bone dry conditions…. dusty dry. So not likely the drain or the seals around the shower door.

      We removed the silicone sealant around the shower control, and removed the control so that we could see the hot and cold plumbing connections in the shower wall. Here’s where we discovered a very disturbing reality. The gray plastic fittings that connected the PEX to the shower control were in obvious decay. It’s as if the plastic had been slowly breaking down over the years, simply eroding away. Sure enough, one of those gray fittings had decayed just enough to finally allow a pinhole of water to seep out. It was surely on the verge of becoming a really serious issue, and we were incredibly lucky to have spotted it by chance in its infancy.

      We replaced the plastic fittings with brass ones and have had no problem since. Maybe it was just a defective batch of plastic fittings? Who knows.

      Not that this is your problem, but it does give you an idea that the most likely point of failure in the system is the fittings/connection points. PEX is extremely robust. The only way we can imagine a failure of an actual PEX tube is through abrasion over time. More likely, you have a single bad fitting/connector/elbow somewhere. We say “single” because the odds are that it’s less likely that you happened to spring two leaks at the same time… although possible of course.

      Here’s what we’d do…. you have to sleuth out the source of the leak, obviously. Look for the wettest area. The carpet has almost certainly wicked water all over the place, making it hard to find the source. If you’ve had the water off long enough now for the carpet to dry out, that can help you find the source (if not, let it dry, maybe with the help of a fan or two, which will also stop mold from growing, too). Once its dry, turn the pump back on (using the pump instead of city water will let you confirm how fast water’s leaking by listening for the frequency of the pump cycling). If it’s cycling faster that it was before, your leak is getting worse. That could be a blessing in disguise, since that might help you locate it faster. Based on one cycle every 20 seconds, you already have a pretty substantial leak.

      Once things are as dry as possible, a keen eye kept on the situation (before the water gets wicked all over the place again) can help you pinpoint where the wet is starting from. You need to home in on it. Use a flashlight and a borescope to look into as many crevices as you can (or use other methods of seeing into hidden spaces that we outlined here). Trace along the plumbing lines. Remove panels as needed/possible to follow the lines. Once things are dry down there overall, ANY new water will help lead you to the source of the leak.

      Hopefully you can not only find it, but access it. Those are the two challenges of course, in that order. If you can sleuth out where it’s coming from, and it’s accessible, the third step… the repair… is the easy part, as long as you can get to it. Best of luck, and please let us know how you make out.

  6. Hi Guys,

    As always this is another great video!
    I would like to know what tools you have in your assortment of tools. In the Favorite RV Gear page, there is a “Tools” link. Besides the usual assortment of wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, do these tools represent the additional tools you carry?
    Also in the page there is a Locking Oil Filter pliers. Have you ever considered a strap wrench? They fit a very wide range of diameters. Good for taking off oil filters, water filters, pipes or anything round. The best kind to buy is the nylon strap type because of the strength of the nylon. However sometimes the nylon can slip. I went to my local bike store and got a discarded bicycle inner tube, cut off a small section and threaded the nylon strap through it. The rubber has provided a sticky grip on slippery items. Here’s a link to a typical strap wrench:

    1. Post

      Hi Allan! Thanks for the nice note. We do have a lot of miscellaneous tools that see a lot less use, so most of the more obscure ones haven’t make it onto our favorite gear page yet. We do have two strap wrenches (large & small), similar to the type you mentioned, except they’re rubber instead of nylon. They’re still very strong, and they work great for anything other than the most extreme situation. The only time the large one failed to do the job was removing our air dryer, which was stuck on like a rock! They’re similar to this one: http://amzn.to/2zYNBTp We don’t use the large one very often (we have a dedicated oil filter wrench for that purpose), and we keep the smaller one in the kitchen for opening jars. ;-)

  7. The next time the valve leaks, and I suspect it will, try cleaning out the valve. Do this by hooking to a fresh water supply and then opening and closing the valve a few times over and over again. This will clean out any debris that has gotten in the valve. It happens a lot. Yes, your valve may have been bad but I doubt it.

    1. Post

      We did just that, but it didn’t fix the problem, which is why we didn’t show it in the video. Although debris in the line probably less likely for those of us using a whole-house sediment filter, we appreciate your pointing out that it could happen.

        1. Post

          Got it! We specifically avoid using a carbon filter (using only a sediment filter) on the whole-house, as we don’t want to remove any chlorine from the water that goes into the fresh tank, to help protect it from bacteria while it’s in there. We only use carbon filters at the kitchen sink dispenser and ice maker to remove chlorine as we actually use the water (and improve taste, too). :)

  8. Ahhhh…being the son of a plumber and watching this clip brought back the days I worked helping my dad as he was doing his trade. Had has gone now to the big water faucet in the sky ( seems he could never fix those clouds from leaking) but dad would have said to you two men..”” fantastic job and good thinking on the problem. Well done ..time for a brewskis ! What you folks just accomplished for your viewing community is to give them a wealth of true and accurate info on how to take care of business with out going to bank! Your step by step instruction was very good as was the how to film! Just remember a plumber is not just someone picking plums folks! Good job but the guy who wanted the drink..woah dude you are soooo bad….ha!

    1. Post

      Thanks so much! We appreciate your comments very much, especially coming from someone who grew up watching a professional in action. Thanks for taking the time. Your Dad raised you right. Now time for us to have that drink! :)

  9. How amazing is your timing! I have the very same snag – cycling water pump and fresh tank filling when on city supply.

    The only difference is that my water selector rotates 360°.
    Pointing up is: “Auto Tank Fill & Auto City Supply”
    Pointing right is: “City Supply (Auto Override)”
    Pointing down is: “Manual Tank Fill (Auto Override)”
    Pointing left is: blank.

    When I move the selector to the up position there is a recurring sound like a small hammer drill while the tank is filling- but it’s not the water pump and I’m thinking perhaps it’s a two way proportioning valve rapidly moving? I do not have a water system schematic for my coach.

    Normal ops when parked at source of ‘city water’ is to select the valve pointing right.

    I use the down selection to fill the tanks when going on a boondocking trip. (Or leaving BC for any trip.)

    Two months ago the water pump began cycling every 10 seconds. Because my selector valve is hard to get at I decided to try changing out the water pump – and first I thought I had solved the problem but after waiting about three minutes it cycled on for about 1.5 seconds.

    Now I think that my problem was two fold. One, the water pump did not hold pressure and, two, I did not have the valve pointing directly to the right. There is no gate to indicate the proper stop so perhaps I have a bit of flow to the “Manual tank fill (Auto Override)” selection when I was going for “City Supply (Auto Override)”.

    But a week ago we arrived in Coachella and I was careful to have the selector pointing to “City Supply (Auto Override)”. The fresh water tank is still slowly filling up (in 9 days filled up 90 gallons). If I turn the selector to the left (blank) and use the water pump it does not cycle.

    So I’m thinking that my selector valve has developed a slow leak. My next step is to source a three way selector valve and buy the PEX gear.

    Appreciate your videos and let me say that I’m VERY impressed how clean everything is behind the water panel.

    1. Update: I may be lucky and be able to replace a cartridge, not the whole valve. Stand by for further.

      (Is there a way to edit a post?)

      1. Post

        That would be great (and likely a lot easier than replacing the whole valve)! Will stay tuned!

        (and no, sorry… there’s no way to edit an existing comment/post)

    2. Post

      Hi John! When we ordered our Mountain Aire in 2005, we made quite a few customization requests. One of them was to include the auto-tank-fill option, which was only available on the Essex (the only model above a Mtn Aire at the time). While Newmar was very good about customizing, including unique work that was not on any options list (like building our bathroom sink counter to kitchen counter height… one of the best decisions we ever made!), they had a policy of not allowing options from higher-level models onto lower-level models. I guess they figured if you wanted to have uniquely Essex gear, you should buy an Essex. They just wanted certain exclusive features exclusive. We get it. So we tried to get the auto-fill feature, but couldn’t.

      Based on everything you’re describing, we think you’re right about the valve being the issue, but have you called Newmar Service yet? We’re sure you already know this, but they are absolutely fantastic. We’ve called to get assistance/input so many times, we couldn’t count them. All we do is give them our 6-digit coach number, and they have every part in our rig at their fingertips. Again, we’re sure you already know this, but if you haven’t done so already, we’d call to bounce your symptoms off them, and see if they have any other thoughts.

      We went to get a replacement valve (this was before we did the Acuva installation, so we didn’t have any spares yet). We found that that valve was discontinued, so we bought a suitable, but different, replacement at Home Depot. We were spared from having to use it when we removed our old under-counter carbon filter to make way for the Acuva a short time later, recouping 3 of those valves in the process. But you may be in a similar situation…. valve discontinued. If so, there may be a substitute part specified now. Again, we’d call Newmar service.

      Also, if you don’t already know about ComNet, that’s Newmar’s parts system. You can provide your coach info, and identify parts for your rig right there: https://comnet2.newmarcorp.com/instance1/servlet/WebDispatcher?mode=logon&env=Env99&user=retail&psswd=retail

      At the top of the page, where it says “Search Catalog” either enter your 6-digit Newmar coach number, followed by the letters CS, OR enter the last 7 digits of your chassis VIN number, then press GO. That will give you a link to YOUR coach. The system then knows exactly which parts YOUR rig has on it. Then you can drill down to all the available parts. Sorry if we’re telling you something you already know about.

      1. Too bad the Newmar sales team could not accommodate your auto-tank-fill option but, as you point out, it is understandable.

        Good tips and yes, I had checked the Newmar site.

        I could not find the part on ComNet so sent them an email. Got back a bit of of a shock “THAT IS PART 72189 AND THE COST IS $283.33”. That’s when I sent the mfgr an email to see if (a) they have that valve in stock, (b) if it has a cartridge kit and (c) if they sell to consumers.

        I’ll take more photos when I do the repair but it looks like I can unbolt the valve and there is enough hose slack that I can pull it all down and work without bending under the ‘water distribution wall’. Also – the four hoses going into/out of the valve are attached to threaded connectors. On the other hand, if there IS a cartridge then it will be a two minute job.

        1. Post

          $283.33?!?! What kind of highway robbery is that?! We recently needed two proximity switches for two of our slide-out lock arms (basically little magnetic switches), and we thought it was ridiculous that Newmar charged us about 90 bucks for the pair. But the kind of $ they’re quoting you is absurd. Let us know how you make out with alternate sources or options.

    1. Post

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