RV plumbing is a huge topic. I have several pages dedicated to the subject, but this is your “start here” page for the topic.
RV plumbing repairs are the number one repair that my local repair guy performs. The number of rv plumbing repairs are probably due to many factors. I'll list my theories here why plumbing might be so problematic :
- Traveling in an RV is a bumpy affair.
- RV's mobility causes bumps and vibrations – vibrations loosen fittings
- The longer the trip, the higher probability of a loose fitting. Observe for leaks carefully after a long trip.
- Connecting and un-connecting water pressure causes loosening
- RV's have water pressure turned on and off all the time.
- Water cycling could cause leaks in a water system.
- Watch for water leaks even more diligently after long periods of being without pressure.
- Temperature cycling
- I believe that RV's experience a greater range of temperatures.
- Temperature cycling would cause leaks due to expansion and contraction of rv plumbing fittings. Have you ever seen northern US roads after a cold winter? That is temperature cycling. This is the same with your RV.
- Dry fittings
- If an RV has been in storage for along time, rubber gaskets and washers can lose their ability to be a gasket. They can become dry, hard, and cracked.
- If your RV has been in dry storage for a long time, watch for leaks very carefully when you first attach water pressure
- High water pressure
- Many RV parks can have too high water pressure.
- While RVs are designed to manage water pressure – they have a pressurized system – anything over 30 psi is too high and that pressure can cause leaks in your RV.
Some recommendations I would give to reduce plumbing leaks in an RV
- When leaving the RV for more than 2 days, turn off the water to the RV. This may cause your fittings to get dry, but if you are gone at least it won't spring a leak for 30 days unnoticed and cause a $10K floor repair.
- Whenever you turn off the water, make sure you turn off the hot water heater. Heating an empty hot water heater will cause you buy a new hot water heater.
- Whenever the water is turned off, but you aren't taking off, open a faucet and reduce the pressure in the system.
- When turning water back on to the RV, check all of the fittings to make sure there are no new leaks.
- When you are unsure of the external water pressure, make sure you have an incoming pressure control valve.
Simple procedure for preventing water leaks in an RV
There are several RV events in which you need to practice a little bit of preventative maintenance…
- List of RV events which can cause plumbing problems…
- Turn off water (and of course turn it back on… eventually)
- Freezing weather
- Moving the RV (logically, turning off the water would cover this)
- Receiving your new RV
- After ANY of the above events occur and you put water pressure back on the RV water system you need to do the following 15 minutes of work to save you 1000's of dollars of rv repair bills.
- Hand tighten or snug all of the water fittings. You don't have to be super tight, but just make sure they aren't so loose as to not matter.
- With a flashlight, look at every water fitting after the water pressure has been returned. Look for drips.
Should I have a water filter for the whole RV or just drinking water?
I'm probably getting into some personal preferences here, but here is some of my personal experience.
I will say that we have ran into people that have had extremely sophisticated entire RV water filtration systems – a reverse osmosis system. That was neat, but it seemed a little bit like overkill.
You can purchase small carbon based filters online and at Walmart.
I'll describe those here. They are blue filters about 3-4 inches in diameter and maybe 12-14 inches long. These filters scew into the RV park or campground water supply and then you screw your water hose onto it and you have filtered water for your RV.
After using a whole RV filter that is a simple carbon filter, we do not recommend an that type of filter.
Here are pros and cons to a simple whole RV input line water filter :
- Filtered water is EASY. You just hook it into your incoming supply and you are done.
- I don't see a way to tell when the filter is ‘used up'. So you just have to guess. Since it is outside and you never think about it until that last drink of water before going to bed, then you never do anything about it.
- A filter on the incoming line cuts down the available water pressure in my opinion and limits the flow noticably.
- It is incredibly wasteful of resources (in a small way) to filter the water for the toilet, handwashing, and your shower. So you really don't want/need to do the whole RV. I have heard about people who think they need filtered water for their shower too.
- Your filtered water isn't chilled so you still have to put your water in the fridge to get chilled filtered drinking water.
Sheri and I have ended up purchasing and so far, very much enjoying, a Pur pitcher that filters the water. The water tastes great and its chilled. And our water pressure is much better now.
Here are some more detailed rv plumbing articles and how-to videos
Here are some other articles about plumbing in the RV you might find handy :
- Article on fixing a bathroom sink in an RV.
- Check out the fresh water inlet article.
- Where you fill your fresh water tank – the inlet
- How to page on Fresh water
- Water routing controls from my book The 5th Wheel RV – the Exterior
- RV Plumbing basics article
- Fixing the kitchen sink with fixtures from Lowes
- Typical RV water convenience center
I'm sure there are many other plumbing leak reduction ideas, so please either add comments to this page or contact me.
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