Archive for April, 2011

Showering With Gas.

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Hello, again. In today’s diatribe we take a look at what happens when you have more determination than knowledge, and a vintage Airstream with copper plumbing.

A 1975 Airstream came into the shop with some strange problems, like water running out of the stove, and a shower that issued forth some bad tasting and smelling water.  In the grand tradition of the shop, I won the lottery, and was given the work order to check it out. Initially, I didn’t really see anything obvious, and was considering replacing the LP tanks if they turned out to have water in them, and passing off the smelly shower as an olfactory hallucination of the owner. I did notice the stove didn’t leak water unless the trailer was connected to city water, and decided to dig further. I disconnected the gas line to the stove, and got an immediate bath in water. Lots of water. Like a pipe full of water, and it didn’t smell good, either. Hmm….

I crawled out from under the stove, and turned on the city water into the trailer. I was rewarded by the sound of running water, and pressurized water coming out of the gas line to the stove. I started checking other appliances, and the furnace also had running water. What the?… I then checked the water heater, and got no water from the LP line. Well, that’s good. Umm, I think that’s good. But, why does it not have water running out of the gas line when everything else in the trailer does?  Hmmm… I then checked the shower for odorous water, and sure enough, it smelled like something died in the faucet. Okay, something is screwy here (a blinding glimpse of the obvious). The water smells like the additive they put in LP to make you notice a leak. Uhh… I then started checking both the water and LP lines all through the trailer. Both systems use copper lines. An hour and a half later, I found the copper LP line had been cross-connected to the hot water outlet on the newly replaced water heater. After some intense questioning on my part, the trailer’s owner admitted to replacing the water heater himself, and that both the water line and LP line had not “fit” the way they should. So, he made things fit by using several clamps and connectors to force the two systems to join, even though the LP lines were a slightly different dimension than water lines. In order to fix his repair, I had to remove the water heater and remove the creative plumbing job he had done in combining the two systems (imagine the Three Stooges shower repair), and spend several hours replacing the piping and drying out the LP system. Now, instead of having hot and cold running gas, and trying to cook with cold water, his trailer has a chance of leading a normal life again. Until the owner fixes something else…

About the Author

Lug Wrench is a long-time mechanic, multiple Airstream owner, and dyed-in-the-wool pragmatist. All tales guaranteed 100% true, although names and certain details may be altered to protect the guilty.