Chassis Water System

In ’09 when I went to Alaska, I was on the road for 7 days. During those days, I was on very lonely, lightly traveled roads with a tiny town every 200 miles or so. Not the kind of place you’d want to have a break down. So, I paid a lot of attention to checking my fluid levels before starting out each morning. One thing I noticed right off was that I would need to top off the antifreeze every couple days. I could drive 1200 miles  or so and need half a gallon of water. Hmmm. That’s not right. It’s a closed system, it doesn’t just boil away.

So when I got to Fairbanks and learned where to go in town for service I had a radiator shop thoroughly inspect and pressure check my rad. They couldn’t find a leak. The pressure test held up to their specs. I just learned to live with it. Every once in awhile, I’d top off the overflow bottle with water/antifreeze and away I’d go.

Then in Jan. 2013, in California on my way to my friends wedding in Hawaii, I sprung a leak at the front of the RV just as I was getting close to where I was going to park it for a week. Green antifreeze pouring out all over. I kept it in 2nd gear to keep the RPMs up and keep the engine cool. Travel amounted to 3 miles maybe before I could park it at the shuttle place in Palmdale.

Spent a week in Hawaii, fly back, take the shuttle back to Palmdale and soon was back at my RV. Standing there looking at it, and ruminating about my anti-freeze leak and how I’d limp or tow the RV to the shop, I suddenly realized that, hey, I’ve got stopcocks on my engine! That turn off the water going to the cab heater! I can turn off the freaking water so it can’t leak! Hah! Don’t have to limp up to a shop where I already don’t care for the service manager after talking to him the day before, why didn’t he just tell me about that common feature of diesel RV’s?

So, I jump into my grubbies, climb under the engine and turn off the valve there, then up on top of the engine to turn off the other one. Grab my two gallons of distilled water and a five gallon jug of antifreeze and top off the radiator. Reconnect the batteries, change my clothes, start it up and off I go to Rosamond. No leak, no overheating. I’ll fix that leak when I need heat.

You can see in these pictures how easy it would be to just shut off those valves and be on my way. I did get a little dirty on my shop clothes from crawling under the engine but not a big deal. What was a big deal was saving all that money from not having to have the RV towed 25 miles to a shop I really didn’t want to deal with in the first place…


Since I was heading to Mexico, where it’s warm, I didn’t worry about the leak. When I got there and tested, found out that while water was poured into one of the heater hoses, around 6 feet from where we’re pouring in the water, I see water leaking out. Lots of water. So, yeah, now I knew where the leak was. But I put off fixing it until I found a better spot to work on it.

Months later, it’s getting cold and I’ve no heat. Gah. I’m in Beatty, Nevada parked for a few days so I crawl under the front of the RV and peel the foam insulation off the pipe where in Mexico I’d spotted the leak months before. The insulation was in pretty bad shape. Rotten. Peeled several feet off of the steel pipes it was around in order to access and inspect. And found lots of rust. Got my rotary wire brush under there and cleaned it all up, cut the steel pipe back several inches past where it had rusted through, then went to the local hardware store and bought some new heater hose, clamps, and pipe insulation. Already had some antifreeze and water on hand so didn’t need to buy that.

Initially, I put two hose clamps around the heater hose where it fitted over the steel pipe but when I tested it, there was still a drip every second or so. The original steel pipe had an embossed ring around it to make a better seal to the hose but since I’d had to cut it back due to rust holes, I no longer had that. Added another clamp for a total of three, and no drips. OK. Great. Installed new foam pipe insulation and now have heat back. Cost was around $20.

After this repair, and a few thousand miles further on, I find I’m no longer losing antifreeze. So I guess that pipe had been leaking for years. But only while I was traveling when it was cold and had called for heat would it leak a lot. Usually, with the heater control set off, it would just drip once in awhile. Which is why the disappearing antifreeze issue would get worse then get better. Huh. Interesting.