4WD MODIFICATIONS - DIY WORKSHOP
We received an email from one of our OTA contributors, who has suffered flooding in his van, caused by a burst connection between the mains inlet and the pressure reducing valve. Here’s how to avoid that, followed by a drying-out procedure.
Emu Caravan Repairs photo
Another cause of water in vans is river flooding in van parks – an increasingly common problem these days. Yet another cause is crossing deep waterways, but firstly, let’s address the issue of flooding caused by pipe or fitting failures inside vans and campers.
Flooded vans and camper have happened before and will probably happen again. Most of us know that the typical plumbing in vans and campers is not as robust as the stuff used in houses. Nearly all makers use John Guest pipes, hoses and fittings – or those of their imitators – because their easy push-fit connections make pipework assembly a breeze.
John Guest stuff works well, provided assembly is carefully done and the water pressure is regulated.
John Guest’s pressure ratings are in the 80-160psi range and Australian Standard household water pressure is 500kPa (72.5psi), so there should’t be a problem with mains pressure blowing fittings. However, some non-household water pressure levels can be twice that level.
Most caravan parks we’ve visited have weak mains pressure, but not all…
The simple way of avoiding excessive pressure getting though your mains connection is an external pressure reducing valve, of which there are several types.
All vans we’ve inspected have one, but not all are positioned outside the van. In the case of our soggy OTA contributor’s van the mains connection was on the van’s outer skin and the pressure reducing valve was on the inside. The internal connections were the problem.
Because he and his better half were away from the van, it filled up nicely before they came back.
So, find out where your pressure reducing valve is located and, if it’s inside your van or camper, we suggest you buy, or make up, a water filling hose with a pressure reducing valve plumbed into it.
It’s also good camping housekeeping to turn off mains pressure when you’re not in your van. That’s what our resident plumber does. Always.
Some owners go a step further and us the mains supply only for filling their water tanks – disconnecting it when the tanks are topped up – and rely on the van’s 12V pump system for water pressure.
Fitting and joint integrity
What could go wrong
John Guest’s website is at great pains to stress the importance of clean, tidy connections when using its products. It’s common for pipes that have to be pushed through internal openings to get contaminated with dust or grit and that small amount of debris compromises the integrity of the push-fit connection.
Also, a proper pipe-cutting tool is necessary, to ensure an absolute 90-degree cut and to avoid burring or ‘dags’ on the cut ends of pipes or tubes.
John Guest’s burst ratings assume a perfectly cut and scrupulously clean pipe and fittings.
Cleaning up after a flood
Two old parsimonious business guys meet up on a Manhattan street corner and, after exchanging pleasantries, one asks the other about a mutual friend:
“How’s Ikey? I haven’t seen him around for weeks.”
“Oh, didn’t you hear: he had a flood in his factory.”
“No, I didn’t hear that. How did he arrange a flood?”
Yeah, we know that New York Jewish humour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we like it.
Anyhow, you’ve had a flood in your van or camper, so what do you do?
Obviously, you need to empty everything portable out of it and then assess the extent of the damage.
The easiest vans and campers to clean up are those with minimal woodwork or no wood at all. FRP or composite cupboards, dinette seat bases and bed bases don’t soak up water like plywood. Don’t even think about the absorption ability of particle board or MDF!
The hardest vans to clean up are those with aluminium or FRP skins over wooden framing, because water may have ‘wicked’ into the wooden frames as well.
GP Caravan Repairs photo
Many, many vans and campers have wooden floors, regardless of the type of framing or cabinetry. The flooring over the chassis is commonly glued wood ply or composite, with a plastic covering underneath to protect it from water splashed up on wet roads. That plastic covering is normally wrapped up the sides of the van and the upper surface is exposed wood.
Vinyl floor covering is normally laid across the entire floor and then the cabinetry is mounted on top.
The vinyl covering is waterproof on top, but has a soft underlayer that acts like a sponge. So, any water spill has nowhere to go except to the nearest edge, where it can seep between the floor covering and the floor edge. The sponge like underlayer then transports the water across the composite wood floor, soaking the wood.
There is no alternative but to cut out the vinyl from around the fittings, or remove all the internal fittings, to take up the vinyl. Otherwise it will never dry out!
If you suspect that water has crept into the van framing, you’ll need to check that, using an electronic moisture meter. A cheap one from eBay is OK, but don’t get one with pins, because this type is intended to push into exposed wooden surfaces.
The non-pin types monitor moisture level in wood without the need to penetrate it.
While you’re moisture-measuring the floor and all internal and external walls, you might check other places for rain-entry, including around window frames and any items. A spike in the moisture level reading is a sign of possible water ingress.
With the van stripped bare inside, our contributor and his better half took advantage of sunny weather and plugged in the roof-mounted aircon unit, to dry out the interior.
They used white vinegar to kill any mould, followed by bleach to remove the mould stains – bleach does not kill mould. At last contact they were monitoring the interior for any fresh mould outbreaks, before they fitted a new vinyl floor.