The shower mystery, revealed!

We have been chugging along merrily. Going here and there, having lots of fun, visiting family, seeing new things, meeting new people, enjoying our new life in Charlie. All the while blissfully unaware of a problem in Charlie’s construction that would cause us to feel like lobsters before long.

Somewhere around Washington DC or when we were visiting Gregory in Georgia, the showers started getting very hot. We could not turn down the hot water enough or turn up the cold water sufficiently to make it comfortable. We went like this for a couple of weeks, knowing that we were headed to Red Bay (where Tiffins are born) to get some warranty service done. We figured we could deal with it until then. However, it soon got so bad that we were turning off the water heater to try and let the hot water cool down enough not to get parboiled every morning. This did not work that well, but we dealt with it.

As we were traveling, I started researching the hot water heater on our rig thinking perhaps I could adjust the water temperature. I looked up the model number and found that no adjustment was possible. I did not, however, check our water temperature against what was within the specified range of temperature for our water heater. Had I done so, I could have saved us some excitement.

This was mistake number one.

If I had checked our water temperature, I would have found that the water temperature from our hot water heater was right where it should be according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Knowing this then I would have known that the problem was NOT with the thermostat.

When we got to Red Bay, we mentioned that we thought the thermostat was not working correctly.

This was mistake number two.

Norris, the man who greeted us the morning after we pulled in to go over our list, said that there was likely nothing to be done about the thermostat. Because I had framed the issue as having to do with the thermostat instead of the water being too hot in the shower, that was it. I took all their problem-solving responsibility out of the equation. I should have said, “the water is too hot in the shower, please fix it.

When we finally got into an express bay (we did not have two weeks to wait for a full-service bay this trip), the techs there said the same thing. I let it go then because I did not think replacing a thermostat was a big deal that I could not do on my own, and I wanted them to take care of some other items more.

We got our work done and left Red Bay the last Saturday in September. The plan was to be in Oklahoma City the next day (Sunday) so that I could be ready to work on Monday. We did this and got a spot in Twin Fountains RV Park in OKC for October and spent early Sunday afternoon getting settled in. Getting cleaned up after setting up Charlie, I was boiling in the shower when it occurred to me to turn the hot water all the way off to see if any cold water was coming out at all.

It wasn’t.

Sweet! The relatively simple problem of replacing the thermostat was now something much more involved and complicated. Also, we were now two days and about $300 in gas away from Red Bay. The cherry on top was we had just paid for the month at Twin Fountains!

At first, I thought it might be the faucet, so after a couple of YouTube videos I opened up the little access door that had to that point never been opened, and unhooked the hoses from the back of the shower faucet (after turning off the water and letting all the pressure out of the system of course).


The little door which to this point had never been opened.

We were at our second hardware store, trying to find a faucet that would work in our shower when I discovered that the problem was not with the faucet. The highly scientific diagnostic test I used to determine this was to blow into the cold water inlet of the valve. Mireille laughed and shook her head as water suddenly shot out all over my shirt. From this, I brilliantly deduced that the problem had to be somewhere in the cold water line to the shower. Change of plans, instead of a new faucet, I got a couple of hose plugs that would fit into the water lines back at the RV, so that we could have running water everywhere else while we continued our diagnosis to see where the problem might be.


The plugged hoses in the shower.

Facebook and IRV2 can be very helpful. There are lots of people willing to try and help you figure out any problem. However, at times, asking for help with a problem can get you far more bad information than good, just because people want to help and offer up all sorts of possible scenarios that may or may not be helpful, depending on how much of your question they actually read. This was my dilemma this time. Lots of people offered lots of suggestions, but most of them were not as helpful as I am sure they hoped. Never the less, I checked a lot of stuff, valves in the wet bay, the plumbing under the bathroom sink and so on.

When Monday rolled around, as soon as I got a break from work meetings I called the service line at Red Bay and talked to an accommodating gentleman. I explained our problem, and he asked me some questions as he looked at the plumbing schematic on his computer. The water to the shower in a 2018 34PA is a dedicated line from the manifold behind the “control wall” of the wet bay to the faucet in the shower. He said it must be kinked somewhere but could not give me a lot of other direction. I asked for a copy of the plumbing schematic, and he sent it to me. Download PDF.

water schematic 2018 34PA

The schematic of the plumbing for our 2018 34P. The actual PDF file is linked in case it may help you.

At first, I thought maybe I could disconnect the other end of the line at the manifold and pull the hose back through after having tied or connected a replacement line to the shower end of the faulty cold water line. However since I had no idea how that stuff was all put in there, I was afraid of trying. I am good at fixing things, I have had a lot of practice. Most things I fix ultimately turn out well, after the second or third time I fix my fixes…or after the repairman leaves. This time I decided to cut out the middle-man, me, and jump to the end and just call a repairman at the start.

IMG_20181001_093638-1.jpg
Me trying to get eyes on the manifold. The hoses are labeled but do not count on these labels staying on. They are only paper. The hose to the shower is the one on the right.

The people at the desk of Twin Fountains told me about Orel of Twin Fountains RV Service. Orel lives in the park, they recommended him highly and said I should call. I did, and he came right over. I explained the problem, and he started looking into it right away. He was a friendly guy and didn’t mind me sticking close and watching what he was doing.


Here you can see how Orel has hooked up water to the cold water line, trying to force water through to clear the plug. This failed.

He tried several things attempting to diagnose the problem including trying to force water through and then blowing high-pressure air through the hose but to no avail. Before long Orel determined that the problem may be beyond him, and rather than trying to just muscle through he called another RV serviceman to come to help him with a second opinion. Between the two of them, they took out a big metal panel in the top of the storage bay in front of the wet bay and were able to get access to the hose and found the problem.


Here you can see both of the guys taking out the metal panel across the roof of this bay.

Here you can see the cold water manifold is down. They did this to make working with the hose at this end easier.

Somehow, when Charlie got built, a small bit of the cold shower hose got looped so that it was caught between the top of the metal “foundation” of the house and the bottom of the wall. The hose is semi-rigid, so water was able to come through at first. But over time, bumpy roads (especially those south of Chicago and into Indiana), and using the washing machine, I guess the wall settled finally pinching off the hose completely.


The metal roof plate is out. You can see the heater hose from the furnace to the wet bay hanging down.
The cold water line where it was pinched.

The crushed piece of the cold water line.

Once they found that everyone did a little happy dance and they quickly cut out the offending piece and spliced a new section of hose into the line. Before long everything was put back together, and Orel even replaced the expanding foam insulation they had needed to remove with fiberglass insulation since the heater hose into the wet bay came through the same passage as the water hose had run through.

Altogether the damage was $484.31, and I was happy to pay it. The guys did a good job which I would never have attempted, and I learned some about how the water and the wet bay worked. I knew I was going to call Tiffen to ask them to pay for the work, but if they had decided not to I still figured I was ahead, since as I said it was at least $300 in fuel to get back to Red Bay and we had already paid for the month where we were.

As soon as everything was put back and buttoned up, I put the shower faucet back on and checked for leaks. I kept going back and looking for a few days since Orel had told me that it was possible that the work they had done might have caused a leak elsewhere. I even bought an inexpensive borescope from Amazon so that I could run it under the shower, down behind the shower, or anywhere else I needed to for that matter, to check for leaks or whatever. I am satisfied now that we are dry, but I will keep an eye out all the same.

As to Tiffin. I called them the next day and spoke with the man I had before and told him what had happened. I said I had pictures of everything and receipts and told him what the total was. He said to send these to him, and he would send us back a check, and he did precisely that. No hassle, no questions, just fixed. I love that!

I know we will have more issues down the road. To paraphrase Erma Bombeck, “life isn’t always a bowl of cherries, sometimes it’s the pits!”

We had problems when we owned a sticks and bricks house as well. But in my experience, and not just in our short time traveling with Charlie, people are helpful, few problems are insurmountable, and it’s overcoming stuff like this that leaves us with good stories later on.

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