Relief from Dripping

I was doing my pre-camping checks on the trailer and lit the water heater to give it a good test. Then I noticed water dripping from the Relief Valve. Not good.

Some might worry the valve is bad, but I remembered reading somewhere years ago that this can happen when the “air gap” in the tank is gone. The air gap is nothing you can really control, but it’s necessary for proper operation. It allows for water expansion as it heats. Overtime, the gap becomes smaller and water can start leaking out the Relief Valve.

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember exactly how to put the air gap back. I thought I had to drain the tank, which is also a good maintenance practice anyway.

So I set out to drain the tank after it cooled overnight. Access to the drain plug was difficult because of the exhaust


Two 1/4″ bolts was all that holds on the exhaust. Makes getting to the drain much easier.


With the drain plug removed the water started seeping out. This is why you want it to be cool. Not a good time for uncontrolled hot water! I pulled the release on the Relief Valve which let air in the top of the tank and really sped up the draining.


Be sure to add some teflon tape before installing the drain plug. Start it by hand and be careful not to cross-thread or over-tighten it. Refill the tank and check for leaks.


After I did all this work, my seeping Relief Valve was fixed, but as I mentioned, I didn’t need to do all of this work.

All you need to do is, after the water is cool in the tank, open a hot water tap closest to the tank, then pull the lever on the Relief Valve and allow the water to drain from it restoring the air gap.

Oh well, I don’t mind going the extra mile. :-)

Here is the excerpt from the Atwood manual.


• Do not place a valve, plug or reducing coupling on outlet part of pressure-temperature relief valve.
A Pressure Temperature Relief Valve, dripping while the water heater is running, DOES NOT mean it is defective. During normal expansion of water, as it is heated in the closed water system of a recreation vehicle, the Pressure Temperature Relief Valve will sometimes drip. The Atwood water heater tank is designed with an internal air gap at the top of the tank to reduce the possibility of dripping. In time, the expanding water will absorb this air and it must be restored.

1. Turn off main water supply (the pump or water hook up source).
2. Let water cool or let run until cool.
3. Open the hot water faucet closest to the water heater.
4. Pull handle of pressure temperature relief valve straight out and
allow water to flow until it stops.
5. Allow pressure temperature relief valve to snap shut; close faucet;
turn on water supply.
6. Turn on water heater and test.
• At least once a year manually operate pressure-temperature relief valve.
When pressure-temperature relief valve discharges again, repeat above procedure. For a permanent solution, we recommend one of the following:
• Install a pressure relief valve in cold water inlet line to water heater and attach a drain line from valve to outside of coach. Set to relieve at 100-125 PSI.
• Install a diaphragm-type expansion tank in cold water inlet line. Tank should be sized to allow for expansion of approximately 15 oz. of water and pre-charged to a pressure equal to water supply pres- sure. These devices can be obtained from a plumbing contractor or service center.

Airstream Adventures Books


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Teaching children the importance of travel

Article I wrote for Multibrief.  Original article here.


“Kids these days …” Now I’m sounding like my parents — when did that happen? I think it sort of creeps up on you after you’ve been a parent for more than a decade.

As I was saying, kids these days seem to be overly interested in movies, video games and animations devoid of real-life experiences. airstream familyI’ve tried to change that in my children. You see, I’ve been Airstreaming for more than 10 years, almost as long as I’ve been a parent. My daughter’s first camping trip was when she was 6 months old. She may not remember it, but I do.

Like many trailerites, my wife and I have taken our children many places across this great country. Our family trips in our Airstream are much more memorable than the typical Disney vacation most Americans use for a vacation destination.

While we enjoy Disney as much as the next tourist, visiting national parks and historical destinations are valuable experiences. Not just valuable to us, the parents, but also our children.

“Get your kicks on route 66,” wasn’t just a song. It was a deeply-held belief that travel was good. Going places you’ve never been and meeting new people along the way is an enriching experience that can’t be replaced by an app on a smartphone.

I remember as a child being caged in a van with the rest of my family — it was a full-size van; there were no minivans back then. My parents planned a road trip for my two older brothers and me from California to Niagara Falls, N.Y.

We were armed only with our pillows, a four-inch foam dad laid out for a bed and our imaginations. There were no DVD players or iPads then. When we weren’t annoying each other in typical boy fashion, we played road games like “I spy” and the license plate alphabet game.

Dad was a great road-trip planner and loved to stop at every roadside attraction along the way. We would see things like the Petrified Forest and Bedrock City (Google the Flintstones if you’re under 30).

But it was never really about the destination. It was all about the journey. As we racked up mile after mile on the odometer, we racked up memories as well. We grew closer as a family.

I didn’t realize it then, but I learned a lot from ol’ dad. I’ve grown beyond the four-inch foam mattress in a van and graduated to an Airstream, but the principles remain. Having real-life adventures, not just those constrained to a screen, is an important part of life.

My children are blessed to have been able to see Yellowstone, Carlsbad Caverns, Yosemite, Graceland, Daytona Beach and many more places — all from the comforts of our Airstream. I believe they are richer people because of their experiences. Even more important, our family is closer because we experienced these things together.

Travel is good.

About the Author

Tim Shephard is the author and illustrator of the recently-released “Airstream Adventures Series,” aimed at teaching young children about real-life, adventure-filled destinations they can visit. The first book in the series is “Emma and Scotty’s Alien Encounter in Roswell” and is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook and iBook.
Airstream Adventures Books
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A/C drain pan replacement

I think I mentioned on the show that my air conditioner drain pan was cracked.  The cracks caused the trailer to leak when it rained.  At first I thought that I overtightened the a/c mount and cracked it.  Now I’m not so sure.  I think it’s a combination of over tightening and age.  When I removed the a/c, I found even more cracks on the pan.

Dometic Penguin drain pan

Dometic Penguin drain pan

Multiple cracks

Multiple cracks

More cracks

More cracks

This just proves trying to seal the cracks that you can only see from the inside would be useless.  (Yes I tried it ;-) )

Dometic makes a new drain pan that is really just two small cups that you mount right at the a/c drain points.  This system seems to be much more robust.  To do any kind of drain pan replacement, you have to completely remove the a/c.  That means you will need a helper to maneuver the unit.

Drain pan scraped off.

Drain pan scraped off.

And carefully discarded

And carefully discarded

The new drain pan system consists of two cups, connecting tube with a tee, and new gasket material.

To install the drain pan you line up the cups according to the diagram in the instructions.  The drain line passes through the original gasket to the opposite side, so you need to cut out some of the gasket to allow the drain tubes to pass.  Using the included self-tapping screws, you mount the drain cups and seal around where the tube passes through the gasket.  You do not seal where the cups mount because it can act as a back-up drain path if the main tube is plugged.

In the photo you will also notice a new 14″ gasket that gets placed over the original, doubling its thickness.  This is necessary because of the drain cups.   Quite interesting really.

New drain pan system

New drain pan system

Close up of the cup mounted

Close up of the cup mounted

Here is the completed installation of the drain pan.  There are also two gasket strips, 16″ and 10″ that adhere to the rear of the a/c.  These are provided to even out the mounting of the a/c.

You should be able to tell what time I completed the installation by how my shadow is cast on the a/c. :-)

Completed drain pan mount

Completed drain pan mount

Here is the a/c mounted.  You can see it sitting taller because of the new gaskets.  Also noticed the white drain cup clearly visible. Now you know how to tell if a trailer your looking at has a drain pan.

Completed roof installation

Completed roof installation

Here is the drain connection inside the trailer.  I installed this tube during my renovation.  It travels from the a/c opening inside the ceiling and exits through my pantry to below the trailer.    The drain pan system fits a 1/2″ ID tube, which is what I had installed already.  That was nice.

Inside drain connection

Inside drain connection

Overall it was a lot of work.  Took about three hours.  You have to disconnect all the wiring which includes the AC electrical circuit, 12vdc, comfort control wiring, and thermostat wiring.  You also have to lift the 100+ lb a/c and flip it upside down to work on it.

I never really liked the original drain pan.  It seemed brittle to me.  I always had a problem with it leaking because of an original seam that was never sealed from the factory.  I just found that last year.

These new cups are very sturdy plastic, and the simplistic nature makes me think they will last a while.  I ran the a/c for a while, but it never produced enough condensation to check the drain.  I’ll have to wait for more humidity.

Overall I’m pleased with the upgrade and glad that I didn’t have to install the same kind of drain pan.  I’ll be checking it for leaks when it rains, but I feel pretty good with the results.

My a/c is actually a Dometic 15kbtu heat pump model 630516.331.  The new pan for this model is called a Drain System with a part number of 3107688.016.  It works on many different models.

Airstream Adventures Books


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Airstream Adventures: Emma and Scotty’s Alien Encounter in Roswell

bannerAnnouncing my new book!

Airstream Adventures will be a series of books for young kids (and grandkids) to introduce them to Real Places with Real Adventures!  The series will include places we have visited in our Airstream that any reader can visit!

Let’s get children excited about real life adventures!

In Emma and Scotty’s Alien Encounter in Roswell, you follow along with Emma and her little brother Scotty as they travel to Roswell, NM in their Airstream.  They visit the UFO Museum in Roswell and something happens there that will change them forever!

The book is available on Paperback, Kindle, iBook, and Nook.  The ebook versions are $2.99 and the 34-page color paperback has a list price of only $9.99.  Amazon’s price is usually lower than list.

The best way to purchase the book is to buy the paperback from Amazon, which will allow you to receive the kindle version FREE via the Kindle Matchbook program.

For more info visit my website Airstream Adventures Books.

Go right to Amazon’s product page by clicking here.

IMG_3704 IMG_3705

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