Friday, October 23, 2015

A Leak on the Camco Camper Drain Trap, the ZebraRV Check Valve, and More!

Our progress in getting things done in the house got side-tracked for a few days by persistent leaks in the plumbing. The first obvious leak was under the sink, and although it was a simple fix, I just didn't have time to deal with it up north, so we avoided using the sink.

When we got home, that was the first thing that was tackled. I had read the reviews of the Camco Camper Drain Trap on Amazon, and noticed several reports of leaks, but since no one else makes anything like it, and it was ideal for my use, I felt I had no choice.

The Camco Camper Drain Trap saga...

First, a few observations...this unit is designed to take the place of ALL nuts and washers that are on the bottom of the sink basket that normally holds the basket to the well as the normal "P" or "S" trap normally found under household sinks.  The inside threads are very deep, and it comes with a rubber gasket to go against the bottom of the sink. It should not leak around the rim of the basket, even if no plumber's putty is used around the rim inside the sink...but I always like to add it anyway, about a half-inch diameter bead around the lip of the basket before it is set into the hole. The excess squishes out when the basket is tightened down.

The other place that I thought "might" leak, was at the flexible black hose that comes attached to the Camco Drain Trap. It's simply pushed on over a barbed fitting, with no clamp on it. However, neither of those two places was where it leaked!

After removing the Camco Camper Drain Trap, I noticed a water spot around the edge of it, where the two halves of the body come together. Also, the gap in the joint appeared to be slightly wider at that point. I proceeded to remove the two screws holding the two halves together, and saw that whoever assembled this thing at the factory had tried to put it together without lubrication, and had pinched the o-ring gasket in the edge of it!

I debated about whether to try to locate another o-ring, but it didn't appear to be hurt that badly. I had some plumber's grease on hand, so I lubricated the o-ring, and cleaned up the grooves in the two halves of the body before attempting to reassemble it.

The Camco Camper Drain Trap opened up.

Notice in the photo, the black ring around the edge of the body half on the left, and the groove around the edge of the other half. All it took was lubricating the o-ring and fitting the halves together carefully, while rotating against each other, and it popped into place properly. They should have been using a lubricant at the factory to assemble these things.

The rubber gasket between the trap and the basket assures that water can't escape, either from the basket itself, or around any threads, so you don't have to do anything else, other than to make sure the barbed fitting is facing the direction you want before tightening the trap to the sink basket.

While I had the opportunity, I also added an aviation strap to the barbed fitting after getting the drain tube pushed back in place.

Now we have no more leak...from "that" source. I wish I could say the same for other areas!

My own error saga...

Before we left on the trip up north, I tested the pump and fittings, and found nothing. But when we got back, and hooked up the water to the outside hookup, we had water on the floor by the next morning! We shut the hose off and bled the pressure at the faucet immediately!

After emptying out the cabinet above the water pump, and removing the access floor, we could see that the compartment was wet.

The pump compartment with the cabinet floor removed.

But upon further investigation, it appeared that the water was coming from the compartment next door, behind the left pantry. I determined this by feeling along the underside of the tubing in the top right of the photo. That was well above the water level in the compartment and had to have run downhill. So out came the pantry, also. Then, with a flashlight, I could see a drop of water beading up on the bottom of the lowest fitting.

See the bead of water on the lower left corner of the fitting?

It seems that two things contributed to this blunder on my part. (1) I had only checked for leaks with the water pump on...not with city water pressure. Even though the pump is rated at 35 PSI, city water can have much higher pressure, even with a regulator on the water hose. And (2), I did not leave the pump on long enough for the small leak to show up. The continual pressure of the city water being applied to it, forced it to show up. I should have known better, but that's what happens when you are pressed for time, and get in a hurry.

So...I went over all the compression fittings again, and sure enough, they were not as tight as they should have been. We reapplied the water pressure, and everything was fine...or so we thought. We put a fan in the compartment for the rest of the day and dried it out as much as we could, even spraying it with Lysol to deter any mildew growth. No leak was evident at the end of the day.

The next day, we still had a little water at the base of the cabinet, but we thought it was just seepage from trapped areas under the cabinet. The next day, it appeared again!

The ZebraRV check valve saga...

So out came the contents for the third time, and this time, we dried everything thoroughly with paper towels, and then set a dry butter tub lid with a paper towel on it under the check valve next to the pump. You can see it in the photo of the open compartment above. It's the little white tube-type fitting just above the pump. Sure enough, a few seconds later, I watched as a bead of water started to the middle of the check valve at one of the seams in the body of it!

I bought this check valve on Amazon, only because it was the right size for the tubing fittings. I saw a name on it...ZebraRV(dot com). So I looked them up to see if I could get a warranty replacement shipped to me by First Class Mail, and I emailed them. Their web site isn't even finished, after at least five years, as I saw many pages where products should be that still had the "lorem epsilom" verbiage on it as place holders. That didn't impress me, and I'm sure it doesn't impress other potential customers. But that's only my own humble opinion, as they say. That was a Sunday, and first thing Monday morning, they sent me a reply.

At first, they claimed they don't sell on Amazon, and didn't know of any of their dealers that did. So I sent them screen shots of both the Amazon listing as well as my own order details. The picture on Amazon, however, shows a label on the part from J & C Water Systems, while the one I received was with a ZebraRV label on it.

My contact at ZebraRV then said that J & C Water Systems had gone out of business five years ago, and they refused to acknowledge that they had anything to do with the listing, and they still refused to offer a warranty replacement, even though it was obviously THEIR part!

So I researched J & C Water Systems on my own, and web information (listings on Google) told me that it had been "sold" in 2010...but said nothing about going out of business or to whom it was sold. So I called the only number that was shown, and it was answered by someone at Elkhart RV Salvage, the company whose family had sold J & C in 2010!

In fact, I am very familiar with Elkhart RV Salvage, as they have been a regular source for my projects since long before we moved from the Elkhart area! We had actually stopped there again two years ago when we were in the area! I have met the former owner (now deceased) and it appears his son now owns the company. He was the one who used to own J & C Water Systems and sold it off!

They have always been very good to deal with and knowledgeable about the products they sell. When I questioned about the details of the sale, I was handed off to another lady (obviously much more knowledgeable), and was told that it was ZebraRV who had bought J & C, along with all the molds, tooling and rights to the name and products! Obviously they have nothing to do with what ZebraRV does these days and I'm sure, had they still owned the company that made the part, they would have had no problem with replacing it. They have always been very forthcoming and all businesses should be!

When I confronted ZebraRV with the facts, I told them that they were obviously hiding facts from me, and that if they didn't know the history of their own company, they should have someone higher up (that DID know), get back to me! I'm not used to dealing with people who don't know the facts (or try to hide them) and can't make decisions!

The same person replied, arguing that if I bought a Ford, that I wouldn't take it back to Dearborn to get warranty service...I would go to a dealer! What a cop-out! We aren't talking about multi-thousand-dollar automobiles here! We're talking about a small part that costs less than $20 retail, that could be grabbed from a warehouse or from an assembly line and thrown into a First Class padded envelope...just for the goodwill such an action would bring!

I have dealt with MANY other reputable companies who would be happy to replace a defective part, just to retain a good reputation...regardless of who sold it! And as far as Ford, I know that if there is a warranty issue that can't be solved by a dealer, they have factory reps who will step in and make a decision to replace a defective car with a brand new one if necessary! Other companies (often much smaller) will gladly replace a defective part, without question!

And besides, how can I take it back to the "dealer" when ZebraRV has already told me that J & C Water Systems doesn't exist (even though they know darned good and well that they bought it themselves), and yet someone, ("the dealer"), who is selling this part on Amazon, replaced the J & C part with one with ZebraRV's name on it? How did they get it, if they aren't a dealer? No one in their right mind is going to buy parts at retail cost to turn around and sell them on Amazon at a discounted price!

Amazon isn't the "dealer"! They are only listing the part FOR a dealer, that supposedly doesn't exist (according to ZebraRV)! They aren't any different than eBay in that regard! Someone may have sent a shipment of parts to sell through FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) but Amazon is still not the dealer for those parts! So who is fooling who, here? The only way those parts got on Amazon, is if someone at ZebraRV (authorized to do so or not) is listing them there! Maybe they'd better find out what their employees are up to, since they still won't openly admit that they bought out another company to get these parts!

But the whole point, is that it is obviously ZebraRV's part, and yet they absolutely refuse to warranty their defective part! It would cost them less than the retail value of the part to simply grab one from their warehouse (at their cost, which is probably less than 50% of retail value) and add First Class Mail costs to it! They've wasted more labor time than that in answering my emails and arguing about it! Whether they are legally right in their decision or not, the readers here can make their own determination as to their ethics, but as for me, I will not be buying anything they make...EVER again!

If they want to argue about the honesty of this post, they can take it to a judge and see what he thinks of how they treat their end customers! I have copies of all the correspondence to back up my complaint, plus the part with their name on it!

And rather than argue with Amazon about making it right, the cost of the item isn't worth my time. I went to our local plumbing supply shop, and spent 2-1/2 times more money for a brass-bodied check valve, with replaceable valves in it! (Also American made, by the way.) Sometimes cheap plastic RV parts that are built for the original manufacturers are built so cheap they aren't worth messing with! And now that I know what I'm looking for in regard to check valves, I wouldn't buy an RV that uses that brand!

The faulty ZebraRV plastic check valve above, and the new Watts brass check valve below.

The only issue with the new brass valve was the size, but I had plenty of space for it. But I had to buy a couple of reducer bushings to get from 3/4-inch down to 3/8-inch to match my fittings. I would have rather had brass bushings, but all the supply house had was galvanized, so that's what I went with. I probably could have found a smaller brass valve if I had the luxury of time in searching, but this is what I found at our local supply house, and it works. Problem solved.

So now that the fittings are tightened and the leaking plastic check valve has been replaced, everything has remained dry for that past few days, AND with city water pressure applied the entire time.

At last...success!

What else we have been dealing with...

Now on to other topics...for the past few weeks we have gradually been going through our desks and filing cabinets...something that was long overdue. We don't have a commercial document shredding service anywhere close, so we have to crunch and burn our paperwork. In the photos below, you can see Sharon lighting on fire the last of about eight piles this size. This came from a 55-gallon contractor trash bag that we refilled that many times!

Sharon setting fire to the last of eight bags of crunched paperwork this size!
It made quite a bonfire, although short-lived!

I also had time to do a little wood working. I cut out the plywood base that our Bivouac Buddy shower enclosure will set on...inside the trailer! I have described this in previous posts, but this will give you a better idea of what our "emergency on-board" shower will be like.

The platform for our interior Bivouac Buddy shower enclosure.

Here's the plan...under the plywood will be some 2 x 2 supports to raise the top of the plywood to 2 inches off the floor. That's the height of the aluminum pan that you see. The base of the Bivouac Buddy shower enclosure that will set on top of the plywood has a drain in it near the edge that will be located directly over the shower pan. On the outside of the shower enclosure is the other half of the pan, and the pump that you see above. This is a commercial duty condensate pump, normally used to pump out air conditioning condensate water from places where it can't drain away, such as in basements. I will cut a hole in the side of the tub on the pump to allow water to enter sideways, from the pan. (They normally have a hose going in the top, where the red plug is located.)

Just to the lower left of the red plug in the photo, you'll notice a barbed fitting sticking up. This is where the clear Polyvinyl hose will be attached that will carry the waste shower water up to the kitchen sink, where we then have a choice as to let it drain outside, or direct it back to the on-board gray water storage tank. I have a fitting that will go on the end of it to weight it down, so water pressure doesn't push it out of the sink or spray water all over when the pump kicks in.

These pumps have their own float switch inside the tub, so they remain off until the water level in the tub gets high enough. Then it will turn on long enough to pump the water back down. During a shower, it will do this several times, as it needs to. All we have to do is set the pump in the pan, put the end of the hose in the sink and plug it in.

We also have a special shower wand with a shut-off on the handle. It will attach to the kitchen faucet in place of the aerator presently in place. The hot water will be supplied by a Zodi brand portable camp shower that will set outside the trailer by the water hookup. The temperature of the water can be regulated both on the Zodi unit and by the introduction of some cold water (if necessary) from the trailer's water tank.

The Zodi unit is also capable of pumping it's own water out of any container (the case for it serves as a sump, also), or it can be attached to a water hose. In our case, we most likely will only use it when boondocking, and in our case, we can pump out of the secondary Hydroller that we keep in the van as a spare. It holds eight gallons...more than enough for two showers. The outgoing side of the Zodi unit will attach to the city water connection on the trailer, and pump straight into the hot water faucet on the sink, already at the right temperature for a shower. It is also a "demand" type unit, so when the water stops, the pump and heater stop. It uses propane only when actually heating the running water, and it runs off the one-pound propane bottles.

If there is no water available nearby, we will take the second Hydroller with us to refill it when we leave camp, so we will always have an extra eight gallons of water with us (in addition to the on-board Hydroller and any bottled drinking water we may use).

And in case you think otherwise, each of the last two (8-gal.) containers of water that we have gone through has lasted us more than 2-1/2 weeks, and we could even do better if we tried!

In the next few posts, and until we get on the road again, I'll be talking and showing our vehicle loading progress, and also giving some reviews of some of the products we have been using recently, including the WeBoost 4G-S cell phone booster we have been forced to use here, the 1000 amp-hour Stanley jump starter that has been extremely useful on more than one occasion, the new induction cooktop, and maybe a few other things. We have (arriving today) a Mr. Heater Big Buddy propane catalytic heater with carrying case, so if we have a chance to use it before we leave here, I'll report on that, too.

As soon as we can get on the road again, we'll get away from the building and product reviews and get back to more travel stories. Thanks for reading, and as always, relevant comments are welcome.


John Abert said...

For further clarification on the ZebraRV issue, they suggested I go back through Amazon to get satisfaction on this issue...but I can't. The deadline for returns was August 20th. The item was purchased July 17th along with a bunch of other plumbing items, so I would have everything together whenever I started working on the project. With various delays and so much going on, I didn't even get the check valve installed until early September, and then never had a chance to check it with city water pressure applied constantly until we returned from Indiana in early October. That was when the leak became apparent.

The companies that provide such parts, whether it be the manufacturer or Amazon, should not expect everything that they sell to be installed and tested immediately upon delivery! Thirty days is not enough time to evaluate whether the product is good if it isn't even put into use during that time! Unfortunately, they have no way of determining when it was put into use, so they have to set an arbitrary return policy, which literally means nothing other then visual inspection to make sure it's the right product. In use, the product can often fail long after their 30-day policy has expired, as in this case.

Still, it should be the responsibility of any manufacturer to replace such parts when the offer is made to return it for their own inspection, so that they can determine where the fault lies, and correct it in their manufacturing process. Such knowledge to them should be worth far more than the piddly cost of sending the customer a new item! After all, if the problem persists, and they get even more customer complaints, it could cost them the future of their own company!

The fact that ZebraRV has no interest in finding out what went wrong with their own part is confirmation that their parts are made so cheap that they really don't care, and will take their chances on manufacturing bad ones which they don't intend to warranty when they go bad! So therefore, my original statements in this post stand as written. If they should decide to use common sense and correct the error of their ways, I will write another comment to update the situation. As far as I am concerned, their failure to replace the part has done nothing but cost me money, the value of which is a moot point compared tot he amount of time I have already wasted on trying to correct a situation that originates with a tightwad mentality of operating on such a tight budget that they can't afford to replace a part that would have cost them less than $10 (at their cost) plus postage to get it to me. A company with these kinds of policies that are against normal consideration to proper customer service and simply "doing the right thing" can't be trusted!

If there is no update after this, then the issue is dead and forgotten.

John Abert said...

Update:10.24.15: I received this from the contact at ZebraRV this morning, and it explains what he has done, and what Amazon's reaction is: I had to edit it down due to number of characters allowed)

"...First, a search of Amazon revealed that they are selling about half of the items that we manufacture!

They are doing this completely without our permission or knowledge, and there seem to be MANY people that are selling “our” things, not just one. I could no longer find the check valve listed, so I’m guessing it was a single item that someone had for sale, and once you bought it, there were no more to sell.

Many of the items are classified on Amazon as “used” or “rebuilt”. We never rebuild any of our items, for anyone, so whenever someone buys that item, it appears to them that the factory has refurbished it, but it is not the case.

I have communicated with Amazon, and they say that the BY: label simply refers to the manufacturer of the original product. They agree that we have never sold any items through them. They say that ANYONE can sell OUR products through them (Amazon) and Amazon takes that person’s word for it if the seller claims that the product is NEW or Refurbished. Amazon makes no verification of those claims, and they say that the 30 day recourse is sufficient to solve all problems.

We sell directly to coach manufacturers, or major distributors. Since Amazon does not list exactly who is selling ”our” products, there are sometimes clues on the web pages, like the line where it says the state that the item ships from. I noticed many different states listed, but did not find any in Texas.

Amazon seems to want to continue these relationships where they sell items that individuals have for sale, even though they have no “permission” from a manufacturer or authorized distributor to do so. Legally, I can’t see that they could be stopped, although I am assured that question will be put to our counsel early next week.

I am guessing that it’s likely that you have purchased a product that we made at some time, and that a person used it and either allowed it to freeze or be over pressurized and they bought a new one, put the old one into the new packaging, and decided to offer it on Amazon, labeling it as new. The reason I suggest that is because we individually water test each of these items before they leave our plant. In my experience, those are the only reasons I have heard of them failing in later use, other than a contaminant in the tank getting caught in the reversing washer seal. (Which I’m sure that you have checked).

Yes, I do agree that thirty days isn’t very long in some circumstances. But here’s the rub: appears to be the world’s largest retailer. In many venues that makes them automatically right.

...We have been in business for over 43 years, and never had this type of issue come up; but I’m betting that it will occur with more frequency in the future. I don’t know what the answer will be, but I don’t think we will be able to refund/replace items that we cannot even verify if they were actually new or not. I’m sorry for your experience. I do not fault YOU for that problem, either. I did not fully understand how items came to be sold on Amazon until today, even though I am a PRIME member.

I will be much more guarded in my purchases with them. Maybe we should all be."

If they don't want to use common sense, logic and moral decency, then they're the ones who have to live with it. May they sleep well at night.