It’s always frustrating when you’re on a trip and something goes wonky in the Airstream. It used to drive me absolutely batty in the early days because I never knew how to fix anything. I remember that early in our full-timing experience (November 2005) we had a defective kitchen faucet and had to resort to calling in a mobile RV service technician in Oregon to replace it.
That was a bigger hassle than it might seem because we were in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in northern California and (at least at that time) there was no cell phone service in the park. I made a few calls from the payphone in the park (remember payphones?) which was in itself a sort of adventure.
We finally ended up moving the Airstream to the town of Eureka so that the tech could meet us there and fix the problem. Our trip got disrupted, we had to pay $200 for parts and labor (later reimbursed under warranty), I had a hell of a time with a payphone, and we lost a day.
Now it’s ten years later, and we are traveling through Kentucky. Eleanor noticed yesterday that the same kitchen faucet is dripping at the base and leaking down into the cabinet below. But something is different now: we have a lot more experience and tools on hand to deal with things like this.
I got on the Internet to get Moen’s instructions, which are accurate but lacking in details for the novice. The basic solution to the leak is to replace O-rings, which isn’t terribly hard once you know how the faucet comes apart. The real trick was finding the parts. Being on the road makes it hard to get things via mail order, so rather than ordering Moen’s repair kit I had to figure out which size O-rings are needed and find them locally.
That’s why I’m posting this blog. If you’ve got the same Moen PureTouch filter in your Airstream kitchen (which is a single-handle chrome unit with built-in water filter), let me just save you some time and say that you will want one O-ring in the size 1-1/16 x 13/16 x 1/8 and one O-ring sized 1-1/2 x 1-1/4 x 1/8, plus a small container of pure silicone grease (not petroleum based grease of any type). I found all of these parts across the street from the General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton KY at 8:00 this morning.
The hardware stores often have “Moen repair kits” which include the O-rings you need. Otherwise you can pick the O-rings out individually from the parts bin. My total cost including a small tub of silicone grease was about $7.
Taking apart the faucet is easy when you know how, which is to say that it took Eleanor and I about ten minutes to puzzle it out the first time. Most parts just unscrew. See Moen’s parts diagram for help. There are also lots of amateur instructional videos online, but sheesh, some of them are longer than the entire job. I didn’t watch any of them since I didn’t want to burn a gigabyte of my precious cellular Internet allowance listening to some guy say “uhhhh … ok … so here’s the screw and … uhhhh … I’m taking it out now …” for 30 minutes.
A large set of pliers is handy for the mounting ring if it’s stubborn. We also needed a Philips screwdriver and a 7/64″ Allen wrench, and a small flat-bladed screwdriver to pry off the old rings. Don’t forget to grease the new O-rings completely before installing them.
After replacing the O-rings we re-assembled the faucet and found the handle was on backwards. So we took it apart again and found a very very tiny embossed indication on the white plastic ring in the handle mechanism that said “TOP BACK”. This time it took only a minute or two to re-assemble the entire thing, thanks to experience.
With a few exceptions, I didn’t cover repairs like this in my Airstream maintenance guide because, well, it’s a maintenance guide rather than a repair manual. But I will talk about repairs we make in this blog because there just isn’t enough reliable information out there for Airstream owners. (The next edition of my guide will be expanded with more common repairs like this.)
I want to emphasize that the real difference between now and ten years ago is mostly my attitude toward repairs—and the ever helpful Mr Google. I didn’t know how to fix this faucet yesterday but at least I had a sense of where to start looking. Now I see how easy it really was, and I wonder why I ever thought I had to call an RV service tech for simple jobs like this.
The job was done before 9:30, which in my world means “before the teenager has awoken.” Now we are reviving her with hopes of getting to Mammoth Cave National Park this afternoon. It’s a great feeling to have fixed a problem ourselves, in about an hour (including going to the hardware store), and for $7. We didn’t lose a day and we learned something new before breakfast. That’s a good start.
Ah, yes, O-rings. So simple, yet so essential.
There’s one more way to identify O-rings: the AS568 “dash number”.
O-ring in the size 1-1/16 x 13/16 x 1/8 = ”-211″.
O-ring in the size 1-½ x 1-¼ x 1/8 = “-218”.
And remember: the fractional size values of O-rings is NOT the actual, exact size … Keeps things interesting that way.
Fun fact: the U.S. patent for O-rings was issued in 1932.
And in World War 2, the U.S. government declared O-rings critical to the war effort, and commandeered the patent so many suppliers could make them.
Oops… Typo: the patent was issued in 1937, not 1932.
p. ferguson says
moen uses Dow Corning #111 for lube all parts:
they will send u small tube for faucet…. maybe ask for 2.
On their website Moen recommends silicone grease, so if you aren’t in a position to mail order Dow Corning #111 (“Molykote”) an ordinary tub of silicone grease from the hardware store will work perfectly well too. “Super Lube” brand silicone grease is also a good choice.