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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Green RVing?

I have a relatively new coach and have noticed all the gas system copper tubing lines are corroded green. The areas that are the worst are where the mounting brackets and support clips are screwed to the frame. Could this be caused from stray currents of electricity? The unit was bought brand new six months ago and unfortunately the manufacturer has filed Chapter 11 and will not warranty this problem. I am concerned for the safety of my family. I have turned off the valve on the LP container. Any ideas on how the resolve this problem?
Alan, (Deltona, FL)

First of all, Alan, allow me to calm your fears regarding stray electrical currents. Chances are, that is not the case. A series of specific tests by a certified RV technician can confirm that, however, if you need more assurance. But it is not uncommon for copper tubing to oxidize at a rapid rate in certain areas of Florida. I grew up in Florida and I didn’t know copper tubing came in any other color but green until I eventually moved to California! The green patina of your existing tubing is also exacerbated by the mounting methods  employed by some RV manufacturers. A process called galvanic corrosion takes place between any two dissimilar metals. For example, your copper tubing is most likely secured to the steel frame and held in place by either aluminum or zinc-plated clamps. Further accelerated by the salty Florida air, (well, maybe not in downtown Deltona, more so at either coast), the non-ferrous copper will quickly turn a shade of green. Serious oxidation, typically on older coaches, may cause eventual pitting, pin-holes and possible LP leaks, but on a unit six months old, this is doubtful. 

To be sure, however, I would suggest a Certified RV technician perform a gas system, timed pressure drop test. This will verify that no leaks are present anywhere in the system. At the same time it can be verified that the correct delivery pressure is being fed to the appliances. This is a very common and relatively inexpensive procedure which must be performed annually anyway.

To minimize the effects of galvanic corrosion, here are a few things you can do. First, insulate the tubing by wrapping all exposed copper in slit foam insulation wrap or black electrician’s tape. Another preventive measure is to replace the metal clamps used to secure the tubing to the frame with insulated clamps. One with a rubber insert whereby only the rubber portion makes contact with the tubing. You might even add a few extra wraps of electrician’s tape around the tubing at each clamp position. At the same time, place a thick washer or two behind each clamp so there remains a gap between the tubing and the steel frame. The key is to make sure the tubing does not physically contact the steel frame at any point. Where copper tubing branches off and routes up and to the individual appliances, make sure grommets are in place anywhere the tubing passes through the frame, floor or wall. Hope this helps!

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