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Old 03-24-2012, 11:13 AM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 14
Rusty heater pipes can flood your bedroom

On our last trip, I noticed that the engine-water pipes, which service the rear heater (and water heater), had some external rust. On closer inspection, these pipes appeared to be rotting out from the inside. The coach is 2003, chassis is 2002, so these pipes are about 10 years old. The pipes route from the engine along the underside of the chassis, then come up inside the coach and run through the bedroom, under the bed, and to the water heater at the rear corner.

When I removed the pipes, they were all in a state of decay, with coolant/antifreeze seeping out of porous corrosion spots along the entire length of all pipes. Oddly enough, the internal pipes were worse than the external (under the chassis) pipes. There are stains and residues of engine antifreeze at several spots under the bed, which are a royal pain to remove.

To remove the pipes and replace them, it would have been necessary to REMOVE THE BEDROOM furniture, bed and cabinets. The pipes are obviously pre-bent and installed before the coach is furnished with cabinetry etc. They simply cannot be removed or installed with the cabinetry in place. WHAT A SERVICE DISASTER. Probably 20 hours at least for this job, maybe more. I could not believe how cavalier Winnebago was with this design. Cheapest way to get the coach off the showroom floor. At local shop rates of $125/hr to $160/hr, it would have cost somewhere around $3000 to replace some rusted-out pipes.

Since the only advantage of this system is to provide hot water and rear heating while the engine is running, I considered it a minor feature at best and simply cut/removed the pipes and capped everything off.

I now drive with a lot more peace of mind, knowing that my engine coolant is not going to be distributed throughout the carpeting and woodwork of my coach due to Winnebago's obscenely poor engineering.

I wanted to share this with others: don't get caught with coolant in the bedroom, for a little-used function of no great value. If anybody disagrees with this, and thinks it's really handy to have this capability, you might consider replacing all that rusty iron with regular 5/8" heater rubber tubing the entire length. This way, you don't have to remove the cabinets and bed to service it when it gets old. And the rubber tubing is still in very good condition long after the steel tubing has rusted through.

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Old 03-24-2012, 11:28 AM   #2
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Sorry to hear about your coolant tube troubles.

This is a great reminder of how important it is to change your engine coolant as per the manufactures recommendations, even in low mileage situations. Coolant does become corrosive with age and will rust the cooling system from the inside out. This is why it is also important to drain/flush all the old coolant out so the new coolant is not contaminated.

The manufacturer probably used a very thin walled pipe to run the heater lines throughout the coach, these would be the first to be effected by over acidic coolant.

'98 Gulf Stream Sunsport 325, 7.5L Banks Power Pack, Koni FSD's, Air Bags, ReadyBrute Elite,
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Old 03-25-2012, 10:39 AM   #3
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More than just a coolant problem

I did not have the coach for its first 7 years, so I don't know how often the coolant was changed. John could be right about the acidity. But I doubt that it is the root cause of the problem I observed.

I'm an engineer and I did do a cross-section of several failure spots. The tubes are not "corroded" in the classic sense, with in-growths and deterioration and thin spots in the walls. The bleeding appears to have been caused by widespread micro-porosity; wall thickness is still very uniform, and at 0.035" or so I'd consider it a fairly substantial tube. The pipes do not appear to have been in danger of imminent bursting - - just weepage.

My gripe is that coolant is water, and you just don't leave iron exposed to water over the long haul without paying the piper. (Yes, (some) engine blocks are iron, but they are massive in thickness and can sustain a fair amount of corrosion with no ill effect.)

So my conclusion is still that Winny made a poor design decision.
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Old 03-25-2012, 11:10 AM   #4
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Three Winnies and our experience has been they have a lot of rust problems. Just Google Winnebago rust and you can spend days reading. Maybe other brands are the same I haven't checked. Maybe with the personal changes going on at Winnebago things will change, but for us this is our last Winnebago product and not only for rust problems.
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