Fixing Glycol Leaks in Alde Systems

First of all, you probably won’t have to do this on your Roadtrek. For one thing, Roadtreks with Alde systems have a six year warranty. Well, except for my Roadtrek. When I left the factory, they said if I ever had problems, I could get all my repairs done by the nearest Roadtrek Service Specialist. Then they gave me a shirt that said “Roadtrek Service Specialist” above the pocket. Seriously, though, I get great support from the factory, but often end up installing parts they send me rather than take mine in to a repair facility. This is great for me, since I’m usually out in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from the nearest dealership. All you have to do to get this special arrangement is months of intensive training at the factory.

Radiator behind the driver’s seat. Ignore all those wires – I’m experimenting.

I have had a slow leak in the glycol part of my Alde for a while, and finally got around to finding and fixing it today. Alde systems heat the cabin by burning propane or diesel to heat a glycol (antifreeze) solution, which is circulated to little radiators throughout the coach, and there’s also glycol plumbing under the floor to warm it, too. Although the Alde plumbing goes in early in the build process, don’t despair – you can access it in the ottoman boxes, the luggage retainer under the electric sofa, behind the driver’s seat, in the side door step, and under the front passenger seat. The only part that’s really hard to get to is the floor, and that’s all one-piece, protected plumbing, so the odds are small that you’ll have a leak there. Almost all leaks are at the connection points anyway. Alde uses rubber hose approximately an inch in diameter with aluminum pipe connectors and spring clamps.  It’s a low pressure system, anyway, but if a connection gets loose you will start losing glycol.

There should be a spring clamp on the hose where the red arrow is. There isn’t.

A clue to where your leak’s located is where it drips out underneath your Roadtrek. Leaks in the back usually run out the back door when you go up a hill. Leaks further forward find their way to the rocker panels, and my drip was just in front of the propane tank behind the driver’s door, so I strongly suspected the radiator behind the driver’s seat and associated plumbing. Sure enough, I pulled off the radiator cover and found a wet spot on the hose. Further inspection revealed a missing hose clamp – the rubber hose was just pushed onto the aluminum pipe with no spring clamp to secure it. Two years later, it decided to start leaking. Now, what kind of slipshod work would allow this oversight? What mental midget put this thing together without a clamp?

Oh. That would be me. I put that radiator in when we were building this unit…  never mind.

Garden variety hose clamps.

Ahem. On to the repair process.  If you get a leak in these systems, a regular hose clamp works in case the regular spring clamp (which you won’t have handy anyway)  doesn’t quite do the job. Some connections get more vibration than others. But don’t go cranking down on it like it’s a 15 psi heater hose- these aluminum tubes are thin. Just snug it up and you’ll be fine. I am so lazy that when I replaced the existing and missing clamps at this connection I didn’t even bother to take the spring clamp off, just slid it up the hose a bit.  This way you don’t have to take the system apart and spill glycol all over.

My two new clamps.

Anyway, here are my two screw type hose clamps on the hose as I’m putting it back together. I pulled the hose off the side door radiator to drain the system (best place to do it because all the glycol runs out the door rather than all over the floor), refilled it with fresh glycol, bled the system, and checked for leaks. No leaks. I will keep an eye on the glycol level as I use it over the next week or two, it will probably go down a bit as bubbles work their way out of the system, but I’m looking forward to more years of quiet, comfortable Alde heat. I just LOVE these systems.

Oh, and damage from the leak? Well, Roadtrek insists on wasting perfectly good money on high-quality construction materials instead of cheaper alternatives, so there was none. Here’s the subfloor under the radiator – slightly wet, water resistant, high quality plywood. No rot, no mildew, no delamination, maybe a slight water stain where it won’t show. If this had been particle board, as used in many other RVs,  the whole interior section up there would have been sawdust soup.  You’d have to replace the floor, and rebuild the cabinetry from scratch.  I’m overworked as it is – that’s why I like having a Roadtrek.  Just in case some dummy forgets a clamp.

 




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