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Water Leak at Refrigerator Access Panel


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I was in the refrigerator access panel to fix an issue with the fridge not running on propane when I discovered that the access panel has been leaking water, probably for some time now.  I'm currently letting it all dry out.  Most of the wood should be ok after it dries out; just a tiny patch that's beyond saving.  I figure I can epoxy the siding back to the wood once it's dry.  However, I'm stuck on trying to figure out the best way to seal it all up once I put it back together.  Smothering everything in silicone is obviously priority number one and will work to seal the flange that mounts to the RV.  But do I need to add some kind of gasket between the flange and the actual panel?  Anyone got any good ideas?

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2 hours ago, Adam_C said:

I was in the refrigerator access panel to fix an issue with the fridge not running on propane when I discovered that the access panel has been leaking water, probably for some time now.  I'm currently letting it all dry out.  Most of the wood should be ok after it dries out; just a tiny patch that's beyond saving.  I figure I can epoxy the siding back to the wood once it's dry.  However, I'm stuck on trying to figure out the best way to seal it all up once I put it back together.  Smothering everything in silicone is obviously priority number one and will work to seal the flange that mounts to the RV.  But do I need to add some kind of gasket between the flange and the actual panel?  Anyone got any good ideas?

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First, Silicone is NOT the correct sealant.  You need a REAL RV sealer.  Silicone is not UV resistant and will give you more issues.  
 

Geocel 28128 RV Trailer Camper Sealants Proflex Flexible Sealants Clear.

Go to Amazon and look this up.  Unless @throgmartin jumps in, this is what I recommend.  You did not specify where the water came from. If the old sealant was brittle or had cracks, then you could be getting water in from there.  If you had a leak around the frame, frame, then the sealant should fix that.  
 

As an aside, if you have rotted wood…..dry it out.  Use a hair dryer.  Then start to remove any suspect wood with a knife tip or chisel or tool.  Don’t go crazy.  Depending on the surface or the voids or the damage, you have options.  Look at the wood restoration section in Lowes or a hardware store.  There are several products by Bondo and others.  There is also a liquid sealer that is almost like a thin varnish.  It dries and is a primer or bonding agent to cross link the Bondo or what you use for filler.  Depending on the amount of damage, you can restore the wood to its original shape.  You can then, should you choose, use fiberglass resin and matting or cloth and put on a really protective layer.  When the filler (Bondo) starts to set up, you can use a sharp knife and trim it to size or close.  That way you reduce the amount of sanding.  Thus works on window sills, trust me, and after a coat of latex paint, it is as hard as a rock ….after 10 years. 
 

Figue out the source….then correct.  I would also suggest that you check the upper vent, if you have one.  Use the Proflex on the joint,  You also need to look at the other sealed joint like the windows, belt molding, slide flanges or any other places where clear sealer is used.  You are vulnerable there as well for leaks,

Good Luck.

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21 minutes ago, Tom Cherry said:

First, Silicone is NOT the correct sealant.  You need a REAL RV sealer.  Silicone is not UV resistant and will give you more issues.  
 

Geocel 28128 RV Trailer Camper Sealants Proflex Flexible Sealants Clear.

Go to Amazon and look this up.  Unless @throgmartin jumps in, this is what I recommend.  You did not specify where the water came from. If the old sealant was brittle or had cracks, then you could be getting water in from there.  If you had a leak around the frame, frame, then the sealant should fix that. 

Thanks for the advice on the sealant. The manual specified silicone so that was the plan. 

I didn't specify because I don't know. There was a bead of caulk around the edge of the flange but I didn't think it was in terrible shape. 

Thanks for the advice on the wood but I'm not cutting the siding to repair a couple square inches of rotted wood. Juice ain't worth the squeeze. 

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To used ribbon caulk on the plastic flange. Bu leave weep holes on bottom edge to allow any moisture out that gets in through the vent.  

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Looking at this I am not sure how I would tackle this without standing next to it and seeing first hand the extent of the damage and the issues. This post is timely though as we just finished rebuilding a wall next to the drivers seat as well as the cockpit floor leading back to the slide on a gorgeous Sig. It was a major job and the damage to the sidewall and floor was extensive. Guess what caused it ? A technician at another service place who used the wrong materials to re-set a drivers window. The side wall and floor rot was so bad we had to replace entire sections of floor and half of the interior wall.

I always call in my hired gun Ken, one of my techs to do these jobs. He is an old retired master tradesman highly skilled in paint, fiberglass, welding, fabrication, etc. and works part time for me. He has performed magic on some of my customers coaches and I am always amazed at how he blends certain materials and crafts things to arrive at a perfect repair that will last a lifetime. I am blessed to have an old school craftsman like this on my staff.

When we get jobs like this in Ken and I inspect the damage carefully and then start putting together the repair process together. Looking at your picture I can see a blend of materials being used -  3-M 5200 and POR 15 are 2 along with possibly using some Bondo products. If memory serves me correctly, that opening is framed in metal. If so then I would sand that metal down and apply POR 15. ( If anyone has ever restored a classic car then they know about POR 15 paint ). The integrity of the fiberglass wall looks good as does the refrigerator floor. I would seal that wall cavity at the top with a bead of 3-m 5200. For boaters/mariners you know 5200 not only seals but is one helluva adhesive. It is made to live its life underwater so is 100 % waterproof. The adhesive portion of 5200 is astounding. 

In regards to the frame, no rubber seal is needed. Those plastic covers are prone to cracking and by putting a rubber seal between the cover and frame will stress the cover and those 2 plastic screws causing it to crack and it will end up in the ditch of some highway after it blows off the side of your coach. The water damage in that area is normally caused by a leaking roof vent or ice maker water line. Check those 2 items. Going forward I would recommend 1.) Taking your time 2.) Don't make the job more work then it has to be 3.) double check the entire area around that area for damage. 4.) Think the process through and use high quality materials ( regardless of its cost ). Trying to pinch pennies on repairs will cost you a lot more down the road because the failure rate will be higher using cheap or the wrong materials or using improper application techniques.

With the horrific damage Ken and I have repaired on customer coaches, yours looks to be a straight forward job. Just double check and make sure there are no other problems that extend past that area. Remember, water runs all over inside wall cavities so check the lower belt line to be sure it isn't popped from rusted screws. Check for delamination of the wall underneath and 2 ft to the sides. Investigation is the key here. Ken and I never focus on a given area of damage. We always go further to see how far out the damage has extended. By the looks of things it appears the damage you see is very local to that specific area and you caught it in time to effect a great and lasting repair. Good luck.

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If you think you have problems, check out this poor Sig. The sections of rotted floor that we cut out went all the way to the frame. That black area you see is actually lining " UNDER " the coach. On some model year Sig's Monaco used 2 pieces of plywood sandwiched together. The water damage rotted out both layers of plywood. The wall section next to the driver was so rotted that you could poke your finger into it and hit the outside fiberglass wall.

This was all caused by some jackwagon technician at a service center who thought he knew how to re-set a window, ( he used the wrong materials and sealants - 2-sided tape and silicone caulking ). I will not comment on the final repair bill as this coach belongs to one of our Monacoer members here but lets just say it was huge. 50 hours of labor for 2 technicians plus a plethora of various materials is not cheap. At one point I had all 4 of my tech's on this job removing the drivers window, clamping off the wall section, etc. I do have to say I am proud of my team as the repair came out perfect and the wall section is stronger then when it came from the factory.

Sadly, this is not the worst job we ever had. Ken replaced an entire bedroom and bathroom floor in a Diplomat last year. The cause ? A technician who didn't know how to set a new toilet properly. The floors were completely rotted away. That repair bill was massive. Moral of the story ? Never let technicians who are hacks and half ass'es work on your coach. There are still techs out there like mine who are craftsman, take pride in their work and love seeing a perfect repair. In addition, and as I have stated in many of my seminars - Water is a coach owners worst enemy. Always periodically poke, prod and inspect and look for water leaks inside your coach.

I will post the finished project pictures later.

 

Sig Floor Rot.jpeg

Sig Wall Rot.jpeg

Sig Wall Rot 2.jpeg

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1 hour ago, throgmartin said:

If you think you have problems, check out this poor Sig. The sections of rotted floor that we cut out went all the way to the frame. That black area you see is actually lining " UNDER " the coach. On some model year Sig's Monaco used 2 pieces of plywood sandwiched together. The water damage rotted out both layers of plywood. The wall section next to the driver was so rotted that you could poke your finger into it and hit the outside fiberglass wall.

This was all caused by some jackwagon technician at a service center who thought he knew how to re-set a window, ( he used the wrong materials and sealants - 2-sided tape and silicone caulking ). I will not comment on the final repair bill as this coach belongs to one of our Monacoer members here but lets just say it was huge. 50 hours of labor for 2 technicians plus a plethora of various materials is not cheap. At one point I had all 4 of my tech's on this job removing the drivers window, clamping off the wall section, etc. I do have to say I am proud of my team as the repair came out perfect and the wall section is stronger then when it came from the factory.

Sadly, this is not the worst job we ever had. Ken replaced an entire bedroom and bathroom floor in a Diplomat last year. The cause ? A technician who didn't know how to set a new toilet properly. The floors were completely rotted away. That repair bill was massive. Moral of the story ? Never let technicians who are hacks and half ass'es work on your coach. There are still techs out there like mine who are craftsman, take pride in their work and love seeing a perfect repair. In addition, and as I have stated in many of my seminars - Water is a coach owners worst enemy. Always periodically poke, prod and inspect and look for water leaks inside your coach.

I will post the finished project pictures later.

 

Sig Floor Rot.jpeg

Sig Wall Rot.jpeg

Sig Wall Rot 2.jpeg

Chris, thanks for the pictures.  Your points are well taken.  I might add that even with the skill level of your techs, there can be collateral damage.  Looking at the harnesses pulled out brings back a painful memory.  I had to pull or snap out and remove a Carling front “visor” switch.  When I reinstalled it, I had two loose and dangling wires.  Monaco had this ugly habit of bundling 3 pieces of stranded #12 wire into a terminal (crimped style) only rated for 2.  I had to use inline taps, the 3M kind, to get the circuit restored.  A similar thing, improperly crimped wire….pulled out, in two other places.  Fortunately I could trouble shoot and figure out how to get the light fixture out…

So no matter how careful your pro techs are, there is also the lurking danger of a sub standard pigtail or connector coming loose or being intermittent.  The advice to use good techs is also well taken….  Best advice…inspect and prevent water infiltration as well as knowing the skill level of the techs.  I could go on about the expertise of a mobile tech that charged a fellow caravaner $2000 for “fixing” a connection in a HE center in a Navigator.  I was having an issue with my hydraulic motor and he offered the most idiotic comments when I asked for a quote on or estimate on the repairs.  New Batteries, which he had, of course, at his shop and the all sorts…of other fixes….like a NEW Magnum, also in stock….he did not get the job….but drove a classy pickup….

Thanks…

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3 hours ago, throgmartin said:

If memory serves me correctly, that opening is framed in metal.

It is not.  Looks like just a square cut into the wood.

3 hours ago, throgmartin said:

The integrity of the fiberglass wall looks good as does the refrigerator floor. I would seal that wall cavity at the top with a bead of 3-m 5200. For boaters/mariners you know 5200 not only seals but is one helluva adhesive. It is made to live its life underwater so is 100 % waterproof. The adhesive portion of 5200 is astounding. 

Thanks.  I've got two tubes on order!

3 hours ago, throgmartin said:

In regards to the frame, no rubber seal is needed. Those plastic covers are prone to cracking and by putting a rubber seal between the cover and frame will stress the cover and those 2 plastic screws causing it to crack and it will end up in the ditch of some highway after it blows off the side of your coach.

Excellent point.

 

3 hours ago, throgmartin said:

The water damage in that area is normally caused by a leaking roof vent or ice maker water line. Check those 2 items.

Thoroughly inspected both.  Both appear fine.  Manually activated the ice maker solenoid and water flowed with no leaks.  All the wood above the bottom of the cavity is dry which leads me to believe it's not the roof vent.

 

3 hours ago, throgmartin said:

3.) double check the entire area around that area for damage.

Took this advice this morning and it is a little worse than I thought.  Picture here has an outline of the approximate delamination area in red.

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I still think the only reason to try to repair the wood would be if that's the only way to get everything properly sealed.  Everything around the beltline appears ok.

Thanks to all for the helpful advice.

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2 hours ago, Adam_C said:

It is not.  Looks like just a square cut into the wood.

Thanks.  I've got two tubes on order!

Excellent point.

 

Thoroughly inspected both.  Both appear fine.  Manually activated the ice maker solenoid and water flowed with no leaks.  All the wood above the bottom of the cavity is dry which leads me to believe it's not the roof vent.

 

Took this advice this morning and it is a little worse than I thought.  Picture here has an outline of the approximate delamination area in red.

20220612_095500_2.thumb.jpg.29cd8c39dc49200f3704d953ca3938f5.jpg

I still think the only reason to try to repair the wood would be if that's the only way to get everything properly sealed.  Everything around the beltline appears ok.

Thanks to all for the helpful advice.

Chris makes excellent points.  I have bought three slide kits from him and installed them.  I have also done or set specs for commercial sealing and waterproofing of roof and tilt up panel building.  An RV is totally different, but the lingo and jargon are the same.  The last kit I put in was a thing of beauty….thanks to doing 2 before and getting a feel for it.  I am more than familiar with the refrigerator vent and the flange and the back side as I totally insulated mine…upper and lower as the Samsung will not work, unless you avoid 37 deg weather….and the exterior of the motor home has to be insulated….that is totally different from a gas/electric system.  The Norcold and Dometics should have side insulation to keep from loosing cabin heat and cold an also protect from a carbon monoxide danger.  A res refer needs the roof vent or top vent and lower vent insulated on the cover and the sides of the body.

ALL THAT TO SAY…BE CAREFUL WITH 5200.  It is like putting a full auto AR 15 into a novice shooters hands.  I should have mentioned that I built boats in high school and have pretty good “caulking” skills….refined over the years as I have painted and caulked every hime we have had….at least twice.

The 5200 is not forgiving.  It requires careful application and clean up…..even with acetone, is a tough job.  It is not, and Chris needs to jump in, supposed to be used for sealing or recaulking of windows and flanges and belt moldings.  That is what, I think, the Proflex is more suitable or be used for…

My Camelot has almost 2 years of “outside” exposure….we spent that many nights out.  It sits for a few days before and after our trips.  The only water issue I ever had, with the same vent system you have, is when I accidentally sprayed water up and into the vent.  It has been through fronts and hurricane remnants so bad with blowing rain that I had all my slides in and it shook you bad….with blowing rain.  Your delamination may need more detective work.  I would, and you probably have done this, use a high powered MagLight…LED with focused beam and inspect every surface that you can see from inside the lower vent.  Look for telltale mineral deposits or staining or “old drip”. Even to the point of using a $50 wireless inspection camera and a tablet or phone and poking and prodding where the Sun don’t shine.

Just an unsolicited comment….

Good luck…keep us updated.  That is how we all learn.

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I used to live on a sailboat for years and had many issues with fresh water damage to wood. I would dry completely the wet wood then drill into but not through the wood. Then use Git-rot. It saturates the wood fibers and makes it very solid. Amazon has it. It’s a marine industry go to for wood repair. Kept my 40’ ketch very solid. I’ve even used it on my flush floor slide to repair som dry rot.

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