Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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Ask Dave: Why won’t my RV’s water pump prime?

Dear Dave,
We purchased a 2022 Winnebago Travato 59K in October 2021. We took it on one small trip to see if everything was working and now we’re on our first big trip. The first thing that’s gone out, and I’ve had nothing but problems with, is this new water pump all in one unit. I’ve had the technicians come up and look at it twice now. Each time they’re able to get it to prime and to work, but when it gets on the road apparently something goes wrong with one of the levers and we cannot get it to prime. We put the fresh water on and made sure that there was no air in any of the lines, including the shower, the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink.

It seems to me this unit is more trouble than it’s worth. We figured out how to attach an angle brass fitting, run a small hose, and put a hose bib on the outside of the van. For some reason, Winnebago decided to make something that you couldn’t put your hose in. You’d have to leave the back door open, which is the stupidest thing ever.

RV has to go back to shop because water pump doesn’t work again

Now it’s going to have to go back to the shop because the first day of our trip it no longer works, so I have no water. Do you have any suggestions on these new units? From everything I’ve read, this seems to be an ongoing problem with these white boxes that you change the valve on the direction you want your water to flow. I understand why Winnebago wanted it to be more all-weather, but in doing that they’ve created something, in my opinion, that is nothing but trouble.

This is our fourth RV and on all of our RVs we’ve never had as much trouble trying to get our water pump to work than we have with this. I would greatly appreciate any tips on how to prime this thing. Thank you. —Peni

Dear Peni,
The first step is to call Winnebago Customer Care and get the situation documented before it goes out of warranty. The “white boxes that you change the valve on the direction you want your water to flow” is a simple set of valves used when connected to city water to change the flow either to city water to provide pressurized water to the faucets, or to the fresh water tank. This allows you to fill the tank without removing the hose and putting inside a gravity fill. It does not do anything to the pump. There are also valves to draw in a sanitizing solution or RV antifreeze, which I’ll talk about later.

Description of the water pump

Your water pump is a Shurflo owned by Pentex and there are a few items I would suggest looking at. First is the screen that filters the incoming water on the inlet side. If the fitting is loose or the bowl cracked, it will draw air and not allow it to pump.

Next, make sure you do not have the winterizing or sanitizing valve open. This valve switches the draw of the water pump from the fresh water tank to the tube. That allows you to draw RV antifreeze to winterize the plumbing pipes or draw in a solution of bleach and water to sanitize the tank.

The water center (controls)

This is your water center with the valves to direct water for dry camping, winterizing, filling the tank, sanitizing, and using city water. This is the setting you want for dry camping and using the water pump. If you have the valves set for winterizing. it will switch to allow a draw hose to be connected to the fill valve and draw antifreeze by sticking the hose in a jug of antifreeze. If there is no hose connected and no antifreeze, the pump will draw air out of the fill valve.

Below is a photo of the center with the valves in the winterize position. Even if you do not have a hose and the cover is on, it will still try to draw from there and not the fresh water tank and will draw air.

If you have the valves in the dry camping configuration and it still does not prime, try installing the hose and put the hose in a bucket of water. If the pump does prime, the valve is bad. However, if it still does not prime, then it is the pump.

Water pump could be replaced

I contacted Winnebago Customer Care and they did indicate there were some issues with the pumps losing prime due to an issue with the diaphragm. They will replace the pump under warranty if that is the case. Make sure you contact them and take it into a certified Winnebago service center.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

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TIM MCRAE
7 months ago

That is the stupidist control panel I have ever seen! I know lets add something confusing that can break, and make troubleshooting much more difficult when something else doesn’t work.

The little shurflo water filter is equally stupid. It is actually a pump freeze protector. There is no way to clear it of water so when it gets cold it cracks the flimsy plastic and lets all the water drain. Then in the spring you can figure out why your pump won’t prime. On my Thor the little piece of crap was between the tank and the pump but b4 the antifreeze take up (no anti freeze gets in the filter!)

Sorry, next time I’ll tell you how I really feel…

DW/ND
7 months ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Tim: You unscrew the little plastic water filter and dump it and dry it out! No freeze! It works, -27f tonite – I know it works!

Spike
7 months ago

That seems like an overly complex design with four different valves to have in various configurations. I wonder why they didn’t just use one four-way valve, made of brass for quality, controlled by one switch?

Jesse Crouse
7 months ago

“KISS” Keep it simple stupid. Typical situation of an engineer trying to make it better or some designer wanting to change a tried and true system just for the sake of change.

Thomas D
7 months ago
Reply to  Jesse Crouse

You have to remember. An engineers job is at stake if he doesn’t come up with something new, however stupid or unnecessary. I’ve had more than my share of ” new and improved ”
Leave me alone!

Greg S
7 months ago

Two other possibilities:
Shurflo has a specification that the pump be within 6 feet of the tank. I worked with Nuwa to solve this issue when they put the tank behind the axles and pump in the basement on a 37 foot fifth wheel. The next year model had the pump under a kitchen cabinet.
I would also consider a cracked fitting or loose intake pipe at the tank.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Greg S

One more possibility, “What, I don’t need to read the owners manual, I can figure this out myself”.

Don
7 months ago

In the two photos, the valves are in the identical configuration. Ooooops…

PDN
7 months ago
Reply to  Don

Thanks Don, I couldn’t figure out what I was missing.

Lindalee
7 months ago
Reply to  Don

Thought I was seeing wrong! Thanks for seeing the same thing! WE have good eyes!