John Guest fitting failure; carry spares for your caravan

If you own a caravan, camper trailer, RV or Hybrid, there’s a number of spares that you should have in your box of tricks, along with the tools needed to do general repairs. Things break often on the road, and if you are heading off-road the likelihood is amplified, as we discovered with a John Guest water fitting failure near Point Brown.

What is a John Guest fitting?

If you take a look at the plumbing in your setup, there’s a good chance that it will use nylon tubing (generally 12mm diameter) to move the water around. If its cold water, it should be blue, and if its hot water it should be red. You can get elbows, straight connectors, Y pieces, Tee pieces and male and female versions of each, and they are used for joining the pipe together.

They run a small barb inside and an O ring, and you push the tubing in fairly hard, and it will seat, and provide a pretty durable connection.

John Guest fitting
A generic John Guest fitting, which you should have spares of

How do John Guest fittings fail?

These fittings can fail in multiple ways, but often they’ll just crack or start to weep water out, especially on the pressure side of your setup. My folks found this out as they flicked the water on in their Caravan, after arriving at Point Brown in South Australia and the pump kept kicking in.

A quick inspection saw water spraying out under the van, so we turned the water off and found the culprit; a cracked elbow, just after the pump, which meant they had no usable water in their van without wasting a heap on the floor. Another thing gone wrong on our lap of Australia.

Fortunately, Dad had a couple of random bits laying around, and after stealing another fitting from somewhere else on the van he was able to remove the damaged elbow, install a number of other fittings and make it work.

If this was an interior connection, water could have easily been sprayed inside the van which would have been a pain.

Where can you get John Guest fittings from?

These are sold at a number of caravan repair shops, some plumbing shops and the odd mechanical workshop. Dad managed to get some from Mitre 10 in Streaky Bay for about $8 each, but some places charge around $10.

Are they called anything else?

In my previous work, we always referred to these as push fittings, and you could get them from SMC or Festo. I’m not sure if they are exactly the same, but imagine they would be interchangeable, as long as you had the right size.

Carry some John Guest Fittings and hose

If you are travelling, you should carry a couple of these, and a small length of hose. I’ve seen the hose fail too, and not having them makes for a pretty inconvenient time on the road if it does let go.

Extra tips

Always turn your pump off when you travel

If you don’t already, you should make a habit of ALWAYS turning the pump off when you travel. This ensures that if there is a major problem, you don’t end up with all of your water dumped on the ground, or even worse, inside your van.

Yes, I’ve seen people have their shower heads come on with the vibration, and end up with a hundred plus litres of water end up inside their sleeping quarters. Not only is this hugely inconvenient, but it can do some pretty serious damage too.

Flow Jet 12V Pump
You should always turn your water pump off when travelling

Make sure your fittings are secured properly, and not over stretched

These fittings work well, when they are installed correctly. That means they should be secured properly, and not left to flap around in the breeze, and the elbows should be at 90 degrees, and not 95. If you have to force a hose to fit into one of the joiners, its probably not in the right position, and you should look at changing the route, or the length of hose so it connects properly.

Cover any exposed fittings underneath

A lot of people suffer damage to their plumbing when they travel on gravel roads, and have a rock flick up and hit the fitting. It doesn’t take much energy to damage one of these fittings, and I know a number of people who’ve arrived at camp with virtually no water, as a fitting has been hit and all of their water has dripped out as they drove along.

You can cover these with a variety of different things, but cut pool noodles is cheap, economical and easy to do yourself. Cut them in half widthways, and cable tie them onto the hose and fittings, so if a rock does get flicked up its just going to hit the pool noodle and fall down.

Hybrid plumbing underneath
Any exposed plumbing under your van should be protected from stray rocks

If your pump cycles, find out why

Your pump should build up pressure, and then never come on again until you use some water. If you are finding your pump comes on at all when you aren’t using water, you have a problem and its well worth your time to find out what’s going on. A small pin prick hole could be enough to lose a fraction of water inside your van, and that water is going to damage things very badly if left unattended to.

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