↓Pex Water Lines and Fittings – What to Keep in Your Tool Box

Pex Fittings

This the Full Transcript of the Podcast!

This is Eric Stark with Radio Arizona RV. Today’s show is episode number 57 and it is going to be about water lines and fittings and what you should keep in your RV toolbox. And so this episode is based on the amount of customers I have. They come into my store or call and have questions about water lines and what fittings they need, what fitting’s are going work. And quite often there’s some confusion thinking that the RV Parts guy just knows what an RV has, what fitting goes to the toilet, what fitting goes to a faucet. And in a lot of cases those fittings are narrowed down to one or two. But the question of what size line that the RV has comes up, a faucet takes a 1/2 pipe thread fitting a female pipe thread fitting. Same with an RV toilet, but the waterline going to it might be 3/8 or it might be 1/2.

Timing 00:54 So those are the questions. And then is fitting a 90 degree or is it straight? So trying to narrow this down a little bit and help you to understand before you go to the store and be a little more prepared, take pictures, bring a sample. Samples are always the best. Pictures help quite a bit, especially with water fittings and lines. Sometimes you can’t really tell what it is. Sometimes it’s harder to tell, but with a sample you walk in the door that this is what I need, who can’t argue with that. So breaking this down, I want to go into the different types of fittings, the different types of lines this is not going to take real long. And then kind of a pricing structure too. If you compare the different brands and fittings, that might be what makes the decision for you.

Timing 01:37 You might say “I don’t want to spend that much and this cheaper fitting will work or this feels and it looks a little bit better, might be a little more expensive, but Hey, I think it’ll be easier to use”. But before we get into that, talking about the different fittings and tubing that goes in an RV as well to remind everybody to check out our website, RadioArizonaRV.com and remember that takes you to all of our other websites, SunPro, Hot Boat Ropes, Arizona RV parts Center, you know where we sell all of our products online. And also to join our emailing list and subscribe to our channel on YouTube. Check out our page on Facebook. You know we’re going all in on social marketing so we have to advertise this or I have to talk about it, but it just makes it easier, more places for you to get connected.

Timing 02:21 And I also want to throw this out there. I would like to know if you would appreciate a Facebook group. I’m thinking about starting one. This is a show about RV Maintenance and Education for the do it yourself so, the group would be designed for like-minded persons to share ideas and thoughts. And I would throw in stuff from time to time along with some tips and tricks and things like that and also answer questions. So if you’d appreciate something like that, email me, go to RadioArizona RV.com and use the contact us page there and you can just email me, tell me what you think. So I’d love to start something like that, but want to make sure that you guys want it, that it’d be beneficial to you. Okay, so now back to the show.

Timing 03:08 Again, this is episode 57 this is about PEX fittings and PEX waterline for RVs. Most RVs use PEX tubing in them, they might use some soft vinyl tubing, some reinforced vinyl tubing. There’s going to be a little variety there, but most all the time it is going to be a 90% PEX tubing. I think the tubing is straightforward and it might be gray, red, blue, white or opaque white. It’s all PEX tubing and it is all interchangeable, if you have gray and you go to the store and they hand you white there shouldn’t be any problems. The PEX tubing is pretty straight forward I believe. Now the fittings are a little bit different. I’m sure most stores carry Flair It fittings. That’s probably going to be the most popular fitting.

Timing 03:54 If you go into a store and tell them you need to work on your water system, they’re more than likely going to have Flair It fittings, but there are different brands of fittings and I’m just going to go through them, although not in an order here. I’m looking at a sheet that I have and Sea Tech is the first one on my sheet. It doesn’t mean it is the best or the worst, it’s just the first one I typed out. Sea Tech works with PEX, C PVC and Copper. C PVC is an off white version of PVC and a unique size it is not the same as PVC, but in an RV you’re not going to find a whole lot of CPVC or copper as far as what we’re talking about today, but Sea Tech fittings will work with those two other types of tubing and some RVs have copper, but not for water.

Timing 04:38 Copper is generally for propane, so you don’t want to use a water fitting on a propane system. And a lot of older RVs, I shouldn’t say a lot, some older RVs had C PVC in them, so it might be an option there, but that’s not very common anymore. You don’t see that a whole lot. But Sea Tech fittings are very similar to Shark Bite fittings, which you find in home Depot, Lowe’s, places like that. Shark Bite fittings are primarily a residential application. If you ask me, they’re built a little bit different there. I think built more for the long haul. Not that these other brands for the RV industry aren’t built for the long haul, but if I was building a house, I’d use SharkBite before I use any other brand of fitting period. Because in the house it is getting built into the walls and ceilings.

Timing 05:23 With Sea Tech fittings you just push the tubing into it and that can be really handy if you’re working in a tight spot, a place where it is hard to get your hands in there or getting the tools in there. A Sea Tech fitting just pushes right onto the line so you can just push the lines into it and Sea Tech fittings are reusable. You can actually undo them. You can do it by hand, but it’s easier if you have what they call a Collet Clip. They are little clips that slide over the tubing and you push down on this little plastic piece inside the fitting and it releases the waterline.

Timing 06:04 SharkBite is very similar to that. They have orange clips that you push down on the fitting and it releases the water line. Sea Tech fittings I think are really good. If it’s going to be a hard to get tight spot, push that waterline in, make sure it snaps, bottoms out and it’s in and you’re good to go. Sea Tech fittings come in many different sizes. They will work in just about any application in an RV. So good option. Then there’s Qest fittings. Everybody knows Qest has been around forever since the 70s you know, it used to be very big in the RV industry and today Qest is not that big in the RV industry. Now Qest fittings work with PEX tubing and their fittings are gray and they use a threaded nut, cone, and washer. The nut, cone and washer go on the tube and then the cone tightens up onto the threaded portion of the fitting and they worked pretty good.

Timing  07:02 They’re just kind of clunky. They’re old, they don’t adapt to every situation. Harder to use. You have the nut and the washer and you know the washer and cone can go bad. It’s just a rubber washer. The washer itself has kind of serrated center and it’s holds the fitting or the pipe in the fitting. When you tighten it up and they are reusable, you can take the nut off the fitting, but you know, if you need to replace the washer you are going to have cut the line, take the washer off and start all over. Not the end of world here, but you really don’t see that much Qest anymore. Although people do refer to PEX And PEX fittings as Qest because it was just such a popular name to use for so long, but Qest is not really a, I would say a viable option anymore because there’s just better things out there, easier to use and I’m going to do a price comparison in just a moment to kind of help break that down as well.

Timing 07:57 Then the next on my list is Flair It fittings. And as I said they are probably the most popular you’ll find in an RV store and they just work with PEX tubing. I mean that’s it. That’s all they’re designed for, to work with PEX Tube, period. Straight forward Flair It fittings are pretty simple to use. It has a nut, you take it off the fitting, then you push the tubing onto a barbed end of the fitting, slide the nut onto the PEX tubing first and then tighten it up after you push it onto the fitting. Real simple easy to use and no special tools required, but they can be hard to use in a real tight spot if you can’t get both hands in there and push the line on. Because the line is kind of hard to push on. You kind of have to wiggle it back and forth, but it makes a great connection and they’re smaller and more compact. Qest stuff gets kind of big and bulky compared to Flair It.

Timing 08:48  Sea Tech is similar in size to a Flair It, maybe a little bit smaller, but Flair It works good. Flair It is the Go To fitting. And now another brand is called Best PEX. Now the name’s kind of deceiving because their fittings are designed for PEX, but all their fittings are brass. So they’re made to have the PEX tubing clamped onto it with the stainless steel clamp. The clamp is made just for it. Shark Bite has the same system as well It’s a brass fitting that slides into the PEX tubing and you clamp it off with the with the stainless steel clamp. Now the clamp, you have to use a special tool, you can’t just use pliers, it requires a special tool.

Timing 09:38  I guess in a pinch you could use a certain pair or a certain type of pliers to tighten it, but the tool they have works the best. The tool runs about $75 Bucks. But if you plan on doing a lot of this or using a lot of, it makes it easier. Now the Best PEX fittings are the brass fittings that are barbed and the PEX tubing slides over it. If you’re building a new RV and you wanted to save a few bucks but still do a good job, this would be the way to go. Or if you’re doing a lot of plumbing and you can get the tools in there or the tool to crimp the stainless steel rings, that would be fine. It’s going to work. It’s going to last down the road.

Timing 10:14 If you didn’t have the tool and you’re out on a trip and one of those fittings start to leak and you can’t tighten it up, you’re going to have to cut it out and put in another fitting, probably a Flair It Fitting or a Sea Tech fitting. And that’s where the downside could be. So if you’re going to get into the Best PEX type of brass fittings with the crimp rings, you want to just buy the tool and have it. You will also want to have some extra crimp rings. I’m kind of jumping ahead here because I’m going to get into what you should have in your tool box in a moment. But Best PEX is a good option. And then as I said, Shark Bite, that’s number five on my list.

Timing 10:48 So I got five names on my list and Shark Bite I’d say is just for residential, leave it alone. They get very expensive. Shark Bite quick fittings that you just slide the tubing in, their brass so they get very heavy too. So bouncing down the road probably isn’t the best thing for a Shark Bite fitting either. it might stress the line and will start to leak, it could do other things. So I don’t think I’d use Shark Bite. Just the money factors would be enough for me. Sea Tech, Qest, Flair It, Best PEX are your options and for me Flair It is what I sell in my store, I like Flair It. Sea Tech is also a good option for those hard to get places. And then of course Best PEX for clamping the PEX tubing.

Timing 11:36 I have friends that have used that method in remodeling restaurants and places where the plumbing is exposed. The line and fittings are exposed and it works great for years to come. Using the clamps in an exposed situation is fairly clean looking as well. A brass fitting with just a stainless steel crimp ring on. It doesn’t take up a whole lot of space. If you’re looking at this price wise or let’s say you just want to find a fitting and go with it, whatever that brand is, whether it’s Flair It, Sea Tech, Best PEX. You might decide “I’m just going to pick a brand and I’m going to try to stick with that. Get everything the same in my RV”. Or maybe your RV has a certain brand and you want to just keep with that, maybe it has all Sea Tech fittings and it maybe it has all Flair It.

Timing 12:19 Let’s look at pricing and what it costs per fitting. So if we go with a ½” x ½” x ½” Tee that is going to take the PEX tubing, it’s not going to be threaded. The Flair It fitting would run $6.69 for a ½” x ½” x ½” Tee with no tools required. Tighten it by hand, give it a little more twist with a pair of pliers. Flair It does have a new fitting out called PEX Lock fittings and they’re a little bit different. They’re similar to the Best PEX in a way. You slide a ring over the tubing, you slide the tubing onto a plastic fitting, and then you use a pair of pliers to tighten the ring.

Timing 13:16 It locks down on the PEX and then they’re reusable. So that’s a little bit different than the other stainless steel type clamp. It’s plastic. Just use a pair of pliers, so in some hard to get places that might be another option. If you can’t get a big crimper in there, you can get a pair of pliers in there. I’m not 100% sold on these. I haven’t used one yet. I’m going to have to use one, try one out. I’m going to get some ordered up in the next week or so to test them out. They run about $6 per fitting, so that’d be the Tee and 3 clamps. That isn’t too bad. If it has no leaks and lasts for the long haul, then that might be a really viable option or even another option to have in your toolbox. In case of an emergency type situation, you just need to get back on the road.

Timing 13:58 And now the Best PEX brass fittings with the stainless steel clamps. So you’d need one fitting and three clamps. That’s going to run about $5.87 plus the tool, which is 75 bucks or more. You might be able to find one cheaper. The last one I got was $75 a Shark Bite one was over a hundred so I opted for the cheaper one. They do the exact same thing and then there’s Sea Tech with their push and fitting, so ½” x ½” x ½” Tee pushing the PEX line to it. Now that’s a reusable fitting so you can reuse it. If you had to take your plumbing apart for some reason, you can put it back together. You just need to be able to release it with the Collet clips, like I said, are the easy way to do that.

Timing 14:42 They’re cheap, you know they’re pennies a piece. So that fitting will run $9.59 and then a SharkBite fitting ½” x ½” x ½” Tee it would $11.97 so that’s suggested retail. You might find them for more, might find them for less, but that just gives you a nice average price. The Flair It fitting really to me comes in as the best. You don’t need a tool for it. It’s $6.69 for ½” x ½” x ½” Tee yeah, putting the line, tighten it up and away you go. But that’s just me. So I would look at this on what’s easy to for you and maybe do some research, go to the websites, go to an RV parts store, ask them to see the different fittings, see if they have them and then you become a little more knowledgeable. See what your RV has. You have to be logical about it and don’t go 100% on dollars.

Timing 15:32 Don’t look at the, if you get the brass fittings and clamp on a ring, that might be cheaper. It looks a little cleaner. But is that the best way to go? Okay, so you have to decide it’s your RV, look what’s best and what’s in there and kind of determine if you want to switch it over to something else or stick with the same. Now the nuts and bolts of this, what you should keep in your toolbox, and this is probably the most important thing because a lot of vacations get ruined because of water leaks. I have a friend who does mobile RV repair and all he does is Yellowstone. And during the summertime he describes it as like a mash unit, mobile army surgical hospital. Everybody’s on a trip, they just want stuff fixed, they don’t care. And so he just goes in and he fixes stuff and gets them on the road and that’s fine because they realize their trip is going to be ruined.

Timing 16:26 But a lot of these people have rental RVs. They borrowed someone’s RV or maybe it’s their RV and they just don’t know how to do anything or maybe they don’t have the parts to do it. So they call him up and he goes in and does it and he doesn’t do a slipshod job. That sounds kind of bad. You know a mash unit. But that’s what he likens it to. But he does good work. You know I would trust him. It’s not cheap to have someone come out. You know? If you’re on a trip, you also have your family maybe not too happy and they’re not thrilled with you. What happened to this RV? Why did it break again? This is the second water leak in this trip.

Timing 17:01  How much time is this going to take to repair? You guys know you’ve been down this road, I’m sure everybody out there with an RV who’s listening to this podcast has had water leaks that cause major problems and any water leak is a major problem. So what I would recommend to keep in your tool box, first off would be a PEX tubing cutter. They’re probably $12 to $20 depending on what type you get. And the reason why I recommend one. First off, they’re completely safe to use. Yeah, I mean you could be kind of ridiculous, you know a ding dong and cut the tip of your finger off if you really wanted to. But rather than using a razor knife, a big pair of scissors, some wire cutters, a Hacksaw, they just are so much easier to use and they don’t take up a lot of space to keep in a toolbox, it’s minimal.

Timing 17:54 And for 12 to 20 bucks, they work great and they cut the tubing off square so it’s not at an angle, you’re not trying to clean it up when it’s done. With a Hacksaw you’re going to have to clean off the end with a file file. Now these things just cut it off clean. If you make the tubing an eighth of an inch too long, you could actually cut off an eighth an inch of the tubing with these, they are very accurate, so that’s what I would start out with. And now when it comes to the PEX tubing, 1/2 and 3/8 are going to be the most common size you’re going to find in an RV, ¾” is out there. But I would check your RV to see if you see if there is any ¾” anywhere. If there’s none, don’t even worry about it.

Timing 18:35 We stock very little ¾” PEX tubing and fittings very little because theres just not that much out there. You don’t get a big call for it, so you might not even have any ¾” and the same would go for 38” tubing as well. You might just find some 3/8” underneath the sink going to a faucet or maybe to the shower. The 1/2 line is the most common and I’m talking about the inside diameter of the line. You know the outside of like a 1/2 line is 5/8” but everybody just calls it half. So that’s what I go with. So 1/2 and 3/8 are going to be the most common size and in some stores you can find it where they sell five foot sticks and you can just put it about anywhere.

Timing 19:22 PEX Tubing off a roll can be a little harder to store in an RV. Stores carry it because 200 feet on a roll, whatever it is and it’s easier for them to just pull it off a roll and cut. It doesn’t take up as much space, easier to work with than sticks. Especially if they’re doing service work but the sticks are ideal. Consider that when you’re buying it cause you’re going to store it in your RV I’d have at least five feet of the 1/2 for sure and depending on your RV, maybe five feet of the 3/8 or two feet, three feet, whatever. But a five foot stick is so cheap under five bucks I would just buy the sticks and you don’t have to have these just for an emergency.

Timing 20:01 The PEX line, the PEX fittings, you know you them in your RV for an emergency, but you know if you’re at home just preparing for a trip or your RV is just parked and you get a water leak, it’s not a big deal. You just use these fittings and the tubing and then just make sure you replace it. That’s the key. Making sure you replace it now it might be easier to not use it and just go back to the RV store and buy the fittings you need and the tubing and use that. That way you haven’t robbed your safety net, the fittings in your toolbox, but when it comes to the fittings, this is gets a little more, I’m not going to say trickier, just a little different. You’re going to need obviously 1/2 and 3/8 fittings. If that’s the waterline that is predominantly found in your RV.

Timing 20:42 If you have ¾” PEX Tubing you’ll have to have ¾” PEX fittings. But throwing some fittings out there that you probably couldn’t go wrong with would be some Tee’s. It’s going to go ½ x ½ ½ or 3/8 x 3/8 x 38. I don’t know if I’d mix that up and go ½ x 3/8 x ½ or 3/8 x ½ x 3/8? I would just go one size on the Tee’s and then you could get some reducers to go from ½ to 3/8. That way if you did have a Tee in the RV and maybe one fitting on it was 3/8 you could reduce it down. You have look at your RV and get a feel for it, but if you carried a Tee or a couple of Tees you would be good.

Timing 21:32 Then there’s going to be adapters that go from the PEX tubing to a female pipe thread and a male pipe thread. The PEX to female pipe thread are probably more common. That’s what you’d use on your toilet to connect a water line to your toilet or to connect waterlines to your faucet and even your water heater. Now in some applications you will find a PEX fitting or PEX tubing to a male thread. If I were going to stock that in my RV toolbox I would just carry a half PEX x 1/2 male pipe thread. Then the other adapters you might want to have, you know, at least two 1/2 PEX to 1/2 female pipe and then maybe a couple 3/8 PEX x 1/2 female pipe. I don’t think I would get a 3/8 PEX x 3/8 female fitting for pipe.

Timing 22:23 That’s not that common, but like I said look through your RV. You know there’s only a few fittings that you will really need. I wouldn’t go beyond that. Typically with what you have, you could probably make something work in an emergency if you didn’t have the exact right fitting, you could probably cobble together several fittings, some tubing and make it work. Also some RVs are going to have unique fittings in them. Now I’ve had people bring in fittings with waterlines and the waterline, looks like PEX tubing and it’s about a quarter inch in the outside diameter and it has a 1/2 female pipe thread on it. It’s going to a faucet then to something else inside the RV, maybe to a main water or somewhere else in the water system.

Timing 23:14 These are pre-made waterlines and might be hard to find. And quite often they can’t be modified. Although, you might be able to adapt that to the 3/8 PEX tubing, which is fine. You know, it’ll work. But if you’re concerned about it, some of those you might want to get from the manufacturer of your RV in advance if they’re available or check with an RV store to see if they can get them for you. But if they’re real unique, you might want to just have those on hand. It’d be an exact replacement. That way you don’t have to mess with it later on. That’s pretty much it. That’s not that complicated. So I would recommend, you know what I just went through, but I’m going to put some pictures on our website of the different fittings, the different sizes of the PEX tubing.

Timing 24:03 I’ll be adding a few more details about Flair It, Best PEX, Shark Bite, Qest & Sea Tech brands So that’ll help you and your decisions. Knowing this information helps you see when you go into an RV store, you’re not going in, Hey, I need a water fitting for my RV. And that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I get asked that all the time! More information is need! Now you go in knowing what you’re talking about and it’s going to be a much more pleasant experience. Believe me everything I do, whether it’s my home, my cars, my RV, my podcast studio, I go in armed, knowledgeable, I am a do it yourself, big time and I try to be knowledgeable so when I go in, I know what I’m looking for and I get what I need and I don’t get some run around or I have to go back home or back to my RV or back to my car to figure out what it is the guy’s asking.

Timing 25:01 I tried to go in with all that in advance. So that’s going to wrap it up for this show and I hope it was helpful. I know that’s a lot of talk about the brands and stuff and how they work, but it just makes you more knowledgeable. So when you go into a store and they say, well we don’t have Flair It, we have Sea Tech you’re not going to be, Oh no, what am I going to do? You’re going to be able to say okay! I understand. I know what that is. I can deal with that. In the next few episodes, not sure which order these are going to be in, but I just want to let you know that I’m going to talk about RV lifting and lowering blocks. The Blocks that go on your axles to lift or lower your trailer. And lifting is probably more of an issue today than anything else.

Timing 25:39 So we’ll just call them lifting blocks. Lithium batteries are in the works. We are working with a company now trying to get a line of lithium batteries for our store and also to get them to do an interview on the podcast. So I’m looking forward to that. Energizer generators, if you need a generator, Energizers the brand, and that’s going be an upcoming episode. And also for air conditioners, if you have a hard starting RV air conditioner. The one that won’t from your your generator. We have the solution for you and it’s made by Micro Air. So anything I just mentioned for a future episode, if you have a question about it, give me a call or email me. Use the contact page on Radio Arizona RV and I’d be more than happy to talk to you about it or answer your questions. I want to thank everybody for listening today. Again, this is Eric Stark with Radio Arizona RV.

Here is the Fitting Check List that I recommend:

3/8” PEX Coupler

3/8” PEX x ½” Female Pipe Thread

½” PEX Coupler

½” PEX Tee

½” PEX x ½” Male Pipe Thread Elbow

½” PEX x ½” Female Pipe Thread Elbow

½” PEX x ½ Female Pipe Thread Straight

5’ of ½” and 3/8” PEX Tubing. ¾” if needed?

View the Fitting Video

Flair It

Best Pex

Sea Tech

Qest – Zurn or Lasalle Bristol

Shark Bite

About the author, Eric

I have been a hands on DIY'er since childhood, yeah since childhood with the idea that the job has to get done. My job (not a career) history is not the typical job history. I have run successful multi-million dollar companies, I have started RV related businesses from ground up. Over the years I have acquired many skills, some self taught and taught by others in a hands on environment. Today everything I have learned over the decades has come together and now I love to help others and keep myself involved in my favorite industry, Recreational Vehicles! This is not even close to being finished......