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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dump station "engineering" leaves something to be desired

The old joke about, "Did you get your driver's license at Walmart," has a new extension as far as we're concerned: Did you buy your engineering license through CraigsList? As RVers, you've probably had an experience like ours that leads to such a question. Here's the scenario:

The days of free dump stations are getting pretty scarce. If you have to pay to dump, you'd think the charges would lead to better dump stations. We rolled into a TA Travel Center in Corning, California not long ago. The outfit boasts of "free RV dump with fuel fill up." Well, we crunched the numbers and determined that the higher cost of fuel was offset by the free dump. In the end, we're not sure if numbers on a calculator take into account the whole picture.

After filling up the truck, we drove around to the dump station, set up parallel to the fuel islands. A big yellow curb, probably 10" high or so, surrounded the dump station. The set up was laid out in such a fashion that the only approach to the dump station puts your RV on a slant -- the downhill side of which is to the passenger side of the rig. Since your dump port is more than likely on the driver's side of the rig, you're automatically at a disadvantage, as gravity will mandate at least some of your holding tank contents will stubbornly refuse to evacuate your tanks.

So the chief sanitary engineer in our traveling circus hooked up the dump hose to the rig, grumbling about the slant, and then encountered the next trick: Run the hose up the curb, across a slab, and then up yet another curb that surrounded the dump station's port. In total, the tanks contents had to go up hill, then down hill. Grabbing the black water handle, all went well for a few minutes, until the last of the black water contents refused to make the uphill climb to clear the hose. Grabbing the hose to "milk" it out, the hapless skipper suddenly discovered a previously unknown maintenance issue: The dump hose had chaffed and worn where it attached to the fitting at the RV end. That nasty old black water came splooshing out of the hose and making a hideous mess on the parking lot pavement.

Thank heavens, at least the "engineer" had thought to include a hosepipe at the station. Grabbing the rinse hose, your intrepid reporter began to wash the gross-and-groaty mess off the pavement. But to where? Down the slanted pavement to -- not a pavement grate -- there wasn't one -- just yards and yards of concrete. Can you say, "Crawl under your RV and hide?"

Cleaning up as best as able under the circumstances, the thought hit. What is it with engineers these days? It seems they all need to keep the old plumbers' adage in mind: "Water don't run up hill, and don't lick your fingers."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fixing that old seeping RV toilet seal

It seems all of us are plagued with RV toilet problems. What? You haven't been? Well, just wait, your turn is no doubt coming.. Harve, in La Crosse, Wisconsin had his own issues with a seeping toilet bowl. Here's Have's problem -- and how the RV Doc helped him rectify his toilet troubles:

I have a question about RV toilets. The one in our older motorhome seems to work fine but I'm wondering if the valve is closing properly. My neighbor says that the toilet should hold water in the bottom bowl to make a seal to prevent odors. All the water leaks out of mine and into the holding tank. I cannot find anything that may be preventing it from closing completely. Is this a do-it-yourself repair or do I need a professional?

Harv, indeed, there should be some water left in the bowl after every flush. Without the water seal, odors from the holding tank can and will enter the coach. There are a few possible reasons for the water to leak out; first, check to be sure that the bolts which secure the toilet to the flange are not too tight, thereby distorting the base of the toilet. If the toilet is mounted on top of carpeting, trimming the carpet so the base rests solidly on the floor is best. If the base is too tight, the flushing mechanism will become warped or wracked and not close fully.

But the most common cause is simply that paper and waste have accumulated inside the slide valve mechanism on Thetford’s Aqua Magic units. On an older SeaLand toilet, the typical cause is a worn seal or a clamp ring that is too loose. Yours is likely to be one of these two brands.

If you have an Aqua Magic, fashion an L-shaped hook out of a coat hanger or a bent screwdriver that will reach into the groove to scrape out the residue. Turn off the water supply, depress the flushing pedal and carefully remove any paper jammed into the groove just below the rubber seal. There is a tool you can purchase from Thetford just for this task if you wish. Take special care not to damage that seal. In severe cases, the toilet will have to be disassembled and the flushing mechanism taken completely apart, then cleaned, lubed and reassembled.

To rectify the situation on the SeaLand toilet, simply tighten the clamp ring. In some cases, a complete seal kit may have to be installed if water still continues to seep past the seal and into the holding tank.