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Monday, September 8, 2014

RV toilets: What to do if your seat ain't so neat

Here's a subject that's not oft' spoken of in RVing circles, but from a comfort standpoint, ought to be: How's your RV toilet seat?

You probably don't think about the seat on the throne, lest you're seated on the throne, and the seat isn't too neat. What can you do about an uncomfortable or worn out RV toilet seat? In many cases, simply replace the durn thing.

Unless you're "blessed" with an ancient vintage RV toilet, replacing the seat probably won't require a visit (or contact) with the original toilet manufacturer for an invariably expensive "replacement part." Drop that lid now and take a look. Does it appear that your seat attaches to the toilet like the one back in your sticks n bricks home? If it does, then it's likely you can work with an "off the shelf" toilet seat from your nearby Lowes.

But what might cause you to swap out your old toilet seat? Could be that it's just plain ugly – I know ours could stand a retrofit, but sadly, we're in the camp of the "ancient vintage RV toilet" that can't be easily replaced. A friend of ours – who remains anonymous –  can explain another good reason: Beware the crack.

The friend is a good sized fellow, and failed to notice a small crack in a toilet seat before easing himself onto it. All was well, until he tried to rise up again – the micro-crack in the toilet seat responded to the assault of his prodigious backside by opening up larger under pressure, then snapping closed like an offended snapping turtle. We'll allow your imagination to picture the results of trying to stand up and re-clothe yourself with a toilet set biting into your bottom.

Other RVers have reported that they'd like to get a little more rise out of their toilet seat for medical reasons. Oft cited are recent knee or hip replacement operations, where easing down or getting back up off the seat is torture. Yes, you can get a riser for the typical RV toilet, but the rise is only good for a couple of inches – hardly enough to help. While a replacement toilet set here may not be of much help, if there's enough room around the commode, you may find that a bedside commode from a medical supply outfit will sit right over the top of your existing RV toilet, and a clever funnel-like design allows the contents of the commode to drop down into the targeted toilet. Not only does this preclude having to purchase a riser, a taller toilet, or both, these commodes usually come equipped with handy armrests that allow the user to gain a little leverage on lift-off.

What about the nuts and bolts of replacing your toilet seat? You could simply remove the old seat from your rig, and take it with you to the hardware store, sizing up bolt and hole patterns. If that's a bit too much for your sensibilities, then make careful measurements, or even tracings on paper or cardboard. You may find that the "bumpers" or spacers that lie between the seat and the rim of the toilet won't line up as they should. It's possible to relocate them in some cases, or to simply add a couple of new ones in appropriate locations. Add them how? Some mount with screws, or you could glue them into place.

For you vintage RV owners that have problems finding a seat small enough to cover that equally vintage porcelain RV toilet, check out the Vintage Trailer Supply web site. For less than $20, you may find just what you're looking for.

And want to get fancy? If you're working on "shore power," it's possible to lay your hands on a heated toilet seat. Afraid of a shocking experience? A low-voltage power supply steps down the shore power to a safe level before the juice hits the seat. Check it out on Amazon.

What's the bottom line? If you're RVing, you may as well be comfortable everywhere – even in the biffy.

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."