Handy Guide on fixing and preventing common RV sewage problems

“Sewage water can lead to another disaster, which are diseases,” warned American sociologist and emergency manager Walter Maestri. The academic administrator wasn’t far from wrong when he confessed that statement.

Improper sewage disposal and inadequate knowledge about your RV sewage system will leave you at unease eventually. Before pulling your RV out of the garage and getting all ready to make that fancy trip, it is important to know how your RV sewage system works, what to do and what not to do when it gets jammed on your trip.

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Tom Lehrer was famously quoted as saying, “Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.” Unfortunately, Lehrer was bang on right about that. If you shrug off important things as doing a proper routine check on your RV, especially its drainage and sewer system before your trip, you are probably going to get butchered for your ignorance. “Better prepared than feeling sorry later,” they say.

Solutions to how to fix sewage problems when they come are stated below and a simple guide on how the RV sewage system works comes after.

 

HOW TO FIX COMMON RV SEWAGE PROBLEMS

Travelling long miles, watching passing cars, gawking at people talking, laughing, and tall building competing for heights is so much fun. Then having to settle in a campers ground and meet RVers like yourself makes you come alive even more. But, to get the best camping experience requires you to stop faffing around too much, and keep your eyes on the ball. Furniture, shoes, beds are not even on the queue list of problems faced by an RVer. Usually it has to do with the sewage system.

However, a broken RV sewage system is disastrous for you and every camper around you. The pungent smells that leave you washed with embarrassment or the annoying fact that you just have to drive your trailer back to an RV plumber if you are clueless about what to do.

We understand how important taking your rig for this trip is. We understand RVing flows in those veins of yours, which is why we have identified some common RV sewage problems, how to fix them yourself and how to prevent them.

Below are some common sewage problems many RVers face and how they can be solved.

Clogged Toilet

When toilet pipes are jammed, it means getting down, tying those boot ropes, rolling your shirt sleeves up, and getting your hands dirty. And the nauseating feeling that creeps up your throat when you have your black water tank drain blocked.  Usually this is caused by things that refused to decay that are flushed down the black tank. It’s never a good sign.

When you take such shocking hit, don’t try to work your way around it like using products that could damage or hurt your pipes in an attempt to unclog your pipes. You risk digging a deeper hole of mess for yourself.

So, why are you having a clogged toilet?

This is because you have been using unsafe materials to clean between your legs and these materials do not decompose at all. When they seat too long inside your RV black tank, they begin to accumulate, and some eventually block your draining tank.

Ways to Unclog Your Toilet

There are several ways you can get this resolved quickly.

  • Find your RV toilet valve. Open it and pour lots of hot water into the toilet holding tank (black water tank). Allow the water sit for long in the tank. This will cause it to mix with the solid at the bottom of the tank, soaking it. Drive around a bit to stir the mixture. This will loosen the clog. Once done, go to your camp drain site to flush out everything in the tank till it’s empty.
  • Use specially designed clogging materials that are meant for RV toilets. Some materials like tissue paper can be easily eaten up by these declogging chemicals without necessarily harming your lines.

 

Clogged RV Drain

This is usually caused by sitting water that’s refused to drain out completely from your RV grey tank.

How to remove the clog in RV drains

  • Firstly, inspect your RV grey tank to see if it’s filled up. It could be the clog was just water after all. Empty the tank in your camp drain site.
  • If that doesn’t solve it, the problem could be sitting inside your shower. Use a sink plunger to make a way through the clog. This should drain the water.
  • Use an enzyme- based drain specifically handmade for RVs. Pour this down the drain. Let this enzyme stay in drain overnight to dissolve and seep into the clog. Take a small bucket filled with hot water and pour it into the drain to flush the clog further down and out into the grey water tank.
  • Check the drain using a torch to be able to sneak a peek into what’s going on down there. See if there’s really an obstruction to the flow of water. If you find something, try using a coat hanger wire to extract it.

 

Clogged RV Toilet/Kitchen Sink

When a kitchen or toilet sink is jammed, sometimes it could be because the grey water tank is filled up or the drain is blocked. To resolve this problem try out the following.

How to clear a clogged kitchen or toilet sink

  • Check the grey tank to see if it’s filled up and needs to be emptied.
  • If that’s not the problem, next place to look is the kitchen’s downpipe where the p trap is installed. The p trap prevents any backflow and acts as a shield against pungent odour from wastewater. Before removing it, put a bowl under to catch any water left inside the downpipe or the p trap. If the water drains then your sink is clog-free. If it doesn’t, you might want to take a quick look at the drain.
  • If the drain is blocked use a plunger to clear it.
  • Another area to look if none of the above seems to be the problem is the p trap. If it is clogged, use a snake plunger to clear the clog.

When doing any of this, avoid using Carbon dioxide capsules, or force in air or water at a very high pressure. Doing this could cause a rip in your RV toilet or bathroom sinks pipes.

 

Broken Wax Ring on Your RV Toilet

A broken wax ring could escape undetected especially if your RV floor is well protected. When the wax seal of your RV toilet is broken, this will cause your RV toilet to leak. And most of these leaks happen under your RV toilet floor.

The wax ring from your RV toilet can occasionally fail. And if not replaced quickly could create a big screen of dirty water mess.

Signs to pick to sniff out a broken wax ring include: bad odour in your RV toilet area, your RV toilet is always rocking back and forth or just unsteady, other times the presence of water around the base of your RV toilet.

How to fix a broken wax ring

  • Get a new wax seal or ring
  • Unhook the water to the toilet tank.
  • Flush the toilet until you get all the water out of the tank.
  • Get the black water tank to a separate area.
  • Unbolt the toilet to free the whole toilet and ensure the black water tank has been kept in a safe area to prevent losing your tools in it.
  • Remove the broken wax ring and clean around the area where the ring’s been before.
  • Replace the broken wax ring with the new wax seal and use a plumbing sealant to seal it tight.
  • Rebolt the toilet back to its original place, then connect the water back to the tank.

 

HOW TO PREVENT A RV SEWAGE FAILURE/DISASTER

Sewage problems are a pain in the neck. Sometimes it requires you gutting your entire rv to fix it properly. However, they are simple things you can do to prevent a sewage disaster. Below are some of them:

 

  • Avoid emptying your RV black tank too often. Doing this before it’s completely filled up will cause solid waste that should have mixed and softened with wastewater to get caked on one or all sides of your black tank.
  • To prevent smells, try and keep the dump valves closed. Leaving them open could cause unwanted smell seeping back into your RV causing total discomfort.
  • Use recommended RV toilet tissues for your RV toilets and avoid dumping or flushing down things like sanitary pads, condoms etc.
  • Pin a date on your RVing months to clean out your RV holding tanks completely.

 

 

HOW YOUR RV SEWAGE SYSTEM WORKS

If you camp out a lot as a hobby, enjoy doing long distance journeys and spending the night around new people every month, then having an RV makes a good choice for campers.

Getting a good hang of how your sewage system is structured and how it works will keep off any form of embarrassment or hassles should you face a bitter accident of sewage failure.

The bulk of your sewage system is comprised of your RV holding tanks, accumulator tanks etc.

RV holding tanks? What are they used for?

Basically these tanks are used for holding water. Camping without water is you walking into a trap. Water is the engine behind a fun camp life.

Three kinds of water that are held in your RV holding tanks. There is the fresh water, grey water and black water.

Each of this kind of water is held by separate tanks. In a simpler description, you have two kinds of water systems.

The Fresh Water System and the Waste Water System.

 

Fresh Water Tank System

This used for a lot of things. From drinking, to washing, to cooking and cleaning, etc. Your fresh water has to come from a reliable source. They are held in a RV fresh water tank and must be easily accessible and sanitized when due. Water stored in this RV tank should not be kept for too long at most 2 weeks if you drink from the tank. This is done to prevent the growth of bacteria in your water.

 

Grey water and black water tank system

These essentially make up the waste water system. Grey water is water collected from your RV kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks and showers.

For example when you decide not to have that cup of tea because it has gone stale and you pour it into your kitchen drain. Or soap water and mouth wash water from a morning bath; they are all collected and held in an RV grey water holding tank. They are kept there until you are ready to dispose them off properly.

On the other hand, black water is solid waste with water running straight down from your toilet. You already get that thought right? Each time you use the toilet and then flush down, all that is generally called black water. All that shitty water and particles are collected in a separate tank in your RV known as the black water tank. This is usually kept hidden and properly sealed to prevent horrid smells and spills.

 

Booster pumps

Water pumps or sometimes called booster pump are used to control the flow of water in an RV. They come shipped with electrical switches used to control the pressure in pumps. When water moving through your water lines breaks the pressure point pre-set on your water pump, the booster pumps kills the power on the pump. However, it main attribute comes if there is not enough water going round in your RV, the booster pumps are responsible for raising the low water pressure to increase the flow rate and ensure it reaches all supply outlets.

      Accumulator tanks; these tanks come in handy when the pressure in your RV pressure pump begins to fluctuate. To avoid being caught unaware, most RVers install an accumulator tank. Although most pump manufacturers sometimes attach one to the pressure/booster pump. The accumulator helps enhance the performance of your pressure pump keeping a steady water flow rate. They are usually attached to the pressured side of your water pump. They reduce pressure spikes, increase your pump’s life and save plenty of battery power.

 

Water filtration

Drinking water is very healthy. But what’s not healthy is drinking contaminated water that appears to look clean to the eyes. You know what they say, “looks can be, and are truly deceiving.” Nothing feels worse when gripped with the thought that you just wolfed down a cup of water from an unclean source. On that note, as an RVer, having a strong water filtration system is important. They can be fetched at varying prices depending on the quality.

All these sketchy details, including RV fixtures and pipes, give a glimpse of what make up your sewage system. And most of them are usually installed inside your RV if eventually you are thinking of purchasing one upon reading this article.