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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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

RVers with "electronic" toilet blues: There may be an option

If it's time for you to replace your RV toilet, you may be amazed at some of the options you can choose from. Toilets with foot pedal flush are one thing; toilets with external wash jets (like a kitchen sink spray hose) for that "extra clean" thing. All of these items have been around for ages. How about electric toilets? Sounds like something you might find after you walk "the last mile" with the chaplain down at the prison, huh?

Well, the companies that build these whiz wizards tout them with terms flashy (splashy?) phrases like, "Just push the button and walk away!" "Great performance!" "Superior bowl wash down!" "Minimizes water use!"

Sounds like a whole host of great features. But what about the reality?

After a few years with these fancy units on the market, the feedback is coming back in. Terms like, "Expensive boat anchor," "Control board went wild, flooded my whole bathroom and bedroom," "Makes enough noise to raise the dead." "Ditchinn the d*** thing as quickly as I can and going back to manual," keep popping up. Yes, these fancy "new" toilets with electronic brains have their share of detractors.

If you've already wound up with one of these units in your rig, and are disturbed by their performance – or lack thereof – can you "ditch" the thing? And how hard is it to replace one?

Many unhappy RVers have indeed, replaced their electronically controlled toilet with a much-less-expensive, tried-and-true manual flush job. BUT (and when we talk about toilets, there are a lot of buts), it does depend. Some RVs have toilets perched in odd places. Odd, relative to the location of the black water holding tank. Some manufacturers are putting toilets away from the black water tank, and using a built-in macerator pump system to grind up the toilet's contents, and pump the slurry down a skinny little pipe. In these cases, you are truly stuck with an electronic biffy.

Where an e-toilet is not required, in many cases replacing with a typical 'gravity drop' toilet is a pretty straight-forward process. To make sure, BEFORE you order a new biffy or start ripping out the old one, shop around. When you've narrowed your choices down, call the customer service number for the "new" toilet of your choice, and ask them if it will replace your "Model XYZ," and what extra things may be required for the replacement.

Typical replacement of an e-toilet with a manual system is like replacing a manual for a manual, with the addition of disconnecting the wiring from the e-toilet, and figuring out where to stash the harness (if there is one).

What to do with the "old" e-toilet? Well, you may actually find somebody who wants one. There's always Craig's List.