RV holding tank, ‘self clean’ repair

Picture of ERNEST ANDREAS

Camco Tornado, or similar Flushing device, inside 2004 Holiday Rambler ‘black’ waste holding tank quit operating. It started in Lockhart Texas last fall, when the city line crew let sand/dirt into the water system. It got into the rotating flush device inside the black water tank during ‘dump’ and flush procedure. One more reason to Not drink water from the fresh water holding tank. Never know when work crews let dirt into the system.

I had naively removed the little screened hose washer from the inlet fitting, where the hose fastens during flush. I paid for that mistake. The sand/gravel clogged the little rotating sprinkler head inside the black holding tank. Tornado spray head had clogged with ‘stuff’ before. A quart of car wash soap from Dollar Tree, along with 5 gallons of water, driving the last 100 miles on return trip, sloshed out the ‘stuff’.

No way to locate the little tank flush Tornado sprinkler, buried deep under the insulated flooring of the class A, so while still at the campground, I tried vacuuming the hose connector line leading into the bowels of the beast. No luck, but clogged the filter on the Shark dry vacuum cleaner we carry in the coach. Navigator had to order another Shark HEPA filter on the net. Thoroughly washed the Shark with detergent after that fiasco, because it stank really bad after the failed attempt.

I figured there was a vacuum breaker mounted high enough to comply with plumbing safety ‘code’, somewhere that prevented the vacuum cleaner from sucking out the sand. Removing the ‘wet basement’ control panel and using a flashlight and mirror on a stick, to follow the feed line, then measuring it’s disappearing act up through the floor, I found the small white device on two 1/2″ water lines inside, tucked up Under the bathroom sink.

While in the bowels of the beast, with it’s intestines of wires and plumbing, I used the opportunity to rearrange the pull handle line on the black holding tank. Note: Remote cable operated Knife valves in the 2004 HR Vacationer are in a tight, insulated crawl space, 5′ from the basement door access opening. Holiday Rambler factory techs, skinny, routed it wrong with a serious kink and it was always like pulling to the breaking point, on a dry stuck valve.

Unscrewing the T handle and cutting off the external mount flange on the threaded housing cylinder of the pull cable, using a Dremel tool, was easier than disconnecting the knife valve end of the cable, back in the crawl space. A 2nd flange nut, then threaded onto the outside end of the handle sleeve, allowed remount from behind the control panel. Putting the control panel back in place, after reconnecting the feed lines to all of the faucets and connectors, I noted all of the rusty screws holding the panel, covers and valves in place.

Trip to Lowe’s and found larger #10×1″ Stainless Steel pan head screws, that were more secure and will not ever rust. Looks much better now and the pull handle works better than new. Temporarily removed the ‘code’ vacuum breaker and replaced it with a temporary loop of ‘test’ tubing, I made from 1/2″ plastic fittings and a piece of rubber hose from Lowe’s.

About $10 of temporary hardware and I was ready to vacuum out sand/gravel from the little rotating Tornado sprinkler ‘Backwards’, to clear the sand. Used a ‘wet vac’ to suck it clean this time. During last ‘dump’, we had flushed out the tank using a hose through the bedroom window, then pre-charged the tank with 5 gallons of water and a qt of car wash from Dollar Tree. Drove around a bit to slosh the mixture, so no stinky stuff was present, just sudsy water.

I use one quart of mild car wash soap (bio-degradable non-detergent) per each 2 gallon pre-charge of water. The knife valves stay lubed and the self cleaning device stays clean. The soapy effluent aids in the flushing of the solids during the dump process and does not interfere in the natural biology of digestion during camping.

Odors have not been an issue. If they are, dropping in a small bag of digestive chemical for RV holding tanks, remedies the situation. When camping for extended periods with no vehicle movement, the larger solids will not break down, unless a sufficient drive of the vehicle sloshes the effluent in the holding tank. Expect to see the larger pieces, including paper pass down through the clear plastic section of the bayonet discharge, as well as a longer period of flush time. Some RV’ers use a marine maceration pump. Place a note on the RV/marine toilet to warn neophytes, “Nothing goes in this toilet that you have not eaten and Digested”.

Note: I have often used Dollar Tree ‘car wash’ soap (not detergent) as a treatment substitute, works better than the chemical treatments and keeps the knife valves sliding freely. Never store with the knife valves Dry (including open), as they will stick, tear the seals and require time consuming replacement. Winter long term seasonal storage, I use ‘Automotive’ Anti-Freeze (it does not evaporate easily) to keep the toilet ball and knife valve seals immersed, wet and lubricated, as well as protect the ‘traps’ (don’t forget the shower) from freezing.

Several wet vacuum sessions on the 1/2″ tank rinse line female hose fitting, applying intermittent air and water pressure, eventually restored the full flow through the lines and Tornado. Tested with the temporary looped hose line, then re-installed the vacuum breaker, adding a little filter screen hose washer into flush hose inlet fitting. Those cheaply manufactured little plastic safety code vac breakers, cost about $50 for RV/marine specialty fixtures, so I was happy it worked after re-install. BTW do Not screw on a secondary anti back-flow hose device. Freezing issues, etc.

Wet basement functions and looks much nicer now, with no rusty screws on the control panel or floor fixtures. The larger Stainless Steel screws hold the panel and fittings better than the rusty, original wimpy zinc coated screws, with which the Holiday Rambler factory had built the coach. We do ALL of our own improvements and maintenance, except for really serious stuff. If we didn’t, there is no way we could justify owning a motor coach, or enjoy traveling.

Enjoy touring the United States of America, One Nation under God. The greatest, Freedom loving nation, history has Ever recorded.

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