RV Water & Waste 101 – Black Water, Gray Water & Potable Water Problems To Watch For



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Every self-contained RV has both a clean water system and a waste water system.

  • The clean water is also called fresh water or potable water.
  • The waste water is also referred to as black water and gray water.

Both, the clean and waste water systems on an RV, can give you problems if you’re not familiar with how to properly maintain them.

While parked in the pits at an IHRA drag racing event, they had someone come by to empty our RV water tanks.

When the dealer demonstrated everything to you about the RV you were buying, he may have missed some helpful information that is necessary to keep your RV’s water systems operating properly.

Here’s what you need to know about black water, gray water, and potable water on your RV…

 

Understanding RV Water Systems

I’m sure after your introductory tour of your RV, you know where the clean water tank and its filler are located.

You probably also know about the drain valves for the waste tank and how to read the monitor panel for levels of all 3 separate tanks (black, gray, potable).

Some RV dealers will breeze through pretty fast and overlook a number of ways that you can make life easier for yourself and avoid problems down the road.

These tips might help…

 

Your RV’s Fresh Water System

You’re probably thinking that you just need to fill the tank with clean water, or hook up the hose. It sounds pretty simple, right?

Well, there are a few more things to keep in mind regarding your RV’s clean water system…

 

Potable Water Tips:

rv-fresh-water-holding-tank.jpg#1 – Always use a certified potable water hose when filling the tank or hooking to city water.  They are easily identified, as they are white in color.  By being a distinctive color, they will be less likely to be used for other things that may contaminate them.  Potable water hoses are manufactured such that they will not cause a bad taste or odor to the water.  Just remember, they should never be used for anything other than supplying clean water to your RV.

Regular garden hoses are not designed for use with potable water, and they often contribute an unpleasant odor and taste to your water. They may also leach chemicals into your water that could affect your health.  Source

#2 – Water hoses must always be protected by a pressure regulator when hooked to the city water port of your RV.  The regulator should be attached to the end of the hose that hooks to city pressure, not the end that attaches to the RV.  You want to protect the hose itself from high pressure, as well as the RV water system.

#3 – In the event of contamination, foul odor, or bad taste, you should disinfect your RV water system with household bleach.  Pour 1 cup to 1 gallon of water into an empty tank, then fill the system.  Turn on the pump and run water through all faucets until bleach is smelled.  Let it sit 24 hours, then drain and refill the tank.  Run all faucets until the odor of bleach is gone, this may take a couple tanks of water to get rid of the odor.

#4 – When RVing in freezing temperatures, the water hose must be protected from freezing whenever it’s under pressure.  It’s best to use as short a hose as possible, install an electrical heat tape, and wrap the hose with insulation.  One-inch split foam pipe insulation works well to cover the hose.

Here’s a trick to shorten your hose:  In areas where the ground isn’t frozen, you can dig a shallow hole and bury the bulk of extra length of hose.  Place the coiled bulk of extra hose inside a clean plastic garbage bag and cover it with dirt.  This way, Mother Earth is keeping it warm.

#5 –  High summer temperatures down south can cause a hose under pressure to weaken and split in the same way that freezing temperatures will cause a hose to fail.  Insulate your water line year round when remaining stationary for long periods of time.

#6 – Be sure to drain your water tank after every outing, in order to prevent a foul odor from accumulating due to stagnant water.

More RV fresh water system tips

 

Your RV’s Waste Water System

Here again, it appears to be pretty simple. You just hook up the waste hose, stick it into the sewer drain at your campsite, and open the dump valves, right?

You might be thinking that you’re good to go until you’re ready to leave the campsite, but actually you’ve just caused yourself some serious problems.

When you hook your sewer hose to the ground sewer connection, many campgrounds and municipalities require you to use an odor tight connection.  This requires a special hose fitting that didn’t come in the courtesy kit supplied with your RV.  It may be a 90-degree plastic fitting that fits inside your sewer hose, or it might be a rubber donut ring that goes around the outside of the hose.

Here are some more things you need to know about your RV’s waster water system…

Gray Water Tips:

The gray water is what drains from the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower.  Since there is no human waste involved, it is stored in its own tank — the gray water tank.

When you look at your water drain valves the gray water comes down the smaller pipe, as there is no solid matter in the water.

#1 – When you’re boondocking, you may want to dispose of gray water through a garden hose using the water to supply moisture to vegetation or a garden that may be close by.  Do not use your potable water hose to drain your waste tank!  Instead, you will need a special drain cap that downsizes the 3-inch fitting to a garden hose fitting.

#2 – When hooked to either a city sewer connection or a garden hose, you can leave the gray water valve open to let it drain as it’s used.

More tips for draining your RV’s gray water tank.


Black Water Tips:

rv-black-water-holding-tank.jpgThis is the storage tank for the toilet, and only the toilet.  It’s not an environmentally accepted practice to drain this tank anywhere other than an approved RV dump site.

Here are some other things you need to know about your RV’s black water tank:

#1
– Do NOT leave the dump valve for the black water open when you are hooked up to a sewer connection at a campsite.  By allowing the water to drain away, the solids will accumulate inside the tank.  In a very short period of time, the tank will fill with a solid mass and the tank will not drain.  You will have a nasty project on your hands if you ever need to clean out a tank in this condition.

#2 – Leave the drain valve closed until the tank is getting close to full.  This will give the solids time to break down, and the tank will more easily empty completely when you do open the valve.

Having trouble getting your RV’s black water tank to drain properly?

#3 – Always use the approved chemicals in your black water tank.  They not only control odor, but they also help break down the toilet paper and solids.  By using special RV toilet paper (or brands that are designed to break down quickly), you will be less likely to have problems with clogs.

#4 – Now, about that wonderful monitor panel that indicates the levels of your tank…  The black water light will probably be accurate during your first outing, as the toilet is used for the first few times.  It’s likely it will never be accurate again.  Bits of toilet paper will hang onto the sensors in the tank giving you readings ranging from partially to completely full, when you know darn well the tank is empty.

TIP: You can waste a lot of time and effort by flushing the tank with clean water, driving around with half a tank of water hoping it will clean off the sensors, and still the lights will show that you have a full tank.  Don’t bother, it’s not that important.  Depending on how many people are using the toilet, just set up a schedule and drain the tank when you think it’s getting close to full.  Once a week, every other day, what ever works for you.

#5 – If you remain stationary as a full time RVer (we lived in our 5th wheel trailer for 2 years without moving it), it’s a good idea to clean your black water tank every so often to eliminate any residual buildup of solids.  The easiest way is to stick an old garden hose (green in color, so you don’t mix it up with the RV’s clean water hose) through the toilet and with as much water pressure as is available turn, twist, push and pull it to spray water into as many corners and crevices in the tank as possible.  Many toilets drop straight into the black water tank making this chore easier and more effective.

Many RVs are equipped with enclosed and insulated waste and water tanks, some even have heat from the furnace plumbed directly into the space occupied by the tanks.  These RVs are suitable for year round use.  Those with exposed tanks can’t handle being used in freezing temperatures.  Just one more consideration to keep in mind when your shopping for your next RV.

Learn more about your RV water system here.

Curtis

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 50 years — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs and motorhomes. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller... you’ve got a good idea of who I am. To date, I've shared my RV knowledge in over 300 articles here at The Fun Times Guide! Many of them have over 25K shares.

200 thoughts on “RV Water & Waste 101 – Black Water, Gray Water & Potable Water Problems To Watch For

  1. Thanks Curtis! We are in our travel trailer for the first time and I really needed this information. From one RV’er/diabetic to another, thank you!

    Jeremy

    1. Mitch Beebe, I’m assuming you have an exposed black water tank under your trailer.  I’d get a portable salamander style heater and point it under the trailer being careful not to get it so close it damages the trailer.  You might hang a tarp on the opposite side to help keep the heat under the trailer.  Remember you’re dealing with something that can burn your RV to the ground, be careful. The other alternative is wait for a warm day and let Mother Nature thaw it for you, it’s not all that cold yet.

    1. Layna, I think you mean “portable” tank, but basically no. I say that because I’m interpreting your thought as using the typical slinky hose from your RV attached to the portable tank and leaving the valves open so waste would run directly to the portable tank. The problem is the liquid would run as expected and the solids would pile up in the black tank of the RV eventually plugging the black tank. This is a real mess to clean out. You want as much water as possible to remain in the black tank to help liquefy the solid waste. Only when the black tank is full should you then open the gate valve and drain it into the portable tank for disposal.

  2. Hey Curtis. I just bought a used RV from a friend. Apparently about 14 months ago they let someone stay in it and unknown to my friend, they were using the toilet. The RV hasn’t been run or moved in the last 14 months and I need to know what I’m up against as far as getting this thing cleaned out ( they also left feces in the toilet bowl itself without flushing it down- not a pretty sight). This is my first RV, so any advice you have on what steps I should be taking to getting this cleaned up would be great, hopefully I can stomach it. Thank You in advance.

    1. Amber, This may not be as bad as you think, the key is how long the person used the toilet? If it was for a short period the worse you may need to deal with is the tank needs to be emptied and flushed out with water. If a large quantity of solids has built up in the tank you should add water (at least half a tank) and then drive the RV around so that the sloshing action will help loosen the waste so that it will flush out when you drain the tank. It may take 2-3 flushings of the tank to get it cleaned out but you should be good to go after that.

  3. Thank you for the advice on the black water tank. I have been trying to get ours to drain and had left it open the entire 3 weeks so far. It made complete sense once I read that if I let out all the liquid the solids have no way to travel out. I am hoping I can remedy this without too much hassel. (YUCK)

    1. Jon, Through the toilet. You can hold the valve open on the toilet or use a garden hose. Just be sure to NOT use the white clean water hose.

  4. Hi Curtis, we just bought a new 5th wheel with a smaller black water tank. Just curious how most people take there’s with them. Are they able to store them under the 5th wheel or like on a bike rack? Thanks!

    1. Margaret, I’m guessing you’re referring to a portable (blue) waste tank. The back of your pickup truck sounds like the perfect place to me. Some people build platforms off the rear of their RV for extra stuff like BBQ’s or lawn chairs, and yes the blue tote as well.

    1. rdblake, All I ever use is regular household toilet paper. It dissolves just fine with water, sewage, or whatever is in your black tank. Just make sure there is plenty of liquid. Being stingy with the water when flushing is what leads to a build up of solid material. When in doubt, add more water.

    1. Rob T, It’s a matter of personal preference. It won’t hurt anything and I doubt that bugs would be an issue. Myself I close them when in storage and prefer to leave it closed even when hooked to a sewer connection while camping. My reasoning is the Black tank should be kept closed until it is about full so that the solids flush out when you drain it. If you drain the black tank first, then close the valve that allows all water to go out the flexible sewer hose. Then open the gray water valve. The water will run into the black tank and back flush the black tank to some extent. Then open the main dump valve and allow the gray water to go to the sewer hookup. Your biggest concern should always be making sure the black water tank has the best opportunity to get the solids out.

  5. This is my first RV. I have noticed a stale smell when I use my AC or fan. Am I suppose to clean out the air duct an how would I actually do that? P.S. glad I founx tbis site.

    1. Rob t, Spray some air freshener into the intake grill. If you have a ducted air conditioner there may be a foam filter you can remove and wash out. The stale smell should go away with use, if it was in storage or some time.

    1. Jim, Maybe this will work for you. Buy a piece of 6″ PVC pipe long enough to do the job. Cap one end, and install a screw in drain plug fitting on the other. Then attach it under the trailer running across the trailer. You’ll have to decide on your own if this is feasible since I can’t see from here what space you have available.

  6. Hello Jim,
    I’ve got a tough one…
    I recently bought a 1985 silver streak trailer and upon hooking up to water discovered that the great water tank seems to be nearly full of sediment. It does drain but very slowly and it backs up into the shower easily. Any advice?

    1. Paul, That is a strange one. Usually it’s the black water tank that has become plugged up with material. Repeated flushing and driving around with water in the tank is the most often recommended way to liquefy tank residue. My one concern, as it is the gray tank, it is possible someone has let cooking grease wash down the drain. That would make an impossible mass that won’t flush out very easily. Try running a plumber’s snake up into the tank from the drain valve. At least you should be able to ascertain that the problem isn’t just something blocking the drain hole.

      1. Thanks for your reply, Curtis. I’ll give you some more detail…
        We’ve been renovating the Silver Streak for the last several weeks and plan to use it as a home, not as a travel trailer, per se. As I said, when I first hooked up to our water supply, the drain quickly started backing up, indicating that the tank was full. This obviously came as a surprise. To our knowledge the trailer hasn’t been used in quite some time and we’d only run a few gallons of water through the system. When I first attempted to drain the gray water tank (off into the woods, not a septic tank of any sort) quite a lot of foul smelling, actual “gray” liquid came out. Additionally, there were many chunks of a semi-solid chalky substance. With the drain open I ran both our sinks and the shower for a while with the idea that I would flush the system out. This seemed to be working very well – after a few minutes I had a steady flow of clear water pouring out of the hose. I closed the gray water drain, thinking that we would operate with it closed and empty when the tank became full. I ran some more water and to my surprise, the shower drain backed up quickly once again. However, this time when I opened the gray water drain only a trickle came out. That was a couple of weeks ago. I’ve worked on this periodically since then… I’ve tried snaking from the outside into the tank and down through the shower drain. I’ve plunged the backed up shower drain til I’m blue in the face. Even if I leave the drain valve open, water backs up into the shower after a short time. For example, yesterday I washed a few dishes in the kitchen sink. By the time I was done we had two inches of water in the shower. I’m perplexed, to say the least. At this point, because I’m such a complete loss, I’m considering re-plumbing the drainage system to bypass the gray tank all together. But if there’s some way I can clear the tank, that would certainly be preferable. Ugh. I’ve been reluctant to try Drano or anything like that for fear it might damage the plastic plumbing. Might that help?
        A couple of notes… nothing solid has come out of the drain since that first day. The water that comes out is clearer than at first and not especially foul smelling. Thanks again, Curtis.

        1. Paul, One more thought. If it’s possible to run a garden hose down the shower drain, or up through the drain valve the added pressure may blast loose some of the material. I’m as much at a lose as you are as to what’s in the tank. I don’t think Drano would harm anything, RV plumbing is pretty much the same as household plumbing these days. I don’t know how much good it would do either. Good luck!

  7. We just bought a 2000 Trail-Lite Trail cruiser and it looked in very clean condition with only three previous owners. We found the black tank not fully cleaned but worked that out. The water tank was half full still. We drained that. We plan to bleach that too. But the gray water tank still registers full. We have tried the Dawn, driving around thing and it went from full to 2/3 but them back up to full. I have OCD and I need my sensors to work properly. Please give me the magic fix that will put my mind at ease besides giving this back to the previous owner?

    1. Vicky, OCD… This is going to be a problem for you. If it is a straight shot through the toilet into the black tank you can use a spray wand with a garden hose with good pressure and spray the area where the sensor are for a while. You can also use Rid-X for RV’s : http://tiny.cc/f9tlkx
      in the future to help the waste be digested better. Using RV toilet paper may help too because it breaks down easier. The bad news part is even if you succeed in cleaning the sensors the next time you use the toilet most likely the sensors will get contaminated again. I have seldom paid any attention to my black tank sensors because they just aren’t reliable no matter what you do. I simply keep both gray and black tanks closed even when hookups are available and when the gray tank shows close to full I drain both tanks. Drain the black first using the gray water to clean out your sewer hose when it drains.

      1. The black tank is flushed clean and shows empty. The gray tank shows full no matter what we do.
        Sent via the HTC Vivid™, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

        —– Reply message —–

        1. Vicky, Ah, what I get for reading too fast. So used to complaints about Black tanks my mind assumed that was where the issue was. It’s unusual for the gray tank sensors to be contaminated unless cooking grease got dumped down the sink. The dawn trick should have done the job, the only thought would be to try it again using as hot a water as you can get from the tap. Only fill the tank about half full so there is plenty of sloshing going on and when you drive find lots of corners to make. Beyond that I think you have a wiring issue instead of a contamination issue. You might check to make sure there are no sensor wires disconnected. Beyond that I cant really give you a procedure to check the wiring further.

          1. Ok thank you :)

            Sent via the HTC Vivid™, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

            —– Reply message —–

          2. Hi Curtis
            I emptied my gray and black water tanks today.
            I normally turn the water pump off.
            Today I did not.
            I was using a hose to flush the shower out and also the black water tank as they drained.
            I did that for quite some time, so the pumps was on with no water for quite a while.
            When I came back to hook up the city water it only blows air
            and at first it was not even doing that it was just nothing happening.
            If I turn the water off all together some water will build up and then quickly
            stop flowing.
            I hear the pump spinning, but nothing is coming through.
            Did I fill the lines up with air?
            How can I fix this issue?

          3. RV Dave, If I understand what you are doing correctly, the city water source, after coming through your inline water pressure regulator, is too low of pressure to be satisfactory for you so you are running your pump with it boosting the water pressure. This is the situation I currently have as well. First, remember the on board water pump is drawing it’s water from the fresh water tank, not the city water connection. Once you have pumped all the on board water into the system the pump is running dry. It shouldn’t hurt the pump to run dry for a modest period of time, but it is sucking air from the empty fresh water tank and pumping it into the already low pressure you have from the city water line. Make sure your on board tank has water in it. The other possibility is the check valve located within the city water connection.

          4. Hi Curtis.
            Thank you very much for your reply.
            To be clear Curtis, I have never had this problem before.
            Everything has been a ok for quite some time.
            The only thing that I did different was to flush water through the shower drain.
            Also this time I did not
            switch the inside pump switch to the off position prior to turning the white hose
            water line off to drain the tanks.
            I did hear some sounds as I was
            flushing the grey water tanks via the shower.
            As I was flushing the grey tank via
            the shower drain as it was running out through the line into the city
            sewer, the shower tub slightly had some water to come up into the tub
            simultaneously as I was flushing it.
            Indicating the water coming in from the hose was out pacing its out flow via draining it.
            As the water came up in form of clear grey water back wash, there were some sounds I heard eliminating from underneath.
            Those sounds traveled the length of the trailer in the direction from the tub up towards the front kitchen area.
            Sounded as if something was repositioning or as if when the water drained the tank was

            somehow repositioning.
            Mind you that I have never had to put water into the fresh water potable side of the connection.
            I
            have since day one only connected the white water hose to the hose line.
            The water and pressure has operated perfectly from day one.
            Now as it has changed, the pump turns on intermittently as I turn the sink on in the kitchen or the bath.
            From what I can tell as the fresh water tank now empties the pressure falls to null and void.
            The
            pump makes a loud sound now and I can only get water to come from the
            kitchen or bath, shower or sink by putting water in the the potable side
            of the city water side.
            I have never had to do that prior to this problem.

            I have always simply connected the white water hose back and every thing came back on line.

            Meaning, there is a side that connects directly to the hose.
            Exactly next to it is a larger hole that will not connect to the hose still
            it can accept water.
            I believe that is the in side of the pump and the hose side is the out side of the pump.
            So
            now If i need to shower or wash up, I have to first put water in the
            the in side of the city water side to prime it I believe.
            This is all guess work as I do not know exactly all that much about what I’m doing here.
            The
            trailer is a 30 ft 1992 alumalite bumper pull holiday rambler with a
            front kitchen and a bath in back directly in front of the master
            bedroom.
            So now the water intermittently works?
            I’m quite confused
            as to what has changed to make me have these problems as a direct
            result of the last activity that i exercised while emptying the tanks.
            I do not know if I’m being clear enough for you?
            I trying to say every thing was simple before.
            It was just plug and play.
            The pump us to be loud as the water drained from the line as I turned city water

            off to drain the grey tanks.
            Now that same loud pump sound happens any time i use the water.
            Climaxing with the water eventually ceasing to a state of air coming through the

            lines.
            Then the temporary fix being to prime that other side of the potable water side.
            Anyway, I hope this is coming through clearly for you to see what I’m indicating

            my problem to be. ??????????????

          5. Dave, First issue. You should only run the pump when the fresh water tank has water in it. It has nothing to do with the city water line. If the tank is empty the pump only pushes air. Secondly make sure you have adequate water coming through the hose. If there is a problem with the water regulator you may not have enough water coming in. Beyond that there is a check valve incorporated in the city water port that may be malfunctioning. If you only use city water when the pump empties the tank it will become loud and push air. Leave the pump turned off when you use city water if you don’t want to keep refilling the fresh water tank.

          6. Hi Curtis, again thank you very much for your reply.
            Day one of beginning use of the trailer I simply hooked up the
            white water hose to the city water side and all was well and everything worked fine.
            I understand what you have said about only running the pump when the fresh tank has water in it.
            I am not knowledgeable as you can see.
            Still that has not how I have been operating.
            I have always had the pump in on position.
            Also I have never put water in the fresh tank until this problem started.

            You know Curtis sometimes the system will come back online and operate sporadically / intermittently, and this even though I have not put anything into the fresh tank .
            So I might go in there and the water will be operating correctly as before.
            Then I go some hours later and it will be pushing air and when the faucet is activated the pump also initiates.

            Meaning I turn the water valve off. pump shuts off either immediately or seconds after deactivating water on/off valve.
            By the way, I have only been putting water in the fresh water side to
            take showers now.
            Prior to this situation I have never done so.
            Regarding your statement about leaving the pump off unless the fresh water tank has water.
            If I leave the pump off then nothing at all comes out.
            This has always been the case.
            No pump meant no water.
            The only way that I have been able to get water has been to have
            the pump button on either in the bath or directly above the entry door
            on the tank level panel etc.
            So this is quite baffling?
            You might be on to something with the statement about the water regulator, I would not know either way because I’m a novice.
            Yet with regard to enough water coming in, I have always just connected the hose and walla everything was online and properly working.
            So regarding the hose it is as it was meaning no malfunction.
            The same amount of water is coming into trailer no obstruction etc.
            Yet regarding the regulator i do not know where that would be located.
            Even the water pump itself is not accessible from inside or otherwise.
            I can hear the pump, but it seems to be located somewhere in the hidden undercarriage.
            For some reason they did not see the need to make that pump easily accessible.
            It seems to be some where under the fridge betwixt the space of water heater and the fridge section.
            Where would the regulator be located?
            Do you think if I simply replace the water pump the problem will
            cease?
            To me it seems the pump is still good because it does push air and when I fill the fresh water, then it does push water..
            I just do not understand how my actions have caused this issue?
            Prior to this, I would turn the sink faucet in the kitchen or bath to off position.
            Then I would go outside turn off the city water at the source.
            I had to do that to relieve the pressure otherwise it was too difficult to remove the hose.
            I have always used 2 hoses when emptying the tanks.
            One on top of the toilet and one at the outside grey / black water out connection as it drained with a maceration unit.
            When tanks were finished emptying.
            I would reconnect the city water and come in and the faucets would be on and running.
            I would turn them off and that would be that.
            Now this time I came in and the faucets were dry.
            To be clear, I have always used the pumps to activate the
            water, or to even get water.
            It’s just this time, I did not switch the pump to off prior to
            my routine.
            So if the pump has nothing to do with the city water and I have always had to have the pump in the on position, what does that mean?
            Mind you the pump has that double switch situation.
            Sort of like the up and downstairs light switch.
            One works and inhibits the other.
            So off in the bath and on with the control panel above entry door
            or vice versa.
            Truly I have never had the pump on the off position.
            Also the water has not worked unless pump was in on position.
            Also I have never had to use the fresh water side.
            So as you can see this is why I’m completely confused as to how to
            resolve this.
            You mentioned a regulator and a check valve.
            These are items I have never heard of.
            Also as of now, if I do not refill the fresh water tank
            i get nothing, no water.
            I have only been refilling that tank now because
            city water is not flowing anymore.
            If I turn pump off faucets are completely dry and
            nothing happens at all.
            Even though the hose is connected.
            Does that mean either the regulator or check valve are bad?
            As I mentioned the pump does either push air when I don’t
            fill the fresh tank.
            It also does push water when I do fill the fresh tank.
            So that seems to me as if the pump checks out to be working.
            So what do you think Curtis?
            Man this is utterly baffling.

          7. Dave, You need to quit over thinking this problem. Most of what you are saying makes no sense to normal operation. It there is a regulator (And you need to have one to protect your water lines) it should be installed at the city end of your white hose. Do a search on ebay for “RV water regulator” to see what one looks like. Disconnect the white hose from the RV and see that water does actually flow from the source through it. Once you have confirmed you do have water going to the RV hook it back up, turn it on, and leave the pump switch turned off. You should now have water pressure. If you do not, there is a problem. The check valve that is part of the city water port on your RV may be damaged. You may have an inline shut off closed somewhere. The pump has nothing to do with using city water. Replacing it will accomplish nothing. If these simple instructions are beyond your abilities then it’s time to take the RV to a dealer and let them deal with it.

          8. Ok, I was trying to give you details about the situation.
            I have told you the truth and you have said the truth makes no sense.
            So looks like you are giving up on me.
            Oh well thanks any way.
            It seems that it would make sense when someone tells you that they have always had the pump in on position to get water and from day one when the pump was switched off, there was no water.
            As of now, I have switched my pump off and guess what?
            There is zero water flow.
            Also it seems that it would makes sense when someone tells you that
            the pump is not in an obviously location.
            I get it, you said the pump is irrelevant.
            I also get it that you said search online for the other items
            which I did not know about.
            It should makes sense to you that I have said that all
            I have done in the past is to connect the line and everything worked.
            I really do not find my self over thinking this situation, as I had no
            ideas what so ever on how to deal with it.
            If you are frustrated, that is fine just say you don’t want to help me.
            Being rude is not the answer.
            Thanks for your help. I realize that you did not have to respond to me at all.
            I only wrote to you because you put your self out there as someone
            who helps people.
            So that was my mistake to attempt to provide you with full details and get you saying rude things to me.
            Listen Curtis I will be the first to admit that I’m a novice.
            As of now I have done all my own repairs plumbing electrical, roof, propane, mechanical etc.
            I am a do it your self-er.
            Yet I’m not too proud to admit when I get stuck.
            So apparently that admission will get me insulted.
            I will find other help and thank you for your time.
            Though I’m a bit offended at your last comment.
            They were quite unnecessary and rude.
            If you do not want to help people just say you are not interested.
            So I the next person who is seeking your offered advice will not
            get pissed that you were unnecessarily abrasive.

          9. Hi Curtis. The problem is solved. Now I can laugh at my own self.
            Reason being, I have a routine of how I empty the grey / black water.
            The same every time.
            I changed that routine and the sounds coming from underneath were the tanks
            as the weight of the water exiting the tanks make a sort of sound, that to a

            novice is only a worry as to, what is that ? what is that? lol
            What I learned from you is my pump can stay in the off position.
            I have always had the pumps on prior to you telling me it is not necessary.
            Like I said I’m a dot it your self-er. Prior to going online I did contact some
            dealers and they all tried to rip me off. I had the feeling the issue was very
            simple, due to the fact that everything was running smooth, just moments

            prior to everything going foul.
            !. the entire city water apparatus simply blew out upon my re initiating it.
            The only thing that I could do was to think as to what I had changed.
            Therefore it made no sense to you as those items are totally unrelated.
            Yet being a complete novice and only having been a full time rv’er for
            approximately 6 months, it is all chinese to me.
            That is to say foreign.
            I did figure out how to shower at least, but it was tedious to refill and refill again
            that fresh tank.
            I replaced the entire city water connection and walla the water returned.
            it was for me impossible to know that that entire city water set up could be
            working fine and then turn it off and then turn in on in a matter of an hour and
            it no longer worked.
            Regardless, I learned from you to turn the pump off.
            I also learned that I was quite irritable due to being baffled
            and though you said I was over thinking, I actually was not

            thinking at all, because I was clueless.
            Instead I was searching treads online and watching videos and asking
            questions to find the answer, which is how and what I have been doing

            up til now to find out how to do the repair myself.
            So yeah after seeing all those dealers that I called pull out

            their reaming sticks, that was the last place I wanted to return to.
            That is talking to them.
            Thanks again for attempting to help me
            I did not want to see what was behind that city water apparatus.
            I went ahead and started taking it apart and it was simple so

            I bought a new one and put it in.
            Oh well, I spent all my money on parts as opposed to labor
            and the run around from for hire service persons.
            I owe you the thanks so thanks.

          10. Really can’t thank you enough for the time and brainstorming that you put in.
            I will stop after this, but I’m very, very grateful sir.

            I hope the best to you and have a great one…:-)

  8. Can an RV dealership sell a travel trailer as “new” when there is obvious evidence that the bathroom and potentially the bed has been used? When touring the trailer, we found items of women’s clothing in the cupboard above the bed and stool residue in the commode along with a “sloshing” noise coming from underneath.The salesman stated that it had not been rented out due to lack of license plates. He consulted with the sales manager and they gave assurances that the system would be cleaned out. They also planned on reviewing security tapes to see who the mystery camper was.

    1. Broesha, an RV dealer can do whatever they choose to do. It is always buyer beware. if they have the certificate of origin for the trailer it has never been titled in is considered new. Whether or not it was used as a demo model under whatever circumstances is there option. What it all boils down to is if you don’t like the trailer, don’t buy it. You are under no obligation either way.

  9. Can’t get water or anti-freeze into potable/fresh water tank, could it be venting or maybe plugged up? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also Just drained all tanks thoroughly and trying to winterize. Thanks

    1. Bernice, I’m a little confused. You fill the fresh water tank by the large water fill port on the side of your RV. Hard to believe it is plugged. If you are trying to pump antifreeze through the water system you do no fill the water tank with antifreeze. There should be a shut off between the tank and the pump. Then just drain the water tank and leave it empty. You only pump antifreeze through the RV pump and the water lines. There should be a bypass system so you don’t fill the water heater either. You only want antifeeze in the lines, not in the tanks.

  10. I have a 1994 Fleetwood Mallard that is only used on weekends at a hunting camp. The toilet is never used. When I remove the black/gray drain cover, water immediately flows out. It has a foul odor and color. I drain the gray tank completely until nothing is running out. Then i pull the black water valve and there is always drainage. I can’t figure why there would be any drainage at all from that tank if the toilet is not used. Is there any connection between the gray and black tanks whereby the black tank could receive overflow from the gray tank?

    1. Brian, the answer is in the fact that when you remove the black/gray cover you get some water. The blade valves are leaking some, allowing gray water to back up into the black tank. Not a big deal as long as you continue to drain both as you have been doing.

      1. So, is it recommended to drain one before the other, or does it matter since there won’t be any solid matter in the black tank?

        1. Brian, the general rule is open the black tank first, then open the grey tank after the Black has finished drainingopen the gray valve and drain it. That way the gray water will flush the sewer hose.

  11. If we only use an RV on occasion, say every other month for a long weekend or a week, do we need to dump the black and grey water tanks after the trip even though they will be far from full? Or can it sit there and wait until they are more full after a few trips over a period of time? Thanks.

    1. Rick, It will not cause any damage to let it sit for some time, assuming the temps stay above freezing. If the RV is closed up tight odor may become an issue. The black tank is vented through the roof, but that is not a guarantee that all odor will dissipate. The best I can suggest is try it once and see what happens.

      1. Thanks Curtis. Good advice. One RV salesman told me to dump it every trip regardless because it can turn into cement if I don’t! Any experience with that happening? thanks.

        1. Rick, the key is lots of water. Every time you flush solids make sure plenty of water goes with it. It all dissolves in time. Where you run into problems is when you leave the black tank open allowing the water to run off and the solids just stick to the bottom of the tank. Keeping the valve shut keeps everything liquid.

  12. I have been fulltiming for 6 months now in my small ultra lite passport, and I wonder if I need to keep water in my fresh tank at all, temperatures do drop to the low 30s ans 20 s from time to time, I am connected to city water…..can I empty the fresh water tank and leave it empty? Thanks

    1. Joan, yes there is no reason to have water in the fresh tank if you are hooked to city water. Be aware though that if it gets below freezing and your RV is not heated you will still need to drain your water lines to protect them from freezing.

      1. Hi Curtis, I see two Curtis logo’s so I’m posting to you also.
        I do not know if both of your are Curtis Carper/
        My comment is about my water pressure went away when I emptied my tanks today.
        I usually turn off my water pump, but today I did not/
        Generally after I empty the tanks, I just re-hook the fresh water and
        the water is right back as it was.
        This time I keep hearing the water pump running after a couple
        minutes a bit of water comes through, but then it stops and the pump
        comes back on. What can I do to get the pressure back.
        Do I just need to leave it be for a while to get back up to pressure?

      2. I kind of want to keep going with her city water question if I may….. I want to convert a bus for full time living. It would be full time on city water & sewage. Do I need to install all those tanks and stuff??

        1. Mili, the short answer is probably. Clean water no tank needed. You can plumb it as you wish. If you use an rv toilet you will need tank, valves, all the trimmings or it will plug up. A residential toilet requires proper slop to the waste pipe.

  13. I am new to RVing and feel really stupid asking this question, but here goes….How do I get the sinks and showers to work if I am not hooked up to city water (I put water in the fresh water tank)?

    1. Natalie, there is a switch somewhere that turns the 12 volt water pump on. Of course you must have batteries with enough voltage i them to power the pump.

      1. Hi Curtis 2, I see two Curtis logo’s so I’m posting to you also.
        I do not know if both of your are Curtis Carper/
        My comment is about my water pressure went away when I emptied my tanks today.
        I usually turn off my water pump, but today I did not/
        Generally after I empty the tanks, I just re-hook the fresh water and
        the water is right back as it was.
        This time I keep hearing the water pump running after a couple
        minutes a bit of water comes through, but then it stops and the pump
        comes back on. What can I do to get the pressure back.
        Do I just need to leave it be for a while to get back up to pressure?

  14. Hi Curtis,
    I have a 1994 Mallard that is parked full time at a site in Washington State. I had a plumber out last fall to put a new washer in the city water connection as it was dripping behind the wall and on to the ground. This seemed to do the trick. However, I re-connected my city water hose and turned it on yesterday (after 4 months away for winter) and the water did not only leak from behind the wall – it was cascading like a waterfall all down the underside and inside the unit. I am at a loss as to what has happened. Thoughts?

    1. Kim, you are well into the freeze belt. If you didn’t properly winterize your RV before winter likely something froze and burst. You can’t walk away from an RV without blowing all the water lines out or pumping RV antifreeze through the water system

      1. Hi and thanks for your reply. We did blow out the lines and fill with RV antifreeze. Something was missed. Do you suggest going in from underneath to find the split or inside or both? When should I call in a professional? Feeling very bummed!

        1. Kim, The plan of attack is yours to figure out. Nothing I can do from here to suggest. Check with your insurance company, It may be covered damage. Then let a dealer deal with it. As to when to give it to a dealer, it all depends on you and your handy man abilities.

      2. Hi Curtis,

        my water pressure went away when I emptied my tanks today.
        I usually turn off my water pump, but today I did not/
        Generally after I empty the tanks, I just re-hook the fresh water and
        the water is right back as it was.
        This time I keep hearing the water pump running after a couple
        minutes a bit of water comes through, but then it stops and the pump
        comes back on. What can I do to get the pressure back.
        Do I just need to leave it be for a while to get back up to pressure?

  15. We have a problem with the black and grey tanks. We have an older trailer (1995 Jayco Eagle SL), and we can’t seem to get the valve to open. Any suggestions? If we need to replace the piping from the valve on down, how do we go about that given that both tanks are full?

    1. Donna, You can spray WD40 around the shaft of the T handle. If that isn’t enough there are 4 small bolts holding the valve together. You can replace the valve itself by removing the 4 bolts the valve will slide out and can be replaced with a new one. No matter what it will be a messy job if you can’t get the valves to open.

  16. We have recently moved into our 5th wheel full time. We are parked in my daughters backyard and tied into her home sewerage. Every time I pull the plug to empty the holding tank they get a foul odor throughout her house. How can we prevent the odors from entering her house

    1. Wendy, by having a plumber install a separate sewer line for the rv. You are probably overloading the current plumbing. It’s like flushing the toilet 50 times at once.

  17. When useing my rv for an extended period of time in high heat temps what type of hose should I use to supply my water I used a hose pipe but it kept on spliting

    1. Beverly, The accepted standard is the white potable water rated RV hose that is available almost anywhere, including Walmart. The key is do you have your water line protected by an RV water regulator. http://tiny.cc/2rqozx

      This needs to be installed at the faucet end of the hose, not the RV end. That way it protects the hose from excessive pressure. If you are in an area of extreme heat you could wrap the hose with foam pipe insulation. http://tiny.cc/1yqozx

      Another trick is to bury as much of the hose as possible leaving only the short distance from the ground to the water connection to insulate from the heat.

      The next option is to plumb the water line with copper lines which is going to be pricey and require numerous special brass fittings. You still need the water pressure regulator installed because the plumbing in your RV is only rated to handle up to 40 lbs PSI.

  18. Hi I have a few questions as we just bought a used 2008 jayco 1007 and had a frustrating first weekend.

    1. If we use a hose at home (where we are on well water, not city water) in the city fill connection, my understanding is that the water will fill the hot water heater. But when the hot water heater is filled, does the water just stop running even though the water is turned on at the house where the hose is hooked up? Or will it now overflow into the fresh water tank until that is filled? If the water stops, what causes it to just stop?

    2. At the campsite this weekend, we filled the fresh water tank in the gravity fill. Once it was full and we were at the campsite, we turned on the hot water faucet to fill the hot water heater so that there would be no air in it, and turned on the pump. Five min later, the water was still gurling and spurting. Same with cold water. We were never able to get it to stop spurting. And when we turned the pump off after the faucets were closed, it was still running after five min. No water leaks anywhere, and believe me, I checked. The connection to and from the water pump seems tight. I cannot figure out why we cannot get the air out.

    3. We didn’t use a pressure regulator when we screwed the hose into city fill because we are on well water at home, so lower pressure. Should we still use it when at home using hose for city fill?

    Your help would be appreciated. How long should it take for the tap to stop spurting once you turn the pump on and the tap on? What do we do to get this air out? My husband did not have the hot water heater turned on when we did this, but he said it shouldn’t matter.

    1. FrustratedinOW,
      1. The fresh water tank and on board pump are completely separate from the city water system. When hooked to city water the on board pump does not need to be turned on. Water coming into the RV through the city water port does not go into the fresh water tank. That said, when you shut the faucet off in the RV the water stops, just like in the house.

      2. I’m not real clear on exactly what you did here. If you are using the onboard water system (not hooked to city water) Just turn the pump on and let it build up pressure until it shuts off by itself. Then turn on a faucet and bleed off what air comes out which should be gone in less than a min. When you turn off the faucet the pump should turn off almost immediately.

      3. Even though well water systems are usually a lower pressure than city water it is recommended to always have an RV water regulator in line. RV’s are only designed for 40 psi water pressure.

      1. Hi thank you for your response. I have probably spent many hours googling.

        1. I had read somewhere that there is a valve so that city fill can also fill your fresh water tank if valve is placed so. But I don’t see that so I am assuming that is not the case with my jayco 1007 and that it is just as you say: water coming through city port doesn’t go into tank.

        My concern is that when we first used city fill at home with our hose, we thought we had to turn on pump. Could that have caused a problem? It wasn’t on more than 10 min.

        2. At the campground, we went to the water fill station and put the hose in the gravity fill port until the fresh water tank was full. We turned the pump on but it just kept runnning and running. How long before it should shut off by itself?

        I had read last night to gravity fill it, open hot water faucet to fill hot water heater while pump runs. So I hadn’t let the pump build pressure first. That being said, how long should a pump be running before it builds up enough pressure and shuts off by itself?

        I had also read that it taps continue to spurt after doing this, to check the filter on the pump and make sure not clogged. Plan on doing that tonight but wasn’t really keen on unscrewing thing.

        1. FrustratedinOW,
          1. Rare is the RV that is plumbed to allow you to fill the tank from city water. It’s a high end option not found on most RV’s. If you ran the pump for 10 min with no water in the fresh water tank it didn’t help matters. We are talking an 8 year old rig so it’s hard to say if you damaged the pump.
          2. If the pump is working properly, and any water shut off or drain valves are in their proper position, the pump should build up pressure in a matter of a minute or so and shut off on it’s own.
          3. If the faucet continues to spurt the pump is sucking air. Either a cracked line, or the water line between the tank and the pump has a shut off valve, or like you say a plugged water filter.

          1. Ok thanks:

            I also read that I should have opened the pressure relief valve on the water heater to allow air to bleed from the tank before refilling the water heater with fresh water, then turn on the bypass vale and turn on the camper water pump to allow the tank to fill until water comes out of the pressure relief valve. Then close the pressure relief valve and open hot water taps in the camper sinks to remove the remaining air in the camper plumbing. Once the tank is filled with water, propane or electric heat can be turned on to supply clean hot water.

            Is that correct? Or is that even necessary?

          2. Also, when you mention “any water shut off or drain valves are in their proper position”, we have the hot and cold valves open, the water heater valves open but the water valves shut. No drain tube open in our fresh water tank (except the overflow vents obviously) and the water tank fills nicely. The problem is just that the taps never stop spurting.

          3. FrustratedinOW, I said that because every RV is different and from here there is no way I can tell what is what with your rig. If you don’t understand the how and where of water flow in your system there is a good chance you have a valve in the wrong position too.

          4. I’m pretty sure what we did is the way it is supposed to be as it is fairly basic with respect to the valves. Open is parallel and lets water flow, closed is perpendicular. So valves to and from hot water tank are open (bypass is closed so it doesn’t loop) and valves to and from water pump are open (plus my son who is in his fourth year engineering checked lol). The problem is that the manual sucks so much. No diagram, no real helpful info. But thanks, you have been very helpful.

            I have my homework to do tonight and may try to send picture.

          5. FrustratedinOW, In 45 years of owning RV’s I’ve yet to see an owner’s manual that was worth the paper it was printed on. Good Luck!

          6. lol. Another question. Assuming we are able to bleed the air out next time we fill the fresh water tank by following all these steps, how long will that last before you have to do it again. For example, if we fill water tank at home half full, do all those things to get air out, then get to campground and fill rest of tank, will we have to bleed air out again?

            My husband doesn’t think we should drive with a full tank of water since there does not appear to be any straps under the fresh water tank. But if we don’t fill it, and fill the remainder at the campsite, will we just have to repeat the procedure again to bleed air out, thus losing a lot of water?

            Also, I think most say that getting air out by putting taps on should only take a minute or so and if it takes longer, then air is getting in somewhere?

          7. FrustratedinOW, You will only have an issue with air in the lines after the system has been run dry. Most notably in the spring at the first use after the RV has been drained and winterized. If you run out of water while camping you may have a little air in the tank after refilling, but not so much because the water heater will always be full except when drained for winter storage.
            Driving with the fresh tank full is expected. They are designed to do that. They have a flange around the top that is bolted to the RV frame. In most cases there is no need for straps underneath the tank.
            If you have excessive air spitting, or it won’t clear up completely your pump may be failing if you can’t come up with any other reason for the problem. Not a huge financial issue, new pumps can be bought on eBay for approximately $60 or $70.
            I assume you are aware that the water system must be drained and RV antifreeze pumped through the lines and pump for winter storage. If left with water in it to freeze you will have severe and costly damage.

          8. HI thanks, yes I am aware of the winterization. Last year, the guy that owned it previously didn’t do it, so he had to put in a brand new water heater. Two more questions:

            1. If you are only using the tent trailer once a month, is it ok to not drain the water heater?

            2. We have not tried turning on the water heater yet until we fully understood the process. But the water is flowing in and out of it properly so I am assuming that the fact that the water heater was not on has nothing to do with the air problem? I believe that is so because all info indicates that the water tank must be full before being turned on, and I guess the best way of confirming that it is full is to fill as was suggested and leave the pressure relief valve open until water comes back. Just wanted to make sure that the fact that water heater wasn’t on didn’t make a difference.

            I really appreciate all your help.

          9. You only need to drain the water heater for long term storage. Having the water heater off had nothing to do with the problem

          10. Thanks again for all your help. So I came and did this:

            1, Put hose in city fill, this time with a city regulator at the other end, and taps run fine, no spurting, which makes sense now that I know that is not operating off the pump.

            2. I opened pressure relief valve on hot water heater to let air escape and water came out, so it is full

            3. I kept filling fresh water tank until overflow tubes leaked water

            4. I turned on the pump but after three minutes, it was still running.

            5. I opened hot water tap and let tap run for two minutes but it still kept spurting, although less than when we were camping I guess because the tank is fuller.

            6. I closed hot water tap and opened cold water tap and let it run for a minute of so but it kept spurting, even though it was less than when we were camping when the water tank wasn’t as full.

            7. I closed the faucet but three minutes later, the pump was still running so I shut it off.

            I checked connections to and from water pump and they seem tight. Low point drain on fresh water tank is obviously closed as no water is coming out of there, just out of the overflow/vent tubes. The drain on water heater is tight on.

            I didn’t disconnect anything because I am not really sure where to check if filter is ok and am nervous to unscrew stuff.

            On another note, there are three breakers, 15, 20 and 30. Do I turn all on when I want power of just some? I know these questions are stupid but a) again the manual sucks and b) I cannot seem to find an answer to that question on google.

          11. Either your pump is sucking air through a crack somewhere, or the filter which is mounted on the pump is plugged, or your pump has failed. Good Luck!

          12. Thanks again for all your help.

            On another note, there are three breakers, 15, 20 and 30. Do I turn all on when I want power of just some? I know these questions are stupid but a) again the manual sucks and b) I cannot seem to find an answer to that question on google.

          13. What’s the difference between the three: 15, 20 and 30. CAnnot find that info anywhere. And so all three can stay on?

          14. FrustratedinOW, It won’t hurt anything if you failed to do that. It will just lessen the amount of air compressed in the system. For sure though you do not want to light the water heater until all the air is out of the system. By opening the bypass valve you will know for sure the water heater is full of water because it’s located at the top of the tank.

  19. Hi there, I started living in an rv about three months ago. I leave my grey water line open and only empty my black water once a week. In the past month, my grey water tank has started filling up and not draining properly. The kitchen. Sink seems fine but my vanity and shower started off taking a long time to drain to now the shower always has about anot inch or more of water start did get in it and will not drain completely. The sink has gotten worse as well. Can you give me any advice?

    1. Heather, I don’t understand how your grey water tank can fill up with sludge. You must send an unusual amount of soap and such down the drain. I recommend shutting the gray tank valve and fill the tank with water. Drain the tank and continue to run water through the tank until it flushes the sediment out. If the shower and vanity still drain slow it could be a blockage of hair, or other debri in the P trap under the sink and shower. You need to flush the system out with clean water to get things moving again.

      1. Curtis,
        Thank you for the advice. It ended up being mats of hair and soapy sludge. I forget sometimes the solution is an easy one. Thanks again!
        -Heather

  20. We are on our first road trip and after 2 weeks we are self contain for the night. Here is the question we don’t know how to get our water from our tanks. Crazy I know. We have water in them, but do we have to switch something or turn something on. We are in a Vintage ’72 Elite. Hope someone can help.

    1. Debbie, 1972 is old enough it’s hard to say what kind of system you have. Modern RV’s have an electric 12v water pump that needs to be turned on by a switch that is often located in the kitchen area. If you have both hot and cold water I would guess this is the type of system you have. If you have cold water only, you likely have a hand pump system where you move the faucet lever back and forth to pump water by hand. The other older system is a steel water tank that is pressurized externally similar to airing up a tire on your car.

  21. Hi Curtis,
    Thank you for the great information. I have never owned or even been in an RV but camped in tents. Well, we are getting older and want to still camp but with an RV, so we are doing our research on spending half our retirement time in an RV. We are excited and are also aware of our ignorance, thus I am here. Do you have any advice on questions to ask when looking for an RV? I liked your question in asking about insulation for waste/water tanks and it made me think there must be many questions we need to have in hand when trying to find a good RV? Thanks for your time.
    Best,
    Tir

  22. Hello Curtis,
    Me and my boyfriend are first time owners of a Rv and bought it used. So we don’t know anything at all. We still are very confused on the whole system of draining the waste and adding water. We have a 1984 chevy encore.

  23. Thank you Curtis for the info. Its been very helpful. Im planning on purchasing my first RV and the water system needed clarification.

  24. Hi, we are fairly new to camping and have a Jayco Eagle travel trailer. It has two gray water tanks and everyone is indicating that one is for kitchen and one is for bathroom sink and shower, however when one tank indicates full neither the kitchen sink OR the shower will drain and the indicator panel still shows one tank as “empty”. Are the two tanks supposed to be connected and overflow into each other? I can’t seem to find anything that explains this if there is a valve or something I am supposed to open. Thanks!
    Sup

    1. I’m afraid I do not know the specifics of your particular RV. For me logic indicates that if there are two separate level indicators that the two tanks are completely separated. That said being new to rv’s the waste tank level indicators are notoriously inaccurate because waste material builds up on the sensors and they give a full indication regardless of level.

        1. Brand new doesn’t matter, use the RV one time and bits of debris will stick to the sensors and you will get an inaccurate reading from then on. The tank level indicating system is a joke on all RV’s, it never gives an accurate reading no matter what you do. This is just how it is on all RV’s

  25. Hi I just got my rv and my fresh water level is at 1/3, water comes out of sinks and toilet but not the shower is it bc there’s not enough water? The shower worked fine yesterday.

    1. If water comes out of the faucets and toilet it should come out of the shower too. I’m guessing you are doing something wrong.

        1. Keep in mind that the aerator on faucets can become plugged to the point that water hardly passes through. I’ve had that happen too.

  26. I’m new at the full-time RVing life and loving it. I’ve been in my 5th wheel about a month. I cant tell if my toilet is having issue due to a full black tank or clogged somewhere in the tubing (not a straight shot)….the indicator says 1/3 full on the black tank. I tried boiling water and it seemed to go down a little. Should I be trying to unclog a clog or emptying black tank? Thanking you in advance.

    1. The best thing to do is ignore the tank level indicator. They will never be accurate. toilet paper particles cling to them and show a full tank when it is empty. I can go at least 10 days in my motorhome before my black tank is anywhere near full. Calculate how many days you can go between dumping and set up a schedule. Always flush with plenty of water, and keep the black tank valve closed until it is near full then open to dump and reclose it.

  27. Hi, We have a 1987 Triple E which we’re about to travel in for 4 months and have no idea how to fill with potable water. We have just tried to fill the fresh water tank via the gravity fill with the potable water at a dump and fill station, but when we placed the hose in the hole it just kept coming back out and not filling. Is there special connection we should be using? We have the white hose, and are just placing the hose into the hole with no connection. We can’t find any information online or in the paperwork given to us when we purchased the RV. Thanks for your help!

    1. I ask this because it sounds like you just purchased this RV. Is there a chance that the water tank is already filled? There is no trick to filling a gravity fill system. If water comes back out when you try to put it in it means the tank is full.

      1. Hi Curtis, thanks for your quick response. Yes we are new to RVing, we purchased it just before the winter. We emptied the tanks and put anitfreeze in it. Just today we are trying to flush the antifreeze out, so we emptied the tanks again (there is still 1/8 of a tank full), but as we are putting the water in to flush it out is continues to pour out the same end as teh hose. Should we put the water pump on to push air through the tank or get a hose long enough that it goes into the actual tank itself and not just the connector tube/hose?

        1. Running the pump will not do anything for you. There is the large fill tube and there is a small vent tube as well. The only possibility is that there is a kink in the large filler tube preventing water from going down which I believe to be highly unlikely. It is possible that Vandals have stuffed something down the water tube pluging it. The other possibility is you are just trying to put the water in too rapidly. If it will not go in at a slower rate then you will have to investigate to see if there is an obstruction.

          1. Hi Curtis, thanks for responding again. We found the issue. We didn’t pull the air vent out. Once we done this water went through as it should. We had a feeling there was something to do with an air vent or something similar, but after further inspection, alas we found the issue… Hope this helps other newbies later on if they have similar issues too.. Cheers

  28. Hey Curtis I have a 2013 Leprechaun it has 3 water inlets only one is marked for fresh water how do I know which is the sewer clean out

    1. The sewer or black water tank drain is 3 inch piping the sink and shower or grey water tank drain is inch and a half piping.

  29. I have a 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 with a short bed 6 1/2 ft. The prior owner installed a gooseneck fold-away ball hitch. Can I just install the hitch rails over that for towing of my 5th wheel? I saw the other options of using a Companion hitch or a Hitch converter to gooseneck. I feel safest with the hitch, unless you say differently? Thanks!

    1. I will give you a definite maybe on that. I know the fold away gooseneck hitch is mounted to cross members attaching it to the truck frame. Your fifth wheel hitch will also require you to bolt down through the box to probably L brackets that will also attache to the truck frame. It is all a question of where the new mounting brackets come into play with the truck frame if there will be anything interfering from the gooseneck hitch.

      1. Thanks Curtis, I appreciate your expertise….. I will bring the truck to a local truck guy to have it on lift to see where brackets and bolts would be and need to be. Talk soon, I’m sure.

  30. Curtis would you recommend to flush the black tanks with the internal cleaning hook up that my Open Range has? thanks

    1. Absolutely! I use mine everytime after I dump the tanks. It washes away the bits of toilet paper in that accumulate on the sensors

  31. Hi Curtis… I have many questions and if you had an email< I love to send my questions that way. But I have a 1992 Aljo, bought used. I had someone winterize it with the pink stuff as I do live in Canada and hit -20 at times. Anyway, trying to flush and sanitize seems easy enough but my fresh water tank doesn't have a plug under to drain all the water, it still leaves 1" or more. How do I remove that water if not being used for a period of time. I know nothing and worried if I used the pump, it would damage it. Total newby and never camped before (can't wait to learn how to turn on heater)… lol

    1. The pink antifreeze will not hurt anything. Put about 5 gallons of water in your fresh water tank and use the pump to pump it out. When it is empty put another 5 gallons in and pump that out. Do that 3 or 4 times and you will have watered down any residual antifreeze to the point that you won’t even know it is there.

      1. Yes, that was the easy part… but if the trailer sits for a month or two (single mom working full-time) because I just can’t get out camping, having an inch or more of water sitting in the tank will go stagnant as we do have summer temps or 30+, or 36 like today.

        1. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and I have never worried about an inch or two of water remaining in my water tank going bad. Using the same method of dump 5-gallons of freshwater in and pump it back out you would dilute any stale water to the point that it wouldn’t matter. Every RV I have owned has a drain Point somewhere to empty the fresh water tank. I would keep looking for that

          1. Thanks… as there is a covering under the whole trailer… it may be under there but not accessible. I was worried it would grow gungy stuff.

          2. Do not remove the bottom covering looking for it. Open the drain is not a plug on the tank got a pipe that is mounted low on the tank and direct the water either at the bottom or over to the side and there will be a valve to turn it on and off. On some trailers they don’t bother with the valve they just put a cap on it. I would be very surprised if there truly is no way to drain the tank. I think you just need to expand your area of search.

  32. My mom has a fifth wheel that is in a seasonal spot, so never is driven around. She bought it used and a couple weeks after having it noticed a mold smell that seems to be coming from the tanks. We have tried rinsing the tanks and putting extra chemicals and baking soda in, but every year it gets worse. This year it is making her physically ill. Is there anything that can be done to get rid of this short of replacing the tanks? Thank you for any help you can give!

    1. It sounds like you may have a vent problem. Make sure there is nothing obstructing the sewer pipe vent that goes out the roof. Another possible choice would be to install a cyclone vent cover that will swivel into the prevailing wind and draw the smell away. I don’t know how well it will work because the fifth wheel is standing still and not moving down the highway. That is about the only suggestion I can come up with

  33. My husband accidentally started to fill the fresh water tank with the dump station’s hose used to rinse the black water sewer hose. He stopped after about a gallon or so. Do we need to worry??… E-coli?

    1. I would not drink the water from the tank without boiling it first. At the first opportunity drain the water tank and sanitize the water system with bleach. Personally I would not drink the water at all until the water system was sanitized.

  34. Curtis, my wife and I purchased an older trailer from a friend, our first try at camping since I was a kid. The campground we have it parked offers a grey water pumping on Mondays. We signed up for the service today and they called saying our older camper couldn’t be pumped because the hose wouldn’t hook up. We would need to have an RV center install a solution for this. I’m a former mechanic and the current hook up looks to be about a 4 inch pvc pipe with a cap. Is there an adapter that would turn into this pvc pipe as a retrofit kit or adapter I could simple install myself?

    1. I have no idea what kind of adapter they are referring to. The 4-inch pipe with a cap you described has been the industry standard at least back to the early seventies.

  35. We are new to RVing and with a family of 7 our gray tank gets full very quick. Is it considered acceptable behavior to drain it where we are parked as long as it doesn’t run into others areas? Or do we need to hook up and take it over to the dump station every day?

    Thanks!

  36. Hello Curtis.. my wife and are brand new to the RV world. Quick question on the freshwater tank.. We’ve used the RV twice, both times on city water connection (never using the freshwater tank). The first time, our freshwater reads empty. However, the second time it reads FULL. I visually checked the tank and it is definitely not full and is in fact, completely empty. To be sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, I switched the release valve to drain and nothing. Not sure what could be causing the freshwater tank to read FULL. when it is bone dry?? Any thoughts?

    Thanks!

    1. Congratulations! You are the first to ever complain about an inaccurate fresh water level indicator. Complaints about gray and black tank indicators are so common I recommend ignoring them altogether. Level indiactors are very unreliable. Fill the tank before every trip, and drain it after every trip. You will always have fresh water that way.

  37. We recently used our travel trailer for the first time in two years while moving our son to college. Because there was no water at the campground sites, we operated off the tank with pump for the three days we were there in town. Water was fine as far as we could tell for washing, showering, etc. On the drive back home we pulled over and ran some water into a clear jug. The water was tea colored….light brown. The next day the same problem continued from all the faucets. I filled and drained the storage tank several times. I hooked up and ran clean water from a hosebib. Everything looked fine. Last night after I did a final dump of all the tanks, I ran more water after putting some tablets down the toilet (again, running water from the pump) and I have the tea colored water again. All the pipes in the rig are Pex. The tank is plastic. Only thing I can think of is something wacky is happening to the pump, though it operates fine. This is on cold water, so I don’t suspect the water heater. Any ideas? Could corrosion in the pump cause this? Thanks in advance.

    1. There is nothing in your pump made of metal that comes in contact with water. It’s all plastic. The only possibility I can think of is that at some time you took on a really bad load of water and there may be sediment in the bottom of the tank that mixes with the water after a period of time.

      1. Thanks, Curtis. Does a typical RV water heater contain any iron or steel components that come in contact with the water? Our rig is less than 5 years old.

        1. No, the water heater tank is aluminum. I don’t know of anything in the standard RV configuration that could put rust into the water.

  38. Hi there! My husband and I recently purchased a 1953 canned ham style camper. It does not currently have a gray water tank and I am wondering how much it would generally cost to install one. Even just a simple one as we have found some campsites require RV’s to be completely self contained to camp there. Any advice?

    1. Labor rates at RV dealerships run about $100 per hour. I suggest you come up with a different plan. If it is only grey water you are concerned about and not Blackwater I would suggest just running the water into a into a bucket and avoiding campgrounds that are that fussy

  39. A couple of questions about RV winterizing:
    1. Will an inch of water at the plastic fresh water tank bottom left after draining be dangerous to the tank when temperatures drop below freezing (Canada)?
    2. Will pink antifreeze hurt metal grey and black water tanks?
    Thanks

    1. Generally a little water left in the bottom of the tank won’t matter because when it freezes it can expand upward. It is best to drain as much out as you possibly can and if there is any significant amount left pour a gallon of pink RV antifreeze into the tank. A few dollars is cheap insurance. Pink RV antifreeze will harm nothing that you listed and once you flush out the tank in the spring you are good to go.

    2. I’m NOT an RV’r (i’m researching as well) but I’ve thought of an antifreeze solution that I’m more comfortable with.

      EVERCLEAR, SILVER SPRINGS, or any other 190 proof (95%) ALCOHOL.

      I’m VERY picky about what I injest, EVEN IF IT’S ONLY TRACE AMOUNTS! Antifreeze is SUPPOSED to be safe when properly flushed. 190 proof alcohol is NOT POISONOUS! If I mixed an ounce of EVERCLEAR with 8 oz. of orange juice, OR an ounce of ANTIFREEZE with 8 oz. of orange juice, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU DRINK?

      Even if you use EVERCLEAR, you still want to properly flush it when you are ready to use it.

      1. 2 gallons of RV antifreeze about $5 should be enough to winterize any RV. 2 gallons Everclear approximately $170. Enough said.

        1. The silver springs is way cheaper and at 95$ alcohol you wouldn’t need a couple of gallons. 1 gallon would easily treat 1 gallon of residual water and even at 2 gallon/$170 I WOULD SPEND THE EXTRA AMOUNT.

          “I’m VERY picky about what I injest even if it’s just TRACE amounts”

  40. We have bought a new fifth wheel and the shower is draining into the black tank. We have been rv owners for over 10 years and have never seen this. Is this sanitary? Are there any regulations in place that will make the company fix the drain to drain into the grey tank, or is this an expense that we will have to deal with?

    1. That is not a situation I have run into before. I don’t know what the regulations are. Have you talked to the RV dealer or contacted the manufacturer? I would suspect that something is not right.

  41. Got a quick question for you. My husband our three kids and I just moved into our 2016 trailer. We just went to drain our tanks and nothing came out. At all. We’ve been dry camping for 4 days and know it’s been used. We’ve also been in below freezing conditions for over 5 days. What can we do to get it to drain.

        1. Sadly you are in a bad situation. If it will be a short term cold spell hopefully the tank won’t split while you wait for it to thaw out. Don’t use the toilet until it can be thawed out or you will split the tank for sure. If you can close up the space between the bottom of the trailer and the ground and pump heat into the space you may thaw it out. If you are talking extreme cold, like in the snow belt, lack of preparation will likely be an expensive lesson as warming things up well enough to drain is not going to be easy and damage is quite likely.

  42. We have been living in our RV for 5 yrs. We have both grey and black tank hard piped to sewage. We have found that we have a buildup in the grey tank. Totally stopped flow. Wouldn’t drain. Husbandour it open a little by running a hose up inside the pipe. But we’re sure there is more buildup in the tank. What can we use in the tank to dissolve this buildup?
    Thank you

    1. I can think of two possible ideas. If the build-up is caused by grease going down the drain hot water should melt it. If it is vegetable matter RideX septic tank treatment may break it up. I’m kind of guessing because living in my rv for 3 years I’ve never had an issue.

  43. I am converting a cargo trailer into a DIY RV. I am installing fresh, gray, and black water tanks. I am installing a 1 1/2″ vent pipe that exits the side of the black water tank and goes up thru the roof to vent the smells. Does the gray water tank also need a vent pipe?

    1. the purpose of a vent pipe is to break the vacuum in the tank allowing water to drain out rapidly. That said yes the gray water tank needs to be vented too.

      1. Thanks so much for the quick reply. Is it an issue to come horizontally out of the tank before going up, or should I go straight up out of the tank?

          1. A follow up question for you. How do I make that connnection between the tank and the vent pipe?

          2. Probably with plastic fittings available at any big box Home Center such as Home Depot. it does not have to be large diameter pipe.

  44. How often should you drop a cleaning Pod down the toilet? After every time you empty the black tank? I’m a newbie, traveling around in a 23ft Airstream, all tips are welcomed, thanks! Lindsey

    1. Understand this is my opinion. . In 45 years of RVing, and currently 4 years of full time RVing I have never used any sort of toilet or black tank chemicals. They are a sales gimmick to get your money and are ineffective in keeping your level sensors clean enough to be accurate.

  45. Newbie here. Ok the black water tank question. When you empty the black water tank is the switch labeled “PUMP” at the box water levels are at suppose to be switched on?
    Also on the opposite of the trailer/camper from the discharge/sewage pipe is a place where I remember the man from the camper site telling me to hook up a water hose to clean the tank. Do you have the pump on when you are doing this? Last question, can the heat in a camper run off electric or only gas? If it matters this is a 2017 Grey Wolf.
    My thought was everything could run off electric but the stove, am I right or wrong?

    1. The switch labeled pump is to turn the fresh water pump on and off. It has nothing to do with dumping your waste tanks. If there is an outside shower in the compartment the switch is for using the sprayer to clean your hands when you are done. If you are at a campground with water hook up you do not need to turn the pump on at all. That is for dry camping away from hookups. Every appliance has it’s own requirements to function. When you are plugged in you have 110v available and the converter is also providing 12v. Most appliances operate on 12v and or propane.
      Refrigerator: requires 12v to function and can run off either 110v or propane.
      Stove: Propane only
      Furnace: The flame is provided by propane, the fan runs on 12v
      Water Heater: Ignition is 12v, flame is propane. Some water heaters also will heat with 110v. Basically the answer to your last question is no so you are wrong.

  46. Please help. I’m buying a 5th wheel next week and putting it on land for awhile to live in. I will have water and electricity, but will not have a truck to tow it for a few months. I will have one of those portable waste carts and my SUV. How will I be able to empty my black tank? I am a single woman and would not be able to lift much weight into the back of my SUV to go dump. Are there services that can come out and empty it for me and if so what would I Google to find one? I’ve had a difficult time getting any kind of an answer
    I’m assuming the tank won’t empty if the portable
    cart is already in the back of my SUV? Advice Please !!! Thank you so much

    1. My first inclination was to just say you are in over your head but instead I will think outside the box and give you a few options. First, if your SUV has a receiver hitch, I would recommend getting a cargo carrier that fits into your hitch. A spill inside your SUV would not be pleasant. Plus that will lower the height you will be required to lift the Blue Boy. That may be the simple solution to the whole problem if you can maneuver the Blue Boy onto the carrier when it is full. The second option is to purchase an RV macerater pump kit. Available on Ebay for about $200, you can pump waste from your RV into the empty tank already placed on the rack or inside your SUV. The last option would be to use a 5 gallon bucket with kitty litter for a toilet during the period of time you have no practical way to handle black tank waste. Your gray tank can be handled with an adapter that will allow you to hook a garden hose to your dump connection and the water can be used to irrigate trees or plants. Using plastic garbage bags as liners for the 5 gallon bucket and scooping enough kitty litter to cover your deposits, every two days or so just seal up the garbage bag and deposit it in the garbage. It’s no different than having cats in the house, you send their waste out in the trash.

  47. Curtis,

    Recently removed grey water tank because pipes emptying into it were busted and therefore causing leakage… how would you recommend reattaching the tank as the abs was broke at the floor of the trailer and the tank fits tight against the bottom of the floor do I have to rip out the shower and this sort of thing to access the tank from the top while its attached??? Hopefully not please advise on any tips… Thx

    1. To be honest I have never had to deal with that issue. I have no idea how it would be approached. I suggest you inquire with an RV dealer repair shop.

  48. Curtis,
    We recently purchased a 2004 Gulf Stream Sun Voyager. Last weekend I fill the freshwater tank and then noticed the waste water tanks were filling. After sitting for a week the freshwater tank was completely empty and the wastewater tanks were both about half full. There was no water on the ground. Is there a valve somewhere that allows the freshwater tank to drain directly into the waste tanks? Thanks!

    1. I have never run across such a valve on any other brand. I don’t know how your waste tanks are plumbed but it is not normal to have both the grey and the black tanks together. I don’t know how your freshwater could be draining into both the black and the gray.

      1. Okay, I’m gonna fill the freshwater tank again tomorrow and see what’s up. Both waste tanks have been drained.

  49. Hi Curtis;
    I have a problem with my waste tanks dump valve station. The 3 inch receiver is missing 2 of the 4 cog post required to connect my 3 inch bayonet connector of my dump hose. Unfortunately the 2 missing are on the top of the receiver. So when I connect only using the 2 lower posts, the waste leaks out in a furious manner. Is there a repair for this without replacing the whole double valve assembly? This is a used travel trailer that we just purchased “as-is”.

    Thanks for any help you can give on this issue.
    Ron

    1. Do a search on eBay for RV sewer connection fittings. Likewise on Amazon. You will likely find a replacement for that Connection. All it should require is some very careful surgery with a hacksaw and some sand paper to Clean-up The surface of the pipe the fitting is attached to And you should be able to glue the new Fitting in place.

  50. Hi Curtis,
    Hoping you can help, I purchased a ’71 Sunset Camper. Let me be clear that this is a brand new experience for me.
    The camper has a toilet but does not seem to have a black water holding tank and I was told there was no water holding tank in general. However there is a big grey metal box with copper lines and a nozzle running to it. As well there is water hookup on one side and another valve on the other side that says “water only” but it has no attachments, looks more like a spout. There is also an obvious spot to be able to drain the waste outside of the camper and I did find a portable waste tank in a storage are.

    so my question(s) is/are.. Any idea what the big grey metal box is?
    and should I just be figuring out a way (if there is one) to attach the portable waste tank for now? With a hose/line of some sort.

    Any help is greatly appreciated, I am a first time camper owner and really wanting to start some adventures but hoping to get this figured out beforehand.

    Thanks!

    1. I am about the worst person you could ask for guidance mostly because I am not there and I have no idea what you are looking at. I strongly suggest you find someone close by who has RV Knowledge and maybe between the 2 of you you can figure it out. That said, something as old as you are dealing with could possibly have a metal galvanized freshwater tank. That is how it was done that far back. No matter what I would hesitate to drink any water that was stored in such an old water tank if that be the case. Good luck.

      1. Thank you I’m looking around for help. I called my local RV dealer and of course they wanted a ridiculous amount of money for me to bring it in and do a walk through/inspection of sorts. Also as a lone young female I don’t often go into any of those places solo when I don’t know exactly what the problem/repair is!

        1. Unfortunately that is the reality of the matter. RV dealers charge $100 an hour because the demand is so great for their services that they can’t keep up. An RV As old as yours is Would-be something they just don’t want to deal with.

  51. We purchased a 2009 coachman rv and are on our maiden voyage. All the water from the sinks is backing up into the shower. HELP!!!

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