Sunday, October 2, 2011

Overcoming Dumpophobia – A Girl’s 12-step Guide to Dumping RV tanks!

When I was camping at Assateague last month, a man walked up to me and said “Can I pay you a compliment?”.  “Sure,” I replied.  He said he had watched me come into camp the night before and was just amazed that I could drive my own motorhome and unhitch my toad so easily.  He then was amazed to see me the next day as I paddled in to shore, deflated and packed up my Sea Eagle FastTrack kayak into the back of my Tracker.  He finished by saying “you’re one gutsy lady!”

While I know the gentleman meant well, and I politely thanked him for his compliments, I felt like saying “What alternative do I have?  Sit at home waiting for some man to come along? And miss out at being able to camp on the ocean shore and paddle this beautiful bay?!!!”  But I kept my mouth shut, smiled, and walked away.

My brother and I were raised to be independent and self-sufficient (perhaps to a fault!), but I was never told I couldn’t/shouldn’t do something just because of my gender.  While I envy my RVing friends who have husbands to travel with and help them with the more unpleasant and dirty tasks of RVing, I’ve never had that luxury. 

So, what’s a girl to do….stay at home?  Never!  I’d just have to learn to do those “manly” tasks myself.  Now that I’ve been RVing a few years and doing them, they honestly aren’t hard or unpleasant.   Even if you have a nice spouse who’s doing them now for you, it’s always good to learn these skills yourself in case of an emergency.

So on to the 1st and perhaps most feared of all female RVer phobias—dumping the tanks!

There are a variety of products available and methods to tank-dumping, so my way outlined below might not be the way you (or your spouse) prefer.  But, so far in 3 years, it’s a method that has worked well for me, and the supplies all fit nicely in my RV’s water/sewer compartment.  So, let’s get started:

The Tools I Use:
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The brown hose with orange fittings is a RhinoFLEX kit. Clicking the link will take you to a great little video on how to use this product.  The kit is very reasonably priced at less than $30 on Amazon.  What I like about it most besides the ruggedness and durability of the hose, are the end caps and robust fittings.  While some old timers might recoil in horror, I store my sewer hose next to my fresh water fill hoses inside my RV’s utility compartment (because there are no other good external places to store these).
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A few important things to note, though—the RhinoFLEX is always rinsed off and capped with caps facing away from the hoses.  The fresh water hoses are always connected end to end and stored with their connectors up away from the Rhino hose.  I additionally use an external water filter that is stored with caps on both ends of it to provide secondary filtering to all drinking water for the RV (the other filter is inside in the RV’s plumbing line).
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The black contraption to the left of the RhinoFLEX in the first photo above is called a Flush King.  It allows me to back-flush my tanks with either gray water or water from a hose to ensure anything inside the tank still stuck on the walls or bottom are flushed out (and thus eliminating potential problems with faulty tank level readings later on).  Here’s a link to a copy-cat product by Camco that has a short video of how this process works.  I like the Flush King better because it has an angled connector that’s easier for the limited clearance I have with the View’s sewer pipe.

The final item in the first photo above is a pack of disposable gloves to use while handling all sewer-related items.  These aren’t required, but do help keep germs minimized before washing hands later.

My RV Dump Process Step-by-Step:

Because I back-flush with every dump, my process involves a few extra steps that you would not need to do if just using the RhinoFLEX directly.  But here’s how I do it:
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1. Ensure both Black and Gray valves on your RV are pushed fully closed (in).   You don’t want any surprises greeting you when you open your RV sewer drain cap!

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2. Unscrew the RV’s sewer drain pipe cap.  The seal might be a bit “gritty” and hard to turn, so give it a good strong grip and turn it clockwise.  Note that mine seems to release a few cups of gray water when I do this (so be sure your gloves are on!).  I likely have a small gap or particle in my gray tank release valve seal right now that’s causing it to leak slightly.  Ah, the joys of RV ownership…always some small thing to get fixed!

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3. Attach the Flush King to the Drain Pipe Bayonet.
(Skip this step if not back-flushing). Twist the Flush King counter-clockwise until the 4 little plastic prongs on the RV’s Drain Pipe click into the 4 little C-shaped tabs on the Flush King’s connector.  Make VERY SURE that all sides are secure and fully “clicked” into place.  The Flush King’s clear pipe should feel like a solid extension of your RV’s drain and should not wobble at all on the bayonet.

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4. Remove the end cap from the RV-side of the RhinoFLEX. Twist the cap to unclick it from the hose’s bayonet fitting.

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5. Connect the RhinoFLEX to the Flush King. This is the exact same bayonet fitting as in Step 3, so follow the same process to connect it, again being sure that all 4 prongs are securely clicked all the way into the C-shaped grippers (if not back-flushing, you’d simply connect the Rhino directly to the RV drain connector).

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6. Remove the black end cap from the Sewer-side of  RhinoFLEX and attach the orange threaded fitting. This is a bayonet-type fitting as well.  There are 4 small tabs on the hose end that fit corresponding notches on the inside of the end cap or threaded fitting to twist and lock these onto the hose.  Whenever possible, it’s better to actually screw the orange threaded fitting into the dump station’s drian pipe and THEN connect the RhinoFLEX to the fitting.  But at some dump stations, the drain pipe is unthreaded and just has a metal flapper cover (like this example), so in this situation, I attach the threaded fitting to the hose first.

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7. Open the Dump Station’s Sewer Drain Cover. At a dump station, you’ll usually see a metal cap with a little foot lever to open it.  At a full hookup RV site, the sewer pipe will usually be a white PVC screw-off cap with a sqaure grip on top.

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8. Extend the RhinoFLEX hose and secure it into the Dump Station sewer drain.  Again, if the sewer pipe has threads, screw your orange fitting into that first.  If the pipe is unthreaded, be sure something heavy rests on top of the Rhino’s white elbow to keep it securely in the sewer drain. 

NEWBIE TIP: I once thought that if the sewer pipe didn’t have threads, there’d be no need to connect the orange fitting to the Rhino, and I simply had the white elbow placed directly into the sewer drain.  As soon as I release the black tank I realized my error as the hose jumped out of the sewer and spewed my black tank waste all over the dump station. What a mess that was to clean up!

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9. Bombs Away!  Release the Black Tank contents into the sewer. This is the moment of truth that will confirm whether or not your connections were all securely fastened!  I first pull the Black tank valve handle all the way open (out).  When I see the tank contents fill up the clear pipe of the Flush King, I then pull open the FK’s valve to let them proceed on to the sewer. 

NEWBIE TIP:  Keep your hand on the valve and watch the hose/sewer when you first release.  If any sign of problems, immediately push the valve closed again.  I made the mistake once of opening the valve and walking over to the sewer to watch progress there (remember the tip above about the orange fitting?).  Well yep, when the hose jumped out of the drain, my shoes got splashed and trashed, and it seemed like an eternity to get back over to the valve to close it again!  Take your time, stay close to the valves and away from the sewer, and don’t let anyone or anything distract you while the valves are open!!!

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10. Once the Black Tank is done, Drain the Gray Tank (and back-flush if you are using a Flush King). Now if I didn’t have my Flush King in place, all I’d be doing is rinsing the Rhino hose with the gray water when it drains into the sewer.  I’d not have any easy way to rinse the black tank.  But with a Flush King, I can back-flush gray water into my Black tank first before sending it down the sewer hose.  This cleans out the “leftovers” on the bottom of the black tank before they have time to harden and cause blockages inside the tank later on.  

I do the following “dance of the tank valves” sequence to back-flush the black tank.  It reads much more complicated than it actually is…trust me! 

1. Keeping the black tank valve open, I close the Flush King (FK) valve. 
2. I then open the Gray tank valve which fills the FK clear pipe then begins backing up into the open black tank. 
3. Once I hear it stop moving, I close the Gray tank valve.
4. I then open the Flush King valve sending the backflushed black tank contents on to the sewer.
5. Once drained, I repeat these 4 steps again to push more gray water over to flush the black tank until I see clear water draining from the black tank (via the Flush King’s clear pipe).
6. I finally close the black tank valve, open the Flush King valve, and then open the gray tank valve to send it’s final contents on their merry way.
7. Once the gray tank is empty, I close the gray tank valve and keep the Flush King valve open another minute or two to ensure everything has drained from the RV drain pipe.  I then close the Flush King valve and tank dumping is complete.

NEWBIE TIP: A few times a year, if I want to get my black tank really good and flushed, rather than do the dance of the tank valves with gray water flushing, I hook up a garden hose (NEVER a white fresh water fill hose!) to the hose fitting on the back of the Flush King, and rather than back flush the black tank with gray water, I back fill the tank with water from the garden hose and get the tank filled as much as possible.  I repeat this process a couple of times to ensure that the side walls of the black tank are good and clean.  This process is easiest performed while at a full hookup campsite where the water spigot and sewer drain are fairly close to each other.

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11. Disconnect, drain, & rinse off the RhinoFLEX and Flush King. Stow everything back in the RV and re-attach all caps.  Once all valves are closed again, I disconnect the Rhino hose from the Flush King/RV and hold it up directly over the sewer drain.  If I have access to a non-potable water supply (most Dump stations have a water spigot like this painted in red and/or has a non-threaded hose attached to it near the sewer drain), I’ll rinse some of this water down the hose into the sewer drain, then I’ll disconnect the orange threaded fitting and Flush King and rinse those items off as well.  I’ll then reattach the Rhino end caps and the RV’s drain cap and stow all items back in the RV.

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12. Rinse the dump station down, dispose of your gloves, wash hands, refill your black and gray tanks slightly, and be on your way! Proper Dump Station etiquette is to take the non-potable water hose and rinse off the area around the sewer drain and beneath your RV’s drain pipe.to ensure the station is clean for the next RVer to use it.  NEVER use this water supply to fill your fresh water tank.  There will usually be another water spigot further away for that purpose.

Once the Dump Station is back in order, come into the RV to wash up and refill your tanks with a gallon or two of water to prevent the tank bottoms from drying out (run the kitchen faucet and toilet sprayer a minute or two).

If there are line of RVs behind you, you’re best best is to skip the Flush King back-flushing process, quickly dump your black and then your gray tanks, and save the back-flushing for another day.

Sewer Hose Usage at Full Hookup Sites – the great debate! 

Some folks think because they have a full hookup site, they must drag out the sewer hose and connect it as soon as they arrive. I suppose if you’re planning to stay at in-place for over a week, that might make good sense, but otherwise, keep your hose packed away from the harsh sun and only bring it out when you need to dump.  My RhinoFLEX is now 2 years old with no signs of pinhole leaks or other problems due to exposure to the elements.

NEWBIE TIP:  If you do plan to stay at one site awhile and hook up your sewer hose, do NOT keep the black tank valve open!  Not only will you get some pretty strong sewer smells whenever you flush your RV toilet, you’re also very likely to develop a dried up “pyramid” at the bottom of your black tank due to insufficient liquids to keep things afloat.

Now I guarantee that you’ve just spent more time reading this lengthy post than it will actually take you to dump your tanks!  But after dumping a few times, you’ll have the process down.  While I’m not sure any RVer ever comes to love tank-dumping, girls that dump their own tanks certainly will feel a sense of accomplishment and independence!  Go ahead, give it a try!

14 comments:

  1. To your what's a girl going to do statement, I say Amen! It's not hard to be what's considered by some to be gutsy when you don't have any other choice.

    Dumping has never been a phobia for me, but checking tire air pressure and running the air compressor is the thing that I always have to talk myself into getting done. Yuck!

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  2. These instructions are great. I'm going to make my husband buy all these exact parts, I'll print out your instructions, and then read each step to him so that he won't have any more "accidents".
    No really, this will empower me to strike out on my own. Thanks Lynne!

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  3. Judy-- you are our solo RVing girls' hero! After the month you've been having, I'm surprised you haven't started mastering another "manly skill" of learning to shoot a gun! Those darn insurance adjusters better get their butts in gear quick...or else ;-)

    I was absolutely befuddled on how to get air into my rear dual-wheel tires until I got a set of firm stainless steel "dually valves" from Borg Tire Supply, and also got a heavy duty Trucker's digital air gauge. So much easier now! Of course, my tires are smaller than your's so things might be alot different with a big Class A.

    Fingers crossed you'll be flying south soon!

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  4. Nice job describing how to dump the tanks:)
    I never understood the phobia about dumping tanks then again I grew up on a farm and spread manure and used an outhouse so maybe I had a more "organic" upbringing than most girls. I drove the tractor and bucked hay bales even into my 60's, also castrated calves, cut firewood, fixed roofs and did a whole lot of other stuff. I couldn't wait for a man to get around to do it or I would still be waiting. I think it intimidates some menfolk, to bad for them.

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  5. Good for you Kay! Wow, you've certainly rolled up your sleeves and have done some interesting work!

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  6. Thanks for the detailed tutorial! Very informative!

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  7. I don't think anything regarding RV living is "manly," I consider them "necessary." Being a solo traveler, I do it all, and none of it bothers me. Although some of it worries me a bit until I do them.

    I, too, had the black tank running into the hose when it "jumped" - wow, did I move fast. Scared the heck out of me! Then I bought one of those donuts, and if I don't use it, I make sure there's a big rock on the hose, or my foot. :)

    This post is really good, though, even for someone like me who has been doing this for a few months. I didn't know what a back flush thing looked like or how it was used; I'm going to get one. Thanks!!

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  8. Do a lot of property-sitting and am fed up with having to move the rig every week or so to empty the black tank. So just bought a macerating pump so I can empty it with a garden hose to the sewer clean-out 50 feet away from the rig. Anybody have any experience with these? I've yet to use it; but will need to soon! Thanks!

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  9. I've got one of those-- a FloJet portable 12v macerator ( http://bit.ly/spJL9g ). I bought it for dumping tanks at home if ever need to. It works just fine. I store it in the garage where I also have a 12v battery for it, and a dedicated hose so I don't have to contaminate my garden hose.

    They recommend a larger hose if it will be handling solid black tank contents (3/4" I believe), but other than that, it works very well!

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  10. Thank you thank you thank you! I'm a single gal taking delivery on my first RV in a couple of months and this was the most intimidating chore. Thank you for the post on towing, too, since one day I'll need that info as well. Girl Power!

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  11. Lynne

    Thank you so kindly for this post - I'm not a gal, but I am an RV newbie (we have an 06 Navion H), and have only had to do a few dumps, so I'm still a little green at it. I do see your posts on the Yahoo group also (I'm a lurker there).

    I notice on your photos that you have extended the sewer drain so it comes out underneath the sewer compartment. How did you do this? I have the Sewer Solution, but I have to attach it sideways, which means I can't quite get the sewer drained completely.

    Many thanks
    Mike

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    1. Hi Mike-- Winnebago changed the drain with the newer chassis ('08's and newer) so that the drain cap is outside/below the bay, so fortunately, that was one mod I did not have to make.

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  12. Hi Lynne - Just picked up a 2016 View 24V. Thank you very much for these instructions and your blog. We tried to perform the first black tank dump yesterday and found that the cap it is very hard to remove. We could not do it. Any suggestions for 2 gals? Are there any devices out there that would help us to get a better grip on the thing? I searched for one but could not find one. Thank you. Deb

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    Replies
    1. How about a pair of those rubber gripped garden gloves? I've got a pair that I now use when hooking up my toad, but the gloves are so good and tight-fitting that it's like having those jar opener rubber pads in both hands! I'm sure the plastic is a bit overly tight from being new, but once you do get the cap off, make sure there's no sand or other particles-- sometimes those can dry and make the cap terribly difficult to remove too.

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