Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Paint It Black........:-(

You know how I have said often "I wonder when our turn is?" many of our friends have had issues with their motorhomes in the past 60 days....some, more than one issue..... I can hear the words of another song from the past......"She's Got Issues" by Offspring.   Well, we haven't had too many issues over the past 18 months.....and by the way, July 30th marked the end of 18 months on the road for us, and how fitting that our turn happened Tuesday.

What was "our turn" you ask?  Well, put on your hip boots and bio hazard gloves, because it gets deep fast......

First thing this morning TLE and I were discussing plans for the day......we wanted to take another hike and were trying to determine where the trailhead was for the trail we wanted to hike.  Just in passing she mentioned she thought we were getting close to needing to dump the black tank (you can tell by the sound it makes when you flush the toilet), and I agreed, so while she began to clean up the kitchen I went out to dump and flush the black tank.  I have done this chore every 10-12 days since February of 2011, and have never had a mishap......never.   I have done it a 100+ times with nary an "issue".  As I was feeding the hose I use to flush the black tank through the gap in between the fresh water tank and the black tank the tip of the hose, apparently, caught the middle of three plugs located near the bottom of the black tank.  Each of these three plugs is wired into the Odor Control box, which helps keep the black tank odor in abeyance.  The plug POPPED OUT!  Wait, what!?  At first I thought I heard residual water draining out of the flush hose, but then I realized water was gushing out of either the fresh water tank, or black my eyes focused on the narrow area between the two tanks, which is about 4" wide and 6' long, I saw sewage coming out of a hole in the side the black tank down low.  I stood there stunned, and heard the words coming out of my mouth......"damn, this is not good"....TLE heard my loud utterance through the kitchen window and asked what was going on.......I replied....."I just popped a plug out of the side of the black tank and the black water is going everywhere".  Within seconds she was at my side watching the water bay fill with effluent and then begin spilling on to the grass.

Click on this picture and you can see the three plugs with wires....the middle one is out in this picture, but it is hard to tell....this is after the mop up, but before we took out the tank on the right.

After a few seconds of hesitation I quickly pulled the black water tank dump valve to dump the tank into the sewer.  It took about 60 seconds, which seemed a lifetime.......I took the hose that I was trying to feed between the tanks, put on a nozzle, and began to spray out the water bay and get rid of the sewage......all the while my mind is racing......"how am I going to put that plug back in that hole and properly seal it?"  The space is too narrow for either of our arms, even if they were long enough.  I'm looking at all the 4-5" diameter pipes and dump valves I would have to disconnect to remove the black/gray tank to fix the problem.  About this time TLE says "why not take out the fresh water tank?  There are fewer things to remove"......and of course, she is/was correct.  Now that we had a plan of action we needed to dump all the fresh water out of the tank (150 gallons at the time) and then remove the tank.  I turned off the city water, turned on the water pump, and then turned on the kitchen and bathroom cold water valves to pump the water into the gray tank and then into the sewer.  We could have just opened up the gate valves (there are three gate valves which can be opened to drain all the water out of the coach for winterizing), and drained all the water on to the grass, but we were going to have to work around that area to remove the tank, and neither of us wanted do it standing in 150 gallons of water while it soaked into the grass.  It took about 45 minutes to empty the tank, and while that was happening I began to remove everything that held the fresh water tank in place.  Within 30 minutes of the tank being emptied we had it out.  From there we began to clean out the residue of the black water, and once that was done I crawled in the bay and re-installed the plug using outdoor clear silicone caulk.  While I was at it I re-sealed the other two plugs, too.

 The fresh water tank being moved out.....TLE setting up blocks to support it.  As you can see the tank sits on top of a marine grade 3/4" piece of grooved plywood...that will have to be dried out.

After doing that it was just a matter of drying everything out (including the plywood the tank sits on), and curing the caulk....the caulk starts out white when it is applied, and as it cures turns clear.  We have an electric heater in the water bay to keep the water from freezing in the winter, so I just turned it on to help dry it out, and cure the caulk faster.  By Wednesday, or Thursday we should be able to put the fresh water tank back in place.  In the mean time we can use the shower, and sinks, and once the caulk cures, the toilet again (the caulk was cured before we went to bed....yay!!).

 The fresh water tank out....I was going to use a portable electric heater, but then remembered we already have a built in object in lower right corner.

Thank goodness the water bay is lined (as you can see above) with linoleum....this acts as a moisture barrier and keeps the wood underneath from becoming saturated when spills occur.....and they do occur!

 The offending plug re-installed and caulked...I re-caulked the other two just to be on the safe side.

It looks much larger when it is out....this is what a 160 gallon tank looks like

And yes.......that was our entire Tuesday......and what a Tuesday it was!  There is no doubt that things will break, or malfunction in a motorhome.....especially when you live in it full time......what "it" really comes down to is what you do when it happens.  Do you panic, throw up your hands, or do you use your knowledge/experience, put your heads together and see if you can't fix it yourselves?  It is largely the unfamiliarity of it all that can be overwhelming, but like any project you might take on at home, once you start to "dig" into it you find, in lot of cases, you can "do it yourself".  My first reaction was that I was going to have to call Good Sam and get a referral for a motorhome tech to come out an fix my mistake.  In the end, once I calmed down....with TLE's help.....we figured out what to do.  Sometimes you have to call your ERS, but not this time!

I am really proud of how well Elaine and I worked as a team Tuesday.  She kept me focused, and had great observations and suggestions.  An added benefit to pulling the fresh water tank completely out was we were finally able to get the rest of the reddish sediment out of our fresh water tank that had been deposited there while we were in you will recall the water line at the campground broke, and when we refilled the tank from the just repaired water line we got a lot of reddish sediment in the tank......with the tank out we were able to put water in it, slosh it around, and then turn it on end and get all the rest of the sediment out!

You just never know what the Jello is going to throw at you from day to day, and today the Jello threw a left hook, but "we" stepped inside the punch and scored a knockout!  What started out as a major disaster (for us) turned out to be a minor inconvenience, and a great learning experience.  Each time we come up against a problem like this we gain a little more confidence in our ability to deal with "it".

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Ha! Try squatting in front of the 4" dump hose when it chooses to "spin" on it's own and disconnect when you pull the black water valve open!...

    ...and trying to get it back on in that instant before you "Think" to just close the valve! :)

    Tip; ALWAYS dump with your mouth closed!!! ;)

  2. Great tip! Way back in 1978 I had that happen on my first adventure in a motorhome.

  3. All part of the adventure. We had our turbo go out on our F250 heading north on I-17 near Sedona a year and a half ago....never good timing. Congrats on doing the work yourselves. With each project we learn more about our rig.

    1. Thank you....quite correct.....we know way more than we did when we started this adventure 18 months ago.


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