Roadtrek

Roadtrek

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Living in the Roadtrek - Dumping the Waste Tanks

In this article we are going to talk about the pleasant subject of dumping your waste tanks. Some of what I will tell you about applies basically to all RVs and some applies only to Roadtreks since Roadtrek added the macerator dump system as standard equipment in all models. I will first start with the basics.

The Roadtrek has two separate waste tanks. One is called the Black Tank - and has "black water" in that tank. This is the tank that is connected only to your toilet. Everything that goes into the toilet is dropped down into the Black Tank. The other tank is called the Grey Tank and has "grey water" in it. This is the tank that is connected to your sink drain(s Roadtreks that have the enclosed bathroom option also have a bathroom sink) and your shower drain. This is water will be clean water that has flowed down the drain and also water from washing your hands, washing dishes, and taking a shower. This water is likely to have soap mixed in. The Roadtrek has a 23 gallon grey tank and a 10 gallon black tank - yes, the black tank holds only ten gallons of water mixed with waste. The grey tank size will vary with model. All models except the 170 have a ten gallon black tank (the 170 black tank is only 8 gallons).

Once those tanks fill up you need a way to empty them and that is called "dumping" your tanks. The traditional RV has a gravity dump system. With this system a three inch wide hose is connected to a connector that is part of two valves that open and close the tanks. The other end of that hose is put into a hole in the ground that leads to a sewer and by gravity, when the valves are opened one at a time the waste and water flow out through the hose from the tanks and go down into the sewer. The process can take a bit of time and requires that there be sufficient height from the bottom of the tanks where the valve enters each tank for gravity to be able to work to carry the waste and water out. Older Roadtreks have this system. Newer Roadtreks do not.

Newer Roadtreks have a MACERATOR. A macerator is an electric pump with a grinder attached. It is very much like a sink garbage disposal system. The macerator is connected to two pipes that each are connected to a valve that goes into the black tank and the grey tank. Inside the macerator is an impeller that spins pumping the water from the tank into the macerator and also a pair of stainless steel very sharp cutting blades. All of the waste the comes into the macerator with the water is ground up into liquid by the spinning cutting blades - think of a blender or food processor. That thin solution is then pushed through a flex hose that is about one inch in diameter and out a nozzle into the sewer hole. The process is quick and relatively odorless - unless you stick your nose into the sewer hole. There is a momentary switch that turns the macerator on and off - push the switch - on - let go of the switch - off. This switch is located inside the driver's door and on the newer Roadtreks it is a red button on the frame of the driver's seat facing out the door. The macerator enables the Roadtrek which is close to the ground to pump the waste and water out of the tanks with little gravity and it can even push the waste uphill if that is where the sewer hole is. Roadtrek felt that this is the better system for a Class B that is so close to the ground on the bottom.

Which system is better? There are a lot of strong opinions on this. There are positives to be said for both systems. The one reason that makes sense more than others about the traditional gravity system being better is that since it is not mechanical in any way, there is very little that can go wrong with the system. You don't need electricity (the macerator will work with either the coach battery(ies) or 120 volt hook up). Not much can clog a three inch hose. And you can always add a portable macerator to the end of a gravity hose to do the same job as the built in Roadtrek macerator. More importantly, you are not dealing with a motor that can break or an impeller that can get jammed from waste or hair that may have gone down the drain. It may sound like I don't like the macerator in my Roadtrek - and that is not true. I like how fast it empties the tanks and I also know that the way some campground sewer connections are and some dump stations can be, the fact that the macerator can move the water without gravity can be an advantage. I am not going to go into the things that people say about the macerator system in general. I will tell you that the macerator's number one enemy is HAIR. Put good hair screens on all of your drains and do not allow hair to flow down the drains. Think of a vacuum cleaner whose rotating brushes pick up hair on the floor and twist that hair around the brush until it cannot turn any more. This is exactly what hair COULD do to a macerator impeller. If you are careful you are fine.

It is important to understand one other thing that the difference between a macerator system and a gravity system effects. With a gravity system you could connect your dump hose to the sewer connection at the campground and open the grey valve (it is generally recommended not to do this with the black valve for the black tank) and let all of the grey water go into the tank and then right out again into the sewer. This permits endless showers, washing, etc. The grey tank never fills up and it empties all of the time when water goes in and you are hooked up. You will see RVs do this all the time at campgrounds. YOU CANNOT DO THIS WITH THE ROADTREK MACERATOR SYSTEM. With the macerator the tank only empties when you push and hold in the button. No water will flow through on its own. So you must rely upon your tank to hold the water that goes down the sink and shower drains and then empty it when it is full.

OK - now the fun part - the how to do it. Well, you know how to do it. You have been doing it since you were born. Now you will learn how to get rid of it in a Roadtrek.

Before you can dump the waste tanks, each tank must be at least 2/3 full. The 2/3 indicator for each tank is on the monitor panel inside your Roadtrek. It is the next to last light from the top - the top light is full (which is OK to dump at too). If you want to dump and you don't have that much in your tanks, put some more in. Open the faucet and let the water run into the grey tank and flush the toilet until you have enough water in the black tank. I use a gallon water jug that we carry and I go out to the hose faucet on the campground site and fill it and dump it down the toilet until we reach 2/3 or full. Once you get enough into the tanks you can start to dump them.

First, you must have electrical power on - either your coach batteries or 120 volt power (hookup or generator). Make sure your Battery Disconnect switch is ON - red light is lit. If I am not connected to 120 volt power I like to start the van engine just to give the macerator motor a little extra umpf to work.

Open the side compartment where your macerator is located. On my 190 it is a lift up door for the side storage compartment. Also open the door - on mine - next to the storage compartment to the front of the van - to access the grey and black tank handles.

You pull the hose out of its compartment, nozzle first. It has worked best when the entire hose is removed from the compartment until it reaches its full length. This hose is connected under your Roadtrek to the macerator. Don't pull once the hose stops coming out! In the photo above you see the green hose with the white and grey nozzle. The black handle on the top is a valve to stop the water from coming out of the nozzle. Open the driver's door to get to the macerator power button.

The sewer connection is a four inch pipe in the ground - usually plastic pipe - with a screw on cap. Always keep a box of latex surgical gloves (or the non-latex gloves if you have an allergy to latex). You can get these in boxes of a hundred in many places. Put on a pair of the gloves - remember what you are dumping through that hose that you will be holding. If you don't have a sewer connection at your campsite then there will be a dump station at the campground (or at various other places) for everyone to use. Usually there is one - and you can expect to wait in line for your turn. At these there may be a large metal plate in the ground covering a large open hole. Don't fall in. (You are laughing but in the next county to us there is a free public dump station at a sewage disposal plant, and there are large open manholes in the pavement to dump into - and one wrong step and you are down and dirty and likely to drown or wish you did.) The sewer connection at your campsite is much safer and much more pleasant. It is well worth the extra few dollars a night to have a site with your own sewer connection. OK - go over to the sewer pipe, unscrew the cap, and put the cap on the side. Remember what everyone else has been pouring around this hole and mind where you step (at least be aware of the possibility that it is not necessarily the cleanest spot in the campground).

Now, it gets really fun. Go to your Roadtrek and open the black tank valve by pulling the black handle - a newer Roadtrek will have color coordinated handles. I have heard that there are some older ones that have handles that have no difference in color - both black, both grey. The handles are easy to change and you can buy ones in black or grey at RV supply stores. A newer Roadtrek also has a label printed next to each valve. So easy. Below is a photo of our valve compartment.


What you see in this photo is both valve handles open. I will explain this later. Now, you only want to pull the black handle to open the black tank. YOU ALWAYS DUMP THE BLACK TANK FIRST - no matter if you have a gravity system or a macerator.

Dumping a Roadtrek with a macerator is a two person process. I will explain how one person can do this later. For now let's assume you have a partner to do this. This is one of those togetherness things that couples enjoy. And in the tight quarters of a Class B RV you have a lot of togetherness moments.

One person is now going to take the nozzle connected to the green hose (some older Roadtreks have different color hoses and those hoses had problems breaking - Roadtrek has since about 2008 replaced the hose with a durable hose) and bring it over the the sewer hole. Hold the end of the nozzle into the hole - you do have to bend to do this (can't bend - don't worry - I can tell you what to do). Turn the black handle on the nozzle so that it points to the opening of the nozzle - open position - look at the photo a few paragraphs back to see the nozzle in the open position (we keep ours that way all of the time - I will tell you why later).

You now give your partner the GO signal that you are ready for the sh.. I mean waste to start to flow and your partner will press the red button that is inside the driver's door. Push and hold that button - for now.

The motor of the macerator will start and you will see the hose contort a bit as it fills up and then it all flows out the end of the nozzle into the hole - hold it down enough into the sewer hold to avoid splashing on you. (I know you are saying ycch! Really, it is not bad at all if you do it correctly. We really were pleasantly surprised the first time we did this. ) You will get a full flow at first - and generally it is almost clear water and then the water turns dark brown - you really don't have to look.


Here is Meryl with the nozzle in the sewer hole. Yes, this is her job. I am at the button. She is holding the nozzle a bit high and this is JUST for the photo so that you can see what to do. See, she is wearing rubber gloves. She also has on her "OK to get wet" shoes though she really does not want to get them wet here doing this. Keep the button pressed until only spurts are coming out of the hose. At this point the black tank is as empty as it needs to be. Roadtrek and the macerator company say that you will hear a change in sound made by the macerator motor when you should stop. It is supposed to make a high pitch whine - a change in tone from the regular sound. We don't really hear that. We have been told that it is definitely different in tone. As soon as water is down to those spurts stop. At this point we have been letting go of the button and then pushing it again and another stream of water will come out - but we have been learning that this is not a good idea - so AS SOON as you see the water flow slow down to spurts, STOP. If you run the macerator motor when it is dry you will burn it out! You have now emptied the black tank - one more tank to go!

The rest is simple. Have your partner at the button pull out the grey handle. There are a lot of varying opinions about closing the black handle now by pushing it back in, leaving it open while you dump the grey tank, or opening the grey handle, allowing a little water from the grey tank to back flow into the black tank and with the soapy water cleaning that tank a little. We have tried it all. At the moment we are leaving the black handle open (pulled out) while we are dumping the grey tank (grey handle pulled out). This is a common suggestion in this process and unless we encounter some problem after having done this for a year now, we will follow the common trend. Basically, you can dump the grey tank with or without the black handle open.

The reason that you are dumping the grey tank last is that you do want that soapy water to follow that black water and clean out the macerator and the hose - and almost three times the amount of water is going to come through the grey tank and out the hose.

With the grey handle pulled out - repeat what you did for the black tank exactly the same. Nozzle into the sewer hole, push the red button, and the grey water flows out into the sewer. The grey water looks either clear or grey depending upon how much soap went down the drain. It can also be bubbly from the soap - but not always. Again, hold the button down until the water starts to spurt and then stop. The grey tank is as empty as needed.

At this point push in the grey handle and push in the black handle. Your waste tanks are empty. But that is not always the end of the process I am sorry to say. You can stop here if need be. This is what the problem COULD be. The tank monitor sensors are notoriously inaccurate. They can be made inaccurate, particularly in the black tank if something has caught on one of them - like toilet paper and causes it to make incorrect contact and result in reading as if there was water on it and the tank is full to that level. You could have an empty tank that still reads 2/3 or even Full. You know it is empty - you just emptied to the point of nothing more coming out. But that monitor panel is saying something else. What a pain!

Here is what you can do - which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't and is recommended anyway. You are going to flush the black tank with clean water and empty it again. I have done this two ways. One way with my gallon jug and I fill and dump ten gallons of clean water down the toilet letting it rush into the toilet hole with a little force from gravity (it will splash a little as you do this). I also purchased a tank cleaning wand - for the Roadtrek you must have one with a FLEXIBLE HOSE END - that is a rigid wand with a flexible hose at the end about two feet long and the end of that has either multiple small hose for water to come out or a spinning brass end that swirls water around. You connect this wand to a garden hose - you can see my olive green coil hose in the first photo in the compartment (sold at all of the home stores and Walmart in the summer). NEVER USE A FRESH WATER HOSE FOR THIS! There is a shut off valve on your end of the wand. Turn the hose water faucet on full, wand valve OFF, and put the end of the hose into the toilet. Open the toilet valve with your foot and BE CAREFUL NOT TO LET THE TOILET VALVE CLOSE ON THE WAND OR YOU WILL DAMAGE THE TOILET! Snake the end of the flex hose all the way down into the black tank. Yes, when it come out it will not be very pleasant and you need to wear latex gloves for this job and have disinfectant cleanser and paper towels on hand to clean this wand before you put it away. The wand acts like a pressure washer and you move the wand around so that it gets to every part of the tank - up and down, around and around. Anything clinging to a sensor or the tank walls will be knocked off - and all of the water going in is clean. You want to fill the tank with this now until it is at least 2/3 full. When it is full completely, you will see water come up the drain pipe toward the toilet. Stop by shutting off the valve on your end of the wand. Get the wand outside to clean it so that you don't mess up anything inside your Roadtrek.

Now, go back outside and dump your black tank only all over again. Just as you did before. Roadtrek does recommend flushing the tank every time you dump it. When you are done, and you allow the tank to dry out a little you will actually see the monitor panel read empty - if you are lucky.

Now, it is time to put away your macerator hose and finish up. First, close the sewer hole by screwing the cap back on. Keep those gloves on! Next, leave the nozzle valve OPEN. This is to allow air to escape from the macerator hose when you bend it and cram it back into its compartment. This compartment is a TIGHT fit. A few more inches would have done wonders. Push the hose back in - back end first and just keep pushing and fitting the hose in until it is all inside. Now, take the nozzle and push that in with the nozzle opening facing UP. At this point you could turn that black nozzle valve closed, but we have found that it fits inside much better with the nozzle valve handle straight to the nozzle and not across as it is in the closed position. It is also much easier to get out this way. Clean your wand and put it away - ours is in a large plastic bag in the side storage compartment and it is a pain and always in the way- but this is the best place so far we have found to keep it.

You are almost finished. Go inside the Roadtrek and pour a gallon of clean water into the toilet and let it go down into the black tank. You might add the deodorizer/digester chemical of your choice to the water now too. YOU MUST ALWAYS HAVE WATER IN YOUR BLACK TANK! You never want it to dry out or you will have big problems. When it comes to your black tank, water is your best friend - and plenty of it. Now, you are finished. The whole process can take us about 45 minutes and that is only because of the time needed to flush the black tank. If we are not flushing - like at a public dump site - it takes us about 15 minutes to empty both tanks - or less. It really goes fast.

Now - some extras!

You say - "I don't want to stand and look into the sewer hole holding the nozzle!" or you say - "I can't bend over the hole to do this!" or you say - "I am all alone, now what do I do?!". Well you have a solution - the same one for all three - you use two donuts.

Uhhh? I eat two donuts and this solves all the problems. No. An RV donut is a small rubber plug with a hole in the middle. You can buy these at RV supply shops or ... yep! Walmart. You need two different sizes and Roadtrek is nice enough to include one that fits their macerator hose nozzle with your new Roadtrek. This is a hard rubber plug. The problem though, is that the one that comes with the Roadtrek is too small to fit into the usual sewer pipe opening. The one in the stores fits these sewer pipes perfectly. The one from Roadtrek fits inside that donut perfectly. I did find that once joined together it is hard to get them apart. You don't need to get them apart but you cannot fit the nozzle back into its compartment with one or both of these attached to the nozzle. The easy fix is get some KY jelly - a water soluble lubricant at your pharmacy or pharmacy department. Put a little on the nozzle and a little around the Roadtrek donut and then put the Roadtrek, smaller donut into the hole of the larger donut, and then put the nozzle into the center of the Roadtrek donut. Now, push the larger donut into the sewer hole - no lube needed. It should stick in easily and NOT fall in. Now, you can walk away from the sewer hole with your macerator nozzle attached to it and go push the button yourself. You are not near the sewer hole. You can't smell the sewer hole. You can't see into the sewer hole - which can be a good thing but is also a bad thing because you now have no visual on the water stopping when the tank is empty. Now, you must rely on the sound. As they say, a change to a high pitch whine and it is empty. You will just have to accept that. Once the donut comes out of the sewer hole, disinfect it with a disinfectant cleaner. Put it into something that will keep it away from your fresh water hoses. We have a plastic box for the "dirty" things that we want to keep separate in that side compartment. By the way, there are some campgrounds that require that you use a donut when dumping. It is simple to use - as I have described and you should always have one in your Roadtrek that will fit the standard dump pipe, in addition to the smaller one that Roadtrek gives you. (If you lose that smaller donut or need to buy one you will find them at shops at dealers who sell Roadtreks but they are not cheap. The larger one is just a few dollars. You need BOTH.)

OK - what can go wrong? A macerator is a machine and like any machine, some can come out of the factory defective, some can break down, and some last forever. There are some Roadtrek owners that report many problems with their macerators. There are many more Roadtrek owners who never have a problem at all with the macerator. I have spoken to Roadtrek-trained technicians who have said the problems that they see with macerators are the result of hair being caught in the impeller or people who have not put enough water into their tanks. But what happens if something does go wrong. First, there is a manual crank for the macerator that will unstick something that may be stuck inside that is keeping the impeller from turning with the motor. There is a handle that is located below the Roadtrek chassis - on mine it is below the driver's door. The handle is connected to a long bar that goes into the macerator. To use this handle you must go under the Roadtrek to get to it and to turn it. You push it in to engage a screwdriver type blade on the end into a slot inside the macerator's shaft. You then can turn that shaft to free it if it is stuck- you must always ONLY turn to the right.

I recently emailed Roadtrek customer service about something unrelated to the macerator and in the reply I was told that to keep the macerator in good working condition, the manual crank should be turned BEFORE EVERY DUMP to make sure that the impeller and shaft are turning freely. This is very likely a good idea, but this added step to dumping the tanks would require one to crawl under the Roadtrek and get to that crank handle each time you are about to dump the tanks. We have not yet done this - but we may. A little prevention may mean saving a lot of inconvenience. I did check about this with the service tech at our dealer-service and he did agree that it is a good idea. If you know that the shaft is turning freely, you know that there will be nothing that could jam and burn the motor.

There is also an emergency clean out on the macerator. This is a cap that must be opened (unscrewed) - again underneath the van - and then when you open the grey and black valves the tanks will gravity dump out the clean out. This can be very messy as it just dumps the contents of the tanks down on the ground below it - there is no way really to get this over a dump hole. Someone that I know with a Roadtrek has invented a way to connect a traditional gravity hose to this clean out, but the connections come too close to the ground and they cannot be permanently attached. This is a temporary solution only, but one that will allow a traditional gravity dump into a sewer hole in an emergency. It is nice to know that this is possible. Some people will not put toilet paper into their toilets believing that it is the toilet paper that jams the macerator. The company that makes the macerator insists that it can grind much more than toilet paper. Of course, you always must use toilet paper that will dissolve in water to a slurry in a very short time. Take a piece of toilet paper and put it in a glass of water. After a minute or less, swirl the water around and the toilet paper should be gone into miniscule shreds and then gone all together. You can use RV specific toilet paper which is expensive or you can use any toilet paper that passes the test that I have described. We use Scott single ply household toilet paper and it works fine. I did not pay what I paid for my Roadtrek not to put toilet paper down the toilet and to collect it in a bag hung on the bathroom door. Remember, as I said, use plenty of water in your black tank. Of course, there are things that cannot go down the toilet - leftovers, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, paper towels, sanitary toilet wipes, paper napkins - use common sense. If it does not dissolve it cannot be flushed.

That now is really all there is to it. It is a nasty job but it must be done. BUT it is not so nasty with the Roadtrek macerator. Oh, and when you are done. Throw away the gloves and wash your hands - really, really well.

28 comments:

  1. Good review, Robert! I also recently spoke to Roadtrek & they emphasized the value of a couple of quick twists of the manual crank before each dump - that & adding a small amount of mineral oil & hot water to the gray tank after each dump is complete. Mineral oil alone can be added to the black tank at any point. The mineral oil, of course, is to keep the valves lubricated & the sensors clear of debris. I have to say, having had a Class B with a gravity system previously for 12 years, hands down, I much prefer the gravity system to the macerator. In my experience, it was much faster, much more thorough, easier &, as you say, very little to go wrong as compared to the macerator system. I see that Roadtrek has decided to use a gravity system with their new Ranger model.

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    1. We just purchased the Roadtrek Ranger with the gravity system. After dumping the tanks once with this system we are having a macerator pump installed in the storage area. I had to practically lay on the ground to get to the hose and I could have used 2 more hands when trying to get the hose back in the pipe after dumping.
      We like the Roadtrek but having to crawl under it to do anything is more than my husband and I bargained for. If the gravity system could be put in the storage area it would be more convenient.

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    2. It seems that instead of putting the gravity dump connection conveniently on the side, they have gone to their former system of a pipe to hold the hose and a connection underneath - as they had on Roadtreks before the macerator. I would suggest a portable macerator which will be much less expensive but you would still have to crawl under to get to the hose to connect it to. While the new Ranger has some interesting features, I feel that lately Roadtrek is falling short on their new models and leaving out some of the essentials.

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  2. Nice summary. Very helpful. We just bought a used 2008 210 Polular with a macerator which needed replacement. The co that replaced it NEVER reinstalled the manual crank and I discovered it when a neighbor told us that a hose was DRAGGING under the unit. The co never properly replaced the hose. I am bringing it back but it still seems that the hose will bend when the drawer is closed so that it will either hang down or cinch between the frame and the drawer. Does anyone have a reaction to this?

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    1. With the 190 there are outside cabinets but on your 210 you have drawers on the outside. As I have seen the setup, nothing should be able to hang down - IF - everything is installed properly. It sounds like with everything else macerator related that you have found is not right, the hose is not coming into the drawer properly. You might want to go to an Roadtrek service center and let them tell you what is necessary to get this all correct so that when you go back you know exactly what you want to have made right. You could also go to an RT dealer and just look at the arrangement of the hose in the drawer - and look under the van to see how a properly installed macerator and hose should be.

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  3. My wife and I are fellow Long Islanders and new to RV's until this spring when we purchased a 2009 Popular 190. Your writing has helped us so much to learn how to use the 190 and made the learning curve much faster. We really love it and nothing major has gone wrong until three weeks ago on our last day in the Adirondaks when we wanted to dump before the trip home. Instead of the usual humming sound when I pressed the red button, nothing happened. Spent about 20 minutes trying to get it to work until finally the pump kicked in. The next weekend when I had a chance to try it again it stopped working altogether. After checking the fuse and poking around a bit I decided to order a new Shurflo pump online. Installing it took about 3 hours and was a little messy but saved us a trip to NJ. Works great now. The new pump needs a slightly larger fuse (25 amp vs 20 for the old). I think the pump failed because the previous owner never flushed out the holding tank. I am a big proponent of flushing the tank now and will do this after every trip. Again thank you for your invaluable writing!

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    1. It is great to hear that there is another 190 on L.I. Sorry to hear that you had a problem with the macerator. There is a rod to turn located under the chassis that will turn the macerator manually to clear anything that may be stuck. This is the first thing to try when there is any problem. Definitely flush after every trip - or during a trip after about four days at the most. Also use PLENTY of water in the black tank. If the holding tank dries out there is nothing but trouble - and this is true for every RV - even those with gravity feed dump systems.

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  4. Great info!! We also have a 190. Why do the tanks have to be 2/3 full to empty? I don't see anything in the manual.

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    1. No, it is not in the manual. It is something that is done with RV black tanks in general - this quote is from an RV website and explains the reason - "Make sure not to dispose of your black water until your tank is at least two thirds full. If you wish to empty the black water storage tank before that then fill it with extra water so that the waste is suspended in the water and will not cause any clogs or get stuck in the tank." You could, of course, wait until the tank is completely full but the way that you will know that (since the monitor sensors are so inaccurate) is when the water and waste back up the flush pipe on the toilet into the bowl. We were told about emptying the tanks at 2/3 by the dealer and I had read about it also on various RV websites. Having a good amount of water in your black tank is extremely important to avoid waste getting stuck to the walls, drying out inside the tank, and clogging the tank exit holes and pipes. As I say in the article - after dumping the black tank add a gallon of fresh water down the toilet and into the tank right away and leave it there. The tank must always be wet inside - and in the winter after winterizing use antifreeze to accomplish that instead of water.

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  5. I just recently bought a 1995 Roadtrek that came from California and it's great to get such worthy information. By the way the vehicle is in great condition. How many miles to litre should one expect on the 190 size?

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    1. I can't tell you what mileage to expect from a 1995 but my 2011 190 gets up to 19 mpg - that is on a flat interstate with no stops at speed. I can tell you that the 96 regular Chevy van that I had got very good mileage - better than many recent model cars with full size engines. .

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  6. Thank you guys so much for all this info! We're having some holding tank problems that seem to be due to us not adding enough water after dumping. We added about half a gallon and that doesn't seem to be enough because now we have a poop pyramid in our tank just below our toilet and it peaks right up into the base of our toilet! We also weren't flushing the tank after dumping... it seems these two mistakes created a pyramid to rival Giza's. Well, not that bad :-) Water still flows so we're going to try dumping and flushing multiple times. Any suggestions?

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    1. As you learned the hard way, a half gallon of water in the tank is not enough. Put one full gallon in the black tank after each time you dump the tank. The reason I recommend a gallon is this. It is generally recommended for large RVs to put 10% of the tank capacity of water into the tank. The large RVs have 40 gallon tanks so they would put 4 gallons of water. We have a ten gallon tank - so we should put 1 gallon of water. To get rid of the pyramid, there are a few things to try. First, try flushing with a garden hose (don't use your drinking water hose for this) pointed directly down the tank with the flap open. Let it hit that pyramid. The closer you are to the toilet hole the less it will splash. Keep the water running until it comes back up into the bowl. Then dump. Do this more than once if it does not break it up the first time. I have also heard putting hot water down into the tank to try to break up the pyramid. I have not had to do this, but I would follow that with the hose the same as my first suggestion. You could also try filling the tank with water and putting a double dose of tank chemical that has a digester in it. Let that sit for a few days - and again, the hose. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A MACERATOR AND ONLY IF YOU DON'T HAVE A MACERATOR, put a bag of ice cubes down the toilet into the tank. Follow with cold water and drive around for a few hours. This will knock around inside the tank breaking things loose. Then dump - but only with a gravity dump as if those ice cubes are not 100% melted you will break the macerator. It cannot handle ice. If it is very hot outside - 90s and 100 hot outside, the ice should melt in a few days and then this could be tried with the macerator but I still would be concerned that solid ice might still be in there and do damage as it hits the impeller and blades. After this is resolved - one gallon of water, tank chemical with a digester, and I have been adding one cap of liquid Calgon water softener. This makes the inside of the tank slick so that nothing is supposed to stick to it. This all followed with a hose flush after you dump and you might actually see the tank sensor work properly - maybe. ;) Let us know how you make out!

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    2. ALSO - always flush with a lot of water for solids. The more water in your black tank the better. Water is your black tank's best friend!

      Another also - filling the toilet bowl almost to the rim - past the ledge at the top with the fill hole is just about a gallon. Use a gallon jug filled with water poured into the bowl with the flap closed and you will see for yourself where that gallon comes. This is an easy way to know how much water you are putting down into the black tank. I have used the shower hose to fill the bowl this way for just a gravity flush when I don't have time to get the garden hose out - but the hose flush is better. (A gravity system has attachments for the dump hose so that you can do this with a garden hose from the output end but you CANNOT do this with a macerator.

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  7. Since purchasing my (used) 2007 Roadtrek 170 Popular I have come across your blog several times and I always learn something. I'm a professional musician and mainly use it by myself and it's perfect, but this summer I will be taking the family (2 adults, 2 children) on a 1400 mile journey to the in-laws so I've been coming up with ways to maximize storage and sleeping space. It's amazing how necessity can bring out the creativeness haha. Anyway, this morning I woke up in a panic. "What if the macerator craps out (pun intended) with 4 people using the facilities?! How would I dump the tanks?! We could be looking at overflow floods of biblical proportions!" So as soon as I got up I googled for what to do if the macerator pump fails and came across your blog once again. I was relieved to hear about the manual crank and the emergency gravity dump. The emergency dump may not be ideal but at least it IS a way. So thank you once again for teaching me something about my Roadtrek and in this instance providing some piece of mind.
    -Eric

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    1. Hello Eric. Two children and two adults in a 170 for 1400 miles - before you leave make it a rule that everyone must keep smiling. :)

      I just heard from one of our readers that he just used the emergency clearnout. He told me this - If you need to use the emergency cleanout on the macerator, keep the dump valves CLOSED until you have the clean out cap off and you are away from under the van. Then open both valves and it will all come pouring out. I would add - move the van at least one van length forward before crawling back under to put the cap back on. He told me that a little liquid came out when he unscrewed the cap so be prepared for that.

      I also advise that before you leave on your trip when all is calm, crawl under the van and find the cap and see exactly what you need to do to take it off. (You don't need to take it off now.) When in a panic it is no time to start crawling under the van looking for the cleanout cap.

      Have a good trip!!!

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    2. You read my mind about "keep smiling", I already had the talk with the family and told them, we know we're going to be cramped so let's just enjoy the trip. The saving grace is that I'm only 5' 6" and my wife 5' 2" and the kids are under 5' so the 2 adults or 1 adult and 2 kids actually fit on the back bed. I figured out that by swiveling the passenger chair backwards and removing the removable back portion of the rear passenger seat I could build a PVC bed frame 62" long by 35" wide (any wider and you can't open the fridge or have a walkway from the front to the back). Thin light plywood goes on top and then I found a combination of 4 patio cushions that fit perfectly in that area and they get velcro'd to the plywood so they don't move around. An easy to set up and tear down bed that fits one or two of us. We will also have an instant tent for an outdoor space and sleeping if the weather is nice. I plan on putting a trailer hitch cargo carrier to store the extra stuff. Hoping to find one that doesn't require an extender to get past the spare. If you have any thoughts on that would love to hear them. I didn't see any articles on your site pertaining to cargo hitch storage. Thanks for the extra advice on the emergency clean out to avoid getting too messy...haha

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  8. Hi, we have a 2011 Simplicity and we're on our Maiden Voyage. I've read most of your articles and they are a treasure trove of valuable info. I have 2 queries. What is the function of the two handles (one grey, one black) at the back in the large storage compartment right next to the small compartment with the dump handles. The second mystery is: Where is the switch for the exterior side light under the awning. Thanks, Bruno

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    1. The layout on a 2011 Simplicity SHOULD be basically the same as a 190. The only two handles that are grey and black that I know about are the dump valve handles - grey - waste water from the grey tank (sink, shower) and black - waste water from the black tank (toilet). There should be no reason for two sets of dump handles (unless whoever owned this before you made modifications). As I recall the Simplicity had no macerator but had the same gravity dump system as the older pre-macerator Roadtreks. There should be a carrier under the van (tube) that holds the dump hose and someplace under the van to connect that hose. Then put the hose into the dump hole (with a rubber donut) and pull the black handle first and the black tank will dump and when that is finished, push the black handle back in and pull the grey handle and the grey tank will dump. Push that handle back in when finished, disconnect from the dump at the campground and flush the hose with water from a hose (or just put it away). Do not leave the hole connected while at a campground unless you keep those handles closed. Otherwise you will bring sewer gas and odor up into your Simplicity through the drains and toilet. My exterior light switch is on the narrow panel to the top left of the rear passenger side entrance door to the Roadtrek. My inverter switch is above it. It may even be labeled "Exterior Light". I have no awning so I don't know if that would change the location of the light switch. Interesting that there is no manual on the RT website in 2011 for the Simplicity. The model came out late 2011 but I don't see a manual for any year. Call RT customer service and ask them to email or mail you a 2011 Simplicity manual. There must be something for it...

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  9. Thanks, what I thought was the inverter switch is actually the light switch. How silly. But now I'm looking for the inverter switch. I did find the inverter thanks to your sleuthing, under the power bed on the passenger side. I would have never found it. But the mystery of the switch remains. I'll keep looking. Also we do have a macerator, I got the red button but there are two additional handles at the back left of the large storage compartment. I wonder if those are the manual dumps. I better not pull them... Bruno

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  10. Thanks for all your help. We have a Roadtrek 170. Our only problem is that the tap water is always brown. We fill the tank with city water and the tap water is still brown. Do you know what the problem could be.

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    1. OK - assuming that when you look at the water as it comes out of the spigot that the hose is connected to it is clear - do fill a glass with this water and see as if it is brown the source of the water is the problem - anyway, assuming that it is clear, sanitize your fresh tank is the first thing that you want to do. This is a bleach and water mixture put into the tank and allowed to sit - see my article on May 13, 2015 to see how to do that. If there is anything in the tank growing this will kill it and clean it out. When you run it through the sink and the showers - never the toilet - the bleach/water will get into the water pump and the pipes, the valves, and the faucet. Flush the tank three or four times to give it a good flushing out when removing the bleach.

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    2. After doing this go to the water pump and just before the water pump intake pipe coming from the fresh tank there will be a black plastic fitting with a clear/white dome on it. That dome screws on and off and inside is a filter screen to filter the water coming into the pump to stop any particles in the water from harming the water pump. Put a towel under this piece and carefully unscrew the cap - any small amount of water will be caught by the towel. Inspect the screen inside the cap - it may be clogged or dirty - dark or white particles may be on the screen. Take the screen inside to a sink or outside to a hose with clear water and rinse out that cap with the filter inside. Get it clean. Then put it back on its base in the Roadtrek - just screw it down as it came off. Get it on tight so that it will not leak or leak air. A loose cap will cause an air leak and make the water pump run on when there is no tap open -sucking air from the leak. The pipes in the Roadtrek are not any material that will rust other than the metal in the faucet which should not rust - and since you don't say that the toilet water is not brown or the shower water is not brown we can rule out that there is a problem in the metal faucet. The current Roadtreks use pex plumbing tubing for piping and this is not metal. Valves should all be brass and don't rust. Next - go to the faucet - unscrew the tip of the tap - just like a house sink this screws off - and inside there is another screen filter. Make sure that is clean. Rinse it off well until it is clean. (if it looks rusty go to any home store and buy a new screen or new end for the faucet - they are generic and all should fit - bring the old one to compare to buy the new one. Next. It may be that there is sediment in the water that you are filling the tank with and this sediment is settling and coming through the water. Hard water contains minerals and can turn plumbing fixtures brown so you may have a problem with hard water. We use two filters - one filter goes on the hose that connects to the city water fill or that goes into the door fill hole - this is a blue cylinder filter made by Camco and sold in Walmart in the RV section of the Auto Dept. and is also sold in RV supply shops. This is the first filter for the water that we use. The second filter is on the sink faucet and this is a standard house Brita faucet filter with replaceable cartridges. This contains filter fibers and charcoal. Between the two filters - one taking care of what goes into the tank and the other taking care of what comes out of the tank into the sink. This well filters the water - and we drink the water that comes out of the faucet with no problem. Now - let's say you have hard water. There are hard water cylinder systems made for RVs that you can connect to the hose and then fill the tank and the system will soften the water that will be in your tank. These are not cheap and not easy to find. I have found a few of these systems made for an RV on the Internet - one was being sold by Camping World. The cylinder is "charged" with table salt to make it work. This works just like a water softening system installed in homes except it is just put on the hose when you fill the RV or use City Water. This is the last thing to try to clear this up without a service tech searching the plumbing for the source of the brown. All that I suggest to try here will take no more than a few hours (other than the time waiting for the bleach to work before flushing. Of course, every time you do a step check the water - and a tip I discovered when de-winterizing and removing the antifreeze and bleach when sanitizing - use a new white small cup each time you check the water color. This keeps each test of the water color uncontaminated from the last test. Let us know how it goes - either here in a comment or by emailing us at the Contact Us link at the side of the page.

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  11. We have a 2004 Roadtrek 210 Popular. Yesterday I had to replace the drain pipes from the sink and the shower as they had softened, buckled, then cracked from the heat generated by the exhaust system. (By the way, this is on a Chevrolet 3500 Express Van chassis).
    I'm delighted to come across your blog and have already learned many things I wasn't aware of. The information about caring for the Black and Grey water tanks and the Macerator I am finding particularly valuable as I'm going to be replacing the Macerator pump this coming week.
    The flow from the Black and Grey tanks used to be quite rapid when I pushed the button, but recently for some reason it has reduced to just slightly more than a trickle. Why? I'm thinking the impeller is shot and just the cutter blades are what is trying to move the effluent.
    I've been reluctant to add more water to the Black tank as I don't wish to deal with a large amount of waste in case I need to remove the slide valves or other items, fearing that a clog will prevent a sufficient flow via gravity. I happened to notice also that my RT is lacking the manual crank handle and rod for the Macerator. The bracket that hangs down from the frame is present, it even has the white plastic bushing installed in it for supporting the crank rod. I can only guess that someone removed it at one time for some unknown reason. (We bought it used, so we don't know the history).

    Luckily I have a friend that owns a auto and truck repair shop that makes working under the RT easier. Any advice on replacing the Macerator pump would be much appreciated. It appears pretty straight forward, I just hope I'm not going to be opening a can of worms! It was quite a job removing enough of the heat shielding and rebuilding the ABS drain pipes, then reinstalling the heat shields. Got it done though!

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    1. There is the emergency clean out cap that is located near the macerator. If you think that there may be water and/or waste in the tank and are concerned about this when you are going to remove the macerator to replace it, you can open that, but as stated above - what is inside all comes flowing out once you open the dump handles and it just pours below - so don't be under there when the handles are opened. The impeller can be replaced on its own, and you may not need a completely new macerator if the motor is running fine. I have never had to replace the macerator - thank goodness - but I know a few who have and some have done it themselves. I would go to a Roadtrek or RV service center to have them do the job. Go to the website of the manufacturer of the macerator and look for the one in the Roadtrek. I have seen a schematic of the interior on that site - perhaps in the manual and you can see how the interior goes together and comes apart. As to the missing crank - you may be able to engage the crank without the shaft with a long screwdriver. See if you can see what is at the end of where the crank would go. You should contact Roadtrek directly to see about getting a replacement for the crank shaft.

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  12. Thank you for your thoughts on this. Yes, seriously considering having the dealer do it, sadly, the RT dealer in my area has a horrible reputation, doing lousy work and reviews show it. I'm a mechanic by trade, and am very much into fine detailed workmanship. I'd rather pay to have this poopy job done by somebody else, but I think I'll wind up doing it myself. Have to think about it……Ick!

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  13. how can you modify the Ranger where you do not have to crawl under it to dump

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    1. The Ranger's gravity dump system is very much like the early year Roadtreks before the macerator was used. For some reason Roadtrek likes to put the gravity connection down under the van rather than putting it on a side wall like just about every other RV including Class Bs do. At best you would have to extend the connection for the hose out so that it is easier to access - but I have never heard from anyone or read about anyone who has done this.

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