Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Adding a FIlter to the Toilet Water Line

Since our second season in the Roadtrek we have been experiencing an odd thing. When flushing the toilet - sometimes - chunks of a white and/or black chalk-like substance come through the water running into the toilet. These chunks look exactly like the mineral deposits that form in the hot water tank that are seen when the tank is flushed out. Where do these deposits form? No one really has had an answer to that. Since they look exactly like what is in the hot water tank one would wonder if these are those same minerals somehow finding their way from the hot water line to the cold water line but everyone says that this is impossible - and, yes, it does seem to be impossible. One thing that I do know is that they are not forming in the fresh water tanks and here is why I know that. The water comes from the fresh water tank(s) and first through a filter that you can see, open, and clean before the water passes through to the water pump. This protects the water pump from anything that might be in the water that would damage the inside of the pump. I have examined that filter many times and it has been perfectly clean. These chunks are originating after the water pump.  What is more interesting is that there are no such deposits coming through the sink faucet as the end of the faucet also has a small, mesh screen and that screen too has been clean.

This has caused all types of problems with water flow from the toilet. The water running through the toilet valve slows down and runs with little pressure. The valve that is part of the toilet that regulates the flow of water through the toilet when the flush pedal is pushed becomes clogged and on two occasions has broken - once requiring full replacement and once requiring a part to be replaced. Last summer during each trip there was a problem with the water flowing into the toilet - on our first trip the water ran slow. On the first night of our major trip of the summer the water in the toilet did not flow at all and we had to flush the toilet with a jug of water filled at the sink. Almost at the end of that trip we again saw the chunks come through into the toilet with the little water that has started flowing into the toilet and just before the end of that trip there was suddenly a rush of this debris out and the toilet water started flowing normally. The last trip of last season we had a water leak running from the bottom edge of the toilet where it meets the floor. This was the same leak that we had when the toilet valve broke the first time and it was the same thing again. Something had to be done about the water flowing into the toilet valve.

Some blame hard water for this. The thing is that we live in an area that is not known for hard water. Where in many parts of this country people regularly have water softening systems in their homes to treat their hard water, this is unknown in this area. Most of the water that goes into our fresh tanks is water from home. We always start each trip with full tanks and these last for all of our short trips and partway into our longer trips. Water from away from home has gone into the tanks but more water from home has gone into the fresh tanks than other water. I am not ruling out the idea of a hard water problem and have looked at portable water softening systems for RVs. 

All along I was thinking that there had to be a way to catch these chunks somewhere before the toilet valve. I thought that a filter just like the one before the water pump would do the job. This winter I started to put my idea into a plan and started researching. I would start with the company that makes the water filter that is used before the water pump in the Roadtrek and find out if that would work if placed on a water line somewhere along after the water pump. The company replied that it certainly could be used that way. I then started looking for that filter to purchase one and also what I would need to attach it to the Roadtrek water line leading into the toilet valve. The filter could be purchased at various websites but because of delivery problems at our house, we try to buy locally before having to order anything that needs to be shipped. I was able to find the exact same water filter that is on the Roadtrek at a boating store chain named West Marine. There was a store not far away and we went there to purchase it. Just an aside - marine stores have a lot of things that are also used on RVs and we had a great time looking through the entire store at things that could be used in our Roadtrek.

The filter - note the name and parts number

Now I needed to attach this into the water line going into the toilet valve. The plumbing in the Roadtrek is 1/2" pex pipe and fittings. This filter has 1/2" fittings. The water in the filter must flow in one direction only and that is marked on the side of the filter. You can just about make out the arrow right in the middle of the black base of the filter in the photo above. It flows from the male end into the female end. The connection coming from the water line is male. The connection on  the toilet valve is male. I did not want to cut into any pipes. I wanted to be able to put this in so that if for some reason it had to come out, it could come out easily. I found the following fittings -

The fittings were not easy to find. Home Depot and Lowes did not have the 1/2" fittings as shown in the first photo above. I found them at Ace Hardware. Their larger stores seem to carry a bigger assortment of plumbing fittings than the big box stores. The water line is used for a sink and is common but only Lowes had this flexible PVC reinforced water line. The ones at Home Depot were all flex metal construction. This is the shortest available with 1/2 inch connectors and it is 12 inches long.

I proceeded to assemble what I wanted to install into the Roadtrek.

There it is all together. It is all hand tightened and not wrench tightened. Recently I have found that using pipe seal paste is better than Teflon tape on plumbing thread connections. It is easier to apply than wrapping the Teflon tape around the threads and from my research is better at preventing leaks. Its only drawback is that is never dries and always stays a paste so the joints are messy to touch. Usually you are not touching the joints once they are together so that is not a problem. It is drinking water safe and can be used for both cold and hot water pipes. It can be found anywhere that plumbing supplies are sold.

So, it was all together. It next had to be installed in the Roadtrek. Meryl and I went out to install it before we winterized and while the temperature outside was still reasonable. I looked again at the connections and it would fit perfectly. The only problem was that when I tried to open the connection at the toilet I could not get my hand on the connection to get it open.  The connection goes into the top of the toilet valve which is located behind the toilet on the left side as you face the toilet. To get to the connection without removing the toilet completely one most reach down blindly behind the toilet and find the connection. It is also close to the back wall.  I decided before I even put pressure on the connection that I would wait and pay our Roadtrek service center to install this for me. We put the assembled filter away until Spring.

With Spring we dewinterized and called for an appointment at dealer service for a variety of things the most important of which was the water leak that we found during October's trip - the leak that occurred before I decided on making this filter. We brought the filter and when we got there for our service visit I showed it to the Roadtrek service tech, explained what it was and why I wanted this installed - asked them to install it in such a way that the filter dome would be easy to see and to get to to take off and clean the filter, and also to make sure nothing would leak once it was installed. I also offered for them to install it any way that they wanted to if there was a better way than my assembly.

They installed the filter and used the assembly as I gave it to them. They tested for leaks and it held dry. Great! Here is the filter now installed -

In the photo above you can see the connection into the top of the toilet valve at the arrow.

I recently read in a forum that another Roadtrek owner was having this same problem. He also has chunks of minerals flowing into the toilet bowl from the water supply. I was glad to find out that I am not the only one. I don't know how many this is a problem for. It has certainly been a big problem for us and I am hoping that this will do it. So far the water runs through the filter with no lack of pressure and comes through into the toilet as it is supposed to. Only time will tell if the same problem comes back even with the filter in place. I am hoping that those minerals will get caught in the filter and from the size of them they certainly should. Beyond this the only other fix I can think of is the water softening system. These systems use salt to "recharge" the chemical reaction that removes the "hard" from the water to make it soft and Meryl is concerned about that salt in the drinking water. I am not so sure that is any problem at all. But hopefully, this has fixed the problem and we will flush with a smile from now on.

This will work for any RV or trailer that is experiencing the same problem - not just Roadtreks. Just check the size fittings your pipes use - but more than likely they are the same 1/2 inch.

May you all always flush with a smile!

ADDENDUM - After a full season of use we had no problems with the toilet valve. 


  1. I have had the same problem on my 190 Popular. Broke the toilet valve once and I had to take out the toilet and replace the valve. Also have had the little chunks in the water lines at the bathroom sink and kitchen sink. I undo the lines and run a large diameter weed wacker line through tem to push out the stuff. Frankly it looks like the stuff that comes from the anode rod in the hot water tank more than anything else. Even has the little colored chunks. Jeff Bushnell 2010 RT190P

    1. This has been exactly my thought - the "debris" that winds up in the toilet water looks exactly like what is formed in the hot water tank. While it would be possible for this to reach the sink and shower, I am told that it is impossible for it to be in the toilet as the toilet is attached only to the cold water line - yet, there is the same debris. One service tech at the dealer service at one time told me that it was possible for the hot water and cold water lines to cross but he was the only one who has said that. Wherever this stuff is coming fromI am hoping that this filter will save the toilet valve from needing repair or replacement again and keep the water flowing and not ruin another trip.