Weather here has been jumping from warm to hot and back to cold this Spring. We usually de-winterize in early May but waited until just now - the end of May to de-winterize. As I have said in my de-winterizing and sanitizing articles, what you have to do takes very little time but de-winterizing and especially sanitizing the tanks involves a lot of waiting. We de-winterize on one day and other than pouring the bleach water mix into the two fresh tanks on our 2011 Roadtrek 190 Popular, the sanitizing happens over night, the plumbing and tanks are flushed of bleach on the next day.
De-winterizing went well. Like many of our readers, I print out my own article on de-winterizing and sanitizing and follow along to make sure I have not left out any steps. And I do go back and refer to it throughout the process. Nothing out of the ordinary happened - other than my deciding to wait until the last minute to buy the bleach. Bleach goes bad over a year in the bottle. It turns to salt water and loses all of its disinfectant properties. We don't use bleach much in the house and we buy the bottle just for sanitizing the Roadtrek - so I knew that the bleach we had was from a year ago when we last de-winterized and sanitized the tanks - and kept putting off buying the bleach. I decided that we would start de-winterizing and when we got to the point that we would pour the bleach into the Roadtrek, we would stop and go out and buy a small bottle of bleach. What I had not thought about was stopping meant putting everything away - the fresh water hose, unplugging because I did not want to use the battery to run the water pump, and just get ready to go. So we went. Still all was OK.
We got home and got out the gallon water jug that we keep that says "BLEACH WATER" on the side and a measuring cup and the new bottle of bleach. Out on the driveway next to the Roadtrek I took the hose and filled the water jug half way with water. I measured out a half cup of bleach and there was no odor from the bleach. We checked the date on the bottle - it was good to some time in 2024. I smelled the open bottle - no smell. Meryl smelled the open bottle - no smell. We stop and wonder what now. Was the bleach bad because we remember the bleach smelling like bleach all the other times we measured it out. It was the correct bleach - it was disinfecting bleach - full strength. I poured the bleach into the water and filled the bottle the rest of the way with water. I put the cap on the bottle and gave it a shake to mix the bleach in the water. Still no smell. What's wrong? If you can't smell the bleach how will you know the bleach is out of the plumbing?
I was not going to stop - I took the funnel with the plastic tubing attached to it - that we made just for this purpose and started pouring the water/bleach into the front exterior fresh tank through the door fill in the driver's door frame. I then could smell the bleach. It needed the water and to hit the air as it went into the fill hole through the funnel. The bottle go to about 3.4 empty when the water and bleach came pouring up and out of the fill hole - all over the driver's door steps. What was wrong? Then I realized that just running the RV antifreeze out of the plumbing until only clear water came out of the sink, showers, and toilet was really not enough to take that much out of the front fresh tank - and combine that with the rear tank refilling the front tank as the water is pumped out into the fixtures, the front tank was fairly full. Was there a step I missed - no, but there should have been. Before pouring the bleach and water into the fresh tanks, let some water out of the tanks through the low point drain in the front exterior tank to make room for the gallon of water with the bleach in it that has to go into each of the two tanks. I had a quarter of a gallon of bleach water that was not going to fit into the front tank.
I said something that I can't write here, and got the bleach bottle and the quarter filled water jug and poured in the one quarter cup of bleach for the rear interior tank, topped of the gallon jug with water, capped it, shook it to mix it, and took the funnel over to the rear cargo door with the water fill in the door frame. The funnel went in and the entire gallon of water and bleach poured into the rear tank - which had been refilling the front tank, as it is supposed to do. I got the hose and topped the back tank up with water.
I got into the Roadtrek, started the engine, and backed it down the driveway stopping short every few feet and then going back forward doing the same to mix the bleach and water inside the two tanks. That was it for the day. We just had to put everything away again.
This brings us to the next day. The bleach and water sat in the tanks for just under 24 hours. According to the Clorox company when we called them years back, bleach and water after a number of hours turns to water but the bleach smell remains. We could have drained the bleach after about four hours but we were not coming out in the middle of the night to start a process that has the most waiting. This day was warmer than the day before which was supposed to be warmer but was fairly chilly. It was also maybe supposed to rain (which did not happen until the night).
First thing to do was drain the bleach/water out of the two fresh tanks. Our low point drain on the front tank - the only fresh water low point drain on our Roadtrek - has a screw off and screw on cap. Taking it off means lying on the ground next to the back corner of the driver's door, reaching under the chassis to the cap and unscrewing it which means bleach water pours out all over your hands. We got the cap off - put it where we would not lose it and let the water drain while we had lunch.
After lunch, the first thing to do is put the cap back on the drain - and do that in the puddle that resulted from the water and bleach pouring out. So far no surprises. They would start soon enough.
The fresh water hose was hooked up and I filled the front tank with fresh water. We then went to the back of the Roadtrek to fill the rear tank. I pulled on the orange push in plug that caps off the water fill holes- it was off yesterday - no problem. It was not coming out. I pulled on it. Meryl pulled on it. We tried lifting the edge around the cap. No it was not budging. I went to the garage to get a pair of pliers. The cap came right out. On ward! Ha! Ha!
What happened next is something that has happened in the past at this same point in the sanitizing process - not regularly but has happened. The hose with its RV water fill nozzle went into the fill hole for the back tank with the water running slowly. A few minutes later the water was pouring back out of the fill hole - the tank was empty - but something was preventing the water from going in .
We have figured that since this mostly happens after the fresh tanks have been filled with bleach and water, a chlorine gas bubble forms inside the smaller rear tank and prevents the water from going down into the tank - pushing it back out the fill hole. There have been times when the water comes out in a gush. This time it was steady stream pouring out. It was time to get out the "gizmo". I made the gizmo years back when this first happened. The gizmo is a hose nozzle with a small diameter. long tube that is fed down the water fill hole to the bottom of the tank so that it will fill the tank with water from the bottom up - under the bubble - pushing the gas bubble up and out and not the water. Up until this time it has always worked. (Here is an article about first "The Gizmo" and this article shows what happened to that gizmo one winter with a photo of the new gizmo I made to replace it which is what I use now.)
The Gizmo was screwed onto the hose, the water pressure at the outside faucet at the hose was set low and the tube went down into the tank. I opened the valve on the gizmo and the water started pouring out of the fill hole again. I shut off the gizmo's valve, pulled the tube out of the tank - fed it back in again - tried again - still water was coming out. This was one of those "OH BOY!" moments. If the water did not go into the rear tank we were not going to be able to get the bleach smell out of the tank.
I stood back and starting thinking, perhaps I was going about this the wrong way by putting a slow flow of water down into the tank through the gizmo. Maybe it was not enough pressure to burst the bubble. I went to the faucet on the house and turned it all the way up. The gizmo's tube went back into the tank, the valve was turned on and the water did not come back up into the tank. The tank filled and we were ready to flush the water tanks and pipes of bleach.
There was still a smell of bleach in the water as it came out of the sink and the showers. We drained the tanks and went for the third flush. Just an aside - it takes 25 minutes to drain the two tanks through the low point drain on the front exterior tank. It usually takes three flushes. Meryl suggested that we fill the back tank first this time. It sounded like a good idea.
I was not taking any chances and left the gizmo on the hose to fill the rear tank again. This time no water came back up the fill hole but it seemed like it was taking much too long to get the tank full. Meryl was inside the Roadtrek at the monitor panel. She would check the level of the tank every few minutes. The rear tank was at 2/3 but the front tank was also filling and was at 1/3 full - before we put any water into that tank from the front fill hole. The water system in Summer mode was doing what it is supposed to do - the water was running from the rear tank into the front tank. This was going to take forever. I could have just changed the water valves to Winter mode and that would have cut off the front tank but I was not going to start playing with valves in the cabinet. I pulled the tube out of the back tank, took it to the front tank and started filling the front tank with the gizmo. Water in the Roadtrek in Summer mode does not flow from the front tank to the back tank. The front tank filled quickly. I then went back to the back tank and filled that to the top.
The third flush resulted in no bleach smell in the water from the tanks. Hooray! The tanks were sanitized! We put everything related to sanitizing and fresh water away. Now, I wanted to dump the RV antifreeze that I put in the black tank when we winterized out of the tank. It could have been left in, but for the first trip I wanted to start with an almost empty tank (almost empty because I always keep a gallon of fresh water in the black tank so that the tank and its seals do not dry out). I also wanted to see the macerator work before we took a trip so that there would be no unwanted surprises on the road!
We got out the pail that we use to dump the tanks at home. We have no outside sewer connection - they are not permitted in this area. I pulled the macerator hose out (the SaniCon retractable hose we had put on three years ago) and went to take the cap off the nozzle. This is a nozzle that I made for the SaniCon hose as the nozzle the RV shop put on it was a pain to use and the nozzle made by Thetford for this hose would not fit into the opening of the storage compartment where the hose is stored in the Roadtrek. (Here is the nozzle.) The nozzle has a PVC cap that screws on and off. Meryl took the hose as she holds it into the pail while I push the macerator button. I said to hold the nozzle pointing up as she removed the cap so that anything in the hose would not pour out on her as she removed the cap. The cap would not budge. So I came over and took the nozzle and grabbed hold of the cap and took my turn to unscrew it. The cap would not budge! I tried a few times. It was not coming off. I don't know why. I was last off this past November when we winterized. I went into the garage and came back with a pair of pliers and the cap came right off. We dumped the black tank and finally we were done!
It was a really good thing that I wanted to dump the black tank because if we were at a campground - and we generally dump on the last day before we leave, there would have been a lot more panic if the cap would not come off. I said this to Meryl later and she agreed!
So - what you think should go easily and quickly (well, never think or say "quickly" because nothing ever goes quickly when it should), things don't always cooperate and they go wrong!
It happens! And it is better for it to "HAPPEN" when you are home rather than when you are out having a nice trip in the Roadtrek!