Camper Plumbing Maintenance and Repairs
Doing plumbing repairs in your particular camping unit is a part of regular maintenance. Inspection at the beginning of the season is a must if your sojourns to our great campgrounds are to be a success. No one, especially your campsite neighbors, wants an RV sewer system acting up during vacation time.
By checking the RV plumbing at least annually, you can prevent or fix most plumbing problems before they cause trouble. Leaky faucets should be fixed as soon as possible by replacing the rubber seals and valve seats, just as you would in your home. It is a good idea to replace them every two years even if they aren’t leaking.
Since these RV plumbing parts are usually only exposed to water a few times a year, they tend to dry out and become hard and brittle. If not changed, they may not seal correctly, or they may break. The same goes for the shower and bath fixtures.
RV Water Supply Lines
The water supply lines in an RV can be of different materials, but all have one purpose: to deliver water to the sink, bath, shower, or toilet. Plumbing materials for RVs need to be flexible because the plumbing flexes while the camper is being driven to and from the campsite.
Older camper units may use copper tubing, while newer models use flexible plastic materials. The copper tubing may require a flare tool to connect the pieces when you are replacing or repairing a broken water line, while the plastic tubing uses rubber or plastic pressure fittings to ensure a good seal. These parts can be found in most Home Depot or Lowe’s building supply stores.
How RV Toilets Work
Toilets in RVs and camper trailers use different mechanisms than toilets use at home. Instead of retaining water in them at all times, toilets in campers use a trapdoor-type slide plus a water flush component to dispose of the waste. The water connection to the toilet is no different than used at home.
One of the most common problems with the toilet is incomplete closing of the sliding trap door. When operating correctly, the slide fits snugly into a groove. After a period of time, bits of toilet paper may become lodged in the groove preventing the slide from closing tightly. This will allow air to seep from the waste holding tank, causing an odor problem. Carefully clean this groove with a small piece of wire until the slide seats properly into the groove.
Size Doesn’t Matter
RV Plumbing Repairs Are Usually Simple
Another common problem with an RV waste system is the short life of the rubber seals contained in the outside valves that lead from both the gray-water and black-water holding tanks. These seals are merely rubber o-rings which fit tightly around the slide valve rods.
These need changing at least every three years because of their exposure to chemicals in the gray or black water tanks. A messy job yes, but better to do it at home than in the campground. Inspect both RV holding tanks regularly also.
Any leaks can be easily repaired with patching kits made especially for this purpose. Be sure to follow directions on these products as the hardening time is very short.
In most cases, the sewer lines are ordinary ABS black plastic tubing. This kind of pipe, as well as elbows, couplings, and other connections for it, can also be purchased at Lowe’s and Home Depot.
You may even want to extend the drain hook up closer to the edge of the unit for easier connection. These repairs only require the correct couplings and a can of cement. It is not a bad idea to carry spare couplings, tubing, and glue along with you on your trips, just in case.
Keeping your RV camping unit in good shape is an ongoing job, but well worth the effort. By doing an annual inspection you can rest easy while enjoying the great outdoors. And so can your camping neighbors.
RV Toilet Replacement and Repair
Eventually the RV toilet may need replacing because of wear and tear, or because the plastic used in some older-type RV toilets can become so brittle it cracks around the flushing valves or where it attaches to the floor.
Depending on which type of RV toilet you decide to replace your old one with, you can spend from around $100.00 to over $200.00. Low-profile toilets or oversize models can be substituted for the older model camper toilet if you so choose.
In most cases, a new camper toilet can be purchased for a little more than the cost of the parts to repairing an older model. These newer, more efficient model RV toilets have easy-to-operate flushing valves and better odor control features than the old types.
Check clearances and RV plumbing connections before changing the type of toilet you use. Follow installation instructions closely to ensure proper operation. Unless the problems with your old RV toilet are minor, it is better to just replace it with a newer model than to repair it.
RV Hot Water Heater Replacement
Although many older RVs and camper-trailers used propane in their water heaters, today many campers use electric water heaters. Whichever type your camper uses, repair parts are available from most RV parts dealers. Heating elements and valves are usually the culprits needing repairing most often. Gas models need to be cleaned annually for safe and efficient operation. This may be a job for a professional unless you are knowledgeable about propane gas mechanics.
Eventually an RV water heater needs replacing. Today’s energy-efficient models perform better and cheaper and may actually pay for themselves in gas savings over a period of time.
When ordering a new RV hot water heater ,make sure the dimensions and water capacity will suit your needs. Some changing of water supply fittings may be required. You may want to consider one of the “hot water on demand” type units for the kitchen or bathroom sink to keep from using water out of the main water heater. These units are great for eliminating leaky hot-water lines running from the main RV water heater; they only use the cold-water line.