Most dedicated RV enthusiasts love to think about the freedom provided by their motorhomes and campers, but this freedom can't be maintained if you don't care for your RV. One facet of RV care that cannot be ignored: septic systems. While it might seem rather gross to think about, nothing can ruin a vacation or weekend getaway faster than a faulty sewer operation. Take care of your RV's septic tanks and your RV will take care of you.
Watch What You Put in Your Tanks
Your RV has two tanks as part of its septic system. The gray water tank collects waste water from the sinks and faucets in the camper. The black water tank is the one that collects sewage and waste water from the toilets.
Be sure that you're using soaps and toilet paper that are designed to break down in septic systems. Also, if you use any additives to assist your black water tank in breaking down waste, be sure they're environmentally safe chemicals. Most dump sites have become very restrictive due to local regulation and no longer allow systems that use formaldehyde-based treatments.
Don't Dump Until You Need To
Dumping the waste from your gray and black water tanks relies on gravity to work properly. That means the entire process works best if your tanks are more than half full. You'll obviously still want to dump your tanks before your RV goes into an extended period of idleness. In situations like that, it's actually a great idea to carefully plan things out so that emptying your septic tanks is the last thing you do before putting the camper up for the winter.
While it's wise to rely on your tank monitor gauges to know how full the tanks are, be aware that certain toilet papers and items flushed (that shouldn't have been) can foul your tank's probes and lead to faulty readings. Generally this can be remedied by dumping the tanks and flushing them thoroughly.
Dump Your Tanks in the Right Order
Believe it or not, the order in which you dump your gray and black water septic tanks matters. Always dump the black (sewage) tank first, and then the gray tank. This allows the cleaner water in the grey tank to help clear out heavier waste that might be gathered in the sewer lines that lead to the dump receptacle.
Also, most modern RVs do have a system to flush water through the tanks to clean the lines after you've dumped. If you don't have that feature, aftermarket flushing wands are available, and are highly recommended to keep your system clean and help prevent smells.
Treat Your Tank
Every time you dump the black water tank, it's important that you add the proper treatment chemicals right back into it to control smells and ensure proper waste breakdown within. Use compounds designed specifically for RV black water tanks, and follow the instructions.
Generally, you'll be filling the toilet to a certain point with water, adding the chemical and flushing it into the tank. Use only bacteria-based chemicals for this, as the bacterial action is a prime requisite for a healthy and clean black water tank. Your gray water tank will also occasionally need treating, although less so than the black water tank. Again, use only a compound made for RV gray water tanks, and follow all label directions.
No one wants to stand knee-deep in filth, so when it comes to your RV's septic tank system, maintain it properly! Having corroded or hopelessly fouled septic tanks removed, repaired or replaced can easily be done by a skilled RV repair company. However, this repair can be avoided if you take preventative measures. Follow these steps and go to sites online for more tips on how to ensure that your tanks last the life of your camper, and that your living space remains clean and fresh smelling at all times.