Apr 292009

No matter how long you’ve been a fulltime RVer, you can still forget the simple things. Or at least I can. Tuesday night Miss Terry was washing some dishes and noticed that our water pump was making a low moaning noise. Hmmm…. I like to think that I’m the only reason moaning noises are coming out of our bus. I decided I’d better check things out.

I grabbed a flashlight, went outside and opened our water bay, and sure enough, our freshwater tank was almost empty. It was late in the evening, so we decided that we’d skip our baths that night and wait until the next morning to refill the tank.

So yesterday morning I got out my 50 foot water hose and stretched it out toward the nearest water bib here at Show Low Lake Campground. Way too short. No problem, I got out my backup 25 foot hose. I was still short, by about five feet. I started to get out my backup to my backup 25 foot hose, and discovered that it was missing. Then I remembered lending it to someone at our Gypsy Gathering rally in Casa Grande, but apparently I never got it back.

So it was off to Wally World for a new hose, I needed one anyway to replace the one I lost, and you can never have too much water hose, right? Back at the campground, I finally could fill our holding tank, and it was a good thing I did! If Miss Terry doesn’t have her morning coffee, she gets a bit testy. Throw in the fact that if I don’t get my shower, I get a bit ripe, and it’s not a recipe for romance.

In case you are wondering how we could run out of water, I have a good excuse. Nick happens. It explains a lot that goes wrong in my world.

We don’t have monitors on our fresh or waste water tanks. They never work anyway, so when we built our bus conversion, we didn’t mess with them. I have enough aggravation in my life already, I don’t need the hassle of tank monitors to add to my stress level. We know about how long we can go on a tank full of water before it’s time to refill, and I can open the bay and look at the tank if I need to be sure. This time around we were just so busy that it got away from us.

In case you’re new to RVing and don’t know it yet, holding tank monitors never work. Especially the ones in your waste tanks. I have seen newbies fret themselves into a tizzy over the fact that they just left the dump station, and their monitors still show the tank is full, or half full, or whatever. If you live this lifestyle long enough, you learn to ignore the monitors. Otherwise it will drive you to drink.

Over time (and not much time at all), gunk builds up on the contacts inside of the tank and give false readings. I’ve heard of a hundred ways to clean the contacts inside a holding tank, from pouring ice cubes down the toilet and driving around to knock the crud off, to filling the tank with water and baking soda, or bleach, not to mention all of the commercial chemicals you can waste your money on. Trust me; none of them work long term.

If you spend much time in an RV, you’ll get to know about how long you can go before you need to dump, depending on the size of your tank and how many people are in the RV. Of course, if you drink a gallon of that stuff my doctor made me drink before my colonoscopy, all bets are off. Either get a full hookup site, or park at the dump station, because you’re going to need it!

Experienced RVers can usually tell when the black tank is getting full based on the way it sounds when they flush. Or you can just follow Uncle Nicky’s RV Potty Rule, which I’ve shared with hundreds of Life on Wheels students, but am now going to tell you too, “If you flush the toilet and your butt gets wet, it’s time to dump!” Trust me, it’s much more reliable than any darned holding tank sensor on the market!

Thought For The Day – I finally got my head together, now my body is falling apart.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  7 Responses to “I’ve Got The Holding Tank Blues”

  1. Nick
    I agree with you about the tank sensors,but you answer for the black tank made me laught over my coffee this morning.
    Thanks John

  2. “Nick Happens?” So I can blame you for what happened last week?

    It was black tank dumping time, and when I got done dumping, I used the built-in back flush system to give it a good rinse. I then dumped that, closed the back tank valve, and we drove away for the day. When we got back later, the toilet bowl was full of … well, the toilet bowl was full, let it go at at that. The hallway rug runner was sopping wet. And there was a message on our cell phone call waiting. A kind neighbor had seen water pouring out of the vent on top of the motorhome, came over and turned off the water faucet. We now need to buy a new rug runner for the hallway! And I need to remember to shut of the water flowing into the back flush system!

    It’s all part of the adventure!


    Our sensors have never worked from day one. When our rig was new we even had them checked out. The RV shop said they where working fine. My thought then was, “Yea, Right! They just give you a reading that they feel like at the time!! Since then, I can’t even remember the last time I looked at them.

    Happy RVing 🙂

  4. Hi Nick, I agree with your comments about tank sensors. We did have the See Level system installed on our HitchHiker. It uses external tank monitors and feeds the digital read out inside that tells us the tanks levels in 5% increments. Works very well. Greg

  5. Hey guys…When using the back flush system make sure the valves are open!!! And Nick…My monitors work!!! LOL… No butt tester here…;)

  6. Nick You need to look at the external tank monitors. Especially the ones made in Alberta, Canada. They work on impedance and do not have sensors inside the tank to corrode. They even measure in 5% gradations. The technology is used on the tanker trucks etc in industry. They are sold by Garnet Technologies 817-578-8601. Ron

  7. Nick, our 5-year-old Newmar Dutch Star tank monitors work perfectly. No idea why. But you’re right; we hardly ever need to look at them. You just get a feel for when you need to dump.

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