Mark My Words: SEPTEMBER – Your RV Plumbing and Electrical Questions Answered

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September 21, 2017

Andy Reynolds/istockphoto/thinkstock Travel trailer decorated in holiday lights at night

Mark My Words - Easy Fixes to Common RV Problems - Mark NemethHi folks. I’ve got some plumbing and electrical questions for you this month. Have a great fall RVing season, and remember to send your RVing questions to [email protected].



What is the best way to Sanitize our fresh water system? Just add bleach and run it through the system flushing several times? John and Carlene

Hi John and Carlene

To sanitize the tank and the fresh water system, follow your RV manufacturer’s instructions or do the following: Prepare a chlorine solution in an empty one gallon jug by adding 1/4 cup of Clorox or Purex household bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite solution) for each 15 gallons of tank capacity, then fill the jug with water. Pour this solution into your fresh water tank fill. Once the bleach solution is in, completely fill the tank with fresh water.  Turn on the pump, open each faucet, and let it run until the entire fresh water system is filled with the bleach/water solution. You should be able to smell chlorine strongly at each faucet. Allow it to stand at least four hours, overnight is better. Finally, drain and flush the tank and fresh water system with potable fresh water. If your RV doesn’t have a fresh water fill port, and you fill your tank using the city water inlet and a selector valve, you can shut off the water at the park pedestal, remove the hose from the RV city water inlet, and drain the hose. Add the required amount of bleach to the empty hose, connect it back up, set the proper valve to the tank fill position, and turn the water on at the park pedestal. This will force the bleach into your fresh water tank.

Hi Mark

I have a 2005 cougar 290 5th wheel, A/C seems to work fine but will trip breaker (20A) many times in hot weather. I put an amp meter on it with access door removed and it pulls between 11 and 15 amps at different times while running. I left access door off for about two weeks while checking amps and it never tripped while door was removed. I replaced the access door and it tripped twice the day I put it back on. The fan is running inside the switch box but apparently is not cooling sufficiently. What else should I check?


Hi Terry

It’s possible that the circuit breaker for the A/C is going bad, they do fail, and since breakers operate on temperature, being in a warm area doesn’t help. Since the fan for that box is running, try replacing the breaker with a new one with the same rating, and if that doesn’t help, the A/C unit may need some work. In cases like yours, I’d suggest replacing the compressor start capacitor first, they are inexpensive and easy to replace. Sometimes that capacitor will go bad over time, and it can cause the compressor to draw more start-up current than normal. If all that doesn’t cure it, it’s time to have the A/C unit inspected and serviced.


I have a question re: my 1999 Gulfstream RV.  I noticed the last couple of times I removed the cap to hook my sewer line up a small amount of water has leaked out.  I suspect this is coming from the black water tank as it was blue the last time and I use the blue tablets when camper is not in use.  What could this possibly be and how do I go about repairing it?

Thank you for your help, Diane

Hi Diane

It sounds like your black water tank dump valve is leaking. Sometimes it’s a bit of foreign material stuck in the valve, and that can usually be flushed out with lots of fresh water, but given the age of your rig, I suspect the valve is wearing out. If flushing doesn’t fix it, you’ll need to replace the valve. If you can access the valve, they aren’t all that hard to replace, it’s just 4 bolts. However, you may prefer to have it done at a repair shop, most folks do. Either way, you will need to drain and thoroughly flush out the tanks before starting the work. As a short term solution, you can purchase a 3” dump valve that’s designed to attach to your sewer hose connector on the RV. This will give you another valve to close to prevent unpleasant surprises when you take the cap off. Here’s an example of what I’m referring to.

It’s not a permanent fix, but will get you down the road until you can fix the problem.

Hi Mark, Love the info you put out. I have a 2015 Blue Ridge 3600RS and recently replaced the Battery. I recently came back from a short trip with grandkids and was plugged to shore power for 2 days. When I got home the battery wasn’t strong enough to lower my landing gear. Any Ideas? Thanks, Pierce.

Hi Pierce

It sounds like the converter isn’t charging the batteries at all. Anytime this happens after a battery replacement, I tend to suspect a disconnected or improperly attached wire. When you changed the battery and hooked it back up you may have missed something. Time for a visual inspection! If you by chance hooked a wire up wrong, the converter has one or more fuses that protect it, they may have blown, so you’ll have to check that as well. I’ll bet that’s all it is, but feel free to holler back if you have more questions.


When we use our motorhome, the black-water tank leaks as we travel.  As we go to uncap the waste water connection, there is always fluid that has leaked into the pipe.  This makes a nasty mess as we hook up to the camp sewer.  We have had two different RV dealers look at the problem.  Their only solution has been to install a new black-water waste valve.  They both filled the black-water tank and let it sit several hours to check for leakage after the new valve was installed.  Both times there was no leak into the pipe.  But as soon as we take our next road trip and go to hook up the sewer, there is fluid that has leaked into the pipe.  We are sure it is the black water since there is blue coloring from the additive to the black tank.  One of the dealers tried several times and just gave up after we took it back several times.  The last time we had a new valve put on, we only drove 10 miles to our campsite and voila! There was water in the pipe!!   Do you have a solution to this mystery??? Thanks, Mark

Hi, Mark,

That is a tough one indeed. If the valve has been replaced more than once and you are still having a leaking issue, it is hard to blame the valve. I do have some thoughts and suggestions, however. First, are you dumping the tank properly? You should only dump the black tank when it is at least one-third full. In fact, the fuller the better! When the tank is full, the rapid surge of fluid leaving the tank carries the wastepaper and solids along. This helps prevent any of those solids or paper products getting hung up in the valve seal, causing leaks. If you must dump a partly full tank, close the valve after dumping and add water to the tank with either a built-in tank flusher or a garden hose until it is at least half full, then dump it again. This may help a lot with your leaky valve problem. Also, are you using a toilet paper that completely breaks down in the tank? All toilet tissues are not the same. You might try using an RV toilet paper for a while and see if it helps. If the tissue isn’t dissolving, it is very easy for a chunk to get wedged into the valve seal, and that will also cause a leak. Finally, if nothing helps, you can try fitting a second dump valve onto your sewer outlet. This additional valve will allow you to hook up your hose without problems, even if your black-tank valve is leaking. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:   This valve simply twists onto your dump fitting on the rig, and you can cap it and leave it in place while traveling. It is a band-aid solution, I admit, but it will make hooking up your sewer hose a lot less disgusting when your main black-tank valve leaks.

EscapeesThis stuff also works great on stuck jar lids and other places where you need to “get a grip”.

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