RV Black Tank Leaking? Our Story and Solution

We are plagued with plumbing issues!

We are having multiple severe plumbing issues. We have a black tank leak! Our tank level indicators are not functioning properly, our black tank valve appears to be broken or blocked as it won’t close completely.  Our water pump is losing pressure and running continuously during the night until someone gets up and runs the water for a bit and builds up the pressure again.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About RV Holding Tanks
black tank leak

When we were in Elkhart Indiana having some warranty work done one of the problems we were having was with our tank level panel.  This panel tells you with the push of a button what the level is in each tank. It’s important to know how much fresh water, gray water, and black water are in the holding tanks because an overflowing tank is not a happy situation. The repair people actually switched the entire panel out.  

We Have a Black Tank Leak

So yesterday shaped up to be one of “those” days.  Rob had plans to take the girls to lunch and I had plans to get some things done in the RV like cleaning and laundry for example.  I asked Rob to dump the gray tanks and fill the fresh tank before he left and he did but when he opened the cap on the dump line he was greeted by a gush of the liquid sewer.  EWWWWWW!  He got out the bleach and the hose and set to work cleaning things up.  Mission accomplished, gray tank dumped and the fresh tank filled.  

Meanwhile, I was in and out of Meg and Alex’s house doing the laundry and on the phone, with the mobile RV Repair person, we located who had agreed to come and take a look Saturday (today) around 5 pm. 

Meg and Rob left to go and meet Kelly for lunch.  About an hour later I headed outside to the house to switch laundry loads and was greeted with the worst smell ever!  OH NO, THE BLACK TANK IS LEAKING!  Panic!  What to do? 

What to Do When Your Black Tank Leaks

I grabbed a bucket out of our basement storage and put it under the leak, hosed the driveway down as much as possible, and went inside to call the repairman again.  This guy has been awesome.  He’s full of great information and very helpful.  He gave me a crash course in composting 101.  He said to get some peat-moss and some sawdust and put them in the container that will catch what is dripping.  This will kill the smell and make it safe to dispose of later.  

I called Rob and asked them to stop on the way home and pick up the peat moss and sawdust.   As I head over to switch the laundry again, I notice the bucket is about 1/2 full.  We’re leaking at the rate of about 1/2 gallon per hour.  Clearly, we need a bigger bucket. 

Rob and Meg get home and survey the carnage.   Rob decides we are going to the dump station.  My heart sinks because getting this 5th wheel backed into this 220‘ driveway is a nightmare of epic proportions.  After taking precautions to keep our waste to ourselves on the trip, we’re off.  The dump station is at a rest area just one exit away.  

We make it to the rest area and begin the process of dumping and flushing the black tank.  I’d guess we were there for about 2 hours. The flush water is running clear and nothing seems to be dripping and best of all, the black tank level indicator shows empty.  We decide it’s safe to go back to Meg‘s and button up.  We decide we won’t use the potty until the RV Repairman checks it out.  Hopefully whatever was causing the problem is now corrected.  We think it may have been clogged or had something obstructing the valve. 

Cleaning Up After An RV Black Tank Leak

After going through the ordeal of getting parked at the house again, we began the clean-up of the driveway which was a long process.  Once back in the Little RV I checked the black tank level just out of curiosity, it read 2/3 full.  The gray tanks showed 1/3 full and they were dumped too.  

We are currently awaiting the arrival of the repairman late this afternoon.  Hopefully, he can shed some light on this situation.  I’ll update you all when I know more.  

Holding Tank Gate Valve Issues

Yesterday our RV Repairman, Eric came to really dig in and figure out what was keeping our black tank valve from closing properly and causing it to leak.  After some searching and digging around in what looks like a bowl of multicolored spaghetti, Eric comes up with an answer. 

This is a gate valve with a long cable

The cable that runs from the handle you pull to open the valve is very long (more than six feet) and is wrapped in a protective cover.  The cable should move freely inside the cover which allows the valve to open and close.  He said the cable was wrapped and twisted in and around all of the other tubes and hoses in the mess that is our utility area under the RV in the “basement”.  

This area is accessible only by removing the access panels that are behind all of the stuff stored in the basement.  This area also holds the black, gray, and freshwater tanks and the water pump.  Eric disconnected the cable and sent it on a smoother path so it could open and close more easily and it works!  YAY!! 

To learn more about how gate valves work, watch this short video. LaSalle Bristol RV Sewer – Waste Valves from trailer.com. 

Holding Tank Level Guages

Secondly, he took a look at our tank level panel to see why our levels always show incorrectly.  Even when we are completely out of freshwater, we show full and when the black tank has just been pumped, we show full there too.  The repairman tested the panel and it is working properly so the problem is in the tank level indicators themselves or the wiring harnesses that connect them. 

That cannot be diagnosed easily so the wiring harness will be replaced when it arrives and if that does not solve the problem, the tanks have to be removed and inspected and the indicator probes may have to be replaced.  That means removing the underbelly of the RV and taking the tanks out which is a huge undertaking.  At this point, we are waiting for parts from the manufacturer.  When they arrive he will replace them and hopefully, we’ll be back in business before we get snowed in.  

I’ll just leave you with two more parting thoughts.  
First – We had a casualty yesterday… the DISH Tailgater.  It somehow got under the wheels of the truck when we were backing the RV up the driveway.
Second – Did it do us any good to spend significantly more on a high-quality brand RV?  No! The answer is no!

You might also like; How to Get Rid Of Black Tank Buildup

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2 thoughts on “RV Black Tank Leaking? Our Story and Solution”

  1. Wow. That was a bad day. Not many people can top that and I certainly don’t want to try. But it must have worked out ok. Looking forward to the rest of the story.
    I am enjoying your posts

    1. Hey Glenda!
      We finally did get it all worked out but it took a very long time and we finally traded that beast of a 5th wheel for a motorhome. That was a real learning experience and one of the primary reasons I choose an Airstream this time around.
      Thanks for the comment!

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