Dumping tanks is the one and only unpleasant part of RV life. Usually you see the poor husband outside, bending over in rain, sleet or snow, while the little wife sits on her passenger seat throne with a book and small dog.
Me, I like showing those babes that we, too, can get our butts out there. Real women empty tanks! I have seen wives’ jaws drop when they spot me out there wrestling sewer hose. The men get big smiles on their faces and make cute comments to Steve about how well he has me trained, and can I also bait hooks and change oil.
Dumping is no big deal. Find the sewer hole in the ground. It’s called an RV Dump station. They have them at parks, truck stops, RV campgrounds.
Your sewer drain is on the driver side of your bus, halfway back. Pull your bus up nice and close to the hole. Remember you only have 15’ of hose to reach it. The bay door opens upward so you will have to bend over to get under that door to access your drain, and probably have to kneel down too, so bring a pad. For this exercise, let’s assume it’s not raining.
You have two tanks in your bus and they both drain here. The black tank holds poop. The grey tank holds dirty shower water. The tanks are actually silver in color. Black and grey are just names. You can live aboard for about seven days before these tanks fill up. If you let them overflow, you will make nasty puddles on the ground, so avoid this at all costs. Both tanks share one common drain pipe. Its 3’ PVC with a protective overflow pan underneath it in case of accidents – sort of like a diaper for your bus.
In the overflow pan you will find 15’ of flexible sewer drain hose, smashed in there like a giant coiled snake, and often resting in a puddle of brown stinky wet stuff. Wait a minute! Apparently we have overflown? Flowed? into the overflow pan. Whose fault is that??!! And why don’t they make these pans a little bigger so you can squash the darn hose back in there without doing contortions?
There is no way to pull this 15’ hose out of the overflow pan without getting stuff on your hands. So better grab some gloves right now. And put them on. Disposables would be a good idea here. Unscrew the lid on the sewer hole on the ground.
Then stretch your hose out nice and flat, and stick the far end of it into that sewer hole. Do something to brace it in there so the tip won’t come flying out like a demonic fire hose spraying brown stuff all over kingdom come when you release your tank. We’re dealing with alot of pressure here. Sometimes folks leave you a rock or brick nearby for this.
Sometimes I just have to hold my foot on it. For this I have to open the drain valve and then run fast like a bunny back to the hole to get my foot on its head before the raging river arrives. So sad they couldn’t even make sewer holes uniform! My hose rarely fits tightly.
Next, unscrew that large white cap at the bottom of your overflow drain pan. This gives you a big hole.
Thread your 15’ flexi hose up through the hole.
Now the business end of your hose is facing the sewer pipe where the poop will come out. But, there’s a black protective cap in the way. Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to unscrew that cap. Note the cap is facing downhill, and – as you’ve heard – poop falls downhill. As soon as you twist the cap off, I guarantee a cup of soupy brown gunk will fall out of the pipe and onto your hand. Horrors!!! It’s “just” a little bit of leakage left in the pipes from last time. Steve laughs and says, “Try to catch that gunk in the end of your hose!” I do try, but that gunk falls at the speed of light, and there’s no way I can get the snake up in there fast enough. You just have to grimace and bear it.
I have also found out that if the wind is blowing out from underneath the bus, it can blow this poopy water all over your legs and nice new sandals. Then you feel the urge to take your shoes off to save them, but if you do that, you may find yourself standing barefoot in a puddle. And maybe it’s not even your own puddle, but a scary puddle from the people who dumped just before you. Most dump stations don’t have puddles, but some do. It might be clean rainwater, or hose water. But it could also be something more sinister. Who knows for sure? Only the Shadow do. Better wear old shoes next time.
After this crisis passes, you can screw your snake hose onto the drain pipe. This is a very difficult quarter twist and it has to be lined up perfectly. I can’t tell you how many times I have screwed my hose on and it looked perfect and felt tight, only have a brown fountain spray out of that connection as soon as I turn it on. There’s a lot of pressure involved here. You’re supposed to dump your black tank first, then dump the grey tank last so you can use the barely dirty grey water to flush the bad stuff out of your line. But if you don’t have a tight connection and you turn the black water on first, you get the worst poop shower. Today steve said to me, “Hey, why don’t you just turn the grey water on first, briefly, to check your seal before releasing the black. Gee! Wish somebody had told me this a year ago.
Ok, are we ready for blast off? When your seal is good, open the black tank lever first and let it drain. The black tank holds 45 gallons but we’ve never seen it full. After about five minutes, the flow slows to a drip. Close the black lever and open the gray lever to release the full one – 65 gallons of used sink and shower water. It roars out with alot of pressure. You’ll have to stand around for 5-10 minutes enjoying the weather or shivering in the rain. Be alert to problems at either end of the hose. No matter how expensive a drain hose you buy, it seems they all crack and spring leaks way too soon, sometimes in a matter of months! The earlier you catch cracks, and the handier you are with duct tape, the longer your pitiful $30 hose will last.
When the grey tank is empty and barely dripping, close the valve. Put the two caps back on – white for the overflow pan, black goes over the sewer drain.
Now you’re ready for the big finish. Unhook your hose from the bus end only. Hold it high up in the air with left hand, while you find and turn on the clean water hose with your right hand. Rinse out your sewer hose with clean water and let the rinse water flow into the ground. Turn the water off.
Pull your hose out of the ground. Curl it up. Wrestle it back into the too-small drain pan storage compartment.
Close the lid on the bay door and dispose of your gloves. Now run for the kitchen sink to scrub your hands in hot soapy water. Congratulations! You have dumped tanks all by yourself and your bus is good to go for another seven days of fun, more or less depending on how many showers you take, dishes you wash and overnight guests you host. Living the RV life makes you so aware of the preciousness of water, and what staggering amounts of water are wasted in a normal home. Leaving water running while rinsing dishes or brushing your teeth is one example. Taking half-hour showers is a biggie.
I am sure this article will obliterate any interest you may have had in RV living. Now let me confess to you that dumping tanks can be a regular chore OR a rare occurrence – you decide. If you camp in humble places, ($10-20 per night), you will have a common shared sewer or no sewer at all, and you will have to dump tanks. If you stay in the nicer, “gold shoe” places, ($25-$40 per night) then you will have your own private sewer. You will still have to hook your snake up when you arrive and stow it when you leave, but this sewer flows on its own and you won’t have to see or handle any yucky stuff. Any time you see the word “Resort” in a name, you can bet it’s an upscale “gold shoe” place.
Guess what, girls! I think I’ve had enough bravado. From now on, you’ll find me sitting pretty in the front seat with a book and a poodle while my husband does the dumping.