The Most Common RV Plumbing Problems You Should Know About

For many, the best part of camping in a recreational vehicle (RV) is the full-service plumbing that’s included. There is no doubt that the ability to wash dishes, take a shower and use the toilet are luxuries many people don’t want to go without when camping. RV installation works as it should most of the time, but it could end your campout if it doesn’t.

What type of plumbing do RVs use and what do you need to know about the systems?

RV Bathroom | Getty Images

The Drivin’ & Vibin’ team tells us that modern RVs use a combination of PEX piping to supply the drinking water system and PVC piping to drain the waste water.

An RV’s water system begins by receiving potable water, usually from a municipal water source that either pressurizes the water system or fills the RV’s potable water tank and uses the onboard water pump. Once the water system has water pressure, faucets, showers, and toilets work much like they do at home.

The difference between Gray Tanks and Black Tanks in RVs

Sewage operation ultimately depends on the facilities that exist at the camper van campsite. Modern motorhomes have two types of waste water tanks on board. The “grey tank” holds the waste water from the sink and shower drains, while the “black tank” holds whatever flushes down the toilet. The end of a camping trip culminates with a trip to the campground’s “dump station” to dump the waste water into an approved sewage system. Some RV sites have “Full Hook-Ups (FHU)” that eliminate the need to stop at the disposal station.

Common RV installation problems

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<p>The team at Drivin’ & Vibin’ tells us that some of the most common RV plumbing problems include leaks in the pressurized water system and clogged waste water tanks. </p>
<p>An RV pressurized water system includes a network of hot and cold water supply lines that lead to every faucet, toilet, and outside spray outlet.  These lines contain fittings and connections that are prone to failure or loosening, causing water leaks as the RV bounces down the road and endures extreme temperature ranges.  </p>
<p>Wastewater tanks clog when misused.  Unlike most household kitchen sink plumbing, most RV plumbing does not have a garbage disposal, so it is not advisable to dispose of leftover food down the sink drain. </p>
<p>Also, there’s a trade-off when it comes to flushing number two.  Using more water when rinsing will help empty the black tank, but tank storage is limited, so using more water will fill it up faster. </p>
<p>A word of caution regarding FHU operation: It’s okay to leave your gray tank valve open while on FHU, but leave your black tank valve closed until the tank is almost full or it’s time to go.  Leaving the black tank valve open can allow water to spill out, leaving behind a pile of hard-to-remove solids.</p>
<h2 id=RV Plumbing Repair: Do It Yourself Or Call A Pro?

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<p>Being your own repair person is a valuable skill for anyone, especially anyone who owns an RV.  Having to call a professional to fix every little problem will ruin many camping trips and longer RV vacations. </p>
<p>Some installation problems are minor, requiring only the use of your hand to tighten a leaking fitting.  Or a clogged black tank may need to pour a bucket of hot tap water down an open toilet to flush out solids and toilet paper that have collected in a pyramid shape just below the point of entry.</p>
<p>Axel Addicts reminds us that special tools and skills sometimes make the job easier.  Whenever you lack the right tools or skills, hiring a professional is the right choice. </p>
<p>The good news is that you are not alone.  A quick search of the internet will reveal many other RV owners who have had the same problems and will often offer advice on DIY solutions or when to call a plumber. </p>
<p><strong>TIED TOGETHER: </strong><strong>3 RV sites in the Smoky Mountains</strong></p>
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