Tuesday, December 5, 2023


I flooded my RV with poop! Will my warranty cover me?

With Tony Barthel
From the editor: If you haven’t been following along, we’ve recently added a new column to our Saturday newsletter called “RV Warranty Questions.” Tony Barthel is a warranty expert, and he’s here to answer your questions. Check out these two articles if you have any questions or thoughts on extended warranties: Should I buy an extended warranty for my RV? And, What kind of extended warranty should I get?

Here’s one question from a reader:

Hi, Tony,
I was flushing the black tank on my RV and got called away. Unfortunately I left the flush on and it flooded my brand-new fifth wheel with sewage. Now the dealer is telling me this isn’t covered by the warranty, and I think the entire rig is ruined as it smells terrible. Who should I call? Someone in a crappy situation 

Hi there Someone Crappy,
Unfortunately, this is neither uncommon nor is it covered by your warranty. You might contact the insurance carrier that covers your RV instead to see if it might provide some coverage for this, but it is something caused by your actions rather than any defect by the manufacturer. The warranty is there to cover manufacturing defects and it seems as if all the systems built into the RV were working as intended. 

I spoke with Doug Swarts of Drain Master, whose experience in the RV space includes having invented a remote-controlled electric gate valve for RVs as well as having worked in RV tank systems for some time. 

Doug has seen this kind of thing and some of the bad things that can result. Sadly, it’s very easy to get distracted while running water into the black tank flush valve and he has a terrific idea for preventing this kind of failure: a simple sprinkler timer. 

If you have an idea of how long it takes for the black tank flush system to fill your black tank to about 2/3 full, you can buy a simple sprinkler timer and set it to shut off the water after that period of time. That way you won’t have to worry about the black tank flush overfilling your black tank in the event that you get distracted. Some RVers have reported talking a phone call wile flushing the tank, then forgetting what they were doing.

I still recommend doing everything you can to stay and monitor that process but, as the common expression goes, “stuff” happens. 

Depending on how your RV is plumbed, the black tank venting system can be attached to the gray tank venting system in your RV and overfilling your black tank would result in the contents coming up through the path of least resistance. This could be the shower drain, the kitchen sink or even the toilet. 

None of these circumstances is good in any way, so your best piece of advice is to always be there to monitor your black tank flush. 

“I’ve seen RVs ruined by people getting distracted while flushing their black tanks,” said Doug. 

Unfortunately, this can lead to an RV being pretty unlivable until it is professionally cleaned and, even then, there is a chance for long-term damage as the lovely wood used in the interior wasn’t designed to resist a flood of human waste. 

I hope your insurance company has some provision to assist with this clean up as it’s a wholly unpleasant job and not one anybody is willing to do inexpensively. 


Tony Barthel has been a life-long RV enthusiast and travels part-time with his wife where they also produce a podcast, write about RVs and love the RV lifestyle.



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Jesse Crouse (@guest_132836)
2 years ago

An agent told me ” Can’t cover stupidity, only what stupid does.” I am a plumber and it’s not “stuff happens” Just speaking technically.

Mike (@guest_98210)
3 years ago

I have a dead man valve on my black tank flush. I have to hold a spring loaded lever. I’ve seen first hand (not mine) what happens. While you might think you’d never get distracted, there are a million ways. And your partner or a helpful neighbor might end up dumping your tanks if you get sick. I even put a different quick connect on my flush port to encourage using the flush hose+dead man valve!!

Tim Bear (@guest_98182)
3 years ago

The label on my black tank flush system specifically notes ‘valve must be open when flushing tank’. Then the flush just runs on down the sewer hose. When I want to partially or fully fill the tank, I use the toilet flush so I can keep an eye on the rising level. If I’m called away, my foot comes off, water stops running until I come back to resume.

Joe Allen (@guest_98121)
3 years ago

While we were in Yellowstone NP, this happened to a camper down from us. His insurance company took care of it and in fact, claimed the RV totaled and he ended up purchasing the exact same one a few weeks later. No questioned asked. I feel for your lose and this is what happens when you are distracted. I hate it when arriving at a campsite and you have people coming over to ask about the rig, or shoot the breeze. Be pleasant and say, when I get down, please come over for a sit down and a beverage. Most will understand and accommodate.

Steven Scheinin (@guest_98119)
3 years ago

I know how long it takes for my backflush to fill my tank 3/4. I have an Apple Watch and I set the timer which buzzes and vibrates when the time has expired.

Dan (@guest_98112)
3 years ago

What’s next? Alexa flush my black tank?

James R Teal (@guest_98051)
3 years ago

My questionis, why would your mistake be covered by anyone but yourself?

Franksontheroad (@guest_98054)
3 years ago
Reply to  James R Teal

Unfortunately, insurance policies do not have an {bleeped}/stupidity exclusion. While they may not like paying a claim like this, unless it’s specifically excluded there should be coverage.

Livan_Life (@guest_98096)
3 years ago

Franksontheroad, I concur and was going to say that after 46 years in the insurance biz I’ve never read an exclusion for stupidity. A friend accidently burned his mobile home as he was using a torch to remove the tongue. His first question to me was if the insurance would cover the loss. Of course, it was covered and his policy paid.

Firefly (@guest_98099)
3 years ago
Reply to  James R Teal

Yes, completely right on the warranty request. But I pay substantial insurance premiums to cover myself in the case of unintentional mistakes.

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