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:
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.