RV bathroom upgrade: Any excuse for a potty!

I’m sure other people are buying exciting new things like electronics, clothing, and airline tickets for the holiday gift-giving season.

Us? We bought a new toilet for The Toad.

It arrived quite appropriately on Black (Tank?) Friday.

It arrived quite appropriately on Black (Tank?) Friday.

But we’d finally had it with our old one, which was just not worth the hassle of yet another repair effort. Despite more than one round of disassembly and cleaning, plus replacement of critical parts, the flush ball mechanism would no longer seal correctly.  And as anyone with recreational vehicle bathroom experience knows, that creates some unpleasant issues, none of which are appropriate for polite company.

Tim checked online reviews for newer models, and we settled on (pun absolutely intended) the Dometic ceramic bowl gravity-flush toilet, model 320. Being a handy guy, he knew we could handle this job ourselves, and it took even less time than we thought: only one hour from opening the shipping box to the first successful “test drive.”

Opening it up was an exercise in itself.

Opening it up was an exercise in itself.

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and although we still had visions of pie in our heads, we knew that was not whipped cream

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and although we still had visions of pie in our heads, we knew that was not whipped cream. At all.

I was positive we'd find the directions in the bowl, mainly because that's where I'd have put them. Close enough.

I was positive we’d find the directions in the bowl, mainly because that’s where I’d have put them.
Close enough.

I was the Reader of the Directions. I kept asking Tim if the toilet was flush with the floor -- and then giggling uncontrollably. That shit never gets old. Ha!

I was the official Reader of Directions.
I kept asking Tim if the toilet was flush with the floor — and then giggling uncontrollably.
Because that shit never gets old.

Some tips for anyone who decides to tackle this job:

  1. You will need to turn off the water supply to your RV while you’re working. Prepare accordingly by filling a pitcher with clean water for drinking, using the old toilet one last time before you disconnect it, and putting some soapy water in a bucket for washing hands.

    Critical tools: socket wrench set, and an iPhone (which served conveniently as both a flashlight and an internet reference guide)

    Critical tools: socket wrench set, and an iPhone (which served conveniently as both a flashlight and an internet reference guide)

  2. Choose a location — and time of year — for adequate ventilation. The floor opening to your black tank will be exposed for a while, so you’ll definitely want windows open!

    One of the toughest parts of any RV repair job: maneuvering in really tight spaces

    One of the toughest parts of any RV repair job: maneuvering in really tight spaces

  3. Tools and materials we used: socket wrench, screw driver, putty knife (for scraping deposits from floor flange), rags and paper towels, spray cleaner/disinfectant, plastic garbage bag, and rubber gloves. If your toilet model comes with a hand sprayer, you will also need a drill to install the mounting bracket on the wall.

    Prepping the floor flange by scraping out the yuck. It was about as disgusting as you'd imagine.

    Prepping the floor flange by scraping out the yuck.
    It was about as disgusting as you’d imagine.

  4. We also recommend talking with your RV and/or toilet manufacturer before you place your order, to make sure you purchase a model that will fit in your camper, along with any additional required parts. And if this type of project is new for you, you may also want to do the installation at a time when the manufacturer’s customer service department is open, so that you can call for help if needed (yet another use for that cell phone).

    Out with the old, in with the new!

    Out with the old, in with the new! Aside from being a requirement in this case, it’s also how we Own Less with other stuff: new in, old out. Always.

Of course the most important thing you will need for this job is a sense of humor. Toilets and bathrooms are funny, and making as many crappy jokes as necessary will help pass the time.

Our new throne. Let me just say that the spray nozzle is a total game-changer. That is all.

Our new throne.
Let me just say that the spray nozzle is a total game-changer.

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

I’d have more to report, but the legs were the wrong size

Before I start this post for real, allow me to show, for the idly curious among you, how our big blue crap hauler uh, hauls the crap. It gets a ride to the dump station! Three tanks (one black, two gray) means three trips, and we do this only when we stay longer than a week in a location that does not have an on-site sewer hookup.

I know it looks kind of petite for hauling with the BFT. Tim can, and has, pulled it himself, but at this park, the dump station is almost a mile away, and that’s a long way to schlep 42 gallons of anything — times three — by hand. (1 gallon of water = 8.34 pounds, so that tank weighs nearly 350 pounds when full.)

Wagons ho!

Shit wagon ho!

And now the real post:

In yet another case of project creep, replacing the landing gear switch to fix whatever-the-hell-was-wrong with the coach battery (details here) has turned into replacing pretty much everything having to do with the landing gear, and upgrading it to a dual switch operating system instead of single switch.

After multiple discussions with both the original manufacturer, and several local RV repair shops, Tim ended up ordering all the required materials from Texas RV Supply, which definitely received the largest slice of the paycheck pie this month. Whee. But at least we’re not paying for labor: Tim works for the satisfaction of it, and for regularly spaced transfusions of cold root beer or lemonade.

Anyway, he set out to get the job done on Friday morning, only to find that the new legs were the wrong. damn. size.

Not these legs. The metal ones, resting there on top of the stacks of yellow leveling blocks.

Not those legs. Those legs are fine.
It’s the metal ones, resting there on top of the stacks of yellow leveling blocks.

Sigh. Project suspended. New parts are due to arrive Monday afternoon, but on Tuesday, we’re rolling east for the 5-day Houston RV Show, and its seminars, gimme caps, people watching, and a special appearance on Saturday by — wait for it — Yogi Bear.

I know.

The question is, will Yogi’s presence be enough to distract us from what will no doubt manifest as raging cases of RV Envy?  There’ll be “600 sparkling brand new recreational vehicles in the climate controlled comfort of one of the nation’s top entertainment venues” — and I’m guessing not one of them has broken front landing gear.

Maybe we’d better leave the credit cards at home.

It gets a little low tech in here

So our bathroom is  <<this>>  wide. (That’s 5’4″ me stretching my arms out and touching the walls. Both directions.)

In this comparatively teensy space is a toilet, a shower stall, and a sink/vanity combo. And yet there are two access doors and two light switches.

I know.

The light switch above the toilet is labeled thus:

The other one says LAV.

I… I think that’s just wrong.

As for knowing when the shitter’s full, we have this handy dandy supremely low-tech control panel to tell us:

Technology: retro Star Trek

Technology: retro Star Trek

It’s not always accurate because things get, uh, stuck along the insides of the tanks where the sensors are, so we prefer to go with a weekly dump schedule, just to keep things more… pleasant.