Holding Tank Maintenance

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mdemeglio

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I've never used the head on my 2013 2520XLD but it was pretty clear the previous owner did, probably a lot judging by the stains on the floor around it.
So here's the question: even though it doesn't smell bad, how do I make sure the tank is empty and cleaned out (and that everything still works in case we do need to use it one day)? Do I have to go to a marina and have them pump it out or is there a more DIY way to flush it and maybe run some cleaner through it. And, also, should I winterize it in some way after I'm done cleaning it out?
 

Andy

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I've never used the head on my 2013 2520XLD but it was pretty clear the previous owner did, probably a lot judging by the stains on the floor around it.
So here's the question: even though it doesn't smell bad, how do I make sure the tank is empty and cleaned out (and that everything still works in case we do need to use it one day)? Do I have to go to a marina and have them pump it out or is there a more DIY way to flush it and maybe run some cleaner through it. And, also, should I winterize it in some way after I'm done cleaning it out?
I have the same boat and year-model as you, so I'll guess you and I have the same electric head?... First, (imho) Parker uses one of the worst/cheapest heads. It is the only marine head I've ever owned (7) or seen that does not have a separate 'water-in'/'wet-bowl' flush setting, and a separate 'dry-bowl'/ 'discharge' lever or switch. This makes it confusing to operate, and it does not do a very good job. I would have preferred a manual system, with the proper switch levers/controls.
It is against Federal Law (and common decency) to flush black-water waste overboard any where in the USA. You must be at least three miles offshore. If not offshore, then use the pump-out facility at a marina. (I could write a book about 'The Joys Of Pumping Out a Holding Tank'.. it is one of the least enjoyable chores of boat-ownership; there is No amusement-value! ☺).
If the previous owner used the head for 'just liquids', then I understand where it may not 'smell bad'. If it was used for 'the other', and your cabin, head, hoses and holding tank do not smell bad, then I'd love to know what your previous owner fed his family. It must have been a special diet!
Yes, you have to 'winterize' the head if you live where it freezes. Some people use the 'pink-stuff' non-poison? anti-freeze. It's best to try and drain it all and/or pump it dry. Not such a big deal with the plastic/rubber hoses and plastic/vinyl? holding tank, but it is a big deal with the two pumps (yes there are two; one pumps the head, the other is the macerator pump under the pilothouse floor near the holding tank) and with the inner parts, and the porcelain discharge section from the bowl.
A lot of folks who actually use their heads (the toilet, not the gray-matter under their skulls) use the chemical head treatments (like used in campers) to help control the odors. Some of these can help, but there are a lot of variable as to how long they work and how effective they are. A lot of the problem is that the waste hoses, and PLASTIC! (holy crap, no pun intended) holding tank is NOT vapor impermeable... eventually the smell will get out....
The previous owner of our boat never used the head. We used it one time, the first week we owned it (It was an emergency). It took a lot of chemicals and flushing to bring the boat back to 'normal' after that.... We never had any head odors on a previous boat (owned and used for 28 years). It had two heads that were used extensively. They were coupled to an 80 gallon stainless steel holding tank, and super-vapor-non-permeable hoses that were later wrapped with Hardcast Foil-Ray butyl rubber and aluminum tape. Never had an issue with that system.
For added maintenance, if you're going to use the head, it's good to use a special head lubricant on a regular basis. It lubes the rubber seals and inner working parts.... Do NOT use cooking oils as a cheap alternative, as was once recommended by some. These will harden/coagulate and completely clog the system.... In a pinch it is ok to use a little mineral oil, but it's best to use a manufacturers- recommended head lube....
 
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mdemeglio

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Thanks for all the great information Andy! I enjoy your youtube channel as well - tons of great info.
Whats the best way to check if the holding tank is empty or not? I'd like to try to flush it with clean water right in the boatyard and pump it into some 5 gal buckets I can take home and flush if there is some waste still in there. Do I need a special hose for that or is there another outlet for the holding tank?
 

Andy

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Thanks for all the great information Andy! I enjoy your youtube channel as well - tons of great info.
Whats the best way to check if the holding tank is empty or not? I'd like to try to flush it with clean water right in the boatyard and pump it into some 5 gal buckets I can take home and flush if there is some waste still in there. Do I need a special hose for that or is there another outlet for the holding tank?
Thank you for the compliment, and thank you for watching my videos!.... Great question on 'best way to check if the holding tank is empty or not'... Because of where it's installed, being completely enclosed on all 4 sides, the only way I know to 'check contents level' is to open the access port on the top pf the tank, and either look inside, or stick a 'disposable' measuring stick of sorts into the tank. Here's a picture of the top of the tank. I'd guess it's the same as yours? The poly holding tank on a boat we had in the early 1980's was installed with one side visible. It was easy to see the contents of the tank as the treatment chemicals darkened the 'contents'... There are three outlets for the holding. 1) The access port on top of the tank. 2) the shore-side pump out fitting on the port-mid section of the gunnel/walk-way 3) the bronze fitting under the forward section of the hull (I'm pretty sure it's the forward-most fitting, of the two without the 'screen').
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Andy

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Thanks for all the great information Andy! I enjoy your youtube channel as well - tons of great info.
Whats the best way to check if the holding tank is empty or not? I'd like to try to flush it with clean water right in the boatyard and pump it into some 5 gal buckets I can take home and flush if there is some waste still in there. Do I need a special hose for that or is there another outlet for the holding tank?
I just went back an edited the response below; I added the answer to flushing....
Also, there are very special hoses and fittings for the 'pump out' fitting on the gunnel. There is not a special fitting for the pump-out bronze hole under the forward part of the hull.
And, if you plan to flush this on a regular basis, you can buy a portable head flushing unit.... I'll find one and post it here in a couple minutes; Here's one below. With this, you pump out the holding tank from the fitting on the port-side gunnel. I have a friend who installed an access pipe to their home septic tank to use as the 'dump site'. Technically this would not be legal if on a city sewer system. (But as little as this would add to the cities treatment burden, I doubt if they would care, for a typical occasional use like that) .. Also, this is the same unit that was (is still?) used by Belhaven Waterway Marina, and they installed an access to 'dump/pump' this into the towns sewer system. Again, technically that is not legal, as a typical sewer bill is based on a customers water bill (there's an assumed figured amount used to bill sewer based on water usage). I don't know how/if they worked that out; and it's certainly none of my business! ☺)
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mdemeglio

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Great info - I assumed the thru-hull bronze fitting was intake not discharge, but that would certainly answer the "how does it get out" question. Thank you
 

Andy

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Great info - I assumed the thru-hull bronze fitting was intake not discharge, but that would certainly answer the "how does it get out" question. Thank you
When it is a an intake it will look like the 'screened' one shown here. Helps stop debris from entering. The ones that are not 'screened' are for discharge, as you don't want any obstruction when discharging anything...
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GotChrist?

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The man who I bought my camper from said to mix a cup of borax with a bit of Dawn and would fill the holding tank 1/3 fall and let it slosh on the drive to where they would camp for the weekend. That concoction is a well know DIY. I forget it's name. It keeps the sensors clean and keeps a poop pyramid from forming. In the RV world, the black tank is emptied and then the grey tank, whose shower and kitchen water flushes the pipes. You don't have that option. You would need to run a water hose into the head to flush. On the RV, you depress the pedal which opens the valve and you peer straight down into the blank tank. They make wants that attach to ta hose that spray outward and down to wash the blank tank. I have never used a marine head so can't tell you how to get a water flush in yours other than to may do the borax, dawn, and a bit of water in the tank to keep it from drying out and keep thing sloshing. You can buy a product at Walmart, ACT, that you pour into the tank and it breaks down the solid matter and keeps it odor free. With it, I don't think you want to flush after every return to harbor but let it go until near full, then empty.
 
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