Congratulations on renting an RV! Whether this is your first time or you are a seasoned weekend warrior, its always important to make sure you avoid potential pitfalls that can take you away from the fun! In this article we are going to go over some of the best practices you should know when you work with fresh water tanks, black water tanks, and gray water tanks in your RV rental!
Please note: These are common suggestions we offer to all RVers. The rental facility from which you rented your RV may have given you alternative instructions. Make sure you follow their instructions so as not to cause damage to their equipment.
Fresh water is what you use to drink, cook, and shower with in you RV. It's the water the comes out of your sinks and showers or tubs. It's also the water that flushes your toilet.
There are two ways to work with fresh water in you rental RV.
Fresh Water Tanks
Your RV fresh water tank is where you store the water that you are taking with you as you travel. You will be storing water if you plan on camping in locations where water isn't available. If you are planning on staying in campgrounds with "full hook ups" or at least a water spigot at the site, you won't need to store water in your fresh water tank.
Using Your Fresh Water Tank
When filling the fresh water tank, you simply need to slide a garden hose into the fresh water tank access port - or hose socket and fill the tank with clean, potable water. The hose socket is often either on an access panel located on the side of the RV, or directly on the fresh water tank its self (sometimes, under the RV) and will usually be labeled prominently. Filling your fresh water tank before your trip is more applicable if you are going to be away from civilization/dry camping somewhere remote, but can sometimes be useful when the pressure at the spigot is too high at the RV park.
If at any point you need to drain your fresh water tank you can use the "cold low point drain". This is simply a valve underneath your fresh water tank that will allow the contents to empty out onto the ground. If you can't find your fresh water plug, we recommend you contact your rental provider as they may have instructions specific to your RV rental.
Fresh Water Pumps
Now that you have water in your fresh water tanks, you need to pump it up to the RV so you can use it! Fresh Water Pumps take the water from your fresh water tank and pump them to your sinks, toilets, and showers or tubs. The fresh water pump provides consistent water pressure from your fresh water tank as long as you have water stored in the tank.
Don't Confuse The Fresh Water Hose Sockets
Please note, there are two separate sockets on your RV for fresh water. One for filling your fresh water tank and one for "hooking up" in a campground or RV park. These are two separate sockets, so make sure you use the correct one for filling your fresh water tank and for hooking up to the campground's water supply.
If you are hooked up to fresh water in a campground you won't need to use your fresh water tank or pump in most cases as the water will be pushed throughout your RV from the pressure coming from the hose.
Full Hook Ups
Campgrounds or RV parks that offer "full hook ups" refer to the ability to hook up a fresh water supply to your RV and a place to dump your black and gray tanks (toilets and sinks). Camping with full hook ups certainly reduces the mess and fuss of dealing with toilets and sinks, but can also limit you to less remote or adventurous locales.
To hook up your fresh water supply, simply thread a garden hose from campground's spigot. You will need to supply the garden hose as they are not made available by campgrounds or RV parks. You probably got one from your RV rental facility when you rented your RV. Turn the spigot on slowly to avoid damaging your pipes if the water from the spigot comes out too quickly.
Tip: Sometimes the water pressure coming out of the spigot in a campground or RV can be too high for your system. Talk to your RV rental provider about supplying you with a water pressure regulator if you are going to be staying at a campsite. The rental provider should know if their unit requires a pressure regulator or not.
Fresh Water Filters
Most RVers use some type of fresh water filter to remove the contaminants and debris that may be found in the fresh water coming from the spigot at the campground or RV park you're staying at. If you were not provided with a water filter from your rental facility you can find them readily available at most RV parts stores or Walmarts in the US.
We recommend using a filter to improve the waters taste and avoid contaminants.
Now that we have talked briefly about fresh water, we can talk a little about waste water!
Black Water Holding Tanks
One of the conveniences that adds to the enjoyment of your trip in your RV is having a bathroom! Many people will use the bathroom facilities at the campground or RV park, but for many, being able to use the bathroom is one of the primary reasons why you rented an RV versus just tent camping.
Your RV is equipped with a black water tank to collect the waste from your toilet. Proper black tank care can easily make or break your trip so it is important to be vigilant and take care of your RV rentals black water tank. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
How to Treat Your Black Water Holding Tank
As you would expect, we always recommend using a high quality holding tank treatment, like RV Digest-It. A good holding tank treatment is crucial to keeping your rental experience headed in the right direction, mainly by breaking down the solid waste inside the black water tank and keeping odors in check.
Many there are many types of RV chemicals on the market, not all of them are recommended. You want to find a treatment that will do both: digest solid waset and reduce odors. You will also want to find one that is safe to use. RV Digest-It is trusted by thousands of RVers every day as their go-to treatment and we suggest you use it as well so you can enjoy your trip without worrying about your holding tanks. If you'd like to learn more about the different types of tank treatments, check out this guide to the different types.
How to Treat Your Gray Water Tank
When using your sinks and showers at an RV park or campsite with RV hookups, we recommend leaving your gray tank valve open; allowing the water to flow freely out of the tank. One thing to make sure you do, however, is to create a dip in your waste hose that will create a temporary pee trap/water barrier keeping odors from creeping into your RV, like this:
Tips For Full Hookup / RV Park Camping
Dry Camping / Boondocking
Check local laws to make sure you can leave your gray tank valve open when you camp remotely. Otherwise you will need to find a place where you can dump your RV holding tanks.
How to Dump Your RV Holding Tanks
You should dump your RV holding tanks every 3-5 days (or when they read 2/3 or 3/4 full). We recommend dumping both tanks at the same time so you can use the gray water to rinse out your hose after you've dumped your black water.
Holding Tank Sensors
Your RV comes equipped with holding tank sensors. These sensors will let you know the level of your black, gray, and fresh water tanks.
As mentioned above, we recommend you dump your black and gray tanks when they reach the 2/3 full or 3/4 full mark, depending on the type of sensors you have. If you experience issues with your sensors during your trip where they misread after you have dumped your tank, contact the rental company for assistance or follow this guide to do it your self!
Issues often result from grease, human waste, or toilet paper getting stuck to your RV tank sensors making them misread. Always be sure to use enough water as this will help to keep your sensors reading correctly in you black tank.
When it comes to your gray tank sensors, it is important to leave your gray tank valve open. This will keep soaps and greases from your dishes, hands, and food from clinging to the gray tank sensors. The majority of all gray tank sensor issues come from grease and fat build up within the holding tank.
Where Can You Dump Your Tank?
There are many places available to dump your RV holding tanks:
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