The Best Ways to Prevent RV Plumbing Problems

Updated on September 20, 2017
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I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of the equipment in my coach.

If you want to keep your RV's plumbing system functioning properly, the best way to do so is to use preventive maintenance methods that work!

You can avoid potentially damaging and expensive problems by making it a point to

  1. be careful about items you allow to go down drains,
  2. use correct and safe cleaning tools,
  3. practice basic maintenance,
  4. choose appropriate chemicals and
  5. winterize when necessary.

What a typical RV plumbing system looks like.
What a typical RV plumbing system looks like. | Source

Protect Drains, Tanks and Sewer Lines

Keeping drains, hoses and sewer lines clear is one of the best ways to eliminate or reduce plumbing problems. Each has a specific job to perform, and it's important to understand them.

  1. Drains are meant to catch debris that can harm your pipes .
  2. Tanks hold waste and
  3. sewer lines are the conduits that allow you to remove it from your RV.

So, if you want your plumbing system to function properly, the best way to do so is to keep it clean and clear of waste and debris.

You do this by

  • never letting anything enter plumbing conduits or tanks that can stop them up,
  • dumping tanks regularly and properly,
  • cleaning drains as needed and
  • maintaining and sanitizing waste, gray and fresh water tanks regularly.

How to Dump, Clean and Maintain Your RV's Black Water Holding Tank and How to Care for Your RV's Fresh Water Tank give you specific directions for taking care of your coach's tanks.

The following video shows you what can happen if you don't follow this advice!

Only Use RV Approved Cleaning Tools and Chemicals

Your house does not have sewer, gray and fresh water tanks, but it does have drains and plumbing.

Just as you take care to keep them clear and clean, so you should do the same with the various parts of your coach's plumbing system.

For the most part, however, the tools, chemicals and equipment you use at home cannot be used in your motor home or camper due to the way its systems are configured and the materials with which it is made.

For example, you cannot use a plunger to unclog your RV’s toilet or pour Drano in it because

  1. using a plunger will not work and
  2. Drano will damage your pipes and fittings.

The Best Tools and Chemicals for RV Sewer Tank Care tells you which items you can safely use and how to best utilize them.

Each has its own purpose and should be used accordingly.

For example, if your coach does not have a back wash system, you will need to use a special wand like the one shown below that hooks up to an external hose. This tool, properly used, will pressure clean the inside of your waste water tank and help to keep sludge from building up on its walls.

There are several different brands and types from which to choose, but my husband and I have found that the ones manufactured by Camco are reliable, inexpensive an do a great job.

However, if the coach does have a built in system for doing this, you will not need a toilet cleaning wand.

Either way, you must make pressure cleaning the inside of that tank a regular part of its maintenance.

Camco 40074 Flexible Swivel Stik with Shutoff Valve
Camco 40074 Flexible Swivel Stik with Shutoff Valve

This tool, when hooked to an external hose, will work to pressure clean the inside of your RV's waste water tank and help to keep sludge from building up.


Dump Your Tanks Regularly

Many RV owners think that if they simply empty their sewer tank regularly, that will eliminate problems.

This simply is not true. As highlighted in the above noted articles, you have to

  • empty,
  • back wash,
  • cleanse your lines
  • and sanitize


In addition to this, every so often you have to do a deep cleaning because if you skip this step, your RV is going to start smelling! The above noted article tells you how to do this.

Regular and correct dumping is the only way to maintain the pipes, hoses, valves and fittings in your RV's plumbing system and the best way to avoid serious problems.

Learn how to properly dump your tanks to avoid plumbing problems.
Learn how to properly dump your tanks to avoid plumbing problems. | Source

Maintain Showers and Tubs

Performing preventive maintenance on showers and tubs is fairly simple.

You should always keep a drain over the opening of the shower floor for the purpose of keeping matter from falling into the plumbing lines.

Shower heads get clogged and both shower and tub drains fill with residue and soap scum.

  • If the drain is heavy with soap scum, remove it, soak in CLR, rinse thoroughly, and put it back on.
  • If shower heads and faucets start leaking, the best thing to do is replace them.

RV shower heads are specialty items because they have a stop/start feature that allows travelers to take navy baths. There are several types available, some of which I have used but have not lasted long. The one I show below works well, is inexpensive and is durable.

Faucets and hoses are readily available at reasonable costs and the installation instructions are easy to follow. If you don't want to do this repair yourself, any plumber will easily be able to do it for you.

Finally, make sure to keep your fresh water line open when you are using your coach. Otherwise, the water will overflow its holding tank and flood your coach.

The weight of the additional water may also crack the tank, so this is important to remember.

Camco 43712 RV Shower Head with On/Off Switch (Off-White)
Camco 43712 RV Shower Head with On/Off Switch (Off-White)

I use this shower head in my own RV, and it works great.


Use Gentle Products on Your Toilet

People often forget that their toilet is part of their sewer tank system.

As such, it also needs to be cleaned and maintained regularly.How to Clean and Sanitize the Interior of Your RV has a highly detailed section about how to do this.

If toilets are not kept clean,

  • urine and feces can harden, stick to the toilet bowl and begin to smell,
  • the reservoir can discolor and
  • toilet paper can get stuck to the flapper and cause it to malfunction.

These issues bring germs and vermin and make the commode a danger to daily health.

This is why it is important to use cleaning products that will disinfect safely and not harm the toilet or any parts of your plumbing system.

Spic N Span liquid or PIne Sol both are good to use for this purpose, but you need to rinse these products thoroughly after use because they will get sticky if you fail to do so.


If you live or travel in a cold climate, you must take steps to protect your pipes and hoses from freezing and breaking.

If you are living in your coach:

  • turn off all of the water except when you need to use it,
  • keep your tanks as empty as possible,
  • wrap exterior sewer and water hoses in heavy aluminum insulation or thick towels and
  • protect your undercarriage by putting bales of hay or heavy material near the bottom of the coach.

If your unit is stored follow the directions in the video for winterizing your unit.

Proper Care of Your Plumbing System Is Important

It is important to perform preventive maintenance on your RV's plumbing system with the goal of being to sanitize without damaging.

Nobody wants a clogged toilet or a shower that stops working during a vacation!

You won't have to worry about such issues if you protect your RV's plumbing system by practicing good preventive maintenance.

Have you learned anything important about maintaining your RV's plumbing system by reading this article?

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© 2015 Sondra Rochelle


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