Camper life is fun and games until your RV toilet breaks. Unless you want to go all wild and take care of your business in nature, you’ll have to remove the fixture and replace it. But how to do it? Do you have to call a plumber, or could you do it yourself?
To remove an RV toilet, you must first empty and clean the holding tank. Cut off the water supply and the power to the water pump. Unfasten the bolts holding the toilet in place, disconnect the water hose, then lift the toilet from its place.
How Does An RV Toilet System Work?
We all know that RV toilets are different from the toilets in brick and mortar homes, but how do they work exactly?
The main difference between a standard toilet and an RV toilet is the way they flush greywater. Home toilets use water pressure to flush and need an adequate venting system to move the water through the pipes.
RV toilets use gravity instead. When you press the hand lever or foot pedal, the mechanism lifts a sort of lid that lets greywater flow into the holding tank – also called black water tank (in an RV, the greywater tank is the tank holding dirty water from sink and shower, whereas the black water tanks hold toilet waste).
While an amount of clean water does rinse the toilet bowl, its volume and pressure are negligible. This system, in fact, is designed to save water, considering that you have limited freshwater access in a recreational vehicle.
The holding tank usually contains some chemical substances or bacteria that break down the organic substances and neutralize the fumes. In this way, your RV won’t smell like poop.
When the tank is full, you can empty it into a septic system (generally found around campsites) through a flexible hose.
7 Types of RV Toilets
While most RV toilets use the system above to hold and dispose of human waste, there are different kinds of RV toilets you can come across. Let’s check them out.
Gravity Flush RV Toilets
This type of RV toilet is the most popular and equips most mid-sized and large RVs. It is plumbed directly into the vehicle’s black tank and is connected to the freshwater tank. This system makes it easy to use in a way similar to that of home toilets. Another positive trait is its comfort; gravity flush toilets are fairly large, with a size similar to that of a round toilet.
On the downside, gravity flush toilets help deplete your freshwater supply and fill your black tank faster. Something you may not like if you’re planning to spend several days away from civilization.
Dry Flush RV Toilets
If you don’t want to consume a lot of water, consider replacing your gravity flush toilet with a dry flush one. As its name suggests, this toilet doesn’t use water but uses a system of cartridges to seal the waste in a bag every time you flush.
One cartridge provides sufficient space for about 17 flushes, and the toilet has an indicator that lets you know when it’s time to replace the cartridge (the indicator lights up when you have about two flushes left). Once a cartridge is full, you can take it out and dispose of it.
This toilet type doesn’t touch your freshwater supply and eliminates the need for emptying the black tank. However, the cartridges are expensive.
Macerator RV Toilets
Looking similar to the gravity-fed toilets, these toilets are also plumbed directly into the RV’s black tank. However, they handle waste differently.
The main difference between these toilets and the gravity-fed is that macerator toilets don’t use gravity to move the waste through the pipe but rather grind it into a slurry. This slurry is more fluid and easier to move through the plumbing compared to regular waste composed of solids and fluids.
Macerator toilets can also be placed further away from the black tank because they use electricity to dump the waste.
While the waste disposal is cleaner, these toilets come with a few downsides. On the one hand, they use more water than the gravity toilets. They also have a lot of moving parts and are easier to break. Considering that they are also more expensive, perhaps sticking to a gravity-fed system will be cheaper in the long run.
Cassette RV Toilets
Equipping smaller RVs and camper vans, cassette toilets consist of two tanks stacked one above the other and a seat. The top tank holds the freshwater, whereas the bottom one – called cassette – collects and stores the waste, replacing the RV’s black tank.
Like the macerator toilet, the cassette toilet needs electricity to power a water pump. The pump sends water into the cassette alongside the waste when you flush.
A downside of this system is that the cassette has a lower capacity compared to a black tank, holding between 2.5 and 5.5 gallons, on average. To empty it, you’ll also have to remove the cassette from its slot and dump the contents into an RV dump station. This can get messy sometimes.
Composting RV Toilets
If you’re environmentally savvy and want to use waste for the greater good, you could consider getting a composting toilet for your RV.
Its function is pretty intuitive: this toilet transforms waste into compost, which you can then use to fertilize the soil.
These toilets don’t use freshwater; thus, they are an excellent choice if you’re concerned about the water supply during your trip. The system separates the liquid and solid waste, transferring the solid into a bin containing sawdust, peat, or another type of composting medium. A crank handle allows you to mix the materials after each use.
Liquid waste goes into a holding tank with a capacity of one to two gallons. Depending on use, you might have to empty it every three to four days.
The best thing about composting toilets is the absolute lack of odors. Because the solids are turned into compost, you can also dispose of them directly in a garbage bin or bury them, depending on the local rules.
Incinerator RV Toilets
Another type of eco-friendly RV toilet, albeit expensive, is the incinerator toilet. Like the compost one, this one doesn’t use water and handles all waste efficiently. As its name suggests, the toilet incinerates your waste, turning it into ash.
It does so with the help of an electric burner that operates at about 1,000°F. The toilet surface doesn’t reach that excessive temperature, though, making it safe to use at any time.
Portable RV Toilets
These toilets aren’t designed especially for the RV but are an excellent solution for smaller vans. This category includes an array of sophisticated flush toilets as well as simple, bucket-style units. You can use them inside the RV or move them outside if you want.
If you want to prevent them from tripping and spilling all the contents on your RV floor, you should still fasten them in some way.
These toilets don’t connect to the RV’s black tank, so you’ll have to empty the toilet’s tank manually each time it fills.
Removing RV Toilet in 5 Easy Steps
Knowing what types of RV toilets there can help you decide which you want to buy for your vehicle. Still, you’ll have to remove the old toilet first. Here’s how to do it.
Things You Will Need For RV Toilet Removal
- Socket wrench
- Adjustable wrench
- Penetrating oil
- Utility knife
1. Shut off the water and flush the toilet
If your toilet uses freshwater, shut off the water supply first, either by disconnecting the water supply hose or by turning off the valve located near the toilet. You may also want to cut off the water pump to prevent accidents. After you’ve stopped the water, flush the toilet to release all pressure on the line.
2. Locate the fasteners
Each RV toilet is fastened to the RV floor with bolts, but their location can vary from toilet to toilet. For instance, most Thetford toilets have bolts located on each side, usually under a plastic cap or lid. Find these caps and remove them to expose the bolts.
3. Remove the drain hose
Place a rag under the drain hose and unscrew it with a socket wrench or an adjustable wrench. You could also use a bucket to catch any drips if you have enough space. Otherwise, you might want to use an impermeable rag or cloth.
4. Unfasten the bolts and remove the toilet
After you’ve disconnected the hose, unscrew the bolts that fasten the toilet to the floor and lift it. If the toilet is a bit stuck, move it from side to side until you feel it coming loose, then lift it right up. You can also use penetrating oil to loosen the bolts if they are stuck.
5. Remove the gasket and clear the floor
While RV toilets don’t drain through the floor, they are usually fixed in place on top of a rubber gasket that absorbs shocks. This gasket must be replaced each time you replace the toilet; thus, if it is stuck in place, you can remove it with a utility knife. That’s it. You can now install a new toilet.
Removing an RV toilet isn’t hard, but you may still have questions. Let’s find out the answers below.
Are all RV toilets interchangeable?
Most RV toilets are interchangeable, especially if your vehicle has a Thetford or Dometic toilet and you wish to replace it with a new toilet from one of those brands. As leaders in the sector, both Thetford and Dometic now make porcelain and ceramic toilets for RVs, which are more comfortable and more durable compared to their plastic counterparts.
However, some brands and toilet models can only be replaced by the same type of toilet. Thus, you should check your vehicle’s and toilet’s specs to see if you can replace it with another model.
Are all RV toilets the same size?
Most RV toilets have a standard size, but that’s not a rule set in stone. Nowadays, you can find toilets for your recreational vehicle in a variety of sizes.
How much does it cost to replace an RV toilet?
Replacing an RV toilet can cost you anywhere from $200 to $500, depending on the toilet you want and whether you’ll replace it yourself or hire a professional.
Can you put a composting toilet in an RV?
Yes. Composting toilets are designed specifically for RV’s, allowing campers to deal with their waste more efficiently and mess-free. These toilets are also eco-friendly, but they are more expensive upfront compared to the traditional gravity toilets.
Replacing the RV toilet isn’t complicated, and you could do it yourself if you want to save some cash. With plenty of options out there, all you have to do is decide what kind of toilet you want to install in the place of the old one.