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Old 09-20-2017, 05:50 AM   #1
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League City , Texas
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Toilet repair or replacement in the Interstate

Lo and behold, there is not a single thread on this forum that describes an Interstate toilet retrofit, other than mentioning composting toilets, and trust me - we are NOT going there. Never, not in the ultra-humid, scorching-hot deep South where that option is neither possible nor practical nor smart.

As I mentioned in my TOP TEN LESSONS FROM AN OFF-GRID MONTH ON THE ROAD blog post, we quite suddenly developed an obvious air leak at our black tank / Thetford interface in the final two or three days of our recent trip. Our paperwork is in the van which is back in storage by this time, so I don't yet have the exact model number, but I'm 100% sure it's a Thetford.

Mercifully, there was no liquid elopement, only an obvious venting issue. That changed during the 3-mile drive from our house to the storage unit, after which we saw small leak trails emerging for the first time. Fortunately, our storage facility has an excellent dump station with a really long water hose, and I was able to purge that black tank like it's never been purged before, in preparation for the upcoming repair.

Interstate owners may never have reported this kind of failure on this forum, but Roadtrek Life recently went to grain pains to describe his recent toilet replacement. He is now on his third toilet in six years (!). I don't feel so frustrated about ours now that I've learned what can happen with these things and why (because of arguably poor design factors). He even took a saws-all and chopped his Thetford in half to show where the failure points are. I love that guy's blog - it's one of the most valuable on the entire internet, as far as Class Bs are concerned.

Anyway, before LB_3 and I get started on this project, I thought I'd ask the question:

Have any of you replaced your Airstream-installed commode, and if so, how and why?

It is possible that some people have done it and maybe not felt compelled to talk about it - it's kind of a yucky topic.


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Old 09-20-2017, 06:53 AM   #2
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Unfortunately, I cannot help with your main question. But, I will mention a water toilet as an option. When restoring/renovating my '67 Caravel, I wanted the toilet and black tank gone as I did not want to mess with the black water. I contemplated a composting toilet briefly, but ultimately settled on a waterless toilet by Laveo. Let me tell you, the Laveo toilet is amazing.

I had read about "flushing" issues with small amounts of liquid, but we have not experienced that issue as we carry a small water bottle full of cat litter to add weight to the liquid before flushing. So far, we have left "flushes" in the toilet for over two months in Central Texas heat and you cannot smell anything, nothing, nada, ever.

Another added benefit: It is fun to watch the toilet go through the flushing routine.

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Old 09-20-2017, 07:16 AM   #3
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Found the Laveo interesting. It reminds me of my daughter's Diaper Genie. Would be a good option for the "head" on my boat.....
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Old 09-20-2017, 07:18 AM   #4
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Is that the one that operates on the same principle as a Diaper Genie?

If so, what do the operational costs look like?

When I looked at this question previously (some time ago), it seemed like some of those options were good for occasional use, but if multiple people are going to be using such a commode continually for a month or more, then the cartridges or other feedstock materials get prohibitively expensive.
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Old 09-20-2017, 10:33 AM   #5
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Also recommend that you consider the Laveo. I replaced the unused toilet on our new AI Lounge so that we could have that functionality without the hassle of using the plumbing (we otherwise don't sleep, cook or wash in the vehicle).

Comments on the Home Depot listing for this product are quite informative and probably representative of the range of experiences:

Operational cost depends upon usage, and tolerance for that cost depends upon affluence, neither being topics I'd want to address in this forum.

I wanted a reversible installation, so after removing the OEM toilet and flange I cut a slab of rigid HDPE polyethylene from McMaster Carr to precisely fit the top of the raised pedestal on which the OEM toilet sits. The Laveo is screwed into this slab, and the slab adheres to the pedestal with double-sided foam tape.

The installation has worked fine although the seating height is above the short OEM toilet. Like others we've had some issues with the Laveo, but are generally content with it.
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Old 09-20-2017, 11:40 AM   #6
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I just watched some of the vids on the Laveo. Unfortunately this manufacturer makes one wallopingly massive assumption - that there is trash service everywhere one might travel. That there are dumpsters or other receptacles available. This is not true of remote boondocking, where all waste management becomes a special challenge. With respect to solid waste, there are exactly two responsible choices: Burn it (vastly preferable but not possible on rainy days), or accumulate large quantities of it over time, and portage it back to civilization for disposal (not possible in a van).

I don't even want to think about trying to burn what essentially becomes a Hefty bag full of urine and feces. That has disaster written all over it. I'd need to build my own on-site incinerator of sorts.

When I'm really remote for an extended period, not only do I segregate solid waste, I even segregate gray waters. Dish water (which is putrescible) gets captured and dumped away from the camp site because it might attract critters. Other wash waters can transmit through the wet bath / gray tank and be allowed to discharge directly to grade. And the question may then be asked, why even generate body wash waters inside the van? Why not shower outside? (a) because it may be pouring rain outside, (b) because it might be 40 degrees outside and (c) because the flies might eat a person alive outside, the way only Canadian flies can do. On this recent trip, I was heating lake water using the Kelly Kettle, bathing in the wet bath using a bucket of it, and discharging the water through the gray tank.
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Old 09-20-2017, 01:56 PM   #7
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I've removed and replaced the Thetford toilet in my 2011 Interstate, after the techs at Jackson Center broke it when they did the same thing (is there anything in this RV I haven't repaired or replaced?).

Rather than drive 800 miles back, I did it myself.

Removing the toilet is easy.

First, close the water valve, and remove the water connection to the toilet.

Second, unbolt the two bolts on either side (they are under a cover that may have to be turned or removed to gain access.

Third, lift it straight up and remove it. If you have the model that has the swing out panel, it's a lot easier to remove the hardware and swing it wide open and take it out through that opening, but not required.

You will see underneath there is a a rubber gasket, and a common problem is that gasket dries out or is not making a good seal, and when it does, well, that's when it starts emitting a less than pleasing odor.

If the gasket isn't damaged, you can clean it off, and then use a lubricant to help seal it to the bottom of the toilet. You can also replace it.

Under the toilet, there is also a cheap plastic flange that it bolts to, and that flange is screwed into a plywood under the fiberglass, and it is attached to a downspout that is custom made that goes into the tank. So all that holds the toilet down is two bolts screwed to a cheap plastic flange that in turn is screwed into plywood under the fiberglass. If users are weight challenged, it is a likely point of failure. I can't remember if it screws down or simply drops down, but it seems like the custom PVC pipe is about 3" long and simply drops down into the tank, and then I used silicone to seal it to the tank's pipe down the hole. The guys at JC broke the flange, so the toilet was no longer even being held down by the bolts other than by gravity and friction. The flange is not a standard toilet flange you can get locally. I had to replace the flange, screw it down , then replace the seal, lubricate it, and replace the toilet. Problem solved.

The symptom I had was a toilet that did not seem secure and odors, since the toilet was not securely bolted down to the flange.

It's not complicated. After you remove it, you can see how it fits together. Your problem may not be the toilet at all, but rather, the flange and connections to the tank that are the issues causing your problem,
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Old 09-20-2017, 02:33 PM   #8
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1999 31' Land Yacht
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I've redone several RV toilets. They're pretty similar, regardless of brand; about the main variation I've seen involves (1) electrically operated slide valves rather than mechanical ones; (2) heavier ceramic rather than lighter-weight plastic material; (3) the exact dimensions and weight of the toilet (e.g., height, center of hole to back of unit). For the weight savings and for the dimensions of the available space, I installed a plastic Dometic 300 in our 67 (Amazon).

The 67 doesn't permit a whole lot of viewing room for the reinstall, so it's a little tricky to get the two bolts to fit right up through the two holes of the toilet. If your Airstream is in this sense similar, it helped to use shorter bolts (hardware store; these are not RV parts per se); they come with new nuts and stabilizing tabs. Use them! Also, if you don't already have one, get yourself a new RV toilet seal, too (any RV store, Amazon, etc.); they're made of soft rubber. Then, when all is ready except for any sealant you want to use, dry-practice installing the toilet a few times so that you can put in the toilet without fumbling about. When you've got the moves down pat, then put in the sealant, install the toilet, and tighten it down. For the record, I used automotive blue silicone as a sealant (auto parts store, etc).


Originally Posted by gmillerok1 View Post
I've removed and replaced the Thetford toilet in my 2011 Interstate ...
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Old 09-20-2017, 04:23 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by gmillerok1 View Post
.....So all that holds the toilet down is two bolts screwed to a cheap plastic flange that in turn is screwed into plywood under the fiberglass. If users are weight challenged, it is a likely point of failure. ...,
OR... OR...

...what if the users are NOT weight-challenged, but maybe somebody uses the commode while the vehicle is underway on a bad road?

And what if the Interstate doesn't have air suspension, such that the bad road results in the pulling of adverse Gs and the toilet, buttocks it is supporting, and the rest of the user's mass are all pounded down into the earth collectively with enormous force? What happens to the plastic flange then?

I don't have proof that's what happened in our case, but I have suspicions. One more reason to consider air suspension.

Someone out there is going to say, "Bbbbbut you shouldn't be on the commode while the vehicle is underway."

Trust me - if you drive 760 miles per day, you'll have little choice. You'll need to slip in there for a quick one and then bolt back to your seat and seatbelt. We just can't stop every time someone needs to go. That kind of travel is like a freaking international flight to Europe. You just have to unbuckle your seatbelt and make a run for it.

Funny thing is, the other night, my husband got distracted, took a wrong turn, and didn't join me at the dump station right away (he had to drive me back from the storage unit drop-off). He got agitated because he noticed that we'd busted another headlight - the second one inside three weeks. That's not normal. Again, I'm betting that it occurred because of the pounding that the rig took over the 3,000 mile drive home from Canada.

Air suspension. I'm hoping we can get it, because the lack of it is shortening the lives of numerous components, I suspect.
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Old 09-20-2017, 04:28 PM   #10
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1985 31' Excella
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Replaced mine with a dometic 320 series... little bit higher for us old folks..and more oval.. so that you don't miss... grin... It has a glass bowl... but, plastic base... the only issue I had was that the org flang had to be turned so that the bolts were at 9 and 3 position from the org other position.. all it took was to remove the flange screws.. and with a homemade tool...(2/4 with couple of small bolts/screws) made a flange turner...

After putting it in the right place.. put the NEW screws in... and that ended the most difficult part of the retrofit... Always use a new gasket... and don't over tighten the hold down bolts ... if you do it breaks the plastic flange... pooo....

Then came the supply line... which we had to use a special 1/2 in pipe thread toilet plastic fitting...

... and done...

The new toilet uses less water.. keeps itself cleaner... and you don't need a pull bar to get up and down on it... as its about 4 inches higher... great improvement over the org piece of junk...

We like the fact that you can change the water valve... without taking the toilet out... and the seals in the ball section can be accessed again without taking the toilet apart... only drawback was that everything is controlled by one ped... instead of two...

We don't keep much water in the toilet.. only enough to keep the seals wet... and have not had any issues with water bouncing out...

Good luck in doing yours... I would send the labor and parts bill back to JC and make them pay for the damages they caused... and/or cost to get to and from JC at least...
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Old 09-22-2017, 08:46 PM   #11
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Only thing I want to say is that if you don't want to get a composting toilet that's certainly your prerogative, I am not even inclined to convince you that you should, but for the sake of others who may be reading this I have to say We really like it.

My wife and I have been full time in our airstream with a composting toilet (natures head) for nearly two years and love the convenience, and it smells way less than the black tank after a week or two of use. Dumping is a bit more physical but way less gross, and also less frequently needed. It may seem because of where it goes and how it works that this would not be true but it is absolutely true, and hot weather does not negatively affect the smell. It's important to use the proper type of fill we use coconut coir, there are others.

Craziest statement yet "IT DOES NOT STINK" seriously it doesn't, it doesn't smell like roses or something you would want to eat it mostly smells like peat moss or potting soil, maybe a strong slightly off version of those smells but in no way does the smell resemble what you would expect it to smell like even shortly after a use, the smell just goes away after you stir it up... pretty much magic, I don't know why, I agree that this doesn't seem possible, but it does.
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Old 09-23-2017, 07:00 AM   #12
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One thing no one has mentioned:

In my 2012 Interstate, the toilet is only 12 inches tall, set on top of a box that contains the top half of the black tank. It's not a full-height toilet. Is the toilet in a T1N Interstate a full-height toilet? Everyone so far has been assuming it is, but if it's not, then your replacement options are much more limited. So it seemed prudent to ask.
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Old 09-23-2017, 06:36 PM   #13
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Ours is between 14 and 15 inches high. Thetford Aqua Magic V.

I understand now why Roadtrek Life chopped his Thetford in half. Fortunately and unfortunately, what needs to be shown about this Thetford... you can't put pictures of that on the internet. You just can't. And he did not. Instead, he simply says, "The toilet bowl inside is hollow and open to waste splatters during use, very unhygienic" but that does not convey the key information - you don't GET IT until you SEE it, and he didn't show it. He showed a CLEAN Thetford sawed open, which is a very different thing that doesn't convey the point.

Basically what he meant by that statement is that there is only gravity to direct the waste downward upon flushing. There is no structural impedance to the waste accumulating all over the inside surfaces of the entire toilet where it cannot be removed. There's the outer wall of the toilet, and the inner wall of the bowl, with a gap between them. That gap functionally becomes an integral part of the blank tank system - it's hard to imagine anyone would design something so horribly, but that is the truth of it. It's disgusting beyond comprehension. When you are sitting on this kind of Thetford, you basically have a few millimeters of plastic between you and gobs of solid waste adhered to the underside.

This design atrocity is probably not the sole cause of our issues, but for sure, it's a contributing factor, and that toilet is getting replaced with a better design.

I can't take pictures so I drew this diagram to further communicate what I mean, and what Roadtrek Life means:

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Old 09-23-2017, 09:50 PM   #14
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Dometic 300 series with ceramic bowl is the way to go

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