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Old 10-07-2009, 01:11 PM   #1
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Unhappy black water sensor reads 3/8th all the time

Please help, 2008 International 23', yes it's under warranty but my local dealer won't service it because I didn't by this one (it was used and he didn't have one) from him (this is my second bought my first Bambi from him) the other dealer is 100+ miles away.

So, I'm going to try to fix this myself. Tried flushing a few times, ice and driving, fill and treat with chemicals nothing worked. Grey water and fresh work fine. There has been some talk about wiring and checking the sensor. Anyone actually done this? Calibrating, can you mess the other sensors up?

Any suggestions would be great, and yes I am trying to contact Airstream about our crappy local dealer.
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Old 10-07-2009, 01:23 PM   #2
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lets assume there is NOT hard packed black stuff 3/8th deep in the tank...

checking the sensors and wiring connection (phone style plugs) is easy...

location varies by model and it helps to KNOW where they are...

RE calibration is also easy, but time consuming.

search MICROPULSE or CALIBRATION (just use ONE word for search)

and the relevant threads will appear.
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there is a diagnostics run that determines SOME of the sources of issues (goofy board or dead/unplugged sensor)...

CONTACT catcon/micropulse or whoever now owns the company.

they've got a website and phone support that is pretty good, and will mail you the bits IF needed.
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Old 10-07-2009, 01:35 PM   #3
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Wiring (I am told) is simply telephone wire and connections under the trailer can get dirty and malfunction. I haven't looked for mine yet and suspect they are in the belly pan. The calibration does not seem to last either.

These systems don't work well, so you are not alone.

I can't understand why a dealer would refuse to service your trailer—warranty work is a good profit center for dealers and being bitter about where you bought your trailer should result in business failure. Let Airstream know about it and stay away from those jerks. Their franchise agreement may require them to work on any Airstream.

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Old 10-07-2009, 03:03 PM   #4
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Sounds to me like you have a bad sensor. I think that there is a bad run of them out here. Fortunately for you, I believe your black tank sensor is mounted right on the 3'' drain line near the dump valve, under the trailer (so it's exposed, and very easy to change).
My advice is to first see if your local Airstream dealer will go ahead and give you one, with the understanding that you'll "go straight home", change it out, and immediately return the bad one to them so they can turn it in under warranty. (This system is under warranty for 5 years).
If they won't cooperate, just BUY a new one and send the bad one to Steve Barth at Catcon (he is great to work with); he'll send you a new one. (Then you'll have you own "inventory" for next time. Yes, unfortunately I have had several ones go bad.)
Since you are satisfied with the fresh and gray indications, I would definitely replace the black sensor before trying to "recalibrate" the monitor. It is a lengthy and tedious procedure.
Should the new sensor not solve the problem, perhaps your dealer will provide you with a copy of the calibration instructions. There is a "learning curve" to it, but believe me, after a couple attempts, you will will be better (and faster) than they are....but for now, let's hope it's the sensor!!
(Your dealer may have a little hand-held device (supplied by Cat-con) that can calibrate your monitor automatically....but you will have to "bring it in", etc....you know the drill!)
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Old 10-07-2009, 08:11 PM   #5
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My first call would be to Jackson Center. Explain that you own their product, that it is under warranty and that the dealership in Alachua refuses to perform warranty work on their product. I believe they may not enjoy that report and may take action to address your problem.

I am a little shocked as that particular dealership has a decent reputation...

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Old 10-07-2009, 08:37 PM   #6
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My first call would be to Jackson Center.
beenthereanddonethat...

assuming the 'no service for YOU' details are accurate...

a/s in j/c will say...

"we have NO control over what individual dealers do regarding MANY of their operations"

"they spend CONSIDERABLE money to buy IN to the a/s product and we DO do some training...

BUT the agreement they sign EACH year does NOT specify WHO they must provide service to..."

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we've got many threads HERE on this issue (dealers NOT providing warranty service on units purchased elsewhere...

i've gone directly to j/c and discussed this issue in person with the higher monkeys...

the a/s motto on THIS issue is...

see no, hear no, speak no evil.
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warranty work is billed differently than direct customer billing, by a service shop.

the service shop has to...

- "get approval" for the planned repair or diagnostic time/charge...

- "conform" to the service/warranty BOOK in terms of hours and parts and so on relative to the PROBLEM charge...

- then submit an invoice/bill/labor/parts FORM to j/c, get THAT approved and then get paid.
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for example, a NEW a/c fails and needs to be replaced.

dometic OR a/s ships a new unit to the dealer/service shop.

the BOOK indicates the "time" allowed for this is 2-3 hours (i'm just guessing)

but the dealer is NEW or SLOW and knows from past experience THEY take 8 hours to replace an a/c unit...

so instead of DOING the warranty work, they shuffle the customer down the road....
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warranty coverage is somewhat like medicaid/medicare in terms of REIMBURSEMENT to the service shop...

and some docs don't take medicare/caid...

a/s CLAIMS their allowable for warranty service IS reasonable, payment swift and approval for work, easy to get...

not all dealers agree.
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of course THIS POSITION by a/s is total backside horse-breath....

it's a TRAVEL trailer and THEY should support customers AS they travel...

some shops GET IT and will work on ANY stream...

but others play this soup nazi game to punish locals who buy elsewhere, OR because the warranty service COSTS them $ to provide.

cheers
2air'
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Old 10-07-2009, 08:39 PM   #7
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Truth to tell, I have more or less given up on lank level sensors over the years (High tech ones or not) and hardly give them the time of day any more!

(a) My black tank is near full when I see the level coming up when I open the toilet flush valve.

(b) My gray tank is full when it starts backing up in the shower!


(c) My fresh water tank is empty when ....... well it has actually never gone empty, as we are pretty much always on city water, and I always carry just enough water in the tank to flush the toilet between RV parks.

I guess maybe it is more of an issue if you do a lot of boondocking.
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Old 10-07-2009, 08:53 PM   #8
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I agree with Wingeezer!!! My tank monitors never seem to be anywhere close. When the shower backs up the gray tank is full. When you flush and the black tank looks full it is and when water doesn't come out of the tap your fresh water tank is empty. I have spent over 50 nights in our trailer this year and I have not had a problem, or mess, using this method.
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Old 10-08-2009, 12:34 AM   #9
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The phone jack connectiona are the ones in back of the Microsensor. Make sure that when you are calibrating the back water tank only that you pull the plugs on the grey water jack and the fresh water jack first because if you don't you will have to recalibrate them too. The sensor behind a plastic nut down on the sewer pipe. The guy from microsensor told me that you have to empty the tank completely, then fill it to three gallons for the "empty" value then fill it up for the full value. The way to put it into recalibration mode is on the second to last page of the instruction booklet. Then the calibration is near the front. Took me a while to figure that one out. Good luck.
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:20 AM   #10
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I have the same problem with the black tank sensor on my 2008 Safari Sport (bought new from dealer in June). Not only does mine give a false full reading, but the sensor panel will get HOT if left on. AS tech support was helpful & advised unplugging the cable from the back of the sensor panel to verify that it is short circuiting. The actual sensor is located right at the drain valve. One day soon, I'll get around to replacing it.... I was going to just do it myself, since the cost of fuel to drive to the nearest authorized repair shop would probably be more than the sensor!
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Old 10-08-2009, 09:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javamaude View Post
Please help, 2008 International 23', yes it's under warranty but my local dealer won't service it because I didn't by this one (it was used and he didn't have one) from him (this is my second bought my first Bambi from him) the other dealer is 100+ miles away.

So, I'm going to try to fix this myself. Tried flushing a few times, ice and driving, fill and treat with chemicals nothing worked. Grey water and fresh work fine. There has been some talk about wiring and checking the sensor. Anyone actually done this? Calibrating, can you mess the other sensors up?

Any suggestions would be great, and yes I am trying to contact Airstream about our crappy local dealer.
First off Call Airstream Customer service. The local dealer should service you trailer reguardless of where you bought it. THey just don't want to dig into the black tank.
There is something (Toilet paper) stuck on the sensor. Ice WATER and driving would likely remove it. There should be be a small access panel right below it so you can disconnect the black tank drain. If you did all those things and it still does not work the sensor has to be replaced.
It not hard but if you have to drop the tanks it is an all day job.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:36 AM   #12
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Yeah me too.. considering I have been a really good customer since 2004 and 4 friends also bought trailers and airstreams from them
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:43 AM   #13
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Thanks everyone!!! I have a few more things to try. Found a non Airstream, but Thor, dealer who is MORE THAN HAPPY to take my service money for the next 50 years of my life, lol. Airstream should push their dealers a little more, I had very few problems with my 16' Bambi and expect few with this 23', but when I am stumped I shouldn't have to drive 120 miles to Tampa spend and night in a hotel to get my Airstream warranty service when I have a dealer 6 miles away.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:54 AM   #14
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I would try dumping a bucket of ice cubes down the toilet, followed by water; then, drive somewhere to go camping that has a dump station. Dump your tank, and see if this has made a difference.

We boondock more often than anything else, and we have never filled our black water tank even half full! As mentioned above, it's the gray water a fresh water tanks that go first. However, with that said, different models have different-sized tanks. Nonetheless, your trailer is fairly new, and you deserve to have everything working correctly! You might consider giving the dealer where you bought your trailer a call, and they may have some advice to share.

btw...we have the same situation, dealer-wise, where I live. When our trailer was still on warranty, we waited until we had a camping trip planned that took us near the dealer where we purchased our Airstream. When the economy tanked, I heard the dealer near us stopped carrying Airstreams...

Good luck....let us know how things got resolved!
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