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Old 03-15-2014, 06:02 PM   #1
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2013 16' Sport
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New Owner - problems with Status Monitor Black Water

Hi. We are new Airstreamers. We have never owned travel trailers with the features of our Bambi 16'. We moved up over the years from tents to teardrop, vintage 1971 Shasta Compact, and now the Bambi. So we have never had on-board plumbing systems with tanks.

On our first four-day trip, our black water tank backed up into our shower, in spite of checking the status regularly. Thankfully, our black water was mostly grey water, if you know what I mean, as we were mostly using the park's bathroom facilities.

It is important to note that on a Bambi 16', there is only one combined grey and black water tank.

During that weekend I would check the black water tank status, and it showed empty or 1/8 full. Until it overflowed, then it showed full.

Today I re-calibrated the monitor system per the instructions. I did the usual, put a few inches of water in the black water and fresh water tanks, had the system read the empty level, then filled the black water and fresh water tanks.

I know how much water I put in the tanks because I measured my hose using a 2-gallon tank sprayer and timed how long it took to fill up 2 gallons. I verified the flow rate with the fresh water tank and it was full (both visually and coming out the overflow) within seconds of when I calculated it would be full, so I am confident that I filled the black water tank properly.

To have a bit of a cushion, the black water tank holds 21 gallons, and I filled it to about 18 gallons.

I did the calibration twice. On the first try, the fresh water tank showed full when it was indeed full, but the black water showed empty. On the second try, the fresh water tank showed full but the black water tank showed 1/8 full.

I verified that the fresh water calibration was OK by emptying it half way and inspecting the tank visually, then comparing it to what the monitor was showing me. Worked fine.

So, inevitable questions:
- Is there a way to visually or otherwise determine how full the black water tank is?
- Any ideas on what could be the cause, short of replacing the sensor?

If I do need to replace the sensor I will mine this site's resources to see if there are step-by-step instructions to removing the tank and replacing the sensor, or whatever it might take to effect this repair.

BTW, apologies if I can find answers to my questions in the archives here, but I did a forum search in the appropriate categories but found similar but not exact problem I describe here.

Thanks in advance for your help. I hope to be a regular contributor here, and sorry my first post is "please help me".

P.S. This is a 2013 Bambi that has been used sparingly.
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Old 03-15-2014, 06:27 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dquarasr View Post
So, inevitable questions:
- Is there a way to visually or otherwise determine how full the black water tank is?
If the tank is located directly below the toilet (I don't own a Bambi, so I'm not sure if it is) then an old-fashioned dipstick should tell you. Use a wooden yardstick. Hold the toilet valve open (with water pump shut off so it's not constantly pouring new water down the opening). Insert the stick. See how far up the stick the water level is.

Best to check when it's supposedly empty first, then when it's supposedly full. That way, the high-water mark for the second test will definitely be higher than the high-water mark for the first test, and you won't have to wait for the stick to dry in between tests.

If the tank isn't directly below the toilet, this method won't work.
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Old 03-15-2014, 06:49 PM   #3
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I know your pain! We went through this with our 2012 16' International until I simply ripped out the existing system and converted it to something better.
Here is link to the thread I started on the conversion...
Good luck!
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http://www.airforums.com/forums/f163...se-102968.html
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Old 03-15-2014, 07:52 PM   #4
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Thanks for the responses. It's nice to know this kind of problem has been experienced. For a while I was wondering if I was crazy. I mean, really, how could you let the black water overflow?!? So, it wasn't I/O Error (idiot operator error).

I think what we'll do is simply traipse over to the dump station every two days just to be sure.

Thanks again.

If I have any revelations I will be sure to share.
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Old 03-18-2014, 02:25 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Protagonist View Post
If the tank is located directly below the toilet (I don't own a Bambi, so I'm not sure if it is) then an old-fashioned dipstick should tell you. Use a wooden yardstick. Hold the toilet valve open (with water pump shut off so it's not constantly pouring new water down the opening). Insert the stick. See how far up the stick the water level is.

Best to check when it's supposedly empty first, then when it's supposedly full. That way, the high-water mark for the second test will definitely be higher than the high-water mark for the first test, and you won't have to wait for the stick to dry in between tests.

If the tank isn't directly below the toilet, this method won't work.
Ya know, silly me, I just assumed there would be some, er, plumbing, maybe a trap between the toilet and the tank. I just verified that it's a straight shot from the toilet valve to the tank. Problem solved, at least as far as being in the dark about how full the tank is. All I'll need is a flashlight and if I want to be even more precise, a dowel stick.

Still doesn't address the problem as to why the monitor is not showing correctly, but it's a good workaround until I figure that out. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 03-18-2014, 02:28 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by dquarasr View Post
Still doesn't address the problem as to why the monitor is not showing correctly, but it's a good workaround until I figure that out. Thanks for the suggestion.
They are famous for not working AND if you do repair one, it won't stay going long.

What year is your Bambi? (you didn't fill in your profile for your trailer)
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Old 03-18-2014, 02:51 PM   #7
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These are "trust (get a general idea) and verify (look into the tank)" systems.
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Old 03-18-2014, 06:56 PM   #8
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They are famous for not working AND if you do repair one, it won't stay going long.

What year is your Bambi? (you didn't fill in your profile for your trailer)
Just updated my profile. It's a 2013 16' Sport. (Mentioned it as the last line in my original post.)

I'm getting the feeling that these status monitors are not terribly reliable. Don't ask me where I'm getting that feeling.
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:15 PM   #9
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I'm getting the feeling that these status monitors are not terribly reliable. Don't ask me where I'm getting that feeling.
Just a nasty rumour!

Actually, now that I see yours is a relatively new model, there may be hope. I believe there are two different brands of tank monitor systems that wer use, and IIRC, the newer ones can be brought to operate with some accuracy on a prolonged basis.

Try the Google option within the search that is available on the first dark blue horizontal line (assuming you are not using the mobile software: it may be different) and see if you can find what I'm talking about.

In any event, by keeping this discussion going, you increase the likelihood of a more knowledgeable member to drop some good info on your system!
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:49 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aage View Post
Just a nasty rumour!

Actually, now that I see yours is a relatively new model, there may be hope. I believe there are two different brands of tank monitor systems that wer use, and IIRC, the newer ones can be brought to operate with some accuracy on a prolonged basis.

Try the Google option within the search that is available on the first dark blue horizontal line (assuming you are not using the mobile software: it may be different) and see if you can find what I'm talking about.

In any event, by keeping this discussion going, you increase the likelihood of a more knowledgeable member to drop some good info on your system!
Google search to the rescue! When I first searched on this topic before I posted, I didn't use the Google option. Much better search results, thanks for the website tip. I am now convinced that I'll simply use the visual method to check status, to he|| with the monitor system.
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:35 PM   #11
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I may be alone, but I have concluded the monitoring systems are only installed as a new trailer sales gimmick after years of fixing my system repeatedly. The 'take a peek' method works reliably. Beyond that aggravation, most everything else has held up extremely well.
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Old 03-18-2014, 10:48 PM   #12
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You'll learn with experience just how many days you can get by, and the monitors will become only an amusement.
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Old 03-26-2014, 10:21 PM   #13
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We have a 2011 FC and we've had less than stellar performance form out black water indicator. I ended up having it replaced under warranty. The replacement has worked pretty well off an on and I've come to suspect that because the blackwater can contain all kinds of--how should I say--solid matter including RV toilet paper, that it's possible that something can lodge on or near the sensor that throw it off. Not sure, I've never examined things up close. I've found that if I use the sprayer and flush the ... stuff ... out of the tank thoroughly when draining, the sensor seems to work reasonably well afterwards. If you're in doubt, take it back to the dealer for warranty repair.
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Old 04-13-2014, 11:45 PM   #14
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This is complete crap, if you'll pardon the expression. We just de-winterized our 2014 trailer for the first time and started using the various water-based systems, only to realize the tank monitors are bupkus. The black and gray tanks read "empty" the whole time, even though we know they are filling. The fresh water tank, before we filled it, reported a complete rainbow from red to green, all lit up at once. Once we filled the fresh tank, this indicator started blinking red, which the manual says represents an empty state. That tank was so full that water was burbling back out, so we know it's full. We previously had a Phoenix Cruiser motor home with tank monitors and they worked perfectly.

How is it that Airstream or anybody at all thinks it's normal or acceptable to have an entire subsystem that doesn't work worth a poop when plenty of other RVs out there have tank monitoring systems that work beautifully?

We're going to have repeatedly long, unpleasant conversations and very-expensive-for-Airstream under-warranty visits at our dealer until we have a tank monitoring system that works. I don't care how much it costs them...I will not, repeat, NOT, keep a poopy wooden stick in my trailer in an effort to track the level of my black water tank when there are plenty of tank monitoring solutions out there that work beautifully. Airstream will just have to keep paying my dealer to fix it again and again and again, or to rip/replace the Micropulse system so the tank monitoring system in my trailer works. I realize that all readings are approximate, but this is ridiculous. I'm annoyed. Can you tell?

We had a nice time camping this weekend and we love our trailer, but that shine wears off pretty fast when stuff like this comes along.
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