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Old 11-23-2016, 02:54 PM   #1
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1 gallon gray tank capacity?

So we just picked up our 2005 Safari 30' a few days ago and have camped every day in it. I'm stumped about what appears to be a 1 gallon capacity in the gray tank. I know it should be about 35 gallons. I empty it, only about a gallon comes out. We allow a little sink water into the drain and water starts rising in the shower drain. About a half inch below the rim of the drain. I take this to mean it's full. Should I be seeing this water during normal use. I guess my sense is that I shouldn't. Thanks in advance for any advice on figuring this out. We'll be home in a few days and my next step will be to drop the tanks, but I sure hope I can find an explanation before that...

Dave


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Old 11-23-2016, 03:20 PM   #2
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It sounds to me like you have a blockage in your tank or the drain line from the tank. Be glad it is in the gray tank and not the black. You might be able to run a snake up from the outside when the shutoff is open. Maybe a garden hose? Don't know what else to tell you other than to take it in and have a tech look at it. Good luck and keep us posted. It is always to hear of a solution to a problem some of us have not faced.
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Old 11-23-2016, 03:33 PM   #3
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P-traps get plugged, snake them.
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Old 11-24-2016, 03:03 AM   #4
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You may have a number of blockages, as suggested by the two previous posts:

-- traps under sinks and shower
-- somewhere between the discharge hole inside your gray tank, and the discharge outlet downstream from the grey water gate valve.

Does your black water tank discharge correctly?

First I would snake out (or replace) the sink drain traps. They are standard fittings accessible from below. The shower drain trap may be harder to get to from below, so take off the floor grate, try a small snake down the trap, or a hose with good water pressure. With the correct spray head and water pressure, you might be able to bust up the blockage in the trap. A helper stationed at the hose bib for a quick shut-off would be good to have! Before you turn on the hose, surround the shower drain and hose with an old towel, to create a make-shift seal of sorts, to minimize over-spray etc..

If you leave the grey water discharge gate valve open, does grey water continue to drip out slowly, indicating that blockage is not total?

If you can locate the trailer in a very rural spot, or over pavement where there is a nearby storm drain, I would consider opening the grey water discharge gate valve, and sticking an old hose up the discharge line (with water turned on) to see if you can work the hose further up the drain line, and maybe break up any blockage. This will be a messy situation, so wear good gloves and old clothes because you may get drenched in old grey water. In fact it could be dangerous to your health.

Good luck!

Peter

PS -- If the traps are not the problem, and you can rule out a blockage near the final discharge end of the system, you might have one or more blockages in some horizontal runs buried in/under the trailer. These will require disassembly from inside/below obviously. Ouch!
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Old 11-24-2016, 03:43 AM   #5
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Some of the storm drains here in Florida dump into nearby creeks, please don't dump the gray water into them.
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Old 11-24-2016, 03:45 AM   #6
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I let the water in the shower collect and used a plumbers helper, plunger, to clear a blockage. Might work for you.
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Old 11-24-2016, 05:53 AM   #7
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I let the water in the shower collect and used a plumbers helper, plunger, to clear a blockage. Might work for you.
Great suggestion, using an old-style basic plunger which is flat on the bottom. [not a newer one which is more cone-shaped to conform to a toilet bowl.]
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Old 11-24-2016, 06:10 AM   #8
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It sounds like the pipe from the shower and from the sink join at some point prior to entering the gray tank. You describe the sequence of what happens when water comes into the shower pan from the sink. I'm guessing (maybe I overlooked your description) the shower doesn't drain well either.

If both are true that seems to confirm the shower and sink join into one pipe before entering the gray tank. Based on that, the partial clog may be difficult to access but you'll have to start removing access panels and looking around to find the pipes.

Assuming the blockage is as I've described a light puff or two of air pressure may clean it out. As somebody else said, start with a plunger but I don't think it would hurt to try some low pressure air from a compressor. Depending on which drain you decide to plunge or puff you will likely need to cover/block the other drain so the pressure you create doesn't just escape via the other drain. There are likely other drains and traps involved and you may have to cover them too.

Good luck.
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Old 11-24-2016, 11:41 AM   #9
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Your gray tank is full, you haven't drained it..
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Old 11-24-2016, 12:26 PM   #10
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Apparently he knows how to empty the gray tank: "I empty it, only about a gallon comes out."
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Old 11-24-2016, 12:48 PM   #11
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Thanks for the advice, everyone! Good tips for sure. I bought a short P-trap cleaner at Wally World this AM on the way to Thanksgiving dinner with our family. This little problem made for interesting, if slightly improper, table conversation! I'll report back later this afternoon after digging around the shower P-trap with my new tool. If no luck I'm going to head to the dump station and see if a reverse flushing with a hose is possible. Will depend on the area drain and concrete slopes to contain runoff into the sewer itself.


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Old 11-24-2016, 12:51 PM   #12
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You could also try an all natural drain bomb we use them periodically in our house that is connected to a septic system. Pour 1 cup baking soda to cover over top of drain then pour 1 cup white vinegar wait 1.5 minutes and repeat. Repeat 1 cup vinegar 3 times after waiting about 1.5 minutes. After the vinegar is finished run very hot water for about 1.5 minutes In the drain. The vinegar will fizz up when poured on the baking soda and flush clog out. It has always worked for us. I have very long hair and am notoriously clogging drains even with hair catchers. 😉 good luck!
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Old 11-24-2016, 02:52 PM   #13
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You should find a diagram of the pipe layout but also check to see if someone has modified it somehow. Obviously your tank isn't draining. Are you sure that the valve is working when you pull the handle? It sounds like you are just draining and filling a couple feet of pipe! It can't hurt to fill the shower a few inches deep and try a plunger to see what happens but it seems like there is a clog between the outlet and the tank.
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Old 11-24-2016, 03:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by NicheVintage View Post
You could also try an all natural drain bomb we use them periodically in our house that is connected to a septic system. Pour 1 cup baking soda to cover over top of drain then pour 1 cup white vinegar wait 1.5 minutes and repeat. Repeat 1 cup vinegar 3 times after waiting about 1.5 minutes. After the vinegar is finished run very hot water for about 1.5 minutes In the drain. The vinegar will fizz up when poured on the baking soda and flush clog out. It has always worked for us. I have very long hair and am notoriously clogging drains even with hair catchers. 😉 good luck!
I was going to say this. It works better if you seal all drain other openings first, then after you fill the last drain, seal it as well.

As a woman losing her hair in menopause, I don't let my hair go down the drain. It would quickly develop problems. I suggest a trap on your drain for hair. Yeah it's ugly and needs cleaning every shower, but it beats plumbing problems.
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Old 11-24-2016, 03:30 PM   #15
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I think... IF....the grey tank is full the outlet pipe is plugged, if that is the case go in from the dump valve, watch out when you break it loose! If the tank is not full, snake down from the shower drain, that's the closest to the tank, or plunging might work, while the sinks are flowing to add more pressure to the obstruction. let us know what worked
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Old 11-24-2016, 04:07 PM   #16
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I tried the drain/P-trap device I picked up, nothing to speak of coming out of the drain. My wife corrected my understanding of the issue, only the water in the shower causes a back up, sinks apparently drain fine into the gray tank. I feel a little more confident about isolating the issue to the shower drain itself. The back panel of the underbelly is pretty eaten up at the edges from galvanic corrosion, so I'll be able to repair both of these issues at the same time.

I'm chalking this up to the price of buying your first Airstream. Took the previous owner's word that things functioned the way they should. Hope it's not too expensive of a lesson to learn...😕


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Old 11-24-2016, 06:53 PM   #17
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I tried the drain/P-trap device I picked up, nothing to speak of coming out of the drain. My wife corrected my understanding of the issue, only the water in the shower causes a back up, sinks apparently drain fine into the gray tank.
. . .
So, just to isolate one issue here -- If you run the water in the sinks, and fill the gray tank, are you able to open the grey water drain valve, and get 35 gallons (or so) coming out of the discharge?

Your answer will eliminate a lot of variables here IMO.

Peter
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Old 11-24-2016, 08:25 PM   #18
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Peter, I plan to try that in the morning. I've been liberally using the sinks this evening to work on filling that gray tank. I'll fill the rest of the way until water starts to rise in the shower drain to know I've got a full tank (as the PO said they did to "monitor" the tank level and know when to dump). Calibrating the all tanks is also on the to-do list, but will have to wait until Sunday when we're home and I've got the time to do it.

If I don't make headway in the AM, I'm considering using masking tape to seal the roof vent and sink drains, opening the gray valve, and using a low amount of compressed air to see if I can clear the line. Again would have to wait until we're home. Not sure on PSI, but am thinking 30 lbs or so to start. Will post the solution when I find it! Thanks again for all the great advice!!!


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Old 11-24-2016, 11:03 PM   #19
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Before using compressed air, consider clearing the drain using a shop vacuum.

Pulling a stoppage instead of pushing it has worked for me in the past in some home plumbing issues.


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Old 11-25-2016, 12:33 AM   #20
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Good idea to use the shop vac. If you have a narrow hose, and don't mind cutting off one end, it might even snake down the shower trap?

Dave I would wait on the air pressure, as even small air leaks in your masking technique will prevent the air pressure will prevent building up to be effective. And, on the other side of the coin, if you do successfully build up 30 PSI, you may pop some hidden glue joints in the waste plumbing, which was not designed or intended to carry any substantial pressure.

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