Nina’s in the shop…….

I’m sure all you dedicated blog readers have been dying to know about my latest adventures -> Have I found a swimsuit? Did I have a wardrobe malfunction in the hot tub? Has the RV survived my repair job? These are indeed  fascinating and complex topics which require lengthy and deep mediation so I can present them “just so”. Although I’m certain the swimsuit question is the top of everybody’s “want to know” list, I’m actually going to do an about-switch and give you the story of the RV repair instead.

Ridiculously happy to be replacing tank valves…yup, that’s the kinda woman I am all right

Now believe it or not despite my inherent clumsiness, complete lack of directional sense and natural blondness I am actually a very handy woman. For a year during my student days I worked part-time in a machine shop building a massive (15 by 15 by 30 foot) metal and brass art installation so I can both drill, CNC, weld and turn a lathe. Letting Nina-the-tasmanian-devil loose in the shop always seemed to scare the bejesus out of everyone else, and I would consistently come out looking like a coal miner, but oh, how I loved it. In the RV I actually do much of the “handy” stuff and would happily do more if I knew anything about it…which I don’t…which naturally doesn’t stop me..

So yesterday I decided it was time to tackle the tank valves. Now, we’ve had a small leak from our black tank valve for some time. For those of who you are blissfully unaware of what I’m talking about, our black tank is the handy container that captures all the fun stuff coming from toilet and the valves are the things you pull so the sh*t comes out…more or less exactly. Having a black tank leak is, as you can imagine, unsettling to the home in a rather smelly way.

The tools for the job. New tank valves, ratchet wrench, regular wrench, plumbers grease and nitrile gloves

So I gathered my tools, headed out the back and started flushing & draining the tanks to prepare for my little “operation”. As I was hanging by the wet bay the lady next door eyed me curiously

“What are you doing dear?” she asked, surprised to see me on the “dark side” of the RV
“I’m going to change out our tank valves” I said with a giddy smile on my face
“Oh…..” replied the lady, obviously at a total loss for words

At that point she must have gone in to talk to her husband about the “crazy woman who obviously needs help” as no more than 2 minutes later the man came out to see for himself…

“What are you doing?” has asked, seemingly not having believed his wife
“Well, still planning to change out the tank valves” I repeated happily
“Errmmm, I see” he replied, clearly a little uncomfortable “isn’t your husband here?”
“Nope, anyway it’s more fun if I do it myself” I chirped
“Ermmmm” he manged to repeat, not quite knowing how to respond “well, if you need any help I am right here. Any help at all” he added, to make the point clear

At this point the neighbors took out their chairs, poured some icy drinks and posted themselves rather conspicuously outside their RV to watch the show. Oh, this was going to be good…..

Undaunted by my new audience I attacked the project with rigor. Now I admit that tackling the tanks are not something every woman would enjoy, but thankfully no-one has ever called me any woman nor do they understand the giddy fun of mechanical success. And anyway plumbing is not semiconductor science (which is what I did before)….basically just pieces of stuff stuck together so that liquid can flow through it. As long as the seals are tight and you’ve got plumbers grease on hand you’re pretty much good to go.

The whole project in a picture
1/ Unbolt the old valves
2/ Pull everything apart
3/ Grease up the new seals
4/ Attach seals to the pipes
5/ Put everything back together and bolt it up

So, after I drained the tanks I unbolted the old valves, took out the valves & seals, reinserted the new seals w/a good layer of goop, aligned the valves so everything matched and put it all back together. The hardest part of the entire project was getting the new seals properly aligned with the pipes & valves since they kept slip-sliding around and not quite staying in the groves where they were supposed to be. But once the thing was back together it was a no-brainer. A light hand-tightening of the bolts and everything tested leak-free. Whoo Hoooo! The neighbours may have been a tad disappointed, but I was ecstatic.

And that’s the way…aha, aha…you do it…

Another project complete…
Another exciting day in the RV…
And some plumbing mastery…

Who knew RV tanks could be so much fun ?

P.S. For those considering this project themselves I bought our new metal-handle Valterra tank valves on Amazon HERE. In our motorhome the black tank valve is 3″, the grey 1.5″, but you should always measure your own before buying. The grease and other tools were from the hardware store. The giddy sense of self-satisfaction was free :)

67 Responses to Nina Vs The RV Tank Valves – A Gripping Tale Of Plumbing Mastery….

  1. Linda Z says:

    A woman after my own heart — you go girl and a big hip-hip-hooray for us handy-women!!

  2. jil mohr says:

    Showoff ………….:) and with an audience…..I am so impressed.

  3. Sherry says:

    My HEROINE! Way to show em’ Nina! Black Tank valves no less, ewwwww!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Actually it really wasn’t that bad. We have a back-flush on our black tank so I did ~3 flush & drains before I started the project. It didn’t smell of Channel no.5, but it’s was decently clean.
      Nina

  4. Linda says:

    You’re awesome!!!!

  5. Love that giddy feeling! lol

  6. Joe Anderson says:

    Well Nina if I still had my business I’d be sending you a job application. Sounds like you’make a grreat machinest. I had several CNC’s of all types and a100 people working for me. It was a great life which I enjoyed but after more than 40 year it was time to relax get a motor home and see things. Maybe we should keep track of where you are just incase we break down and need road side repairs.
    Have a good evening.
    JRA

    • libertatemamo says:

      Several CNC’s…sweet! They’re they coolest machines. Not sure I’m handy enough to fix everything in the RV, but I’m always ready to give it a try.
      Nina

  7. Donna says:

    I’m always amazed when people act as if a woman can’t do something just because they are a woman. In the past 13 years, I’ve done most repairs on my home by myself. The only time I’ve had to ask for help is if I just didn’t have the muscle strength. I’ve even built my own PC with the help of instructions off the internet. But, I will leave electrical things and the car to the experts.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Awesome Donna! Building your own PC is mega-cool and lots of fun!! Not everyone is handy-minded (that goes for men too!), but I’ve known plenty of folks who are…or just need a little direction to help them on their way.
      Nina

  8. Anne H says:

    I bet the sweet smell of accomplishment covered any lingering blank tank odor! Good job!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Thankfully I have a very poor sense of smell (comes from many years volunteering in dog rescue and picking up poop haha), so I’m pretty “steely” when it somes to these things. But you’re right, the sense of accomplishment was great!
      Nina

  9. Samantha says:

    Hahahah, I was also going to comment before I saw your comment Nina… at how the neighbours must have thought it VERY STRANGE that you were taking photos of the whole procedure! hahahaah

    • libertatemamo says:

      I definitely think they thought I was a bit of an odd fish. I’m sure they wondered about all the pictures, but were too wierded out to ask :)
      Nina

  10. Lee and Shelia says:

    Oh my Shelia (my wife) says you have the Vanna White stance in your last picture. Sounds and looks like it was quite a show. Thanks again for your blog. You are (as it was already stated) W-O-M-M-A-N….

  11. John says:

    Love it! Too bad there’s not a transcript of what the neighbors were thinking. ;-)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, it would have been fun to listen in to that conversation. They are really nice (and helpful) folks, but just couldn’t quite believe I’d actually want to do that job on my own.
      Nina

  12. Donna K says:

    I can see a new career in your future – tutorial videos featuring Nina, RV RepairWOMAN!!

  13. The Great American Southwest says:

    Do you have a sister?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Actually I do and the lovely lady is coming to visit me soon…….whooooo hoooooo! Will be writing on the blog about it next week :)
      Nina

  14. geogypsy2u says:

    Thanks for taking the photos. Now I understand how relatively easy this job is. No leaking here but the pull sticks so think I’ll try the oily stuff in the tank first. Nice job.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah if it’s just sticking (no leaks) it’s more likely just the lubrication that needs to be redone rather than a repalcement of the whole valve. You can try buy one of the brand-name jobs (e.g. Thetford Dump Valve Lubricant) or use regular mineral oil down the tanks. Either one should help “lube” the valves.
      Nina

      • libertatemamo says:

        Another idea for easy lubrication of the valves is to drill a small hole in the end of the valve and use a silicon spray. Just “discovered” this idea here (near bottom of page) and really like it!:
        http://www.macandchris.com/2006TechandProjects.htm
        Also I’m thinking if you have easy access to the valves you could even just spray some silicon lube from the inside of the pipes (where you attach your sewer hose). As long as you can easily reach the valves, this would work too.
        Nina

      • geogypsy2u says:

        I have the valve lubricant, just have to do it. I’m lazy that way.

  15. stan watkins says:

    Very sexy. In the immortal words of Pepe Le Pew. ” Le Rowww Rowww ” You have one lucky husband. I once had to perform a valveectomy with a full black tank in the middle of the desert. My wife and kids just stayed in the rig gagging.

  16. LuAnn says:

    I am thoroughly impressed. Not something that I would be tackling on my own. :)

  17. Bob says:

    I like the way on the package it states, “easy open”. I’d bet however, that the packages themselves were a b*tch.
    That’s one of the few times I’ve ever injured myself….opening one of those stupid packages. (box cutters be sharp)
    Nice job.

    • Gunta says:

      Someone suggested using a can opener, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
      It’s already been said, but I would love to have heard the conversation from the peanut gallery… especially about the picture taking bit. :)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Actually believe it or not these packages really WERE easy to open. The plastic wasn’t fused together like it usually is, but simply had a flap that wrapped around the outside of the cardboard. Flip the flap and the whole thing opened up. No cutting needed at all! I was impressed.
      Nina

  18. Steve and Jean plus Max the bernese mountain dog says:

    Nina,
    From my years in the IC business, I think plumbing and semiconductors are alike, I may even be able to find an old CY fab training doc which presented an IC as a network of “sources” and a “drains”! The geometries of your M/H’s valves may be a bit larger than 13 nm however. Great job on the fix and the description of how to do it. It is now in my maintenance file folder!
    Hope all is going well with Paul.
    We always enjoy seeing your blog posting in our in box. The comments from your Blog followers are wonderful. We’ve learned so much from following your travels and those who comment on your Blog.
    We did go to Cape Blanco and met the store keeper who had wonderful comments about you and Paul. You were right on when it came to the Crazy Norwegian in Port Orford. We really enjoyed the fish and chips.
    Steve and Jean

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know you make a sound point…semiconductors really are just a bunch of stuff connected together so that electrons can flow through them. A tad smaller, but essentially the same idea hahaha.
      So glad you guys are still following the blog and have enjoyed some of the recommendations on it! It’s great to have you all along for the ride.
      Nina

  19. georgeyates says:

    Excellent repair job, all these things are just nuts and bolts, not really that hard if you have the right tools and time.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s so true. I think folks get overly worried about these things. Plumbing is really something that I think everyone can handle.
      Nina

  20. Dave says:

    Good for you Nina. I too have a very talented wife who helps me on projects and repairs.

  21. Reading your blog, I never doubted your ability to fix anything. Well done!

  22. Well-done! If we ever have a black tank, I’ll take courage from this story.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well you ducks definitely fly to a different tune on the loo. But you still have a grey tank right? I replaced both valves on this project.
      Nina

  23. Paul Dahl says:

    You have now proven you are more mechanically talented than 95% of male RVers! ;c)

  24. Upriverdavid says:

    Nina, after the first two paragraphs I thought maybe you were working on their motorhome by mistake…….
    I noticed the cargo heater, did it come from the factory or aftermarket?
    David

    • libertatemamo says:

      That came factory installed. We rarely use it since we rarely camp in spots that are cold enough to worry about the tanks freezing. Plus it’s a power-hungry device so not something we can use dry-camping (which we do alot).
      Nina

  25. Joe Anderson says:

    Hi Nina
    I had a large CNC lathe that would swing a part 26.5″ dia. When we lived in Fl I made a lot of part for the show rides for Disney and Universal Studios.
    Now why I am writing today another question Murlene has about cats. Do you have to worry about yours getting out when you open the door?
    Do you do any HDR bracketing with your photos?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hi Joe,
      Sweet CNC!!
      For the cats no I don’t really worry about them running outdoors. They were indoor cats for the 1st part of their lives and I leash-trained them at age of ~6. In the beginning I made sure they *never* went out without the leash, so they had a strong association w/ the harness & the outdoors. In the RV they’ll actually sit at the door until I put it on before they come out. Occasionally they’ll run down the stairs if I’m too slow, but they always stay close to the rig.
      For photos I haven’t done any HDR bracketing. It’s something I would like to learn, but haven’t really gotten into it so far. I do quite a few two-exposures esp. for sunsets (so one exposure for the foreground and one for the background) which I combine in photoshop, but haven’t evolved from there to “true” HDR bracketing.
      Nina

  26. My kind of Gal, I bet you also make a fabulous dinner. Plumbing is like cooking/baking, requires a lot of common sense and vision.

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know before I became gluten-intolerant baking was my speciality…something about baking just speaks to my geek soul. Didn’t used to be much of a regular cook, but I’ve improved alot over the years. Paul, on the other hand, is an outstanding cook!
      Nina

  27. I get a kick out of the funny looks on people’s faces when they see a woman driving the truck and pulling the 5th wheel. I can’t imagine what the couple watching was thinking. I do a ton of things myself because my husband isn’t able and I always feel such satisfaction when I finish a job. Good for you!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I love driving & seeing other women drive, but I know what you mean about those looks hehe. Good for you being so handy around the RV!
      Nina

  28. Hi Nina, Loved this story and I love your passion and enthusiasm in whatever you do. We are fortunate to have stumbled upon you in the desert and are pleased to call you our friends. You not only changed out the valves, but you photographed the whole process, including taking a self photo at the end. Job well done. Hope to see you over the winter. Kathie Bob

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hope to see you guys too! We’re heading to Borrego in early Dec and will then be in San Diego for a month.
      Nina

  29. We will be hosting at the Strand Jan 9 – Feb 5, then most likely back to Borrego.
    Kathie

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh excellent! Looks like we’ll be aligned to meet-up in San Diego! Will look forward to seeing you guys there.
      Nina

  30. yo'MacBeth says:

    My husband sent me this article with the subject line “this is you!”. It’s only me because I
    a. get tired of waiting
    b. don’t have time for an ER run (ok that was only once)
    c. probably have more balls than brains sometimes
    Glad to know I’m not the only one!

  31. my brother pointed me to your blog and I’m hooked! Love this article the most so far, I had visions of Robin Williams in RV with 50 RV’s in their chairs watching. And I’ve already added the valves to my Amazon wish list since the handle on our gray tank is broken almost cuts my hand. Thanks!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Happy to have ya along for the ride, and glad you enjoyed the post. I had alot of fun writing that one!!
      Nina

  32. […] for a few days with family while I’ll hang around here and spa (I know, woe be me). Given the fun stuff that happened last year while I was flying solo, who knows what trouble I might get into this time around. ‘Tis the […]

  33. […] Having  churned your brains to mush with some heavy posts on health and medical, I figured I would allow you a reprieve with some light and easy stuff today. After all Paul is away, the mouse is all alone and you know what I’m like in these circumstances. Much to everyone’s disappointment (I’m sure) I’ve really been rather boring this past week. There have been no trips to the ER (despite this being one of my specialties when Paul is gone), no wardrobe malfunctions in the hot tub (in fact I’m not even on the radar. I’ve been rather outdone by a hot older lady with the body of a 25-year old who parades around in a bright pink bikini..even the local teenagers are riveted) and no crazy attempts to do weird RV repairs. […]

  34. […] great questions. We do a fair amount of the small stuff ourselves (for example the classic time I tackled the tank valves), but most of the bigger work we prefer to take to the professionals and over the years […]

  35. Mindy says:

    We are new RVer’s and although I desperately want to me a cool DIY-er, I just can’t seem to make it fly. My husband, however, can fix anything. So, I do research and he tackles and conquers. Thank you for you postings. Love your blog.

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