Stop playing tug of war with your holding tank sensors

Today, February 19th, is National Tug of War Day, which is an odd “holiday” for sure but may be relevant to how you feel about your relationship with your RV’s holding tank sensors. Let’s see if we can give you an advantage and win the battle!

Many remember the childhood game of tug of war. Two teams grab a long rope and start pulling. Who wins? Well, whichever team gives up or, more likely, topples over and falls to the ground.

A little tug of war history.

You may be surprised that the game of tug of war has national and international federations that sponsor worldwide tournaments. And there are rules … lots of them. Tug of war is an ancient game and there is evidence that is was played in ancient Greece, Egypt, and China. Also known as rope pulling, tugging war, and war of tug, it remains today a popular sport today that pits the strengths of two teams against each other and is practiced in some form in almost every country in the world.

The sport is played by both men and women, and historically was part of the Olympic Games between 1900 and 1920, but has not been included since these dates, despite attempts to bring it back. There are many variations of tug of war around the world including Sokatira in Spain’s Basque Country, Japan’s Tsunahiki, Indonesia’s Tarik Tambang, and Korea’s Jul Parigi.

Waring against your holding tank sensors.

If there’s one common frustration with RVers, it’s their holding tank’s sensors. You would think something so common could be engineered to work correctly. Sure, the SeeLevel sensing system, which uses ultrasonic technology to read the tank’s waste level, is pretty accurate and common on most high-end, modern motor coaches.

What causes the problems?

We hate to keep beating a dead horse (since we’re full of colloquialisms today!), but the most common cause of tank sensors not reading properly is the waste that is inside the tank. Huh? Yep, it’s the waste inside the tanks that the sensors are designed to read that is actually causing them to read incorrectly.

Most RVers use tank additives — enzymes, bacterial agents, harsh chemical concoctions — that are doing exactly what they are intended to do: break down waste (feces, vomit, toilet paper, and anything else degradable that goes into your toilet) into a more liquid form.

The hope is that the now more-liquid waste will exit the holding tank better, faster, and more completely.

That’s not what happens.

But your holding tank system is not a septic system. Those tank additives are working, yes. Just as they are intended. But they are creating a thick, sticky slurry that is adhering to and gumming everything up: holding tank surfaces, drainage pipes and hoses, and, yes, your tank sensor probes.

Think about it: what would drain better out of your holding tanks?

A tank full of thick, sticky slurry, that moves at a very slow rate due to its consistency, adhesiveness, and greatly increased density, or a tank full of mostly water with solids suspended in it?

The tankful of water and intact solids, of course, would drain better and more completely.

So what do you do?

There are some “best practices” that you can do to get your tank sensors reading properly again — and keep them that way.

First, you need to get all of that old waste out of your tanks. Kleen Tank’s proprietary hydro-jetting cleaning technology uses the force of 1500 PSI water pressure to blast out any built-up and old waste lurking in your holding tanks and waste system pipes. Having this service performed regularly is critical to get your sensors back in working shape — and keeping them that way.

Next, stop using those enzymes, bacterial agents, and harsh chemical solutions. They are just making the situation worse and countering the intentions of your RV’s holding tank system — to serve as a way to store waste and water until it can be safely and completely removed.

Also, use more water in your RV’s holding tanks:

  • Use an extra toilet bowlful of water after you flush down any solid waste.
  • Empty your tanks when they are 90% to 100% full (add water to get the volume that high).
  • Turn on your black tank’s flush system while emptying to increase turbulence.
  • Use a tool like the Valterra Flush King Reverse Flush Valve to keep your tanks clean between professional servicing.
  • “Prime” each tank by adding a few gallons of fresh water back into each tank once you’ve emptied them.
  • Be sure to add three to five gallons in each emptied tank before traveling to your next destination.

Finally, be sure to schedule regular, professional cleanings by Kleen Tank. Your efforts will only get so much waste removed from your holding tanks. A professional service like Kleen Tank has the technology, experience, and ability to get your holding tanks “factory clean.” Full-time RVers should have this service done twice a year while other RVers are fine with having it done annually.

Keeping your holding tank’s sensors reading properly doesn’t have to be an eternal game of tug of war. There are ways you can get an advantage and win the battle.

Jim Tome, Owner

Jim Tome, Owner

Hi, I'm Jim Tome and, along with my wife, Debbie, the owners of Kleen Tank LLC, the national leader in RV holding tank cleaning service. We've been RVers like you since 2004 and have traveled all over the U.S. in our Airstream travel trailer. We started the business about twelve years ago and have cleaned tens of thousands holding tanks in thousands of RVs. From tiny weekend travel trailers to monstrous fifth wheels to luxurious motorhomes, I've seen just about every situation there is with RV holding tanks and waste systems. I hope you enjoy our articles; I try to post at least one per week and we've got a great library of them to cover just about every problem. Enjoy!


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