House Calls with the RV Doctor
By Gary Bunzer
Dear RV Doctor:
I have a question regarding a toilet flange. The flange that holds my toilet down has rotted away and will NOT hold the bolts that secure the toilet in place. I already told a service technician to fix it but he quoted me a semi-high price, also saying the holding tank might need to be dropped to remove the flange. Is there an easy do-it-yourself fix, or should I just bite the bullet and let him repair it? I don’t feel right telling him not to after I told him to do it. However, I would like to know the process it takes to fix something like this so I can question him. It’s a Thetford Aqua Magic toilet in a 1991 rig.
RV Doctor: Chad, the modern toilet flange is typically made of ABS plastic, so it’s doubtful that the flange itself has rotted away. More likely, the floor has sunk around the flange. In some instances during the past decade, coach manufacturers chose to use metallic flanges. In any event, it will be necessary to remove the toilet and inspect the floor and the flange. It is not necessary to remove the holding tank in order to remove the flange. In fact, just the opposite is true; it is absolutely necessary to remove the flange before the holding tank can be removed! It should take no longer than one hour to remove the toilet, inspect the flange and floor, and determine what repairs are necessary. Toilet flanges/downpipes are either threaded into an adapter secured to the top of the holding tank or fastened using ABS cement. Others may just slip into a rubber grommet attached to the tank. The inspection mentioned above will reveal exactly how your flange is attached. In rare instances, it may be necessary to drop the holding tank to make the repair, but quite often the flange can be replaced from inside the bathroom only. The closet bolts that hold the toilet to the flange may simply be loose. I’d recommend tightening those nuts first. You may have to lift up on the toilet while tightening the bolts to keep the base of the closet bolts in place. But if the bolts indeed pull through the flange, it will have to be replaced. If the toilet fits securely to the floor after tightening, then the flange is probably okay and just the seal between the toilet and the flange needs replacing. I’ve seen wax flange gaskets soften in the summer due to excess heat. This will indeed make the toilet loose on the flange. Replace wax gaskets with a rubber flange seal. But obviously, this is all speculation until the inspection. If a rotted or sunken floor exists, then more extensive repairs will be in order.
Dear RV Doctor:
Last year mice got into my RV. This spring I got an electronic mouse repellent and it appears to be working. Here is the problem, though: last winter, they must have urinated in the heating ducts. When I turn the heat on now, an obnoxious odor comes pouring out. I have tried running the heat now a couple of times while out of the motorhome for a couple of hours each time, yet it continues to come out strong when I go back the next time and turn the heat on. Any suggestions?
RV Doctor: Yikes, Cheryl! That’s got to be annoying! I’m guessing that there is little you can do to eliminate the odors completely. I once had a cat urinate in an open guitar case and I could never find a product that would get rid of that smell. I eventually got rid of both . . . the guitar case and the cat, and not necessarily in that order. Chances are the urine has permeated the insulation inside the ducts and is now permanently entrenched. Adding heated air to the mix by running the furnace only exacerbates the problem. The only cure is to replace that section of ductwork. If your ducts are routed on top of the flooring inside the RV, this task is relatively simple. If, however, you have a central distribution ducting system, it becomes more problematic. In the latter case, first try stuffing crushed-up black-and-white newspaper pages into each duct as far as you can easily reach and then closing or taping off the ducts for two to three days. Every two or three days, remove and discard those pages and stuff new crumpled pages in the ducts. Repeat as often as necessary. Crushed newsprint has removed fouled food odors from refrigerators in the past, so perhaps it can work wonders for mice urine as well. You may also liberally sprinkle baking soda on the crushed newspapers before inserting them into the ducts. Wish I had better news for you, but animal urine is definitely one of the most difficult odors to eliminate. Maybe some of our readers have further ideas. I’ll be happy to pass on any worthwhile suggestions to you.
Sealing The Seams
Dear RV Doctor:
I just bought a fairly new RV. I expect to use it for 10-plus years. The roof is aluminum with a long seam running down the middle. Do you think I should cover the roof with a spray-on bed liner, like Rhino Lining?
New York, New York
RV Doctor: I can understand the direction of your thinking (to a certain point), but using a product in an application for which it is not intended is simply asking for trouble of some sort down the line. Indeed, I would provide some sealing to that seam, but I believe I’d reserve the Rhino Lining for the bed of my pickup truck. A much better solution would be to install a product from Eternabond called WebSeal. The only preparation necessary is that the surface be clean, dry, and free of any remnants of silicone. Silicone is the only thing Eternabond will not stick to. Eternabond products will remain flexible to minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which means they will remain stable in any climate, even under constant bombardment of UV rays in the heat of summer. Plus, Eternabond is easy to install: simply roll it out and press it down, with no mess, very little prep, and no cleanup. Eternabond will stick to just about any type of RV roof, including yours. Just be careful you apply it where you want it, for it is virtually impossible to remove. Ask your local dealer about Eternabond products, or visit the company’s Web site at www.eternabond.com. There are certainly other products available that will achieve the same results, but I’ve had good success with Eternabond in the past.
Do You Really Care?
Dear RV Doctor:
How do you care for a rubber roof?
RV Doctor: Chuck, my first response would be “with compassion,” but after thoughtful repose, I offer this: By nature, EPDM rubber requires no protection from UV rays or ozone bombardment, though it is prone to oxidize. Normal oxidation is a condition due to the disintegration of surface binders or elastomers simply by weathering. Other destructive environmental conditions can also add to the degree of chalking. The result is that surface chalking actually removes a portion of the rubber. This is a normal occurrence, and you should not be concerned about the direct effect on the rubber itself. Oxidation will, however, usually manifest itself as long, unsightly streaks running down the sides of the RV. The streaks are usually caused by dirt, road grime, and air-borne pollutants that settle and adhere to the roof and are washed over the side along with the loosened powdery surface elastomer. The simple solution is to keep the roof clean. The degree of chalking associated with EPDM may vary from coach to coach. And according to the makers, tighter controls during the copolymerizing procedure lead to a slower rate of oxidation, though most will surrender up to 10 percent of the overall thickness during the life of the roof. But that’s for the manufacturers to worry about. Cleaning your rubber roof should be a regularly scheduled maintenance task performed often enough to keep the EPDM surface white. Usually four to six times per year will suffice depending on your climate and its propensity to gather and distribute dirt, and how pure the copolymerizing process was performed during manufacture.