Lately we’ve noticed empty isn’t really empty according to our Airstream’s tank monitor. When we first got her, the Big Weaz’ tank monitors read 2 dots when empty. After 6 months of fulltime RV living, “empty” has become 4 dots (or 3/8ths full). Thats no good!
What the heck is a tank monitor?
Airstream Tank Monitor, Circa 2011
Let me take a step back for those of you not yet living the RV lifestyle. Living in a house, you can basically forget what happens to waste water once it goes down the drain. In an RV, the buck certainly doesn’t stop there. Your “gently used” water goes on to fill your black (toilet) and grey (sinks / shower) holding tanks until you manually empty them out. Failure to empty these tanks when they fill up leads to some hilarious Robin Williams-esque scenarios that I hope we never experience.
Since RVers aren’t born with an innate sense of “fullness” when it comes to our waste water tanks (or, in some cases, our stomachs), we need to rely on technology, experience, and math to determine just how full these tanks can get. Nowadays, RVs come standard with all types of consoles and doodads that tell you the state of your tanks. Most monitors today give you the basic info, but most have the same modern look and usability of the Bat Computer from the old 60’s Batman series.
Bat Computer, Circa 1966
It looks reliable, but can we trust it?
Now back to our story. After watching “empty” change meaning over the past few months, we became suspicious. So, off to Airforums for a more layman’s explanation of things to try.
Airforums recommended I first clean the tanks like never before, and that’s exactly what I did. I filled and emptied the tanks twice. I applied a healthy dose of borax to both my tanks, just to make sure things were nice and slippery inside. Still, the black tank blinked 4 dots at me when empty. So, according to airforums, my next move was to”recalibrate my monitor.”
How does one recalibrate holding tank monitors?
Being a bit of an electronics nerd, I rarely step down from a challenge. So, with manual in hand, I stepped up to the monitor and started following the directions for recalibrating. It turns out that the manual for the Bat Computer would have been easier to follow.
First off, the instructions don’t really warn you that there is not a “reset to factory” option, which makes sense I suppose, but would be a nice feature to have. As it stands, recalibrating requires you to empty and fill your tanks to get an accurate measurement.
This was one of the first gotchas I found while recalibrating. Since the procedure for recalibrating your tank monitor may be different, I won’t go into the specific directions. But I’ll give a few helpful hints I wished someone would have bestowed upon me before I took on this little adventure:
- You really need to make sure the tank is super clean before starting – rinse them out a few times, drop some ice down the black tank and drive around, whatever it takes to make sure you’re not just dealing with a dirty sensor.
- Know the exact capacity of your tanks – and subtract 1-2 gallons for “wiggle room”
- The Tank Monitor is not an exact instrument – it gets you close enough, but don’t expect it to be dead on accurate.
- Check the tank monitor manufacturer’s website for an updated manual. Who knows? They may have an updated one that doesn’t require a PhD to follow!
- Ask yourself – do you need to recalibrate ALL tank monitors, or just one of them? Recalibrating ALL tanks can be a LONG process. Have a full day with nothing to do.
- Have a measuring bucket – I used a 6 gallon bucket to measure the amount of water I poured back into my tanks.
- Don’t have a measuring bucket? you can approximate if you know the gallons per minute of your water source. For example, I know my shower head spits out water at 1.5 gpm, so 2 mins = 3 gallons.
That’s pretty much it. Have you ever recalibrated your tanks? Was it a good experience or bad? Has anyone found an easy to use tank monitor upgrade for Airstreams? We’d love to hear about them!
…About Fulltime RVing.
We’ve just passed our first month of living in our Airstream fulltime. In that short time, we’ve really put our one and a half years of RVing knowledge to the test. Don’t get me wrong – we’re loving our new life. It’s exactly what we were looking for, and in many ways, it far exceeds our expectations. It’s just that there are a few small things we wish someone would have explained in more detail. Things like how to avoid mildew, and how to use a Fantastic Fan properly.
We like to look at life as one big learning experience. You know, the old “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” school of thought. Obviously Tiffani and I are both very inquisitive and experience driven people or else we probably wouldn’t be living in an RV. Even coming into this with our eyes wide open and months of preparations, we continue to find new things to confound and challenge us every day.
That’s one reason we’ve decided to start writing some of the stuff down in this series called “Things They Don’t Tell You.” We really weren’t expecting someone to tell us everything, but there are certainly some gotchas that every new RVer should at least think about beyond the basics. There’s only so many Airforums.com posts you can read before you have to just go out and give it a try!
Another reason for starting this series is to help beginning RVers out there who may skim over the manuals and go right into the “hardcore” difficulty level as we did. Hopefully they can find resolutions here, or maybe they’ll feel better knowing they’re not alone in their rookie mistakes.
As always, Let us know what you think.
Read more Things They Don’t Tell You.
Back in September, we wrote about the process of finding and purchasing an upgrade from our 22′ International CCD to our new 27′ International CCD. Months later, after a few delays caused by installed upgrades and family matters, we arrive at the continuation of the saga, also know as The Pickup.
Tiffani and the Big Weaz
In the search for a new Airstream, we’d been talking with Explore RV in Mesquite but I wasn’t feeling the love from them. I didn’t get a sense that anyone there really dealt with Airstreams that much and I never felt like we were getting answers to our questions. They had a good selection of models, but not any we wanted, so we asked them to check the inventory in Ft. Worth where there was another Explore USA. Ft. Worth had a Mocha Blue in a 25ft Flying Cloud, so we decided to go. The person we were supposed to ask for in Ft. Worth was possibly the most unhelpful person I’ve ever come across at a dealership. We told him who we were and what we were there to see and he basically pointed at the Airstream and left. Never asked us any questions or offered to help at all.
Then a week or so later, I called the Explore USA in Denton. John answered the phone when I called and Im so glad he did! I gave him the details about what I was looking for and he gave me a detailed list of all the 25ft and 27ft Airstreams currently on the lot, including a 27ft International in Paprika which wasn’t on the website yet. I told John we’d be there in the morning to have a look.
A few months ago we made a plan that would allow us to start living in The Weasel full-time. We thought about doing this in Chicago, but as we experienced more and more winters in the Windy City, it seemed unlikely this would work. However, there are a lot of RV parks in Dallas and despite the last three weeks of 100+ weather that we just experienced, Im more accepting of being hot then being cold at this point. We began to search for parks around Deke’s office so he could have a somewhat easy ride to work, and found a few that fit the bill.