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Can You Replace An RV Black Water Tank?

Replacing a black tank in an RV is an uncommon project but there are times it might make sense. We have removed a black tank from an RV before, but not all RVs are built the same. Lets take a look at what it takes to repair, replace or remove a black tank from an RV.

Bye Bye Black Tank! - Installing an Airhead Composting Toilet and removing our RV's black Tank

Why Would You Remove or Replace Your RV Black Water Tank?

It may not be common, but these tanks can fail occasionally. They can split and leak from a manufacturing defect, overpressure or even freezing. If a large split has formed, the tank cannot reliably be repaired and will need to be replaced.

Before diving into a replacement, be sure the leak cannot be repaired first. If a leak is at a pipe fitting, its possible to repair that connection.

The tank can also be “replaced” by a composting toilet and is no longer used. It usually does not need to be removed in these situations.

RV black tank
An RV black tank replacement can get messy if not done correctly.

We Removed Our Black Tank for Battery Space

We removed an RV black water tank on one of our rigs. However, we didn’t replace the tank because it broke or had issues. We were replacing our standard toilet with a composting toilet. As a result, the black tank was no longer necessary.

While we could have drained it and left it alone, the empty container would have taken up an incredible amount of valuable storage space. Removing it allowed us to clean up a wiring mess and store more batteries. For our situation, it was worth the effort.

Pro Tip: New to RVing? Use our RV Black Water Tank Survival Guide to get started!

Can You Replace An RV Black Water Tank In All RV’s?

I like to think anything is possible, it just depends on how hard it will be. Some RV’s would be incredibly challenging without removing significant parts of the RV. Others will be very easy.

In most trailers, including fifth wheels, the tanks are installed under the floor in the RV’s frame. Access to the tanks is usually from below, but getting to the plumbing connections sometimes requires cutting into a cabinet or the floor. Today many trailers have enclosed frames and the underbelly needs to be removed. Usually, the tanks have a bracket on one side that needs to be removed to drop it.

RV tanks under floor hard to reach
RV tanks are installed when the RV is not fully completed during construction.

Black tanks in motorhomes are usually installed in one of the bays. Sometimes, removal is quite easy as they can be slid out after disconnecting them; other times, they are once again between the frame rails and very difficult to access.

black tanks in a motorhome
These are the black tanks in our motorhome, easily accessible.

How Much Does an RV Black Water Tank Replacement Cost?

An RV black water tank replacement typically costs from $150 to $600. The cost of the tank can significantly depend on its size. However, if your tank is a unique shape, you’ll likely pay a premium price. 

If you’re paying a professional to remove the old tank and install the new one, you’ll need to pay their fees. Depending on the job’s complexity, it might take several hours to complete the project. These costs can add up quickly, with several hundred dollars in labor charges.

Is Replacing an RV Black Water Tank Hard?

Replacing an RV’s black water tank can be challenging. However, it can be much easier if you have the correct tools and an extra set of hands. Some will require completing a series of steps to access the container, and more if you need to remove them. 

While an experienced DIYer can complete this project, it’s not something you want to take lightly. General knowledge and experience in working with RVs can help significantly. You need to know how to work in potentially unsanitary conditions and manage health hazards.

If you’re slightly unsure that you’re up for the task, hire a professional. You want to ensure they do this project right the first time. It’s not an undertaking you want to cut corners or rush through.

RV tank professionals
RV tank specialists exist and can help you with tank problems.

How to Replace an RV Black Water Tank

You must take the proper steps once you’ve decided to do an RV black water tank replacement. Completing these steps in order can help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Empty Existing Black Water Tank

The first step is to empty the existing black water tank. You’ll need to connect your sewer drain to a dump station or septic tank. A portable waste tote can do the job but might require multiple trips.

After dumping your tank, run some water through it. Fill it until it’s nearly full and let the water run into the sewer connection. This helps eliminate any stubborn pieces of toilet paper or solid waste sticking inside the tank.

Access the Tank

You’ll need to access the tank once you empty and rinse your tank. Our tank was easily accessible. However, you might not be as lucky. You’ll need to locate where the manufacturer placed your black tank during construction. Most of the time, it will be directly below any toilets in your camper.

Unfortunately, you may have no choice but to remove the underbelly covering of your unit. Once you remove it, you can see into the inside of your RV. However, prepare yourself because the chaos of RV wiring and plumbing can be overwhelming. If you like things nice and tidy, you may want to close your eyes.

Disconnect Plumbing

When disconnecting the plumbing, it’s best to place a bucket under any connections that you’re loosening. This prevents liquids and other gunk from dripping onto you or the space. You don’t want the contents of your black tank getting on you or your RV.

Disconnect vent pipes, sensors, and any hoses that connect to the tank. You may need to remove the toilet to free the tank. Be careful when removing it and be mindful of potential leakage. You’ll want to cap any connections if you’re not installing a new tank.

Install New Tank

Now, it’s time for you to start moving the new tank into place. Carefully position the new tank to align with the plumbing connections and the mounting brackets. If you purchased an identical tank, you’ll want to reconnect all the sensors, hoses, and other items. 

Tighten them, but don’t overdo it. If you tighten them too much, you could cause damage to the threads or the tank. Using some plumber’s tape or putty on the threads can help prevent leaks and connections from coming loose.

Removing RV toilet plumbing
When removing any plumbing in your RV, be extra careful to avoid causing an accidental mess.

Test for Leaks

Before cleaning or packing your tools, thoroughly test your work for leaks. Fill the tank with a generous amount of water. You don’t want to put waste into the tank until you’ve ensured all systems are ready. If there are issues, at least it won’t involve wastewater.

Once you’ve confirmed no leaks, you may want to pat yourself on the back. However, while you may be rounding the home stretch, it isn’t over yet. 

Monitor for Potential Issues

We suggest you keep an eye on your tank for the foreseeable future. Take a peek occasionally to ensure your connections don’t have any issues. Even a minor leak can cause significant damage if you don’t catch it.

We’ve seen some owners install leak detectors in hard-to-reach places to alert them of issues they may not notice. If you’re worried about a potential leak, this is an option you might want to consider.

Pro Tip: While replacing your black tank, use our guide on RV Black Tank Valves: Upgrades, Troubleshooting, and Proper Use (To Avoid a Nasty Mess).

How to Replace a RV Black Tank....WARNING: IT'S GROSS!

Is Replacing an RV Black Water Tank Worth It?

Replacing your RV’s black water tank might be essential if it is broken. However, we chose to switch to a composting toilet to help us maximize our time boondocking. By replacing our RV black water tank, we can conserve as much water as possible in remote spots. That means we can stay in epic locations longer and save on campground reservation fees.

Would you consider removing or replacing your black tank? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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