The Dirtiest Job of RV Life

The day the Barker portable RV tank tote malfunctioned and how it was repaired.



3 min read

Saturday started as out typical with my cup of coffee and breakfast. After which, I set out to do my weekly chore of emptying the wastewater tanks. Taking care of your RV wastewater tank is a relatively clean routine task. Though given enough time, it will become one the dirtiest job you get to do. Last week was when the clock ran out on me.

The Routine

I have used a Barker 42-gallon Tote-Along once a week for the past year to empty our wastewater tanks. We have three tanks on our fifth wheel that hold 40 gallons each. Using a portable tank tote is absolutely less of a hassle than hooking up the 5th wheel and driving to the dump station. However, last weekend concluded our 52 weeks of being incident free on RV dump day.

The Incident

I performed my usual checks before hooking up the tote to the RV. The caps were all securely on the hose connections. Draining the black tank filled the tote half away. Next, I flushed the hose with water from the galley tank, filling the rest of the tote. After confirming the RV valves were closed and capped, I headed to the dump site.

Making it to the dump site without incident, I got the hose out and connected it to the drain. Things became a little messy when I slowly removed the cap on the tote tank. As soon as I loosened the gate valve cap, the liquid began seeping out. To prevent more seepage, I quickly secured the RV tank tote's valve cap. Oddly, the gate valve appeared to be closed. At that point, I noticed the handle was at a slight angle and loose to the touch. With the cap still on, I pulled the handle up to discover it coming up without resistance, and nothing impeded the handle's removal.

Now the dilemma of how to dump the RV portable tank tote. I thought about connecting the hose to where you fill the tote. However, the tote is close to capacity, weighing around 350 pounds. Lifting it without assistance was not an option.

Based on the handle's position, I am guessing the valve was a quarter of the way open at the most. Quickly I removed the cap and connected the hose, avoiding a nasty spill. The valve guess was correct and just large enough for the tote to slowly empty, giving me time to clean up the spill.

After the tote was empty, I began inspecting the portable tank tote to figure out a way to repair it. Fortunately, the gate valve is replaceable, meaning I do not need to buy a new tote. 

The fix was as easy as picking up the Valterra™ Waste Valve, and replacing the old one with only a 13mm socket tool required. Now my regular weekly routine can continue.

Why the Tote Tank?

Before we hit the road in our (new to us) fifth wheel, we decided to spend time with family. Our thought of being stationary would give us a moment to become familiar with the used RV. In addition, we would have a place to perform some modifications and upgrades. We set the RV up on a cement pad, with a workshop nearby. The perfect spot has one major downfall, no connection to the sewer. 

Researching ways to dump the RV tanks yielded three options:

1) Weekly hook up the fifth wheel and drive to a dump station. In the long term, this would not be a practical option for us.

2) Use a macerator pump to move the wastewater into a community sewer outlet. The thought of dealing with several hundred feet of garden hose in cold weather was not all that appealing.

3) A portable RV tank tote, which seemed like the best option for our situation.

Managing water usage

We quickly learned how to manage our water usage with no convenient sewer connection. During our first few weeks of living full-time in the RV, it was not unusual for us to make four trips to the dumpsite with our tote. The goal quickly became reducing water usage to limit tank dump trips. After changing our habits, we successfully reduced our RV tote trips to two. It is surprising how much water gets wasted in a given week.

Should you get one?

Depending upon what kind of RVing you plan on doing will determine if you need a portable tank tote. A tote is in your best interest if you: dry camp, boondock, driveway surf, mooch dock, or have extended stays at RV parks with no site sewer.

Items mentioned in this blog can be found on our shopping page:

Read more about portable tank totes and our 1yr review of the Barker: