Macerator toilets are fast becoming the first choice for canal and river boaters and are reliable but when they go wrong, it tends to really go badly wrong with lots of mess…
Common problems and how to fix them
- The Toilet is making a bad noise and isn’t emptying properly
- This is usually because someone has put something down them that they shouldn’t. Remember that only light (2 ply) or specially made disintigrating toilet paper (like that made by Thetford) can go down them and be OK for long term use(!) If you put heavy toilet paper that advertises as being extra soft and extra thick it will be OK for a while but can cause problems by jamming open the non return valve, the bends in the pump out pipe or even the tank vent if it is overfilled. In order to fix a blockage due to such products being used this you are going to have to strip the macerator down or get a professional in. Bear in mind that opening a macerator is quite skilled, requires torx safety screw bits and will void your warranty if it is new. The best thing to check first without voiding your warranty are your vents and non return valve. The non return valve is usually a 90 degree rubber bend that doubles as the pipe connection at the back of the toilet. You can take the jubilee clips off and remove it (with a bucket under it, maybe a large one needed depending on your tank and pipe layout!) to inspect it. They are a very simple design, just make sure nothing is in there forcing it open or shut.
- The toilet works fine but slowly fills back up (slightly but doesn’t overflow)
- This is probably a non return valve fault. On some boats the pipe work may go up before it goes across and down to a tank. If the non return valve is slightly wedged open then the volume of waste that is in the vertical section of the pipe will leak back down into the bowl.
- The toilet doesn’t do anything at all when I try to flush it
- Complete failure without something obvious happening is quite rare so check the simple things first. Check the fuses and loom connections and take the plate off the flush panel if you have one to check for wire damage or moisture ingress. If you have a push button that is not electronic that is mounted on the toilet itself then the tube on the back of it may have come away. These buttons have a small pipe on the back of them that connects to a pressure sensor on the main board and are common on mains voltage toilets. They force the air down the pipe kind of like a syringe so if someone has been too forceful with it then the pipe may have popped off and needs putting back. You may be able to see around the side to do this depending on your installation.
- Another potential problem may be that your capacitor has failed and needs replacing. They are connected to the main board and are quite big, about 8cm long cylinders.
- The toilet empties slowly
- Sometimes your pipe work might be to blame. A macerator should have a pipe connected to it that has NO 90 degree bends in it and should not reduce in size further down the run before it gets to the tank. If you have a particularly small pipe outlet it may be caking up with calcium. Get a 5 litre of standard white vinegar and put half a liter down the toilet with each flush for a couple of days to break it up. It is surprising how quickly this can happen on even new boats that top up their tanks with water in certain areas.
- The toilet has overflowed
- This would ordinarily only happen if the toilet macerator pump has broken or the tank is full and it has been flushed over and over to try and clear it.. If the toilet is not clearing on the first flush then you mustn’t flush it again until you have at least turned off its water supply. These toilets are nothing like the ones at home that can sometimes clear themselves if the water level builds up pressure. What’s more they don’t have any sensors to let you know they are broken. They usually just have thermal over load and fuses to protect the pump itself and nothing that thinks about the state of your head if the toilet overflows. So, isolated the water supply – it should have a stop cock right next to the toilet and if not you should turn off your main pump and drain off the header tanks at the tap. You can now try flushing again as the toilet won’t be able to add any further water to the bowl and cause it to overflow.If the to ilet is overflowing of its own accord then you may have a bad pipe layout installation which is not un heard of.
- There is pressure build up, I don’t think the tank is venting
- Find the vent to the tank and rod it as it may have become fouled. This would usually be quite unusual but on larger vessels you may have a large charcoal smell filter. The vetus ones for example have an 1.5 inch hose inlet and outlet with a housing about 5 inches across that unscrews on the top. If this vent filter has been seriously flooded due to a tank being overfilled, it may have water in it or be caked in unmentionables. Locate it and clean it out and you will probably need to buy a new filter element for it.
- If you have a complex pipe installation, for example the option to pump over the side, or an integral pump in the tank that can discharge to either side you should check your stop cocks that control which side the flow is pushed as you may not want both of them closed.