Drain Master Review: Master Waste Disposal
One of the most unpleasant duties of the RV lifestyle has to revolve around dumping holding tanks. It’s a stinky, often messy process just ripe for unpleasantness; but Drain Master makes it quite a bit easier!
Dumping holding tanks is such a classic chore that the movie RV, starring Robin Williams, featured the task as one of its more humorous scenes.
Even my tech partner, the guy who masterfully developed and maintains the LetsRV.com and RVDailyReport.com websites, reported a nasty incident a few weeks ago where his new septic hose actually slid off the outlet on the RV right in the middle of a dump. The mess was as nasty as you could imagine.
My RV came with a traditional bayonet septic system in which the hose had to be drug out of a basement compartment and twisted on to the drain outlet. Most times, as soon as the cap was disconnected from the outlet, dirty water dribbled onto my hand and into the utility compartment.
After dumping the tanks, the stinky wet hose had to be disconnected, retracted and put back inside the RV storage compartment. The utility compartment had to be cleaned of all the yuck that had dribbled out in the process. It was a real chore.
Another side effect of using the traditional system is that the valves had to be replaced every year at a cost of nearly $170. That always seemed strange to me considering that the valves were only opened between 40 and 50 times a year.
I later learned that Winnebago engineers had designed the system in such a way that users pulled the valves down to open the gate. By doing so, water was allowed to seep into the valve housing itself. Over time, so much black and gray water had seeped into the valve housing that it was difficult to pull them open and, especially, push them closed.
An industry friend of mine had been encouraging me to look into replacing the entire system with a Drain Master product he had developed. So, when I was traveling near Hollister, Calif., this spring, I stopped in and had him install the new system.
The Drain Master is a night-and-day difference compared to the traditional way of dumping holding tanks.
First, the sewer hose is permanently attached to the drain outlet with a special cam lock device that ensures a secure connection that won’t twist off as material shoots through the hose.
Second, the hose itself is stronger than any other hose I have seen on the market. It can be dragged across the ground without tearing, and is supposed to be strong enough to survive occasional contact by a campground weed wacker.
The hose is compressed four-to-one, which means that every foot of contracted hose can be extended four feet. My 20-foot hose compresses down to five feet, which allows it to be stored in the utility compartment rather than in a tub placed inside a storage compartment.
The hose is designed in such a way that gunk can’t get caught in the seems. The inside of the hose is relatively smooth with the support coil on the outside, rather than the inside, as is the case with traditional hoses. This makes the hose virtually indestructible and it allows material to flow quickly out of the tanks without getting trapped in the crevices of the support coils.
Next, the hose is permanently attached to a heavy duty nozzle that fits right into the campground waste receptacle. A lever at the end opens and closes a valve so that I can be absolutely certain the nozzle is in the receptacle and that I am controlling the flow at the point it truly matters — the end of the nozzle.
Best of all, the nozzle has a handle on it — and that’s the only thing I need to touch to pull out the hose and place it into the sewer inlet. I don’t ever need to touch the end of the hose for any reason.
The last thing I want is a hose to slip out of the drain so that gunk is dumped into my campsite. In most campgrounds, the nozzle fits securely into the opening with the attached donut. At some campsites, the nozzle tilts a bit, but I have not seen it pop off the drain receptacle. In those instances it seems to tilt, I just stoop down and hold the nozzle fully upright as I open the lever to make sure it stays secure.
What I like most about the hose is that Drain Master has placed a section of clear plastic at the end of the hose before the nozzle. This way you can make absolutely certain that clear water is flushing out of the hose, instead of guessing that’s the case by looking through clear plastic at the start of the hose.
Another plus is that when the nozzle lever is closed, it creates an air and watertight seal that prevents liquid from seeping out along with nasty sewer smells.
Finally, the system features electronic drain valves, so there are no more levers to push and pull. I simply push a button to open and close the valves.
So, the dumping procedure now is:
- Open the utility compartment.
- Pull out the hose out by the handle on the nozzle.
- Push the nozzle into the campground’s sewer connection and lift the handle to open the valve.
- Walk back to the utility compartment and push a button to electronically open the black tank valve.
- When the black tank is empty, push a button to close the valve and push another button to open the gray tank valve.
- When the gray tank is empty, push a button to close the valve.
- Lower the lever at the end of the nozzle and remove it from the campground sewer connection.
- Stuff the hose back into the utility compartment and pop the nozzle in place using the handle.
My system was retrofitted onto the original bayonet mount by cutting off the little plastic nubs on the mount that the hose normally twists on to stay in place. The cam lock was pushed onto the mount and securely locked in place.
It is possible to add a special storage container so the hose just slides into it, but because my utility compartment could fit the entire hose, I didn’t bother adding the container.
Some new RVs come with the Drain Master system already installed, and it has even more bells and whistles. Once the nozzle is removed from the campground’s sewer connection, simply pushing a button retracts the hose into a storage compartment. Users pull out the hose by the nozzle handle and drop it into the campground connection, then push a button to retract the hose into its storage compartment.
Dumping waste tanks could not be easier.
The retrofit Drain Master equipment costs under $500 for the 20-foot hose, nozzle, two electronic gate controls and some additional connectors. It can be installed by a technician within two hours. In fact, capable do-it-yourselfers could complete the job without needing a technician to do the install.
It’s sad to think that this easy-to-use system is so affordable that all RV manufacturers don’t automatically install it on every RV they build to alleviate common problems with the most stressful aspect of RV use.