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Macerator Toilet Troubleshooting
Cutter toilets are fast becoming the first choice for canal and river boaters and they are reliable, but when they go wrong it tends to get really messy with a lot of mess…
Common problems and how to fix them
- The toilet makes a bad noise and does not flush properly
- This is usually because someone left them something they shouldn’t. Remember that only light (2 ply) or specially made disintegrating toilet paper (like that made by Thetford) can pass through them and be OK for long term use (!) If you put heavy duty toilet paper that is advertised as extra soft and extra thick will be fine for a while, but can cause problems by blocking the open check valve, pump outlet bends, or even the tank vent if overfilled. To fix a clog caused by using such products, you will need to strip the macerator or have a professional do it. Note that opening the macerator is quite an experience, requires safety torx screw bits, and will void your warranty if it’s new. The best thing to check first without voiding your warranty is your vents and check valve. The check valve is usually a 90-degree rubber elbow that serves as a pipe connection at the back of the toilet. You can remove the jubilee clamps and remove it (with a bucket under it, maybe a large one is needed depending on your tank and pipe layout!) to inspect it. They are a very simple design, just make sure there is nothing to force it open or close.
- The toilet works fine but is slow to refill (slight but not overflowing)
- This is probably a check valve failure. On some boats, the piping may rise before running across and down to the tank. If the check valve is slightly open, then the volume of waste that is in the vertical part of the pipe will flow back down into the bowl.
- The toilet does absolutely nothing when I try to flush it
- Complete failure without anything obvious happening is pretty rare, so check the simple stuff first. Check the lever fuses and connections and remove the flush panel plate if you have one to check for wire damage or moisture ingress. If you have a button that is not electronic and is mounted on the toilet itself, then the pipe on the back of it may have come off. These buttons have a small tube on the back that connects to a pressure sensor on the main board and are common in mains voltage toilets. They push air down the tube like a syringe, so if someone was too forceful with it, the tube might pop out and have to go back in. You may be able to see to the side to do this depending on your installation.
- Another potential problem could be that your capacitor is damaged and needs replacing. They are connected to the main board and are quite large, about 8 cm long cylinders.
- The toilet is emptying slowly
- Sometimes your pipe work may be to blame. The cutter should have a pipe connected to it that does NOT have 90 degree bends and should not decrease in size any further before it reaches the tank. If you have a particularly small tube outlet, it can build up with calcium. Take 5 liters of standard white vinegar and pour half a liter down the toilet with each flush for a few days to break it down. It’s surprising how quickly this can happen even on new boats that top off their tanks with water in certain areas.
- The toilet overflowed
- This usually only happens if the toilet pump has broken or the tank is full and has been flushed over and over to try to clear it.. If the toilet does not clear on the first flush then you should not flush it again until at least you don’t stop his water supply. These toilets are not like the ones at home, which can sometimes flush themselves if the water level builds up pressure. What’s more, they don’t have any sensors to let you know they’re broken. They usually only have thermal load and fuses to protect the pump itself and nothing to think about the condition of your head if the toilet overflows. So, isolate the water supply – there should be a shut-off valve right next to the toilet, and if not, you should turn off your main pump and drain the header tanks from the faucet. Now you can try to flush again as the toilet will not be able to add more water to the bowl and cause it to overflow. If the toilet is overflowing on its own, then you may have bad pipe placement, which is not unheard of.
- There is increased pressure, I don’t think the tank is venting
- Find the vent to the tank and poke it as it may have become dirty. This would normally be quite unusual, but in larger vessels you may have a large charcoal odor filter. Vetus for example have an inlet and outlet of a 1.5 inch hose with a casing about 5 inches across that winds up from the top. If this vent filter has been seriously flooded due to a tank overflow, it may have water in it or an untold amount of backlog. Find it and clean it and you will probably need to buy a new filter element for it.
- If you have a complex piping system, such as a side-pumping option, or an in-tank pump that can discharge from both sides, you should check your stop valves that control which side the flow is pushed to, as you may not want both closed.
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