Toilet Woes

It’s often spoken about amongst boaters, but rarely discussed in public and if you have a problem with it, life can be … well let’s just say annoying!

It all started a few weeks ago when I noticed that after flushing, the water in the bowl would drain away. We all know that water forms a neat barrier between the air we breathe and the whiff we don’t want to.

Full of enthusiasm, I thought I better mend that and so went for a pump out with the intention of fixing the problem, only what was the problem and how do I fix it anyway?

As if that was not bad enough, that night while pressing the floor ‘flush pedal’ it stayed open and refused to return to the shut position, without man handling it closed. Now 2am in the morning is not a good time to try and sort this out and thank goodness the tank was empty.

The toilet in question is a Sealand Traveller series 2011, in fact quite a common toilet on narrowboats. Eventually I found a user manual which included information on spare part numbers. Rubbing my hands with glee it was off to the chandlers to get said parts. Oh no sir, was the reply, there are a few variations so you need to come back with the old parts. Now as you can imagine, I now had two choices, do it myself or pay someone to do it but given the job, it would not be cheap to pay someone else to handle my very private bathroom appliance!

So, the day arrived. Dismantled the toilet by first removing bowl from the big black hole of doom but where was the spring assembly? Eventually I sussed that and after removing a 3” screw from a 5” space, which was not easy, using a borrowed stubby screwdriver, I was eventually able to remove the assembly.

So, with seal in one plastic bag and the spring in another it was back to the chandlers. They did not have a replacement spring, but did have a service set which included one and they did, thankfully have a new set of seals.

I nearly chocked when told the price, but there was really no option, back at the boat I had a toilet bowl balanced on a bucket and various bits dotted around the bathroom floor. I refuse to call it by its proper name as ‘heads’ as that is what I had to use to peer over this offending black hole and reclaim my privacy.

So, on went yet another pair of surgical gloves and out came the other parts of the service kit including the new ‘ball’ which helped seal the entrance to the ‘black hole of doom’.

I have to say, that this was not a pretty job so I’ll spare my readers the details, but suffice to say, this was easily accomplished. Now the spring assembly which was screwed in. Ahh, problem, there was a lump of twisted metal, known as a pedal that needs to be fitted first!

Off came the spring assemble and this time the pedal went on first and engaged correctly. Once the screw was tightened, I attempted to try out the pedal. This failed to engage and open the shiny white ball I had just replaced. After some teasing and many attempts, I finally added the two long holding screws before I tightened up the spring assembly. This did the trick and now I had a perfectly working pedal.

Flushed with success, I replaced the two seals (easy bit) and repositioned the toilet before placing the band back in position to secure it all. Now the fun part, I turned the water back on and flushed away. The water swirled around the bowl and then disappeared out of sight into the depths. Not quite what was supposed to happen!

I had had enough so cleaning everything up, and washing most thoroughly, it was time for tea and a sit down.

At 9pm in the evening, the thought of having to redo all my work over again the next day, drove me back into the bathroom. Bowl was removed and I replaced the thick seal over the thin seal and then the toilet bowl, instead of the other way around.

All afternoon long I had no trouble re-attaching the band that held the bowl in place, but whether tiredness or ‘murphy’s law’ it simply refused to go back on this late.

I swore at it to relief some feeling of desperation, but it stood firm and refused to go back on. I looked at the 2lb lump hammer I had for banging in my spikes and decided this was not the answer.

Standing up, I stretched myself to full height took a deep breath of fresh air and got back on my knees to have another go. Thankfully it clicked into place, like it had been doing all afternoon and after tightening up the strap left me with the water test again.

Water added to bowl… and it stayed there. So I cleaned up both myself and the tools and removed the paper from the bathroom floor and disposed of it. Water still there, I could breathe again.

It was still there when I went to bed and again there at 3am in the morning when I paid it a surprise visit.

At long last I had the satisfaction of knowing my toilet was back to A1 condition and working perfectly.

So what did I learn from this escapade? Easy, if it happens again call in an expert 😊