Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Toilet Talk: How to Change a Toilet Valve and Thru-Hull Fitting

A mere 48 hours before Spray was to undergo a 6-hour inspection and put into the water, we discovered that the toilet evacuation valve was stuck.  

In English: stuck but good.  In French: stuck from Chez Stuck. 

It was stuck last year, too, so tried the same things that worked the last time: WD-40, a hammer, cleaning with long tube brush, and vinegar.  But this time it didn't work.  Web forums suggested progressively aggressive chemical treatments: vinegar first, then Coca Cola (note: apparently Lite and Zero are no good for this), and if all else fails, hydrochloric acid (10%).  We tried the Coke, I’m embarrassed to say, and decided that the acid was just over the top.  It was time to admit defeat and change the valve.

The first challenge was to remove the old valve without damaging the thru-hull fitting.  Sub-challenge 1: procure appropriate tools.  The local mechanics loaned Patrick a manly man’s wrench, and I loaned him my hairdryer.  Both were essential to unscrew the first locking ring and tug off the hose.  The real test was trying to get the valve assembly off the thru-hull.  After about 15 minutes of grunting and sweating with both the wrench and hairdryer, it gave way.  All of it.  Thru-hull included. 





After an animated debate about how to proceed, we agreed (read: I won) that we shouldn't mess around with something that is a possible safety risk and decided to call a pro.  The mechanic assured us that we hadn't done anything wrong and that it is exceedingly rare to be able to remove the valve without unseating the thru-hull as well.

This morning, he came to our rescue, 24 hours before inspection and splash-down.  To our surprise, he began by cutting into the thru-hull seating from the OUTSIDE of the boat, which now makes perfect sense to us.  If you look at the bottom locking ring on thru-hull fitting from the inside of the boat (that hexagonal ring at the bottom of the thru-hull fitting now corroded to a light green in the photo above), there’s no way to get at it with a wrench because it’s counter-sunk.  The only way to remove the assembly is to cut small sections in the outside ring, then take a hammer and hefty screwdriver and peel away the little sections.  Once that is done, the assembly can be removed from the inside of the boat.





While the mechanic took the assembly back to the shop to pry off and clean the elbow from the old valve with more tools we don’t have, he loaned us a heat gun (having scoffed at my hairdryer) and we were charged with extracting the top joint fitting from the evacuation hose.  After a startlingly short time, I smelled burning rubber and before I could voice my concern, Patrick cried victory.



Still smokin !!
The rest was relatively simple.  The thru-hull was fixed into the hole with a generous amount of Sika 291 and the new assembly was screwed into place.  This manoeuvre required two people, though: one to screw the assembly from the inside of the boat and another to hold and block the thru-hull fitting from the outside to keep it from turning.  The inside of the thru-hull has two ridiculously small bumps that are supposed to help you grip and hold the fitting, but we can report that they are only mildly useful.  The last step is to reattach the to the fitting and tighten down the hose clamps.  I was afraid that Patrick’s antics with the heat gun had deformed the hose beyond repair but apparently it was used to such abuse. 










The procedure lasted 1.5 hours and cost about 160 Euros.  We’re thankful that it could be done in time for our rendez-vous with the water tomorrow and we realize that even if we had known what to do, we didn't have the tools to do it well.  But next time, I assured Patrick, we can try it ourselves.  (Note to self: Christmas present for Pat is a mega-wrench and a heat gun. Well, maybe just the wrench...)


Inspection tomorrow !     

5 comments:

Astrolabe Sailing said...

Good luck with the inspection!

MH said...

Final words from the inspector: "Good solid boat, well maintained." Woo Hoo ! Of course, there are little hardware repairs that need to be made but those fall into the category of normal wear and tear (and more importantly, into the category of "not our problem anymore").

The Cynical Sailor said...

We just had three thru-hulls and seacocks replaced. Scott had thought about doing them himself, but we had the guys in the yard do it instead. He's done pretty much everything else on the boat, but this seemed to be a good place to invest some money and hire others.

Glad your survey went well! When do you complete the sale? Will be nice to be one boat owners I imagine :-)

The Cynical Sailor said...

We just had three thru-hulls and seacocks replaced. Scott had thought about doing them himself, but we had the guys in the yard do it instead. He's done pretty much everything else on the boat, but this seemed to be a good place to invest some money and hire others.

Glad your survey went well! When do you complete the sale? Will be nice to be one boat owners I imagine :-)

MH said...

Thanks Cynical crew ! The sale will be finalized on the 8th of May (fingers crossed until then).