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Introducing the "Can Cam": Perfect for RV DIYers

Introducing the "Can Cam": Perfect for RV DIYers


avatar   Scott
Trip Date 11/26/2020
Posted On 01/29/2021 09:30:00

United States | Camping | RVing | Hacks | Black Tank | Dumping | Toilet | Toilet Paper | How to Completely Empty an RV Black Tank | Inspecting your Black Tank | How to See Inside an RV Black Tank | Black Tank Trouble | Rhino Blaster | Master Blaster | DIY Projects



Are you completely happy with how well your RV black tank empties when dumping? Have you had success with really inspecting your black tank? In my experience, the tank doesn't empty as well as I would like. At times, I've looked into the toilet hole and have noticed that there is still water in the tank, even after dumping. On other occasions, I've grabbed a flashlight to look into the toilet and have clearly seen toilet paper and other solids remaining. I label these issues "black tank trouble"!

Off the shelf camping or RVing products like the Valterra Master Blaster Tank Wand and the Camco Rhino Blaster are great tools to have in an RV. Since I wanted something more, I brainstormed solutions for how to see inside an RV black tank and how to completely empty an RV black tank. I finally came up with a hack - building a "Can Cam" or a camera for the can (aka toilet). Creating the Can Cam was pretty easy, and it's been the perfect way for me to see what's going on in my blank tank. Better yet, when I see something that I don't like, I can blast it outta there (all while watching it leave)!

If you've had similar issues with your black tank, be sure to check out this article. I start with the steps that I took before creating my Can Cam. Then, I share a little about how I came up with the idea, the supplies that I used and how I built my Can Cam. Finally, I share how I first used the Can Cam, what it does, and how I've continued to use it. Any RVer who enjoys hacks or DIY projects will surely want a Can Cam for their RV!

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Dumping & Flushing our Black Tank

Our RV has a black tank flush port. By connecting a water hose to the port, I can run water directly into the black tank. With the black tank dump value open, this helps to flush out additional solids that may not come out during a regular dump.


Black Tank Flush Port

Black Tank Flush Port

A couple of years ago, I purchased a Camco Rhino Blaster Sewer Tank Rinser. The Rhino Blaster is a dump hose adapter with a water hose spray port. It allows me to spray water straight up into the black tank from the outside. It also allows us to see when the water begins to run clear. In theory, these two additional steps should help to better flush the black tank.


Camco Rhino Blaster

Camco Rhino Blaster

Since I haven't been completely pleased with the end result of the combination of the above two measures, sometimes we've gone a step further. We've felt the need to get a high pressure hose nozzle and shoot it straight down the toilet from inside of the RV. This seems to work great to clear away any solids that are hanging out directly below the "poop shoot". It is unclear, however, how well it helps to clear the rest of the tank. At times, I've even used a long piece of PVC pipe to clear (push away) solids remaining just below the poop shoot before blasting with high pressure water from the inside.


Inserting PVC Pipe to Push Waste Away

Inserting PVC Pipe to Push Waste Away

High Pressure Hose Nozzle

High Pressure Hose Nozzle

To make dumping matters worse, I'm pretty sure that our tank has a low spot that is not at the drain (even when sitting level). Because of this, waste often remains in the tank after dumping. To help with this problem, I built some wooden ramps that are 3 levels of 2x6 boards. They allow me to raise (i.e. tilt) the RV up (on the opposite side of the blank tank value). This helps additional waste to drain - but it is a hassle and we have to plan ahead. I've found that the best time to do this is when we have some time just before leaving a camp site with sewer.


Wooden Ramps

Wooden Ramps

Even with all of these measures, I was unsure of how well the tank was really getting drained when dumping. In my opinion, it doesn't seem to clear out as well as I had hoped.

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Master Blaster

I always thought that I needed a PVC pipe with a sideways hole, but never knew if that would really work adequately. Plus, how could I see into the black tank to confirm my suspicions?

Recently, I stumbled on a product called the Master Blaster Tank Wank by Valterra and immediately said, "ahhh, I need that". The Master Blaster is essentially a PVC pipe with a hose adapter and valve on one end and a focused output spout going sideways on the other. After connecting a hose to the Master Blaster, you can blast the inside of the black tank from the toilet.


Master Blaster Packaging

Master Blaster Packaging

Master Blaster, Take Two

After using the Master Blaster a few times, I decided that I could kick it up a notch by making a fairly simple enhancement. Since I installed our RV back-up camera several years ago, I had most of the parts needed to add a camera to the Master Blaster. This would allow me to see around the inside of the black tank as well. It would really help to answer all of my burning questions about what is going on down there!

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Supplies Needed

  • Master Blaster: I've seen the Master Blaster on sale for about $10; When I was ready to purchase mine from Amazon, it was no longer on sale so I paid regular price (about $17). If you enjoy DIY projects, it could also easily be built from plumbing parts too!
  • Car Backup Camera: Backup cameras with night vision are available from eBay for about $12 (camera only). Having night vision is necessary to be able to see inside the dark tank.
  • Wiring for connecting a display to the camera plus power wires for connecting both the camera and display to a 12v power source. Depending on where you'll get your power, you may also need a 12v accessory plug extension cord.


    Custom Video Cable - Power and Video RCA

    Custom Video Cable - Power and Video RCA

    12v Accessory Extension Cable

    12v Accessory Extension Cable

  • Monitor: Since the camera is 12v and the monitor that I use in our tow vehicle to see the view from the RV backup camera is also 12v, I use the same monitor and circuit as I do on our RV's hard-wired backup camera system. If you don't have a monitor like this that you can use, a small portable monitor can be purchased on Amazon for less than $25 (depending on your preferred size).


    Dual Purpose Video Monitor (Rear View Camera & Can Cam)

    Dual Purpose Video Monitor (Rear View Camera & Can Cam)

  • Duct Tape

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Fabricating a Can Cam

Making the Can Cam requires wiring and assembling the camera:

Wiring

I built a custom wire to connect the power source to the camera and display. It has a 12v accessory plug on one end. The other end is split into two long wires, each with 12v security camera power cable ends (2.1 mm x 5.5 mm). Coupled with the 12v accessory plug extension cord (that I already had), I am able to reach an accessory outlet in our RV. With a yellow-ended video RCA cable, I can connect the camera to the monitor and easily power them both. (I used duct tape to attach the connectors to the "top" end of the Master Blaster wand.)


Master Blaster with Wiring (Camera Connectors)

Master Blaster with Wiring (Camera Connectors)

Alternative Power Sources

If you don't have a 12v accessory plug available in your RV (and don't want to add one), some alternatives could be:
  • position a vehicle near the RV door within range of a 12v extension cord;
  • use a jump starter with a 12v accessory plug; or
  • use an AC/DC power transformer.

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Assembly

I mounted the camera at the end of the Master Blaster wand with duct tape. (By trimming off the extra long bracket on one side of the camera, I was able to mount it low, near the water spout.)


Can Cam: Master Blaster with a Camera

Can Cam: Master Blaster with a Camera

You may realize that the camera's angle of view is sideways when attached in this way to the vertical Master Blaster wand. Yeah, that's right - it is something that I can easily deal with. I can always set the monitor sideways if I really want to see the upright orientation view.

Now, I have the most awesome black tank inspection and cleaning tool!

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Using the Can Cam for the First Time

The first time that I was ready to use the Can Cam, I turned off the water pressure to the toilet. (I wanted to keep the trap door open without water flooding down.) I first put the Can Cam down into the toilet, without the water hose attached. What I saw was eye opening!


Can Cam Connected to Monitor

Can Cam Connected to Monitor

Inspecting the Can with my Can Cam

Inspecting the Can with my Can Cam

In our case, toilet paper had basically built a dam that prevented any other solids from moving toward the drain and fully evacuating. Even after doing a traditional dump, using the black tank flush and the Rhino Blaster, there was still stuff remaining in the tank as I had suspected.

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Next, I connected the water hose to the Master Blaster and again inserted it into the tank. I made sure that I was still able to see the obstruction, and then turned on the water pressure. With the Master Blaster positioned correctly, I was able to "blast" water which moved everything toward the dump valve.

Stacy stood outside to watch what came out through the clear dump hose adapter. She said that she saw both more dark and light matter than ever before. I continued blasting the inside of the tank in all directions and was able to mostly clear the tank. (There were two small wads of paper that just did not want to leave. They just kept floating around and around.)

All in all, I'm confident that the tank was much cleaner than ever before.

Continued Use of the Can Cam

I don't use the Can Cam every time I dump the black tank. I do believe, however, that a good deep cleaning every now and then is healthy for the black tank operation.


Can Cam (Master Blaster with Camera connected to Water Hose)

Can Cam (Master Blaster with Camera connected to Water Hose)

As for the two small wads of toilet paper, I filled the tank with water and dumped it again, and they finally did go away.

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(We have been using septic-safe toilet paper as recommended by our RV dealer. We like this toilet paper better than RV toilet paper - it is softer, costs much less and is supposed to dissolve easily. Further research leads me to believe that some septic-safe toilet paper brands dissolve better than others, so this could be part of our problem.)


Angel Soft Septic-Safe Toilet Paper

Angel Soft Septic-Safe Toilet Paper

Installing an RV Backup Camera

Be sure to take a look at my article titled "My Trailer Rear View Wired Camera Experience". In addition to finding some information from the research that I did while searching for a back-up camera, I share my DIY experience with installing a camera. This relatively inexpensive and not too difficult option has been a lifesaver during our 3+ years of towing our RV.

Tips for Clearing out an RV Black Tank

What are your best tips for completely clearing out an RV black tank?
Introducing the "Can Cam": Perfect for RV DIYers







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