Filed Under (Boat/Trailer Maintenance) by Debbie on 01-10-2007

If you’ve read the perilous potty then you know we’ve had problems with our marine toilet on our sailboat. While messy it was easy to fix. I’ve had several people looking for answers on fixing a marine toilet so I’ve been doing some research. Thus a series of articles will follow this one.

Odors: The most common source of an odor is a leak. Here are the less common sources.

  1. The permeable hose. Take a rag and rub it over the hose and then give it the ‘sniff’ test. If the rag stinks then the hose is permeable and needs to be replace with the correct hose.
  2. The vent is clogged on the holding tank (we had that problem). This is something that usually happens when you over fill the holding tank. It pushes the solids up to the vent. When ever possible, we back flush the vent when doing a pump out.
  3. The discharge valve is defective. This can result in raw sewage backing into the toilet bowl. You may not know it as the water in the bowl may look fine. But bacteria will cause the bowl to stain quickly.
  4. Your O-ring is worn or maybe the piston rings on a manual toilet if there a double-acting piston. This could let sewage work into the flushing side of the pump. You probably need to rebuilt the pump.
  5. Marine life could be living in your flushing water. If you’ve a ‘rotten egg’ smell then this maybe your problem. Consider installing a raw water strainer on the suction line seacock. Check it often as you may need to clean it out.
  6. There could be a low spot in the vent line. Which can collect liquid, like the trap on a sink drain.

Buildups: You can get a buildup similar to what you find in a drip coffee maker on discharge valves, seacocks, and lines. If it’s really bad it can plug your toilet. If it’s been getting harder to flush or been clogging or if you’ve had leaking back into the bowl, you might have a calcium build up.

I use household white vinegar on a regular basis about once a month during the season we boat. I use about 2 cups and pump it through to the holding tank.

If however, you are really having a problem and that doesn’t help then you might need to try Muriatic (hydrochloric) acid. You can get it at most marine and hardware stores.

Use about a 10% solution in the bowl and be sure to pay close attention to all the warning stuff on the bottle! It should ‘fizz’ as it works. When it stops fizzing pump the bowl almost dry. Give it a few minutes and then pump a few more times. Keep doing this until the entire discharge line has been cleaned. Flush our well to remove any of the remaining acid. Side note: this acid will also attack metal parts much more slowly.

If this doesn’t work then you may need break down the toilet and chip out the buildup. I’d replace the hoses.

Plugging up: Marine toilets use very little water and clogging up is a very common problem. The pumps, valves and impellers just can’t handle solids, as was part of the problem we had. Be sure to use Marine/RV toilet paper and never put anything down the toilet that hasn’t passed through the human body.

Never try to use a drain cleaner to clear a plugged toilet. The parts are very sensitive and you can cause a great deal of damage. You can try adding warm water to the bowl and leave it for the day or overnight the solids may break down enough to pump out later.

Although sooner or later we’re all faced with the task of a stubborn plug and end up having to take the toilet apart.

Please remember to help out below if you can, thanks!

Read more on how to winterize your head ‘click here’

Read more on how to pump out the head ‘click here’

The marine toilet on a sailboat can be the source of many headaches.  Just be sure to always use RV/Marine paper and never put anything through that hasn’t been through the body.  A small sign in the head is a good idea for those with friends who visit.  It’s not fun to take a part the toilet!

86 Comments posted on "Common problems in marine toilets"
How to pump out your boat toilet holding tank on December 17th, 2007 at 10:56 am #

[…] Read More about ‘problems in marine toilets’ click here […]

Winterize a marine toilet on December 17th, 2007 at 11:13 am #

[…] more on common problems in toilets ‘here’    Read More    Post a […]

Green Cleaning Your Boat on August 1st, 2008 at 9:36 am #

[…] White vinegar is also a great item to use to freshen the air.  I like a sponge soaked in vinegar in a non-breakable container to sit out and grab the smelly stuff.  Also don’t forget to pour a bit of vinegar into the toilet and pump through to the holding tank.  Looking for more information on managing that toilet?  Then you might want to read my post about marine toilets. […]

Michael Childers on January 1st, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

My marine electric toilet when flushed is very very slow to take water. The from the lake enter just fine, but I must cut it off because it feels up with water faster than the toilet can discharge it. The toile was replaced with new unit but it has the same problem. The toilet is a very common install, water enters in from just below toilet, discharge enters in to a loop about 7 feet from the head and from the loop to the holding tank. From the tank it is equiped with a Y-Value connecting to another pump and through the hull. Anyone have any clues as to why the water would discharge so slow. Some the toilet must be cycled 30 times or more to drain plain water. Thinking about changing all hoses and vents.

Mike C

Debbie on January 2nd, 2009 at 10:09 am #

Hi Mike,

I think I’d start with the vent. I’ve seen bees muck up the intake vent before. I’ve also seen it plug up due to an overly full holding tank. Can you reverse pressure wash the vent? Then pump out and see if it works.

Also check the Y-valve to be sure it’s completely open.

If you’re still having problems, I’d suspect a restriction in the hose. Muriatic (hydrochloric) acid would be the next thing I’d try.

If none of these thoughts work then I’d replace the lines. Best of luck!

Jeff on April 29th, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

I bought my first boat last August and have not used it yet (I live in northern Canada and winter comes in September). I winterized everything properly, but now as I get it ready for summer use, I find that the manual marine toilet will not pull water from the tank thru the toilet to the holding tank when I use the pump. Its an older toilet, but everything has been looked after. What could cause this and how do I fix it? Also how much does this cost approx?

Debbie on April 30th, 2009 at 7:26 am #

Thanks so much for visiting and congrats on the boat!

Let me ask some questions about your toilet problem and see if maybe we can help.

1 Did it work properly last year?
2 Is it pulling up water into the bowl, meaning: is the through hull open?
3 Is the holding tank empty? Pull off the deck plug where you would pump out and look to see if there’s anything plugging that.
4 Is it really hard to pump into the holding tank or does it just do nothing?
5 Is the vent for the holding tank plugged?
6 How are the hoses?
7 When you turn the valve to direct the pumping into the holding tank does it turn easy or really hard?

Any thing else you can tell us? We’ll be happy to try to help. Just remember the old adage. Cruising means fixing your boat in different locations. 😉 Welcome to boating!

Nicole on June 9th, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

We have a 89 Doral Cavalier and it is our first big boat, we tried out toilet out when it was in the water and it work for the first two or three times,now it will not draw water in to fill the bowl, we can pump out the water but when you pump the handle there is no water coming in, the only thing that it is doing is sucking air. Please help

Debbie on June 10th, 2009 at 8:21 am #

Did you winter over on the water? If you did, did you winterize the head? If you did, have you opened the seacock? If you’ve opened it then try closing and opening a couple of times. Sometimes the ball inside doesn’t move.

If it’s open then is there a filter? Ours has a filter and that could get plugged and need cleaning.

Have you checked the hose from the seacock? Is it in good shape and is the clamp tight?

If all that seems good then I’d start a system check by closing the seacock and removing the hose. Then I’d open the seacock briefly to be sure water is able to come through to the hose. If it does then check the hose for blockage.

If there isn’t a blockage then you probably need to replace the rubber parts and O rings in the pump unit. So you’ll need a rebuild kit.

After some discussion with buddies (particularly those with the Jabsco toilet) the consensus is…a re-build kit will cost nearly what a new toilet on sale will cost.

We’ve not had to decide this on our boat yet as the PO replace the head a couple years before we bought it, but a few buddies have said they don’t mess around (no pun intended) with the re-build kits any more, they just replace the entire toilet. They’ve used the same model as before and the bolts are already in place from the old unit.

If you replace be sure to clean all old gasket or sealants away and be sure to use sealant on all gaskets to prevent them from weeping. When you tighten the bowl be sure to tighten all four nuts evenly and not too tight or you may crack the ceramic. Also, wait until you’ve reinstalled the head to tighten the pump rod and then only tighten enough to keep it from leaking.

If you opt to rebuild just remember you’re working with sewage; be careful and clean. I understand it generally takes about 3-4 hours this includes clean up time, use lots of bleach when you clean up.

All in all I think I like my buddies idea best of just replacing the entire unit.

Once you get things working again be sure to use head lube once a month to keep everything working at its best.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

gEORGE on June 22nd, 2009 at 3:20 pm #


Debbie on June 24th, 2009 at 7:34 am #

Hi George,

Thanks for your visit! The first thing that comes to mind is for you to check the ‘vent’. If the holding tank vent is plugged you won’t be able to pump out.

We used a fresh water hose and sprayer on the ‘jet’ setting and back flushed it. After that we could pump out fine. A buddy’s boat had a plugged vent from bees!

John on July 4th, 2009 at 10:11 am #

I just purchased a 1994 250CR I’m not sure how to flush out the toilet holding tank.

Debbie on July 5th, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

Hi John,

I appreciate your visit! I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘flush’ out the holding tank.

If you mean how to pump it out, then here’s a link to that:


If you mean being sure it’s all cleaned out then I’d suggest pumping a bunch of water into the holding tank and then sail or motor over some chop for an hour or so and then head to the pump out.

Then too, here’s a link to a story of what kind of paper to use:


Hope this helps! You can always leave more to your question or email me if this doesn’t help…maybe I’ve a better answer.

Carol on February 27th, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

Good info thanks. I have a Jabsco manual flush onboard my steal Stevens Kruiser is located in Europe. I’ve lived aboard for the past 5 years with no toilet problems. I regularly use white vinegar and also sunflower oil as lubricant. This is a direct discharge into the sea. (there is no pump-out stations here so I decided not to continue using the holding tank and electric pump-out). Last night I experience resistance to pushing down on the plunger but with menacing grunts and pushing my full weight on it I was able to flush. I added a shower/toilet cleaner and was able to get total flow both ways with no back up. I had no problems today then this evening the resistance happened again but more so. The toilet was cleared with no back flow but the plunger is now fully extended and I can’t move it down in either position. I’ve just removed all of the water that I can and added a couple of cups of white vinegar which I thought I would leave over night. I’m holding back on the hot water. There have never been any smells associated with this toilet – thank goodness. I’m just surprised that this could happen so quickly! So my plan is to wait over night. If no success buy some hydrochloric acid and try it tomorrow with hestitation because of my boat being steel. Am I on the right track?
Thanks Carol

Debbie on February 28th, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

Hi Carol,

First off…I’m filled with envy at your living aboard!

I haven’t used the hydrochloric acid so I’m afraid I’m no help there, buddies at the club gave me information on it. It seems to me I remember reading about someone having a similar problem and it turned out to be some sea creature that took up residence.

I’ve been on my boat over the weekend so I’m a bit late getting back to you, maybe you’ve already tried the acid. I’d sure like to hear what you do to get things working.

Jack on September 7th, 2010 at 10:09 am #

I have a electric powered groco head…this weekend my friends daughter flushed a 1/2 roll of paper towels down the toilet…I extracted as much as I could from around the flapper valve. The toilet does flush but not sure if I should pump out through the regular deck fitting or try and pump directly from the holding tank?? Also, even though the head flushes, should I do something about the paper towels still in the head?

Debbie on September 7th, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

Wow! A half a roll of paper towels?!?

I don’t know anything about an electric powered groco head. That being said, were I in your shoes…. I’d get out as much paper as possible. Then I’d fill the holding tank with water and pump out from the deck. Then I’d fill and pump and fill and pump. Then I’d have a buddy pump water in from the head while pumping.

You want to be sure you don’t completely fill the tank so you don’t clog the vent. At least that’s what I’d do if it were me… Then too, you could be taking it all apart just to clear the lines.

Anyone else have some thoughts?

Rick Omelian Homosassa on September 25th, 2010 at 9:30 am #

Head, when flushing seem’s to fill with water a slightly greater rate that that of discharge. The water swirls in the bowl and clean water replaces the dirty, so there is definedly change in water. However flushing solids is definetly out! The head was repaired and seemed to work normally till all of a sudded the water exchange got out of sinc. It dosen’t seem to matter if I close down on the supply line to the pump except only to starve the pump.
I am thinging a vent line? what do you thinK

Debbie on September 27th, 2010 at 6:47 am #

Hi Rick,

Isn’t the head fun??? I’m thinking maybe you’ve a buildup of calcium. I’d try the above process and see if that works.

Don’t forget to pour a bit of cooking oil in the bowl and flush to keep all those parts lubed and working well too.

Anyone else with thoughts? This is my best guess. Good luck!

Sue W on December 1st, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

We have bought an old boat that has a significant head smell. Turns out the old owner had a holding tank failure an replumbed the water tank as a holding tank. We are, of course, replacing the system.
My question is about the smell that has permeated fabrics that were stored in the locker under the forepeak bunk; notably sailbags and a bimini (made of Sunbrella). Tried washing in a machine but they still stink. Any ideas?

Debbie on December 5th, 2010 at 12:14 am #

Well, what an awful problem! If you’ve washed and still have the smell then I think I’d try a couple of things. We have a little steam cleaner, not the type for carpet but one of those little ones that just does steam. They do a good job of sterilizing things. I’d try a small area first to be sure the fabrics will hold up ok.

Then I’d try a few gallons of ‘fabreze’ not sure I’ve spelled that correctly. It’s that spray stuff for home that gets rid of smells.

I’m not sure if the Sunbrella will lose it’s water resistant quality with the steam cleaning. So test first! I’m not even sure this will help but it’s what I’d try.

If you’re up for spending some bucks, you can take it all to a company with an ozonator (spelling?)and have them treat it.

These are just suggestions that I hope will help. I don’t know if they will.

Check back in and let me know how it goes. I’m sure others will be interested if you find the right combo!

SeaChall on April 17th, 2011 at 9:13 am #

Well. The finer points of a boat. My head worked fine (so I thought) when I first bought the boat. I have been living on her for two months and first noticed a problem three weeks ago. I would pump until the bowl was empty and find out later that the bowl was full again. That and my holding tank “sweats.” The boat is over thirty years old with a fiberglass tank. There is no vent at the top of the lines where the U pipe is. This being the first thing I am replacing I was still wondering about the rest. I’m guessing I need to reresin the tank. Any other suggestions? This is my first boat and help is greatly appreciated.

Debbie on April 22nd, 2011 at 8:25 am #

Hi SeaChall,

See the above for the bowl re-filling. The vent should be on the outside near your clean out. You can see a pic of our on my post for doing a pump out if you’re not sure what it looks like.

Our boat is almost 30 years old but the PO replaced the holding tank so I’m not sure what to tell you about the sweating tank. Talk with your local chandlery.

I’m green with envy that you’re living on yours!

Robert on April 28th, 2011 at 11:46 am #

I had a leaky Jabsco Macerator Pumo on the bottong of my toilet and replaced it. When flushing it appears to pull fresh water in fine from the lake and swirls just fine sending everything into the macerator. My issue is that after the bowl is clean and the inside of the toilet fills with some water I get a bubbling effect that splashed water all over the outside of the toilet or on the bottom of the toilet seat if it’s closed right after use … What’s Up ???

Debbie on April 28th, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

Hi Robert,

We don’t have a macerator so my best GUESS would be that maybe there’s a small hole in the line somewhere that’s letting air in??? I’ve a buddy with a macerator, I’ll check with him and see what he thinks.

Anyone else have thoughts to help Robert with?

jen on May 14th, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

Hi Robert, My 20yr old son used my boat last weekend. I told him not to use the head onboard, but he did anyway, (I didn’t have the seacock open) and he flushed away, on “wet” and “dry” settings! Now, the manual handle for the pump is competely limp, no resistance, no water moving in or out even with the seacock open. Is this a gasket problem within the handle?? and is there a way I can fix it? Thank you for any advice!

Debbie on May 16th, 2011 at 9:25 am #

Hi Jen,

Could be a piston problem. Pistons generally consist of two washers trapping an O-ring and held to the end of the rod with a nut. Could be you need to replace the O-ring or maybe the nut fell off?

Anyone else have a thought?

Debbie on May 16th, 2011 at 9:31 am #

I’d like to give kuddo’s to Nigel Calder’s book “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual how to maintain, repair, and improve your boat’s essential systems”

If you don’t own this book you should. It’s full of helpful trouble shooting! It should be right next to your Chapman’s.

Paul Skanes on May 16th, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

My manual toilet builds noticeable pressure on the handle and does not seem to push waste into the tank. I’ve tried pump outs and nothing seems to work…suggestions.

Debbie on May 19th, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

Hi Paul,

Are you able to do a pump out? As in ‘stuff’ is leaving the holding tank? Maybe you have a calicum build up? Try some white vinegar. Pour into bowl and pump once then go do something and come back and pump again. Let it sit for like 30 minutes with a single pump every 5 minutes or so. If that helps the I’d think definately a calicum build up. Try more vinegar and see if that will clear it. If not then you might try Muriatic acid, you can get that at the local chandlery or hardware store.

john gauci on June 2nd, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

can not get water pumped into my tolet It worked fine last year.

Debbie on June 3rd, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

Hi John,

Did you check to be sure the sea cock is open?

john g on June 9th, 2011 at 8:34 am #

1 to 10 how hard is rebuilding a headmate toilet pump once you have the right kit.

john g on June 9th, 2011 at 8:35 am #

1 to 10 how hard is rebuilding a headmate toilet pump once you have the right kit.PS sea cock is open

Debbie on June 14th, 2011 at 7:15 am #

Knock wood, we’ve not had to rebuild ours. However, several in our club have. No one has said it was overwhelming. A few have said they would not do it again on a hot day. One said he just gets the same toilet and replaces the whole thing! I must say after a quick price check on rebuild kits, I understand why he’d say that. Anyone else with suggestions for John?

Bob Gouveia on July 14th, 2011 at 8:32 am #

I have a jabsco marine toilet Every time I flush, water comes out the vent. I had the tank pumped out. please help me

Debbie on July 14th, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

Hi Bob,

Is this a new problem on a boat you’ve had or is this a new boat to you? I’ve a couple of thoughts but would like to know if the toilet worked fine ‘before’ and not now.

DOMG on July 25th, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

Hi Debbie,
I have a jabsco marine toilet.
When pumping out with the handle, all goes out. A few seconds later slowly some water comes back in with a bubble or two.
Any Help

Nancy on July 25th, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

My JABSCO manual toilet is stopped up, only with feces, no paper, etc. It is hooked up so that when you wash hands after using the head, the sink holds fresh water-then you pump the toilet and it flushes with fresh wtr. When I pump it, nothing goes anywhere, so the bowl is getting very full. Help! I have also tried putting in hot water, and now vinegar…no chg.

Debbie on July 25th, 2011 at 8:10 pm #


If your holding tank is empty and you’ve tried all the normal remedies and still having problems; then it sounds like it’s time to take it apart. Yucky job…good luck!

Debbie on July 25th, 2011 at 8:14 pm #


I suspect either a suction or discharge valve or valves are leaking. Close first one seacock then the other to see on which side the problem is.

Debbie on July 25th, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

I’d like to remind everyone with a boat that Nigel Calder has a great book you can buy. “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual” How to maintain, repair, and improve your boat’s essential systems.

The book is worth every penny you spend for it. There is so much information in it that I’d hate to lose mine!

Stephen Benton on September 6th, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

Hello, I just replaces my ele pump, and put all new orings and gaskets and new imppler on my Jabsco toilet and it still will not pump the water out of the bowl into holding tank, I also cleaned tank, and then put the water hose in the pump out spot and water came out of the vent tub, what can I do, I am a live aboard and need my toilet lol. is there something to be primed? I am at my wits end, I have replaced eveything at the toilet. Any help would be great Stephen

Debbie on September 9th, 2011 at 8:12 am #

Hi Stephen,

Luck you to be a liveaboard!

I don’t know anything about electric toilets. I am looking through my Nigel Calder book referenced in above comments.

Inadequte flushing says… “The suction pump may be running slowly due to a variety of electrical problems tht usually involve low voltage; the pump impeller may be worn; or the pump may be sucking air through a loose connection or throught the vented loop. The suction seacock may even be coming out of the water when the boat is heeled.”

Hope some of his info can help you! Thanks for your visit and best of luck running down the issue. If you have time, I’d sure love to know what fixes the problem. You may be able to help another liveaboard in the future.

Russ on February 20th, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

This unit will definitely stop the marine toilet from smelling like rotten eggs.

Debbie on February 20th, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

Hi Russ,

Well, I’m allowing Russ to install a link to a site selling a product for toilets. I’d sure appreciate anyone with knowledge of this particular device doing a quick or even not so quick review of the product. Getting rid of the ‘rotten egg’ smell sure would help some of the folks out there!

katie aarnes on June 18th, 2012 at 9:22 am #

had some friends on the boat and cant flush the toilet there was number 2 in there got a pump out and still cant get water in it and doesnt bring in water either to flush it

Debbie on June 19th, 2012 at 6:01 am #

Was the holding tank full? If so, did you check the vent to be sure it’s not plugged?

Kris on June 20th, 2012 at 10:11 am #

I too am having a similar problem to a previous commenter.

Just bought the boat, head worked fine. After 10-15 flushes on our first night aboard the head stopped drawing in seawater. Flushes fine.

I had a similar problem with the galley sink, ran through the remainder of the freshwater tank and shortly after refilling it the sink pump stopped pumping fresh water. The mechanisms are quite similar to the head pump.

I fixed the sink in about a minute by simply applying a bit of wd40 to the pump shaft as i figured that the piston o-ring may have dried out, it pumps better than ever.

I am going to try the same on the head, albeit getting at the o-ring might be a lot harder.

I hadnt even thought about how the problem could be simply a bit of oil or grease on the o-ring until i came on this page and notice a lot of people having the same problem (bought a used boat or came back after the off season to find a head that worked for a bit then stopped drawing water)

Being a paintball enthusiast we have to grease o-rings all the time. Whenever the gun has been sitting for a few months problems tend to pop up with a dried out oring.

Might save some of your readers $ on a rebuild kit or a new head if it turns out to just be a dried out piston o-ring.

Debbie on June 20th, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

Awesome information Kris! You’re right sometimes a bit of oil does wonders.

Clancy Hughes on July 15th, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

I do not think muriatic acid is the same thing as hydrochloride acid.

Debbie on July 16th, 2012 at 7:54 am #

Well Clancy,

I only know it by muriatic acid but according to Niel Calder, hydrochloric is the same. I’m good with his advice.

Karlene on November 16th, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

We just installed a Jabsco 58500 lite flush toilet and it flushes fine but won’t stop filling with water unless we shut off the water supply. Any ideas?

Debbie on November 18th, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

Sorry, not familar with this toilet. Check page 7 of this PDF:


Bruce on March 16th, 2013 at 10:05 am #

Afternoon, just installed an elec marine toilet. (someone stole the vacuflush system before I purchased the boat) the toilet uses fresh water to flush with a 50gal holding tank. water never stops running into the bowl. 2 questions: does an electic toilet need a vented loop? And will a vented loop take care of the problem?
thanks in advance

Debbie on March 20th, 2013 at 6:41 am #

Seems like this should be an easy to answer question but I’m finding it’s not. We have a manual toilet so I’ve been going through my reference books looking for an answer for you.

It appears that the answer would depend on which brand of toilet you have. One shows a vented loop another shows a vent hole and another shows nothing. Along with several other options as to why the water doesn’t stop running.

Best advice I can give is contact the company that manufactures that toilet. Customer service should be able to assist you. If you wouldn’t mind, all of us would appreciate you relaying the solution just for those who also have this problem.

Thanks for visiting I sure wish I had a better answer to your electric toilet problem.

Keith on April 26th, 2013 at 3:03 am #

We have a Jabsco electric toilet that seems to have developed two problems.
First, the bowl is flushing fine but we are getting water flowing back into it somehow. The bowl will empty but after a short while one can see that the water is rising in the bowl, well on its way to 2/3 full or more in an hour. What could be causing this, please?
Second, recently we also developed a leak back down onto the base after flushing. We noted that the bottom inlet hose seemed to be loose and thought that that was the problem but, after tightening the hose, the problem persists. We have checked and cleaned the joker valve and it looks ok but have not been able to replace it yet due to unavailability of parts here where we are in Europe at the moment.
The toilet is in a 10 year old boat that we recently bought and the head was working fine in all ways for the first 2-3 weeks and then developed both problems.

Debbie on April 28th, 2013 at 8:47 am #

Hi Keith,

Thanks for visiting! Let me recommend Nigel Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual. This is an excellent book to have either aboard or at home.

Let me quote from his book:
Bowl fills when not in use. Either the suction or the discharge valve or valves are leaking. Close first one seacock and then the other, observing the bowl level, to find out on which side the problem lies. You will have to dismantle the toilet to check the valves. In addition to the internal suction valve, many toilets have a hand wheel type manual valve on the suction line. These often seem to leak after a few years. They are not repairable and must be replaced.

That quoted I’d also try pouring some cooking oil in the bowl and flushing it through. I do this through out the season to help all the moving parts.

After some discussion with buddies (particularly those with the Jabsco toilet) the consensus is…a re-build kit will cost nearly what a new toilet on sale will cost.

A few buddies have said they don’t mess around (no pun intended) with the re-build kits any more, they just replace the entire toilet. They’ve used the same model as before and the bolts are already in place from the old unit.

If you replace be sure to clean all old gasket or sealants away and be sure to use sealant on all gaskets to prevent them from weeping. When you tighten the bowl be sure to tighten all four nuts evenly and not too tight or you may crack the ceramic. Also, wait until you’ve reinstalled the head to tighten the pump rod and then only tighten enough to keep it from leaking.

If you opt to rebuild just remember you’re working with sewage; be careful and clean. I understand it generally takes about 3-4 hours this includes clean up time, use lots of bleach when you clean up.

All in all I think I like my buddies idea best of just replacing the entire unit.

Once you get things working again be sure to use head lube once a month to keep everything working at its best.

Keith on May 16th, 2013 at 8:58 am #

Thank you (back in port again). Will see what we can do. Value the suggestions.

Randy on May 18th, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

I cannot get raw water into my toilet bowl. Checked the intake and hoses, everyhting is good. Bought a rebuilt kit for my Raritan elecric head and still no good. Someone mentioned a Airlock? thoughts?

Debbie on May 22nd, 2013 at 7:30 am #

Hi Randy,

Are you sure all valves and seacocks are opened and the pump is primed? That being asked, check this forum for their thoughts: http://forums.sbo.sailboatowners.com/showthread.php?t=121192

Rorz on June 15th, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

When I press the flush button on the floor for the electric toilet it makes a click noise and the lights dim but the toilet won’t work??? Any ideas? Thanks

Debbie on June 17th, 2013 at 6:44 am #


I don’t know much about electric toilets. My GUESS is maybe the impeller is stuck to the pump housing. Try lubricating with a very small amount of cooking oil. In the spring I always pour a bit in mine so everything can move freely.

Anyone else with a thought? As I said, I know zip about electric heads.

Liz on July 17th, 2013 at 10:05 am #

Can anyone please give recommendations for routine practices to deodorize Jabsco electric head. I notice that when not used for a few days, there is a horrible smell when seawater flushes into the bowl. This diminishes after several uses. Would the white vinegar trick be helpful or is there anything else I should do before leaving the boat? Thanks, Liz

Debbie on July 20th, 2013 at 7:01 am #

Hi Liz,

If there’s a rotten egg smell you could have marine life in the flushing water. A strainer over the seacock could help.

Zynga Poker Toolbar on May 14th, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

s Spoken Word and her website offers products to help Christians use Bible scriptures in every day
living finding the secret power of god. Players must use the candy
bar names listed to write a story about the bride and groom’s wedding night.
The company’s promising logo is “A New Game Every Day.

My web site; Zynga Poker Toolbar

ryan344fyrkblog.edublogs.org on May 17th, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

According to the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), there have been 36 known CAPS activations as of July 24, 2012.
By law, an insurer is required to cancel the SR22 using state incase the insurance plan expires, canceled or is not really
renewed by the insured for any particular reason. An SR22 is required by the Department of Motor Vehicles in order
for a particular individual to be allowed driving privileges.

Feel free to visit my weblog … automobile insurance calculator (ryan344fyrkblog.edublogs.org)

Damaris on May 18th, 2014 at 5:32 am #

Admiring the time and energy you put into your
website and in depth information you provide. It’s good to
come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Great
read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your
RSS feeds to my Google account.

My weblog; Boom Beach cheat download [Damaris]

bewiser Car insurance on May 19th, 2014 at 9:40 am #

Just enter your automobile and your zip code and it will acquire you to your
choice display screen. So go out notify your self and preserve cash on your car insurance!

Feel free to surf to my web blog – bewiser Car insurance

Carl on May 24th, 2014 at 3:58 am #

I have a TMC electric toilet with push button switch. When pressing the switch button the motor won’t engage, if you depress slightly it engages the motor but keeps cutting in and out?
Ideas? Thanks

sue on May 26th, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

We are having issues with the toilet on our boat it will flush once perfect and the next time not work! It will gurgle and spit out water and a sewage smell comes out ! Could this be a clogged toilet or something else

Pam on June 3rd, 2014 at 4:46 am #

The head on our boat leaks water onto the floor after several uses. Not sure how to repair. There is no smell, just a lot of water.

marci on June 15th, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

today when flushing we noticed water coming out the side of our boat? It is a regular hole like the bugle pumps but a one that has a silver cover. We got he boat last year and it has never done this before. Any ideas?

Debbie on June 23rd, 2014 at 8:09 am #

Hi Marci,

My guess is the holding tank is full and you have waste pumping out the vent. My suggestion would be to do a pump out of the toilet holding tank, run some water into the vent (silver cap) while doing the pump out to be sure it’s clear.

Mike on July 30th, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

I have a jabsco manual flush toilet on a 2005 four winns 258 vista. I have rebuilt several in the past so am familiar with the workings of the manual toilet. I have several problems with my toilet so I will list them and what I have done so far. This is my first year with the boat and not sure if it was pumped out at the end of the season last year. I pumped it out last week when I started to have problems and the pump pulled alot of waste out, it was rinsed with water and pumped again.

1. The toilet does not pull water into the bowl. I read the prior posts and will work with my water inlet to make sure it is working and the ball is not sticking. I have a long wire snake I can send through it to make sure it is not blocked. Not a big deal as I can pull water from the sink in the head but I still need to work through it.

2. A non boating person on the boat used paper towels and flushed them. I took the toilet apart and cleaned what I could find out. I replaced the complete manual apparatus to the toilet, all new seals and joker valve. when I try to flush I have incredible resistance on the hand pump both dry and wet. This leads me to believe that I have a plugged hose from toilet to holding tank. I do not believe the vent is plugged as it worked before, but will check that also. I plan on using a regular hand operated plumbing auger to push through and open it up. I have reviewed the design of my system in the owners manual and should only have about five feet at most of pipe between head and tank. My concern is that there is a build up of waste in the holding tank do the softening chemicals at marine stores work and are they worth it. I really do not want to open up my aft cabin to get to the holding tank unless I have to, last ditch effort.

I am pretty handy so that is not the issue, just running out of ideas. Any help would be great

Jackie on August 12th, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

New pump system installed in Jabsco manual marine toilet and still no water coming through into bowl. Handle pumps normally, flushes normally if you add water. Have tried adding warm water with no luck. Any other suggestions out there in the boating world? Could it be an air lock? The boat sat through a year unused. Help please…

Jackie on August 12th, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

Sorry if this is repetitious but do not see my posting. Just installed a new Jabsco head pump and still no water coming into tank. Water poured into tank pumps out. Have tried the warm water trick to no avail. Has anybody else experienced this problem with positive results? Air lock? Help please?

Celalettin on April 19th, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

Ä° have jobsco electrical toilet not bringing water into bowl.
Ä°f i fill in the pipe water coming from sea, than it is working, but after sailing not working.

Matt on November 13th, 2016 at 10:05 am #

I believe that my toilet does have a blockage of some sort. It got this way in about a day. It was working fine then nothing. There is a pressure that builds up when the macerator is turned on but when it is not used I can pump liquids through with no problem. I really don’t want to take the macerator out, What a pain. Any ideas? thanks

Trevor Nurse on December 15th, 2016 at 3:50 am #

Hi there, have just purchased a second hand boat with a TMC electric toilet installed. I can get the water to fill the bowl but not to expell the bowl. The water just keeps going round and round.Would anyone have any ideas to fix the situation?

Jo on December 18th, 2016 at 12:50 am #

Exactly my problem Trevor and I’ve just installed an exact replacement. Tried everything.

Chris on April 6th, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

Hi. We have a T-series Discharge pump. When we tried to empty our tank yesterday the pump would run for a while and then shut off. There was no discharge. Any ideas where to start?

Andrew on May 29th, 2017 at 12:13 am #

I have just installed a new Y valve when out of the water. Now I cannot flush to sea only to the holding tank. Could this be an air lock if so how could I clear the problem?

Cyndy on June 4th, 2017 at 11:05 am #

Hydrochloric acid is 10% concentration of Muriatic acid.(they ARE the same thing it’s only a matter of concentration)IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: When diluting ALWAYS add the acid to the water. (NEVER the water to the acid) I’m having trouble with backflow even though my hoses were replaced only 3 years ago. Going to have another look at everything listed here. I can pump out okay but the electric motor fills the bowl faster than it empties and after only a couple days it starts to backfill. I’ve tried the suggested fabric softener with no luck, so I’ll try these other things and then replace all the hoses again. Great thread!! Thank you!

Frances on July 18th, 2017 at 11:43 am #

I have a new to me boat and notice after flushing that the fresh water refill won’t always stop when you release the flush mechanism. Now it has me worrying about flooding the boat (hooked to water on the dock). Can I oil the flush hinge to make it stop? or something else?

Jacob Bryant on July 16th, 2019 at 1:20 am #

Im having the issue ware the toilet is functioning as it should accept it wont pump completely without throwing water back out of the bowl and all over the head floor. It will flush leaving a few inches of water that it then simply sloshes back and forth until it throws out and its pretty unpleasant if you happen to be flushing with the lit up. Can you help?