Yes, annual. Why? Because I don’t want to have to rebuild it in an emergency – been there/done that/didn’t like it. So every year I rebuild or service the marine toilet at the beginning of the season, and since I’ve started that, I never have problems with it. This is also the optimal time to service the head, as it has been cleared and pumped clean for winter storage.
I purchased a service kit from Jabsco for my model and year-range. The kit includes three major components, and a bunch of other little parts – all (more or less) critical to the operation of the toilet. There are three main valves that control directional flow of waste: the “joker” valve; the “flapper” at the base of the pump; and the control valves in the top of the pump. They look like this:
My first step was to get a bucket half-full of soapy water – this is where the disassembled parts go. Second step was to put on latex gloves.
Next step was to collect more than enough rags for the job. I always need to sop up water and catch drips. Some folks use paper towels, and I usually do too, but didn’t have a full roll on hand (it’s not unusual to use a full roll during the rebuild or service). Okay – now I’m ready to take it apart. I use three different screw drivers for this: a long Phillips, a short Phillips, and a regular flat-blade (medium). Four Phillips screws hold the pump on the stand, and 2 large regular screws attach it to the exhaust hose. There are also intake and exhaust hoses for the flush water.
With the fasteners removed, I took out the joker valve and flapper and inspected them. They were still in good shape, so have been saved with my toilet rebuild spares for emergency use – or give-away in case another cruiser needs them. Note: cleaning fluids like bleach, Spic&Span, Ammonia etc., can ruin these rubber parts in just one season – this is also true of the alcohol-based antifreeze. I’ve stopped using these cleaning products to clean the head. Since I knew I would replace all the parts inside the head this spring, for ease of winterizing I used the regular RV antifreeze last winter. I use dish soap to clean the toilet when necessary, as it’s a glycerin-based soap that’s easy on rubber parts.
It’s impossible to get all the liquid out of the pump, so I kept it positioned over some rags as I moved it about, and disassembled it. I took out the six screws that hold the top of the pump on, and removed the one-piece valve/gasket for replacement (see above for photo of the valve).
The plunger has an O-ring to replace, which restores the pump’s seal in the cylinder. The O-ring is installed with petroleum jelly, according to the instructions. The bore of the cylinder is also lubricated with petroleum jelly, and helps maintain the seal of the plunger.
I replaced the top valve with the supplied part – fortunately with this pump, it can only fit in one direction. With the old Wilcox-Crittendon head that was in the boat before, it was possible to orient the valve/seal upside down and backwards because there were no orientation guides molded into the plastic housing. Of course, if it’s possible to do it wrong, I obligingly did so every time I rebuilt that head ( = extra time to rebuild for assembly-disassembly-reassembly correctly).
Okay, it’s got all the new parts installed – replaced the O-rings supplied with the kit, etc. Now reassembly, installation and testing. This head comes with a good set of instructions, and reasonably good illustrations. Nothing like photos, though. . .
This time, I read the instructions where they say to attach the exhaust hose first – ah, that makes sense – especially considering how much difficulty I’ve had in the past getting that part to align and seal properly after reattaching the pump to the base first. . . Amazing how much good, helpful information can sometimes be found in the instructions. . . My wife would be proud of me. Reassembly was the easiest I ever remember this time.
I reattached the flush feed/exhaust hoses, then opened the flush-water seacock for a test run. After 8-10 pumps with a fully drawing/evacuating pump, there were no leaks to be found. Success! Let the cruising begin!