Home » When Sewage Won’t Flow Uphill – How to Solve RV Sewer Hookup Challenges

When Sewage Won’t Flow Uphill – How to Solve RV Sewer Hookup Challenges

by Doug and Michelle
Motorhome at dump station

On our very first RV trip, we learned that sewer won’t flow uphill. Sure, that’s obvious given gravity and fluid dynamics and other science – but the best science lessons are life lessons. This was our first RV life lesson. 

The Maiden Voyage, June 2020, Wisconsin

It was June of 2020. The world was shut down, summer was here and we were cooped up with two kids in a small house. We had moved back to Wisconsin the year before and decided to downsize into a smaller place. A badly timed decision, it turns out. We’ve always loved travel and the outdoors, and we had to get out of the house.

So we did what all the cool kids were doing then. We bought an RV. It wasn’t as quick and spontaneous as it sounds, however. Doug had been dragging Michelle to RV dealers and shows for years by then, looking at all of the different styles, models and floor plans. We wanted something affordable, but our Subaru Outback wasn’t going to tow much with a 5,000 lb. towing capacity. If you’re still wrestling with which RV to buy, check out our guide.

We came home with a gently used 29-foot Thor Four Winds Class C motorhome. First things first, we planned a trip close to home with full hookups so we could check out all of the components and make sure everything worked okay. And figure out how to use it. Even if you buy new, maybe especially if you buy new, this is a good idea.

Our first destination was a private RV resort in rural Wisconsin. It was full of wide open, grassy spaces with a few trees and a fishing pond. We didn’t appreciate yet just how spacious the park was! We were escorted to a spot in the grass with a tree, a picnic table and a fire pit. No thrills or frills, but so much space. Great for your first attempt backing in a motorhome! It went off without a hitch… so to speak.

And then we went to hookup the sewer.

RV Life Lesson #1: Sewage won't flow uphill.

This was our first time hooking up to a sewer connection, so it wasn’t immediately obvious to Michelle that the connection was not what it should be. The green PVC sewer pipe stuck up about 12 inches off the ground with a cap on top.

“Huh,” Doug said, staring at the pipe.

The problem was the top of the sewer pipe was higher than the sewer outlet connection on our RV. Water flows to the lowest point, so there was no way the water would be flowing to that sewer pipe on its own. The ground was a bit unlevel, so we tried our best to find a spot where the RV outlet would be higher than the sewer pipe inlet. No such luck.

This was not your average sewer inlet, and we haven’t seen another like it in the two years of RV travel since then. But you’ll find plenty of stories online from other travelers encountering the same issue.

What to do? Here are a few options:

1. Find another dump station

The obvious answer is to wait to dump your tanks until you find a suitable dump station. That’s what we did. But if that’s not an option, there are some other ways to make the best of it. 

2. Add sewer hose supports

If the sewer inlet pipe extends above the ground but is still level or lower than your RV sewer outlet, you may just need some sewer hose supports to lift the hose off the ground to the height of the sewer inlet. 

We use Camco Sidewinder Supports and prefer these to other brands. They’re rigid and durable, and come with a convenient handle for easy carrying.

3. Lift the RV with leveling blocks

If the sewer inlet pipe is only slightly above your sewer outlet, you could try using leveling blocks to lift your RV. It’s always a good idea to have an ample supply of leveling blocks, even with an automated leveling system. They come in handy! 

We use Lynx Levelers but haven’t noticed a difference between brands. 

4. Pack a portable RV waste pump

If all else fails, you may need a portable RV waste pump to help fight against gravity. Some RV travelers keep these on board just in case. We have never used one, but they seem to be popular in the RV forums.

One popular option is The Sewer Solution by Valterra for $130, which will pump up to three feet uphill. Flowjet is another highly rated brand of waste pumps but comes at a premium price of around $270 and up. Other waste pump options start around $90.

Choose Your Own Preparation Level

How prepared do you really need to be? Is a waste pump really necessary? That’s totally up to you. The more flexible you’re willing to be, the less prepared you need to be. 

If sewer hookups aren’t critical, you may just want to go with the flow.

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