How to change a grey water drain switch in the head
The grey water drain switch is used to empty the grey water tank after using the sink or during the use of the shower. Grey water is used water from the sink/shower whereas black water is from the toilet.
All boats have pumps to pump the grey and black water out of the boat and into the sea. Some boats are fitted with holding tanks so the grey and black water can be stored; if the boat is in a marina for example, and then pumped off the boat when far enough out to sea.
Grey water switches often have an ‘On’ and an ‘Off’ position. Our particular switch has a plastic cover over the switch – presumably to remove the risk of an electric shock.
For over four months our grey water drain switch in the forward head worked in an intermitted fashion
If you pressed the switch to ‘On’ and then ever so slightly depressed the ‘Off’ side it would work okay. The issue with doing so is that you couldn’t simply press the switch ‘On’ and do other things while the drain/tank emptied – you had to stand near the switch and hold it in the right position for it to work.
As you can imagine, showering was a difficulty!
Trying to wash your hair, hold the switch and keep the shower water from spraying across the sink and toilet was a challenging task. In the end, we had to shower and then afterwards hang out in the head as we held the drain switch to pump the water out.
The ideal scenario would be to turn the switch to ‘On’ and it simply stayed ‘On’
Month after month I looked at the switch panel with fear. I noted the six screws that held the panel on and the various components that filled the panel – a black water tank indicator, the drain switch, a toilet fill and drain switch and a flush button.
My fear kept me from taking the screws off and looking behind the scenes
I thought, ‘what if I don’t know what to do?’ and ‘what if I electrocute myself?’ Isn’t fear totally debilitating? It causes you to live with situations that are completely unnecessary!
Anyway, one sunny day while talking to Andy, the owner of a sailboat services company, I mentioned my drain switch issue. To my amazement, Andy opened the skink cupboard, put his hand behind the panel and popped the switch out the front (see below).
He pulled the switch off – it was simply plugged in with standard electrical connectors – and told me to try plugging in a new switch
I looked at him and said, ‘OMG – Are you serious?!’ I felt like such a moron – if only I knew how easy it was to pop the switch out, I could have done it months ago. I didn’t need to unscrew the whole panel. I didn’t need to fear being electrocuted!
Lucky for me I had recently discovered a box of spare switches under the port cabin bed. With a giddy feeling, I pulled off the bed mattress, quickly removed the boards and started digging in the switch box.
‘Come on…come on…I know you’re in here!’ (I kept murmuring)
My desire to find a spare drain switch was massive. Knowing that I had the ability to fix something so annoying brought an immense shot of happiness my way. If only I could find a spare.
“Aha! Here one is…here’s a spare drain switch,” I screamed out with Joy
I jumped across the hall to the forward head, away from the mess I created, and started to examine the current switch. Knowing that I might get fuddled as to what wire connects to what connection, I took a photo.
Afterwards, I disconnected the suspected faulty drain switch and then connected the spare drain switch. It was almost as simple as putting a plug into an outlet.
I pushed the unit back into the switch board, looked up to heaven and mumbled, ‘Please let this work!’
I slowly depressed the switch to the ‘On’ position expecting it to go on for a few seconds and ‘Off’ when I removed my finger. To my delight, the drain pump went on and stayed on.
Yes, it’s a very tiny victory, but it’s a victory no less
Afterwards while cleaning up the mess I made ravaging through the spare switch box, I discovered a spare cabin light. Still feeling high, I grabbed a Philips head screwdriver and started unscrewing a completely corroded cabin light. I took a picture of the connections, removed the wires connecting the light and inserted the new wires from the new light.
Before screwing the light back to the wall, I tested out the light and it failed to turn on. I felt deflated for a bit but then I decided to check the light bulb. I swapped the current bulb for one that I knew that worked and once again, to my utter delight, the light turned on!
No…I’m not fiddling around behind the main circuit panel nor am I ready to rewire the boat!
I’ll save that for next month! I am, however, ready to face many of my fears rather than bury my head in the sand. I am ready to open things up and at least take a look.
- When someone knowledgeable about boats is around ask them about your latest frustration. Chances are that it’s a very easy fix if you get a tip or two.
- If something isn’t working, take it apart and look behind the scenes. If I took the drain panel off I would have easily spotted the ‘plug and play’ type switch and would have known that I had the ability to swap it for a new on.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway!
So, perhaps you don’t need to know how to change a simple grey water drain switch in the head. But maybe there’s something small niggling you but you’ve put your head in the sand rather than investigating.
Go investigate! If I can do it, you certainly can 🙂