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Old 30-07-2007, 22:27   #1
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head won't draw in water

I’m a newbie fixing up his first boat, a neglected Catalina 27 that I recently purchased. I’ve started in on the head, and I’ve come to a snag despite an afternoon of working on it. The short version of my question is this: The head seems to work generally, but it never draws water into the bowl. Is there any way to troubleshoot/fix the thing without disassembling it or hauling the boat out?

The longer version of the question….

When I set the head to ‘flush’ and push down the piston rod, it moves nice and smoothly with just as much tension as you would expect if it was functional, and I hear the hopeful sound of rushing water inside the piston, yet no water ever enters the rim no matter how many times I pump the piston. On the ‘up stroke,’ the contents of the bowl empty out nicely. (Thus, when I manually pour water into the bowl, the head works fine.)
When I set the head to ‘dry bowl,’ it empties out nicely.

One possibility is that the ‘water in’ through-hull is plugged, which is possible because there was a shameful jungle on the underside of the hull when I hauled it for the survey. At the time, however, the surveyor said that the through-hulls were fine. Moreover, when I was troubleshooting today, I closed the ‘water in’ seacock and pumped the piston, and it (or its hose) gurgled loudly as though there was air in it and seemed to puff out a little air into the bowl from the rim (which makes me think the hose leading to the rim is not blocked). Since it does not do this when the seacock is open, I suspect that the seacock might actually be drawing in water. (Notably, no matter how much I pump on ‘dry,’ there’s always a little be of water in the bottom.) If so, perhaps the piston is somehow allowing the in-flowing water to simply pass through the piston itself and out through the out-flow pipe?

The details….

The head is a ‘Brydon’ and appears to be in generally good shape. The lines appear in good shape, and are not leaking or even really stinking. The simple plumbing runs to a holding tank and then overboard (or, depending on the Y-connecting setting, just overboard). There’s no pump-out line yet. (That’ll be a winter project.) Despite the neglect, the fittings don’t look that bad.

I slowly pumped through a litre of vinegar. No change.

The lever on the seacock that draws in the water opens fine, but I can’t be certain that it’s not blocked/plugged. (The lever on the seacock that leads overboard was jammed, but I managed to open it with a delocking spray.) Sadly, the previous two owners had neglected the boat, and the last one never stepped aboard it in a whole year of ownership (so the effluent that I’ve inherited in the 60% full holding tank and pipes may actually of 2005 vintage!)

What should I try next?

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Old 31-07-2007, 00:03   #2
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Two things to do. Check you have water coming in via the seacock. That's the first priority. Remove the hose fromt he tail and opent eh seacock and see if water comes through. If it is blocked, either repair or replace the valve. Replace is probably best. Youn can do this in the water. Water will come through the skin fitting and you will get wet, but you won't sink.
If the seacok is OK, the only other thing to do is to get a maintenance kit. This is a small packet of seals and bits and pieces. The pump assembly comes off at the bottom. At the top you have another part that can be dismantled. Replace all the parts. Not greatly expensive and should get you working again. This should all be able to be done with the boat still in the water. The seacock may need closing however.


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Old 31-07-2007, 00:14   #3
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Two things I can think of.

1. Close the intake seacock, take the hose off and put it in a bucket of water, and try pumping. That will tell you if it is a blocked sea cock, or one where the handle does nothing or alternatively something wrong with the head. (Look at the hose also for blockage.) Also have your soft wood bung handy if the surveyor was wrong about your neglected seacock/throughhull.

2. (And my bet for the problem.) There are two check valves that cause the water to travel in the direction desired. I found a picture of a Brydon, it looks like the head my friend has. If it is, the check valves are part of the gasket for the top rectangular part on top of the cylinder. They could have crud in them or the rubber is dead. My friend broke pieces off when screwing the top back together, so don't get carried away tightening them. Rebuild kits come complete, probably worthwhile replacing all the parts while it is apart.

The website I found said that Jabsco 2000 was formerly Brydon boy.
BIAS Boating Warehouse - Toilets

The website below isn't identical to yours, but is similar. Piston goes down, water is drawn into cylinder through lower check valve in gasket 1350W. Piston goes up, water is pushed out to toilet rim through top check valve in the same gasket.

Ok, third, lever internally is broken in the dry bowl direction.

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Old 31-07-2007, 13:06   #4
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Agree with the good assessment from Cal. You need to plan on a rebuild. It's very unlikely the hose or seacock is plugged and that's easy to test as #1 from Cal. If a hose or seacock was plugged you probably wouldn't be able to move the handle as it would create a vacumn. Try that with seacock closed. Since you don't have a vacumn your seals/check valve needs replaced. Most heads - even the better ones - need overhauled every few years.
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Old 31-07-2007, 14:39   #5
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Don't rebuild that old head. The kit costs nearly as much as a new head. Wait till they're on sale, those Jabscos go for a bit over $100. A lot of people bitch about these cheap heads but I've been using them for twenty years. About every six or seven years put a new one in.
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Old 31-07-2007, 14:39   #6
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One thing to note is that for my head the rebuild kit is $79 but a new head is $110. The labor required to rebuild is more than the difference. Sometimes it can be the better idea. That said the valves can get clogged up with growing ea creatures and require you to disassemble the head valves. It's not that hard and you finds the problem quickly.

The only other problem is that the hose leading to the head can grow all sorts of stuff that makes the hose diminished in diameter and can stop the flow. On an older boat it happens that the hose itself needs to be replaced.
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Old 31-07-2007, 17:11   #7
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Odd's are you have a worn flapper valve on the intake side of the pump, or, a worn-out O-Ring on the piston. Both would allow a "swooshing" sound but prevent water from being drawn into the bowl. (The down stroke forces water from the bottom of the cyclinder through the JOKER value and into the waste stream while, at the same time, pulls clean, raw water, into the top of the cyclinder. The up-stroke sucks water out of the bowl and at the same time, forces the water in the top of the cyclinder into the bowl, through the drain holes in the rim.

We have two 21 year old Bryden Boy heads on our yacht and they have proven to be very robust as long as one does the routine maintenance properly. In our case I found that buying a replacement pump assembly was a cost effective option rather than the brain damage of replacing the entire head. I bought a replacement pump and two service kits when we first purchased our new "old" boat in January 2002. Now we have a spare pump if anything fails and good gaskts and seals. Whenever the heads are used the user is asked to run a squirt of a dilute solution of "Salt Away" (kept in the heads for that purpose) through the bowl with the last few pumps to clear the bowel. With this, our seals and O-rings have remained quit tight and functional. At least a weekly washout with CP and a monthy dose of headlube, plus a little petroleum jelly on the pump shaft from time to time have kept things quite functional for 5 years now.


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Old 03-08-2007, 16:30   #8
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Thumbs up Thanks for the advice!

Thanks to everyone for the great advice. Based on the wisdom I've read here, I think I'm going to open the piston and do a quick scan for the problems mentioned.

If I don't find anything relatively obvious, then I'm going to wait until my boat's scheduled haul-out for hull work in three weeks and then check the through-hull etc. (As a newbie, I'm too much of a coward to start popping off hoses while it's in the water -- especially when the head is usable, if I just pour water into the bowl manually.)

If the through-hull and hose prove functional, then I think I'll put in a new head as opposed to going the rebuild kit route. The price difference isn't that great (now that all the other repairs have made me fiscally numb anyway).

Thanks again, everyone!
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Old 03-08-2007, 16:36   #9

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Mine does that only when the intake is plugged.
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Old 06-08-2007, 04:19   #10
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The Brydon Boy head is now the Jabsco (PAR) 29120-2000 or 29090-2000 Manual Toilet.

Excerpted from “Troubleshooting” guide:
▼ Water does not come in and handle springs up if pushed down
-Open Inlet Seacock.
- Fully open Flush Control Lever (23).
▼ Water does not come in although handle is easy to push and pull
- Open Flush Control Lever (23).
- Check Top Valve Gasket (21)and Piston O-ring (30).
- Check Inlet Hose connections are airtight.

Gord May
"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 06-08-2007, 19:53   #11
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Thanks! I downloaded the pdf, and I'm sure it'll help.

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