Pump Out Attention Extends to the Head


Although head maintenance is low on everyone’s fun task list, working on functioning head that has been flushed clean (flush with lots of clean water, soak in vinegar for 15 minutes, and then flush that through with more water) head is much more pleasant than working on a broken, clogged head.

Joker Valve. If you have a Jabsco Manual or Groco Manual head, install a Raritan joker valve. It is dimensionally interchangeable and long term PS testing has confirmed that they last about twice as long. The price is a bit more, but the total cost is less and the improved operation and reduced labor is a blessing. The joker valve should be installed with the lips vertical; placed horizontal, they droop under gravity and fail prematurely.

Lubrication. Follow the manufacture instructions, giving the pump a good slathering of synthetic grease every season (every other season, if use is light). Break the cooking oil lube habit; it’s bad for the holding tank and marginal for the pump.

Replace vs. Repair. Jabsco sells a rebuild kit, but at 70 percent of the Amazon price of a new pump, its a poor investment. The new pump will last much longer and is much easier to install than the kit. Raritan heads are easier to rebuild, and the results more durable.

Preventive maintenance is the key. Motivating yourself to actually do it is the challenge.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at darrellnicholson.com.