Joker Valves Are No Joke!

Ugh … one of the projects we dread annually is replacing the joker valve on our Raritan PHII head.  So when we replaced the entire pump assembly two years ago, we didn’t bother replacing the joker valve last year.  After all since we’re seasonal cruisers, it’s only been used 12 months in 2 years, right?  No.

Here you can see that this joker valve needed replacing - it shouldn't show ANY light through the valve, not even a bit.

Here you can see that this joker valve needed replacing – it shouldn’t show ANY light through the valve, not even a bit.

Apparently there are no exceptions made in the recommended annual maintenance joker valve replacement.  🙁  So when our head began exhibiting signs of a recalcitrant joker valve (bowl contents not evacuating completely, backfill, smell and pump handle resistance), we made a quick trip to West Marine.

Unfortunately they didn’t have a Raritan PHII joker valve in stock.   Grumble.  But there was a Jabsco joker valve in stock.

I did a bit of research online and what I found surprised us.  According to a 2013 Practical Sailor article, joker valves from Groco, Raritan and Jabsco are interchangeable AND the Jabsco joker valve outperforms the other two.  Here’s the conclusion from Practical Sailor — for the entire detailed study, click the link above:

Here's the Jabsco Joker Valve, instead of a single slit, there's a 3 way valve.

Here’s the Jabsco Joker Valve, instead of a single slit, there’s a 3 way valve.

Testers noted that the Jabsco black-neoprene tricuspid valve stands apart from the competition in several ways. Because of its unique three-corner design and softer compound, it opens wider (presenting 60-percent greater area than Raritan and Groco). It creates less pumping resistance and greater clog resistance than any other valve.

The primary negative is that neoprene is not as resistant to propylene glycol, a common winterizing agent.

When we removed the joker valve, it was coated in calcium buildup and we could see light through the opening – a sure indication of a joker valve that needs replaced.

2 year old joker valve, used six months at a time for a total of 12 months.

2 year old joker valve, used six months at a time for a total of 12 months.

So we bought the Jabsco tricuspid joker valve, installed it in our Raritan PHII head and it’s never worked better.  Go figure!

Has anyone done this before and had issues?  We need to buy a spare and we’re not sure if we should use another Jabsco as the spare or order another Raritan joker valve.  Please leave a comment and share.   Thanks!  Jan



  1. We’ve gone the other way. We used a Raritan in our Johnson (Jabsco knock off). I did that because I read in Practical Sailor that the Jabsco had compatibility issues with antifreeze. In the cold northeast where we have to winterize everything this could be an issue. We were getting over two seasons out of the Raritan joker valve.

    Now that we are full time liveaboards and heading south this isn’t a concern. So I am interested in what you find on the Jabsco. I hope that report from Practical Sailor holds true. We are getting ready to change the valve this spring and stock up some spares for our trip south.

    Good luck and fair winds,

    s/v Smitty

  2. i would always go with the Jabsco joker valve, it is much more forgiving especially if you don’t flush the urine through completely. This is the main reason for the calcium build up.
    As neoprene is not great at resisting glycol, look for another antifreeze type.
    When I have winterised my Jabsco toilet, I have disconnected the pipes from the back of the pump unit, and emptied the residual water from the toilet it’s self. I have not worried if I have left a little water in the system because there is usually plenty of space if it freezes to expand. One winter as I was going to clean the pump unit just took this unit of the toilet. It took me 10 mins to take of and 10 mins at the beginning of the season to put back, and this in a heads where I have to be the hunchback of notre dame to use it.
    The important thing I have found is that the tri design of the Jabsco joker valve is far better than any other I have come across. As for winterising, change the antifreeze or rake of the pump unit. Simples. 🙂

  3. Last year we found the jabsco jockers were no performing well, even brand new you could.see light through the slit. Resolved problem for some by using the raritan X jocker.

  4. Pete Discenza says:

    I have found that the replacement Jabsco valves are not uniform. I had two, from different service kits for our -3000 head, side by side and there was a definite difference in height. The longer one was a recent installation, not doing the job. Side by side with another (different kit), there was a 1/4-3/8″ difference. The longer one was also mashed up at the end, leading me to believe that it was pushed up against something in the discharge flange. No problems yet with the shorter one. Jabsco rep insists they only have one version in those kits but it just sin’t so. If the valve is taller than 2″, it isn’t gonna work in our rig.

    • Interesting Pete! We found the newer Raritan joker valves have discrepancies as well — I think it was when they switched from the red to black versions. We currently have a black Raritan joker valve in place and a Jabsco tri joker valve as a backup. Not our favorite spares, but necessary!

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