Lubricating a Raritan PHII Head

There seems to be much consternation about how exactly to lube a Raritan PHII head. But one thing we can all agree upon is that when it squeaks, it needs attention.  We’re just as confused as anyone and we’ve owned this boat for 15 years.

Squeaky is never a good thing from a head, so it's time to do some preventative maintenance, much as we both hate head maintenance!

Squeaky is never a good thing from a head, so it’s time to do some preventative maintenance, much as we both hate head maintenance!

The owner’s manual simply says to add SuperLube once a year, but there are no instructions.

GetRidOfBoatOdorsPeggie Hall, author of the brilliant book, “Get Rid of Boat Odors” says “open the top of the pump and put a healthy squirt of thick Teflon grease in once a year”.  But unfortunately she’s talking in generalities and online she goes on to say that while most heads can be greased from the top, the Raritan PHII must be greased from the bottom.  Then she says it’s a simple matter of removing the 4 screws on the pump housing.

She neglects to say that when you remove the 4 screws from the bottom of the pump housing, you run the risk of screwing up a myriad of other stuff.  Not the simple 15 minute job promised!

For years I always just used the “salad oil” treatment – soaking overnight with vinegar and then adding a cup of vegetable oil down the head and let stand for an hour or so.  Which seemed to work OK … for a few days & then I’d have to do it all over again.  Vegetable oil just doesn’t stand up to water very long and dissipates.  Then I think about the gunk I’m coating the hoses with on the inside -inviting nasty stuff to stick and grow and it seemed counterproductive.

So this year, when the factory grease began to wear out from our new pump assembly, we decided to try and lubricate it according to Raritan’s maintenance rules, which are unfortunately vague at best.  Although we have no idea if it’s “the right way”, here’s our step by step process:

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1.  Find SuperLube, not always easy.  We know it’s heavy duty silicone grease with PTFE (teflon) so we starting by asking.  Ace Hardware showed us a myriad of spray cans, but spray won’t hold up to water.  Then our helpful Ace Hardware man, asked questions.  He decided that maybe what we needed was in the pool section, not the lubricant section and pointed us toward “Magic Lube” specially formulated grease for pool pumps not to hurt O rings and it contains PTFE.  We bought a tube and we’ll give it a try. IMG_2409

2.  Before accepting that the 4 base screws had to be removed, we tried removing the top and greasing it from the top like other heads.  No luck, we’re back to square one.  Oh well, try the easy way first!

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3.  Before starting this project, be ready with a big sponge because there will be stinky sewer water mixed with seawater coming out as you remove the 4 screws at the base of the pump housing.   Ugh!  David hates this job and I can’t blame him.  I volunteered, but he told me to go away… but I can smell it from here.  🙁

4 Screws Removed from the Base

4 Screws Removed from the Base

 

4.  Carefully loosen and remove the 4 screws at the bottom of the pump assembly.  Sponge up the excess water as you go.

5.  “Tip up the base of the pump assembly” and squirt in a healthy application of grease.  Unfortunately, in our case there are 3 hoses preventing the base from easily tipping up.  Nothing is as easy as it seems.  The front hose wasn’t budging even after removing the clamps and David wasn’t sure it would allow the pump assembly to tip up enough to be lubricated anyway.  He finally decided to take off the back hose, meaning more sewage water inside the boat – we put the sponge beneath it to catch as much as we could.

Tip Up the Pump Housing is a bit confining on our Raritan PHII - it barely tips up even with the back hose removed.  Maybe we should remove more than one hose?  But we schlepped as much grease as we could in there, a finger at a time & hopefully it'll last awhile!

Tip Up the Pump Housing is a bit confining on our Raritan PHII – it barely tips up even with the back hose removed. Maybe we should remove more than one hose? But we schlepped as much grease as we could in there, a finger at a time & hopefully it’ll last awhile!

6.  Once the base is free enough to “tip up”, the instructions say to liberally squirt the lubricant inside and smear it around.  Ours doesn’t have enough clearance for this process, so David put it on his fingers and put a bunch inside the pump housing, all the way around.

7.  Before reassembly, he pumped the pump several times to make sure it wasn’t still dry and squeaky.  Nope, seems OK.

8.  Thankfully, reassembly was much more pleasant.

Now we just pray there’s nothing else gone wrong in the process … like the joker valve became unseated or who knows what else could go wrong.    Time to pump ….

VOILA!  It works, it doesn’t leak and it doesn’t squeak.  Success!  As our old friend Dave on DriftAway would say “Time for a Victory Beer! …. but not quite….

Now for the messy job of cleaning it all up — David gratefully lets me do the stinky cleanup.

Comments

  1. Jim Engle says:

    Thank you for such a detailed procedure. I have the same pump and have been doing the lazy cooking oil method. One point of clarification … the joker valve ( which is red ) is actually in the outlet of the toilet not under the pump. It is fairly easy to take out and check it’s condition. It can be the first item to foul up — especially if someone puts paper in the head. There is a flat sheet /weighted flapper valve under the pump. This valve can be installed in 4 different orientations — only one is correct … so not removing it is not a bad idea … however if you do check the manual to see that you have it in the correct position.

  2. Keith Davie says:

    Jan, the boat we are seriously considering buying has an Air Head composting toilet installed, which I once considered a disadvantage. After reading all your posts about maintaining the head in your boat, it’s beginning to seem like a pretty “sweet” idea!
    (pun intended :-))

    • Hi Keith. Actually our Raritan PHII was maintenance free for the first 8-10 years we owned the boat. It was installed in 1998 by the prior owner. Normal maintenance – replacing the joker valve annually, re-greasing the pump, etc was our only commitment. Two years ago, our lines started getting blocked (after a total of 13 years installed), and we replaced them. We should have just replaced the entire assembly, but did it piece by piece, thereby creating some of our own agony. Now it has a 2 year old pump assembly, so we figure we’re good for at least another 10 years before anything major happens. Friends Dave & Carolyn (TheBoatGalley.com) are seriously considering a composting toilet for their “new to them” catamaran. I’m not sure if there’s any annual maintenance on a composting toilet — greasing the pump or changing a joker valve? — but people we know who have them swear by them. Good luck! J

  3. Another tip — it’s good to grease the joker valve but don’t grease the rubber gaskets, especially those at the top of the pump. If you grease those rubber top gaskets they have a tendency to squish out to the sides (presumably caused from pump pressure inside) and leak. I had to take mine apart again, and clean them with solvent to remove the grease. After that they stayed sealed.

  4. Anyone have advice on a Raritan Cricket head. Out of production, no parts available. Would like to find a rebuild kit. Is the veg treatment OK for my Cricket?

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