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Most motorhomes have an onboard fresh water tank, usually set low down in the habitation area of the van or under the floor but sometimes in a locker. It is filled via an inlet on the outside of the van and this should be marked with a tap symbol sticker. It is not unknown for people to put fuel in this inlet - an expensive mistake, so beware ! The capacity of the tank varies but the details should be in your motorhome specification list.

The cover of the outlet should have a lock and is notorious for having a knack needed to open it. This varies from van to van but often involves pushing the whole cap inwards and turning when you have unlocked it.

There are several ways to fill your tank. The usual way is via a hose.


Blue hoses are made of a plastic specially designed for fresh water use. Opinions vary as to whether it is necessary to use a food grade hose and whether the leaching of plasticisers from a non-food grade hose is serious enough to warrant the extra expense.

Layflat hoses are available, often wound on to a cassette which reduces the size. If all goes well they wind neatly back into the cassette and squeeze the water out as they go. If it doesn't you finish up wet and cold with a jammed cassette. Layflat hoses are very prone to develop tiny holes when they have been used kinked.

Coiled concertina type garden hoses are very useful in situations where you have limited storage space but want to carry a longer than usual length of hose but they are not available in food grade.

A useful compromise is to carry 2 metres of ordinary food-grade hose which you will use most of the time as you will want to try to get close to the available tap. Along with this cut your layflat hose ( off the cassette) into 2 smaller lengths, 2/3 and 1/3 are useful proportions. Given a couple of hose connectors you can then refill in a whole variety of circumstances without having to get out all your hose every time.


These can be useful if you are staying for some time on a site and want to refill without moving the van. Be aware that hefting a bucket of water to the required height to pour into a tank inlet can do dreadful things to your back and shoulders. Unless you have a spout on the container or a watering can you will need a funnel to pour the water into the inlet. A cut down plastic lemonade bottle is useful here.

A 12v submersible pump is very handy here and you should be able to buy one for under £15.

It is also useful, when you are scouting for good pitches, to look for one close enough to the tap so that you can run your hose(s) from the van.

You're now ready to fill up:

Importantly make sure the tap at the bottom of your fresh water tank is closed before you start. It is so embarrassing to be filling up on one side of the van and the water be running away on the other side.

If there is one of you then a Heosafe connector is a useful gizmo:

It can be pushed into the water inlet and you do not have to stand and hold the hose in position.

In Europe especially you might like to carry a packet of Dettol wipes or similar to wipe over the tap before you start. It is not unknown for people to use the tap to rinse out waste water containers - or cassette toilets. I would not advise using any hose already on the tap. Unscrew it and use your own. You know where that has been. To this end you will get used to having a number of different tap connectors onboard. Most of the time you will only need the common screw on type but, a look in the gardening section of any French hypermarket, will show you the variety that you might meet. They usually only cost 1 or 2 euros each. Unless you have a very good memory it is useful to leave a reminder on the steering wheel that you are about to drive off and leave your tap connector on the tap.

If you cannot remember which side of your van all the inlet and outlets are situated on then it is handy to have a diagram on your dashboard as you drive up to the service point or tap.

If you have a co-pilot then they can usefully be left to watch the water gauge in the van to tell you when it registers full. The majority of vans - but not all -have an overflow but it is not a popular move to fill until this happens.

Be aware that motorhome water gauges are notoriously inaccurate and are not to be relied upon.
If your tank is easily accessible from inside then you can amuse yourself by inventing dipsticks and the like !

If you are filling your van at a campsite then the water will be free. If you are using an aire, sosta or stellplatz then you might have to pay. The methods of doing this vary and it is a good idea to read the guide to using bornes on MHF. Bornes are the machines which deliver fresh water and into which you can tip waste water and cassette contents.

When you have water in the tank open all the taps in turn and turn on the pump. You will get much coughing and spluttering as the water fills the water heater and pushes air out of the taps. This need only be done if you are refilling a tank which has been emptied between trips.

Do make sure before you do this that you have taken the plugs out of washbasins and that the shower tap is turned off. Technically the latter should be on but, unless you want to come into the bathroom and discover sodden towels and toilet roll, it is best to leave it closed. It seems to make no difference. It can be vented later over the sink if it does matter.

Opinions differ as to whether it is fuel efficient to carry round a full tank of water but be aware, especially if you are using aires in Europe, that you might find you are unable to service the van for some reason so make sure you do carry some water with you. We find the Napoleonic principle best: fill up and empty when you can.

Opinions also differ as to whether it is safe to drink the water from your tank. If you prefer not to drink water that might have been in a hot tank for several days - weeks even if you never completely empty the tank- then plastic 2 or 4 litre milk bottles make very good containers for fresh water. An alternative is to install an online water filter but these are not cheap and do require maintenance and new filters.

There are various cleaning fluids available from camping shops for flushing through your water system and keeping it clean and disinfected. Before using bleach or Milton remember that you have plastic seals and metal connectors in the system and this might affect them.

At the end of your trip you will probably want to empty your fresh water tank completely. In theory there is no reason at all why you should not simply open the drain tap at the bottom of the tank and let it go over the road as you drive or over the grass before you leave. It is after all, clean water. In
practise it is not a good way for motorhomers to endear themselves to other campers who always assume you are emptying your grey water or toilets. Better in the drain when you empty your grey water. If you are leaving your van in winter then you must empty the tanks ( including the water heater and toilet reservoir) and leave open all the taps or there is a danger of freezing. There is a separate article on the site about leaving your van in winter.

When you come to empty your fresh water tank it is a good idea drain the grey water first. Then run the taps into both sinks and shower so that the fresh water drains into your grey water tank. This will flush clean water into the grey water system and help to clean it. A dose of biological washing powder in warm (not hot) water will dissolve any grease in the waste tank.
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