Last updated on May 15th, 2023 at 11:53 am
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It’s a necessary evil of RVing: dealing with your RV’s various tanks, including your gray and black water holding tanks! You’ll want to know when these tanks are running low on fresh water, in need of emptying or cleaning, and more.
If you own an older RV, or perhaps have an RV that wasn’t built with a tank monitoring system, you may want to consider adding one. These monitors can be extremely helpful while you are RVing, and can make a huge difference in your vacation planning!
What are RV tank monitoring systems? Why might you consider purchasing one for your rig? Let’s learn about tank monitoring systems together, and how they can help you better take care of your many RV holding tanks!
But if you just want to skip ahead and see what made the list you can check out our favorites here:
- Full and complete kit with a reliable brand behind it
- Rust resistant probes
- Affordable and easy to install
- Great choice for replacing existing tank monitor sensor
What Are Tank Monitoring Systems?
If you are new to RVing, you may be wondering what a tank monitoring system is. Why should you have one, and what does it do for you?
A tank monitoring system is a way of knowing how much substance is left in your various RV tanks, including freshwater, gray water, or blackwater. Depending on your setup, you may have monitors in all of these locations, or simply in your black water tank.
There are various types of tank-level sensors and holding tank readers, including fully electronic ones. The higher the tech, the easier it is to find out where your tank levels are at, without getting your hands dirty!
But how do these various systems work, and should you go about installing one yourself? Read on to learn more!
How Do Tank Monitors Work?
You may be wondering how tank monitors and tank monitoring systems work, especially if you don’t have an existing one installed on your rig. I know my 1976 travel trailer definitely didn’t have them to begin with!
Tank monitors are installed along the side of your various tanks, usually three to four sensors per tank. They are positioned at various levels, usually full, half full, or empty at the very least.
Many sensors are installed by cutting into your RV’s tanks so that the nodes are inside of the tank itself. However, newer sensors are being installed on the outsides of RV tanks nowadays. But more on that later. These sensors are electronically connected on a low-voltage system to a panel inside of your RV, and you can check your sensors and their readings from this panel. They relay how full or empty your tank is.
It is a fairly simple system overall, though perhaps too simple. Many RVers report problems with their tank sensors, especially if they aren’t using RV-safe toilet paper. While RV-safe toilet paper is more expensive, it can be one of the easiest ways to ensure that your sewer system doesn’t get clogged.
However, issues with tank monitoring systems can be caused by old sensors, or even where your sensors are placed. The type of sensor matters, and I can tell you why!
Types Of Tank Monitors Or Holding Tank Sensors
There are two main types of tank monitors available for your RV today. They are simple enough to understand and don’t vary much save where they are installed- inside or outside of your RV’s various tanks.
While the interior panels that report your tank levels vary greatly in features and ease of use, the sensors themselves are similar. Let’s check out what makes them different.
Many older or budget-friendly RV tank monitors have their sensors installed on the inside of the tanks. This involves drilling evenly spaced holes along the side of your holding tanks and inserting the sensor so that it can come in direct contact with the contents of your tank.
Sounds convenient, right? Well, that’s not what most RVers say…
Having these sensors installed on the inside of your tanks sounds like the best option out there, but it can actually result in a lot of misread readings and inaccurate reports. Having sensors installed inside of your freshwater tank should work great, but what about your gray and black water tanks?
Given that these tanks can have solid waste in them, the sensors can easily get gummed up or covered up and need regular cleaning. Whether it be food substances, toilet paper, or worse, interior sensors often report that tanks are full well before they actually are!
If anything gets attached to these interior sensors, you may find yourself confused after a day or two of camping and wondering why your black tank is already full. This is usually not the case, but it is why interior tank sensors have fallen out of fashion.
Replacing these sensors can also be a pain, given that you will have to break and replace the waterproof seal surrounding these nodes. While this type of sensor does indeed still work, installing them is difficult, and the results are pretty questionable given the effort required.
So if interior sensors aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, what can be said about RV tank monitoring systems with exterior sensors? Well, they solve some problems, but certainly not all of them…
Exterior sensors are essentially the same as interior ones as they monitor the levels of your various RV tanks. However, these sensors aren’t screwed into your tank, meaning that you don’t have to worry about any holes or potential leaks as the waterproof sealant ages. Debris and solid waste also won’t be a worry as they won’t interfere with the sensors.
It is nice to have a semi-reliable sensor on the outside of your rig, especially since it makes installation that much easier. You simply wire your panel and monitoring system properly, and then stick or adhere the sensors to the outside of your tanks! While it does indeed sound easy, exterior sensors are prone to falling off, something that anyone could have guessed upon thinking about it.
Many RVers who purchase exterior sensors mention needing additional adhesive, or even express disappointment when their sensors fall off on the road! This can be both dangerous and disheartening for many RVers, especially since these more modern sensors aren’t exactly cheap. It simply means more work for a product that is designed to make things easier on you.
If you are exhausted just learning about these tank sensors and their manufacturing issues, you should look at getting a portable waste tank. This way, you can empty your tank whenever you need to and don’t have to worry about any false sensor readings getting you down!
What Should I Look For In An RV Tank Monitoring System?
If you are new to RVing or perhaps installing a tank monitoring system for the first time, it can be difficult to know what to look for in tank sensors and monitors. Let’s go over a few important things to consider together.
Whether you are installing sensors on the inside or outside of your tank system, it can be important to choose your materials wisely. From the metal sensors to the interior panel, finding reliable materials can make all the difference!
Many tank sensors are made with stainless steel or other rustproof metals, which is key if you are buying or replacing your interior sensors. The last thing you need is rusty sensors in your freshwater tank!
The quality of adhesive on exterior tank sensors can also be a huge thing to keep an eye out for. While you won’t necessarily know what materials these sensor glues are made out of, reading customer reviews to get an idea of the adhesive’s overall quality will be key.
Finally, your interior panel can also have some construction issues. Choosing a reliable plastic is easier said than done, but keep an eye on reviewers that mention broken panel switches or unreliable lights burning out after very little use!
The included wiring with most panel kits should be RV standard and without damage. However, always inspect your new wiring for knicks or scrapes, and avoid using any damaged sections when installing.
The trouble with RV tank monitoring systems is that they are often sold in separate pieces. Namely, the tank sensors can often be sold separately from the panels and wiring.
This is no doubt due to the fact that things can break at different times, and replacing your tank monitoring panels is a lot less messy than replacing your sensors! However, that doesn’t mean it is the most cost-effective way to go about replacing any piece of your system…
To purchase an entire tank monitoring kit, you will be spending more than $100 on average. However, some totals will be much higher after purchasing items separately or individually.
While it all depends on your needs and wants, some full kits end up being more cost-effective than buying individual panels and tank sensors. Crunch some numbers and do some math before making a final decision, as you may be surprised by the cost differences!
Ease Of Installation
Choosing a tank monitoring system that is easy to install should be one of your top priorities. The video below is a great example of a successful install, and is worth a quick watch!
Unless you are bringing your RV to a repair or professional shop to install your monitoring system, there are a few things to remember when doing it yourself. If you don’t have existing sensors on any of your tanks, I highly recommend purchasing a kit with exterior tank sensors. This way, all you have to do is hook up your panel and sensors with very little expertise.
Installing interior sensors can be a serious undertaking for the average RVer since it will involve drilling precise holes into all of your desired tanks, installing the nodes or sensors, and ensuring that you have a waterproof seal applied.
A leaky RV is a stressful RV; take it from me and my vintage fixer-upper travel trailer! Knowing how to install your tank monitoring system is important, and choosing one that makes it easier on you is never a bad idea.
But what if you already have existing interior tank sensors installed on your RV’s various tanks? This makes things a bit simpler, as you can simply unscrew the existing nodes and screw in new ones. You may still have to update your existing waterproof seals, but at the very least you don’t have to drill any new holes into your tanks!
While there are many brands on the market for RV products, there are a few good names to keep an eye out for. I’ve included their products on this list, and highly recommend them.
RecPro and KIB are two of my top picks for RV tank monitoring systems, as they have reliable supplies and instructions for installation, making my full-time life on the road a lot easier. However, you may find a brand that suits you better; it all depends on what you are looking for!
When Should I Replace My Tank Monitors?
It can be difficult to tell when your tank monitors need replacing, especially if you don’t know how old they are. Fortunately, I have a few tips for when any of these various pieces need replacing!
Recommended Sensor Replacement
Your tank sensors do unfortunately need replacing every so often. Another unfortunate aspect of replacing your sensors is that there’s no real expiration date for them. They can malfunction or fail at any time, for any reason.
If you know that your sensors and tanks are clean but you still get false or inaccurate readings, it may be time to replace your sensors. They can glitch and malfunction for a variety of reasons, and most of the time they just get old.
However, troubleshooting all aspects of your tank monitoring system would be a smart idea and my primary recommendation. The sensors are the most complicated and messiest piece of your system to replace, so do it as a last-ditch effort!
The tank sensors are usually the main culprit should you find your panel malfunctioning, so don’t get your hopes up while troubleshooting. But not all hope is lost- some tank sensors have been known to last up to 30 years on some RVs!
Recommended Panel Replacement
Replacing your panel may or may not ever need to happen. If the panel gets damaged inside of your RV (such as water damage or blunt force), it should be fairly obvious if it needs replacing.
If any lights aren’t working on your panel, it is a good idea to replace it. How else are you going to know what levels your tanks are at? This is the same for any broken switches on your monitoring panel- if you can’t turn your sensors off or on, it’s time for an upgrade.
Before you buy a new panel, however, remove your old one and check all of your wired connections. More often than not, wires can get loose or jostled during RV travel; your panel may still be functioning, but you may need to reconnect a few wires first.
What About Wiring?
I would argue that replacing any wiring in your RV should never be taken lightly, including replacing wiring on a low-voltage tank monitoring system. This is why having a reliable multimeter should be important to even the average RVer!
Your tank monitor wiring does not need to be replaced unless you can tell that there has been wear and tear or damage occurring. This is usually obvious, as the protective rubber coating peels away, revealing copper or other materials that conduct electricity.
Only replace wiring on your RV if you have to, but definitely replace it should you see wear or damage. Electrical tape will not solve all of your problems, especially on an RV that is always exposed to the elements.
While most kits come with wiring, don’t feel the need to replace your wires unless they are worn. You don’t need to install the manufacturer’s wiring more often than not, though I don’t blame you if you wish to replace the old in exchange for the new!
The Best RV Tank Monitoring System for Your Rig
Do you know what type of monitoring system is going to work best for your rig? Feeling confident about your sensor installation abilities? Great! Let’s check out some of the best RV tank monitoring systems out there today!
Best Overall: RecPro RV Tank Sensor Monitor Panel M25
- Full and complete kit with a reliable brand behind it
- Rust resistant probes
All-in-one kits are great in my eyes as I know I have everything I need to hand. That’s why kicking off our list is this monitoring system from RecPro. This is a perfect choice for RVers lacking an existing tank monitoring system or in need of a system overhaul.
I like that this monitoring system is simple to read and easy to install as I don’t have time to spend days installing a trick monitoring system! RecPro’s durable monitor is available in black or white, which gives me the freedom to choose which color best matches my RV’s interior.
I find this panel useful as it’s also able to control my water pump and heaters. And regardless of whether I have an electric or propane gas water heater on my rig, I can control all of it from one handy panel. The probes in this kit are constructed of stainless steel, durable rubber, and rust-resistant hardware, so I know it should last me a substantial amount of time, saving me money in the long run and keeping my RVing costs low.
While these sensors are made to be installed inside my tanks, I feel confident this sensor will perform well given its quality construction materials. This complete kit includes 24 stainless steel probes, a decent amount of brand-new sensor wiring, and comprehensive installation instructions.
This kit takes my overall best spot given that it is complete and everything I need for installation is included. It’s also from a reliable brand and is a perfect replacement for many internal probes or sensors found on existing RVs.
You can read more reviews and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
Best Sensors: RecPro Water Level Screw-In Sensors
- Affordable and easy to install
- Great choice for replacing existing tank monitor sensor
Sometimes, it’s worth just replacing the tank sensors or probes on an existing monitoring system for an easier installation and to save some money! These RecPro Water Level Screw-in Sensors are practically universal, affordable, easy to install, and extremely useful for RVers not needing to replace an entire system.
Just like all of the RecPro tank monitoring kits found on this list, these sensors are the same as those probes. They are made to be installed internally, I simply need to screw them into my already existing tank sensor holes on the sides of my RV’s tanks.
These particular sensors are available in packs of six each, which means I may need to purchase a couple of packs for my rig. I do feel, however, as though six is a good place to start, especially since not all of my sensors necessarily need replacing at the same time. I live in a small trailer so space is everything – I don’t want to own more sensors than I need!
The sensor consists of one grommet, a button-head sensor post, a washer to prevent the post or bolt from scraping against my tank, and two 3/8” nuts for installation. These sensors come with everything I need to replace my existing internal tank sensors, so I won’t have to head to the store or order more parts online.
Made of rust-resistant stainless steel, both the posts and additional hardware are made to last, which is exactly what I want from any product I bring into my RV. Although these RecPro sensors are great pieces of kit, I would prefer the instructions to be a little more in-depth and straightforward to follow, but generally, they are great additions to any RV needing a sensor upgrade.
Check out more reviews along with the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Best On A Budget: KIB M21VW Micro Monitor System
- Budget-friendly and simple to install
- Compact and easy-to-use control panel
I’m always on the hunt for budget-friendly items to bring into my rig, as traveling across the country costs me enough already! That’s where this KIB micro monitor comes in. It’s a compact and easy-to-install tank monitoring system at an excellent price; the best of both worlds in my eyes!
This Micro Monitor Panel system reads levels in the freshwater, grey water, and black water tanks. It also shows the battery reading and has a lighted pump switch meaning I can easily see what the levels are in my tanks. This is all I really need in a tank monitoring system, and the panel should suit almost any existing sensors or wiring as talked about in the video below:
The compact 2 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ panel size allows for easy mounting, something important to me, as I often go on solo trips and don’t have anyone around to help me out. I love that it’s small as it means the panel doesn’t take up valuable space or stand out too much in my rig, it even comes with a tank wire harness too.
It’s a good thing this micro panel is budget-friendly because it doesn’t come with sensors or probes! This is frustrating and means I need to spend a bit of money on additional equipment. While this is disappointing, this KIB monitor has a lot to offer, and purchasing sensors and wiring separately shouldn’t cost as much as a reliable panel.
Check out Amazon for the latest price and more reviews.
Best Small Panel: RecPro RV Tank Sensor Monitor Panel M21
- Complete and ready-to-go kit
- High-quality, corrosion resistant sensors
Seeing double? Isn’t this similar to the monitoring system that took our best overall spot? Well, you’d be mostly correct, given that this is also by RecPro. However, the standout feature of this product is that it’s a micro panel, making it perfect for RVers like me, living in small spaces, with potentially tricky installation locations!
While the panel is smaller, I feel comfortable knowing I’m still getting RecPro’s advanced tank monitoring, complete with 18 of RecPro’s easy-to-screw-in tank sensors and probes. Having 18 is enough for all of my tanks, but always remember that you can purchase additional sensors at a low price- and they will be identical!
It’s still easy to read, simple to install, and is available in black or white just like the other RecPro panel. It is also still capable of controlling the water pump and heaters too. I like that this micro panel doesn’t skip on any of the features of the other RecPro product, and is even constructed of the same stainless steel, durable rubber, and rust-resistant hardware for longevity.
The idea of replacing my tank monitoring system made me want to shrivel up at first, but this panel is easy to replace and has well-written instructions I can follow at my own pace. This smaller control panel makes this monitoring system a bit more affordable than its best overall companion system too.
The small panel gives quick readings of my tanks with just the press of a button and the wiring harness means the operation of tank level reading runs smoothly, allowing all components to communicate effectively with one another.
Learn more and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
Easiest To Install: RecPro RV Water Tank Monitor System
- Easy-to-read panel
- Everything you need and easy to install
I’ve mentioned countless times across our blogs how important ease of installation is for me, and as this RecPro Water Tank Monitor System can be installed externally in a breeze, I had to add it to our list of best RV tan monitoring systems!
I like that the panel display is easy-to-use and not too technical, and the overall construction is sturdy, built with durable materials. It’s also a complete kit, so I don’t have to hunt around for additional parts, making this a convenient piece of equipment.
To install this RecPro system, I just stick the sensors to the outside of the tank. I don’t need to worry about piercing my tank or needing screw-in probes. Once the sensors are stuck on, I simply have to hook up the cords, and the job is done! It’s as simple as that- just a few wiring tricks are necessary.
Giving me accurate readings and peace of mind, while being durable enough to last through the life of my tank, these sensors tick the boxes for my tank needs. I feel confident in this product both in terms of durability and lack of frustration when it comes time to install it myself!
Measuring battery, LPG, and water levels as well as having control over my water pump and water heater, this control panel helps me get prepared for my RVing adventures. With the label lights, I can also see the level of water in my fresh, grey, and black water tanks, giving me the knowledge I need to fill or empty your tanks when I’m next heading to the campground.
I have a short wire extension for my tank’s electrical system, so I know the struggle of placing my tank in a location that’s not as comfortable as I would like it to be. With this 15-foot wire extension for the adhesive sensors and smart M board, I don’t have to worry about it anymore, and my life can get a little bit easier!
Freeing me of this struggle, I have the freedom to place my tank or monitoring system in a comfortable position and have room to connect my control panel as well. Made from quality materials, this wire extension is built to last through the life of my tank and sensors, but I would appreciate some thorough instructions, as I like to know I’m completing installations as per the manufacturer’s advice for the best results possible.
Learn more and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
Best For Exterior Sensor Installation: TouchSensor Z26603RK LevelGuard Tank Monitor 300 Sensor Kit
- Simple installation
- Ready-to-go with everything you need
I’ve already mentioned how much I love kits containing everything I need to get the job done, and that’s exactly what this sensor kit offers. The LevelGuard Tank Monitor 300, provides accurate, early warning for critical holding tank fluid levels, so I won’t ever have to worry about over-filling again! With digital certainty, the LevelGuard Tank Monitor 300 is the reliable choice for monitoring fluid levels in a single RV tank that I trust with my tank emptying needs.
This particular kit has enough parts and sensors in it to accommodate three RV tanks, with four probes per tank, meaning I’m prepared if I ever need to replace one of my other sensors. There are no mechanical float switches or moving parts to jam, fail, or wear out, as all of the sensors are installed externally!
Having externally installed sensors makes my tank monitoring hassle-free; there are no probes to get clogged or coated in black tank waste or toilet paper. Plus, there is no tank intrusion required, as these sensors stick easily to the outside of my various tanks.
Easy installation is one of the many perks of this monitoring system, but it doesn’t offer everything some other systems do such as controlling my water pump or hot water heater. It is however simple, effective, and affordable, so it nearly has everything I’m after!
Learn more, including seeing today’s price, on Amazon by clicking here.
Most High Tech: Tech-Edge 326-KWP iSeries Tank Systems Monitor
- Most accurate readings possible
- Easy external installation
I’m an RVer who appreciates accuracy, to the precise percentage if possible! The Tech-Edge 323-KWP Series Tank Systems Monitor may just be a panel, but the accurate technology puts this product in a league of its own.
This iSeries Tank Systems Monitor provides hassle-free tank monitoring for my RV and has patented technology with Level Alert. I can also use it on a boat if ever I decide to switch from trailer life, and as a bonus, it’s the only tank monitor tested and approved by the United States Coast Guard. Talk about high-tech!
I like that it’s also NMMA Certified using high and efficient standards as I know I won’t need to be replacing it anytime soon, making it a great investment. The sensors on the iSeries system mount externally and actually read through the tank wall, making it an easy install and ideal for new projects or for replacing an old tank monitoring system.
The only downside with this product is that I need to purchase additional wiring and sensors from Tech-Edge separately. Since this will lead to an exceptionally accurate reading, however, it’s not too annoying and the monitor gives insanely accurate readings, down to the individual percentage. This is extremely valuable for me as I’m full-time and need to know when my tanks are getting close to full as I’m often boondocking or away from campgrounds.
Check out all the reviews and the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
How Do I Clean My Tank Monitors?
Having a clean black and gray water tank is key for any RVer, and can make or break your next dump station stop. If your tank monitors are relaying that your tanks are full, dirty, and in need of cleaning, there are a few things that you can do to help!
Having a clean black tank can be one of the main ways to maintain your tank monitoring sensors for a long period of time. A dirty tank is the main cause of inaccurate readings too! Here are my tips for cleaning your black tank, specifically:
Treat Black Water Tank With Chemical Products
There are countless black tank cleaners on the market today, and using one of these powerful cleaners can make all the difference to a malfunctioning sensor! Every treatment option is different, and do try to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. However, they are usually all easy to use, and you can store the remaining treatments for future use. They also usually deodorize your black tank- definitely a bonus!
Put Ice In Tank And Drive Around
This is a common RVer trick to break down any solid waste you may have in your black tank, as well as loosen up any potential clogs or toilet paper covering up your tank sensors. The ice will slosh around as you drive, especially if your tank is mostly full, leading to more broken-up waste particles as well as more water in the tank for when it comes time to drain it.
Use Baking Soda And Vinegar
These two products have a unique chemical reaction that allows for more solid waste to break down inside your black tank. Baking soda is also a great choice for cleaning stainless steel sensors or nodes found internally on your tank. While it will not smell the best, this chemical reaction may be a much cheaper and more effective alternative to other chemical-based black tank treatments.
Use Vaseline, Dish Soap, Or Laundry Soap
Using any of these lubricating methods on your black tank will prevent any solid or paper waste from sticking to the sensors of your tank. It may take some trial and error to figure out how much of any one of these products you need, especially depending on the size of your tank, but many RVers report utilizing these methods to keep the walls and sensors of their tanks clean; definitely more cost-effective than you think!
Try Resetting The Panel Monitor
Turn off or unplug everything, and see if you are still getting a false reading. It could simply be time to replace your tank sensors or panel entirely!
Choosing an RV tank monitoring system doesn’t have to be complicated. While there are many things to consider, I have no doubt that you will choose the right system for you and your rig! I would advise taking a look at your budget and current tank situation, to figure out exactly what it is you need and want from a tank monitoring system.
Making sure you can always monitor your RV’s tanks is important, especially if you plan on boondocking or going off-grid with limited supplies. Any of these useful monitors will no doubt make your next camping trip that much smoother, so you and the family can make long-lasting memories in your rig without any tank stresses!