If you're having septic system issues, one of the first things to do is to check the holding tank to make sure that it's not overfilled and that it's processing the waste the way that it should. How do you do that, you ask? Here, you'll find out.

Locate the Holding Tank

If you don't know where the main holding tank to your septic system is, now's the time to find it. Sometimes the cover can become overgrown with grass and disappear. Look for an area of grass that grows slightly thicker than the rest. This is usually the grass growing over the leach bed. You can then begin searching the area between the leech bed and the home for the septic tank.

Get a Long Stick

Once you've found the holding tank, you'll need a very long stick or board. The board will need to reach the bottom of the holding tank.

Get some rubber gloves and some safety glasses – a paper mask or respirator couldn't hurt either. You don't want to get splashed with the stuff that's being stored in your septic tank.

Now, slowly lower the board into the tank until you feel it hit the bottom. Slowly pull it back up out of the tank and lay it on the ground. Take a good look at the stick – you should see three shades of material on the stick.

Dark brown should be at the very bottom of the stick where all of the solid waste is located.

Medium brownish is in the middle, from the liquid waste waiting to get pumped into the next tank.

Light brownish is at the top, from the oils that float on top of all of the other gunk.

If the colors on your board do not match up with what's listed, the system needs some attention. Either the pump isn't functioning the way that it should, or the piping has become clogged somewhere preventing it from operating the way that it should. It could also be that the bacteria levels in the holding tank are off and are not breaking down the solids like they should.

At this point, you'd do best to contact your local plumbing services professional for assistance. Septic system failure is nothing that anyone wants to clean up after, so having your tank pumped out and the system inspected from beginning to end will be well worth the time and expense.