RV Service: Your Water Heater and You

Here's the thing. RV water heater maintenance is pretty straightforward, with a few tools, a little extra time, and some patience you can do most of the work yourself. That said, the water heater is also vital to your comfort while you're on the road. Before we get too far into some of the common problems and troubleshooting, you should really visit the RV service department at The Motorcoach Store. If you're in the Bradenton, Florida, area we can even come to you with our mobile RV service. While water heater repairs don't have to be intimidating, it's also pretty easy to get in over your head, so read through our guide and if it sounds like too much, be sure to give us a call. We'll be more than happy to make sure your water heater is in peak condition and safe from leaks, noise, or other problems.

First Things First, Safety

Nearly all RV water heaters require both electricity and gas, so you need to make absolutely certain you're being as careful as possible. If you're uncomfortable working with either electricity or your gas line, please, go no further and call the service department at The Motorcoach Store. Our trained technicians are ready to do the job for you and save you potential injury or costly repairs. That said, if you're a seasoned full-time RV'er you still need to take every precaution. Start by shutting off all electricity. ALL. Unplug everything. Turn off the hot water heater breaker and power switch. Turn off the gas, turn off the power switches, any propane tanks, everything. And once you've done all that, double check it. Make sure everything has been turned off and disconnected. Now you can open all your faucets and run the tap until both the water and your water heater are cool to the touch. With that done, you can start to troubleshoot some common issues.

Common RV Water Heater Problems

  • Making noise: if your RV water heater is making a noise, it's time to check on a few elements. If it's a high ptich noise, you've got possible lime scale (calcium) formation on the heating element, or even corrosion. If you're hearing a popping noise, you likely have mineral deposits or other build up in the tank itself, which affects both electric and gas units. And if you're hearing a whistling noise, chances are you've got debris that's been sucked into the check valve. Periodic cleaning and flushing will take care of most of these, but if the problem persists, definitely get your RV serviced by our certified technicians.
  • Pilot light: If your pilot won't light or stay lit you may have a weak thermocouple or gas control magnet, meaning it's not performing and will need to be replaced. If the flame itself is weak, you may need to clean or replace the element itself. Also, be sure to check the U tube for any blockages and check your pressure readings. If you've got incorrect pressure readings you'll need to either have the valve repaired or replaced. Again, working with the pilot light and heating element can get very technical very quickly, come see us if you're uncomfortable working on this yourself.
  • Not enough hot water: First make sure the burner or your U tube aren't blocked. Try adjusting your air shutter, burner, or burner element to ensure correct airflow. Try reseting the temperature selector to your desired level and double check your thermostat by placing it against the tank. If it's not working properly you'll need to have it replaced. And lastly, you can check the bypass lever and flame spreader to see if they've been improperly positions or have become mis-aligned. And, just like above, if the problem persists, give us a call and let get your RV repaired at The Motorcoach Store.

Don't Forget To Flush

After working on your water heater it's not a bad idea to flush the system. It'll help prevent mineral build or potential corrosion and keep your system running clear. If you've already drained your heater tank, you can jump to the next step. If not, make sure you do that first. Completely drain the heater tank, when you remove the plug it should flow steadily and consistently. Don't forget to open your shower or taps and if your flow still isn't steady, open the pressure and temperature relief valves to let air in and use a wire to remove any potential obstruction.

To flush your system you can either use a vinegar solution (with a ratio 2:1 of vinegar to water) or a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (1:160 hydrogen to water) or even a chlorine or bleach solution (of 1:230 ratio of chlorine to water). Whatever solution you mix, please make sure you're doing this with plenty of ventilation and remember, safety first. It's not a bad idea to wear some eye protection or even a face mask. Let the solution sit in your tank for a few hours and then flush with fresh water. And flush thoroughly. Seriously, if you used a chlorine solution, your water will taste BAD if you don't flush it out completely.

Obviously there are a lot more potential issues or problems than the above. Like we said, if you're familiar enough with your own system this should be enough to check on some of the more common RV water heater problems. For anything more serious or complex than this? Please come see the RV service department at The Motorcoach Store. Our trained technicians make RV repair a breeze and we'll have you back on the road in no time!

Learn more about all of our offerings in our Motorhome Showroom.

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