UPDATE! RV Water Heater Anode Rods

If you’ve seen our previous 2 videos about flushing RV water heaters, you’ll know we’ve talked quite a bit about anode rods. Generally, Suburban brand water heaters require an anode rod to protect the steel tank from corrosion. The rod is made of a metal that sacrifices itself, so that corrosion will attack the rod before attacking the steel tank. Atwood brand water heaters generally don’t use anodes because their tanks are made of aluminum.

After watching this update, you’ll know why we highly recommend using the Suburban OEM magnesium anode rod. They’re not expensive, and you can find them on Amazon here.

We have a Suburban heater, and a problem arose when, after only one year, our original equipment anode was rusted into place so badly that we almost couldn’t remove it. We actually ended up breaking a socket wrench in the process.

As a result, we installed an aftermarket anode with brass threads, that screws into an outer brass sleeve. The brass-on-brass design made it (pardon the pun) a lock to unscrew easily. Even though the OEM anode is magnesium, and the aftermarket rod was zinc and aluminum, it should still have worked properly, as those metals should still corrode before the tank did.

In carrying out its sole purpose (prolonging tank life), an anode should decay a considerable amount. We used the aftermarket rod for two full years (with an inspection at the halfway point) and it didn’t look much different than when it was new.

So, last year we opted to go back to an original Suburban anode, choosing to run the risk of being unable to remove it, over the risk of the early demise of our water heater. Although we’re running late on our spring maintenance tasks this year, 16 months later… the results are in.

First, the OEM rod came out easily, without a problem. Second, the OEM rod sacrificed itself the way it’s supposed to. When we look at them side-by-side, it’s a no-brainer which one we’ll rely on to protect our Suburban water heater from now on.

Here’s what Suburban has to say about anodes:
“All Suburban water heaters are protected by a magnesium or aluminum anode to prolong the life of the tank. Under normal use, the anode rod will deteriorate. Because of this, we recommend it be replaced annually or when consumption or weight loss of the rod is greater than 75%. Note: Water with high levels of iron and/or sulfate will increase the rate of deterioration. To extend anode life, drain water from tank whenever the RV is not being used. Avoid any extended time of non-use with water in the tank.”

Learn how to Flush Your Water Heater (Suburban and Atwood).

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We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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