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RV Water Heater Fail! Don’t Make This Newbie Mistake

RV Water Heater Fail! Don’t Make This Newbie Mistake

Besides telling you about our newbie mistake, we have an LED contest winner to announce! Someone just won $250 worth of LED lights. Was it you? Scroll down to the bottom of this post to find out. ;-)

On April 11, 2014, we marked 11 years of full-time RVing. After all this time, we’ve learned an awful lot about how to live on an RV and manage its systems. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t made mistakes.

As we look back on all the miles we’ve traveled and places we’ve been, we remembered one of our very first newbie mistakes. We know that everyone makes a few errors in managing their RV systems, especially when they’re new at it. Hopefully this video will save you from repeating one of ours, so you can concentrate on your own. lol And maybe you’ll even laugh about them someday, too.

But if the above isn’t the problem with your RV’s water heater, check out these posts: RV Shower Getting Cold? RV Water Heater Troubleshooting Tips or No Hot Water in Your RV? Try This Simple Fix First!

We thought the water heater in our month-old RV was dead, but that’s not exactly how things turned out. Watch the video to find out what happened!

So… about that contest…

Out of a whopping 1,054 entries, congratulations go out to Don & Carol B. (lucky entry #1001)! Don & Carol have won a $250 Online Shopping Certificate to M4 Products. We had a great chat with Don, and he told us all about the upgrades that he and Carol are doing on their motorhome. By coincidence,  they live in Southern California, so he’s planning to connect with Steve at M4 and maybe even pick up his prize in person!

Thanks to everyone who entered, but don’t worry if you didn’t win, as we’ll be announcing another new contest really soon. And be sure to use the code “RVGEEKS5” when ordering LEDs from M4 Products to get a 5% discount on your entire order! We hope that will be some consolation. :)

Visit M4 Products here:
www.M4Products.com

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Craig Cho

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Aloha guys, first of all I had a leaking pressure release valve at which I changed it, but before I did that, I let the pressure out and then opened the drain and like how you said, a lot of crap came out and so I rinse out the tank several times and still, so I did it for awhile until only cleaned water would show, and then I looked at the anode rod and it only had white residue on it, so I took a used toothbrush but the wirebrush type and shot some electric cleaner and cleaned off the white stuff and retaped the threads and put it back in and then I too off the leaking valve, replaced it and I also cleaned out the baffles and the part where the igniter is, took the cotter pin off the switch and turned it on, then filled my fresh water tank, then came in the trailer turned on all the well two sinks bathroom, kitchen, bath shower to let out any air in the line’s and now the water trickles and the pump underneath the sink continues to run even after you shut all the water off, but I was thinking maybe cause I’m not getting the full pressure of water, still no hot water, it’s a suburban sw10 de, 10gal, orfice size 61 but also the pump runs slow, I would guess cause of the water pressure and the pump behind and above the heater water tank used go on too, but that one, I don’t know too much about it, except I thought maybe it’s part of the heater tank, I’m a bit confused. Mahalo if you could answer this one, meanwhile I’m still gonna go play with it, exactly what is the bypass for

TheRVgeeks

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Hi Craig. When a problem first crops us immediately after any sort of project or maintenance, we always assume it's something we just did that caused it. The good news is that those sorts of issues are usually easily fixed, as it's not the failure of some component that caused it. We think you have one of the following problems: 1) The water continuing to run is probably just the water heater re-filling. If that's the case, leave the pressure relief valve open with the pump running, until water comes out of the valve. Then shut the over-pressure relieve valve, and the water pump should shut off within a short time. 2) You've left one or more water valves in the incorrect position. There are water heater bypass valves on most rigs, as well as city water / tank fill valves on some rigs as well.

If the water heater filling up (#1 above) isn't the issue, check all valves to be sure anything you may have moved is in the correct position, keeping in mind that ALL valves need to be in the correct position for water to flow correctly. Hope this helps!

Alberto

Sunday 17th of April 2022

Hi, after several months living fulltime in my RV, everytime I turn on my water heater it works with gas. Then if I turn it off, the electric element starts working. To avoid running the elecetric element all day I turn down the braker in the fuse box. Is there a way to make it run with the electric element instead of gas? I've checked the heating selceting switch on the heater and is ON for electric.

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 17th of April 2022

Hi Alberto. We've never heard of an RV water heater operating that way. If your water heater was, originally, a gas-electric model, the switch that controls it (inside the RV somewhere) should normally have two switches... one to turn on the gas heating, the other for the 120V. You should be able to use one or the other... or both at the same time... to heat water. It shouldn't be that, once the propane is done heating, the electric element then comes on. That's not normal. Could be an issue with the electronic "brain", or maybe a failure of one or both of the thermostats built into the unit (check out this post & video about water heater thermostats: https://www.thervgeeks.com/water-heater-thermostat-replacement/). Either way, it sounds like it needs to be looked at.

George

Thursday 11th of November 2021

I have a 4 or 5 year old water heater in my older 04’ sprinter. The heater elements are heating the water but water will not flow thru to any of the hot water system. If I open the bypass it will flow cold water to cold and hot side. I replaced the cold water check valve and blew air thru the hot system. Turned on propane heat today and for a short time I had normal hot and cold water. Didn’t last long

TheRVgeeks

Thursday 11th of November 2021

Hi George. Sorry to hear about your difficulty. This is a bit of a head-scratcher. When you say that you replaced the cold water check valve, was that the one on the inlet to the water heater itself? Is it possible that there's another faucet in the RV like the outdoor faucet where the valves are open, but the shower head/handle is shut off, allowing the hot & cold water to mix?

Roy Williams

Thursday 10th of August 2017

Yep...just when I thought I knew it all. As an engineer, I was convinced it was an electrical problem. Started digging into electrical diagrams. I viewed you video and checked my outside shower. Both valves on! That was it! Don't know how to thank you

TheRVgeeks

Thursday 10th of August 2017

You just did (thank us, that is)! Great to hear. We'll take the "DOH!" moment over a difficult repair any day! ;-)

Alberta guy

Saturday 12th of September 2015

Just wanted to say I did the same thing but with my bathroom shower and yes it happened on my very first trip with my first fifth wheel I thought i was the only one that did this lol.

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 12th of September 2015

Glad to hear that WE'RE not the only ones who did this! lol

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