Over the years we’ve shared quite a bit about maintaining an RV water heater. Last year we even performed an internal inspection using a borescope. But this is the first time we’ve had to share a repair project.

Actually, “project” seems like too strong a word for what’s involved in replacing the thermostat on the electric side of our Suburban water heater. It was so easy that virtually anyone can do it in just a few minutes.

Hot water is one of the main things that separates us self-contained RVers from our hardy, tent-dwelling fellow campers. Even though tenters probably consider it to be a luxury, we have to admit that we’re spoiled enough that it would be hard to live without.

Water heaters aren’t nearly the most-complicated systems on most RVs. That distinction usually goes to RV refrigerators. The most complicated problem we’ve ever dealt with on the heater (actually it was the one on our first RV) was a “popping” sound coming from the propane burner. That turned out to be a cracked crystal on the propane orifice.

This time, we’re having an issue with the electric side of the heater. Watch the video to see what our symptoms were, and how we resolved the situation.

Our water heater may be different than yours. We have a 12-gallon bi-fuel (propane/electric) model. Some of the smaller Suburban units have a different set-up, with the same electric-side thermostat as ours, but a completely different thermostat design for the propane side. And Atwood heaters are completely different than Suburbans.

But the symptoms of a failing thermostat may be similar, as ours started off with the water not getting as hot as it should when heating on electric.

Regardless which brand of water heater your rig has, this short video will hopefully give you some idea what to expect, and what to do, if your hot water isn’t so hot.


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The two thermostats listed below fit our Suburban 12-gallan Propane/Electric water heater (Model #SW12DE). Check the parts list at the end of the Installation & Owner’s Manual for your water heater to be sure you order the correct replacement for your model (you can look in the Suburban Water Heater Document Library or the Atwood Mobile Water Heaters Support Center (lower right side of page) if you don’t have your manual handy).

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