Negligence is one of the biggest causes of water heater failure. It is important to prevent damage by keeping up on maintenance and checking to ensure that your RV’s water heater is functioning correctly. There are two signs that a water heater is in good working condition: it has a flame with a blue hue (as opposed to a yellow hue), and it makes a rumbling noise (as opposed to no noise). If you find that your water heater isn't up to par, follow these simple steps for an RV water heater tune up, and get your RV prepped and ready to head back out for another active summer.
-Water tank rinser
-Wrench and socket extension (check your water heater owner’s manual to verify the correct size)
-Cleaning rags (optional)
-Absorbent towels (optional)
-Vinegar or hydrogen peroxide (see tips below)
Start by Cleaning the Burner Tube:
- First things first: turn off all electricity and gas that is fueling your RV! Disconnect power cords, and turn off power switches and gas sources before getting started. Safety first!
- Before doing any work on the burner tube, touch it to make sure it's cool. If it's warm, wait until it's cool to the touch to proceed with the following steps.
- Use your wrench to remove the air shutter screw. Slide down the air shutter to reveal access to the inside of the burner tube.
- Gently use your wire brush to clean out the inside of the tube.
- Follow it up with a blast of compressed air to remove any residual gunk.
- Replace the shutter tube and the air shutter screw.
Next, Empty and Clean the Water Tank
- Just like you did with the burner tube, check to make sure the water in the tank is cool before draining it. To speed up the water cooling process, turn on the faucets or shower in your RV to flush the lines and tank of any hot water. Check the water after 5-10 minutes to see if it's cool to the touch. Once it's cool, you can proceed with the following steps.
- To make draining of the tank easier and quicker, open a faucet inside of your RV. This helps to relieve pressure on the water heater and makes it easier for water to escape when you remove the plug. And if your water heater has a pressure release valve (most do), open this to help level out pressure within the tank.
- On one of the lower corners of the tank you'll see the plug. Remove it so that water can start draining out.
- However, depending on the manufacturer of your RV, your water heater may have an anode rod in it that has to be removed. An anode rod is in place to absorb the corrosive elements found in water so that your water heater doesn't absorb them. This will extend the life of your water heater and should be replaced yearly. Use a wrench and socket to remove it. Water will begin draining once you pull the anode rod out.
- Hook up a fresh water hose to a water tank rinser (Camco makes a great one) and insert it inside the drain hole. Feed water into the tank and move the rinser around so that it sprays all sides of the interior of the water heater. This step is necessary to stir up debris that's settled in the bottom of the tank and did not flow out with the water. You don't want this gunk lingering in your tank, so continue rinsing it until the water appears clear and free of foreign materials.
- When you're confident that the tank is clean, stop rinsing and replace the drain plug. Or, if your RV's water heater has an anode, put a brand new one in place if your existing one shows signs of corrosion. If not, you can reuse it until it starts to show wear (see tip #1 below).
- To prevent the inside of your water tank from rusting, make sure to replace your anode rod when it has lost approximately 75% of its mass.
- If your water heater develops a rotten egg smell, flush the tank with a bottle or two of household vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
- You might want to put down a bucket to catch the water that drains from your tank, as it might contain rust and deposits that could stain your driveway.
- If you notice that there are flakes of lining coming out with the debris and sediment when you're rinsing your tank, this is a sign that your water heater needs to be replaced.
Maintaining your RV’s water heater is vital to preventing ignition issues and poor combustion. It is recommended that you clean and service your RV water heater yearly. If you continue to have problems with your water heater after tuning it up, be sure to consult with a qualified RV servicing facility. With routine maintenance, you should be able to keep your RV’s water heater in top operating condition and ready for whatever adventure lies ahead.