Posted by: Mark Polk | 2014

RV DIY Article: RV Water Heater Tune-Up

mud dabbers on RV water heaterIn this RV DIY post we’re going to discuss how to give your RV water heater a quick tune-up. Twice a year at a minimum I like to clean and service the RV water heater. Mud daubers and other insects like to build nests in and around LP gas appliances, and your water heater is exposed to the outside elements, so it’s a good idea to perform this periodic preventive maintenance. Insects, dirt and debris around the burner tube can result in poor combustion and ignition issues.

A properly burning RV water heater makes a roaring sound and has a nice strong blue flame. If you don’t hear that roaring sound or you notice a weak yellow flame there might be an obstruction in the burner tube. Make sure the water heater is turned off and allow sufficient time for it to cool down.  Before we clean the burner tube I like to use compressed air to clean the front of the water heater, and in and around the flue area. Caution: Always wear eye protection when using compressed air.

water heater air shutterNow we can clean the burner tube. Caution: Always make sure the water heater has time to cool prior to draining or working on it. Remove the air shutter screw and slide the shutter down the tube. Use a flexible wire brush and run it back and forth in the tube to remove and dirt and debris. Blow compressed air through the burner tube to remove any remaining loose debris. Place the shutter back in its original position and reinstall the screw.

The last step to our water heater tune-up is to flush the water heater tank.  Mineral deposits collect in the bottom of the tank and the only way to get them out is to back flush the tank. Turn off any water supply going to the RV and make sure the water in the tank is cool. Relieve pressure on the water system by opening a hot water faucet in the RV. Remove the drain plug and drain the water heater tank.

fflushing rv water heater tank

Attach an aftermarket flushing wand (like pictured) to a hose and place the wand in the drain plug opening. Turn the water on and move the wand around allowing city water pressure to agitate the bottom of the water heater tank and drain all of the mineral deposits and debris out of the tank drain. Flush the tank for several minutes or until clear clean water is running out of the drain.

Note: Suburban water heaters use an anode rod to collect mineral deposits that can be harmful to the water heater tank. You should replace the anode rod when ¾ of the anode rod surface is gone.

Back flush for 5 to 10 minutes to remove all the sediment and debris. When you are finished drain the remaining water from the tank and reinstall the drain plug or anode rod. These are preventive maintenance steps the RV owner can perform to keep the water heater in top operating condition. If there are other problems with the water heater you should have it checked by a qualified RV service facility.

Now the RV water heater is ready for the next camping trip you go on.

Happy RV Learning,

Mark Polk

RV training DVDs and products available at: RV Education 101®

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